Memphis crime

Memphis is messed up. We are one of the two most huge and also most totally fucked up cities in the whole of the US. While 4 years ago, my next door neighbor was screaming that closing down the projects was screwing up our working/middle class neighborhood, all of we residents of the inner city now have lots of present insights that would be valuable to academia. But nobody ever thinks it’s potentially valuable to just go out and talk to inner city residents in Memphis.

I’m seeing one of the end products of welfare reform, where single mamas live with their mamas and most all (non-gang) adults in the overcrowded houses are working 40-60 hours a week. I’m seeing latchkey kids ruthlessly targeted by gangsters to form an affiliation. The resulting gang-membership prevalence for kids ages 9-16 is exceeding 75%. I have watched this happen, but it was not “captured” by science.

 I think the U of M needs to step up and start observing and documenting shit as it happens. Or, somebody, other than what can (rightfully) be dismissed as anecdote.

I don’t mind us being the “perfect little urban lab” as long as the disastrous results are at least documented.  Otherwise, it’s just a human rights travesty.



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.

I’m guessing that most have already read this:

There’s been an academic response from city-planner folks.

In a nutshell, “some” (academics) say sending the project folks out into the community hasn’t really proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be behind our crime explosion. Well, ok. As a skeptic, litereally a member of the JREF, I agree that big claims need big evidence to support them if they’re not to be dismissed.

But on a personal level, the good scientific evidence one way or another does not exist yet, and this hypothesis lines up with my anecdotal experience. It was around 2003 that my next door neighbor told me that gangs were growing in this neighborhood ( a few streets north-east of Summer and Tillman) because former project folks were moving in here. And now, in 2009, the prevalence of gang membership for kids ages 13-18 is around 100% here.

And this is a working/middle class neighborhood. Where there are some single moms working one or 2 jobs, or generally 2 parents working one full time job each. ( I, being white, get to enjoy the label of “stay at home mom”, aka “homemaker” etc instead of “unemployed”). NOBODY has ever seen this degree of gang activity before. This is NEW. This is NEW for Memphis’ black working/middle class. Parents are being taken off guard. Something powerful changed here around 2002-2005.

I, personally, think Janikowski is right. I live “here” and I can see it. I watched it happen, and I talked with neighbors as it happened. Everyone who has lived here  a bit north of between Summer and Tillman and Summer and Highland says the same thing;  closing down the projects was bad for us. Reality just sucks sometimes.