Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris gives his first State of the County address

Lee Harris gives first State of the County

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris gave his first State of the County address Friday afternoon.

Harris took the stage after a prayer and song, laying out some of his biggest accomplishments since his first 150 days in office.

"The state of our county is strong," Harris said.

He pointed to the increase of part-time county worker wages to $15 an hour, eliminating costs for phone calls to juveniles in detention and partnering with the city of Memphis to expand access to needs based Pre-K.

"I believe if we make these kinds of investments in workforce we are likely to see a high return on investment," Harris said.

Harris says he wants more county dollars to go to the office of re-entry. Later this year, he plans to propose a program for offenders to be able to gain a vocational skill or certification on the office of re-entry campus.

The mayor also says the county is spending $100 million to hold people in jail awaiting trial, simply because they can't afford bail.

He is advocating for a public safety assessment to determine how to justify more pre-trial releases of those who are non-violent.

"If we can agree we have a real chance at reducing our detainee population while still serving public safety," Harris said.

He also revealed that he will push a plan for county investment in MATA, for the first time. The mayor did not provide numbers but said it would be a phased in approach, focused on increasing service frequencies in the urban core.

MATA leadership calls it encouraging.

"If the bus comes once an hour you potentially have two hours a day that you're waiting for a connection. that's unproductive time, wasted time for many people," MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld said.

Another key focus was building a new juvenile justice center.

However, the mayor says he wants it smaller than the current center to force rehabilitation of those offenders.

County commissioners have already allocated funding for architecture and design of the new center.

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