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VOL. 126 | NO. 6 | Monday, January 10, 2011

ATTN: Mayor Wharton

Compiled by The Memphis News staff

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Comments ()

Memphians sound off on city’s most pressing needs.


Aaron Shafer
Founder of Skatelife Memphis; scientist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hosp.

Develop and promote a citywide mentoring campaign. We must heavily invest in the positive development of our children. Many of our Memphis children suffer not from a material poverty, but a poverty of healthy relationships and ultimately a poverty of possibility – of reaching their full potential. Each of us has had supportive network of mentors (“the village”) in our lives, be they our parents, teachers or friends, that have come along side of us to build our self-esteem and to help us navigate a path that moves us closer to realizing our potential.


Arnold Perl
Chairman, Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority; Secretary and Counsel, Greater Memphis Chamber

Fred Smith
emphasizes that “alignment is the essence of management.” Mayor Wharton successfully is creating greater alignment within our community, especially in the area of economic development. With the recent exciting announcement by Electrolux to come to Memphis, the momentum clearly exists for greater economic development in the future. As I expressed at the opening of the chairman’s annual luncheon of the Greater Memphis Chamber, to achieve Mayor Wharton’s vision of making Memphis “a City of Choice,” let us exercise our collective leadership and create alignment so that we can succeed in fulfilling the Memphis Mandate: “to make tomorrow better than today.”


Dexter Muller
Senior Vice President for Community Development, Greater Memphis Chamber

At the Chamber economic development is No. 1. Electrolux is the largest project in the city’s history and Mayor Wharton will lead this project with its 1,250 new jobs to a successful conclusion. He will also help fully leverage the supplier opportunities for another 2,000 jobs. Infrastructure is our “sweet spot” and projects like Interstate 69, the new intermodal Mississippi River Bridge and Lamar Avenue are critical infrastructure projects that must be advanced to maintain our position. To be a “city of choice,” we must have unique neighborhoods and entertainment. Projects like Bass Pro, the Fairgrounds, Overton Square and Graceland create that type of community.


Duncan Williams
President, Duncan-Williams Inc.

I feel Mayor Wharton has to continue to address education. If our local population is not educated then we will continue to struggle to become the city we should be. Crime is also on everyone’s list, and while I believe Chief Godwin is doing a great job, both he and the mayor must do a better job of telling the story of how we are making Memphis a safer city. Continue to push the “greening” of Memphis. It is amazing to be on any of the greenlines and see the diversity of people walking, running or biking through places they have never been. We must try to connect the city this way.


Emily Yellin
Journalist and author of “Your Call is (Not That) Important to Us”

Poverty is at the root of all the evils that plague Memphis. It’s no wonder Forbes and others rank Memphis as the most miserable or fattest or whatever. Steve Forbes and his ilk aren’t real kind toward people or places mired in poverty. But Memphis has an opportunity to become famous for using our renowned creativity and grit to tackle the poverty at our core. So I hope in 2011, Mayor Wharton can lead us all toward making Memphis a mecca for the kind of innovation that eliminates poverty and its symptoms for good. After all, we are only as strong as our weakest fellow Memphians.


Eric Mathews
Co-founder, Launch Memphis

Expert Brad Feld asserts that most entrepreneurial communities ramp up over a period of three to five years and then collapse, with the early leaders moving on, retiring or changing their priorities. We are in ramp up mode in Memphis. Feld states, “It takes a core group of leaders – at least half a dozen – to commit to provide leadership over at least 20 years.” In Memphis, we need to find those leaders who are committed to work until 2031, identify the resources they will need for at least the next five years of effort, give them the resources and get out of their way.


Grant Thrall
Martha and Robert Fogelman Family Chair of Excellence in Sustainable Real Estate, University of Memphis

Long-term, across the board prosperity requires seven goals: Eliminate taxation disparities between city and county. End cannibalistic county development that shuffles people and activities from the city to the county. Promote a multimodal transportation network. Adopt an integrated activity center urban development plan. Re-engineer streets and sidewalks to promote walkability and alternative transportation. Get the University of Memphis on par with other flagship universities. Create and adopt a plan to take advantage of Memphis as a global “hub city.”


Gwyn Fisher
Executive Director, MPACT Memphis

Great strides were made in 2010 to build Memphis into a city of choice for young professionals, due in large part to unprecedented collaboration among public, private, and nonprofit organizations. Cities around the country are battling fiercely for talent, and Memphis is no exception. While other cities are “guessing” as to what their talent want, Memphis isn’t – we have MPACT. I encourage all government, private, and nonprofit leaders to continue to leverage the collaborations and networks we have built. There is so much work to be done, and we will only succeed if we work together.


Harold Byrd
President, Bank of Bartlett

Every major city experiences turmoil, controversy, and division, but Memphis as a city seems to be without peer over the past 50 years. My “to do” ongoing campaign requires inclusive, laser-focused elected, business and community leaders reaching out to each other and across Tennessee in an environment to achieve our priorities of new jobs, stable and improved education, health care and overall relations within the community. The “bully platforms” of this community must be directed, effective, and accountable (including mayors of all the area municipalities, state legislative delegation, the University of Memphis and chambers of commerce).


