MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mayor Jim Strickland has spent a lot of political capital cajoling state leaders, particularly Governor Bill Lee, into looking kindly on projects that benefit Memphis. And the effort seems to be paying off.
Lee is including $20 million dollars in his amended budget to expand riverfront docks in downtown Memphis. Strickland has lobbied heavily for state money to expand the dock at Beale Street Landing and build another docking area to the north along the Mississippi River side of Mud Island.
The new docks will be needed because of the expected increase in riverboat traffic now that Viking River Cruises has announced it is entering the Memphis market as early as next month. More riverboats stopping in Memphis means more tax revenue going into local and state coffers. So in Strickland’s mind, this is a great return on investment. The fact that Lee is willing to help could be viewed as election year politicking – since the governor is seeking a second term this year.
But Lee’s budget amendment still must be approved by the Republican-controlled legislature. And that’s a group that often looks at Memphis and its needs with indifference – and even disdain. Strickland has been trying to counter that with overtures that are less about partisan politics – and more about what’s good for all Memphians.
Whether the mayor is ultimately successful remains to be seen, but the effort is certainly there.