2022 BLDG Memphis Candidate Questionnaire - Executive Office Responses

Strong leaders support strong neighborhoods. BLDG Memphis along with our partners MICAH Memphis, NAACP, Frayser CDC and LISC Memphis will host a nonpartisan candidate forum in the lead up to the Shelby County Municipal election in August. The questions posed to the candidates during the forum will focus on issues of neighborhood investment. Prior to the event on July 19, candidates submitted a questionnaire responding to questions related to affordable housing, transit & mobility, solid waste & litter, and racial equity. Here are the responses from candidates running for County Mayor, Assessor of Property, Trustee, Environmental Court Judge and Register of Deeds. 

Neighborhood Equity and Social Justice

Low-income & black and brown neighborhoods are historically undervalued, under-resourced, and disinvested across America and in Shelby County. Equitable community revitalization efforts must address systemic inequalities that hinder neighborhoods from thriving and center the voices and experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) residents on the ground.

What does equitable neighborhood investment mean to you?

Assessor of Property

*Melvin Burgess (D): Equitable investment has two primary forms. First we must look at equitable governmental investments and incentives. This means that there should be some equilibrium between the amount of governmental investments and local government participation in inner-city and low income neighborhoods as compared with the amount of monies invested in big business and commercial areas. When there is an imbalance, in such investments, statistics clearly indicate advanced and expedited deterioration and blight in our inner-city communities. With the majority of the population residing in these communities, there is a huge loss of wealth from the homeowners in these neighborhoods. Secondly, there must be incentives provided so that we draw private sector investing in lower income neighborhoods; creating more affordable housing and more "mom and pop" business opportunities. This is what equitable investing is all about.

County Trustee

*Regina M. Newman (D): Since ‘equitable’ does not mean ‘equal’, neighborhood investments should be based on the needs of each neighborhood rather than what another neighborhood may need or get. Such investments should of course include investments by governments, but also need a concentrated focus by government which can bring about private sector investment. Data and public participation help drive the focus of government and the priorities of legislative bodies. It is absolutely vital that our legislative bodies actually represent the makeup of our citizens and represent their needs and not the needs of the few or solely the desires of large business and industry to the detriment of others. At present, I believe the limited resources of the City of Memphis and Shelby County are overly diverted to tax incentives for business rather than neighborhood needs. Last year, over $38 million was not available for other County needs due to being granted via PILOTS. Those representative legislative bodies must understand the total economic impact of ignoring large portions of the county. Equitable neighborhood investment is action which would make neighborhoods thrive in the short and long run – which does not include investment companies buying housing stock and turning our county into a community of renters.

Steve Basar (R): Equitable neighborhood investment means treating in all neighborhoods equally. Spending on infrastructure and public amenities like parks, schools and community centers should be done equally across Shelby County. For example, in some of the more economically distressed areas of Shelby County we should have grants and more robust programs to help existing homeowners.

Environmental Court Judge, Division 14

Addie M. Burks: Equity relates to what is fair and reasonable. I view equitable investment as a concept by which a neighborhood is given the "bones and structure" to become safe, sustainable and profitable. In many of the neighborhoods, there is high crime, blight, illegal dumping and overgrown grass and weeds, trees need to be trimmed, street lights need to be repaired, streets need to be paved, there are very few sidewalks and those need to be repaired; and people have substandard housing. People who live in those communities and want to operate businesses, are frequently denied the loans to develop and operate viable sustainable businesses. Some do get financing at very high interest rates. Due to the conditions, essential services (grocery stores , healthy restaurants' and the like) are not present, creating "food deserts". People are forced to seek services outside of their neighborhood for basic needs. People don't want to operate business in those areas. Public transportation is very limited. Those conditions feaster. I view equitable invest as addressing those issues. It is an awful truth, that the more money you have, the less you need. The stringent loan and mortgage requirements prevent people from opening the businesses and/or developing them. The financing for home improvement and mortgage assistance is very limited and usurious which means people cannot maintain their homes. Due to the conditions, if they want to sell their property, they cannot get a fair price. Equitable investment requires due consideration of the aforementioned and provides the resources to the people to build viable sustainable neighborhoods.

