Monday, June 06, 2005

If I Were in Charge

Below is Carol Coletta's piece that ran in the Memphis Flyer in May that asked what she would do if she were in charge of Memphis:

If I were in charge, here's where I would focus: Develop a new story for Memphis. Today, Memphis is defined increasingly by its deficits. We need to define Memphis and its future in terms of its potential.

Pay attention to details. Make Memphis clean, green and well-maintained. Toughen up and speed up code enforcement. Institute a 411 system and use it as an "early warning system" so that you know where problems are developing. Then respond, and report results.

Create reasons for people with choices to stay in Memphis. Consider where Memphis can develop strategic advantages and with what kinds of people. Figure out what they want and then deliver. For instance, Memphis is likely the most logical choice for people without children in their households, immigrants, people who go out frequently, people who want a more maintenance-free lifestyle. If so, let's develop a deep understanding of their needs and serve them.

Re-imagine the commercial corridors and aging neighborhood commercial centers. Many of our best neighborhoods are masked by horrible-looking major streets. Poplar is the new Summer. And because of the super-sizing of retail and entertainment, neighborhood commercial centers have lost their vitality. Bring together the best minds in the country to develop a new strategy for redevelopment.

Hit the streets. The mayor and senior staff should be forced out onto the streets and into the neighborhoods monthly to get an up-close look at what they govern. If you want to know what's really going on in our city, knock on doors and ask. And when you find someone who is adding value to their neighborhood by keeping their home particularly well-maintained and planted, issue a Mayor's Award on the spot.

Make it easier to invest in the city. Developers -- good ones who want to do the right thing -- say it is almost impossible to get a new project through City Hall and MLGW in a timely way. That's ridiculous. Break the logjam so we can rebuild the city and reap the benefits of new taxes.

Elevate design and planning. As architect Andres Duany said in a recent Smart City interview, 1.5 million new homes are built in America every year, and the vast majority degrade the landscape. That is certainly true of much of the new development in Shelby County, especially the design of new roads and commercial centers. It doesn't have to be that way. An excellent new planning code is being developed for Memphis and Shelby County. Let's get it finished and passed.

Make the tax premium count. Memphians pay more to live in Memphis than citizens pay to live in surrounding communities or in unincorporated Shelby County. That's fine when the taxes are being invested in real gains for Memphis. But why should Memphians be expected to invest in schools when the people of Germantown do not? Why should Memphians pay for fire stations in Lakeland when the people of Lakeland will not tax themselves to do so? Why should Memphians be expected to pay twice for the Health Department, once as Memphians and once as Shelby Countians? Why should Memphians subsidize the move of Memphis businesses to the county? That's the dumbest move of all. Why should Memphians pay for emergency services for unincorporated Shelby Countians who won't pay for the service themselves? It's unfair, and it needs to end. Let's pay more only when it benefits Memphis.

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