Mayor A C Wharton, in his 2009 campaign platform, set out the most detailed agenda for any candidate running for elected office in our community. Because much needed to be done to move Memphis in the right direction, he invited voters to hold him accountable for progress on his plans and promises.
Mayor Wharton laid out the following priorities to make Memphis a city of choice. They are posted here along with updates on actions taken in his two years as Memphis mayor.
Taking City Hall to the People
Mayor Wharton will take City Hall to the neighborhoods using technology and cross-departmental teams of city workers with deep knowledge of specific neighborhoods. These neighborhood City Halls will be located in city neighborhoods so citizens have better access to services and for help with problems. Also, Mayor Wharton will use technology to conduct "virtual town hall meetings" that directly connect the mayor’s office with the Neighborhood City Halls and install kiosks so people can conduct their business without having to go downtown.
Update: Mayor Wharton has conducted the first "virtual town hall meetings" here to provide more access for citizens to ask their questions and get help. Plans are under way for kiosks in various public buildings and his management team is developing a decentralized customer service system for easier public access. Mayor Wharton is continuing to evaluate the concepts, which have been delayed by city government's financial constraints.
Comprehensive Safe Streets Program
Mayor Wharton - who led development of Operation Safe Community, Memphis' first comprehensive crime-fighting plan - will apply his deep knowledge of the criminal justice system and crime prevention to develop a comprehensive crime-fighting program that includes tough sentences for illegal guns, special intervention programs for juvenile offenders, and rehabilitation programs for ex-prisoners. He will also pursue a Mobile Neighborhood Watch program of postal workers, MLG&W employees, cable television workers, newspaper carriers, and cab drivers who will act as “eyes on the street” and report any suspicious activities to a special hot line. In addition, he will institute a take-home police car policy to put more cars in our neighborhoods and increase police presence to deter crime.
Update: Mayor violent crime in Memphis is down 27.4% and major property crime is down 35.6%. Mayor Wharton is pursuing a new community policing program to connect law enforcement with Memphis neighborhoods. With 3,000 ex-felons returned to Memphis each year, Mayor Wharton is working on an innovative re-entry program that connects them to job skills and resources so they can support their families and become taxpayers. To implement his full agenda, Mayor Wharton has appointed new Police Director Toney Armstrong. In downtown Memphis, Mayor Wharton deployed police officers on bicycles.
Memphis Office of Talent and Human Capital
Successful cities in today’s economy are cities with talented workers – young, college-educated men and women. In other words, to succeed, Memphis must develop, retain, and attract talent, because today, jobs follow talented workers and not the other way around. Everything done by City of Memphis must be seen through the lens of human capital development, including neighborhood development, workforce training, and education. The Office of Talent and Human Capital will be created as part of the city mayor’s office because of the crucial impact of talent on the future of Memphis. In the end, this office will coordinate all programs to increase college attainment and to keep our kids at home.
Update: Mayor Wharton established the Mayor's Office of Talent and Human Capital - the only office of its kind in city government across the U.S. - to develop a comprehensive plan to attract, retain, and develop the talented workers of the future. He appointed Douglas Scarboro to head up the office, which is taking a data-driven approach to increasing the number of college-educated workers and certificated works in Memphis.
City Hall Efficiency Program
Mayor Wharton will create the Memphis Office of Evaluation and Strategy. Armed with Choicestat information and the 3-1-1 data, this office would be charged with evaluating every city service. Mayor Wharton will institute sunset rules that ensures that no city department, board, or service goes unevaluated. Before taxes are raised, city government just consider every reasonable way to reduce expenditures. To examine the operations, the policies, and programs of City of Memphis, Mayor Wharton would ask professional experts, citizens, and employees to perform a comprehensive evaluation. Finally, Mayor Wharton will fully implement the Memphis Efficiency Report to achieve the $24 million in savings outlined in the recommendations. As county mayor, he commissioned a Shelby County Efficiency Report, which he implemented there. Unfortunately, a similar efficiency study for City of Memphis was not implemented. That will change.
