MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland outlined a new direction for the city Wednesday as Memphis prepares to mark its bicentennial.
Strickland, halfway through his term, is taking in the applause but focusing on the future.
"After decades and decades of sprawl, we are taking Memphis in a new direction," Strickland said, referencing the proposed deannexation of several areas on the city's suburban fringe as the city focuses its investment and interests on the core of the city. "Those days of growth by annexation are over."
Growth will be guided by Memphis 3.0, the first comprehensive growth plan for the city in nearly 40 years.
"We will build up, not out. Our growth will be anchored on the strength of our core and our neighborhoods," Strickland said.
"Major things are happening Downtown and in Midtown — USL Soccer, Servicemaster and a St. Jude expansion," the mayor said.
Since 2016, he said, 12,000 more Memphians are working and unemployment is at its lowest level since 1990.
He also mentioned the recent removal of two Confederate monuments, an issue he said brought together conservative and liberal clergy in unity.
But he also took on one of the city's recurring failures: "Crime is our greatest challenge. Everywhere I go in every corner of the city, I hear it. "
"We have to tackle those challenges to continue the growth and the momentum," the mayor said.
Thursday night, more than 80 new officers will join the Memphis Police Department, Strickland said, and the city's gang unit will expand by eight members.
This will put the police force at more than 2,000. The city hopes to reach 2,300 on the force by 2020.
Strickland, noting the city's child poverty rate above 40 percent, said that positively affecting young people and keeping them on the right path was "the moral calling of our time."
"We can accomplish the impossible. We're Memphis. We're a city that has changed the world and we're not done yet."
The mayor's complete address is in the video below, or click here for the full text of the speech.