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‘A time to invest in Memphis’ is Strickland’s 2021 State of the City declaration

With the newly transformed Renasant Convention Center as the backdrop, Mayor Jim Strickland delivered a State of the City address that focused on a recap of the past year and the road ahead, a new violence intervention program and a “transformative investment” in Memphis.

Reflecting (Jan. 21) on the COVID-19 pandemic and the effort of the joint task force, Strickland said, “Our objective has always been to navigate the pandemic so that we are able to return to normal as quickly as possible, while preserving as many lives and livelihoods as we could along the way.”

Pausing to mourn those who have died, Strickland said we must remember “hope is just around the corner.” 

After detailing efforts to meet the public health emergency, Strickland noted that “while many cities across the country faced months of violent protests, our community came together peacefully to let their voices be heard, and we continue to reimagine policing for the residents of Memphis. 

“This past year has been one of collective and individual sacrifice. But through it all, I have been inspired by the resiliency of our community and the resolve you have shown as we have worked to navigate our way through these turbulent waters.”

Along with the pandemic, the past year also brought an increased violent crime rate to Memphis and most large cities across our country, said Strickland, who put local violent crime in a decades-old context and announced two major initiatives to combat it.

The Group Violence Intervention Program (GVIP) was pitched as a “comprehensive and collaborative initiative aimed directly at interrupting the cycle of violent crime by adding new and significant resources. …

“At its core, it is a collaboration between innovative policing and focused deterrence work. It will be complemented by other non-police agencies who will perform intense violence interruption, intervention, prevention and outreach to the hundreds of individuals we know who are committing most of the crimes and the most at-risk youth.”

Additionally, needed services for those individuals and their families who are most likely to shoot or to be shot will be provided, (assuming they agree to turn away from criminal activities), Strickland said.

A fulltime staff of four in the mayor’s office will have the sole job of implementing the program and coordinating the partners.

Referencing the second initiative, Strickland said that in the next few weeks bids would be solicited to convert all 84,000 street lights across the city to LED bulbs. 

“No longer will criminals have safe harbor to operate under cover of darkness and prey on our citizens in dimly lit parts of the city,” he said.

Declaring that the city was moving in the right direction on multiple fronts before the pandemic halted much of the progress, Strickland vowed to get the momentum back making use of what has been dubbed Accelerate Memphis: Invest in Neighborhoods.

The city, he said, would capitalize on favorable conditions by making “an unprecedented $200 million investment in catalytic community projects in every neighborhood and every city council district from Smokey City to Orange Mound, Raleigh to Whitehaven, Klondike to South Memphis.

“This will help restart the momentum and accelerate our growth by improving the quality of life, driving equity and inclusion, improving housing and connectivity, and solving stubborn problems that are deeper than any single yearly budget can solve.”

The City will take advantage today of the reduction in debt service (about $63 million) in July 2026 to make a transformative, one-time investment in a variety of capital projects all across our city, he said.

“And, with Accelerate Memphis, we will intentionally seek to leverage additional funds – such as private and philanthropic dollars – to increase its impact.”

Proceeds from $200 million in Accelerate Memphis bonds would be used in three main ways:

  • Neighborhood Improvements – $75 million
  • Improving our parks – $75 million; and
  • Revitalizing citywide assets – $50 million

By law, the funds must be used only for one-time, capital costs and cannot be used for recurring operating expenses such as salaries.

“Now, we call this $200 million plan Accelerate Memphis: Invest in Neighborhoods, and it does construct or rehabilitate many buildings or structures – but it is really an investment in one of our most precious assets, our people,” Strickland said. 

“It’s an investment in the child who wants a nice place to play. It’s an investment in the busy parent who needs to run errands but doesn’t want or maybe doesn’t have the financial means to drive across town to buy an item. It’s an investment in the elderly neighbor who may simply want a well-lit and safer neighborhood. 

“This is a plan about Memphians – the individuals young and old, black and white and everyone who make our city unique and such a gift to the rest of the world.”

Over the last year, Memphis has been dealt “more fear, anxiety and tragedy than many of us have experienced in our entire lifetimes,” Strickland said in closing.

“But, know this – as I stand here tonight, I can honestly and whole-heartedly tell you I believe the future of Memphis is brighter now than it ever has been, and these projects are just the beginning.”

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