Update: The Office of Evaluation and Strategic Planning is being set up in the Division of Finance. The implementation plan for a 311 customer service and accountability system is being developed with the launch of the system's in early 2012. Mayor Wharton also appointed a blue-ribbon committee, the Strategic Business Assessment Committee, issued a detailed report to cut costs and increase efficiency. Its recommendations are now being put into place. Mayor Wharton is implementing the recommendations of the previously-ignored Efficiency Report for City of Memphis, and he has not submitted a budget proposal that required a tax increase to fund it.
Data-driven Management System
The Wharton Administration will create a Citistat program that will gather performance indicators for every city department – from potholes to parks, from code enforcement to the zoning code, and from sick leave to trash pick-up. This information will be used with geographic mapping to analyze all city services, to identify trouble spots and to produce dramatic savings. This data will be used to evaluate every manager and every section of city government, and most of all, it will be used to set budget priorities.
Update: Mayor Wharton has convened a management team that is developing the scope and the program for performance measurement indicators that will offer a Memphis Dashboard similar to the performance dashboards used in the private sector.
Customer Service Culture in City Government
Mayor Wharton will revamp the Mayor’s Citizens Service Center and integrate a new 3-1-1 phone system into it to give citizens quick, easy-to-remember access to non-emergency municipal services. City management must be customer-focused and every measurement of service quality must include feedback from citizens. In other words, all of city government must be focused on one thing – what citizens need. In this way, the annual Memphis Poll must be more than informational. It must drive priority-setting and budgeting decisions.
Update: Mayor Wharton upgraded the operations of the Citizens Service Center so every complaint or inquiry is being tracked in a central system whose foundation will be a 311 phone system. The data from a 311 system will become the foundation for Memphis' Choicestat program, which will provide his administration and the public with information so they can hold every city department accountable.
Better Parks and Trails Program
City parks are a crucial part of Memphis neighborhoods, but there is no standard for their activities or equipment. Mayor Wharton will develop criteria for neighborhood parks and regional parks so every citizen has the right to similar facilities. He will also pursue partnerships with neighborhoods to maintain their parks. In addition, he will work with Shelby Farms Parks so Memphians have a seamless system of greenways and trails. Finally, Mayor Wharton will pursue the Skate Park, preferably on Mud Island, and if that location is not feasible, he will pursue an equally prominent location.
Update: In cooperation with Shelby County Government and Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, Mayor Wharton expedited the 7-mile Memphis Greenline, the pedestrian and bike path that connect Shelby Farms Park to Binghampton and eventually will extend to Overton Park and the Fairgrounds. In addition, at the former site of the Mid-South Fairgrounds, a $15 million, 17-acre park was developed as a tail-gating area for football fans, but even more, a special park for Memphians. Also, Memphis' first skate park is under construction at Tobey Park.
Functional Consolidation of City-County Services
There are rich opportunities for consolidation of city and county services, and as county mayor, Mayor Wharton has led the process to merge engineering and fire services. As city mayor, he will make it happen. In addition, he will explore other areas for consolidation of operational support departments, such as fleet management and information technology.
Update: Upon the election of Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Mayor Wharton has a partner committed to finding efficiencies and economies in city and county governments. They are exploring areas for functional consolidation to reduce the costs of government.
The Wharton Administration will have strict anti-corruption regulations and will require impartial, immediate enforcement of any breaches of ethics rules. Most of all, he will create a program that is transparent so the public can hold their city employees accountable.
Update: The Wharton Administration has new, heightened dedication to high ethical standards, as shown in his quick and decisive actions to solve serious ethical and financial lapses in the General Services Division. One of his first actions as mayor was to issue an executive order mandating new transparency in city government, including online information on the city website about contracts, employee salaries, and municipal debt. Mayor Wharton also signed an executive order mandating new standards of ethics and disclosure requirements by members of his administration.
The Wharton Administration will develop an e-government program aimed at giving the public the option of doing anything online or at a city kiosk that they can do at a City Hall counter. In addition, Mayor Wharton will develop a city website for the 21st century. Every government report and policy will be posted online by the Wharton team. Also, he will transplant his program in county government to notify the public, especially young leaders, about vacancies on public boards and commissions.
Update: Mayor Wharton called immediately for an overhaul of the City of Memphis website, which is under way now. Its development and the development of a 311 system are being closely aligned.
