Sunday, October 08, 2006

Questions On Our Minds

Shelby County Schools reports that it’s about to overhaul its schools’ attendance zones. As usual, in the parallel universe that is the county school district, the announcement was made by the political head of the system, David Picker, rather than its professional head, Supt. Bobby Webb.

The need for the changes is spurred on by the $35 million high school in Southeast Shelby County – a school whose need is questionable at best – but it sounds like the district’s race-based building decisions are causing some problems that were earlier predicted here.

Once the high school is built and all of those black kids are moved out of the city limits of Germantown, the capacity of Germantown High School will fall below 50 percent. Are the zones being redrawn to prop up the capacity of the Germantown school and to cover up the increasingly clear racial reasons why the Southeast Shelby high school is being built?


Germantown officials approved a special appropriation to pay for the management of its new Regional History and Genealogy Center, which is essentially comprised of the old records of a former county historian. It’s a sad irony that a couple of years ago, the city couldn’t find extra money to keep the the Germantown library as part of the countywide system. If they had, they would have had the option of making the Regional History and Genealogy Center part of the Memphis and Shelby County Room.

Do the city officials now see the errors of their way when they were a co-conspirator in the destruction of the countywide system that was then a national model?


Under increased heat about salaries and health insurance for its employees, Wal-Mart is mounting a public relations and political lobbying campaign based on holding out stores as carrots for inner city neighborhoods. It seems to be working in Los Angeles and Chicago, where some key local African-American elected officials have switched from critics to supporters. In Chicago, a key opponent switched sides after the world’s largest retail chain promised one for her district. It led to a failure to override Chicago Mayor Daley’s veto of the City Council resolution requiring wage and insurance requirements for big box retailers.

In Memphis, a Wal-Mart store will be built on the former site of Mall of Memphis and it appears to be part of this corporate strategy, but the question remains: is the world’s largest retailer, on balance, a plus for a city that gets the jobs but still has to pay for the human and health services needed by Wal-Mart’s employees?


The venom between the Ford Jr. and Cohen campaigns continues, as evidenced by some of State Senator Cohen’s most enthusiastic supporters obsessed about the Congressman’s neutrality in the race. More than anything, it seems to drain energy from what should be a time of exciting momentum for the Cohen campaign.

If your brother was running an ill-conceived race for public office, could you really oppose him?

Meanwhile, more of Congressman Ford's Democratic critics seem prepared to cast a reluctant vote for him. Long disenchanted by his votes in support of Bush Administration policies, their logic seems to be that this year's election isn't so about him but about next next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. But the question remains, will there be enough energy across the traditional Democratic base for him in the end to pull out a win?


Memphis City Council sees a $600,000 “efficiency study” as answer to some of its budgetary woes. At the same time, however, the city budget includes about $15 million to pay for directors, chief administrative officer, assistants and deputies, fringe benefits, etc.

If they can't produce strategies for reducing the budget and increasing efficiency, shouldn’t Mayor Herenton replace them with people who can?


The worries by Waterford Plaza residents about a dramatic new building partially obscuring their view down river seem to be the ultimate NIMBY. What about views that were blocked when the luxury condos were built?


We’ve got a war in Iraq, the Taliban is surfacing again, American energy conservation is a contradiction in terms and the world is warming up. Thank God, the Congress is able to keep its eye on the ball, opening an investigation into Hewlett-Packard’s investigation of its own board members. Is there any sense of priority inside the Beltway?

Meanwhile, we’ve endured the hand wringing about the President rewriting the Geneva Convention. Where’s the commensurate worry the erosion of the U.S. Constitution?


The national media have engaged in its regular mutual masturbation following the combative interview between President Bill Clinton and Fox broadcaster Chris Wallace. It’s a curious anomaly of the media today that the focus of the coverage was on Clinton poking Wallace’s knee and the former president’s forceful behavior.

It’s amazing to remember that it wasn’t so long ago when it would have been unprofessional for a “journalist” (if anyone on Fox really deserves that descriptor) to give interviews expressing his own opinions. No more. Wallace seemed to go out of his way to make himself the star of the story, because like too many reporters, he seems to think that the news is a reality show in which he stars.

Is it asking too much to ask that the news illuminate what Clinton said, not just how he acted?


Orpheum management quickly abandoned its suggestion about changing the name of the historic theater, citing 70 percent opposition to the idea in emails and phone calls. We never called in, and it’s inevitable that opponents weigh in while those of us who would like more information don’t.

We’d like to know more, such as how much revenue it could produce and if the money would be spent to upgrade productions. Can we still have a conversation about whether the Orpheum name, attached to the building for 12 years in its history, contributes to the theater’s brand and our city’s?


It's probably been about 15 years since the last Oktoberfest was held in downtown Memphis between City Hall and the Shelby County Administration Building. Organized by the Center City Commission, it was always a guaranteed good time that attracted thousands of people to hear the bands, enjoy the food and remember the city's strong German heritage.

Nashville today begins its popular Oktoberfest events, so why can't we again have Oktoberfest in downtown Memphis?


It's been a painful two weeks for University of Memphis football fans. Can anyone check to see if Joe Lee Dunn is still in town?


LeftWingCracker said...

HI! Good collection of thoughts here.

As one of Cohen's "obsessed" supporters, it behooeves me to point out that Harold Ford SENIOR did. in fact, oppose HIS brother, John, in 1994 for County Mayor.

If Senior, who backed Jack Sammons that year, can do that, so can Junior.

Smart City Consulting said...

Leftwingcracker: It's always good to depend on you for your institutional memory. But we've never thought of you as obsessed. Passionate, maybe, but never obsessed. We're talking more about the folks who can't seem to talk about anything but this Ford endorsement issue. In the end, we think it's just dragging down the Cohen campaign, not Jr.

Anonymous said...

"At the same time, however, the city budget includes about $15 million to pay for directors and chief administrative officer."

Where did the $15 million figure come from?

Anonymous said...

That 15 million does seem rather high - there are what, 12-13 Division Directors maybe - and at about 120,000 a year. That's a bit shy of 15 mill isn't it?

kafir memphian said...

What war in Iraq? I read that Saddam was captured a few years ago, the Iraqis held a couple of national elections with turnout higher than here at home, and they also ratified a thier government. But don't let all that stand in the way of your fun.

I've slept since the Chris Wallace interview, but I did not get the impression that Mike Wallace's boy attempted to make hiself the star of the story. In my view, Wallace asked an arguably fair question, and the former prez squirmed and got upset. Unsuprisingly, the media was interested in his take on the interview as a result.

I feel I should qualify my comments about the Wallace interview, Clinton, and the GWOT thusly: IMO there is plenty of blame to pass around among the 5 most recent presidents - Dhimmi Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 - regarding their ineffective response against the Islamic fascists. Rushing to blame Clinton or W, serves no productive purpose in combatting enemies today that feel compelled by the Koran to either convert, kill, or enslave us.

Smart City Consulting said...

Anonymous: Add all the director level jobs, deputy directors, the CAO, the assistants to the CAO, etc., their salaries plus fringes plus plus plus, but you're off in the weeds a bit, what about the premise - that it's not expecting too much for existing staff to come up with ways to save money.

Smart City Consulting said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Smart City Consulting said...

Oh, we forgot to say where the $15 million came from -- the city budget.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your concerns - they are well-paid and should be held accountable - otherwise what are they being paid for - and why should we fork out more money to make sure they are earning theirs? I did question your 15 million figure because it was not clear that that figure included staff as well.

Smart City Consulting said...

Sorry for the lack of clarity. Thanks for the input.

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