Weekly Update

weekly update header

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

Bookmark and Share



Last week, I wrote about the challenges our community faces with the lack of punishment and intervention for juvenile offenders.


Here is one more example


Memphis police arrested eight juveniles in one hour Monday for Theft of Motor Vehicle in three separate incidents.  Their ages are 13, 14, 15, 16, and four 17 years old.  The 15-year-old told police that he had no problem admitting to the theft “because he knew nothing would be done to him.”


This week I want to outline the scale of challenge. Parents and families have allowed thousands of teens to drop out of school (enrollment) or register for school but fail to attend (truancy).


Enrollment—Possible Dropouts

Enrollment in Memphis Shelby County Schools has been dropping for years. The last four years of data shows:


2019 - 2020             87,623 students

2020 - 2021             84,896 students

2021 - 2022             81,975 students

2022 – 2023            79,000 students (estimated)


This is a loss of around 8,600 students. Obviously, some have enrolled in other schools within or outside our city limits, but anecdotal evidence would indicate that too many have simply dropped out, disconnected and likely joining the ranks of Opportunity Youth (ages 16–24, not in school, not employed).


Recently, I have begun meeting with MSCS about this issue. Additionally, I have offered to assist in reaching out to these families to see if we can get their children back in school or connected to some of the many opportunities we have for job training and employment. To see those opportunities, go here.


Truancy—Not attending School

Under Tennessee law, once a student has five unexcused absences, the school must work with the student and parents through an intervention plan.  If the plan does not prove effective, or if there is a lack of parental cooperation, the school must refer the child and parent(s) to Juvenile Court.


In Memphis, as of December 2020, 20,000 students had five or more unexcused absences, and 1,200 students had 30 or more such absences.


Remember, this was during a time of 100% virtual learning, but as Keith Williams, president of the Shelby County Education Association and now newly elected school board member, said at the time, “They [students] are signing on and off at will.  It’s a huge problem.”


Comparing school years, the following shows a large increase in the number of students with 10 or more unexcused absences:


2018 – 2019             7,045 students

2019 – 2020             6,529 students

2020 – 2021             9,987 students


At the same time as this large increase occurred, the school system terminated its relationship with the district attorney’s office to enforce truancy laws and did not refer any cases to Juvenile Court. Therefore, parents and children have not been held accountable for truancy for at least a couple of years.


In 2021 – 2022, chronic absenteeism worsened again as 28% of all students missed 10% or more of all school days.


This is unacceptable. Parents must be held accountable for their children’s attendance at school, and I hope that the new superintendent will use all legal means to hold parents and children accountable. The large increase in juvenile crime is certainly directly impacted by more teens out of school without supervision, education, and career plans.


A deal at last: After months of work and intense negotiations, the City (as you may have seen yesterday) reached a deal with developers to build a Grand Hyatt hotel downtown.



(Rendering courtesy Carlisle Corp.)


The deal reached greatly limits the City’s financial risk and eliminates any impact on our bond ratings and debt capacity. Instead of a guaranty or backstop of $79 million worth of bonds (as the developer had sought), the City will make an advance lease payment of $10 million to the City Revenue Finance Corporation (CCRFC) to facilitate this transaction. The developers will then receive a grant of up to $10 million from CCRFC to be repaid, with low interest, over 10 years.


Additionally, I would like to call special attention to the fact that City government will receive additional property taxes from this hotel during the term of its Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) of $378,000 per year. After the PILOT expires, property tax payments go up to $1,512,000 per year.  


We’ll be asking our City Council for their approval at their earliest convenience. 

This is a win for the City of Memphis, and I and want to thank our city team, our financial advisors, Downtown Memphis Commission, and Carlisle Corp. for working together to make this happen. I look forward to the day in the near future when the Grand Hyatt transforms our city skyline.


Be safe and enjoy your holiday weekend!




Mayor's signature