90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, December 23, 2013

A Conversation with Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton

A.C. Wharton, the mayor of Memphis, Tenn. (acwharton.com)

A.C. Wharton, the mayor of Memphis, Tenn. (acwharton.com)

When compared to other cities in the nation with a population of over 1 million, Memphis, Tenn., is one of the poorest.

A.C. Wharton, the mayor of Memphis, joins  Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss how national issues such as the Affordable Care Act, the housing market, pensions and unemployment have affected his city this year.

He also has some advice for lawmakers in Washington for 2014.

Interview Highlights: Mayor A.C. Wharton

On signing people up for Affordable Care Act
“One of the greatest obstacles — I hate to put it that way — is that we have a public hospital here known as the Regional Medical Center that has always been there, we have large emergency rooms, and I think most folks think that, ‘Hey look, I’ve heard all this stuff before and when we get sick we go to the emergency room.’”

“When I try to get down to the details and try to explain to them that the emergency rooms are crowded now,  they will be even more crowded because hospitals will lose their DISH payments, the essential access funds, you lose them. Their eyes glaze over.”

“It’s just a tough sell….Those without insurance have been without insurance for decades and they haven’t found themselves dying in the ditches alongside the road…No one has been able to convince them that that service is in jeopardy also.”

On the fairness of cities and states cutting pensions

“When it comes to situations like this, fair is a word that is not in the vocabulary, quite frankly. It’s just a matter of survival. And when it comes down to how’s the city going to survive, the first casualties are values such as fairness.”

“Until the Detroit bankruptcy it was unthinkable, and in Illinois, until the legislature changed the law, it was unthinkable that anybody would ever touch a vested pension interest. But this is a new world. I think the abnormal will become the new normal. I just don’t think that anything will be sacrosanct when it comes to public benefits anymore…tragically what’s fair is not going to be the order of the day.”


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Corey T Couron

    I love listening to the Mayor of Memphis. I don’t always agree with him, but I am always interested in his POV. Looking forward to your next conversation with AC Wharton. My Christmas wish is that my lovely city of San Diego elects a mayor with the wisdom and perspicacity of AC!

  • Bill Bezzant

    Get this guy in the White House! I’ve never heard a political leader with a more clear and level understanding of how things are, and how they need to go forward. Even when it’s not fun. Thank you for this interview.

  • Kent Mitchell

    Wow. With leaders like this it’s no wonder the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. I appreciate his candor but it seems to come from his belief of how things should be and not just how things are. It’s time for a revolution against the mighty and powerful.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

April 16 Comment

ER Doctor Looks Back A Year After Marathon Bombing

Dr. Ron Medzon, an emergency room physician at Boston Medical Center, recalls treating victims injured in the bombing.

April 16 32 Comments

Tensions Build In San Francisco Amid Tech Boom

As San Francisco experiences a historic economic boom, some activists say not all city residents are reaping the benefits.

April 15 8 Comments

4 Lamb Recipes, Plus Lamb Cooking Tips

With the weather getting warmer, Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst is thinking lamb. She shares recipes for Middle Eastern-style lamb meatballs and more.

April 15 14 Comments

The Problem With U.S. Tax Policies

Tax expert David Cay Johnston says it's easy to fool the IRS, but there's one catch: "you have to be rich." He says outdated tax policies are hurting the economy.