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VOL. 131 | NO. 125 | Thursday, June 23, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Lights, Camera, Demolition, Our Cautious Prosperity and City Hall Redux

By Bill Dries

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In south Memphis Wednesday, an old house on Mississippi Boulevard was demolished as part of a press conference to tout anti-blight measures in a city that has a lot of blight.

At times it seems like we have a different blight program for just about every blighted property.

This was the first demolition under a new program that makes funds available for such work through the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.

It’s not the first time the demolition of a house has been used to declare that local leaders are serious about the blight issue. In fact, it’s become almost a cliché with diminishing returns in terms of the public’s attention.

I’m not saying that to down what the THDA is doing. And I probably wouldn’t think this is that critical a point if it hadn’t been for a similar press conference last August. Then it was a house in the Fairlawn neighborhood of south Memphis near the Lamar interchange.

While the demolition there wasn’t part of the same Blight Elimination Program, it was nevertheless a demonstration of what was possible with the program. That was 10 months ago during a political campaign season. It was also a few months before City Council members came to realize there wasn’t a program in place at the time to take advantage of the pool of funds – to actually apply for them.

This is what erodes confidence in an effort that sounds simple but requires complex coordination because of the property rights involved.

The much-needed blight effort in Memphis needs more press conferences that revisit some of the many sites of earlier demolition press conferences to show what has been built on those sites once the blight was cleared away and the cameras left.

The signs of our cautious move toward prosperity in Memphis are much like those of other cities – construction sites and their workers.

And there are several to see in the summer heat including one in Longview Heights that is the new $10.5 million Childhood Development Academy by Porter-Leath whose groundbreaking we reported on earlier this year.

We were back this week to highlight some new numbers from the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, a philanthropic foundation that is bucking a national trend of lower donation levels to such organizations.

Of the $10.5 million Porter-Leath project, approximately $9 million came from donations to the Community Foundation.

The return of the residency requirement discussion at City Hall could include another referendum for the November ballot – the fourth in 12 years on what remains a durable and relevant question with a lot of good give and take.

The issue was renewed at the start of the year as a new City Council took office in what former council member Shea Flinn has referred to as a rite of passage during such turnovers on the city’s legislative body.

If there is a referendum in November on this, I’m not sure it will tell us much about the larger issue because of the changes voters have approved in the requirement over the last dozen years.

Further proof of that is in the dueling city charter referendums on staggering council terms and moving city elections out of odd-numbered years.

City voters approved the change first and then reversed the change they had approved earlier leaving the council un-staggered (that may not be a word) and keeping city election in odd-numbered years.

The spay and neuter movement gets wheels. The local Humane Society has a mobile spay and neuter clinic.

The Memphis Real Estate Recap goes over some recent moves, permits and leases including Loeb filling some vacancies at various properties including a catering company in Overton Square, a boutique in Trinity Commons and pool supplies at Farmington Centre.

More on Wayne Jackson’s passing from Associated Press.


The growth of for-profit medical schools in the U.S.

Uber and Lyft battle the government over fingerprinting drivers.

The trustees of the federal Social Security and Medicare programs issue their annual report on the finances of both programs. Bottom line, a very small increase in monthly Social Security benefits in 2017. And Medicare finance are worsening.

And a Harvard report on housing trends shows despite a 48-year low in the nation’s home ownership rate many of us still have that as a goal. The other trends in the report go to the challenges between that goal and reality.

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