Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Memphis has recently publicized 2 major initiatives with huge real estate angles, Triangle Noir and the Parks Services Master Plan.

As these move forward, backward, sideways, into the shadows, under the cone of silence and back through the echo chamber, we must ask hard questions of everyone -- the public officials, the businesspeople, the citizens --- not just the politicians! -- involved with them.

For instance, re: the Parks Services Master Plan:
    The Edge of the Old Forest
  1. Who's on the committee?
  2. What's the proportion of citizen representation to business representation?
  3. How much of that is developer representation?
  4. Do any of the representatives have contracts with the city?
  5. Do any of the representatives have relatives who work for the city?
  6. Do any of the representatives have private dealings with the Mayor?
  7. Are any possible divestitures in the vicinity of major city led developments, e.g., Uptown, Fairgrounds, etc.
or for Triangle Noir:
    Looking toward Triangle Noir
  1. Why is it necessary to remove anybody from the Triangle Noir? Isn't there enough space to infill?
  2. Hasnt' the public housing being recently renovated? How is it dilapidated?
  3. How does this improve Memphis outside of Downtown?
  4. How will we pay for the elderly housing required in the rest of the city?
  5. Are there enough Section 8 vouchers available to everyone scattered by Triangle Noir?
  6. Will eminent domain be used?
  7. If so, will takings be given to private developers?
  8. Are any of the possible developers on the Mayor's host committee?
  9. Who owns property in the Triangle now?
  10. What are their connections to city government?
  11. What will Triangle Noir do to the mix of income in downtown Memphis?
I don't believe the questions are cynical. They're just the type of questions that should be asked anywhere the public realm is opened to exclusive private uses. Vigilantly asked by citizens and the press, and reasonably answered by independent means, they're an antidote to cynicism.

Public-private partnerships promise revenue and/or efficiency, but they will eviscerate the public realm, subvert public power to private ends and corrupt our democracy unless we ask and get answers.

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Blogger Randal Cooper said...

Moving forward with Triangle Noir seems especially short-sighted, given the ramifications of the last spate of urban redevelopment in that fashion. Shuffling the crime out to Cordova, Hickory Hill, or Hack's Cross, or West Memphis isn't the answer to the city's problems.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Ryan Fowler said...

I understand the worries of crime, but the reality is that there are thousands of people living in the remaining public housing projects who have committed no crime, unless it's a crime to be poor.

The housing in Cleaborn and Foote Homes is absolutely dilapidated and substandard. Have you ever stepped foot inside one of these units? I'm in them every week. Cleaborn Homes is especially bad - mold, ceilings that are caving in, insect and rat infestations. No one should have to live there. Period.

Hope VI redevelopments provide incentives (actually requirements) for residents to maintain a job. The Hope VI grant also provides funding for social services like job training and educational achievement.

Obviously it's not perfect, but maintaining these dilapidated poverty compounds is not just.

No one likes crime in their neighborhood, but that also includes those individuals living in the midst of these neighborhoods. It's easy to forget them, because they are poor and likely have little voice in the public realm.

I say it's way past time for these housing projects to be replaced.

Many of the abandoned and vacant lots are owned by far removed land lords who have no investment in the community. They don't care if the lot is overgrown or if their building is falling apart. Many live hundreds of miles away.

I definitely agree that citizens, especially those with a strong public voice, must watch this process closely. If that doesn't happen, greed will replace justice.

Love your blog - one of the best around!

9:14 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I would suggest you contact the Parks director and then document your experience. This would be a good step in making this a more open process.

11:14 AM  
Blogger gatesofmemphis said...

Randal, if there are problems with the Atlantic article (here's one rebuttal) its issues should be a template. Locally, if there's not gross corruption (note: the AM article didn't even mention corruption), we hardly discuss the means and ends of public-private partnerships.

Ryan, thanks for the comment. I don't have ready built answers to my questions. I have suspicions but I hope they're open to evidence and experience like yours.

12:55 PM  

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