Consolidation? This is not the time for the Memphis-Shelby debate

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Happy rainy Thursday morning from Memphis, looking forward to seeing if the Grizzlies will get a shot at the playoffs: The team faces the Bucks at 3 p.m. But first…

Ten years after commuters overwhelmingly voted against consolidating the Memphis and Shelby county governments, a new poll is once again taking the temperature of the room.

A group of people that includes Memphis City Councilman Chase Carlisle and political strategist Brian Stephens, managing director of Caissa Public Strategy, are behind a poll currently being conducted by Conquest Communications Group of Virginia, reports our Sam Hardiman in a subscriber only story. (Not a subscriber? Become one here.)

Depending on how people react, the poll could dust off a debate that was sidelined after 85% of suburban voters rejected the consolidated metropolitan government in 2010.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland speaks to the media June 3, 2020. Strickland says he is still in favor of consolidating Memphis and Shelby county governments, but questionable opinions have shifted enough to warrant another push.

If you are looking for more details about the survey, be sure to read sam’s story. But the larger question is whether Shelby County is ready for another consolidation debate.

Probably not.

Consolidation makes a lot of sense on paper, which is why so many local politicians and business leaders – including Fred Smith, Founder of FedEx – have joined the movement in the past. You have two governments doing a lot of the same things, whose seats of government are maybe 500 feet apart in downtown Memphis. Their merger should – in theory at least – give the Metro a better and more efficient government.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is also on board and briefly explained the case to Sam:

“I think things would work better under one umbrella when it comes to economic development, law enforcement, education, and even a pandemic,” Strickland said in an interview Wednesday. “I think when you look at the cities that have done well over the last 20 years, they attribute it, in part, to consolidation. It’s Louisville, Nashville and Jacksonville… Anything we can do better, I I’m all for it.”

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way, because Governing underline back in 2011 and again in 2013. To see significant savings, the city and county would have to “eliminate layoffs” — that is, layoffs, and lots of them — and there’s usually very little appetite for those sorts of measures. draconian among the elect. This may be one of the reasons why a brutal 2012 study of the Municipal Technical Advisory Service of the University of Tennessee Institute of Public Service concluded that there is “very little evidence” that consolidation will result in the promised benefits, and that “an increase in l efficiency or effectiveness of services is probably unlikely”. Another reason: there are fewer layoffs in essential services than most people think.

But the claimed benefits of merging governments are not all financial.

There is the fairness argument: finally, city residents would not be the only ones paying for city and county services. Plus, county residents would finally have political representation in city affairs that could change their lives — like an upcoming decision on whether Memphis Light, Gas and Water should leave the Tennessee Valley Authority looking for hundreds of millions of dollars in savings. A counterpoint: the county should assume the debts of the city, and vice versa.

There’s also the power argument: Together, Memphis and Shelby County could have more influence over what happens in the state capital. De-annexation would not be a problem. Perhaps the mayor of a consolidated government would even have a chance to take on the governor or the US Senate, restoring West Tennessee to statewide office.

And then there’s the case of economic development: a consolidated government could be a simpler, more focused government, with less red tape for businesses. Memphis and Shelby County have a larger economic development problem, and regional issues call for regional solutions, like Smart City Memphis disputed in 2010.

There is real power in a community that comes together around a common vision for the greater good, thinking less about how consolidation might affect “me” and more about how it might affect “us.” , as I argued back in 2018. And I still believe it. But even if suburban voters have changed their minds — and that’s a gigantic “if” — now is not the time to launch an expensive and politically contentious campaign for consolidation with questionable benefits. Consolidation is a distraction from what we should be laser-focusing on right now: the social and economic fallout from the worst health crisis of our lifetimes.

City renames Fairgrounds “Liberty Park”

As the former Mid-South Fairgrounds heads toward a $200 million redevelopment, the City of Memphis today announced a new name for the extended sprawl: Liberty Park.

Our Sam Hardiman has all new details from the announcement. The new name is accompanied by a cool new website, too much. Not to mention these renders:

The announcement also clarified some of the details of the project that we already knew. For example, the centerpiece of the development, a 227,000 square foot youth sports and events center, will be called the Memphis Sports & Events Center and will be managed by Virginia-based Eastern Sports Management. The facility will have indoor hard courts for basketball and volleyball and can also be adapted for other sports. There will also be a cafe and concessions area, a playground and outdoor football pitches.

There are also updated details on the private 18-acre development section: it will include a public plaza, 90,000 square feet of family entertainment, 90,000 square feet of commercial offices, 100,000 square feet of retail and catering, two hotels with 200 rooms and 100-150 apartments, by the release of the city.

The project is supposed to open in phases, starting in 2022.

Here’s Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland talking about the project’s post-COVID future:

“Despite the issues we face head-on due to COVID-19, we must simultaneously plan for the future,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland. “Building on the spirit of an iconic past, known for years as the Fairgrounds, Liberty Park is a destination that ushers a historic site into its next century to, one day, bring Memphians and visitors together. ”

How COVID affects executives at FedEx, Roxo

Memphis-based FedEx founder, president and CEO Fred Smith’s salary fell to $11.1 million in the past fiscal year, reports our Max Garland in an article on how COVID-19 has affected executive compensation at the transport giant.

Of course, that’s just one of the ways the pandemic is affecting Memphis’ largest employer. Max has another story about Smith’s Annual Letter to Shareholders, in which he details the impact of the pandemic and how the company plans to return.

But in the story of Smith’s letter, two paragraphs particularly caught my attention. Smith provided an update on FedEx’s Roxo package delivery robot, which recently rolled out for testing in Memphis and a few other lucky cities across the country:

Smith also noted in his letter the technological advancements made by FedEx. Roxo, FedEx’s much-hyped autonomous delivery robot, is being readied for a second round of testing. The company is “making progress on legislation and regulatory approvals” for this, he said.

“There’s a lot of talk about how autonomous robots like ours could help in a global pandemic like COVID-19, and we’ll come out of this pandemic with a better understanding of how FedEx can benefit customers – and society – through these devices,” Smith says.

The Majestic closes, Cocozza opens

Italian pop-up Cocozza has replaced well-known (but temporarily closed) restaurant The Majestic on Main Street Mall in downtown Memphis, according to blogger “I Love Memphis” Holly Whitfield. Per Holly, it’s open for take-out, curbside and patio…

What else happens in 901

The Fadeout: Thursday Return

Today’s crossfade takes you back to 1982, when Memphis-born country singer Charly McClain (who still lives in Memphis) performed one of her biggest hits, “Who’s Cheating Who,” in Austin…

Do you like The Fadeout? Check out 901’s Spotify playlist. Would you like to submit your own recommendation? Contact me by email, address below.

Columnist Ryan Poe writes The 901, a running commentary on all things Memphis. Join it at [email protected] and on Twitter @ryanpoe.

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