Shelby County Commissioner and activist, Tami Sawyer has entered the 2019 Memphis mayoral race. Citing an urgent need for stronger representation and new leadership, Sawyer announced her intent to serve as the city’s chief executive officer in a statement released on Thursday.
“The time has come for our city to prioritize the needs of people over projects, and to deliver real solutions that will make progress attainable and enhance quality of life for all,” Sawyer stated.
“In recognizing previous advancements that have been made to help Memphis move forward and efforts currently underway to guide future growth and improvement, we cannot overlook or forget that there are thousands of children and adults throughout our community whose best interests are not being considered, pursued, or protected.”
Declaring that “Memphis can’t wait”, Sawyer says her decision to seek election as mayor and challenge the incumbent was driven by various [time-sensitive] factors. Vast and persistent socioeconomic inequities; lack of opportunity and services to support youth and minority populations; and the absence of a vision for the future of the city that adequately captures its ultimate potential, reflects all segments of the community, and addresses critical needs are included among them.
“Memphis deserves a mayor that will introduce and maintain investments, policies, and initiatives that are designed to benefit the majority of its population. A Mayor that we can trust will represent and serve all residents, and work to ensure that the doors of opportunity offered and created in our city are unlocked and open to everyone.”
Earlier this year reports were released which showed that over the past two years the city of Memphis spent 23.6% of its contracting dollars with minority and women-owned businesses. And in Shelby County, minority and women-owned businesses received less than two percent of contracts between 2017-2018.
Data released by the Census Bureau shows that both overall and child poverty rates in Memphis are currently the second highest in the country, with 39% of the city’s children living in poverty. A poverty report commissioned last year by the National Civil Rights Museum in partnership with the University of Memphis revealed that 48% of African-American children grow up with scarcity. Moreover, 10,000 students in Memphis grow up in households with annual incomes of less than $10,000.00.
According to ACT readiness benchmarks, only 11% of students in Shelby County Schools are college or career ready. Less than 20% of Memphis students can read on grade-level in the 8th grade.
Increasing support for students and schools, small business growth, neighborhood revitalization, and criminal justice reform are among the top priorities that Sawyer plans to address if elected to serve as mayor of Memphis. Her 2019 campaign will center on equity and opportunity and bring to the forefront issues that she says require immediate focus, attention, innovation, and commitment from government leaders.
“Despite current realities, I believe in the ability of our people and our city to overcome our challenges and our challengers; this ability is steeped in our history, character, and reputation around the world,” Sawyer stated.
“As Memphis prepares to enter its third century, we can’t afford to stick to the basics or risk a repeat of more of the same. As cities across the country are rapidly progressing, Memphis’ potential to emerge as a leader should not be squandered by ineffective leadership. And as we approach the next four years, Memphians cannot stand by as our most vulnerable citizens continue to grapple with the negative effects of poor housing, environmental, learning, and employment conditions that are within our power to help alleviate and resolve.”
The 2019 general election for Memphis mayor will be held on October 3. If successful, Sawyer will become the first woman ever elected to serve.
“As Mayor, I will continue and expand my public service to all citizens of Memphis and Shelby County by standing up for those who are struggling to stay afloat, those who have given up hope, those who are working tirelessly to help our city evolve, and those who have chosen to call it home. Together we can ensure that Memphis and our people are positioned to succeed in the 21st century,” Sawyer said.
A ‘Memphis Can’t Wait’ rally will be held Saturday, March 9 at Clayborn Temple where Sawyer will gather with supporters beginning at 5:00 p.m. to share her vision for Memphis with the larger community.