Greater Memphis Chamber host Shelby County Mayoral forum

Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 10:25 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - In a room filled with some of Shelby County’s biggest developers, business owners and community leaders, each candidate for Shelby County Mayor made their case on why these economic leaders should pick them for the county’s top spot.

Both Incumbent Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and challenger Memphis City Councilman Worth Morgan were asked a variety of questions, ranging from how they plan to support minority and women owned businesses to how they plan to tackle blight and litter.

One business owner asked both candidates where they stood on the now canceled Byhalia pipeline project and if they’d support developing a railway with the similar path through Shelby County.

“My guess is is that the risks are different, but I think the outcry would still probably be there because it’s still the same commodity—and we still face the same environmental concerns with respect to trucking or rail transport of fossil fuels,” said Mayor Lee Harris.

“It would be very unfair for me to sit here on a very—I think—complicated decision like that, and to make a judgment without being able to view the facts of the case,” said Councilman Worth Morgan.

Both candidates also have different stances on how to expand minority and women-owned business.

“I think the first step is is being engaged and listening, and being on the ground level, and understanding why they’re not participating in the system—and it could be any list of reasons—I would like to hear that from them and as a partner to see what we could do to help,” said Morgan.

“One of the things we’re doing on the county side is expanding the role the county mayor plays for minority contracting,” said Harris. “That particular hire, that expansion, that new office, called the Neighborhood and Economic Development office, will help us to try to liaison with the county commission employees and try to make sure we have a minority contracting approach that actually works,” said Harris.

The candidates also gave their thoughts on blight and litter, a big concern among residents in the greater Memphis area.

Mayor Harris says projects are underway in Southeast Shelby County and the city to combat this but says more young people need to move to the county to help.

“The problem is, unlike other place Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, etcetera, we don’t have the young folks moving into the neighborhoods. If you get young people moving into the neighborhoods, guess what? Blight disappears,” said Harris.

When it comes to litter, Councilman Morgan believes people need to take pride their communities and has another potential solution to deal with blight.

“One thing that we’ve talked about a lot, and we’re still pushing for, is rental property registry,” said Morgan. “I’d be a fan of that if we could get the language right and make sure again we are capturing the bad actors and not put a burden on the good people that are here. That makes it easier to serve individuals and hold them accountable in environmental court.”

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