August 2009

The Memphis Conservative’s comments here got me to thinking about public transportation. I decided to look at public transportation in other cities, and ran across Portland. You can see how it’s funded here, in this PDF.

Now, take a moment…close your eyes an imagine a Memphis with a public transportation system like Portland’s. Why should we not aspire for that here? Is there anything fundamentally wrong with Memphis, keeping us stuck in the 1970’s MATA era?

Tom over at SCM says the time is now. Anyone know of a reason why he’s wrong?

Or should we spend hundreds of millions of dollars building a highway connecting the suburbs?


On the WMC-TV5 website, here.


Alright, my take:

Lowery shined as (apparently) the most quick-witted and intelligent of the candidates. Dude needs a website, like, yesterday, though. I don’t know where he actually stands on anything, but he’s very bright and seems genuinely passionate. Donning my tin foil hat, I almost wonder if you-know-who is being paid to talk smack about him. Regardless, he was impressive, convincing, and I’m proud to have him as our temporary mayor. Not sure if I trust him, though, with the city.

Wanda Halbert needs to have some training in public speaking. She’s smart, but apparently panics and has difficulty articulating complex thoughts when put on the spot. Her first answer about tax equity seemed like a non sequitur, but she later clarified with an answer that appeals greatly to my progressive sensibilities. If she’s for real about a “redistribution of wealth” to fund entrepreneurial activities for residents in the inner city, then she needs to lay out the details of how that might work. Do mayors even have that sort of power? Is she talking about creating a Bank of Memphis to provide loans for city residents aspiring to start businesses, or what? It sounds great in theory, but I’m not sure how plausible that is. Overall, I like her, but she’s not going to be “ready” for another 4 or 8 years. She just doesn’t seem to have her shit together yet.

Wharton was…Wharton. Difficult to dislike. He did a great job highlighting the fact that he hasn’t been as inactive as it has seemed. He just doesn’t toot his own horn to the degree most politicians do. He dismissed Chumney’s baiting in a way I can only describe as “refined and elegant”.

Chumney came off with all the charm of that Russian chick from Rocky IV. 

Lawler appears to be a libertarian. So, yeah. But I still like his ideas of a mayor who lives in a trailer and travels around the city living in different neighborhoods. But yeah. That comment about “politicians think they know how to spend your money better than you do”  told me all I need to know about him, despite his refusal to even hint at his political leanings earlier in the debate.

Carpenter’s a douche, in my opinion. ‘Nuff said.

Whalum is a nice guy (he really is, genuinely. My husband knows him and is friends with one of his kids.) but he’s not really mayor material, I don’t think. But I liked how he answered about the MCS new “no fail” policy.

Sharon Webb…umm…seems like a really sweet lady. I’m sure her heart’s in the right place with this whole running for mayor thing, but, uuhh…

Mongo was hilarious. And his idea about letting the homeless live in the Pyramid? Other cities actually do that with abandoned venues.


I would judge the winners as follows:

First place goes to Lowery. Hands down. He didn’t miss a step.

Second place goes to Wharton. He didn’t miss a step, either, but his apparent lack of passion was a disadvantage.

Halbert and Carpenter tie in third. Halbert was very awkward (in a surreally polished-fake kind of way) and clearly nervous, but her points were good. She was speaking to those of us in North Memphis, South Memphis, etc. I think a lot of people “heard” her in spite of her anxiety-induced confusion.

 Carpenter was calm, cool, and collected, but hollow.

7 PM, on Channel 5.

I won’t be able to watch it live, as I’ll be attending week 3 of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center’s Grassroots Organizer Training workshop, but I’m recording it.

While I’m not exactly saddened by Herenton’s decision not to actually run to replace himself, his presence in the debate would probably add a lot in terms of entertainment value. It should still be interesting, either way. In particular, it should be interesting to see if Lowery elaborates upon his implication that Wharton has been “in cahoots” with Herenton. While I’m not quite sure what to make of all the Lowery drama, a platform of “the Anti-Herenton” might actually give him a shot at being elected if he plays his cards just right and to the right audiences. But if he wants to paint himself as the slayer of corruption and cronyism, he should probably consider naming some names and going into some specifics. His actions and statements thus far have left me going “Huh” in a terribly anti-climactic kind of way…sort of the political equivalent of an interesting movie where, at the end, instead of a resolution, the audience finds that it was really all just a dream.

I know what I’ll be listening to @ 4PM today….


In a far-reaching change in culture and strategy, teachers in Memphis City Schools will no longer be allowed to flunk children from prekindergarten through third grade.


Instead, teachers will build a spreadsheet for every student in the City Schools, documenting attendance and classroom achievement and using the data to make sure children learning at grade level stay the course and those falling below get immediate intervention, including summer school, self-paced online tutorials or the help of college-age tutors during the school day.


I, personally, see this as a good change. If the idea was to just not flunk the kids who are behind, it would be bad, but the idea is to get them caught up through one-on-one tutoring and other intensive interventions, while keeping them with their age group. I’d guess that a lot of the kids who are failing are not getting the one on one tutoring at home that the kids who pass get, so this shift in methodology should help fill in that gap.

Also included in the article was this amazing statistic….

“Generally, children who are retained never catch up,” said school board member Freda Williams. “They get the same curriculum again. If there are other challenges the child is facing, and they are not addressed, the child is held back for no good gain.”

In Memphis, both a poor and a majority African-American city, about one-third of the 105,000 City Schools students have been retained at least one year, creating a backlog of students, many of whom never graduate, Hamer said.

The problem starts early. Half of the 8,000 children who entered kindergarten three years ago didn’t make it to third grade.


Wow. Who knew?


Mr Taylor has made it very clear that he is opposed to the Obama administration’s plan to reform healthcare, because it costs too much.

He wants to see the inefficiencies in the existing system reformed first.

Mr Taylor is what is called a blue dog Democrat – one of an influential group of conservative leaning democrats in Congress who are deeply concerned by government spending and the spiralling national debt.

“Now everyone in this room is aware that I’m not going to vote for the healthcare plan,” says the congressman, to loud applause.



At the Bethel free health care clinic, set up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, people without health insurance are treated by volunteers.

The centre is funded by donations.

In the clinic I spoke to Vicky MacArthur, who has come because she needs medication to keep her blood pressure down.

She lost her health insurance when she became unemployed.

I asked Ms MacArthur what she made of the government’s plan to help Americans like her.

“There’s no way the government is going to provide a service like this,” she told me.

“This clinic is run by people who care. I can just picture people standing in lines, you don’t get to pick who your doctor is.

“It just sounds like communism, that you just have to do what they say to do if you’re sick.”


Amazing. Only in the South, huh?

I wonder how insane this must look to the rest of the developed world…people committing health care kamikaze in the name of rugged individualism. I wonder if there even could be a uninsured ‘tipping point’ with these people? Even if 75% of their community was uninsured, would they still hold fast? I almost think they might. Ideology is some potent stuff.

Next Page »