Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The reason we are so exorcised about I-269 and other sprawl-inducing highway projects are because they deepen the economic segregation that holds back Memphis’ progress.

Memphis is #1 in economic segregation among the largest 50 metros in the U.S.

Here’s the kicker: sprawl is a major cause of economic isolation, and economic isolation in turn exacerbates poverty and creates obstacles for residents to connect with the social networks that are often essential to employment and improved lifestyles.

Well-connected cities have less division between economic groups, and based on the recent decibel level here, it shouldn’t be too surprising that we are at the top of the list of economically segregated cities. Nashville is #38.

Cross Purposes

Meanwhile, the economic segregation results in concentrated poverty that is the seedbed for our city's most serious problems and derails our best efforts to address them. Projects like I-269 promise only to make them worse, because every problem becomes harder to deal with in cities that are economically segregated.

In other words, at the precise time when every city, county and state agency should be focused on encouraging infill redevelopment that revives and stabilizes Memphis neighborhoods, our transportation investments hollow them out, and leaders appear unable to turn the tide and abandon the idea that sprawl is "growth."

At the same time, the cause and effect — connecting the dots — between sprawl, the climbing Memphis tax rate, and an economically polarized city are overwhelmed by the influence of those who drive these transportation projects.

The inattention to the urban center that fuels our regional economy is symbolized by I-269, but its impact will be real and immediate. It will further produce an economically polarized city where fewer and fewer Memphis workers are paying more and more in taxes — including those spent for services and amenities that are in truth regional.


Let us say this clearly and unequivocably: there is no economic or social benefit to City of Memphis as a result of I-269. Don’t believe the propaganda or the breathless media headlines.

Wrapping I-269 in a shroud of terms like smart growth, knowledge economy jobs, New Urbanism and open space protection, supporters of the interstate suggest with straight faces that Memphis will benefit from new economic growth and development that the interstate will provide. If our past teaches us anything, it is that the I-269 corridor will be characterized by unwalkable, car-centric sameness.

Someone from North Mississippi said in an article in The Commercial Appeal that the task now is to apply smart growth principles to I-269. We’re not sure when we’ve heard such a contradiction of terms. It reminds us of the story on NPR about the developer proudly boasting of the region’s most sustainable residential development – green energy, walking trails, etc. There was only one problem: it was an hour commute to New York and an hour and half commute to Philadelphia.

It’s the kind of green-washing that’s being done by developers and economic development types to try to put a pretty face on projects that are clearly unsustainable.

Making It Worse

Here’s the thing: Memphis’ ability to compete in the new economy is undercut by the hollowing out of the middle class, by the worst economic segregation of the 50 largest metros, by the quickening loss of college-educated 25-34 year-olds, a 15% house vacancy rate that’s doubled since 2000 and 20% of Memphis families living on less than $8,700 a year.

These are the forces driving Memphis’ trajectory and defining our future. There is nothing in I-269 that does anything to improve these trends that are threatening the future of our city. More to the point and despite the denial by our suburban cities, the trends of Memphis will in fact determine the future of the entire region.

If Memphis must live with the problems that are exacerbated by I-269, we must do more than all pledge our commitment to regional planning. More to the point, we must change policies so that the interstate does in fact mitigate its negative impact.

For example, we’re said previously that I-269 and Tennessee 385 should be toll roads. They would produce more than $100 million a year that could be invested in strategies to strengthen our core city and to make Memphis a city of choice.

Nontraditional Thinking

There are other innovations like a higher sales tax along the route to establish a tax-sharing program that could direct money into the improvement of Memphis neighborhoods. Or perhaps there’s a way to pass impact fees and sustainability guidelines for development along the interstate route, to set up land trusts and to require the same level of public investments in public transit.

In a perfect world, our local and state officials would simply turn down the federal money for I-269, calling Mississippi's bluff as it is faced with the interstate version of an oxbow lake. Perhaps, it's not too late to call on our leaders to say enough is enough and make the most important decision facing them - doing what's right for Memphis.

But, I-269 exists because of politics. That's why we think the answer needs to be found in the same place.

These are difficult times for the Memphis metro – let’s say it again, metro. Unlike most other metro areas, the cancerous problems that threaten our economic health are regional and not just the problems of the city. Unless we start to figure out how to avoid self-indulgent projects like I-269 and make the investments that strengthen our entire region so that it is prepared for the fundamental restructuring of the economy that is well under way, we will prove that the road to hell is indeed paved with intentions that aren’t always good.

In the end, it’s not great roads that will draw jobs to Memphis. It’s great quality of life, a culture of creativity and a willingness to support dreamers and entrepreneurs that will attract the talented people that in turn attract jobs to our community. The blind pursuit of more lanes and more roads without the fuller context for community in time creates an incomplete plan for transportation and replicates the same mistaken policies of the past.


