Thursday, December 27, 2007

Best, Worst Ideas of 2007

The election, Ford's trial, Peete's plea, big games, news for sale, and more.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2007 at 4:00 AM

I don't think it's a good idea for anyone to serve five straight terms as mayor, but 42 percent of the people who voted in October thought otherwise. Underestimating Mayor Willie Herenton's political base was not a good idea, and neither was relying on polls to tell you to run against him in a three-way.

It was a good idea for seven City Council incumbents to decide not to run again. (Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford had little choice.) Fresh horses and all that, plus the next four years won't be any picnic if Memphis slides into a recession.

Going to trial against federal prosecutors in public corruption cases was not a good idea. They're unbeaten. John Ford put up a good fight, but the tapes were devastating and a jury convicted him on one count to get him a 66-month prison sentence, slightly more than the 63 months given to Roscoe Dixon, who also went to trial.

Cooperating with federal prosecutors was a good idea. Second-offender Rickey Peete got 51 months, and Michael Hooks, who held three elected positions in his career, is serving 26 months. Darrell Catron, who kicked off Tennessee Waltz, got probation plus a new house and spending money without, so far, even having to testify in a trial. Ralph Lunati pleaded guilty and got 18 months for running what investigators called the wildest and most wide-open, drug-infested strip clubs in the country.

Building a team for the future was not a good idea. The Grizzlies will be eliminated from playoff contention about the time March Madness begins.

Building a team for the present was a good idea. You can complain about college basketball stars leaving school early for the pros or you can accept the fact and go get them, as Coach John Calipari has done. No one has done a better job than Calipari of making the best of a bad situation — competition, Beale Street clubs, a weak Conference USA schedule, early departures, a resurgent University of Tennessee. Memphis against UT will be the hottest ticket of 2008.

Hanging around until the shit hits the fan was not a good idea. Joseph Lee, a nice guy who got terrible press, would be in a lot less trouble today if he had not stayed so long at MLGW or had never gone over there from City Hall in the first place.

Resigning before the shit hits the fan was a good idea. Andy Dolich, a nice guy who got great press, couldn't sell out FedExForum for the Grizzlies. Two weeks later, he landed on his feet as chief operating officer for the San Francisco 49ers. And has anyone seen Jerry West or remember why he was the toast of the town? And why didn't Carol Johnson tell us any of this stuff was going on at the Memphis City Schools before she left for Boston to be superintendent?

More fun downtown, in the form of roller coasters at The Pyramid, is not a good idea. Look at it this way: Nashville has state government and office buildings and corporate headquarters of insurance companies and telecoms, Knoxville has the University of Tennessee, Little Rock has the Capitol and the Clinton library, and the front door of Memphis might be an amusement park in an abandoned landmark?

Less fun and more work downtown is a good idea. If Mud Island is going to be closed more than half the year, then why not let a private developer have a go at it? Closing streets and turning St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and ALSAC into a true campus was another good idea. So was signing a deal to bring the University of Memphis law school downtown to the old Customs House and post office on Front Street.

Monetizing content by selling sponsorships for stories in The Commercial Appeal was not a good idea, unless you're in the public relations business.

But monetizing content somehow in the Internet age is a good idea, unless you think reporters and editors should work for nothing. And so was the CA's decision to admit a mistake and back off before any more damage was done.

Building a new football stadium at the Fairgrounds was a bad idea. The problem is the teams on the field, Conference USA, and the stadium's shabby surroundings.

Flat screens, high def, and the new no-smoking regs in bars were good ideas. The best seat in the house is at a sports bar or on your couch.

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