Behind the Headlines – October, 26, 2018

Behind the Headlines – October, 26, 2018


– (female narrator)
Production funding for Behind The Headlines is made possible in part by: the WKNO Production Fund, the WKNO Endowment Fund, and by viewers like
you, thank you. – Memphis mayor Jim Strickland tonight on Behind The Headlines. [energetic music] I’m Eric Barnes, president
and executive editor of The Daily Memphian. Thanks for joining us. I am joined tonight by Jim
Strickland, mayor of Memphis. Thanks for being here again. – Thanks for having me. – Along with Bill Dries, reporter with The
Daily Memphian. Let’s start, it is
election season. And I should say we’re
taping this on Tuesday, just given scheduling, and a lot going on
in election season. We’re in early voting and there are charter amendments that are getting a
lot of attention. And what is your take? Let’s start with the
term limits which you are term limited to two. What is your take? How are you gonna
vote personally? Are you recommending
people vote on charter? – I’m not recommending any
position on any of them. I will say that if the
extension of the term limits from two to three passes, it will have no effect on me. At most, I will
run for two terms. – Let’s do it this way. You were on the
council for two terms. – (Jim)
Yes. – Would it have made sense
to be there on a third? Martavius Jones was on recently and talked about how
there’s a learning curve, current city council
person in favor of extending the term limits. Would there have been value
to be there for three years, three terms. – Oh I think so. I think there’s some
legitimacy to that, that it’s a part time
job as a council member. And it is awfully hard
to get up to speed, especially on the
details of the budget, which is kind of overwhelming
and that sort of thing. So I think that’s a
legitimate argument. – Former mayor Willie Herenton
made some news recently about claiming that
this in part was crafted to keep him for
running for mayor. He’s declared that he’s
gonna run next year. You have not
declared, I believe, whether or not you’ll
be running again. And he accused, I think your administration
being part of that. Did your administration
have any part in crafting the charter
amendment at all? – No, we didn’t. The council came
up with the idea. The council drafted it. And the council even sent it
to the election commission. We were not involved
in any of that process. Allan Wade has confirmed that. – Allan Wade being the
attorney for the city council. – City council, he’s
confirmed all that. And I think Berlin Boyd
has confirmed all that. So we had nothing to do
with conceiving the idea, or drafting it, or sending it to the
election commission. This was all council driven
and that’s what the facts are. – Just a quick civics lesson. Can the mayor of Memphis
propose a charter amendment? – (Jim)
Oh yeah. – But it still has to
go through council. – Absolutely, yes. We could propose something, just like we propose
ordinances and a budget. But the council
has to approve it. – You can’t get
them on the ballot through your own authority. – Correct.
– Okay. – I mean I hope
that Mayor Herenton or anyone else who
wants to run for mayor gets that opportunity. – (Eric)
Okay, Bill. – One more question on this. When you were on the council, you served in a single
member district. Which, those are the only
positions in city government that currently have
a runoff provision meaning if no one gets
a majority in the race, it goes to a runoff election
between the top two. Do you think that should remain? – I’m not gonna give
my opinion on it. I actually lost one time, did not get into the runoff. So I guess I’ve never
been in a runoff. I’ve been in three
city council races and never was in a runoff. But just like the governors
race, or Senate race, or state offices, I’m not endorsing anyone. I’m not gonna endorse in
these ballot initiatives. They’re really
council driven and I think they’re making a
strong case on their own. – When you talk about
the instant runoff, is instant runoff voting, I mean I’ve heard
some people say, and we had Steve Mulroy and
Martavius Jones on recently talking about this. There is a problem of, you know, if you get to that point
where you have to do a runoff, that second election
is a tiny turnout. Is there a better
solution to that? Again, you’ve been
elected to office. Is there a problem there
that needs to be addressed in some fashion? Let me put it that way. – I don’t know. I don’t understand instant
voter runoff enough to be able to explain
it to someone else. So I don’t know if
that’s a good solution to the issue or not. – But is there an issue there that you’ve gotta
go to this runoff where people don’t turn out? – I’ve not seen an issue. I’ve not experienced that. But I’m always open
to better ways. I just don’t understand it
enough to be able to explain it. – Let’s shift to
economic development, an issue that you
have been very much, and you’ve had a stand
and a take, and so on. It’s been a big hallmark of your mayoral term for three years now,
