Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And you thought no one would pay attention!

Remember THIS post from August, where I asked specific questions of Mayoral candidates and essentially dared them to answer?

Well, guess what? ONE candidate DID answer, and, interestingly enough, it's the fellow coming to Drinking Liberally Wednesday night, the presumed leader in the race, County Mayor AC Wharton! We thank him for his responses, and without further ado, here they are:

1) I KNOW what the problems are, tell me what your SOLUTIONS are, and I would like detail, please.
My main priorities are economic development/job creation, crime-fighting and law enforcement, the environment, government efficiency, regional policy, education, and rebuilding our neighborhoods. My platform has specific strategies and ideas for each one; ACWharton.com/platform is a detailed, 33-point agenda for my administration's responsibilities starting on our first day in office.

2) Are you for or against consolidation of government AND schools, and if so, in what form? If not, why not?
I favor a metropolitan system of government that would serve both Memphis and Shelby County. Our current dual government structure is needlessly inefficient and wasteful. It is a bureaucracy that does not provide the best value or services to tax-payers and is prohibiting new businesses from investing in the region.

It is important for residents of both the City and the County to understand that Memphis is not "competing" with Germantown or Collierville or Bartlett. Our entire region is competing with Louisville, Jacksonville, Nashville, and other communities across the nation. Right now, we are not winning those battles. That's why I have advocated strongly for the creation of a commission that can study our current system, gather input from the entire community, recommend changes that will allow for the most user-friendly and efficient form of government possible, and place these recommendations on the ballot for the approval of both city and suburban voters.

As both school systems are represented by their own, autonomous, elected bodies, it is impossible for me to "consolidate them" against their will. If they believe that that merging would provide the greatest value in education to students and families, then it is up to them to reach that decision and take the appropriate actions independently.

3) What is your plan to reduce crime other than just putting people in jail, because the jails are bursting and you can't lock up EVERYBODY, can you?
There are three main points to my crime platform:

- Expand Operation Safe Community, and continue to facilitate common-sense collaboration between the Memphis Police Department and the Shelby County Sheriff's Department. Contrary to popular perception, crime is a regional problem, not restricted to any one locality, and requires a regional solution. Operation Safe Community is already having an impact - serious crime is down 16% in the last year - but we have to do more.

- Expand use of Blue Crush technology to identify and intervene in high-risk areas BEFORE they become high-crime areas. Right now, Blue Crush is being used retroactively, after a neighborhood has been plagued with crime. We can use it more intelligently and intuitively to identify specific blocks where we know criminal activity is likely. This will be done in conjunction with grassroots neighborhood watch programs that will focus on vandalism, litter, and other early symptoms of neighborhood decline.

- Continue pushing for tougher penalties for individuals who sell guns to young people. There can be no excuse and no exceptions for these offenders. Illegal handguns are destroying our inner-city neighborhoods by enboldening would-be criminals. When we eliminate the gun trade, we will succeed in making street crime less lethal.

In addition to these strategies I will continue our humane, productive prisoner re-entry programs. As we saw in this week's Commercial Appeal, nothing will have a greater impact on public safety than bringing down our recidivism rate. We must continue to find ways to bring ex-felons back into the economic mainstream and workforce after they have fully paid their dues to society. Simply put, it's cheaper and safer than simply recycling human beings through the criminal justice system. We are already making some headway on this, but we must do more.

4) Without trashing any opponents, tell me what YOU'VE done in the community and FOR the community, and I mean the ENTIRE community, both downtown and the C, as well as the Poplar Corridor.
My administration will be about what my campaign has been about - investing in people, not projects, and doing whatever I can to bring about a new era of unity and joined prosperity for all Memphians. That is why we are calling our campaign "One Memphis;" The fact is we are already one Memphis. The question is whether we will choose to succeed or fail as one.

I feel that I can speak with some credibility on this as I have deliberately built a reputation over the course of my life as uniter and consensus-builder. Before I entered politics, I was a public defender, private attorney, and Director of Memphis Area Legal Services. I was elected with over 60% of the vote in 2002 when I ran for County Mayor and was returned to office with 77% of the vote in 2006. My proudest achievements have come when I have helped the most vulnerable and least advantaged among us, as when I expanded our Head Start programming for children and initated the Jericho Project to treat our mentally ill prison population, and when I have have opened up government to new voices and viewpoints from throughout the entire community; Sustainable Shelby, our community's first comprehensive smart growth plan, and my Congress On Crime last year are two examples. This is a process that I look forward to continuing and expanding as City Mayor.

5) Given we live in one of the most poverty-stricken cities in the country, how can you as Mayor work to overcome that?

I take some credit for recruiting some of the largest corporations to Memphis, including Medtronic and International Paper. Aggressively identifying and recruiting these kind of massive job creators by selling our city's virtues nationwide will continue to be a major priority of mine. I will also create a Memphis Economic Development Advisory Committee which will coordinate ALL of our City's economic development and recruitment efforts for the first time.

I will comprehensively reform MATA so that it serves as the best possible public transit system to connect employable individuals with job centers.

While major corporations are vital to our city's growth, increasing opportunities for minority-owned and small businesses are equally important. Ten successful small businesses have the same economic impact as one FedEx. I will do as much as I can to increase contracting opportunities for minority-businesses and use targeted incentives to lure companies and create jobs in parts of the city where they are needed the most. As part of a more comprehensive Great Neighborhoods Initiative, I will make sure that all individuals, Community Development Corporations, and community groups across the city have access to workshops and other resources to stimulate growth within neighborhood-based commercial districts

6) Lastly, if elected, would you run for a full term in 2011?

A C Wharton. One Memphis

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