Memphis Mayor A C Wharton went off script a few times during his State of the City speech Thursday to deliver some jokes, some political jabs, and even a light-hearted threat about the Pyramid project.
A draft of Wharton’s speech began circulating Wednesday evening. And he largely stuck to that draft Thursday during his address at Hatiloo Theater.
His off-script remarks were mainly to recognize members of the audience, or to add that his administration accomplished so-and-so “with the help the Memphis City Council.”
But his eyes came completely off the page when he saw an opportunity for a relevant story, a joke, or a political burn. (Don’t forget, he is running for re-election this year.)
There were plenty to choose from but here's a list of favorite off-script remarks from Wharton’s State of the City address:
On suing banks and getting a $425 million settlement for predatory lending practices:
We fought for Memphis. We will continue to fight for Memphis and we will continue to win.
On Beale Street:
(Beale Street) has been tied up in lawsuits longer than any one of you can remember.
On bike lanes:
We’ve gone from worse to first. Well, there is some hyperbole there. But we’re certainly among the most improved.
On decisions to cut city health care benefits and change pension benefits last year:
This has been a tough year with the city employees and I understand that fully. That’s the reason I am even more grateful for their continued service to make Memphis a great, great city.
On the size of city government:
To those who say government is bloated, we say ‘check us out and look at what we’re really doing’.
On tackling the city’s financial challenges while other city leaders (now political opponents) wanted to wait:
. The question is: “how?” And I have not yet heard the answer. It is readily apparent that they have no answer to the real question: how?
On the installation of hidden video cameras to catch illegal dumpers:
I am smiling because when I was (Shelby County) Mayor, I put a camera up and the next day some crook shot it down. (To Memphis Police Department Director Toney Armstrong) Director Armstrong, I don’t want any of my new cameras shot down.
. Mr. Gilliom (Dwan Gilliom, the city’s director of public works), there’s a pothole at Cooper and York that I hit nearly every morning on my way to work and it is still there. I say that because no matter who many potholes you fill, there’s always another one out there.
On economic development:
One of these days, and I say this to my daughter-in-law, we will get a Cheesecake Factory. These days, especially with the millennials, you ain’t done nothing until you get a Cheesecake Factory.
On the new date for the opening of Bass Pros Shops at the Pyramid:
The Pyramid will open on May 1, Robert Lipscomb (the city’s director of Housing and Community Development), or else.