Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. didn’t have a whole lot to say about the Los Angeles Times column by T.J. Simers that is another in a series of diatribes by the L.A. Clippers columnist about Memphis in general.
But Wharton had much more to say about the Memphis Police Association billboards that got attention from Simers in the column with a national reach.
“This city does not support public safety,” read the billboards that include a sign reading, “Danger, Enter At Your Own Risk.”
“Forget this guy in L.A,” Wharton said at a Friday afternoon press conference when asked about the column. “The issue is the billboards. … I think it is self-centered. I think it is selfish. I think it has no place in our city. It never ceases to amaze me that people who have jobs and are comfortable basically pull up ladder once they get up in the tree house. Here we are out trying to bring jobs and tourism for others so that those in the private sector can have just a little bit of what those of us in the private sector (can have.)”
Wharton is concerned about the message the billboard sends to tourists and the impact on jobs in the tourism industry.
The administration and the police union are at impasse in contract negotiations and the union along with several other municipal unions is still in federal court with the city over the 4.6 percent pay cut city employees took in 2011.
“What about the people who lost their jobs during the recession?” Wharton asked. “They (city employees) did not lose their jobs and they will not lose their jobs as long as I can control it. … Is the 4.6 percent cut something to be proud of? Absolutely not. But I don’t think it’s as bad as losing your job.”
Wharton talked with reporters Friday afternoon on several topics after returning earlier in the afternoon from a trip to New York City.
He said he is considering naming one of the city’s three Confederate-themed parks after civil rights leader Maxine Smith, who died Thursday.
Wharton also said the city will monitor weekend garbage pickups by Republic Services, a private contractor for sanitation services with the city. Republic employees represented by the Teamsters union have been on strike for three weeks. Late in the third week, Republic added more drivers and put on extra crews to collect garbage in areas of the city where it hasn’t been picked up regularly since the strike began.
“This is a strike involving a private contractor. They are going to have to sort that out,” Wharton said. “We want the garbage picked up. We are assured it is going to be picked up.”
The city has informally told Republic executives that it expects the company to perform its duties under its contract with the city. If the city doesn’t like what it sees this weekend in that regard, Wharton said the city could put the company on formal notice which could be the beginning of contract sanctions including fines or withholding payment by the city.