Text of Mayor Willie Herenton's Tuesday letter to city council members. Provocative? You judge.


September 21, 2004 Dear Councilman X: Similar to many of the nation's cities, Memphis must face some municipal financial challenges. We have successfully managed the fiscal affairs of this city for over a decade. Now is the time to be proactive and make some leadership decisions. If we do not provide alternative sources of revenue to support needed municipal services, our reliance on the property tax will continue. The consensus of the Council and Administration was no to a tax increase for FY 2005. During my political career, I have advocated the merger of city and county governments, including both school systems. Is this a popular strategy with every stakeholder? The answer is no. I have also advocated finding solutions to the ADA issues. Further, I have been a strong advocate for casino gaming in the city of Memphis, which is not acceptable in every segment of the community. I was grossly misunderstood when I suggested we consider examining the assets of Memphis Light, Gas and Water. I still believe that there are opportunities to realize revenues at Memphis Light, Gas and Water without selling the company. In my judgment, the Commercial Appeal editorial establishment and the political leaders in Memphis and Shelby County tend to avoid addressing the flaws in our present funding paradigms. It is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but far more difficult to support needed changes in our government structure. Neither government can continue reducing expenditures to the levels that some of the timid politicians are advocating without imposing serious disruptions to government services. 1 am prepared to make tough decisions, are you? I've recognized that some elected officials are consumed with other political agendas and aspirations. However, the public's interest should be paramount. Getting on television grandstanding and criticizing the administration will not address the challenges. It is easy to point fingers at the Administration, but what the public needs is leadership. If there are disagreements with my strategy, please know that I welcome your ideas. The Administration and the Council should work cohesively together to solve our immediate fiscal challenge and develop a sound plan for the future. The Administration is willing to provide quarterly budget updates to the council. We are receptive to responsible input and recommendations that lead to positive results. In closing, I would welcome the Council's consideration of the Administration's proposal to transfer either partial or total responsibility for funding the City School System to Shelby County. These actions could add annually 40 to 80 million dollars to City Government's budget and reserves. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to make some tough decisions. Respectfully, Willie Herenton

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