Wharton: Criticism Is Part Of The Job - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Wharton: Criticism Is Part Of The Job

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) - Speaking publicly for the first time since the Memphis city council passed his controversial budget proposal Mayor A C wharton said he'd hoped someone else could have advanced a different proposal regarding cuts made to city employee and retiree health care benefits.

But, no one did.

Sure he wishes there had been other choices or options. But, after talking with city employees and council members for months, in the end it was Mayor Wharton who had to walk the plank of controversy alone when it came putting forth a city budget that begins to address the burdensome pension deficit.

MORE: City Unions Mull Lawsuit Over 2015 Budget Approval Cuts
MORE: Memphis City Council Approves 2015 Budget


"I think it would have created sort of a circus-type atmosphere," the mayor said. "The council chairman did a great job in controlling that situation and I didn't want to become a sideshow."

Since that tumultuous Tuesday night when city council narrowly passed controversial cuts in city employee health care and retiree city benefits, the mayor had been relatively silent, while those who voted for the cuts publicly defended their positions in the wake of a firestorm of criticism.

"We only had two choices, to reduce retiree health care benefits by 24 percent or to raise property taxes by $0.23 this year and even double next year," said Councilman Myron Lowery.

"When the time to vote came my proposal was the only one on the table," Mayor Wharton said. "I wish that someone would have come up with a better proposal."

MORE: Group Upset With Memphis Budget Creates Facebook Page

On Friday, in a one-on-one with FOX13 News Mayor Wharton did open up about a number of issues that have arisen in the aftermath of the contentious decision. I asked for his reaction to what was thought to be a threatening Facebook message sent by  retired MPD Officer Scott Reed and the barrage of social media comments from angry retirees, distraught current employees and their families.

MORE: Wharton Threatened Via Social Media Over Budget

"Nobody promised me a rose garden over here," the mayor said. "Do I  detest things such as threats? Yes. I suppose a lot of people who spend a lot of their time can tell them now to quit wasting it through trying to find what button do you push to make that guy go off? Just let 'em keep searching."

MORE: Director Armstrong Weighs In On Benefit Cuts
                 
Mayor Wharton expressed his concerns about comments made by Police Director Toney Armstrong, who urged the administration to find ways to help retirees cope with such measures as a 24 percent increase in employee health care premium payments. He says his administration is still working on getting employees health care.

"To work on things without carriers to say, 'Look, ya'll got to work with us. We've been good customers. Waive those co-payments. Work with us on these deductibles. Extend the hours of of employee clinic,'" the mayor said. "We're working on all those things."

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