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Edmund Ford Sr.: A ‘grassroots’ move

I am running for the people of the city of Memphis. The people have been a little bit neglected….I am a people person. I love people. Tri-State Defender: Mr. Ford, why did you decide to run for mayor? Are you running for something, or against something?


Edmond Ford Sr. greets supporters at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center on Thursday (Sept. 15), asking them to join him in singing happy birthday to his wife, Myrna O. Ford. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)


Myrna O. Ford (second from left) and her son, Edmund Ford Jr., help make the case for Edmund Ford Sr. for mayor.


Radio personality Thaddeus Matthews (WPLX), a Ford supporter, works the crowd.

Edmund Ford Sr.:
I am running for and against. I am running for the people of the city of Memphis. The people have been a little bit neglected….I am a people person. I love people. I served eight years on the City Council. I’m still serving, I have not quit. Today, I had 30 calls from people concerned about things going on in the city – blight, overgrown fields…these things have in the last months really come to a halt. It’s sad when you’ve got grass taller than a person.

TSD: When you say these things have come to a halt, what are you attributing that to?

E. Ford Sr.: I can go back 21/2 years when things started, especially with the council’s last budgets. This is the third year coming into the last budget, this past budget that came in at 18 cents. That 18 cents was taken away two years ago, really three years ago now because of the fiscal year coming in, which really set us back two years. Something that should not have been in the beginning, but it happened.

Sometimes we have racial lines. We’ve got to get beyond those racial lines. We’ve to all come together as one race… It takes a mayor that can relate to council to do exactly what should be done right, not just what they feel that their constituents want, but what the whole city of Memphis would want. These things have not been done in those years. We have a mayor now that only sets priorities for certain groups. But it’s about people.

If you ride around in the neighborhood, as I’ve been campaigning, you see what’s going on – nothing….When you come into the inner city, you go to District 6, District 7, District 1, which is going into the Frayser area, all these things are happening really on the west side. We’re being neglected even though they’re paying the taxes. When it comes to our people, we only want a few things. We’re not asking for much, but we would like our neighborhoods nice sometimes.

Three issues are brought up all the time as most important – jobs, education and the third item, crime. If you’re going to take care of your family, you’re going to do whatever is necessary to take care of your family. When it comes to education, if we can’t educate our children, if we can’t put them in safe havens, keep them busy, you know, like our community centers staying open. We’ve got to keep our young ones busy. If not, where will they be? They’ll be out there on the corner, which is going to cause crime again. You go into the neighborhoods and you have all this blight. What does it cause? Crime, because you have all these abandoned homes. That’s where your drugs come from. It all goes back to that third item, crime.

Jobs

TSD: What do you have in mind relative to jobs?

E. Ford Sr.: When it comes to jobs, economic development is very important. The problem with economic development when you bring people in, you’ve got to make sure they’re coming in to become a neighbor, be a good neighbor. When it comes to economic development, we’ve got to make sure it’s helping the city of Memphis. Because anyone who comes here, you know you have all these different PILOTS (payments in lieu of taxes) they come in and want our money. And once they get the money, funds and everything else, we see them move across the line.

How many jobs do they bring to the city of Memphis? What type of jobs? I’ll give you one typical example, Pinnacle Airlines. How many jobs did they bring? Perhaps only a few. The majority of the people come from out of town, which does not bring any funds to the city of Memphis.

TSD: So you’re saying that when we talk about something like Pinnacle, you’re saying that when we’re making these deals, we should make it part of the negotiation process that we…

E. Ford Sr.: That we want numbers for the people who live in the city of Memphis, not just someone that you’re going to bring in and use our amenities.

TSD: And you want that information to be made available so that you can decide…

E. Ford Sr.: If it’s a good idea or if it’s not. You know, we’ve got Electrolux talking about they need more money. How many jobs will there be for the city of Memphis? You have to look at all of that. Can’t just throw out numbers. If it’s 3,000 jobs, how many will be Memphians?

TSD: So are you saying that we’re just too easy with our PILOTS?

E. Ford Sr.: We really are. They’re taking everything that we have but not spending any here. We’ve got 90,000 people that come here everyday and work but don’t spend a dime here. But, we have to pay taxes. And you can’t keep taxing people over and over and over because you’ll be taxed out.

Payroll tax

TSD: Am I hearing you saying that you are so much in favor of that idea that you would work toward that?

