Mayor Mixes Show Biz and 100-Days-Plan in State of City

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With shout-outs from special guests representing "Memphis The Musical," St. Jude's, the Memphis Grizzlies, and celebrity chefs Patrick and Gina Neely, Mayor A C Wharton delivered a 40-minute State of the City speech Monday that sounded like it had been assembled by a committee.

Wharton said he had spoken to every member of the Memphis City Council and it showed. There were nods to such pet projects and issues as Elvis Presley Boulevard (Harold Collins), gun violence (Myron Lowery), flood control (Jim Strickland), minority contracting (Janis Fullilove), and pension reform and managed competition (Kemp Conrad) as well old stand-bys such as crime and early childhood education.

On the sober side, there was the announcement that with the next property reappraisal, Memphis' total assessments will decline for the first time in modern history at the same time the city faces a major increase in bond payments. The mayor did not go into detail about foreclosures, the schools merger, or the tax rate.

Wharton is creating a three-person leadership team of CAO George Little, housing and development specialist Robert Lipscomb, and an as yet unnamed chief finance officer "to analyze, plan, and implement the strategies for these priorities that propel us forward."

"I acknowledge that our agenda will not be completed in 100 days or in 1,000 days or perhaps not even during this term," Wharton said. "Memphis' structural challenges are long-standing and will not be solved without sustained work."

The four priorities are safe and vibrant neighborhoods, prosperity and opportunity for all, invest in young people, and advance a culture of excellence in city government.

The next 100 days will include announcements of new investments in neighborhoods, an inventory of every park in Memphis, bringing competitive baseball back to neighborhoods, a seven-acre park at the site of the Lonestar concrete plant downtown near the interstate ramps, a new task force on early childhood development, a system called "3.1.1." to centralize non-emergency calls to city government, and a "Blueprint For Prosperity Plan."

Wharton said he was motivated to accelerate his plans by events during a 48-hour period last week that included the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy at a basketball game, disclosure of corruption by "just a tiny group of those who work for us" in city government, and the chamber of commerce announcement of more than $1 billion in investment in Memphis last year.

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