Thursday, April 15, 2010

Funding the RDC

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 11:49 AM

This week, I wrote about the Riverfront Development Corporation and the current funding shortfall with its Beale Street Landing project.

The RDC needs about $9 million to finish the project. The Wharton administration is talking about allocating about $1 million in the upcoming fiscal year's budget, which would keep the project moving, but puts the final piece of the project — the park — in jeopardy.

Basically, I think it would be a mistake to leave the project unfinished. We've put millions of dollars into the project already; to not finish it would make that money go to waste. ... And I think it would leave a very visible reminder of local government's failings, both financially and procedurally.

But if people think one of those failings is the creation and the operation of the RDC, the city can do something about that. It can bring the riverside parks back in-house.

I hope the RDC can find private money to finish the Beale Street Landing. If they can, it would prove to citizens that the RDC model works. But looking at the financial statements, I wonder how likely that is.

After the jump, I've posted the RDC's financial highlights from 2003 on in one handy-dandy place so you can see for yourself.

Continue reading »

Monday, April 5, 2010

Down for the Count

Posted By on Mon, Apr 5, 2010 at 3:24 PM

[Ed. note: This is a guest blog from Flyer intern Natalie Mayo.]

April 1st might be April Fool's day, but last week's rally to support the 2010 Census was no joke.

During the 2000 U.S. Census, roughly 200,000 Shelby Countians were uncounted. Because every 100 residents not counted means a loss of $1 million over the next 10 years, local leaders spent so-called "Census Day" making sure Shelby County was down for the count.

“It is our city’s obligation to participate,” Shelby County mayor Joe Ford said at the rally on the Main Street Mall. “We cannot move forward until we mail our Census forms back.”

By Census Day, only 44 percent of Memphians had participated. Nationally, that number was at 54 percent.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Metro Divisions: How Many Is Too Many?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 2, 2010 at 11:28 AM

The Memphis Shelby County Metropolitan Charter Commission is trying to minimize the number of departments in its proposed consolidated government. But it's struggling.

"The city has 13 divisions. The county has what? Five?" said metro charter commission member Richard Smith. "We have 12 task forces. If every one of those adds two divisions, that gets us up to 24. We should be shooting for less than 18."

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Monday, March 29, 2010

The Tax-Base Problem

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 11:18 AM

In a nut shell ...

In Mayor A C Wharton's City of Choice presentation last week, he presented two population maps. The first was population distribution in 1960, and each dot represents 300 people. (This map was actually created for a Memphis Flyer story on I-269 and the cost of urban sprawl.)


"You can see it's clustered in the core city," Wharton said. "Service delivery wasn't that difficult."

The second was population distribution in 2000.

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Friday, March 26, 2010


Posted By on Fri, Mar 26, 2010 at 10:35 AM

A healthy diet includes plenty of fiber. Just ask Google.

Memphis mayor A C Wharton will file Memphis' application for Google Fiber, a new super high-speed broadband network, today.

"Google Fiber would not only bridge a stark divide that affects so many of our low-income and under-served households, it would also transform us into a global destination for knowledge workers, web developers, and other drivers of the 21st-century economy," the mayor said in a statement. "Memphis has always been driven by a civic spirit of innovation and thirst for new ideas, values we share with Google."


The city is one of about 200 nationwide vying to be one of the search giant's test cities.

For more, including testimonials from Wharton and other local leaders, visit

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Decent Proposal: Bartlett House Meeting

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 at 8:30 AM

[As stated previously, the Flyer's cover story this week takes an early look at the consolidation process and players. To read it, click here.]

One a recent Saturday evening, Venita and Deadrick Doggett hosted a Rebuild Government meeting at their Bartlett home. The participants, spanning a range of ages and colors, included the Doggetts' neighbors, church members, and co-workers.

"We're trying to get people plugged in," says Venita Doggett.

The group had questions about legislative representation, if the real issue against consolidation had anything to do with race, crime, and, of course, taxes.

Though she lives in Bartlett, Doggett says she is for consolidation. As a research analyst for the Memphis City Council from 2001 to 2005, she has seen that government from the inside.

"I'm excited about the possibility," she says. "I think there's a lot of overlap between the city and the county. It makes sense. We're too large and interdependent not to be consolidated."

In her Bartlett neighborhood, there are still lots for sale and houses under construction. Though Doggett thinks the suburbs have grown at the expense of Memphis, she doesn't attribute all their growth to Memphians moving out.

"Memphis must be doing something right for the suburbs to be continually growing."

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Decent Proposal: Save Shelby County

Posted By on Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 8:30 AM

[As stated previously, the Flyer's cover story this week takes an early look at the consolidation process and players. To read it, click here.]

Tom Guleff and Ron Williams say they fell in love on Facebook.

That's a joke, but Guleff, a Republican who lives in Midtown, and Williams, a Democrat who lives in unincorporated Shelby County, became friends through the social media site.

That friendship became the basis of their anti-consolidation group, Save Shelby County.

"We could not have done this 15 years ago," Guleff says. "There's no way he and I could have linked up."

The group formed as a "counter weight" to Rebuild Government.

"It goes back to the listening tours," Williams says. "I could never get a straight answer about why are you doing this? How is it going to save me money? What are the advantages?"

Continue reading »

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Decent Proposal: Marlin Mosby

Posted By on Thu, Mar 18, 2010 at 8:30 AM

[As stated yesterday, the Flyer's cover story this week takes an early look at the consolidation process and players. To read it, click here.]

For the last 25 years, Marlin Mosby has been trying to hire Ivy League graduates to come to Memphis to work with his company, Public Financial Management (PFM). And in that 25 years, he's been able to convince only a few who didn't already have ties to the area.

"We hired two who came here and they left within a couple of years," he says. "Most I wasn't able to get here. ... People who want to compete against the best and want to be at the highest level of their career, they don't see Memphis as a place where they are going to be successful."

He staffs his office here with Rhodes graduates.

(I know, I know. You're thinking: What does this have to do with consolidation?)

PFM is the financial adviser for Shelby County, Germantown, Collierville, and Bartlett, and was a consultant for the city of Memphis for 20-plus years until a few years ago. As he sees it, Memphis doesn't have high taxes because of government inefficiency or corruption:

"It appears on the surface that we're paying a significantly higher tax rate than Nashville/Davidson County. To make it comparable, you have to figure out what the tax rate would be if you levelized it across the whole community," Mosby says. "It brings it much closer."

But the most important factor for him is the relatively large number of children in the area. In the Memphis region, school-aged children account for almost a quarter of the population. In almost every other city, school-aged children are about a fifth of the population.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Decent Proposal: Darrell Cobbins

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 8:30 AM

A few weeks ago, I realized that many city and county residents really don't know or understand what's going on with the consolidation drive. Maybe it's just that, as a community, we've talked about consolidation for so long that it seems like it will always be hypothetical.

But the talk right now is more than just talk; it comes with a vote November 2nd.

In light of that, we decided to do a cover treatment on consolidation. (It should be hitting the streets today and should be live on the website tomorrow.)

I'll admit it's kind of a tricky thing on consolidation right now. There's not a lot of specifics to talk about, since the charter commission still has to write the new document. But if we don't start talking about it now, a lot of people are going to be taken unaware on August 10th when the new document is filed, and on November 2nd when city and county residents are asked to vote on it.

And then we started writing, and it turned out there was more to talk about than I originally thought.

Starting today, I'm going to be posting some of my note overflow: mostly things people said that I thought were interesting but didn't quite make it into the paper because of space. And because you can't just run a bunch of quotes. It's a journalism rule.

Continue reading »

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