Zippy the giver said...

I have an idea, we could turn I269 into a super-collider project!
That will spur the knowledge industry.
When they figure out that our schools are not turning out the kids they need, they can make enough antimatter to wipe Memphis off the face of the earth.

Zippy the giver said...

My family has decided that since Memphis has no commitment to it's own future, we need to re-evaluate living here.
People here complain about the cost of living in better run cities, I've lived in them, here, I work to live-live to work, in better run places, I had SAVINGS in my bank account.
THAT is THE determining factor. Where and how does any decision like 269 affect your pocket book, your ability to make any future plans?

Ask your self these questions:
Does Memphis city's practices help you put money in your account and save for your kid's education?
Can you make enough to take a vacation on top of that?
Can you afford to visit relatives?
Can you afford camp?
Can you afford insurance for your house and car?
Can you afford healthcare?
Those questions should be answered with a "yes".

Are you harried by crime or racial tension in your neighborhood?
Do you find yourself ever making excuses for the conditions in Memphis, your neighborhood, the attitudes of Memphians?
These questions should be answereable with a "no".
My answers are all wrong now, if yours are too, you are like an old battered hag.
You have Stockholm syndrome if you want to stay.

Anonymous said...

well our departing mayor tole us to leave if we dint like it.
it's not my problem there were so many haters to shake off.

The road will be built. stop whining and start planning.

Brad said...

Zippy, the solution to all your problems lies with you.

If you run away, the terrorists have won.

In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve.

Aaron said...

"In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve."

Well said Brad. That statement says it all.

Chances are an abandoned city ( in a continous state of abandonment)will look like an abandoned city after a few decades. Deep.

Newark and St. Louis are case studies. Memphis is somewhere in between.

This city is on the mend with a lot of people still loving Memphis and some new leadership.

Zip: Brad found your cure, by the man a beer.

Brad said...

Zippy: Save your money and buy a SK8Mud T-shirt. Or patronize a PGF-certified restaurant. Or volunteer your time to CleanMemphis or GrowMemphis.

Go out and enjoy some of the things that make this city a great place, your negativity is tiresome.

Aaron: Thanks for the sentiment and your work for the community. I think I will adopt your ironically misspelled statement (with a slight alteration) as my new personal slogan.

By the man: a beer.

Anonymous said...

After reading Zippy's posts on this blog for some time now, I think WWH ws right about one thing; there are some folks that need to leave Memphis.

Zippy the giver said...

OK, Sven and Olaf, what's more pathetic complaints, or, complaints about complaints?
What, you don't like a supercollider?
You would if we had one.
I do enjoy what is left to be enjoyable in Memphis and constantly look for new things to enjoy. Some were accomplished under WWH. I'm no hater, no matter what "opinion" you have made up in your head and added to any post I've made.
I don't drink beer and I don't think you should drink any more, Brad. Memphis does look good through Beer Goggles! There's YOUR problem, you're in denial.
You are correct, all my solutions DO lie with me.
I would have volunteered my time all year last year as I have in the years past, and you better hope people like me continue to volunteer, we get "quantifiable results" where they actually make a difference and we don't seek adulation or acrimony for it, so, remember those words together.
Here's a quote for you to use:
"You can make any miracle happen so long as you don't need to take credit for it".
Maybe you do things for the wrong reasons.
As far as abandoning Memphis, I'm still here, and I'm in NO rush to leave. I'd much rather stick around and support Myron, support MCS and Dr. Cash, and support the Memphis Music BUSINESS in Memphis through something other than just the two existing structures that do not equal a matrix structure yet do to a particulary weak paradigm their raison d'etre is based around, i.e. day jobs and night careers.
You wanna see what kind of power a citizen has to effect change. You would not believe.
What I can't believe is that we can have the resources we have, talent, real estate, state of the art equipment, and yet we can't attract enough biz to get rid of those counterproductive day jobs or keep those businesses afloat.
I don't want to hear the excuse that the economy is bad or the business is down bark bark bark yada yada yada. Something else is so repellent about this place that people who really want to come here don't.
So we're left passing around the same dollars we walked in the door with and lying to ourselves calling it an economy. Yeah, we didn't really experience the bubble the rest of the country did, but, we have a lot of room to kick it up a few notches without it being a bubble economy.


Zippy the giver said...

