I wasn't around then but over the years I have interviewed and gotten to know several people who were. What they seem to agree upon is that the negative perception became a cause for action for something positive. Memphis resolved to do better. It took many years and the results were decidedly mixed, but the general feeling, I was told, was that the rap had some truth to it and so what do we do now, short term and long term?
One answer may be found in two of our biggest companies and corporate citizens: AutoZone and FedEx and their relentless emphasis on customer service. Maybe that should be the not-so-new government motto.
It will be at least six weeks before the ordinances take effect if the full council approves them. Members and staffers have been swamped with calls on this one.
The ordinances were supported by The Peabody, Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin, the Center City Commission, and the Downtown Neighborhood Association among others. A couple of supporters brought signs that said "Please help make downtown safer for our families to live," and one couple brought their baby in a stroller.
And I don't change, or at least not much. Maybe reading and thinking about change is a poor substitute for making friends, taking piano lessons, writing a novel, and doing more pushups. Which brings me to the slightly weird campaign to reinvent local government. Big Brother meets Up With People and the Chamber of Commerce. I'm not sure who and what is behind this and why, but I know one thing: the proper role of journalists is to be journalists, not boosters.
This is the problem with reinventing city and county government. Most of us have more immediate concerns.
The county charter commission is in the early stages of its labors. Reinventing government could be a good idea. Or it could be a way of diverting time and leadership from more pressing, fixable problems. A way of doing something without doing anything.
On the agenda: an updated budget forecast and funding options for Memphis City Schools.
And unlike previous talk-talk meetings, this time the council may have to make a big decision or two about tax increases, pay cuts, and spending reserve funds.
The book by Ken Gormley was reviewed this week in The Wall Street Journal. Ewing was United States attorney in Memphis during the 1980s before joining Starr's staff during the Whitewater investigation in the Clinton years. This excerpt is from the review.
It was prompted by a fiscal crisis and, in particular, a proposed City of Memphis property tax contribution of $87.5 million to Memphis City Schools following an $89 million contribution the previous year and $78 million the year before that.
The news about blogs comes from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, via the Associated Press. Only 14 percent of Internet youths, whatever they are, blog, which is down from over 25 percent in 2006. Apparently texting and Facebook are faster and more engaging. Bloggers are trending older, and may soon look like the AARP crowd at University of Memphis basketball games.
This is no surprise. As newspaper columnist Mike Royko used to say, the first 20 are easy.
Meanwhile, are you looking for an investment in which you could have tripled your money in the last year? That would be newspaper stocks, including E. W. Scripps, parent company of The Commercial Appeal. The stock (symbol: SSP) is up 305 percent, rising from $2 to $6.48. If you want a ten-bagger, try Lee Enterprises, parent of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, up 1145 percent, now selling at $3.84. No guts no glory.