Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, who famously utilized the slogan, "Brilliant at the Basics," as the hallmark phrase of his administration at its beginning, was deprived by a sequence of bad weather days from delivering a planned "State of the City" address to members of the Rotary Club of Memphis back in January. By this week, the weather in these parts had finally come around to being a semblance of spring (just in time for Memphis in May), and the mayor had a chance to cash in his rain check with the Rotarians.
Calling it a "State of the City Update," Strickland's speech used up-to-the-minute information to outline what he regarded as instances of the aforementioned brilliance. The city's commitment to a functional program of pre-K education had been realized, said the mayor, and most of the rest of his update consisted of reconfigured statistics.
Examples: $19 million worth of street paving; $13 billion in new development, (most of it within city limits); a 5 percent decrease in violent crime and a 38 percent decrease in murders, both numbers owing something to what Strickland said was a reversal (finally) in the decline of the number of MPD officers. Similarly, Strickland said, a response of eight seconds or less to 911 calls has been maintained for four consecutive years. Strickland also promised that every pothole reported to the city would be filled within five days. And so forth.
The mayor further stated that the city had managed to bolster — from 12 percent to 21 percent — the amount of business it contracts with enterprises owned by women and/or minorities. The mayor basked in the success of last month's MLK50 commemoration and looked forward to the city's bicentennial celebration, planned for next year. (In what can only be regarded as an act of grace, Strickland heaped praise on Tennessee state government for its cooperation with various city projects, omitting any mention of the state legislature's tawdry act of canceling a promised $250,000 grant for the bicentennial, as punishment for the city's actions in ridding itself of Confederate statuaries.)
As one result, the city was able to join with county government, in a project announced on Monday, to combat the ongoing opioid-addiction epidemic. The city's commitment includes a guarantee of "real-time" mapping of overdoses as they happen, coupled with instant response. (The county's law-enforcement entities, first responders, and other formal units of government are also pledged to the project, which was midwifed into being, Strickland noted, by county commission Chair Heidi Shafer.)
Strickland touted his 3.0 comprehensive plan for the city — the first in more than four decades — which included a policy of "growing up, not out." He declared that his announced policy of ending new sewer connections outside the city was a de facto termination of one of the ways the city had been contributing to its own population loss.
The mayor told the Rotarians that what he had intended to do with his remarks was twofold — to "celebrate momentum" and to be "clear-eyed about development." The main thing, he said, was to have a plan.
It would appear that he has one, the aforementioned 3.0, which Memphians will have a chance to pass judgment on in next year's city election.