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James Harvey: ‘Deliver the promise’

Old leadership is still fighting today’s warfare with yesterday tactics. ... I’m not concerned about trying to beat AC, but I’m concerned with demonstrating that there is a mandate for change. Tri-State Defender: Share with us your personal background and community involvement?

 james harvey

James Harvey:
I was born and raised in Memphis; I graduated from Southside High School in 1980. I attended Southwest Community College, University of Memphis, and graduated from the University of Phoenix on campus with a BA degree in Business Management. I have been in business for over 25 years and involved with business development, business management, business training, and business investments. I’ve owned lots of real estate in Memphis. I have invested over 2 million dollars of that from my own portfolio/ domicile in Memphis and Shelby County.

Business is really my profession and it has been my life experience. I ran for State Senate in 2005, first elected to county commission in 2006, and re-elected to the county commission in 2010. I am now running for the seat of Mayor of the city of Memphis.

TSD: Is running for Mayor a personal goal or aspiration or more about something that is absent in Mayor AC Wharton? Or a mandate about what Mayor Wharton has not done?

J. Harvey: My leadership or vision has nothing to do with what has taken place with the current administration. However, my interest is for the people of Memphis. I think Memphis is on the brink of something big and great. The leadership over the years has come from the civil rights era and that era of (including some current) leaders have shown a representation that has brought us to this point. It is time for those civil rights mindsets to transition for the next generation to take charge. Old leadership is still fighting today’s warfare with yesterday tactics. In the African-American community we are very shortsighted of the opportunities that are right before our eyes. And we are shortsighted because we have the wrong leadership in place. I’m not concerned about trying to beat AC, but I’m concerned with demonstrating that there is a mandate for change.

TSD: Do you have a specific vision for the city and how would you describe or characterized that vision?

J. Harvey: My vision for the city consists of a plan called the Trio-Plus, the government is the plus, the Trio is our educational leaders, law enforcement leaders, and our economic leaders. Quarterly those leaders within the Trio- Plus would meet to communicate and to work towards common goals. First of all, we would inventory the assets of the City to find out what about Memphis makes us great. Secondly, we would determine the most critical needs of the residents of Memphis and the region, and thirdly, what are those things that bring about the highest quality of life for the citizen of Memphis? We would develop a comprehensive plan for building a world-class city.

TSD: If you were to be elected Mayor of Memphis on Oct. 6, what are the three things you would say will have been accomplished under the Harvey administration four years later?

J. Harvey: I would make sure that city government is well balanced and well managed. And under the Trio-Plus plan you will see the economic growth of corporate business, small business, and independent business. Also, unlike other mayors, I will not hire my friends, girlfriends, and church members. We have a surplus of employees in City Hall and that needs to be dealt with smartly and courageously and we will do that under my administration.

TSD: Considering your statement to be true, what safety net would you put in place for those displaced City employees? How would you balance your goals of smaller more efficient City government with already outrageously high unemployment in the City?

J. Harvey: I would go to the corporations here in Memphis. The corporations here receive 99 percent of the tax incentives and tax breaks and it’s time for the piper to pay back. I would ask their assistance in moving that surplus into the private sector workforce. That means Fred Smith (along with other corporate leaders and entities) is going to make less money and he along with those others should sacrifice for the greater good of the City. They should contribute to the growth, stabilization and safety of the city through true private-public partnerships that I will facilitate as Mayor.

TSD: What’s your take on the P.I.L.O.T. program and do you have an alternative plan to attract business?

J. Harvey: I’m in support of PILOTs, but I am not in support of the amount we provide to businesses, many of which have no sustainability. As Mayor of Memphis, I would not be comfortable with putting the citizens at higher exposure levels for the many times meager amount of local jobs we create from the corporations who we give these tax breaks too. Mayor Wharton has no plan, but is being led by people that are only trying to make a sale. Mayor Wharton doesn’t have a clue because he is a lawyer not a businessman. I have no confidence that he understands the consequences behind his decision.

TSD: What is your perspective on the EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine) Board? Do you think it can be effective for Memphis and Shelby County?

J. Harvey: It is going to be a mess. It is too much work to comprehend and undertake for free. Also, you have to learn about code enforcement and other elements of local government in order to make effective decisions or risk being a rubber stamp group. There are simply too few people that understand the true undertaking of this board and it’s too much work. Ultimately, we have such poor leadership in this current administration. If we don't change leadership, Memphis is going to bankrupt.

TSD: Do you plan to seek more than one term, if you get elected?

J. Harvey: No, and I will also agree to take less money. AC Wharton makes a lot of money off of city taxpayers, personally as well as family members. I will take a portion of my pay as Mayor and create a discretionary fund from which I can contribute to various community groups and families in need.  I also won’t have family members with city contracts.

TSD: What endorsements have you gotten?

