Friday, January 16, 2009

David Williams: Hopes For Memphis In 2009

David Williams is president of Leadership Memphis:

I think the problem most people have with developing a list of hopes for Memphis is feeling overwhelmed with the potential length of such a list. For those that see the Memphis glass as half full, there is a long list of opportunities to pursue, such as the plan put together by Memphis Fast Forward. For those that see the Memphis glass as half empty, they probably feel like they don’t have enough paper on which to make a list.

So, prioritization becomes important, largely in part due to the limited resources most communities, including Memphis, have available to bring hopes to life. Lack of resources requires prioritization. Prioritization is complex because in the community everything is so interconnected – like spaghetti. You can’t touch one thing without touching so many others.

If there one was hope I have for Memphis it is to make better decisions. There are so many forces at work that challenge Memphis and its hopes – but the ability to make good decisions is what we expect from good leaders. How can we make better decisions?

• Insist on data-driven decisions. Not every good decision can be based totally on data, but Memphis tends to completely ignore data when making decisions. The inclination to ignore data and make decisions based on whims and influence often lead us down the wrong path.

• Encourage constructive public discourse about things that matter. The inability of citizens to have constructive open discussion cripples most efforts to address or solve pretty much anything we might want to do.

• Advocate for inclusivity. The tendency for solutions to be left to a small group of leaders instead of including people from throughout the community often results in less than optimum outcomes, and has trained many citizens not to participate.

• Don’t settle for mediocrity. If we want a great city, let’s have a great city. Let’s not make decisions that result in a Memphis that is mediocre.

• Elect the best leaders. Although not all, many of the decisions regarding the challenges and opportunities we have in Memphis are made by elected officials. Let’s be sure to know who we are voting for, what they think about the issues, and then work to get the best leaders elected. Without that, we will be making a hope list every year without much hope of anything changing.

All that said, here is one attempt to identify another kind of Hope List for Memphis. If I were to do this tomorrow, it might be a different list. But here goes, based on approaching such a list from multiple approaches – ranging from “stop the bleeding” to “start the weeding.”

Stop the bleeding – the urgent items that are undermining everything else Memphis tries to do.
• Crime
• Poverty
• City revenue system


Focus on the basics any city needs to be successful – and to make Memphis a community of choice for people to WANT to live.
• Great public schools
• Clean and beautiful city with a sense of place
• Effective city services with a reliable public transportation system

Insist on advancing opportunities that will feed and nurture Memphis as a successful city.
• College graduation rates
• Early childhood development
• Workforce development/Updated PILOT program

Use the city’s long recognized tradition of entrepreneurship to seed truly creative and innovative opportunities for Memphis.
• First majority African American metropolitan area in US
• Largest K-12 population – future workforce
• Green and sustainable initiatives – anchored by Shelby Farms Park

Stop what isn’t working and put those resources to work on something that is proven to work.
• It would be prudent to review such opportunities carefully and not list them carelessly


Anonymous said...

That's a great post, but, once again, you missed the core mark.
Memphis has an extremely high sex crime offender,child molester, ex-felon, ex-convict, convict, pre release, post release, waiting on trial, repeat offender, and waiting on sentencing population that is expanding EXPONENTIALLY as they have multiple children out of wedlock that can be expected to enter the penal system within a few years from birth. Don't even pretend that you don't know it isn't so. Sweeping things under the rug is a patently stupid policy that Memphis finds it too easy to engage in.
THIS is the core issue with effects that WILL destroy Memphis if it is not dealt with FIRST.
All other solutions will be temporary and ineffective as you will be imposing them on a growing population THAT DOES NOT CARE.
Deal with that first.
"Well, we tried" is not a valid statement after the multiple ceremonious starts of a myriad of ill conceived plans not designed to succeed but to further fool and bilk the ignorant population of Memphis imposed on all the population.
This is why there is NO FUTURE HERE unless it is dealt with EFFECTIVELY.

If you're waiting on the justice system, the system obviously doesn't care.
If you're waiting on the parents, they obviously don't care.
(As soon as the school board realized this they could plan for success and they are garnering it now)
If you're waiting on the mayor, THEY obviously don't care.
If you're waiting on a congressman or senator, THEY obviously don't care.
We have got to agree on a plan and get the players that can deal with this together. I will ask my friends and we'll se what can be done.
But WHO will get on board?
In fact I find it very hard to believe or fathom hat anyone who has been to ANY section of Memphis and had their kids in school here hasn't noticed that MOST families are broken and maybe half or more have one parent in prison for a violent crime.
Something has GOT to be done NOW.

Other than that, brilliant post! I sincerely like it, but, it's not enough and aimed at symptoms.

Anonymous said...

Birth control would help, but if people won't use it, it doesn't matter. Can't force people to act responsibly. If they want to be childish, they'll never grow up. A huge percentage of people in Memphis refuse to grow up and act responsibly. Then of course, you have the idiots who believe abstinence is the answer. My plan is to leave Memphis in a few years, so it won't be my problem.

Anonymous said...

I understand.

The problem has been institutional for so long it is an institution unto itself with it's own culture.
No one makes it their responsibility here to actually do anything responsible. The cow has been milked dry and never fed the grass.
Begin the feeding of the cow, and, some water probably wouldn't hurt either.
Rehab, retrain, or rereat. That's how it goes.

Anonymous said...

Rehab, retrain, or "retreat". Yeah, that's it.