Weekly Update


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I’ve been fortunate to be present for some great days for Memphis in the year and a half that I’ve served as your mayor. But I’m not sure one could top yesterday.

In case you missed it, here’s what happened:

We gathered the 1968 sanitation workers -- four of whom are still on the job today -- at the National Civil Rights Museum for a recognition breakfast. There, I made an announcement: We’re awarding $50,000 grants to all 14 surviving strikers, an important step forward in the long-sought quest for further retirement security for these men.

See, in 1968, the AFSCME-represented employees chose Social Security instead of the city’s pension plan. Not long after, it became clear that the choice didn’t provide as comfortable a retirement as other city employees enjoyed with the pension plan. Previous administrations and councils sought to change this, but a real solution eluded the city for nearly a half-century.

Memphis, the city whose strikers brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to town for his last cause, still wasn't providing for their financial security.

Until now.

We know we can’t make everything right, nor can we make everyone whole. It’s impossible. But it’s never too late to do the right thing, which is exactly what this plan is. Give credit to Alex Smith, our chief human resources officer, for doing the heavy lifting to arrive at this innovative solution.

This plan is also fiscally responsible. Our one-time grants will be paid by our reserves, and the ongoing cost of our new retirement plan will be paid by our solid waste fund. (It won’t require a fee increase.)

These men are important figures in the worldwide struggle for civil rights. I’m proud to say that this week, the City of Memphis did something right by them.

You can read more about the announcement here.


We mean business, and it shows: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We mean business when it comes to increasing our performance with minority and women-owned businesses. In our first year and a half in office, we’ve moved our spend from 12 percent to 21 percent -- an increase in share of 69 percent.

So you probably ought to get to know the woman behind the hard work -- Director of Business Diversity & Compliance Joann Massey. Thanks to Ryan Poe and The Commercial Appeal for this profile of her.

There’s a theme here: Now that I’ve mentioned Alex and I’ve mentioned Joann, it occurs to me: You should be taking note of all the fresh new names who are doing good work in your city government. I’ve often said that we have a special team, but it’s weeks like this one that remind me how we have a special team with new perspectives, too.

I told you when I took office that we would put fresh eyes on old problems. That’s exactly what we’re doing.

Don’t forget: You’ll be hearing more and more in the coming weeks about our opportunitymemphis.com website, which exists to connect Memphians to all of the opportunities that exist in our city. The Memphis Business Journal did a nice story on it this week, highlighting what I know be true: We need your help in spreading the word.

Thanking our veterans: I had the honor of serving as grand marshal of the Cordova Fourth of July parade this week. The best part? Getting to talk with Capt. Chris Schoenberger as part of the parade’s annual tradition to honor a veteran.

Capt. Schoenberger led his platoon in battle in Vietnam for more than 280 days of front-line combat. His unit received the Presidential Unit Citation, and Capt. Schoenberger himself was awarded several medals, including the Purple Heart. He is now involved in trying to build a retirement home for veterans. 

Visiting with Capt. Schoenberger reminded me of this: We must never forget the bravery and sacrifice of our veterans.

Thank you, Z-Bo: I’ll admit it: Zach Randolph was my favorite Grizzly. Like many of you, I was sad to see him leave this week and sign with the Sacramento Kings.

Z-Bo did so much for our city, from paying MLGW bills for the less fortunate to, well, serving notice to Blake Griffin and Kendrick Perkins, among others, that we don't bluff. Thanks for all the memories, Z-Bo!

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