For quite some time, the Shelby County Commission, spurred on by the "smart growth" rhetoric of county mayor A C Wharton and by Commissioner Deidre Malone's proposal for an outright development moratorium, has been inching its way toward the imposition of fair and reasonable standards to govern new development in Shelby County. Almost despite itself, the commission took something of a leap in that regard on Monday.
Late in the debate on a resolution to provide a "model" to identify locations where development should be either "encouraged or discouraged," Commissioner Julian Bolton successfully proposed that the commission adopt a color-coding system to map prospective development sites. The color red would be used to indicate those areas where development would be most ill-advised because of such factors as inadequate infrastructure, the prospect of school overcrowding, or insufficient projected property-tax revenues. Orange would indicate a somewhat lesser degree of caution and so on through the color spectrum.
Bolton was asked later on how such non-binding distinctions would be an improvement over the current system, whereby negative recommendations by the Land Use Control Board and the Office of Planning and Development are frequently ignored by the commission. It's a matter of imagery, Bolton answered. "How can somebody run for reelection if you've got a public record of his voting over and over for projects that had red flags on them? People can understand something like that."
The commissioner, who used frank language on Monday concerning the need to put the interests of taxpayers ahead of those he called "capitalists" and "profiteers," may have something there. Meanwhile, Chairman Tom Moss, who expressed some measured doubts about the resolution on Monday, is on hand to provide necessary contrasts as the debate continues to unfold.
The Right Move
"This project is going forward," said Governor Phil Bredesen to tumultuous applause last Thursday night. The subject was a proposal for state funding to begin the process of transplanting the law school of the University of Memphis to a downtown location, upgrading it in the process.
The audience which heard this happy news at a fund-raising event for Bredesen at the East Memphis residence of city councilman Jack Sammons included many representatives of the University of Memphis, who hatched the relocation project earlier this year in an effort to shore up the school's long-term accreditation.
The American Bar Association had put the university on notice that its present law school facilities on Central Avenue were inadequate. Among other problems, rainy days can cause flooding in the building's basement, where the law school library is housed.
A move into the landmark Post Office building on Front Street, which would be extensively renovated for the purpose, would ultimately cost some $41 million, said law school dean Jim Smoot, one of several university officials to have lobbied the governor on the point.
It would be money well spent, and we congratulate the budget-minded governor for making the project a priority.