coming up on three years. And there’s a lot of
talk right now about how various groups involved
with economic development, you know, the recruitment
and retention of companies to Memphis should interact. There’s the mayor’s office. There’s the county
mayor’s office. There’s the Chamber of Commerce. There’s EDGE which
administers and grants PILOTs. You can even argue then there’s
the council and commission. But just in terms of, I mean there’s just a
whole lot of players, and a lot of
conversation proposals about streamlining that process. First, should that
process be streamlined? And in what fashion, if so? – Yeah, but before that, I think we gotta kinda look. I think things have
improved significantly in the last two
and a half years. Of course, I’ve been mayor, so I’m gonna say that. [group laughing] Any mayor’s gonna say that. But I really do. I think that’s kinda been
lost in the discussion. 15,000 more people
are working now than just two and
a half years ago, $13 billion dollars of
development going on. St. Jude’s, ServiceMaster, FedEx at their super hub. Momentum is on our side. Number one city for
black-owned business, top five for
women-owned business. So I think we have to recognize that we’ve done some
really good things. We’ve come up with a
community builder PILOT that helped bring
a grocery store into a former Kroger
that had closed. So I’m proud of what we did. But I’m also open
to improving things. We need to do better, all of us, in the economic
development sphere. And there are a lot of parties. But I think the thing
that I’m gonna focus on is the broader picture. Workforce development is the
number one issue in America on economic development. That can’t be lost. – That’s a big part of
economic development. Who should lead the charge
on workforce development? I mean the chamber
has a role in that. There’s part of that
that’s under EDGE. You’ve talked about it a lot. But who is the point person
for workforce development? – Well, we are working
behind-the-scenes to get all parties
behind a plan, instead of, frankly,
debating it via the media. So I’m not gonna
give that right now. But we’re working
behind-the-scenes to bring the chamber, county, city council, county
commission all together behind a plan. And we’re in the midst
of that right now. But overall as mayor, I’m the one who’s held
accountable by the public. It’s not EDGE. It’s not the Chamber. It’s the mayor’s position. So in this whole process,
I think you’ll see our administration
getting more involved. – (Eric)
Okay, Bill. – What do you hear about fees that EDGE charges because the council
ad hoc committee has been looking at this. And they haven’t come to
any conclusions as a group. But part of the discussion
in the last meeting was that perhaps city
and county government could subsidize
EDGE to some degree and then EDGE could
drop those fees that apparently we’ve
been hearing a lot about from site consultants. – I’ve been involved
for two and a half years in economic development. I’ve had one company
mention the fees, one. And that was in the
last two months. I don’t think that’s an issue. And if you do away with it, that’s how EDGE funds
their operations. Then the taxpayers would have
to fund those operations. And we gotta focus
taxpayer dollars on core basic services, like police, fire, libraries, community centers. So I don’t think it’s an issue. And using taxpayer dollars
to do it I think is, when they’re not plentiful, is a concern. – Should there be public input on whoever is chosen
as the new president and CEO of the Greater
Memphis Chamber? – (Jim)
No. – Even though the chamber
takes this public role. The people who’ve
advocated for that, I mean, Mayor Harris has brought
it up on the county side. Other people have
talked about it. The chamber plays
this very public role in terms of steering
companies into Memphis, steering companies into
public incentives, you know, lobbying and working for
various public initiatives. So they have a very public role. And you know,
I’m a member, our company is a
member of the chamber. But there are critics
out there that say it’s almost a
quasi-public entity. So shouldn’t the public
have some input on it? – No, they’re a private entity. The Daily Memphian plays
a very public role. But the public should
not pick who the editor, or publisher…
– (Eric) No they shouldn’t. – or the writers are. So it’s a private entity. – Your relationship
with Lee Harris. We were talking a
little before the show. You were on council with Lee
Harris for two, three years. We were trying to figure, at least two years. He is now, what, a month
or so into his office. How much do you
communicate with him? And how much are you trying
to be aligned with one another in your efforts? – We’re working very
hard to align ourselves just like we did
with Mayor Luttrell. I’ve met with him several times. I think the relationship
is important. I think we’re gonna have a
really good relationship. As you said, we’ve known each other and
worked together before. His CAO, Patrice Thomas, used to work over at city hall, and I have great
