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VOL. 131 | NO. 46 | Friday, March 4, 2016

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

Shameful Performance

DAN CONAWAY | Special to The Daily News

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SHAME ON US. This week, the Memphis City Council ran over a whole room of citizens and a whole city and parked right on top of something they care about.

Every council member should be ashamed.

Perhaps they wanted to end a lawsuit and its attendant costs in both money and divisiveness, but it’s much more likely they bowed to the pressure of big names and big money, and it’s absolutely certain that their almost unanimous action divided the city even more. With a straight face, they actually made parking on the Overton Park greensward a racial issue, actually claiming that giving control of public inner city green space to a paid attraction and denying the public free access to that space to somehow be more inclusive, actually by extension making parking your SUV wherever the hell you want to somehow be a civil right.

They should be ashamed.

When given the floor by council Chair Kemp Conrad, council attorney Allan Wade (by the way, did you vote for Allan Wade?) didn’t provide any answers to legal questions, any objective clarification of a point of law, but rather delivered a one-sided closing argument, a finger-wagging, condescending address to the council. He dismissed the passion of the diverse and involved audience by reducing them to mere park neighbors, and elevated the zoo to beacon of equality. He evoked Memphis civil rights icon Maxine Smith in defense of … zoo parking? That alone was shamefully over the top and the whole performance was blatantly manipulative.

The whole council – manipulators and manipulated – should realize – as he does and the public is beginning to – that Allan Wade has become more than legal counsel, more than someone to hide behind, he has become the voice of the Memphis City Council.

They should be ashamed.

Perhaps the inclusion of the entire greensward and Rainbow Lake in the council’s gift to the zoo was innocent rather than intentional overreach, but it’s much more likely it was done so that brand-new Worth Morgan – Overton Park is in his district – could offer an amendment giving the lake back to the public and that Chairman Conrad could help – Overton Park is in his district – so they could both save face with their constituents before they slapped them by voting for the resolution. The whole exercise was awkward and obvious. The lack of any meaningful council discussion, the absence of anyone from the zoo, Wade’s forced and disdainful sharing of what he considered relevant from the actual resolution, all had the feel of political theater, the script written, the ending known.

They should be ashamed.

What the City Council did and how they did it proves what I and so many others have been writing, saying and posting ever since the zoo starting acting like a crazed lowland gorilla – this is about more than parking, this about the clash between moneyed interest and the public interest.

I think we all know who won this week.

I’m a Memphian, and we should all be ashamed.

Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

Daily News publisher Eric Barnes is a member of the Overton Park Conservancy board. He did not participate in the writing or editing of this column.

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BANKRUPTCIES 52 262 11,426