Friday, April 25, 2008

The Memphis Week That Was

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2008 at 4:00 AM

It was a bad week for vice. The cops cracked down on prostitution and beer sales to minors. It was a good week for the local television stations, which got ride-alongs and some nice take-down footage of busted whores and johns. No doubt that was partly the point. The crackdown seems selective and aimed at the underclass. What about prostitutes in the lobbies of some of our finer hotels? The latest sweep would not have netted the likes of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer or his prostitute. And I wonder if it can be sustained. And at what cost.

You have approximately a 20-25 percent chance of not getting carded if you are underage and try to buy beer. I can remember a time and place(s) where the odds were more like 80-90 percent. The MPD this week checked 42 businesses that sell beer. Only nine of them sold to the undercover officer without checking for an ID, while 33 checked him or her out and refused to sell. In the last year, the MPD has checked 413 businesses on beer stings. A total of 112 of them sold to undercover officers.

If you are shorter than Pau Gasol then you have had your last look at Tom Lee Park, Lake Arkansas, and the flooded Mississippi River from the Bluff Walk for a month or so. The Fence went up this week. The Fence and its dark green windscreen goes up every April, just when the temperatures get balmy and the grass turns green on Tom Lee Park. Part of the cost of having the Beale Street Music Fest and Memphis in May in Tom Lee Park. By the time the park reopens to the general public in June, it will be barren and hard as concrete and temperatures should be sizzling. That's the tradeoff.

The crowds will get a good show on and off the stages. The river looks better and is more interesting when it is flooded as it is now. I hope it rains in the Midwest so it stays that way a little longer. The Wolf River Harbor looks like a real lake and accommodates the biggest boats and smallest kayaks with ease. Maybe the architects and master planners who said it should be closed off at the south end and turned into a lake were on to something. At low water it's just a dirty bathtub.

The Riverfront Development Corporation meets next Monday. If they have any curiosity, board members should ask about the timetable for $29 million Beale Street Landing, how it survived budget cutting, and whether the cost has gone up along with the cost of everything else. And for the sake of my friends at Friends For Our Riverfront, will someone please clear up the persistent rumor that one of the drivers of this project is a shuttle boat to Tunica? On a possibly related note, it may be my subjective view or imagination, but it looks like the RDC's exemplary landscaping has spread to more of Memphis, including the parkways in Midtown and the median and sidewalks along Sam Cooper Boulevard.

Revisionist history? I was not surprised that Mayor Willie Herenton changed his mind but I am surprised that he now contends he didn't really mean to retire. There is nothing conditional about his March 19th letter to Chief Administrative Officer Keith McGee in which he said "this personal letter serves to alert you of my plans to retire from the office of City Mayor on July 31, 2008." The mayor even employed the familiar journalistic device of prefacing his announcement with a high-toned quotation, this one from minister and motivator John Maxwell.

At the conclusion of his letter, the mayor wrote, "I hear another call and am duty bound to respond."

Perhaps he still does and still will. His speech on May 6th about public schools will be an indicator. If nothing else it will, by design, separate him from the pack and raise the bar for anyone applying to be the next superintendent. Good for him, I say. MCS can't afford a superintendent who needs a year to get up to speed. But prospective candidates from other cities who want to lead a Memphis turnaround must be having second thoughts about applying with Herenton in the equation as either a rival or the mayor.

As I've written previously, I think there's a strong case to be made for Herenton, short fuse, baggage and all. Just as Hubie Brown, short fuse, baggage and all, was the right coach at the right time for the Memphis Grizzlies a few years ago and John McCain, short fuse, baggage and all, is the Republican presidential nominee. But I don't see why Herenton isn't actively campaigning more. If he gives one big 60-minute speech on May 6th, most people will tune out after 10 minutes, just like they do when a presidential candidate unwinds a long one. If Herenton has heard a call, shouldn't he be answering it loud and clear and often?

Suggestion to Ray and Associates, the consultants hired by the board of education: Survey the key stakeholders -- the principals and assistant principals at all the schools. One question only: Herenton for superintendent? Choices: Yes, No, or Hell No.

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