Children’s Impact Program
Mayor Wharton believes that we often confuse schooling with education when it in truth, education extends to every neighborhood and into the home of every student. He will insist that all city programs support neighborhoods and families so that they give young people options for the future. In addition, he will work with Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth to create a joint city-county office that coordinates services for children and evaluates every policy or program for its impact on children.
Update: Mayor Wharton has signed a Memorandum of Common Purpose with Memphis City Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash to guarantee that city government and city schools cooperate on key public goals, such as developing healthy neighborhoods that support the classroom teaching taking place in our classrooms. He also continues to lead programs to reduce the infant mortality rate in Memphis. He also revamped the Summer Youth Program to provide participants with real world job experiences and he established the city's first ambassador program in which several hundred students focus on better health, education, and social responsibility.
Memphis First Transportation and Connectivity Planning
The Wharton Administration will adopt a “complete streets” philosophy for all transportation plans and neighborhood redevelopment programs policy so every street plan has to include alternative transportation options for safe, attractive, and comfortable access for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transit. Transportation decisions for the Wharton Administration will not be focused on cars but on healthy urban neighborhoods. Mayor Wharton will urge the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to move from acting as a planning organization to become a visionary agency acting on the shared values of the community. Also, the Wharton Administration will strongly support the Aerotropolis plan to strengthen our logistics infrastructure and to keep and create much-needed jobs inside Memphis adjacent to Memphis International Airport.
Update: Mayor Wharton hired the first bicycle coordinator in the history of city government, and already, he is making progress in the mayor's pledge to create 55 miles of bike lanes in Memphis. As chairman of Metropolitan Planning Organization, he is looking for ways to transform it into a vehicle for smarter thinking on transportation, and MATA is undertaking a plan to create a 21st century public transportation system for Memphis. In support of aerotropolis, Mayor Wharton signed trade agreements with French officials and received millions of dollars in grant funds to improve highways in the aerotropolis area.
Model Public Realm Program
The Wharton Administration will launch an ambitious plan to create more attractive and active public realm, starting with city streets, where it will set the goal of creating 50 miles of bike lanes and the planting of 20,000 street trees. These were key priorities of Mayor Wharton’s Sustainable Shelby program.
Update: Mayor Wharton has set two key public places as the sites for model public realm: the former Fairgrounds and the riverfront. Already, City of Memphis has built a 17-acre park at the Fairgrounds as part of a major sports and retail center. On the riverfront, he is developing a plan to connect the public space between Beale Street Landing on the south and Bass Pro Shop at the Pyramid on the north. In addition, he and Mayor Luttrell have launched the Sustainable Shelby program and hired Paul Young to lead the efforts.
Memphis Office of Innovation
Mayor Wharton will develop an Office of Innovation that will instill programs and practices to inspire innovations in city government. It will reward agents of change within city government and encourage public employees to look at new ways to deliver public services.
Update: For the first time in history, the city mayor has a special adviser on innovation, Kerry Hayes. Mayor Wharton has also received a three-year, $4.8 million grant from Mayor Bloomberg's Philanthropy to inject more innovation and to change the culture of city government.
21st Century Public Transit
Public transit is for everybody. A modern, high-performing bus system is crucial to the success of our city, connecting urban residents with job centers and acting as an essential service to attract talented workers. Mayor Wharton will work to develop a plan to transform Memphis Area Transit Authority into one of the nation’s best public transit systems.
Update: MATA is developing a plan for a 21st century public transit system. Mayor Wharton has also appointed new members to the MATA board who share his commitment to a highly efficient, high quality transit system.
Sustainable Shelby Implementation Plan
Mayor Wharton led the development of the region’s first sustainability plan, and Sustainable Shelby has comprehensive strategies for better neighborhoods, less commuting, green jobs, better transportation, more parks and greenways, and more. He will create the Office of Sustainability to implement the plan and build The Green Center as a hub of green technology, job training, an incubator, and space for affiliated groups.
Update: Mayor Wharton has appointed a new director of planning who represents the principles of Sustainable Shelby, and in addition, Paul Young, head of the Office of Sustainability, was named by Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Mayor Wharton to implement the ambitious recommendations of the comprehensive Sustainable Shelby plan of action. In addition, Mayor Wharton joined the EV Project, a nationwide program sponsored by U.S. Department of Energy, Nissan, and Chevrolet to install electric car charging stations throughout the Memphis region.
