Thursday, November 13, 2014

Strickland's Attack on Wharton's Public-Safety Record Foreshadows Likely Mayoral Bid

Council chairman holding off on announcement for now, but fresh polling and fundraising activity signal intent.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 10:21 AM

click to enlarge Strickland and Wharton in happier times, 2011 - JB
  • JB
  • Strickland and Wharton in happier times, 2011


City Council chairman Jim Strickland’s widely circulated blast on Wednesday at Mayor A C Wharton’s crime-control policy is in tandem not only with a challenge to the mayor embedded in a Council resolution slated for next Tuesday’s Council meeting but with a telephone poll being carried out this week on Strickland’s behalf.

The Councilman confirmed the existence of the poll but said the results of it were unknown as of Thursday morning. He also declined to discuss specific questions on the poll or other matters of its format. “It obviously has to do with city business,” he said.

The poll, the public attack on Wharton, and the planned resolution — which replicates some of the critical language of Strickland’s press release and calls for redirecting an additional $1 million from the City’s operating funds toward police recruitment — occur at a time of stepped-up fundraising for Strickland, the beneficiary of a big-ticket event last week, with more likely forthcoming.

For the record, Strickland has only committed so far to a reelection race for his Council seat, but his ambitions to run for mayor are of long standing, and he has often in the past acknowledged an interest in the job.

The period from now to the end of the year would be the appropriate time for any serious candidate to make an announcement for mayor, Strickland said, and presumably that time frame applies to his own plans.

Strickland’s public statement of Wednesday, in the form of a letter to"fellow Memphians," accused Wharton of a “defeatist attitude” toward crime reduction and said the Mayor had in the recent past “secretly” cut back on funds for Blue Crush police activity, resulting in a rise in crime levels. His comments on Wharton’s conduct of public safety matters were similar to criticism of the Mayor last month by Council colleague Harold Collins, another potential mayoral candidate who has formed an exploratory committee regarding a possible race.

Responding to a statement by City CAO George Little that the Strickland resolution’s proposed re-allocation of funds to enable a new police recruit class is unnecessary inasmuch as the City has already freed up money for the purpose, the Council chairman said, “That’s fine, and we can discuss it on Tuesday, but what was it Reagan said of Gorbachev? ‘Trust but Verify.’”

Strickland said the Administration had often juggled financial numbers in the past and its statements had frequently needed to be altered upon public scrutiny.
 

Strickland's letter of Wednesday reads as follows:

November 12, 2014



Dear Fellow Memphians:

Many of you have contacted me about recent events for my thoughts.

In order to reduce crime, we need (1) aggressive policing, including full implementation of Blue Crush; (2) stronger state laws, which require violent criminals to serve their entire sentences and hold parents more responsible for their minor children’s violent acts; and (3) to create an environment where children choose the right path instead of the wrong one. This situation requires strong and effective action.

Instead, Mayor AC Wharton, in one week, argued for more midnight basketball for young people and, in the next week, asked the public schools to stop playing football Friday nights at 7:00 pm. We cannot allow this defeatist attitude to push Memphis to be known nationwide as the city who cannot keep citizens safe after dark.

1.Policing Strategies

From July 2011 through December 2012, Mayor Wharton secretly cut Blue Crush details, which are the extra police sent to crime “hot spots.” As a result, violent crime increased. When some of us discovered the decrease in Blue Crush details, they were reinstituted in January 2013, and crime began to fall again. See the summary I wrote about this reduction with supporting documentation at http://www.cityofmemphis.org/Portals/0/pdf_forms/bluecrushanalysis1.pdf.

In addition to Blue Crush, there are other actions that need to be taken. There is a curfew law, but it is never enforced. Five months ago, the Council approved, and added to, the Mayor’s proposed police budget. Now, we need to make cuts in other departments to hire more police officers, and I will make such a proposal at our next Council meeting next week.

The City needs to arrest all persons, including juveniles, who commit acts of violence on others. According to a news report (see http://wreg.com/2014/10/01/are-federal-mandates-limiting-local-crime-fighting/) and actions reflected in police reports (see the police reports), the Mayor believes that a Department of Justice mandate prohibits taking juvenile delinquents into custody and instead requires the issuance of a ticket or summons. This is not true. The DOJ report places no such limits. (See http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/department-justice-enters-agreement-reform-juvenile-court-memphis-and-shelby-county-tennessee.)

2. Mayor Wharton’s Delayed Action<


Almost three years ago, on January 23, 2012, Mayor Wharton gave his State of the City Address. (See the speech at http://www.cityofmemphis.org/Portals/0/pdf_forms/STATEOFCITY_012312.pdf.) He stated his vision was to “create safe and vibrant places for people to live, learn, work, and play.” This included the pledge “to punish swiftly those who bring violence to our streets.”

He said he “launched an ambitious, aggressive 100 Days agenda that will set in motion crucial work on these priorities.” He promised to review the police department and “this review will guarantee that the police department is operating at peak performance.” (Emphasis added.)


It is now 1024 days after he promised to aggressively take action within 100 days. There still is no plan to create a “safe and vibrant” Memphis with a police department operating at “peak performance.” Violent crime is now up 9%.

Public safety is the number one responsibility of City government. We do not need more press conferences and town hall meetings; we need action.

Sincerely,

Jim


The Council chairman's proposed resolution can be seen here:  

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