District 1 Councilman Bill Morrison – school teacher and former HR professional – takes over as chairman of Memphis City Council, and his record as a calm consensus builder, bridge builder, and conscientious leader was on display with his comments at his swearing in for a new four-year term as Councilman on New Year’s Day.
Here are his comments which he called “Common Ground”:
It is an honor to be here today and address you as Chairman of the Memphis City Council.
It is an honor to serve with my fellow Council members and I cannot express in words the amount of respect I have for each of you and the enjoyment I have working with you as we move Memphis forward. I would like to thank my colleagues for the trust they have placed in me; a responsibility I do not take lightly. I would like to thank Mayor Wharton for his stewardship of our great city, and know that in all endeavors, public and private, the Mayor is a credit to his family, his city, and to the distinguished office to which he serves.
I want to recognize my mother and brother who are here today. They are the strategist for my campaigns and my life.
Most, I would like to thank my daughter Sarah for the love and support I always receive – and know that you are the inspiration for the public servant I seek to be.
I remember well four years ago when I was first sworn in as a freshman member of the Memphis City Council. I still remember the sense of awe and humility I felt as I pledged to be an honest, honorable, and faithful public servant. It was humbling for an 8th grade teacher from Frasier. …a job, I might add, that prepared me well for the “spirited” exchanges we often have on the City Council.
In my career, I am a teacher. But over the past four years, I have become a student. And every day I learn more and more from the many people whose paths I cross and the individuals who have entrusted me to lead.
We are a great city – a city on the horizon. We are the city of FedEx and St. Jude, AutoZone and Elvis.
But, we are a city where many live in abject poverty, and the rate of infant mortality is unacceptable.
We are a city where the gap has widened between the poor and powerful, and the life expectancy of our youth is unspeakable.
We are a city where the most influential man in the world, Steve Jobs, came to receive a transplant; yet many of our own children have run out of life.
It is our moral obligation as leaders to steer our city on the road to economic recovery and provide prosperity for all our citizens. It is our moral responsibility, not to defer to the powerful, but to lift up the weakest among us.
Recently, the world lost a great champion of democracy, and Havel’s words still inspire: “Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity.”
Over the past year we have faced challenges; hopeless and absurd.
The national economic downturn has had a devastating impact on communities across the United States. Bankruptcies are occurring at alarming rates with entire city governments left insolvent.
At home we have seen a decline in our tax base, unacceptable unemployment, and poverty and blight threaten to define us as a community.
But we are a city of survivors!
Last year the Council and Mayor were forced to make some unpopular and painful decisions to avoid the bankruptcy and devastation that has swept other municipalities throughout our nation. With a heavy heart we had to cut jobs, city services, pay and benefits.
As a Councilman and as a citizen, I want to thank the city employees and their families for the sacrifices they have made, and know as we prepare for the future, you will not be forgotten.
The worst is behind us! And, perhaps it is at the point we hit rock bottom, we found common ground.
Memphis is stronger today. We are on the cusp of economic recovery, and the plans we have made will positively impact our community for generations. Major relocations and expansions such as Electrolux, the Great American Steamship Company, Mitsubishi and City Brewing Company could be the beginning of a renaissance for our city. Today, crime is down. Unemployment is finally starting to improve. We are making great strides in the consolidation of our schools. We have witnessed the advent of the Green line, the expansion of bike lanes, and improvement to our parks, Riverfront, and Fairgrounds.
We are celebrated throughout the world for our top-notch medical facilities, the Civil Rights Museum, the Memphis Zoo, Graceland, theater and arts, and the history of our music. And last year, we are a city where a basketball team, rose from obscurity, and taught us to believe.
I believe in Memphis; its promise and potential. I believe in our Mayor and my fellow council members, and know that working together we will overcome the social and financial challenges we face. I believe in the promise of a great city; a shining city on a bluff with room for everyone looking for a way.
I ask for God’s guidance in the year ahead, and conclude today with the words Paul wrote to the Philippian Church: “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”