*Patrick M. Dandridge: Equitable neighborhood investment simply means to ensure that all neighborhoods and communities are provided the same level of investments as other neighborhoods. As indicated above, historically and still today there is not equitable consideration for all neighborhoods and particularly neighborhoods that are predominantly low-income and black and brown. This inequality must change and all neighborhoods should be considered the same and provided the same level of resources. In addition, any criteria used to provide resources should be based on neural categories and not based upon false narratives.

Danny W. Kail: Investment in all communities not just select ones.


Research proves that access to healthy and affordable housing is key to thriving neighborhoods. However, in Shelby County, properties in the urban core are historically devalued, owned by disinterested out of town investors, and there is a shortage of quality affordable housing units to meet the needs of homeowners and renters. While the City of Memphis has established an affordable housing trust fund to address housing needs and barriers of Memphis residents, Shelby County does not have a similar fund.

Will you support and advocate for innovative strategies to increase resources to non-profit developers and Community Development Corporations (CDCs) for acquisition, development, and maintenance of quality affordable housing units across Shelby County?

Assessor of Property

*Melvin Burgess (D): I have been on the forefront of the affordable housing issue and the imbalance of out of town investors coming in and turning homeowners into renters. I likewise took a leadership role in focusing on empowering CDC's and other non-profits whose mission it is to provide and develop quality affordable housing. Thus my commitment to quality affordable housing and the organizations that focus on affordable housing has been solid. I will continue this effort in my next term as Assessor of Property.

County Trustee

*Regina M. Newman (D): Yes. The Assessor and I have been working together on the rental property issue which is one cause of the lack of affordable housing stock for buyers. We are researching various zoning options in regard to percentages of rental properties in neighborhoods. As County administrators rather than legislators, he and I don’t get a vote, but we have several County Commissioners interested in our ideas and hopefully the new incoming Commissioners will be open to our ideas and other ideas to help in the stock of affordable housing. I will continue to push these issues. In the Trustee's office, my goal is to keep people in their homes if possible. We have entered into more payment plans than ever before and succeeded in getting the County to double tax relief for low income seniors, disabled and disabled veterans. That program goes a long way toward keeping people in their homes.

Steve Basar (R): I will be an advocate for innovative strategies to increase resources to CDC's and other non-profit developers. Promoting neighborhood stabilization, decreasing blight, and promoting affordable housing are all important priorities. Each of these initiatives will require specific plans and strategies. The current Neighborhood Partnership model is making progress on neighborhood stabilization and decreasing blight, I would like to see the model used by the University Partnership group (run by TK Buchanan) expanded to other neighborhoods. TK has surveyed the University Area and identified the blighted properties. Each property has a unique story and the partnership group is working with Code Enforcement. The Trustee office can and should be at the table working to address the blighted properties that are identified by these partnership groups. The Trustee working with the land bank, can help coordinate with existing groups and organizations. I will convene a working group to evaluate how the Trustee's office can help coordinate and promote affordable housing and partnering with CDC's.

Environmental Court Judge, Division 14

Addie M. Burks: I am totally in agreement with the development and maintenance of quality affordable housing. I would advocate for close oversite and accountability of such resources.

*Patrick M. Dandridge: I certainly support innovative strategies that promote acquisition, development and maintenance of quality affordable housing across Shelby County. As indicated above, there is a shortage in Shelby County of quality affordable housing. This problem results in low standards in the limited housing that's available. With the increase of out of town investors, there must be standards developed and enforced to ensure quality and affordable housing. As a judge, I will support but rarely advocate for legislative changes as I will remain neutral as a separate and independent branch of government without any appearance of impartiality or impropriety. Likewise, however I am a witness to the lack of affordable and quality housing to the residents of Shelby County and I encourage change.

Danny. W. Kail: Yes.

