MEMPHIS, Tenn, — Dozens of supporters for police officers and firefighters filled the room at Mayor A C Wharton’s news conference Tuesday. They’re not happy with the way the mayor and his staff are dealing with this pension problem ,and Tuesday was their chance to tell him to his face.
Mayor Wharton and city councilors keep telling the public they don’t want to make these cuts to health care premiums, and if anyone can think of a better way to save costs and help pay down the deficit, they are open to ideas.
WREG asked the mayor, “You folks are elected officials. Isn’t that your job to come up with these plans?”
The crowd broke out in applause, and Mayor Wharton answered questions about changes to city employee benefits.
For the first time in 48 hours, the mayor talked about the so-called Blue Flu and the hundreds of officers who are calling in sick to protest these cuts. The mayor said it isn’t a strike and it isn’t a crisis.
His explanation was, “I will not put a particular label on this but let’s put it this way it is not a desirable situation.”
Wharton admitted the city should have done something sooner to deal with the pension deficit, and was forced to raise health care premiums and cut some retiree benefits to fund the pension.
One of the protestors asked, “Do you understand how much they make on that? Have you looked at any of those numbers? Hey, that was a yes or no question.”
Protestors say the money is coming from the families who can least afford it, and they will do everything they can to stop these changes from taking affect.
As for public safety, the mayor said Police Director Toney Armstrong is doing some schedule finagling to make sure Memphis Police Officers can respond to any crime in the city.
Wharton explained, “We talk practically every hour. He is a man of integrity, he is not a politician. So he’s not going to shade anything with me.”
The mayor says the city’s safety has not been affected by the Blue flu yet, and they are considering bringing in other agencies, like the Tennessee National Guard, to help keep it that way.