Weekly Update: Leaves, leaves, and more leaves


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I apologize.


I know many of you are unhappy with the way our trash service has been over the last several weeks. If there’s one thing I hope you’ve learned about administration in our first term, it’s that we don’t shy away from tough issues. We work to address them head-on.  


On this frustrating issue, I want you to know two things:


1.) We hear you loud and clear, and I’m not happy with it either.

2.) We’re working to resolve the challenge.


The background

In Memphis, we have thousands of mature trees, which is normally a blessing. In a normal year, trees lose their leaves starting around November and ending sometime between January and February, which results in residents raking and bagging leaves for collection by the Solid Waste Division.


Each year, more than 8,500 tons of leaves are collected, which equates to approximately 34,000 cubic yards of debris. Just to put that into perspective, one dump truck holds approximately 20 cubic yards.


This year, we saw the beginning of the 2019-20 leaf season in the first and second week of November. Temperatures twice dipped below freezing, and we experienced a couple of strong storms with high winds. This resulted in the leaves falling faster than the past several leaf seasons. 


Further complicating the issue, we typically have a chilly and wet December. However, this season’s mild weather has allowed for leaves to be raked and bagged for collection. The result is more bags of leaves on the curb for collection in a much shorter time period. 


The solution

This week, our Solid Waste Division increased its capacity by supplementing bulk collections with additional contractors. Waste Pro, our contractor, has also added a subcontractor dedicated to bulk waste collections. Both vendors are local minority vendors, and both City crews and contractors are working overtime, as well as weekends, to restore services.


Our goal is to have everything back to normal by the end of this month. Again, I apologize for the inconvenience, and please bear with us as we work through this.


Regional Economic Alliance (REA): Yesterday, we had our first quarterly meeting of the year for the REA. As a refresher, we created the REA last year, and it includes the City of Memphis, Shelby County, the Greater Memphis Chamber, the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County (EDGE), and the Downtown Memphis Commission. The group is designed to hold us all accountable and ensure we’re all collaborating when it comes to economic development.


Last year, we all agreed on a handful of industry sectors that we’d target that are uniquely matched to our assets. They are: medical devices, ag tech, and transportation/distribution/logistics.


This year’s first meeting was to review last year’s economic development performance and set meaningful goals for 2020. The goals are based on the number of projects, jobs created, capital investment and MWBE spending. As you can see below, the group did very well on our 2019 projections.



 2020 Projections


My Team: This past Tuesday, as is customary for the first meeting of a new term, I submitted my list of senior leadership appointments to the new City Council for members’ approval. They requested that we come back to them in two weeks to allow more time for them to familiarize themselves with our directors and their duties.

The vast majority of my staff have worked with me for the last four years. They are some the hardest working, most talented, and brightest leaders with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of working.

They wake up every morning with one simple goal in mind — to improve the quality of life for all Memphians, every day.

Now, before you think I’m biased because they’re my team, the proof speaks for itself. Because of our collective work over the last four years, we’ve experienced billions in new development, historically low unemployment levels, improved City services, and won awards for our data-driven government.

None of this work — none of it — would have been possible without our ability to work with Council and without the invaluable team we have in our administration.

When we go back Council in two weeks, I expect full approval of my staff so we continue the serious work of accelerating our momentum to Memphians in every neighborhood across our city.

Weekend weather: In case you missed our local weather forecast, it’s looking like we may be in store for some rough weather starting late tonight and into around noon tomorrow.

Public Works and MLGW crews are prepped and ready if we should need them. And, our Office of Emergency Management will be monitoring the situation. For safety tips on flooding and tornadoes, the National Weather Service has some great resources. If you see a downed tree blocking a roadway or public area, the number to call is 901.636.2525.

Be safe out there this weekend.


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