Mobility and Public Safety

The Memphis region ranks as one of the deadliest metros in the country for walking. Since the pandemic, fatalities and serious injuries continue to rise.

In lieu of this ranking, as well as recent high-profile auto collisions involving pedestrians walking and biking in and around the city, what will you do to decrease the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths within Shelby County?

Assessor of Property

*Melvin Burgess (D): As Assessor of Property, I have very little authority in the area of law enforcement or traffic safety. However, my staff has spent the last four years providing the requisite data and stats to those persons that do have the authority including both City and County Mayors. I am a biker, so the issue is quite personal to me as much as it is a public issue.

County Trustee

*Regina M. Newman (D): This is not an issue on which the Trustee has any impact or authority. Hopefully those responsible can appropriately focus on the issue and improve that situation.

Steve Basar (R): Pedestrian and biker safety is a growing concern. I rode my bicycle to work at least once a week from 2002 to 2012. I will use my position of leadership in the county to highlight the issue and promote safety. We have too many distracted drivers in Shelby County. Drivers need to be more alert to bicycles and pedestrians and the bikers and pedestrians should wear reflective vests and/or clothing whenever possible. I can model good behavior by being alert for pedestrians and bicycles when driving.

Environmental Court Judge, Division 14

Addie M. Burks: It is hard to live in Memphis without a car. Memphis is developing more 'mixed use' neighborhoods which encourages more pedestrian activity. There is an increasing trend in Shelby County for using bikes, skateboards, scooters and motorcycles. Memphis and Shelby County is a growing metropolitan area: however, sidewalks are in short supply. Residents act as if we are a small country town where "the pedestrian always has the right away". We must begin educating and training people as to the necessity of using cross walks, sidewalks, and bike lanes. Tickets for 'jay walking'. A massive PSA campaign. I would strongly encourage the schools to put emphasis on the obligation to comply.

*Patrick M. Dandridge: As a judge there is little I can do to reduce the number of fatalities resulting from citizens simply exercising their right to walk public on our streets. As a citizen, however, we must insist on our governments providing additional protections against such awful situations. A suggestion would be to conduct a national study to see what other cities are doing to reduce combat this deadly outcome. Once the study is completed, our governments should provide recommendations and plans to implement those changes. I would support this effort.

Danny W. Kail: Hold violators responsible! My family has been the victim of 2 hit and runs. The drag racers and reckless drivers apparently do not fear repercussions. This must be changed.


With over 13,000 vacant or blighted properties within the limits of Memphis and Shelby County, an effective strategy to address this issue will take a collaborative approach incorporating the work of government agencies, neighborhood organizations,  and community development corporations. Community Development Corporations (CDCs) have specialized knowledge, skills, and insight on how to activate parks and green space, convert vacant lots, and develop and manage properties.

How will you collaborate with CDCs, and neighborhood organizations in the design and delivery of programs to address issues of blight and illegal dumping in the city?

Assessor of Property

*Melvin Burgess (D): My office spearheaded and created what has now been called "THE ORANGE MOUND INITIATIVE"; bringing county government into the equation, where county government had been absent before. We utilized the power of the TENNESSEE NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION ACT to provide government resources and support to CDC's and Neighborhood Associations. We assisted in the drafting of the Orange Mound Community Redevelopment Plan and worked with CRA to find funding for the existing organizations currently working to the redevelopment of Orange Mound. I intend to take this successful template and retrofit it in other areas such as Smokey City, Douglass, Castalia, Alcy-Ball, and Frayser.

County Trustee

*Regina M. Newman (D): I joined with the Assessor on the Orange Mound Renaissance Project, a pilot project to attempt to address an inordinate number of vacant properties and lack of investment in, and focus on, the Orange Mound community. Orange Mound was at the tipping point of having so many vacant properties that the neighborhood may not have been able to recover, resulting in more blight in our city and county and decreased property values. Over 3 years working with the County’s resources and the local associations has seen an improvement in the situation and reinvestment by local businesses and purchase of property. That pilot project can now move to other neighborhoods in the county. Illegal dumping on the other hand needs much more focus from Code Enforcement. If additional legislation would be beneficial as well as enforcement, I would be happy to support it with our legislative bodies.

