Herenton offers optimistic outlook for 2008; promises to push consolidation - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Anna Marie Hartman

Herenton offers optimistic outlook for 2008; promises to push consolidation

You can watch Mayor Herenton's entire speech from Wednesday in the video player to the right of this story>>>


During a speech to the Kiwanis Club of Memphis Wednesday, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said he was entering what he expected to be his toughest term in office.

"It has been challenging to engage Memphis in a transformation from the Old South to the New South," he said.

Financial Strength

Herenton began his annual 'State of the City' address by emphasizing that Memphis is financially strong.

"We're not a broke city," he said, adding that reserves in the city treasury amount to nearly $60 million.

"How many cities in America do you know that end their books in a surplus?  Now you ought to be clapping at that," Herenton said.  "If it was a deficit, you'd say, 'Herenton ought to go.'"

But, according to Herenton, the economic divide in Memphis is as deep as the racial divide.

"The is a majority African American city, ladies and gentleman.  Accept that.  Black people ain't going nowhere," he said.

Herenton said Memphians should focus on integrating different cultures and demographic profiles, so that companies can grow, and minority-owned businesses can prosper.

"We must create wealth within the African American community," he said.

Consolidation

Herenton said his strategies hinge on the consolidation of city and county governments.  A more efficient government, he said, would be better equipped to fight crime, would produce better graduates from public schools, and would address the economic divide in Memphis.

Herenton said he knows he cannot count on support from suburban leaders to consolidate Memphis and Shelby County governments. 

"They don't want to support consolidation," he said. "They don't want any changes in the schools. They're very clear."

Consolidation may not be a new idea, but for his fifth and final term, Herenton said he would take a new approach.  

"It seems to me the rational approach is to go to Nashville," he said. "We've got to go to Nashville."

By going to Nashville, Herenton said, he hopes to find a way to override any county vote.  He plans to ask the governor of Tennessee and the state legislature to change a law that requires a majority vote in the city and county when it comes to consolidating law enforcement, government, and schools.

"Collierville has no school system. Germantown has no school system. They're a Shelby County school system of which their community enjoys public education, but they have no school system," he said.

Herenton said he would look for support from new members on the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission.

"Now we got some new people over there with some new energy and some courage," he said.

For too long, Herenton said, a minority of suburbanites have determined what's in the city's best interest. 

"Let's not be critical of that," he said. "Let's find ways legislatively that we can change that to effectuate what benefits the metropolitan area."


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