E. Ford Sr.: Oh yes, that would be one. There are a lot of areas that we could look at. Me and my son (City Council Edmund Ford Jr.), we get together on some things because we run numbers. I was a math major too. We used to pay $5 for inspection. They wanted to raise it to $7. I started thinking about that particular item. I have no problem, it’s a resource that we can talk about. The problem that I end up coming with is that we’ve got all these people coming from the county that do not have to have inspections. We’ve got to do something whereas, hey, they tear up our roads every day, pollute our air; they do all these different things…

I’m going to give you another example. The county wants to give the convention center back to the city. It’s going to cost another $1 million. Memphis is part of Shelby County. We pay two taxes. Why should we give you anything?...

“If you really look at the county on what is supposed to be joint issues, they’ve never really paid the city. We’ve always had to foot the bill. The school system, they always come back because we’re supposed to get money, but they never produced. They never stepped up to the plate. The city, we’ve always had to take care of these issues. That’s why we took over the libraries because hey, they did not pay their fair share.

That’s why I was talking about the convention center. They want to give us stuff back but use it because they don’t want to pay. But, it’s not fair to the people of the city of Memphis because first of all, we’re paying two taxes. But, we’re never getting anything from the county. But, we’re paying it twice. They always used to say it was 50/50, but no, it’s usually 75/25 and we never get our 25. We got to get beyond all those things.

In my administration, I’m going to work hard to consolidate this whole county. That’s what’s needed… We’ve actually doubled everything. When you look at jobs, you’ve got two of everything. It should not be.

TSD: What could you bring to the table that would make consolidation move forward beyond where it is now?

E. Ford Sr.: Try to work with all these other municipalities and let them know that together, we can do much, much better. Because you know, they suffer too. If you look at some of these municipalities, they’re trying to do a lot of things on their own. but they can’t. They need Memphis to make it. We need to join together. Then, you got all these different mayors and everything else. But, like I said, they want to be hard with what they want, but that hurts us all. It hurts really the whole county. We’ve got a lot of different issues going on. Memphis should be like Atlanta. Should have been a long time ago. We’re being held back.

TSD: Being held back by whom and what?

E. Ford Sr.: By a lot of these different groups and if it’s not me, then it won’t be. We got to make sure that everybody has the right to make a difference. I’m not going to say these names, but I know these people. I know it’s about certain groups, but it should be about people growing and making a difference. I was born and raised here. I love Memphis and the people of the city of Memphis. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about me. Period. I have no issues with me. It’s about people….

TSD: You’re saying that constituency service has been part of your history and that’s something you intend to take back to the mayor’s office.

E. Ford Sr.: There you go. That’s what I’m all about. People.

TSD: We were just talking about the Convention Center issue, and from what I understand, it is tied to this Bass Pro project. What’s your take on that particular project as an economic development tool for Memphis? Will that come to pass and what sort of things would you be in favor of relative to family amenities and other economic development projects like that? Do you think Bass Pro will be good for the city? Do you think it’s going to happen? And what other things would you be in favor of to bring to the city?

E. Ford Sr.: When it comes to Bass Pro, I won’t believe that they’re in there until they’re in there. I’ll just be honest. They did the same thing in Buffalo, N.Y. and nothing happened. The only thing that they did was mention money. It’s about what can the city give. That’s our pyramid. When it comes down to some of these numbers, hey, we can do it on our own. Especially with the pyramid, people come to Memphis just to look at the pyramid. You know they go to St Louis just because of the arch. May not be anything in there we can go to, but they go to see the arch.

Our river is the most beautiful river in the United States. What we have, we can do a lot with. One thing about this particular city, it’s not a convention center. That’s how we ended up losing the Church of God in Christ (Holy Convocation). We sort of made it that way, not a convention city. We have a hotel that they built and when they built it, it was too small.

When you come into a town for a convention, people like conventions in one spot. Also, with conventions, you also have break times. I want to be able to walk back to my room, relax, go shopping and everything else. We can’t do that because I can’t afford to leave the convention center, take a cab out to the Hilton and then back the convention center. People like to be in one area. I’m a funeral director. We have national conventions every year and you’re looking at 10,000 funeral directors all over. We look at convenience….

What we would have with our pyramid would be beautiful, shops, restaurants, hotel stay. Not only that, our Mud Island. If you start from our Convention Center, to our pyramid, you have our Mud Island. Everything should be as one. We could put everything on our beautiful river…

There are a lot of people with different expertise in different fields. In my administration, I plan on going to get these people…

TSD: Are you in favor of privatizing any city services.

E. Ford Sr.: No. The reason why I am not is it only would take jobs from the city of Memphis. When it comes down to the Sanitation Department and something that they tried to do, privatizing…that should never have been on the table, period…

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