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Making Memphis a “City of Choice”

March 23, 2010

On March 23, 2010, Mayor Wharton made a presentation to the Executive Session of the City Council regarding a bold new vision for reforming the business model of city government.  This strategic new vision will make Memphis a “City of Choice” for middle income families.  To view the full presentation, please click here: City of Choice Presentation March 23, 2010

Highlights from our City of Choice plan:

The Vision


Memphis is a city of choice.  Middle income families live here, all students have options for the future, poor families move into the economic mainstream, and talented workers are developed, attracted, and retained.

Guiding Principles


City of Choice is:

  • About place-making and city-building
  • About all people having choices for success in life
  • Built on distinctive strengths – first, best and only
  • Engages the broad community and at all times respects and embraces diversity
  • Emphasizes action, alignment, collaboration, connectivity, and shared purpose
  • Economic advantage of differentiation: Memphis must be a hub of African-American talent and business.

First, Best, and Only


Distinctive assets, culture and character that is authentic to Memphis and the basis for our competitive advantage.

  • Creativity: music, culture, entrepreneurship
  • Logistics: modern world commerce was invented here
  • Natural Resources: Mississippi river, connected by Wolf River greenways to Shelby Farms/Eastern Shelby County
  • Tourism: National Civil Rights Museum, Graceland, music heritage sites, Beal Street
  • Medicine: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, biotech niche, regional center for hospitals

City of Choice

Is not a Talent and Human Capital Plan, a physical Development Plan, a Neighborhood Plan, or a Support Services Plan. It is All of These.

  • Is about Unprecedented cooperation, coordination, communications, and common goals
  • Is a new way of looking at future decision making
  • Is about game changers, strategies that change Memphis’ trajectory
  • Builds competitive advantage on authenticity – What’s First, Best and Only

Why City of Choice Matters

  • Public business model is broken
  • Present trajectory has no margin for error
  • 105,000 city school students are seen as problems, not competitive advantages
  • Economic development strategies shift from cheapness to quality
  • Focuses on game changers because incremental progress means we never catch up
  • Creates human capital for a knowledge economy
  • Attacks root causes, not symptoms


What Success Looks Like

  • Healthy urban neighborhoods
  • Efficient public transit connecting people to jobs, universities and recreation
  • Known for its culture of creativity
  • Schools are hubs for community
  • Government gets the basics right
  • Technology allows citizens to self-organize
  • Vibrant public realm
  • Strong city narrative

Office of Talent and Human Capital Development

  • The Division of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) philosophy is to support and create public/private partnerships organizations that respond to the needs of our people and our neighborhoods.
  • This philosophy reduces government bureaucracy and government costs.
  • This philosophy is aimed at creating organizations that are entrepreneurial and mission-focused.
  • HCD has contributed to dozens of organizations that are directly related to our priorities.
  • City and county leaders last year – in a process overseen by HCD – identified human capital as the #1 issue facing local government and city schools.
  • During the campaign, Mayor Wharton campaigned on this and included it prominently in his platform.  Since taking office, he has been engaged in fulfilling his pledge and addressing the priority set earlier.
  • We’re pleased to be working with one of our partners, Women’s Foundation/Memphis HOPE, to execute a plan of action aimed at giving opportunities to every Memphians.


Next Steps


  • Internal staff currently working on immediate and short-term budget issues/recommendations (e.g. hiring freeze on non-essential positions, travel freeze; reduction of M&S Expenses; Debt Restructuring, etc.
  • Appoint Strategic Business Assessment Committee to review and make recommendations regarding the following major strategic issues:*
    • Rightsizing all public facilities and functions and appropriate staffing (subcommittee)
    • Defining Outsourcing Opportunities
    • Functional Consolidation opportunities
    • Joint Services Opportunities
    • Tax vs. Fee Philosophy and comments regarding the appropriate fee structure and collection strategies vis-à-vis other cities
    • Appropriate level of employee benefits
  • Committee will be modeled after a similar committee used previously by the Federal Government called the “Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Committee” used in the 80’s to determine which Military Bases would be closed.
  • Committee will include the following: Some members of Transition Committee (continuity), City Council, business Community, Labor, Clergy, and citizens.
  • Working with Brookings Institute to create city-wide strategic plan inclusive of regional concepts and HUD’s Sustainable Communities Grant.
  • Mayor will make internal recommendations regarding strategic realignments (Strategic and Financial Planning)
  • Other major initiatives planned / in progress (Game Changers):
    • Finalize City Vision, Priorities, Major Objectives, Game Changers, City Narrative and Value Proposition
    • Support for Memphis Fast Forward, MemphisED, People First and Operation Safe Community
    • Creation of Office of Human Capital
    • 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness
    • Creation of MBE/WBE plan
    • Formation of A Task Force to reduce poverty by 10-15% by 2020
      Major plan to Clean Memphis and keep it clean
    • Completion of the Bass Pro, Fairgrounds, Graceland and other major projects
    • Continue to work on Foreclosure Initiative (Lawsuit, Support Legislation on Mediation, Work of Task Force, etc.)
    • Formation of Committee (OPD, HCD, MATA, MT, etc.) to complete Integrated Planning Process that will enhance communication, coordination, leverage, etc.
    • Creation of Fair Housing and Accessibility Plan/Commission
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