Thursday, March 8, 2007

News About This and That

When you have a lot to say and not much room to say it ...

Posted By on Thu, Mar 8, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The MLGW story has legs, but the county public school realignment has even longer legs. MLGW is good water-cooler fodder. School zones determine where people live and how the county grows. If I were a decision maker, I'd be picking the brains of two people: Willie Herenton and developer Jackie Welch. Herenton knows this story cold and could predict the ramifications better than anyone because of his experience in the city school system when it still looked a little bit like the county system. Welch made a great living selling new school sites to the county for 20 years. The two men are anything but friends, but they agree on a surprising number of things on this issue, and anyone who ignores or demonizes either of them will get it wrong.

• Regionalism does matter. That's one of the conclusions that can be drawn in the post-mortem of Marion, Arkansas' failure to land the new Toyota manufacturing plant. Not only did Mississippi governor Haley Barbour out-hustle the competition, he lined up support for Tupelo from the governor of Alabama. Last time I looked, Alabama also borders Tennessee. The Memphis Regional Chamber of Commerce took a my-governor-right-or-wrong approach, and Marion/Memphis once again came up empty-handed. It's time for the chamber's board and local business leaders to do some soul searching.

• Speaking of the chamber of commerce, the front-page news in last weekend's Nashville Tennessean was the latest news of the weird in the continuing saga of football player Adam "Pacman" Jones of the Tennessee Titans. The front-page story in last weekend's Commercial Appeal was the latest news of the weird in the continuing saga of Mayor Willie Herenton. In which city would you rather be running the chamber or building a career or a business?

• Everyone's an editor these days, and the problem of sourcing a story has never been clearer than it is in the MLGW saga. MLGW spokeswoman Gale Jones Carson was Willie Herenton's spokeswoman until this year. Former MLGW president Herman Morris is running against Herenton for mayor. A story that suggests the Morris years were golden years is most likely pro-Morris spin. A story from Carson must be treated as pro-Herenton spin. Board members were appointed by Herenton but are supposed to show independence and represent citizens. One of them, Nick Clark, wrote an opinion column for The Commercial Appeal Tuesday saying Joe Lee should quit.

• The Morris style is a mystery. He announced his candidacy at The Peabody in front of a mostly geriatric crowd that buffered him from the news media. A picture was worth a thousand words. A couple days later, knowing full well that political storms were brewing in Memphis, he headed for California for an NAACP function. Odd timing.

• The story about the $12.5 million settlement between the Federal Communications Commission and four radio networks (including Clear Channel) representing more than 1,500 stations got buried beneath other news. But opening the airways was a big deal at the National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis in January. In theory, the settlement will mean a greater variety of music and programming. We'll see.

• There are a couple of pieces of good news for downtown Memphis. First, notice the bulldozers and tree-clearing on Mud Island north of the Interstate 40 bridge. It's preparation for more houses and apartments on the last large piece of undeveloped property on the island. Second, the University of Memphis law school is proceeding with plans to move to the old Front Street post office and customs house. James Smoot, dean of the law school, said last week the move-in is scheduled for 2009.

• A confusing and little-noticed change in the Memphis City Charter could make it possible for newcomers to run for council and even mayor this year. The original charter says mayoral candidates have to be residents of Memphis for five years. But at this writing, city attorney Sara Hall was researching the question. I'm not the only one confused. When I called the Memphis City Council and Shelby County Election Commission last week, both chief administrators thought that the five-year requirement was still in place. If we're wrong, watch for a fresh face with big-name support to jump in.

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