Steve Basar (R): I have personally attended the meetings of several city partnership groups and will continue to attend the meetings in person and/or have a member of the Trustee's office attend. Promoting neighborhood stabilization, decreasing blight, and promoting affordable housing are all priorities. The current Neighborhood Partnership model is making progress on neighborhood stabilization and decreasing blight. The Trustee office can and should be at the table working to address the blighted properties that are identified by these partnership groups. I will also work with the CDC's and partnership groups to determine metrics and goals for the Trustee office to measure progress.

Environmental Court Judge, Division 14

Addie M. Burks: Most definitely.

*Patrick M. Dandridge: As Judge of Shelby County Environmental Court, I hear cases everyday concerning blighted and dilapidated properties. For the last 18 -20 years, I have worked in the area of blight in three different capacities to include as a City Attorney and as the Director of Code Enforcement. From this extensive experience, I have learned that we all have to work with together with CDC's, neighborhood organizations, city and county governments, code enforcement departments, Shelby County landbank and others. As for the me, I currently hear approximately 1500 environmental cases per month, an increase of almost 50% than previous years. Second, I created an entire separate legal docket solely concentrating on litter and illegal dumping. Third, I have appointed over 20 Receivers to abate nuisance properties by rehabbing dilapidated properties in the City. Some of the applicants have been CDC's and will continue to reach out to them to become future receivers. Fourth, neighborhood organizations are absolutely necessary to make our complaint-driven Code Enforcement departments respond to blight in our city. I have had several Zoom meetings and office meetings to teach our neighborhood organizations how best to engage our governments to work for us. Throughout my 20 year career I have and will continue to work to bridge the gap between these various entities to produce programs to address the issues of blight and illegal dumping or littering.

Danny W. Kail: First ,we must do an audit of these 13,000 plus properties to determine the seniority and severity of each .We can then set a special docket to address expeditiously. Pockets where many are in a concentrated area like in the Hyde Park area, can be addressed together. Once all the data is organized, a plan of action can be set in motion by all shareholders. The progress of these must be monitored closely. You can't manage what you do not measure. Illegal dumping is directly related to the number of abandoned homes. That's the opinion of most every professional that is advising me. Much work must be done quickly to get ahead of the growing numbers. We must be proactive not reactive as in the past few years. The Environmental Court must set the pace and be involved in the dialog with all shareholders at this crucial stage.

Public Transit

The Memphis 3.0 Transit Vision calls for increased investment in public transportation across the city to achieve a network of higher frequency bus routes serving more communities, at an estimated additional cost of approximately $30 million annually. This past budget cycle, the city proposed a permanent funding source for MATA; however more funding is needed to serve Shelby County residents effectively.

Would you support efforts to find new and increased funding sources to implement the Transit Vision network and serve Shelby County neighborhoods more effectively?

Assessor of Property

*Melvin Burgess (D): I will definitely support the Transit Vision as set forth above.

County Trustee

*Regina M. Newman (D): Absolutely. Adequate transit is necessary to employment of citizens, retention of business, economic development, and the ultimate economic improvement of our entire county.

Steve Basar (R): I support funding for the Transit Vision. I have lived in Chicago and New York City and have personally used public transit exclusively during those years. I understand the benefits of public transit because I have lived using public transit. Higher gas prices will have more people looking at public transit as an alternative. I need to better understand the routes and frequency of the proposed transit plan with the incremental funding. I am concerned that we are not asking for what is needed but rather tailoring the plan to fit with $30 million in incremental funding. We need to get public transit "right" and there needs to be some level or urgency.

Environmental Court Judge, Division 14

Addie M. Burks: Yes.

