Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and other Memphis official smet with Gov. Bill Haslam and nearly half his cabinet Friday to talk about Wharton’s push to cut the city’s poverty rate by 10 percent in 10 years, reports the Commercial Appeal.
The mayor, city housing and community development director Robert Lipscomb and others told the governor and state officials they weren’t there asking for money but rather a “full partnership” with the state on the city’s “Blueprint for Prosperity,” a new approach to helping move more Memphis residents out of poverty. Its goal: cutting the city’s poverty rate from 27 percent to 17 percent in 10 years.
The plan takes a holistic approach to helping individuals and families increase income by creating jobs with living wages and reducing costs of living — through housing, transportation, education, health and other services.
“It’s not always a matter of being poor. Sometimes it’s about spending poorly,” Wharton said, recalling experiences as Shelby County’s longtime public defender.
…The mayor wants to integrate the work of a broad range of state agencies with similar services at the local level. As a result, Friday’s participants included the commissioners or other top representatives of the state departments of Transportation, Human Services, Mental Health, Health, Education, Environment and Conservation and Economic and Community Development, along with the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and the state’s Achievement School District, which operates several Memphis schools.
…The governor pledged the partnership and told the Memphis group he appreciates the approach and of involving the state “on the front end” of a long-range plan. He commended city officials for engaging cabinet members instead of just the governor’s office.
“We want to be your partner. For Tennessee to do well, Memphis has to do well. We realize there’s some unique challenges there that other places don’t face. We get that. There’s no overnight deal here. A long-term strategy is where we can help,” said Haslam, the former mayor of Knoxville.
…After the session in a Capitol conference room, Haslam said his administration has “been working hand in hand with Memphis as they work toward a new blueprint on a lot of issues, whether it is health issues, education, crime and others. So what I salute them for is reaching out up front and saying let’s be part of a plan together instead of calling us on the back end.
“There’s clear roles of what local governments should do and what the state can do, but we need to make certain that we’re utilizing all the resources we have. We are literally working on a strategy to say who’s going to do what to make sure that Memphis is the greatest city it can be.”