Regarding the possible closing of Memphis City libraries and golf courses…
I clearly hear and understand the unhappiness shared by many citizens about these possible closings. As someone who has been through this process before, I can attest to the fact that there are no easy choices or painless budget cuts. Eight years ago, I began the process of guiding our County government from the brink of financial disaster. This is what I have been charged to do for the City of Memphis. This requires discipline and hard choices in the short term, as well as a new commitment to strategic, careful business planning for city government so that we are not faced with even more painful decisions in the future.
I understand the pain these possible closings could bring because I understand what they represent to our city. My own boys learned to golf at Overton Park and I have personally spent countless hours among the shelves of our local libraries. I want to assure all Memphians that my decisions about our budget are driven by nothing but the stark reality of our fiscal situation. Memphis has long been suffering the effects of a crippling economic recession and more fundamentally, a broken revenue model for our city that has been strangling our middle class for years.
Moreover, these cuts are happening to balance our budget after two separate courts have ordered us to restore $50 million in funding to Memphis City Schools that the City Council pulled two years ago. I was not involved in the decision to eliminate MCS’ funding. I was not involved with any of the legal actions taken by either side to address the situation following that decision. I have only been involved in trying to repair the damage to our city’s fiscal future.
Closing the Cossitt and Highland branches was mentioned as a specific cost-saving tactic in the 2007 Deloitte efficiency study, for which a number of current City Council members have expressed their support and urged for faster adoption by this administration. In any event, my recommendations about the funding for any city asset can only be that—recommendations, which will ultimately be approved or denied by a vote of the City Council.