For Memphis Mayor A C Wharton it seemed a declaration of executive certainty akin to President Bush 41's memorable "read my lips," I won't raise taxes utterance.
"You won't find one document or one entry where the administration targeted police and fire," proclaimed the mayor on Thursday.
Yet, less than a day after the surprise Aug. 1 planned closing of North Memphis' Fire Station No. 6, due to budget cuts in the department, Wharton confirmed what FOX13 News first reported on Wednesday. Police Director Toney Armstrong will soon be forced to wield the budget axe as well.
However, it's Wharton as mayor who continues to be bombarded about allegations the administration has broken its vow to not cut public safety agencies. Though he continues to maintain his usual restraint against personal attacks, it's obvious Mayor Wharton is determined to set the record straight, especially, when it comes to reiterating his administration's stance over the years on MPD funding.
"To those who say we broke a promise we have increased MPD at the expense of all other divisions? Even when you pull MPD out, we have decreased city employees by just about four percent since I have been there," Mr. Wharton said.
A Wharton aide quickly followed up with figures citing since 2009 the administration has cut a combined total of 508 city employees. But, in the meantime, has restored 277 of them in the police department, leaving a total of 293 in four years. As for the fire department, Wharton says the number of "boots on the ground" firefighters and the closing of Station No. 6 are affected by a natural attrition in the ranks and the need for the efficient use of manpower.
"Probably 70-percent of the calls to the fire department are not fire calls, they're ambulance calls," Mayor Wharton said. "You don't need as many individuals on ambulance calls as you do on a big old tanker. Those individuals leaving the fire department are folks who are leaving on their own. That's been commitment. Nobody's being fired. Nobody's being laid off."
But, then again, Bush 41 did end up raising taxes didn't he?
City looks to slash $6M from MPD
City budget cuts force closure of MFD Station No. 6