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VOL. 125 | NO. 53 | Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wharton: New City Office Will Be City Funded

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. is defending his creation of a new Office of Talent and Human Capital. And in a Facebook statement Wednesday evening, Wharton also apologized for an apparent change of course in how the office would be funded.

The new office will be funded by the city of Memphis including the $125,000 annual salary of its director, Douglas Scarboro.

Initially the administration had hoped to fund the office with federal funding that would have passed through the city Division of Housing and Community Development to the Women’s Foundation.

“Any confusion for which City Hall has been responsible is a regrettable error,” Wharton wrote in his Facebook statement. “There was absolutely no intent to deceive or mislead in any way at any time.”

He also defended the creation of the office which represents a new part of the executive division – the part of city government headed by the Mayor.

“The office’s executive director will play a critical role in maximizing the potential of our city’s workers and ensuring that our best, brightest and most talented workers find opportunities for employment and service right here in Memphis.”

The office will continue and create programs to work with public housing residents on the transition off of public assistance and into the work force as the city’s public housing projects have become mixed use-mixed income developments.

The demolition of the city’s large public housing developments under the federally funded HOPE VI initiative was a major initiative of the Herenton administration. By the time Willie Herenton resigned as mayor in July, only two of the city’s large public housing developments were still standing – Cleaborn Homes and Foote Homes. The old Dixie Homes project, the most recent to fall, is being rebuilt as Legends Park.

The Office of Talent and Human Capital was one of several new efforts Wharton specifically promised as he campaigned for mayor leading up to the Oct. 15 special election.

Meanwhile, City Council chairman Harold Collins has expressed his concern about the creation of the office as well as the funding as the city prepares for a new season of budget hearings. Neither Wharton nor council members expect a balanced budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 will come without some cuts in services and other sacrifices.

Wharton is scheduled to give the council more details of his budget proposal at Tuesday’s council executive session.

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