Memphis and Shelby County Comprehensive Plan
Memphis has not had a Comprehensive Plan for decades, which means that land use decisions and city policies lack a framework or a vision of the kind of city we’re trying to create. Mayor Wharton will urge development of the Comprehensive Plan, an official government document that sets the goals, objectives, and operating policies for land use, development, and reinvestment within a community.
Update: Because of budgetary pressures produced by the need to solve the school funding crisis, the Wharton Administration has been unable to begin work on the Comprehensive Plan, which will require substantial funding.
The Division of Planning and Development will be reorganized to create neighborhood planners who are specialists in specific neighborhoods and who will act as advocates for their residents. This means that neighborhoods will have informed liaisons when there are questions about zoning and when someone is needed to help with problems. As part of this approach, the Wharton Administration will coordinate the work of code enforcement officials in two different agencies and step up enforcement of the conditions which deteriorate the quality of neighborhoods.
Update: The Wharton Administration is blowing up silos in city government that prevented coordination and communication between departments like code enforcement, community enhancement, and planning. Because of budget cuts that reduced the number of planners in the Division of Planning and Development, the plans for neighborhood planners is being reevaluated.
Great Neighborhoods Initiative
The Wharton Administration will institute a “Great Neighborhood Score” so every action, zoning, and public investment in neighborhoods will be graded for its impact in creating the neighborhoods of choice that are needed for our people. In addition, Mayor Wharton will improve code enforcement in Memphis neighborhoods, and transform it from a reactive system to one that is assertive and encourages reports of problem areas. Neighborhood-based economic development is instrumental to healthy neighborhoods, and the Wharton Administration will determine the best toolkit, including incentives, to spur business development and entrepreneurship.
Update: The Great Neighborhood Score is a top priority of the new director of the Office of Sustainability. Also, Mayor Wharton is working with Community LIFT to implement the Greater Memphis Neighborhood Initiative and the Division of Housing and Community Development to create new economic activity in Memphis neighborhoods. Memphis has also received an unprecedented fifth Hope VI federal grant. In addition, the Wharton Administration demolished long-time trouble spot, Marina Cove, to make way for a new school and a public town center for the Hickory Hill neighborhood. Similar improvements are planned for Memphis's neighborhoods of choice. Mayor Wharton also filed suit against Wells Fargo for predatory lending practices aimed at African-Americans in highly impoverished parts of Memphis and filed more than 100 lawsuits against negligent owners of blighted property. Ultimately, 500 lawsuits will be filed yearly to attack neighborhood decay.
Stepped-up Memphis Minority Business Development
If Memphis is serious about economic development, it has to be serious about minority business development. It is an unrivaled opportunity for our city. Sixty-two percent of Memphians are African-Americans and only one percent of Memphis business revenues is with minority-owned businesses. That has to change. The creation of more minority businesses is at the top of Mayor Wharton's agenda, because more minority businesses will expand our economy, put more money in our cash registers, and create new jobs. Mayor Wharton will work aggressively with existing business organizations to develop new strategies that will create new business opportunities. In addition, Mayor Wharton will call for a citywide commitment to minority business that gives every one the opportunity to fulfill the dream of entrepreneurship that is a Memphis tradition.
Update: The Wharton Administration will soon announce a new Minority Business Plan for Memphis to create more support and incentives for minority business and more minority entrepreneurs.
Continue The Momentum of the UDC
The new Unified Development Code (UDC) undertaken at the direction of Mayor Wharton embraces for the first time the principles of smart growth and livable places into public codes.
Update: The new Unified Development code was passed during Mayor Wharton first year in office and the Wharton Administration is now applying the principles of the UDC to city projects and programs. Planners in the Office of Planning and Development are examining the UDC to include incentives for LEED building construction.
Libraries as Building Blocks of Community
The Memphis library system is more than a place for books. Rather, our libraries are anchor institutions that contribute to our city identity, to neighborhood stability, to the education of our children, to lifelong learning for all of us, to bridging the information divide, and development of productive workforce. They will be a hub for the strategies of this platform, including "virtual town hall meetings," neighborhood City Halls, mentoring centers, lifelong learning strategies, Books from Birth, and so much more. In addition, Mayor Wharton will establish a Literacy Coalition that includes the library system, Memphis City Schools, Books from Birth, Mid-South Reads, and colleges and universities, and this coalition will develop plans to reach every citizen with information that improves their ability to read and to pursue opportunities for better lives.
