Jan 13 2007

Hearts and Minds not Hot Dogs and Hamburgers

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Mayor Herrington’s recent proposal for a new football stadium in Memphis, paints a grim picture of his vision for the future of the city. The notion that a new and possibly unnecessary sporting venue could make any impact on the severe divisions within the city highlights the lack of leadership that has been the hallmark of his tenure.

There are financial arguments for and against a new football stadium, and those arguments, while valid, offer little to address the racial, economic and social problems that should be at the center of the mayor’s proposals for his coming months and possibly years in office.

The sad reality iss that the city of Memphis needs healing not hot dogs. We need to heal the racial divide that inhibits the potential of this great city. We need to heal the economic disparity that subjugates so many to a life of poverty and need. We need to fight the culture of corruption and cronyism that has been the hallmark of local government for longer than anyone alive can possibly remember. Memphis needs all of these things, long before another huge construction project with multi-million dollar cost overruns.

Understand me, I am not some bookish egghead that hates all that sport represents (not that there’s anything wrong with bookish eggheads), I’m a confirmed and admitted sports junkie. I spend nearly as much time following sports as I do politics. In my mind, the two are quite similar, and complimentary. No, this isn’t some indictment of sport per se, but an indictment of the lack of leadership and vision that I have observed by our leaders since I moved here nearly 3 years ago.

In the absence of any inspirational vision or even practical knowledge of how to combat instead of exploiting the challenges that face our city, a new venue for sport seems like a good idea. Building great monuments has long been a device of those who sought to quell the growing chorus of dissatisfaction. But one only need look to the Pyramid, now closed, or soon to be, and the Forum to recognize that this kind of idolatry offers fleeting satisfaction.

Secondly, one must ponder the message that such monuments convey to the local community. There is some merit to the argument that such projects can unite a community around a common aim. To this argument I agree, with one exception; It must be disheartening for those in need to see such works erected, largely for the entertainment of the wealthy, when they have so much need.

Finally, I think it’s important to note that I understand the financial side of this situation. Building a new stadium may be more cost effective than renovating the Liberty Bowl. Certainly, for a city with as many financial challenges as Memphis, avoiding potential legal proceedings from groups who are either more interested in making a point, or a profit, makes good sense to me. Additionally, providing a venue where access and all the appointments of luxury are available has a certain sexyness that self-evaluation, discovery, and social healing lacks. Still one must not underestimate the positive power and influence that these humble but self-affirming actions can have on both a community and the individuals that make up the community.

My friend Zig Ziglar says, “Beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes straight to the bone”. We may actually need a new stadium, but for the Mayor to present such a project as one of the most important things in a city that ranks in the top five for crime, obesity, and poverty seems unconscionable. My hope is that, stadium or not, our leaders work together to heal the deep wounds that divide and distract us so that we can all work together for a more peaceful and prosperous Memphis. On that we can all share in…one that can be a model of tolerance for the nation and the world.


Jan 11 2007

That Looks Ex-Spence-ive

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Yesterday, while doing some errands and my regular running around I noticed a lot of billboards for Robert Spence (D candidate TNS-30). When I say a lot, I mean at least 12, (Clear Channel calls them 30 sheet) billboards and six or so MATA kiosk ads just drivng around Midtown and in the Getwell/Park area. So, last night, I decided to see just how much all of that might cost.

With quantity discount breaks, 12 – 30 sheet billboards and 6-Transit Kiosks runs right around $15,000 before you add in production costs (printing etc.). That’s not really a lot of money if you’re putting together a comprehensive marketing campaign and have little time to do it, but when you consider that those are just the one’s that I found, and that there are probably many more, the price gets up there.

As anyone who’s read Spence’s financial disclosure forms from his unsuccessful School Board run knows, he’s not afraid to spend some money. $100K to come in third place in a school board race is a lot of scratch to be throwing around.

If you’ve read The Freedonian’s post on Spence then you already know he has a connection to Clear Channel. From the comments:

It appears that Spence represents Clear Channel in lawsuits filed AGAINST Adworks and William Thomas.

– Anonymous

That begs a couple of questions;

1. What does a guy, who represents the largest billboard company in Memphis, and is running for public office, have to pay for the use of their billboards? Does he get a “buddy” discount? Is this a service for fee situation? We won’t find out about expenditures until after the primary (filing date for the state financial disclosure is April 11th).

2. The billboard business has a lot of legal dealings with the city, with the billboard moratorium and the Clear Channel contract with MATA, which is a hairs breath from shutting down in the face of budget over-runs. What does Clear Channel stand to gain from such representation in the Senate?

Memphis is a place that has more backdoor dealings than a gay dance club in the 80’s. In order to remove any question of ethical malaise, or downright corruption, Mr. Spence should disclose his spending with Clear Channel in advance of the January 25th primary election. If you have nothing to hide, why not show it?

Jan 10 2007

Skinny Huckabee Scares the Crap out of Me

Posted by Steve Ross in Uncategorized

Just finished watching Skinny Huckabee (former AR_GOV) on TDS, and I gotta say, he’s got the 8 min. interview down pat. Also saw him on Imus this morning (no I don’t watch that, just happened to see him on the TV) and that was a good performance too.

Huckabee is stealing Edwards’ thunder. His new book, that I haven’t read yet, preaches an optimistic future that you and I can have some say in. He works on TV really well, and comes at things without a level of partisanship that one may have expected from him if they followed him since ’94 when he became Governor of AR.

Huckabee has been the bane of my existence since then. I even started a website called “Huckwatch” in Arkansas back in the late 90’s to keep up with his shenanigans. Christian Heritage week, a declaration that he made in his first year as AR-GOV, and all the other stuff he tried to pull, has been eclipsed by some really interesting and somewhat progressive initiatives for a former Southern Baptist Preacher, over the past few years. Even thought I can’t stand him, he delivers a good message, one that will resonate with a lot of people sick and tired of the status quo.

I hope we bring our A game to ’08, because even though he’s a former Gov. from a small state, that was raised in a little town called Hope, I wouldn’t count him out. Lightning can strike twice.