Shelby County Mayor presents vision for second term

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 9:47 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Four months into his second term as Shelby County Mayor, Lee Harris presented his vision for Shelby County Thursday afternoon.

Mayor Harris emphasizes that these are recommendations and need help from various entities and organizations to become reality.

The vision is being called “Our Next Era.”

”We want to be serious about these next four years,” Harris said.

We’re told by county government that three dozen volunteers went out into the county, finding out how government can work for its citizens, one of them being former Shelby County Commissioner Reginald Milton.

”We can’t do what the public wants us to do if we don’t know what the public wants,” Milton said.

The findings broke down into these five subcommittees: Inclusive Economic Development, Student Achievement, Neighborhood Development, Community Empowerment, and Expansion of Healthcare.

For economic development, Harris is pushing for “a living wage,” saying every county employer should be paying at least $15 an hour.

“A wage from yesteryear is not the same as a wage for today,” Harris said. “In order to reflect the reality that gas prices are going up, utility prices are going up, and... $15 an hour is the minimum for sure, but soon enough, a lot of our workers will need even more, given the inflationary environment that we’re in.”

Harris also suggests an easier way for former inmates to join the county workforce, requesting that county agencies and companies who contract with the county remove job application questions about criminal history.

This, he says, will help lower crime by providing a quicker path to getting out of poverty.

“The way you get folks out of poverty is to pay a livable wage,” he said.

After the presentation, we asked Harris how crime fits into all of this.

It’s been no secret crime in Memphis has been on a violent, upward spike, but Harris told us aspects of his vision will help address core issues that lead to criminal behavior.

“You know, housing is sometimes one of those issues,” said Harris. “(The plan) talks about investment in neighborhoods. (The plan) talks about student and youth achievement. All of those are factors that are going to help individuals succeed, live up to their potential and their God-given purpose, but also at the same time for all of us, help support tour public safety interests, and bring down crime.”

Again, none of Harris’ recommendations are set in stone.

Executive action, coalition formations, and even incentive structures are some of the suggested approaches to make these ideas happen.

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