Update: Mayor Wharton has asked the board of the library system for a plan to restore its place as an anchor institution for Memphis.
New 9-1-1 center
Mayor Wharton will develop plans to build a new, safe 9-1-1 center that is badly needed and guarantees efficient, seamless responses to emergencies by our citizens.
Update: The Wharton Administration has proposed a way to build the new 9-1-1 center which has been stalled for many years and is awaiting the responses from other government partners.
Engage In National Discussion Affecting Cities
Mayor Wharton is involved with the Brookings Institution, CEOs for Cities, National Association of Counties, and the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, and because of it, Shelby County has been recognized for its innovative programs and he has led important discussions affecting cities. These affiliations are important in order to bring more resources – both funds and expertise – to Memphis. As city mayor, he will stake out an active role for the Memphis mayor in U.S. Conference of Mayors for the first time in 25 years.
Update: City of Memphis is involved in the Obama White House's six-city Strong Cities Initiative, Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Business Plan in three cities, $4.8 million over three years from New York Mayor Bloomberg's Philanthropy to create more innovation in city government, U.S. Conference of Mayors' think tanks, National Endowment of the Arts for live/work space for artists, and more. For the first time, Memphis is directly involved in the most exciting discussions about cities.
Memphis Arts and Culture Plan
No city in America has a richer culture than Memphis, and city government should help lead the development of a plan to leverage our arts and culture into a competitive advantage, including establishing new relationships with national arts funding organizations like National Endowment for the Arts. Most of all, the Wharton Administration will develop the connectivity that is now missing and results in lost potential from unconnected amenities and attractions.
Update: The Wharton Administration received a special grant from National Endowment of the Arts to develop live-work space for artists in downtown Memphis. It also continues to advocate for major projects like the Memphis College of Art Graduate School and National Civil Rights Museum on South Main Street. Also, the Wharton Administration is working closely for the rebirth of Overton Square as the "Heart of the Arts."
Memphis Economic Development Organization
A number of city departments and boards are involved in the economic development of Memphis, but they never meet to coordinate and collaborate on plans of action and priorities. Mayor Wharton will create and lead the advisory committee to develop shared values for Memphis’ economic development plans and to act as the umbrella group for communications. Memphis also needs more energy and more strategic goals in pursuing new jobs and investments.
Update: Mayor Wharton, working with County Mayor Luttrell, has done more than create a new advisory committee. He has led creation seated a new umbrella organization to bring together all public agencies into one centralized, coordinated agency called EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine). EDGE will strategically invest business incentives and set a plan for the economic growth of the community. In addition, this year, Memphis recruited the first company in more than 20 years that will create more than 2,500 jobs and has been successful in recruiting new companies to the city. In addition, in the past two years, more than 10,000 new jobs were created by existing companies. In addition, Mayor Wharton dramatically reorganized the city's faltering Workforce Investment Network which is charged with job training for Memphians.
Memphis Redevelopment Authority
City of Memphis is instrumental to development of new commercial opportunities and area redevelopments such as the Fairgrounds, Bass Pro Shop, Graceland improvements, Aerotropolis, and more. There is no single office with full responsibility to manage and direct these projects, and Mayor Wharton will evaluate the structure and composition of this office so decisions on major development opportunities can be made quickly and so opportunities can be fully realized.
Memphis Year Up and City Year Programs
Mayor Wharton will pursue a Memphis location for the Year Up program, a one-year, intensive program that provides young adults 18-34 years old with a combination of technical and professional skills, college credits, an educational stipend, and corporation apprenticeship. City Year unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, giving them the skills and opportunities to change the world.
Update: The Wharton Administration has created its own programs for Memphis fellows and college students working in city government to expose the best and brightest so they consider careers in public service. One is the Memphis Ambassadors Program, which provides students with opportunities to participate in culture events, community service projects, leadership development, and life skills training. Another is the Urban Fellows Program which allows students to intern in the mayor's office.