Oh, the difference three years, a new mayor, a (mostly) new city council, and an overall turn in the national economy can make.
Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson sent a congratulatory letter to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and the Memphis City Council Monday calling the city’s new financial outlook a “remarkable achievement.”
Three years ago, Wilson sent a somber letter to the council member Edmund Ford Jr. about the “serious financial issues facing the city.”
At the time, Wilson said the city couldn’t indefinitely “kick the can down the road.” If the council did not make the “difficult decisions” necessary to change the city’s financial course, “someone else may end up doing this.” That is, the state would, perhaps, step in to set portions of the city budget for the city council.
But the tone of Monday’s letter could not have been more different.
See related PDF
See related PDF
Here’s what Wilson said in his new letter:
“It is with great pleasure that I acknowledge the revised outlook that Moody’s Investors Services and Fitch Ratings recently gave Memphis’ general obligation bonds. We now have independent, objective analysis describing, in Moody’s words, ‘the city’s recently improved and currently healthy financial position that has benefitted from more conservative budgeting.
“This is a remarkable achievement. Just three years ago there was a serious question about whether the city council would take the necessary steps to control its budget and determine Memphis’ future.
“If you continue on this path, Memphis will reclaim its rightful place among the truly vibrant cities of the world.
“Congratulations on the real and meaningful progress you are making. It is incredibly significant.”
Strickland's first budget as mayor increased the amount the city will pay towards righting its pension fund, one of Wilson's major concerns back in 2013. Strickland said he was "excited and humbled" by Wilson's letter.
"We are incredibly proud of all the work that was put into creating and drafting this budget and we are looking forward to seeing the effects it will have on the city," Strickland said in a statement. “We look forward to continued cooperation between my office, the city council, and the state of Tennessee. The passing of this budget is a great step in the right direction for Memphis.”