Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Herenton Offers "State of the City" Speech at Rotary Meeting

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2008 at 4:00 AM

The Liberty Bowl is safe but the convention center is in play.

Mayor Willie Herenton made his informal (no apparent notes) state-of-the-city speech to the Rotary Club of Memphis Tuesday. It was upbeat, and there were no bombshells.

He said the expanded convention center (where the Rotary meeting was held) has been a very good investment even if did run way over budget, but it might not be adequate in the current "arms race" with Nashville and other cities seeking conventions.

He said he will appoint a committee within 30 days to study whether the center should be upgraded again or replaced with a new facility and a hotel with 1,000 rooms on another site.

"We have located some great sites," he said, although he did not disclose them.

Herenton also said the area around Beale Street and FedExForum will get major attention along with the landscaping of the expressways in Memphis and the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium surroundings. The proposal the mayor made a year ago to consider replacing the stadium is defunct.

"I have listened to a large segment of the population of Memphis and to build a new stadium is not in the best interest of the Memphis community," he said, to applause from the audience.

On consolidation of city and county governments, Herenton said "I may be the wrong person to talk to suburban mayors" but he still feels "I am right on this issue." He said the "waste" in two governments and two school systems is "nonsense."

The mayor praised Shelby County Commissioner Mike Carpenter for offering a mild proposal to merge some functions of the police and sheriff's department. But commissioners led by Joyce Avery, Wyatt Bunker, and Joe Ford shot that down in a 6-5 vote Monday.

As Herenton spoke, a delegation of city and county elected officials was traveling to the headquarters of Bass Pro in Missouri. Herenton said he will consider rival proposals but Bass Pro is "the best" option.

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