VOL. 9 | NO. 1 | Saturday, January 2, 2016
Strickland Takes Office, Doubles Down on Change Theme
By Bill Dries
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland took office New Year’s Day with a pledge to immediately begin to “target and remove” street gang leaders and equip police with the ability to immediately issue domestic violence orders of protection.
“You are looking at the biggest shake-up in Memphis City government in a quarter of a century,” Strickland told citizens gathered Friday, Jan. 1, at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts as he, City Court Clerk Kay Robilio and the 13 members of the Memphis City Council all took the oath of office.
“The people of Memphis called for change, and that call has not gone unheeded,” Strickland said.
Council chairman Kemp Conrad called the new faces in new positions at City Hall a “dramatic shift in our city leadership.”
“The people of Memphis need hope,” Conrad added, saying he was not criticizing the past administration of Mayor A C Wharton, whose term ended with the New Year.
He pledged “a better government … more focused on results.”
“Too many in Memphis have lost faith and lost their way,” Conrad said.
Strickland upset Wharton in the October city elections by a two-to-one margin. Six new council members, meanwhile, were elected either in October or in the November runoffs.
Strickland’s platform was heavy on improving the basic functions of government, with an emphasis on public safety and reducing violent crime.
“My vision for Memphis is city government that is brilliant at the basic,” he said Friday.
Strickland’s pledge to crack down on street gangs in a partnership with state government and the West Tennessee Drug Task Force drew one of two standing ovations from the crowd at the Cannon Center.
Strickland also pledged to “focus on the goal of retaining and recruiting quality police officers and firefighters, knowing public safety is at the forefront of rebuilding the city.”
Benefits cuts for city employees, including police and firefighters, was a major issue in the campaign and one on which Wharton and Strickland generally agreed.
Wharton proposed the cuts, citing the impact of the unfunded health insurance and pension liabilities on the city’s finances. Strickland voted for the amended cuts as a council member.
Strickland, in his remarks Friday, also said the city “has a moral obligation to lift up the poorest among us.”
He pointed specifically to the need for a broader reach in early childhood programs and better use of city libraries, community centers and parks.