The 9:01: Here's How Memphis Is Changing Up Its Economic Development Game

Towards the end of the assembly, New Chicago community leader Carnita Atwater adresses Memphis pastors, and asks them to speak to their congregations about standing up for their communities. (Photo: Micaela A Watts)

Good morning from Memphis, where Memphis Express quarterback Johnny Manziel has decided after a head injury to give up on football and run for city mayor. Also, if that last sentence didn't jog your memory, today is April Fools' Day. But enough of that...

The few protesters who marched Saturday against Memphis gentrification underscored what could be the central issue of the city's upcoming mayoral election in October.

I argued in a column last week that the "momentum" debate between incumbent mayor Jim Strickland ("We have momentum!") and his critics (No we don't!") misses the point. Clearly, Memphis as a whole is making progress. And, just as clearly, the city's many stagnant neighborhoods don't feel that momentum. The real question is how the various candidates plan to tackle the problem of some neighborhoods lagging behind others.

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Trash is left stuffed underneath patios at the Fox Hollow Townhome where owners and management spent the afternoon in Shelby County's environmental court addressing the blight and trash removal issues at the Fox Meadows community on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (Photo: Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal)

A new study, first reported locally by the >Memphis Flyer, found evidence of gentrification in six different census tracts of Memphis, all on the western side of the city, including the tract that contains New Chicago. The study looked at how median household incomes, median home values and the number of college graduates shot upward between 2000 and 2013, increasing the risk that poorer people would be priced out of the areas.

So, the concern isn't only that Memphis' "momentum" isn't being felt in parts of the city — but that it's actually having a negative effect on the city's poorest residents.

Last column, I tried to frame the issue without digging too deep into solutions. I think that's what the mayoral campaign — and especially the debates — should center on.

But I'll add that there are two basic viewpoints (with lots of overlap) on how to jump-start the city's stagnant neighborhoods. The first takes a more inward-out approach, saying the city should invest in anchors in order to grow neighborhoods — think economic development, jobs and skilled training initiatives, to name a few examples. The other approach is more outward-in — meaning the city invests in people to attract investment in anchors. In other words, the city should spend money to improve quality of life — bettering schools, parks and expanding the city's programs for disadvantaged citizens.

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Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, left, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Gov. Bill Lee and FedEx Logistics CEO Richard Smith pose for photos during the announcement Feb. 12, 2019, that FedEx Logistics is relocating to the Gibson Guitar building. (Photo: Brad Vest / The Commercial Appeal)

Those are the broad emphases — but in reality, Strickland's administration has done some of both, and his supporters argue that he's had a more balanced approach that his predecessors. On the other hand, his mayoral-election opponents — most prominently former mayor Willie Herenton and Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer — charge that he hasn't done nearly enough for some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

A prominent local business leader last week told me that Memphis is at a "crossroads" in the upcoming mayoral election, and I think he's right. The election, coming in the city's bicentennial year, may be less about who should grow the city than how.

Speaking of politics:The two nominees so far for Shelby County Democratic Party chairman are business owner Jeff Etheridge and attorney Michael Harris, The Daily Memphian reports.

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Lawsuit: Blue Suede Brigade tickets illegal

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Blue Suede Brigade members from left: Kcbena Cash, Tamala Johnson and Nathaniel Lewis talk after breaking up an altercation between two homeless men on North Main St. in Downtown Memphis. (Photo: William DeShazer / For The Marshall Project)

The Blue Suede Brigade, which is the Downtown Memphis Commission's security force, has been writing parking tickets without the appropriate authority, according to a lawsuit.

Our Phillip Jackson covered the story about the new class-action lawsuit against the DMC, which was first reported by Local 24 last week. Here are the basics:

Lawyers of Nicole Cici, a resident from Desoto County noted in a lawsuit that the City of Memphis and Shelby County ordinances do not give employees of the Downtown Memphis Commission the authority to issue or write parking tickets in the city, according to court documents. 

The Blue Suede Brigade is a 34-member crew that operates as a hospitality team patrolling all areas throughout downtown Memphis, including Beale Street, according to the Downtown Memphis Commission.

The concern is that the DMC took the law into its own hands, overstepping its agreement with the city to manage parts of Downtown, including the Main Street Mall.

The DMC claims the parking tickets were to safeguard the increasingly crowded mall — which is a noble reason but probably doesn't make much difference for the legality. Still, having the DMC write parking tickets probably saves the city a chunk of change and frees up police officers for other, more important tasks. Maybe not a bad idea.

State preempts Memphis plastic bag tax

Seeing that Memphis and Nashville were on the verge of taxing the use of plastic bags, the Tennessee legislature has once again undercut local authority to handle local issues.

Gov. Bill Lee plans to sign a bill in the next 10 days banning local governments from regulating certain plastic bags and utensils, The Tennessean reports. Some lawmakers said the state needs a uniform law on plastic bags to make the state more business friendly.

The city of Memphis has recently considered a 7-cent tax on plastic bags to reduce littering, but the proposal from council member Berlin Boyd hadn't received a vote.

What to know and read in the 901

The Fadeout

Memphian Stephen Chopek is out with a new album, "Songs of Shane, Vol. 1," as first reported by the >Memphis Flyer a couple weeks ago. The album is almost entirely made up of songs written by Irish singer-songwriter Shane MacGowan.

Fading us out this morning, here's Chopek's version of MacGowan's "Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah," which was originally performed by Irish rockers The Pogues in 1988:

Columnist Ryan Poe writes The 9:01, a weekday morning blend of Memphis news and commentary. Reach him at poe@commercialappeal.com and on Twitter @ryanpoe.

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Source : https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/local/the-901/2019/04/01/memphis-crossroads-how-grow-city-everyone-9-01/3329551002/

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