Mayor Jim Strickland moves forward with Memphis 3.0 via executive order. (Facebook photo)

With the stroke of a pen, Mayor Jim Strickland signed Memphis 3.0 into motion via an executive order, Tuesday. The signing occurred despite the handful of protestors outside of the South Memphis development center where the ceremony took place. They chanted, “Just say no to 3.0.”

The 20-year comprehensive plan is meant to guide the city’s development over the next two decades; but those against the plan said it’s a “slap in the face to African American communities.”

“They are trying to push us out and uproot us out of this community,” said activist Dr. Carnita Atwater, who serves as the Director of the New Chicago Community Partnership. Earlier this month the organization she heads filed a federal lawsuit against the city to prevent the plan from moving forward. They cited racial inequality and discrimination as the reasons.

Dr. Carnita Atwater detailing the New Chicago group’s opposition to Memphis 3.0 prior to the Memphis City Council’s first formal consideration of the development plan. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

“This plan is not offering any financial benefits for the African American communities. There is no investment into our neighborhoods. It is a violation of our constitutional rights,” Atwater claimed.

The plan, based on “building up, not out” touts inclusivity, noting a “city of greater connectivity and access and opportunity for all.” It’s a culmination of more than two years of strategic work from a mix of city officials, community organizers, and developers. According to the Mayor’s office, the administration surveyed 15,000 residents to help make the plan inclusive.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, Mayor Strickland reiterated the plan’s promise calling it a much-needed roadmap for the city’s growth.

“The economic renaissance we see in Memphis isn’t being felt in every neighborhood. This plan is a road map for growth and investments in all neighborhoods throughout the city,” he said. “With this plan, we will move forward in a collective voice in how we want our city to look years into the future.”

Under Strickland’s executive order, the city will put into effect Memphis 3.0’s development guidelines. However, The Memphis City Council will still have to vote on the land use guides. Before the Mayor’s executive order, council members postponed approving the plan three times, due to the growing complaints from members of the New Chicago Community Partnership and the pending litigation.

The City Council posted a statement on their Facebook page, Tuesday acknowledging that they will continue to discuss and debate the merits of Memphis 3.0.

“To the extent any administrative decisions made to implement Memphis 3.0 policies involve land use changes, such changes will still require council approval pending final action on the Memphis 3.0 plan by the council. Final decisions on land use matters have been, and will still be, the sole authority of the Memphis City Council.”

Atwater called the executive order an abuse of power from the Mayor and a further disregard to communities like hers in the New Chicago area.

“He’s protecting the investors and the developers. He’s broken the due process which means he didn’t go through the City Council.”

Roshun Austin, President of Works Incorporated, who hosted the signing ceremony at her office, said the plan is different from those in the past that have been detrimental to African American communities.

“The comprehensive plan helps to guide our future in Memphis and make real investments into distressed neighborhoods,” she said in support of the plan.

Atwater disagreed.

“They want us to die a slow death because the city of Memphis isn’t giving our communities any funding, but they’re giving it to the more affluent neighborhoods.”

Shelby County Commissioner, Tami Sawyer, who is also running against Mayor Strickland in the upcoming mayoral race, expressed her opposition of the mayor’s decision via a social media post.

“In doing so, he circumvented democracy and told citizens who have questions about its implementation their voices are irrelevant,” the post stated. “This is a move we’ve come to see from national politics and our current president. This move has no business in Memphis.”

The implementation of Memphis 3.0 isn’t stopping Atwater from moving forward with litigation. In fact, she said it’s given her even more momentum.

“He can do this executive order,” she said. “But he still has to deal with the 10 billion-dollar lawsuit.”

Atwater and her team are looking for legal representation to move forward with their lawsuit. They are expected to meet with a judge at federal court, May 29.