VOL. 133 | NO. 1 | Monday, January 1, 2018
Strickland Touts 'Solidarity' Around Confederate Monuments Removal
By Bill Dries
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland marked the halfway point in his four-year term of office Monday, Jan. 1, by calling on citizens to make use of the “spirit of solidarity” shown in the removal of the city’s two most visible Civil War monuments just before Christmas.
“A couple of week ago we removed symbols in our community that only served to divide us at a time when Memphis needs to be more united than ever,” Strickland told a group of 400 at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis. “And I think you saw two weeks ago just how powerful it can be when we all come together in Memphis. As I said that night, I want to take the same spirit of solidarity toward the issues that our neighborhoods and our children face every day. You can be the front line of that change. In fact, you already are.”
Strickland acknowledged county commissioner Van Turner among the elected officials in the audience.
“I guess you’ve been in the news a little bit lately,” Strickland said, referring to Turner’s positon as president of Memphis Greenspace, the private nonprofit that the city council sold the two parks to, which led to the removal of the monuments in Health Sciences and Memphis Parks.
After the breakfast, Strickland noted that the city’s homicide count for the year 2017 was 200 violent deaths, down from 2016’s record homicide count of 228.
Strickland was hesitant to attribute the drop in homicides specifically to his administration’s priority of adding to police ranks over several years.
“We don’t know,” he said when asked what he would attribute the drop to. “Even though it’s lower, we can’t really celebrate it because it is 200 lost lives. Any number is too high. We are pushing very hard with the police recruitment and retention. We’re hiring more police officers. We are retaining more of them. We are pushing up to 2,300 in about three years. We’re intervening in the lives of more young people to try to get something more productive to do.”
That intervention through mentoring, reading programs and similar efforts is what Strickland pushed as he responded to critics of the approach.
“Intervening in the lives of young people is the moral calling of our time in our city. And a call doesn’t just ask you to take notice of things and move on,” he said. “God does not call us to post a criticism on Facebook or Twitter and do nothing to follow up. God does not ask us or call us to complain. He calls us to take action.”
Strickland delivers the mayor’s annual state of the city address Jan. 16 at the Memphis Rotary Club.