MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis, in terms of size, is the city it is today because of one 10-letter word – annexation. Nearly 100 years ago, the city limits barely reached to the parkways. Since then, Memphis political leaders have been chasing population and the tax dollars it brings.
But despite each major annexation, city residents continued to leave as the price tag for city services continued to increase. All of that is coming to an end partly because state lawmakers are eager to intervene on behalf of disgruntled communities that were recently annexed, and partly because Mayor Jim Strickland sees no value in continuing the fight.
On Wednesday, in his annual State of the City address, Strickland pledged to concentrate public dollars in the core city. That means no more investing in the outlying areas. He said Memphis will move forward to de-annex certain neighborhoods that want out. In Strickland`s words, the city will build up, not out.
That`s a vast departure from past administrations and it`s the right approach. Strickland is correct to stop funding sewer projects in unincorporated areas and focus more on infrastructure needs in the central city.
The mayor also made news by announcing that the police force will have a net increase of officers this year after several years of decline.
Of course, serious challenges persist, but shrinking the city`s footprint – like pruning a tree – offers the best opportunity for real growth.