Weekly Update: The big-picture look at Memphis


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In the past week, I’ve delivered a quick summary of the current state of Memphis to three different audiences.

It’s my favorite speech to give — equal parts bragging about our city’s momentum and being clear-eyed about our challenges. So I decided to repackage it here today for you, the 25,000 Memphians who receive this email each and every Friday.

Let’s start with the big picture.

  • In Greater Memphis today, there is more than $13 billion in recent, current and future development. And for probably the first time in decades, the majority of that is taking place inside our city limits.
  • We have a Fortune 1000 company (ServiceMaster) that recently moved Downtown. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is embarking on a billion-dollar expansion. We were just named the No. 1 city in America for black businesses. Our unemployment rate recently hit a 27-year low, and about 12,000 more Memphians are employed today when compared to just two years ago.
  • Our momentum is carrying over to the sports scene, too. Just yesterday, we saw official word that our PGA Tour stop is getting a major upgrade that will place our tournament on par (sorry for the pun) with the best tournaments in the world. It’s a big, big deal — and another big reminder of how fortunate we are to have FedEx in our city.

At City Hall specifically, though, I’m proud of the progress we’ve made in managing a responsive, efficient government. When I ran, I promised to measure results, hold people accountable, and share those results. Such as:

  • Our average 911 answer time has fallen from 59.7 seconds when we took office to under eight seconds.
  • Memphis Animal Services is saving about 90 percent of the animals in its care, up from about 50 percent a few years ago.
  • Libraries are open longer hours and community centers will offer summer camps free of charge this year.
  • We’ve doubled street paving from just four years ago.

Are there challenges? You bet. They’re why I ran for mayor, and they keep me up at night. For example:

  • Poverty is the defining challenge of our time, and the entire community is coming together to reduce it. I made it a priority to increase City contracting with minority businesses, and we’re up 60 percent in our first full fiscal year. We’ve also launched a game-changer of an anti-poverty initiative in launching City funding for Pre-Kindergarten.
  • We must reduce violent crime. Among the many anti-crime efforts we’re engaged in (and that we update you on in this space often), we have reversed the seven-year trend of declining police ranks. There is so much more work ahead of us, but the recent trend is encouraging — our homicide rate and violent crime rate are both lower in the first quarter of 2018.
  • City government no longer has a school system, but we absolutely still have an obligation to educate our youth. So we’ve implemented literacy programming in summer camps, increased what we're doing at our libraries, and, as I mentioned earlier, have launched a City plan to help us achieve full, needs-based pre-K.

Population loss is our No. 1 challenge. If we can continue to address the above challenges and continue to have more and more momentum, we will eventually reverse that decades-long trend.

My job as mayor is to celebrate our successes while being clear-eyed about our challenges. In the words above, I hope you see both the progress and hard work ahead of us.

Spread the word: The No. 1 thing I hear about when I’m out and about? How much you like this Weekly Update email. I appreciate that. It’s important to me to have this forum each Friday to frankly discuss our challenges while also celebrating our successes.

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