J. Harvey: I’m not currently seeking any. I’m seeking out the endorsement of the general public, the voters of Memphis that want a positive change in leadership. This is a people candidate campaign. And I am the people’s candidate.

TSD: Speaking of the people, can you discuss for them the three most important things you have accomplished as County Commissioner?

J. Harvey: One, I took the lead and charge of supporting Lemoyne-Owen College when they were in the risk of losing accreditation due to lack of funding, and a strategic plan that would give them merit and new vision to be able to improve their management to retain and grow enrollment. Next, I’ve been a strong advocate against privatization that takes jobs from the workforce, deputy jailers, and food service workers of Shelby County. I made sure privatization was dead. I have worked diligently in making sure that locally owned small businesses have an opportunity through government. I have supported legislative change and enhanced policy and procedure requiring larger corporations to partner with locally owned small business. I was very much supportive in tax freezes for seniors over the age of 65. I do quite a bit of consulting work for college graduates and people who are interested in going into business as well. I am a servant of the people.

TSD: What are your thoughts on creation of alternative revenue sources such as gaming or a payroll tax? Are you an advocate of these measures and what are some of your ideas?

J. Harvey: Some of my ideas on alternatives revenue sources would be payroll tax, gaming opportunities, and the growth of small businesses. We would create through these alternatives a loan pool for small business. We need people to leave college and be able to consider small business ownership and we need existing small business to expand. This will create 15 to 20 million dollars for corporate Memphis. We need loans for small business. So when they make their payments the funds keep growing.  Currently, 80 percent of the workforce works for small business. My strategy is to grow this sector. We have to redeploy new and existing revenue and in doing that it will bring opportunity to small business to hire more people.

TSD: How do you see yourself lending leadership to the communities around Memphis? As mayor, what opportunity do you see in terms of working with the surrounding cities?

J. Harvey: I talked with the Mayor of Tunica and they know we need Tunica and they need Memphis. Also, I had a meeting with the Mayor of Bartlett. He is interested in better communication between leaders. Also, he is very much against consolidation of schools. Bartlett wants to remain independent. I met with the Mayor of Collierville and he wishes that there were better communication with all the stakeholders. My point is that once these leaders have determined that their concerns are your concerns then your concerns become their concerns. Therefore, we will have a much better opportunity as professionals to work out our problems, and situations. This is what business leaders do. A mayor that has good leadership skills understands the holistic view of economic development and a cooperative approach to collaborations.

TSD: How do we move forward with our educational system? What is your stance on consolidation, and as mayor how would you bring leadership to our educational system?

J. Harvey: We only need one superintendent. We made a bad decision by increasing the salaries of both current superintendents and if we fire them tomorrow they both walk away with a million dollars.  I would like to see a superintendent that is open to work with me as mayor with an approach that will allow a fair structure in the school system. I would like to see the system divided into four smaller regions, allowing for four regional superintendents over the divisions and curriculum.

TSD: As Mayor, do you think you could work with either of the current superintendents?

J. Harvey: Yes, I do, but I’m not sure how open they will be. I think they are reasonable men to the point they would be open to my recommendations in making our school system better.

TSD: How important is education for you as a mayoral candidate?

J. Harvey: Education is at the top of my list. Without an education everything gets harder. Education sets the stage for us to learn and respect our history. Education allows us to befriend our neighbors. Education is the most critical component of our existence. Whether it is formal or informal we need it in the classroom and workforce. The school system is responsible for how we become adults in society.

TSD: Would you go as far as to establish an office or position, a Deputy Director for Education if you will, in your administration?

J. Harvey: Yes, and that person would work daily with schools and employers and be a consistent representation between the city council and mayor on education related issues.

TSD: If Edmond Ford Sr. was not in the race – just you and Mayor Wharton – do you think that would sway the race in your favor?

J. Harvey: I’m compelled to believe that both AC and Ford’s votes will be those of old traditional voters based on names and popularity. I think people will vote for AC Wharton because of name recognition. I don’t think Ford is a big factor in the race, but only a spoiler and bait. I do hope that the white community will reach out from their comfort zone and entrust new leadership and then AC Wharton will lose. The black community is not bought by AC Wharton and has not bought into his leadership.

J. Harvey: In conclusion, I’m very confident that I will be successful in this race for mayor, but that may not mean we will walk away with the majority of the vote. It means we will have proven to this community that choices and good choices are available and it’s up to the community to make that decision. I don’t expect everybody to change overnight, but we hope they will because we have something great to bring to the city of Memphis.

I understand the dilemmas in this community and I’m willing to attack them head on. I am not afraid and I don’t have a One Memphis concept campaign. I have a people’s campaign. I will deliver the promise, which is my campaign slogan. I will provide jobs, and other public safety related issues that concern the citizenry of Memphis. Being a statesman is important to Memphians and this city has not had a mayor who understands statesmanship, but only those that understand popularity and sensationalism. I am a statesman that will get the job done and deliver on the promise of a better Memphis for all.


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