mayor

Strickland re-elected mayor of Memphis, voters OK sales tax hike

Incumbent Jim Strickland was re-elected mayor Memphis and voters in the city approved a proposal to hike the city’s local option sales tax from 2.25% to 2.75% to restore benefits that had been cut for for police and firefighters in 2015.

“Politics can be pretty toxic… Today’s vote shows that it doesn’t have to be,” the Commercial Appeal quoted Strickland as telling supporters after the vote. “We can disagree without being divisive. That is the campaign I have run. That is the way that I lead. I have been and will continue to be everybody’s mayor.”

Strickland took 62% of the vote. Willie Herenton, a former 18-year mayor, received 29%. County Commissioner Tami Sawyer got 7%. None of the other eight candidates (including the eternal Prince Mongo) received more than 0.5%.

The sales tax referendum passed on a 52%-48% vote. Officials were quick to point out that voters can’t dictate how sales tax money is spent, but that they will follow the will of the electorate in dedicating the money toward police and firefighters.

Nashville mayor blasts comptroller’s letter as ‘political document’

Nashville Mayor David Briley is blasting a letter from state Comptroller Justin Wilson‘s office questioning the city’s finances as “essentially a political document.” The letter, Briley said, was instigated by Councilman John Cooper, his opponent in Nashville’s mayoral runoff next month.

“It’s my understanding that Councilman Cooper and his conservative, Republican friends on the council solicited it,” Briley said in a candidate debate Monday evening. “So he certainly should know a fair amount about it.”

The comptroller is elected by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which has a long track record of nullifying ordinances enacted in the heavily Democratic city.

Cooper, the brother of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), called the letter a “big wake-up call” as Nashville’s debt has doubled over the last four years.

“The facts speak for themselves,” Cooper said. “It’s not Republican and Democratic — I’m, of course, a long-time Democrat myself — it’s dollars and cents. Are we being well-managed? Are we on it?”

Briley cited the city’s strong credit rating from Moody’s as an objective seal of approval for the Nashville’s finances.

“Our finances are, in fact, under control,” he said. “And when the final budget is assessed at the end of this year, you’ll see that our fund balances are actually up over last year.”

The runoff is on Sept. 12. Early voting is underway and runs through Sept. 7.