*Patrick M. Dandridge: Yes, I support all efforts to implement the Transit Vision network to serve our Shelby County neighborhoods. As a community we must make sure that our citizens are able to get to and from important places to include work, grocery stores, places of worship, libraries and parks. As a judge, I have worked very hard to ensure that we are provide access to justice. In this effort, I currently used community courts located throughout the city so that justice can be provided at the community level. What this means is that our citizens who have code violations and have been given a citation to Environmental Court may be able to have some of their cases heard in a nearby community court. In many cases, this can be within walking distance of their residents. Now while this does not provide resources or funding to the Transit Vison network, it does help to relieve some of the dependence on public transit. I will continue to do my part to help in this challenging transit issue.

Danny W. Kail: Yes.

Solid Waste

Litter and waste in Shelby County has become a large issue. There are 1.7 million tons of waste produced in Memphis & Shelby County annually, and 38% of land waste in Memphis is food waste. Peer cities around the country are tackling these issues by developing  comprehensive solid waste policies. These policies aim to eliminate waste and pollution and transform waste to business opportunities that promote healthy environments and create jobs.

The first step to advancing to a cleaner Shelby County is to understand the waste that we are producing. Are you committed to supporting funding for a waste characterization study and other resources to reduce waste and pollution in our county?

Assessor of Property

*Melvin Burgess (D): As a former County commissioner I supported efforts to reduce blight and the transformation of waste to business and waste to energy. As Assessor of Property I have continued that support.

County Trustee

*Regina M. Newman (D): Certainly, but I don’t get a vote. Although I understand the issue, this is not a matter on which the Trustee has any authority. What I can do is continue to be successful at bringing in the necessary revenues so the County can prioritize and pay for issues such as this.

Steve Basar (R): I support funding a waste characterization study and frankly do not understand why one has not been completed already. There should be an on-going assessment of how much paper, glass, food waste, etc. is being discarded into the waste stream. With this information we would be able to better plan how to reduce waste and take advantage of recycling programs.

Environmental Court Judge, Division 14

Addie M. Burks: Yes.

*Patrick M. Dandridge: As a judge who hears numerous litter and waste cases, I am certainly in favor of measures that provide funding for new efforts in waster characterization study. How can we best reduce growing waste in our communities? In addition, is there a way to convert waste to a meaning use. These are the questions and challenges for our communities as we tackle the issue of waste and litter. I encourage education efforts to reduce waste and litter and I encourage and support alternative use such as asphalt surfacing from the use of waste and discarded tires. Currently, I hear in the court cases under the Used Tire Ordinance. This regulation has been necessary to the enforcement of the proper use and sell of used tires. I support new efforts to address this growing problem in our communities.

Danny W. Kail: Yes. This should have been done several years ago.

July 19th Candidate Forum

BLDG Memphis will host a public non-partisan candidate forum in the lead up to the Shelby County Municipal election in August. Neighborhood leaders are invited as the questions posed to the candidates during the forum will focus on issues of neighborhood investment, such as affordable housing, transit and mobility, solid waste, and racial equity.  

Date: Tuesday July 19th, 2022
Time: 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Location: Benjamin Hooks Library Room C

Will you attend the July 19th candidate forum?

Assessor of Property

*Melvin Burgess (D): Yes

County Trustee

*Regina M. Newman (D): Yes

Steve Basar (R): Yes

Environmental Court Judge, Division 14

Addie M. Burks: Yes

*Patrick M. Dandridge: Yes

Danny W. Kail: Yes

This is a nonpartisan questionnaire and all candidates running for County Commissioner are invited to submit their answers. All candidates are also invited to attend the Forum on July 19.

The following candidates have received the questionnaire:

County Mayor

  • Worth Morgan (R)
  • *Lee Harris (D)

Assessor of Property

  • Steve Cross (R)

Register of Deeds

  • Bryan Edmiston (R)
  • Willie Brooks (D)
  • George "Dempsey" Summers (I)

* - Incumbent

Read the responses from candidates running for Legislative Office here.

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  • Bret Bilbrey
    published this page in Blog 2022-07-06 15:41:09 -0500