VOL. 8 | NO. 52 | Saturday, December 19, 2015
Editorial: New Faces, Familiar Questions at City Hall
The new Memphis City Council will face some old issues and questions at the outset of their four-year term.
But as new councilwoman Patrice Robinson pointed out in our cover story, the challenge will be to move beyond treading water in the deep end of the political pool.
With that in mind, here are a few early trends emerging from the discussions among new and returning council members, mixed with a few suggestions.
City Hall must become more involved in issues of crime, safety and justice. The current city attitude is limited to jurisdictional boundaries that are excuses for maintaining an intolerable status quo.
That status quo renders the image of Memphians as a group of citizens who can only react to crime through the distorted lens of television newscasts, with meetings and town hall sessions that accomplish nothing.
The majority of Shelby County’s population should have more influence on criminal justice issues beyond what happens with the Memphis Police Department. MPD is a small part of a larger discussion that includes the state court system, prosecutors, public defenders, and state and county corrections departments. None of these are part of City Hall, but all of them are key to a coherent and comprehensive shift in the city’s public safety policy.
It’s time for our elected leaders to become part of this larger conversation instead of the prevailing hands-off policy used for parts of the criminal justice system other than the police.
Memphis must be felt in Nashville as more than something the Tennessee Legislature reacts against. The new council may not be the complete answer to this.
Much could be started with a move to challenge the more entrenched members of the Memphis legislative delegation in the August primaries and November general elections.
But City Hall must have a continuous presence in the Capitol, and that presence must not seem to perpetually have its hand out. The Memphis presence must seek to change the Legislature’s role as the keeper of a game whose rules are out of the city’s realm of influence.
That brings us to redefining development in our city. New life in new parts of Memphis means different things and looks different depending on what part of town you are talking about.
Downtown and Midtown are not necessarily the model for Whitehaven.
And once development moving south toward E.H. Crump Boulevard jumps that street and moves into the heart of South Memphis, we believe you can rewrite the book on the ground rules for development.
The new chapters in that book should talk about how we managed to bring new life to different parts of our city without a massive displacement of those who have held on and been stable homeowners in bad times and worse.