When school children were forbidden a Halloween party at a public elementary school because Halloween is "religious", it is clear that something is wrong. Last year, students at another public school up north were warned that their choral program must exclude traditional Christmas carols and could only consist of "non-religious, seasonal songs." I am no fan of Sean Hannity nor Sarah Palin nor Bill O'Reilly, and I have no concern with whether a business says "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." But I do have a serious problem with policies in the public realm that seem aimed at preventing individual Americans from expressing their personal beliefs about the holidays. When I was in public school, we sang songs about winter, Christmas and Hannukah, and none of that ever offended me in the least. Far from teaching tolerance and respect for diversity, these new policies teach uniformity and conformity, and are leading to the eviction of religious faith from public life.
I was present, and these are the facts. #1. The police walked into the crowd, and one officer wordlessly made a hand motion across his neck to indicate that the music needed to be turned off. The music was turned off immediately. #2. When the person with the microphone stated "OK, get out your license and registration" in a joking manner, he was attacked by officers. #3. The crowd witnessed a man being pummeled by officers, pepper-sprayed and eventually thrown against a vehicle. #4. The police ordered us out of the street onto the sidewalk, screaming at us. #5. Then the police ordered us off the sidewalk and into K PreSha. #6. At no time in my hearing did the police ever cite the ordinance they were enforcing, or on what basis we had to disperse. The police also arrested people for filming their actions, and confiscated at least one phone. The facts are, the First Amendment protects public gatherings unless they are becoming unruly. If the police choose to break up a public gathering, they must cite a relevant ordinance or statute to justify their action. The noise ordinance, laws against blocking sidewalks and streets, or laws against public profanity (although I heard little if any cursing) might have all been relevant, but because the police never cited any ordinance (until apparently after the fact to the news media), we are left to wonder what ordinance was being enforced. I would furthermore venture to say that the police normally do not have the right to order people off the sidewalk and into a private business.
This has little to do with Delta and everything to do with Memphis. Nobody is choosing to fly into Memphis, because frankly there's no reason to. And few Memphians can afford to fly out, so these flights are basically half-empty and losing money. Memphis is a dying city and in my opinion, it is beyond recovery.
Because of this plan, the Southern Heritage Classic will be a thing of past, as Tiger Lane cannot possibly accomodate all those who want to tailgate at that event. Parking for any Liberty Bowl event will be difficult. If hotels are so needed in the area, why did hotels close at Union and McLean and Cooper and Madison? If the businesses planned for the fairgrounds don't take away from existing businesses in Midtown and East Memphis, isn't it likely they will remain vacant? And tourists and conventions are staying away from Memphis in droves anyway (and likely will even more now that Tennessee has been rated the most dangerous state in America). Make no mistake about it, these grandiose plans come with a hefty pricetag, and the taxpayers of Memphis and Shelby County will be left holding the bill. This is a really bad idea which should be put to death once and for all.
I disagree with the DA's action, and it has nothing to do with me supporting or approving of gangs. It has everything to do with me wanting to preserve the individual liberties that our founding fathers made central to our Constitution. Are you truly comfortable with the district attorney being able to designate any organization she chooses a "gang", and then prohibit the members of that organization from associating with one another? Read carefully, and you will see that behaviors that are ordinarily lawful are made criminal by this injunction, and if you think government will only use this tactic against gang members, think again. Armed with this kind of power, any group that the government doesn't like for whatever reason could be designated a "gang" and then its members hit with one of these kinds of injunctions. Apparently there is a way for individual members to appeal, or ask to be excluded from it...but they have to prove they are no longer members of the organization, and haven't been for the last 2 years, and have had no arrests (not CONVICTIONS, just arrests) during that time.
We so definitely need a new hotel, because we're tearing down the two existing, abandoned hotels within the Tourism Development Zone. They had been abandoned for five and ten years respectively due to lack of business, so of course we need to build a new one for people not to stay in. And people coming to the Tiger games really don't need anyplace to park, right? And it's OK if we lure business away from Midtown, U of M and Cooper-Young to the Fairgrounds, too. We won't mind the vacant buildings (the study indicates that most of the retail business will simply be relocation from existing retail in Memphis). And we really can do without the Southern Heritage Classic and its revenue, right? This plan, whether it is intended to do so or not, will result in either the end of Southern Heritage Classic, or its relocation to Nashville. It will cost the taxpayers a lot of money, and result in demolition of the historic Mid-South Coliseum (Elvis performed there), and the destruction of much of the current Liberty Bowl parking, and the bulk of the tailgating spaces (Tiger Lane alone cannot accomodate even 20% of the tailgaters for an event like the Southern Heritage Classic). This is a lose-lose for Memphis.
Not bad, but a better solution would be to prohibit ANY pay of college athletes, and let the NFL form a developmental league for small-market cities like Memphis and Louisville. When people call baseball "America's Game", they don't always remember that it became what it is because of the farm league system of AAA, AA and A ball that allows even the smallest cities to have a "home team." Admittedly, football is a more expensive sport, but still, the NFL could create a developmental league for young talented players straight out of high school, and the NFL teams could also send players down to the farm clubs when they feel the players just aren't ready. That would of course reduce the NCAA pretty much to athletes who want a college education before going into the pros, but what's really wrong with that? I'm sure college administrations would be happier.
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By Leonard Gill
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