Name: Frank Johnson
Candidate for: City Council District 8, Position 2
Date of Birth: 06-03-1977
- High School: Overton High School 1995
- College: University of Memphis, BA in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations
- Masters/Ph.D (if applicable): Master’s Of Public Administration, 2019
Family: Son of the late William Johnson and the Late June Patterson Johnson
Two older sisters. Karan Johnson-Edwards and Kathy Johnson-Albright
Two Nephews Tony Lynn Edwards II and Tory Larson Edwards
Community Involvement: Shelby County Democratic Party. Grassroots Council Representative for District 10 and a member of the primary board.
Environmental Justice Organizers. Concerned Citizens about the Memphis Defense Depot
Memphis Water Collaborative which organizes around the Public Health Issue of Lead in our drinking water
Official Campaign Website: Letsbefrankaboutit.com
1. What background/experience distinguishes you from the other candidates who want voters to elect them mayor?
My work in education, environmental justice and Shelby County Democrats has prepared me. But, I am from South Memphis, and in particular, the Alcy-Ball community. I watch my community decline economically. I watched my parents and neighborhood work to take care of their community and I never understood what was happening until I started learning about economic policies like redlining. I watch the schools in my area, and all of South Memphis, lose programs and staff because of lack of funding which I discovered was directly tired to redlining. Later, I have taken care of family members that were diagnosed with weird cancers or other ailments. I’ve learned through study that these conditions were directly tied to our proximity to the Defense Depot. So, I took personal experience and connected it to the larger story and I begin to see how all these issues are tied together. I don’t really hear people discussing these issues in their entirety. So, I feel that I need to run on a platform that calls out and addresses these problems.
2. What are the top three issues facing the City of Memphis?
Neighborhood Contamination/Lead Poisoning
3. What do you propose to address the three issues you rank as top priorities?
Redlining has and continues to lead to many of the issues in communities in Memphis. Memphis is a majority-black city and because of economic policies like redlining, our areas were devalued. This lead to defunding in schools because school funding is tied directly to property values. Also, these areas were used as sacrifice zones when services were cut and the communities were looked over for well over 40 years when it came to development. Many people in these areas were cut off to capital because banks would not lend. The properties continued to drop leaving the areas open to outsiders who bought up homes and renting them out to people who did not care for the community.
The issue of poverty has ridden shotgun to redlining. Where there were once thriving businesses, there are not empty buildings where those businesses once stood. Many of the factory jobs were outsourced during the last 30 to 40 years leaving the job market void of good-paying jobs. Also, TN is a right to work state where wages are significantly lower.
Memphis has an issue with lead poisoning and contamination. There are four sites in South Memphis and well over eight sites in North Memphis and Frayser. These sites, which include Foote Homes, Memphis Defense Depot and the old Firestone plant continue to cause neurological damage and health problems for thousands of Memphians. Children have been lead poisoned and continue to suffer the effects well into adulthood.
4. Do you favor the call for a half-cent sales tax increase to restore healthcare and retirement benefits for police officers and firefighters cut in 2014?
I do not favor an increase in taxes. I do believe that healthcare and retirement benefits need to be restored immediately and should have never been taken away. I do favor a cut to PILOTs and an increase in corporate taxes to restore these benefits.
5. Do you think the local PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program needs to be reformed? If so, why and how?
PILOTs need to be reformed. We can’t continue to give our city away for large corporations to come and pay low wages. We need to focus more on our locally owned black business which made Memphis great once upon a time. If we invested in small businesses the way we do with large corporations, we would see a BOOM in our local economy. These small business ARE ALREADY VESTED in the community and have direct ties to the city and aren’t beholden to shareholders that are thousands of miles away and only looking at the bottom line.
6. Do you see a risk of displacement and gentrification connected to the development boom in Memphis? If so, how would you address that risk from the position you seek?
Yes, displacement and gentrification are directly connected to this “so-called” development boom. The area being targetted are the same areas that have been ignored for well over 40 years. They were deemed to be “unimportant” decades ago by the very system that now seeks to displaced people. We will not have a viable city if certain people can’t afford to live in the city. This is not just people who cant afford to live in the city. We see people being forced out because their taxes have quadrupled in a matter of months and they own their homes. We also see the court being used as people who can’t afford to fix up their homes get taken to court for fees they won’t be able to pay.
7. African-American-owned businesses have made up only 1 percent of all Memphis business receipts for several decades. If elected, do you see playing a role in changing that statistic? If so, what do you think that role would entail?
Yes, I do plan on changing this statistic because it is changeable. There is no way that we can continue to cut out African-American owned business. The city is majority African American and we have to examine our policy to make sure that there is equity. We know there isn’t as business receipt show