Strickland says council members have "their heads in the sand"

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland believes the majority of council members voted blindly when they passed their $626 million budget Tuesday.

Strickland wants the city to set up a safety net, in case the courts require the city to fund Memphis City Schools.  While other council members say he's grand standing, Strickland says his peers need to face facts.

"The majority of this council wants to stick their heads in the sand like an ostrich, and hope this problem goes away, and don't want to plan," Strickland said Tuesday.

Strickland was referring to the court battle between the city of Memphis and Memphis City Schools, which will decide if the city is responsible for paying an annual $57 million to MCS.

"Any time you're involved in a court case, you don't cave in before the final ruling," council member Myron Lowery said.

Strickland argues the council needs to pack money away in case the city has to pay up.

"My plan was to spread it over a three or four year period of time, roll back some of the raises, and put that money aside to pay for the judgement," he said.

A council committee shot down Strickland's 11th-hour attempt to revamp the budget in a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

"It didn't make sense," said Lowery, who voted against it.  Lowery believes Strickland has other motives.

"What's going on is an attempt to get publicity on something that's a non-issue," he said.

Lowery said the eight percent raise given to city employees was required by contract, and according to city charter, Strickland was attempting to dodge protocol.

"It could not be amended before it's final or by someone who voted against it," he said. "Mr. Strickland simply disagreed with the majority of the council. He lost."

"I think the council will find itself trying to raise taxes, and I'm 100% against that," Strickland said.

Strickland added that he made one accomplishment in his effort: Mayor Wharton will set up a committee of city leaders and businessmen to trim the budget down the line.

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