So, What's so repellent to the rest of the country, why don't our old dogs live here anymore. Why do we have only a handful of over-hyped local successes played up as international stars by local media but when I ask people in the market capitals they've never heard of any of them?
(I know what it is but you can't hear it yet, you're not ready for it.)
I'll give you part of it, your answer lies in statement #3 of your first post, that you could even make that statement and get ANY reinforcement and can't fathom why anyone wouldn't side with you, and that you are not alone in that type of thinking by a long shot in this city, is one big reason.
Hoodwinked, brainwashed, cultivated, and controlled.
Here, you say I'm negative, I don't take offense because I see what happened to people's heads here, but, people who know me in the real markets always ask when I'm coming back and why I moved here and why haven't I left yet.
I'll tell you why.
I love the people here, the rich and the poor alike, all victims of a nasty ruse and I can't see allowing this place to continue in this condition in this world any longer, hoodwinked. This place gives the illusion of teetering on the brink of breaking out of this long-standing funk, but, that's just the accretion disc of a black hole. I love a challenge. I don't need any credit. I do get results, not for me, but, for you, and many things have changed for the better, but, none because I or anyone else ever talked only nice things or only said what some could stomach. Permission to give coarse and brutal truth to power in charge, tangible solutions spelled out aimed at the core issues feeding the problems instead of the symptoms, is what did it with one heck of a team of people that never needs to know who I am. I thought, and the best person to do the job with the power to effect change received the message. Even WW Herenton and his team did plenty, under certain circumstances.
It took many hours to create what we did and none made a nickel. I also won't take or need credit, I need "a place" that anyone like me who loves peace and prosperity can live, work, create, improve, be inspired by and inspire others, amaze and be amazed in and by, raise kids safely, eat great food without worrying about food poisoning, live intelligently, see a future in, and that's a big one, and never claim credit.
Conversely, that's why people want to leave, they see no way to have, create, or contribute to that successfully here and because of this they are harried without relief.
Pretty simple why people leave.
Now, my favorite team is up to bat and I'm looking forward to a brutal and honest slugfest, my team wins, but, Memphis wins more and better, ALL of Memphis.

Philip said...

For example, we’re said previously that I-269 and Tennessee 385 should be toll roads. They would produce more than $100 million a year that could be invested in strategies to strengthen our core city and to make Memphis a city of choice.

Correct me if I'm wrong -- my understanding is that by law Interstate 269 couldn't be a toll road. New interstates never are, and the only interstate-designated roads with tolls are those like the Mass Pike and the NY Thruway that were grandfathered in on existing roads.

Of course they could change the name of the I-269 project, but almost certainly that would require a totally different funding model since AFAIK all interstate funding is contingent on roads remaining toll-free. This is one way in which Congress subsidizes the needs of road traffic in preference to transit.

Feel free to correct me if any of the above is in error.

Zippy the giver said...

Anonymous, best piece of advice was yours,
"stop whining and start planning",
the environment ALWAYS wins, learn to manage it and you can win with it, without selling your soul but enriching it instead.

The real question is:
How de we who oppose I269, though it will go through, make it a win for ALL Memphians?

The supercollider post was just silly, but, if it's built with all the thought of the 240/Walnut Grove "yeild onto 240" section, it may end up a super-collider anyway, just no antimatter, however un-pretty the wreckage.
As far as leaving, look who's leaving first, things are changing, I know of a project that is up and running 2 years that will change a significant area of Memphis for eons.

Smart City Consulting said...


Federal law allows much more flexibility now than in the old days when the answer was simply, no toll roads. As usual, we haven't pursued our options locally to their fullest potential. If some folks need I-269, let them pay for it.

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting article, however, the credibility would be greatly increased if you provided a source. You state that Memphis is # 1 out of 50 metro areas, but provide no link to the study that has provided these stats.

In the future, could you provide a link? You also mention The Brookings Institute in a similar article, but no title or link is provided.


Smart City Consulting said...

The #1 out of 50 metros is based on census data, and it is our own research conducted with Portland economist (and Brookings fellow) Joe Cortright.

Sorry about the Brookings link. We barely find time to write the posts, so sometimes we just don't have the time to provide them.

Which one are you asking for and I'll post it here.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clarifying the data. The Brookings mention was in your June 9, 2009 blog.

I did find another Brookings paper regarding economic segregation from Oct. 2004 titled "Pulling apart: Economic Segregation among Suburbs and Central Cities in Major Metropolitan Areas." Memphis was listed as one of the areas used for research.

This is a very interesting topic! I think many people know this is what is happening in Memphis, but we've not really put a name to it. The "Us vs. Them" City vs County debate has been around for ages, and these stats help define the broad picture.

Smart City Consulting said...

The Brookings research on hollowed out cities is also helpful.

If you'd like the slides that we use in our presentations, send an email to and I'll send it to you.

Thanks for the interest.

aiya said...

Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft word
Office 2007
Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office 2007
Office 2007 key
Office 2007 download
Office 2007 Professional
Outlook 2010
Microsoft outlook
Microsoft outlook 2010
Windows 7

Anonymous said...

BMP en PDF Convertisseur
GIF en PDF Convertisseur
PNG en PDF Convertisseur
PDF Creator