Friday, October 15, 2010

Consolidation: Call Off the Dogs

Posted By on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 11:18 AM

  • Bill Carrier
Consolidation supporters, if they have not done it already, should seriously consider shutting down their operations to a bare minimum of advocacy.

The prospects don't look good, and there is no point in beating up on Memphis any more when Memphis is going to have to live with itself on November 3rd regardless of what happens on November 2nd and in early voting, which started this week.

Enough people on the anti-consolidation side and in the national media and in the local Democratic Party are doing that already. When they emphasize the shortcomings of Memphis, consolidation forces are adding to the misery index, however well-intentioned their efforts. Like it or not, this is a referendum on Memphis, and the odds were stacked against consolidation from the get go.

Fred Smith's endorsement was the last high card proponents had to play. I think it will change more minds than pollster Berje Yacoubian does, but not nearly enough. I'll vote for consolidation because I think it would be good for Memphis and Shelby County in the long term, although it would do nothing beyond symbolism in the next four to seven years.

The referendum, and Smith's comments, might drive home the point that the two governments and their leaders must have a Plan B that makes them more competitive as a business proposition. That message should also be emphasized to Memphis City Schools, which has too much surplus capacity, and is left out of the consolidation proposal.

Maybe it's the pretty weather, but if you stand on the bluff overlooking Tom Lee Park and the Mississippi River and look north, as I can by stepping outside my office, you have to feel like this place has great potential. They can't take the river away from us, and no other city I know of has this. Memphis will always be in the center of the country, and attractive logistically for that reason. Other places have worse weather and congestion. Public education is a national problem, not just a local one. Tennessee has no state income tax. Louisville and other places have a payroll tax. If Memphis can overcome the self-inflicted misperception that black equals poor, it will be all right. (Memphis should be carpet bombed with Eugene Robinson's new book "Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America") Not a Nashville or Atlanta, but all right. It may have to buy the business, like it did with Pinnacle Airlines and Bass Pro, but other cities buy their business too.

There's an adage in the stock market that says the time to buy stocks is when nobody wants them. That's true of Memphis. Our stock is pretty low. Let's not push it any lower. Leave Memphis and Memphians some dignity on November 3rd. Call off the dogs, both sides.

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