respect for her, great respect for Lee. I think it’s gonna be
a good relationship. We had regular monthly
meetings with Mayor Luttrell and we’re trying to work that
into Mayor Harris’ schedule. You know, the first couple
months are very busy for a new mayor. So I can understand that. But he’s agreeable to that. So I think we’re gonna
meet on a regular basis and then when we need to. I met with him last week. – Okay, and that has always been one of the criticisms
of divided government, of non-consolidated government. Back to economic development or any kind of initiative
that the state, maybe, that they have to
make two phone calls. They gotta call the county
mayor, and the city mayor, the county mayor, and the city, and it creates these
inefficiencies. Were you able to avoid
those inefficiencies that people criticize
our set-up for under Mayor Luttrell and going
forward with Mayor Harris? – I think for the
most part, yes. Yeah, I’m for consolidation. It’s not gonna happen
in our lifetimes. So I think we gotta
move beyond that and just do the best we can. And that’s regular communication and trying to be
on the same page. If I have a disagreement
with Mayor Harris, I want to say that
directly to him and not in a public manner. Same way, if he has
some disagreement with me on a core issue. You know, side issues, you know, that’s just human nature. So it just takes work. – (Eric)
Yeah, 15 minutes left, Bill. – At week’s end, there is going to be a reactivation of sorts of
the old Melrose High School in Orange Mound that
the city is undertaking. I believe there are
events on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday around the old Melrose
school in Orange Mound, very much the centerpiece
of that community. What are your hopes for that? And why is the city
involved in that? – Our hopes are that there are really
imaginative people out there with some resources
to be able to envision a productive use
of that building. It worked at the Tennessee
Brewery several years ago. You open it up and people
start looking at it and say, man this is really cool We could do this or that. And look what’s going
on down there right now. So in some ways you
just open the door and let the public in. And we’ve got really
good, imaginative people, sharp business people, community activists. And at the end of this weekend, hopefully there’ll
be some ideas about what that building could do. The building is a point of
division in the neighborhood. Over the last couple years, there’s been a significant
voice to tear it down because it’s blight
and dangerous. But there’s also been probably an equally large group saying, no let’s save it and reuse it. This is a way to maybe
bring both sides together and envision a way
to build it up, and remove the blight, and find a good purpose for it. – Will people be able
to go through it? And if they are, I’m assuming that it’s
structurally sound at least in places. – I think in places. It is my understanding
there are certain locations the public cannot go
because it’s not safe. But I don’t know the
exact details on that. But I’ll be there. – And a larger plan
for that community, Shelby County Schools has
invested a lot of money in Dunbar Elementary
which is nearby, which is a school
that originally the school system
considered closing before saying no, we’re going to invest
some money in it. So what are your
administration’s hopes for that area in terms
of housing stock, in terms of just redevelopment? – Well, frankly it’s
no different than other neighborhoods. If you look at Memphis, the momentum that
I talked about, you can definitely
see it in Downtown, and Midtown, and
the Poplar Corridor. What we’ve gotta do
is grow that momentum in all parts of our city. North to Frayser, south to Orange Mound
and South Memphis. That’s what one of the
purposes of Memphis 3.0 was, to reach out to every
single neighborhood, find out what they envision
their neighborhood to look like in 10, 15, 20 years, and try to expand the economic
prosperity that we’re having in so many other
parts of the city into all parts of the city. We’re focused on delivering
core basic services, paving those roads, and picking up the garbage. Our new garbage policy is gonna take place
here very shortly. And I hope that helps
on the litter size too. But that’s the curbside trash instead of calling it
in and you pick it up. We promise to pick
it up within 21 days. We pick it up every other
week without a call. – This is yard waste
or anything that’s… – Yeah, curbside trash. The stuff outside the cans. And that’s gonna help
in every neighborhood. So we want basically
economic prosperity. You mentioned
affordable housing. We’re committed to expanding
affordable housing. And Paul Young’s got a plan. I think last year we increased
the housing stock by 5,000 affordable housing units
throughout the city. So that’s a priority too. We gotta get down into
the neighborhood level. And people have pride
in their neighborhoods. Orange Mound has a
incredible history. And it should be honored. But it needs some work.
