Memphis city leaders look ahead to new year - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis city leaders look ahead to new year

City leaders seem more ready now than they have in years to work together, to avoid infighting and to improve the image of city government. Even they will tell you, they've got their work cut out for them.

"We've seen a tax increase that we did not want to have to pass," says Councilman Rickey Peete.

"We've never had to lay off people before," says Myron Lowery.

"There's been nothing fun about it," says Jack Sammons.

Sammons says good things have happened, like the decision of International Paper executives to relocate their headquarters to Memphis.

But he says, the challenges have been unprecedented. "I'm working more on my council job probably now than I've ever worked in my entire career."

Record budget shortfalls brought thousands of city layoffs, the cutting of city services and a blame game at City Hall that pitted council members against the Mayor and his top staff.

In recent months, the Mayor replaced his top finance team and the group appears poised to fix the budget situation.

"I think we've had a talent vacuum in the administration that has created many of these financial problems. I think the Mayor is putting together a better team that can deal with it," says Sammons.

Councilman Rickey Peete says city leaders need new money not further cuts.

"You can cut to the point that you don't have an effective and efficient delivery system for government services," says Peete.

The coming months will also bring announcements about the future of the Pyramid and Fairgrounds, discussion about school funding and new revenue sources, a campaign to elect seven Memphians to a Charter Commission and a debate about tax breaks for businesses.

Councilman Myron Lowery put it very succinctly. He said, "the biggest challenge for 2005 was obviously our budget. We've got to solve that problem in 2006."

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