Voice in the Wilderness
Sometimes a single voice crying out in the wilderness can awaken a slumbering public with its honesty, clarity, and insight. Such was the clairvoyance of Tom Holland in his recent letter (July 22nd issue) regarding the Union Avenue United Methodist Church/CVS controversy. We, the uneducated, were informed that June West and her "group of loonies" are only interested in keeping business from locating in Midtown by opposing the CVS plan. Holland's probably right — she's definitely got a screw loose somewhere. And speaking of lunatics, let's not forget Jack Belz and his ill-fated plan to save the Peabody Hotel, the Save Our Shell group which fought to preserve and ultimately give us the Levitt Shell, and all the folks who battled for 19 years to keep I-40 from going through Overton Park. I agree with you, Tom: They're all nuttier than a fruitcake.
Along with you, I dream of the day that all buildings in Midtown built before 1980 are demolished and replaced with newer, more modern-looking architecture. Let's start with Central Gardens and those out-of-date homes cluttering the landscape. The Brooks Museum should be next, followed by the Pink Palace, Cooper-Young, and Overton Square. Let's tell the world that Memphis has arrived by bulldozing the Methodist Church and erecting a brand-new CVS Pharmacy in its place. We only have four drug stores within a mile of the location and need another one desperately! I've seen renderings of the proposed design and let me tell you, it is an architectural gem! Its box-like shape, cheap, mundane facade, and huge asphalt parking lot would even make Frank Lloyd Wright a bit jealous. Thank you, Tom. We all feel a whole lot better now.
It's not hard to check out. You can do a Google search and find out in about two minutes what the Tennessee Constitution says about funding schools.
Here's what Article XI, Section 12, says: "The state of Tennessee recognizes the inherent value of education and encourages its support. The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance, support, and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools." It goes on to say that the Assembly may also establish and support public institutions of higher learning.
The word "county" doesn't appear anywhere in the section or anyplace else in the Constitution in connection with school funding. The Metro Government Charter Commission has several attorneys among its members as well as several attorneys who are advisers. Apparently, none of them has actually read what the state Constitution says about schools and school funding.
The charter commission's report to the City Council and County Commission in a meeting on June 24th included this wording: "The Tennessee Constitution requires county governments to provide public school funding. Whether or not the current residents of Memphis are required to pay funding for Memphis City Schools will be determined in a court of law and is not a decision for the Charter Commission." A similar statement also appears on the Rebuild Government website.
County government funding for schools varies across the state depending on whether the county includes any special or city school districts. In a situation upheld by the courts, one county in the state, Gibson, has no county school system and provides no funds for schools. The county is made up entirely of special school districts and a city school district.
Junk Food Tax?
Several states are considering adding taxes to soft-drink purchases for needed revenue. I see multiple cases of these drinks being purchased by people using SNAP (food stamp) cards.
By definition, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program should be just that: It should help needy families and individuals purchase nutritious meals and foods. However, not only are sugary soft-drink purchases allowed, but candy, cookies, potato chips, ice cream, and other treats are just a few items also allowed that hardly could be called "nutritious" by most anyone's standards.
We must, by all means, help provide needy families and individuals with the nutritious meals and foods of their choice. But by minimizing the "non-nutritious" items in the diets of the people who most need quality foods, we would probably see a tremendous drop in obesity rates, particularly among those most at risk: children.
Further, no taxes are paid on any food purchased under the SNAP umbrella. If taxes were collected, just on these items (should they be left eligible), we would most assuredly see a significant increase in local and state sales tax revenues, along with the desired decrease in obesity rates.
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