– Paul Young is the director of housing and
community development, which also brings… He’s over the fairgrounds
plan, and the TDZ, am I right that the TDZ borders extend in and around
Melrose High School? Is that correct? Or down into that
neighborhood to some degree. – To some degree.
– To some degree. What is the status on
the fairgrounds TDZ? – Paul and his team
have been meeting with the state administrators and getting it
prepared for a vote by the State Building Commission by the end of this year. If it is not approved by the
end of this calendar year, it will disappear. – Forever.
– Forever. – Because that law,
the whole TDZ plan is there are no more TDZs. This one was grandfathered in
– Correct. – as an active application. The Riverfront TDZ has happened. – Yes. – Okay, that was approved. So are you, you know, there was so much concern
in the spring about oh there’s gonna be payback because of confederate statues, and the state legislature,
and state officials. Have you felt any
payback at play in this fairgrounds TDZ? What is the delay
if it’s not that? – No, as far as I know, there’s
been no payback on that. It’s a big ask of
the state for a TDZ because they’re
basically granting you 100% of the increase
in state sales taxes, the increase in that area. So they’re giving the
city a lot of money. And they want to make
sure it’s a valid plan. Apparently not all, our two TDZs downtown
and Graceland have been successful. That’s not necessarily true
with every one across the state. And that’s something
we’ve learned. So they’re looking
at ’em very closely. – For those who’ve lost track, ’cause there’ve been so
many fairgrounds plans over the year, and I moderated a conversation with Mary Claire, and I forgot her last name. – Boyce.
– Boyce. Who is point person for
this for Paul Young. And she walked
through the history which was actually kinda funny. But right now, the plan that is before the TDZ is centered around youth sports. And you know, volleyball, traveling teams, traveling sports. The Coliseum is just mothballed. Not torn down, not developed in any way. What else is in that that you want to highlight that’s in that fairgrounds TDZ? – Well, we’ll have more
money to really invest in the Liberty Bowl. The press box side, that whole structure up there is very dated and
needs to be updated. The University of
Memphis wants to do that. So this would give us
some money to put in that. But the centerpiece
is youth sports. My son played some
competitive youth sports and we traveled all over. And if you’ve never
been involved, you don’t know how crazy it is. Crazy in a good way. – (Eric)
Ehh… [Jim laughing] – My daughter did it and I’m not so sure it
was crazy in a good way. But it is, if people
haven’t seen it, you don’t realize
what an incredible sort of industry it is. – And we’re focused
on indoors sports. Basketball, track, cheerleading, volleyball. And people will travel all over the region
to go to big sport. And we don’t have one
facility in Memphis to do it. So it really makes sense that
we could be a leader in this and really bring… And with a TDZ, the T stands for Tourist. So we have to build something that would bring tourists in. And then when the
tourists aren’t using it for their tournaments, then the community can use it. And I imagine this
building will be used almost every day of the year, other than like Christmas. – At one point, there was talk of a huge
amount of retail space, almost a mall of sorts. And so what sort
of commercial space is sketched into this? – I think it’s a little bit
of commercial and a hotel. All that has been
drastically reduced from the old plan 10 years ago. I think the Great Recession
had a part of that to do with it. And retail is just not the
same as it was 10 years ago. – (Eric)
Five minutes left, Bill. – All right, and as
for the Coliseum, some of the discussion
has been that with youth sports there and some new
activity on the site, that that’s where a future use for the Coliseum might emerge that we’re not thinking of now. – Absolutely. No one has brought
an idea forward that makes it financially viable to reopen the Coliseum
and put a bunch of money into rehab it and
then operating it. But just like old Melrose, if you do something on
the fairgrounds property, maybe somebody who’s
really inventive can think of some idea five years from now that we’re
not thinking of right now. So that’s why, a big reason why you don’t
try to tear it down now. Let’s see what we can do there. Build some interest
and just open it up to the imagination
