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BARNSTORMING: Herenton Says, 'Love It Or Leave It'

The mayor talks up Memphis and talks down critics at Rotary.

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A soft-spoken, but nevertheless scrappy Mayor Herenton began his Tuesday afternoon address to the Memphis Rotary Club by taking his critics to task. Professing amazement that anyone with a "sense of history" could look at his record and find much fault, he dismissed his critics' "ridiculous" assessments, ticked off a number of accomplishments, and name-checked former county Mayor Jim Rout as a witness and co-conspirator in many of his achievements. He declared the city fiscally sound before getting down to business.

"Memphis is challenged," he said, allowing that most cities are. "Crime," he continued, "has no respect for neighborhoods, counties, or states." He then charged his audience not to blame Police Director Larry Godwin, and asked in a manner that seemed at once earnest and obtuse how either the mayor or the police hief could be at "every point of crime." After claiming not to be a politician but a sociologist and a psychologist, he noted that when it comes to reported crimes, Memphis has an 80 percent apprehension rate. He then repeated his belief that adding 500 police officers to the force will help to ameliorate the problem.     

Herenton put on his sociologist's cap, blaming urban blight for instilling criminal values in Memphis' less fortunate communities before turning to one of his pet issues: consolidation. He's still for it.   

"I ain't gonna change," he said, acknowledging that some people are turned off by his ides and his directness. He then provided an example of said directness by suggesting that critics who have lived in Memphis for some time don't appreciate the city as much as newcomers. He said that people "not provincial" who move here tell him they like it. Those who complain, he said, "have blinders on."

Without much explanation the mayor said that Memphis will likely see an expansion of rail-related industry  

The extremely casual speech drew to a close with the repetition of one of the Mayor's most recently controversial statements. Claiming not to care whether or not anybody agreed with his rhetoric he announced that those who love Memphis the way he loves Memphis are welcome to stay and help make it a better place, and those who don't can leave.

Mayor Herenton did advance the ball a bit concerning his stated desire to build a new football stadium. He said that it was unfair for anyone to compare the construction of the Fed-Ex forum to the creation of a new football stadium, and he shared his vision of future Memphians having a lovely time in a "state of the art" facility. He said he would provide two plans for financing in about a month. When asked how the stadium might pay for itself the Mayor said that naming rights and "luxury suites" both come with a price tag.

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