Freshman Councilman Would Relax Residency Requirements for Police, Fire Personnel 

New District 5 councilman Jim Strickland has placed on the city council agenda a resolution that would allow emergency personnel, currently required to live within Shelby County's limits, to live within a de facto 100-mile radius of Memphis.

In the resolution, introduced for council action this coming week, the freshman councilman notes the difficulty experienced by the city in recent years in geting the hires it need. He also argues that the work of these first responders often requires their intercession in activities beyond the city and county limits proper.

Therefore, Strickland's resolution states “that it would be appropriate to allow limited exceptions to the City of Memphis residency requirement in certain limited situations, consistent with the residency provisions of the Memphis City Charter…”,

The specific remedy? That “persons employed as Police Officers [and] persons employed as paramedics with the City’s Division of Fire Services are hereby exempted from the residency provisions of the Memphis City Charter and are hereby allowed to reside within a distance that would allow paramedics to report to work upon two (2) hours notice.”

Strickland says that that a 100-miles radius from Memphis might constitute an appropriate rule of thumb.

  • Police issues played at least a subliminal role in Strickland's successful election campaign last year, notablhy in a TV commercial, “Making a Difference, ” that has now been selected by the statewide Tennessee Politics Blog as Best Political Ad of 2007.

    The ad, written and produced by consultant Steven Reid of the Sutton/Reid consulting firm, features Strickland interacting with a police officer and other citizens, and in tandem with images of Memphis history. Says the blog, the ad “helped Strickland cruise to an unprecedented 73% victory and comfortable margins in all demographic voting blocs.”

    The citation says in part: “In a city infamous for racial politics, Jim Strickland needed an ad that would appeal across racial lines to gather a coalition to combat ethical misconduct in the City of Memphis…. Strickland’s ad contained images of important moments of unity that were relevant in the history of Memphis itself - the fight to save Overton Park and the Sanitation Worker’s Strike of 1968.

    “The presentation of these key moments in Memphis political history also may have helped Strickland overcome racial politics….By highlighting the political history Reid chose, the events began to connect Strickland to key moments in Civil Rights history in a subtle enough way to avoid being obnoxious.

    “With the historical setup, Strickland’s ad moves into the two main political issues which impacted all races in Memphis last year – crime, which was and still is a very relevant issue in the city, and corruption in City government, which was timely with the arrest of at least two Memphis Councilmen on federal corruption charges.”

    --Jackson Baker

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