VOL. 133 | NO. 160 | Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Mayor Strickland Hopes County Supports MATA
By Bill Dries
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland meets with Shelby County Mayor-elect Lee Harris this week as Harris’ transition team is assembled and begins working toward him taking office Sept. 1.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland drew some protesters Saturday, Aug. 11, as he addressed a group in Overton Park over police surveillance of protesters. (Daily News/Bill Dries)
At a Saturday, Aug. 11, gathering in Overton Park by the group Democratic Women of Shelby County, Strickland said a much-discussed campaign call by Harris for county funding of the Memphis Area Transit Authority is “the starkest difference” in the relationship between the two local governments.
“I think mayor-elect Harris and several of the new county commissioners openly voiced public support for the county getting involved in public transportation, which would be a sea change,” he said. “I think that would be the biggest thing that we would see where the city and county are actually cooperating. MATA really is a regional system. And it would be great to have a partnership.”
The transit authority is seeking another $30 million per year to get to a bus system that could get one-way trips to under an hour across the system.
Strickland isn’t prepared to recommend that increase as part of a city budget, saying the city’s revenues only grow by about $10 million per year.
That would leave a citywide referendum on something like a local gas tax increase.
“And who knows how that would turn out?” he asked. “Getting the county as a partner in public transportation would be great, not only for the men and women who use the buses, but for us as a community as a whole because it’s going to be a huge boost to economic development allowing people to get to jobs.”
Strickland, a former chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party, told the group Saturday that the Democratic sweep of all countywide offices and eight of the 13 seats on the County Commission in the general elections represents “a whole new spirit of enthusiasm.”
State Rep. Raumesh Akbari, who won the Democratic nomination this month for the state Senate seat Harris gave up to run for county mayor, reminded those at the gathering that she and other nominees for state offices still have general elections to win on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“It’s been a tough summer,” she said, urging Democrats to turn the August “blue wave” into a “tsunami.”
“Not so long ago, it wasn’t cool to be a Democrat in Shelby County,” Democratic Shelby County commissioner-elect Mickell Lowery told the group. He also urged Democrats to continue campaigning.
“If we keep that up, we have the same result in November,” he said.
Strickland’s appearance at the event drew protesters, including some on the local Democratic Party’s grassroots council. Five protesters booed Strickland in response to a federal court ruling Friday by U.S. District Judge Jon P. McCalla that Memphis Police had conducted political surveillance of protesters in violation of a 1978 federal court consent decree.
Some were also critical of Strickland for attending a party rally after not getting involved in backing Democratic candidates before the election. Some of the protesters were the object of the police surveillance and are now part of the local party’s leadership following its reorganization in 2017.
Police were called to the park and seven officers responded, ultimately taking no action.