District 7 residents came ready to hear and be heard at a Town Hall hosted by Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer. (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer held a Town Hall meeting at the Dave Wells Community Center on Saturday. From Sawyer’s perspective the event was in keeping with her District 7 election campaign commitment:

“I will listen to your voices and use my privilege as your commissioner to amplify them. I will stand in partnership with you when you feel no one else will or can…”

Saturday afternoon’s two-hour Town Hall featured headliners Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Sheriff Floyd Bonner Jr.. Other county officials were also on hand touting county services and resources provided by their departments.

Harris expressed concern for two main issues he felt critical to all Shelby Countians: public transportation and investing in neighborhoods.

“Public transportation is important to our citizens, our schools, and we want to work on improving services,” he said. “I have a proposal right now concerning investing in the transit system so that our constituents are better served in every community, all over the county.”

Harris also stressed looking into investing in neighborhoods, both in South and North Memphis.

“And during the discussion portion, I would love to hear what your ideas are,” he said. “I would love to listen to what you would like to see in your community. I am ready to listen to what you have to say.”

Bonner sought to correct what he perceived as a misconception about the Sheriff’s Department.

“We are here for everyone. The Sheriff’s Department serves the county, but people forget that the city of Memphis is in the county,” he said. “Police Director Mike Rallings and I are great friends. We are working together to make Memphis and Shelby County safer.”

The county’s top law enforcement official assured District 7 residents that county detention facilities had been accredited by the American Correctional Institute.

“Jail East received a score of 100, and the 201 facility received a score of 96. The juvenile facility received a score of 97. And the reason they scored less than 100 was because of the age and condition of those two facilities,” Bonner said.

“Also, right now at Juvenile Court, there are 67 boys and nine girls locked up. These are not for truancy or running away. They have committed some major crimes. We have some issues. Instead of four hours each day for school, we want to see them receive six hours. A lot of that will be addressed in the new juvenile facility being built.”

The sheriff also said there were 616 sheriff’s deputies and 765 correctional officers, operating with a budget of $180 million.

Two issues that concerned residents were the number of “set outs” and the extended time it takes for them to be cleared from off the street. A “set out” is the pile of discarded furniture and other belongings from evictions.

Blight and disinvestment in the community without some replacement investment was also of concern. Particularly in District 7, residents are concerned about industrial blight as well.

A fire official reminded attendees that the Memphis Fire Department provides free smoke detectors to anyone who cannot afford the cost. Fire personnel will also install those devices free of charge.

There are 450 EMS calls every day, many for non-emergency situations. Officials agreed that some re-education is needed so individuals can make the distinction between what is and is not an emergency.

Sawyer said of the event, “I want District 7 constituents to understand that we value their voice, and we are committed to transparency in government. My purpose for holding this Town Hall and inviting officials to participate is because I want our constituents to know what resources and services are available to them.”

Her next Town Hall will deal strictly with public education, Sawyer said.

(For any questions or concerns for Commissioner Sawyer, email [email protected])