of entrepreneurs. – The Central Avenue side
would also change quite a bit because you’re moving the
fairgrounds football field that the high school teams use, and the track, over to where it’s
next to youth sports. And Central Avenue is some
pretty significant frontage from a commercial real
estate point of view. – Right, and that’s where
the retail and hotel would be up toward that area. That football field and track
are used very frequently. So we don’t want to do
away with that permanently. We would just move it on
another part of the property. But because it’d be the most
enticing place for any retail, that’s why you’d
want to move it. – And since, as your administration
has been discussing this, Shelby County Schools
has been talking about moving to a new headquarters, has closed on a location
on Jackson Avenue. So is the place where
Shelby County Schools is currently headquartered
at Hollywood and Avery, is that something
that could become part of the fairgrounds plan? Or is that something that
might be an offshoot of it? – Yes, it might be. We are very interested
in that property. It’s gonna be a while though before the schools
move out of that because they have to
remodel the facility and put some money
over in Jackson. So I don’t know exactly, but my guess is they’re
a couple years away from being out of that building. But we are very interested
in that property to make it part of the
whole fairgrounds project. What would be put
there, I don’t know yet. – There’ve been a number
in the last month, since you’ve last been on. But just to say
in the last month, one if not two in Memphis, officer involved shootings. One that got a lot of attention. There were three officers. All of their cameras
were turned off. When you hear that, that there’s been an incident and the cameras have
been turned off, what is your reaction? – Well first of all, not all their cameras
were turned off. So, when the
investigation gets done, you’ll see the exact thing. But I think, disappointed that any
camera would not be used. We want 100% compliance. But police, roughly cameras have been
used for about two years. In-car cameras and
body-worn cameras. Memphis Police
Department has taped three and a half
million interactions with the public
during that time. Three and a half million. And there’s 50 or 60 times
when the cameras were not on for some reason. That’s a success rate
of about 99.99999%. Cameras have been successful. We want 100% success and
we’re working toward that. But you gotta put
it all in context. Think about it. Nashville does not
have body cams yet. And we implement ’em. That was one of the
big things we did in our first year in office. We have implemented ’em. And when you look at it, not only are the
officers using ’em, but the complaints
against officers have drastically been reduced. – And when you talk
about the investigation of what happened with this
officer involved shooting, ’cause I think you’d agree
that is a different level than a traffic stop
certainly, obviously. That investigation is
being conducted by whom? And where are you on the
question of the TBI being involved in all officer involved
shootings statewide? – All right, there’s two
investigations going on. There’s a criminal investigation and TBI is leading that
criminal investigation. And there’s an
employment investigation, policies of the city. And the Memphis
Police Department is leading that investigation. It will be done prior to
the criminal investigation. And for my opinion, I think any serious injury that involves a officer
involved shooting should be investigated
by the TBI. To me the only holdup is the TBI having the capacity to do that. – And with just 30,
40 seconds left, the surveillance trial
that talked about the police’s use of, you know, Facebook and social media, and monitoring people, did you learn anything
and change anything as a result of that trial, and things that came
out of that trial? – Sure two things we learned. Number one that almost every
single law enforcement agency in the country was doing what the Memphis
Police Department did. Almost every single one of ’em. Second thing is, the judge said we should not
do it because we’re unique. We have this court order. And we are complying
with the order. – All right, I cut you off. I didn’t give you
enough time on that. But thank you
– Yes, thank you. – for being here. Thank you for joining us.
Join us again next week. [energetic music] [acoustic guitar chords]

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