Memphis is known for BBQ, but a new report says there is also a different kind of pork in our city.
The pork we’re talking about is government fat. The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a government watchdog group, released its 12th annual pork report, highlighting waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money.
The report identifies $400 million worth of wasted taxpayer money spent across the state. And yes, several of the items mentioned in the report are in Memphis.
“We look at a lot of local budgets, news reports, audits to figure out what are the most egregious examples of government waste,” said Justin Owen.
Memphis is mentioned several times in the report. From the $175,000 bill Memphis taxpayers are footing to entice filmmakers to shoot movies here, to money given to the board that handles FedExForum debt and improvements.
“We spent $4 million thru the Memphis/Shelby County Sports Authority to subsidize the FedExForum and other sports venues across the city,” said Owen.
Monday, the city broke ground on the new “I Am A Man Plaza” to commemorate the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968. The report calls the $700,000 in taxpayer money being spent on the project “pork.” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland sees it differently.
“This will be a draw for people coming to Memphis to learn about the history,” said Strickland at the groundbreaking.
The report also calls out the restaurant at Beale Street Landing, a publicly funded project.
“Running a restaurant and bar is not the role of government at any level, and they’ve proven that in Memphis, because they’ve wasted over $90,000 this last year trying to keep this restaurant and bar afloat,” said Owen.
“Certainly, something like an enterprise that fails, that is supposed to make money and loses money, like the restaurant down at Beale Street Landing… that’s an easy target,” said law professor Steve Mulroy.
Mulroy also used to be on the Shelby County Commission. He says when it comes to pork, “this is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s pork is another man’s valid use of taxpayer dollars.” He added, “One of the advantages of these kinds of pork reports is that even if you don’t agree that every item on the list is in fact pork, it at least raises public awareness of what our taxpayer dollars are being spent on, and that’s always a good thing.”