In a low-key state of the city address, Mayor Willie Herenton said city governments fiscal problems are a short-term situation that will be fixed in 2006.
I as your mayor must govern the city operations with greater efficiency, Herenton told a luncheon gathering of the Kiwanis Club at The Peabody. The turnout of about 150 members and guests was much smaller than in previous years when Herenton spoke at prayer breakfasts on New Years Day.
Herenton took questions from the audience but not from the media. He plans to hold a press conference Thursday.
The mayor, who is starting his 15th year in office, said he and his staff met financial projections for 13 years before 2005, when the reserve fund fell to $3 million and the citys bond rating was reduced. He promised to restore fiscal health by reducing police and fire department overtime, coaxing pension concessions from unions, and halting new capital construction. He will also push to have some city and county government operations merged, although ahe admitted full consolidation will not happen while he is mayor.
I am a lightning rod, he said.
He did not criticize members of the Memphis City Council as he has in previous years. No council members were seen in attendance. Herenton reiterated that he plans to run for reelection in 2007.
Herenton told the group to "look beyond the distortions and exaggerations of the Memphis media." He singled out The Commercial Appeal for criticism, calling an editorial urging him to give up on consolidation notable for its audacity.