Dear Mayor

Dear Mayor

Jul 02 2019

It’s the taxpayers’ riverfront. What’s the rush? Revise the Tom Lee Park plans FIRST! Here’s WHY:

I love Memphis’ passion. The passion to make us better. I’m not against progress, like some will say. I am, however, against poorly planned, rushed taxpayer-funded projects like what the MRPP has planned for Tom Lee Park. During Memphis in May BBQ Festival, I asked some prominent City Council folks about the plans—even challenged them on it and they said to me that I was “against change.” NO. I’m not. I am against change if it’s wrong. I am FOR CHANGE as long as it is the best for the community at large. This seems like the same song, fourth verse for those of you who have followed my blog posts (Hint: predicted Pinnacle Airlines would leave and Delta Airlines would call the loans, bankrupting them. They emerged from Chapter 11 as a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines.)

Memphis: You have SO MUCH POTENTIAL! Unfortunately, instead of focusing on key issues like education, crime and economic development, we have become an inwardly-focused town—run largely by investors, leaders and their political allies—who have failed on many levels to address the underlying, systemic issues that will haunt our city for years to come. I cannot even believe that we are having the public conversation that could possibly risk Memphis in May (MlM) leaving for another awaiting city. But the issue IS LARGER THAN THAT—larger than Memphis in May.

Tom Lee Park is OUR Riverfront. It is our “beach front property.” When you go to the beach, do you see trees planted in the sand to block your view? NO. It’s now or never Memphis. If you want your park to remain open, wide open as it is, you need to get involved. The Memphis riverfront is a precious public asset and the CITIZENS of Memphis have the right and deserve a voice in any new development or renovation plans. There are several ways you can voice your support for keeping it this way:

  1. Sign the petition, over 5,000 have and growing ( lee-park-memphis-tn).
  2. Tell your friends.
  3. Get verbal on social media and look at questions listed below. ASK THESE QUESTIONS! It’s an election year so use your voice and make it heard. Email your council members and the city Mayor.
  4. Follow key pages that I will link at the end of this post.

Here are the questions the media and all of us need to ask before construction and extreme landscaping are rammed through to “renovate” Tom Lee Park.

1. Why the hurry? When proposals are radical, they need thorough vetting! Make them PRACTICAL. Our taxpayer funds are going to be used to add structures and trees to Tom Lee Park. Our funds? Initially $30-60 million and maybe far more—perhaps like the $10 million capital budget for the poorly working Beale Street Landing that finally cost $42+ million. Proposed structures will block the river vistas and prevent Memphis In May festivals from being 100%. Also if MRPP wants a more dense park, we already have plenty of tree-filled parks. Why are we in a rush? We just had Miley Cyrus and Facebook do a huge “Walking In Memphis” campaign here at this year’s Beale Street Music Festival —the best PR Memphis has had in YEARS!

Come on y’all, we have more critical, pressing issues like crime—citizens being gunned down in our streets. Tom Lee Park is doing fine. Supporters of the MRPP will tell you that the park isn’t being used “year round.” Well, it sure is! Here’s an idea to prove it: Put a webcam down in Tom Lee Park and do a day-by-day video capturing all the coming and going by Memphians enjoying the best view of our river possible. Give the Corps of Engineers time to review the impact of the MRPP plans and alternate plans to help us have a practical, cost-effective renovation that is stable AND flood resistant. After all, it does flood in Tom Lee Park from time to time! And instead of trying to narrow Riverside Drive (again), if speeding is the issue, add some speed bumps, pedestrian zone and speed limit signs like you see all over the city.

2. Why on earth would we even be discussing RISKING losing the huge economic development that Memphis in May brings to downtown? Can you imagine what the hotels and restaurants downtown would do if Memphis In May left? That is HUGE. And MIM also helps stimulate tourism tax revenue, not just business. We have not had any significant corporate HQ move here since the tax-favored Electrolux, which is leaving. We have had a few “wins” like FedEx Logistics (thank goodness for FedEx), JNJ Logistics and Pandrol which has led to some job growth here but not nearly enough. North Mississippi is eating our lunch on economic development and so is Arkansas, not to even mention middle Tennessee. #Nashville. Why on earth would we RISK the possibility of Nashville cherry picking Music Fest, BBQ and MIM away? It could easily happen. Tom Lee Park is the ideal venue for Memphis in May’s big events. The recent poll taken by the “Power Players” indicated that Memphis business leadership (54%) thinks MIM would be jeopardized by the MRPP plans. Any construction project that MRPP has planned—if approved by the City—will stop Memphis in May from doing what it does best. Nashville is licking their chops and drooling, trust me.

3. If MRPP cannot take care of what they already “oversee,” why would we think they could maintain Tom Lee Park? Any plans for a sweeping redevelopment of a public asset should be transparent and citizen-involved/informed. The public should demand this of our Mayor. MRPP has not had any real public vetting, public town halls, etc. and the questions are vast. The only thing MRPP has done successfully is polish their talking points and tell their story. It’s time for us to tell ours. To the taxpaying citizens—we should demand accountability. We should ALL be concerned about what happens on OUR RIVERFRONT. After all, we are paying for it. All you have to do is look at the blight and neglect of Mud Island Park—MRPP cannot even take care of that. Is the neglect of Mud Island just a strategy to get rid of it? And Beale Street Landing went over budget and is STILL under performing under MRPP management. Basically, all you have to do is look at the MRPP track record, which speaks for itself. The name changed from RDC (Riverfront Development Corp) to MRPP but REMEMBER, they are still A TAXPAYER-FUNDED entity. Memphis in May is NOT CITY funded, and actually pays money to the City to “rent” Tom Lee Park during May. Nothing is keeping Memphis in May from moving.

4. Follow the money: What is really going on? Transparent and open government: Excuse me Mr. Mayor, but where is your leadership on this issue? Why is anyone who questions MRPP and their track record crucified on social media? Don’t we the taxpayers have a right to question how OUR MONEY is invested? Why are certain riverfront parks being neglected by MRPP? Is there a real estate play in progress at Mud Island? Oh, well: here’s an idea—Sell off parts of Mud Island to developers; that could solve the Mud Island Park dilemma. Sell our parks to a handful of developers who might profit nicely. The media should do a story on why ALL the parks are not being properly maintained. There sure are a lot of real estate investors involved on the MRPP board, its efforts, AND actively promoting the MRPP Tom Lee Park plan. Makes me think something bigger is at stake. Something the Memphis taxpaying citizens might understand a little too late. We’ve already seen how the City can push through legal loopholes when they want to. Do we want more public park land sold?

Don’t let this be another “wish I could have helped” issue. GET INVOLVED and tell your neighbors, friends and everyone that we cannot have a tax-funded riverfront renovation that gets rushed through and risks losing more than a festival. We could lose our wide open beach front property! You own it and MRPP should be working for us, the taxpaying Memphians.

Key links: