Weekly Update: Answering a question I get often


Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

Bookmark and Share


Call me old-fashioned.

But when it comes to the dialogue about how to move Memphis forward, I prefer it to be rooted in facts, not fiction.

So in that vein, I decided to step back this week and answer a single question that I’ve often been asked, at least in some variation, dating back to my time on the City Council.

Here goes:

Question: How can you spend millions on the riverfront (or the Pyramid, or the Pinch District, etc.) and not use that money on Police and Fire?

Answer: It was indeed great news last month when the state approved our application to modify the Tourism Development Zone, for two reasons: 1) Memphis deserves a world-class riverfront, and 2) this is money that would not come from the core functions of government like Police and Fire.

A tourism development zone takes sales taxes from an area surrounding a tourism project and uses that money to pay for the project. By state law, this is money that must be used to pay for the tourist attraction — and nothing else. And, most importantly, this is money that would not exist without the project itself. The sales taxes used to fund a TDZ are new sales taxes, above and beyond what the area already generates.

The very fact that we seek mechanisms like TDZs and don’t use general fund money to pay for such items shows that we, too, prioritize general fund spending on core services like Police and Fire. In an odd way, criticisms like the ones posed by the question above are actually saying they agree with our stance, after all! We all believe that we should preserve general fund dollars for those core services and fund enhancements with other dollars — and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

(And while we’re on the subject, know this: Police spending is up 5 percent since I took office, Fire spending is up 3 percent, Police and Fire employees have received pay increases ranging from 6 to 7.75 percent since Jan. 1, 2016, and we’ve improved benefits for retirees and employees alike.)

So the next time you see someone on Facebook post something to the effect of how we’re spending money on, say, Tom Lee Park, and not spending it on services like Police and Fire, you’ll know one of two things: 1) They don’t understand the facts, or 2) they’re trying to purposely mislead you.

As dangerous as it may be to correct something wrong on the Internet, I hereby ordain you to use this information to do just that!

Our improving financial condition: While we’re on the topic of dollar signs, I wanted to let you know that Fitch, one of the national investment ratings companies, upgraded our bond ratings this week.

I know bond ratings aren’t the most exciting topic, but don’t tune me out just yet. To me, what matters most is what this says about our increasingly positive financial situation. It is an indicator that we’re doing things the right way at City Hall: being efficient with spending, prioritizing core services, being frank about our challenges, and working together to find solutions.

Happy birthday: Wednesday marked the 100th birthday of legendary former LeMoyne-Owen College head basketball coach Jerry C. Johnson, Sr. — still the only men’s college basketball coach in the entire state to bring home a national title. We wished him a happy birthday by holding a City Hall ceremony to declare Wednesday as Coach Jerry Johnson Day in Memphis, and I represented the City alongside Councilman Ford Canale and many others at a dinner in his honor later that night.

Coach Jerry Johnson

Thank an officer: Just this week alone, we’ve had three Memphis Police officers injured in three different incidents. To the officers and their families — thank you for your bravery, and we’re praying for speedy recoveries.

To all of Memphis — please continue to join us in your prayers, and please thank a police officer or fire fighter next time you see one. Their service keeps this city safe.

Mayor's signature