Thursday, March 15, 2012

Weekend Report: Harahan Bridge, Contract Bridge, Good Signs, Hamer, and Big Money

Posted By on Thu, Mar 15, 2012 at 2:30 PM

A Bridge Too Far? I think so. The Harahan Project is exciting, sure, if wishing could make it so, but that estimated $30 million price turns me off, along with the estimated 18-month waiting time. And both estimates could be optimistic. Connecting Main Street to Broadway in West Memphis is aimed, let's face it, at enlisting a second city and state in the cause. And I say that as someone who used to freelance for the Crittenden County Chamber of Commerce and write glowing magazine copy about Broadway. And as someone who has enjoyed walking or biking over the Brooklyn Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga, Eads Bridge in St. Louis, and Mackinac Bridge in upper Michigan. There are simply too many needy projects — the Overton Park Conservancy to name one — with more modest fundraising goals, and too many alternative ways to increase bike traffic along the river and through downtown without spending a lot of time and money. A "Five Parks Bike Tour" modeled after the "Five Boro Bike Tour" in New York City in May is one of them. Include Greenbelt Park, Overton Park, Tom Lee Park, Mud Island Park, and Martyr's Park, with Court Square and AutoZone Park as throw-ins. Last week the city and Parks Department put up a temporary sign on North Parkway. It was made out of plywood by an art student and probably cost a few hundred bucks. But it brands the boulevard, which has been nicely planted in buttercups and flowering trees, and draws favorable attention to Midtown. Grooming our showcase streets and gateways has an immedediate payoff at a reasonable price. I'm reserving judgment on the North Parkway bikes lanes, but note that with excellent weather and near-$4 a gallon gas, there are very, very few weekday riders.

Deputy Superintendent Irving Hamer had to go. But I would not count out Superintendent Kriner Cash as a possible choice for the future consolidated school system. He has friends in high places, knows the Memphis system, there are no unanimously popular superintendents, and I can't see candidates lining up for the job in 2013. Personally, I think Cash should be counted out for several reasons including making it as hard as possible for reporters covering education to do their jobs. ON a related note, I see where Nashville Mayor Karl Dean wants Metro Schools Superintendent Jesse Register to disclose more financial information in the wake of a newspaper investigation of consulting contracts and payments. Excellent idea for Memphis and Shelby County to imitate with all the outside money being thrown at schools. Register, previously superintendent of the consolidated Chattanooga and Hamilton County school system, visited Memphis a few months ago at the invitation of the Transition Planning Commission.

Thousands of bridge players are in town for a big national convention. Good for them, nice boost for downtown. I practically majored in bridge in college, and there are ways to make it entertaining that involve cold beer, music, and penny-a-point scoring. Great game, struggling to become more popular with "younger" people, whatever that means. But a spectator sport it ain't. Of course, I would have said the same thing about poker 25 years ago. And earlier this week I wrote 1000 words about the obscure sport of squash. To each his own.

Page One, Top of the Fold in Thursday's Wall Street Journal: "SEC Cracks Down On Pre-IPO Trading." The SEC is the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it's about time. Ten years ago, New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson, who ought to be running the SEC, was writing about abuses of insider trading in private shares of companies about to go public in IPOs, or initial public offerings of stock. Then and now, as I wrote in a Memphis magazine article several years ago, I firmly believed that Morgan Keegan dodged a bullet. Or should I say, the SEC failed to pull the trigger on the kind of investigation it is now undertaking. The case in point was a company called Crossroads Systems, which was a hot IPO. Morgan Keegan insiders got some private shares, the house analyst plugged the stock, and away it went. Except a company sorehead who didn't get any private stock thought it stunk and became my secret whistleblower. Harbinger of things to come with the Kelsoe funds. If President Obama is smart, he'll keep the dogs of the SEC on a long leash and keep generating headlines in the wake of that tell-all op-ed column in the New York Times from the insider at Goldman Sachs this week.

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