Virginia Stallworth
Associate Director, Memphis Child Advocacy Center

Mayor Wharton has long been a strong voice for children in our community. This year I’d love to see him require Stewards of Children training for city employees who work with children. This Child Advocacy Center training, which is necessary for “Partner in Prevention” certification, helps adults and organizations take actions that prevent child sexual abuse and guides adults in responding and reacting to suspicions of abuse. It would also be great to see the streamlining of local leadership in child safety based on the remarkable Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth, which the mayor established.


Katie Smythe
CEO and Artistic Director, New Ballet Ensemble & School

There are few activities that bring children from our segregated neighborhoods together. Once we establish meaningful cultural activities that have relevance in the lives of children, we need to bring children together, regardless of the ability to pay for afterschool activities. Let’s identify those and make good use of a number of community centers and libraries dotting the city. New Ballet and other nonprofit arts groups can staff programs in these locations. The city might fund initiatives in neighborhoods where children are geographically and financially isolated from opportunities in the arts.


Kerry Crawford
Proprietor, “I Love Memphis” blog; Social Media Specialist, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau

I hope that Mayor Wharton focuses on retaining Memphis’ young professional talent. The way to do that is by creating a city that they want to live in, one with a vibrant arts and cultural scene, plenty to do, and entrepreneurial opportunities in emerging fields (like technology and environmental engineering).


Larry Mays
President, Traffic Club of Memphis; President, Cleo Wrap

One of the main issues I have with the current administration is how we keep current companies in the Memphis area, the prime example would be McKesson leaving Memphis for DeSoto County. Memphis has five Class I railroads, barge access with the Mississippi River, 100-plus trucking companies and FedEx. DeSoto County uses the same sales information to potential companies and they move into to Desoto County versus Shelby County, we lose jobs and taxes. What are the plans to address Desoto County as a threat to the Memphis distribution market?


Leon Dickson Sr.
President, Memphis Area Association of Realtors

Stable neighborhoods make for strong communities and strong communities make for a great city. As a Realtor, I see the truth in this every day. Mayor Wharton seems to see this, too, and so it is my hope that cleaning up blighted neighborhoods will be at the top of the mayor’s list for 2011. The mayor can’t wave a magic wand and make blight in the city disappear, but it is crucial that we present our best face for corporations considering relocating here. Removing blight is also important to the citizens, who deserve to live in neighborhoods that are safe and conducive to raising a family.


Paul Morris
President, Center City Commission

Mayor Wharton should keep doing what he is doing! He’s already made great progress in reforming the culture of City Hall, retaining and recruiting business, and making Memphis a city of choice. To prosper, we must repopulate the core of the city. We must discourage sprawl and support clean, safe, densely populated, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, which will attract the next generation of citizens who have a choice about where to live. Government must focus on its primary responsibilities, including fixing and cleaning the streets, sidewalks and other public spaces. First priority should be our most densely populated areas in the core of the city. And keep fighting blight!


Rand Bouldin
Owner, Bouldin & Associates

Mayor Wharton has been a breath of fresh air for the City of Memphis. Bass Pro, Electrolux, Pinnacle Airlines, and Shelby Farms Greenline are examples of a lot of good things that are happening. So, my first item on the Wharton To-Do list is “Keep on doing what you are doing!” Other items on my list: demolition of abandoned properties is good for low-income neighborhoods. Do not miss out on any federal funding available for improvements to the city. Avoid property tax increases. Promote and expand the PILOT program to entice businesses to locate in the city. Solve the school issue quickly. Keep expanding the bike routes in the city.


Shawn Massey
Partner, The Shopping Center Group LLC

In my opinion, the single greatest threat to retail real estate in Memphis is high real estate taxes. My wish is to have you lower them. The city’s taxes are way above those of our peer cities, and we are chasing away new businesses and development. There is an opinion that it is levying a tax on the wealthy landlords in the city; this is rarely the case as most retail leases real estate taxes pass through to the tenant and ultimately to the consumer. We can get there by starting with single-source funding for public schools based on enrollment in each school. It will work whether schools are consolidated or remain separate.


Sidney Chism
Chairman, Shelby County Commission

As an elected official of Shelby County, I am focused on the public schools issue being currently debated locally and it is my prayer that both mayors have made this a priority for the coming year. Mayor Wharton’s “To Do” list should have public schools near the very top because in my estimation there are few bigger issues as we begin 2011. The length and breadth of the future of Memphis and Shelby County depends on the quality of the education we can provide to our future generations. Added to the list should be the increased fiscal responsibility in city government.


Dr. Stacy Spencer
Pastor, New Direction Christian Church

Memphis has great potential, so I would like to see Mayor Wharton continue his focus on building sustainable neighborhoods. Our families need viable employment opportunities, safe streets, comprehensive education and good healthcare. I would like to see the Wharton administration continue its efforts to remove blight in our communities by encouraging businesses to develop within the city of Memphis. I would like to see the Wharton administration encourage people presence in our neighborhoods and more crossing guards near our schools.

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396