A Slight Case of the Jitters

If you came looking for a blog last Friday, sorry. I went to bed early Thursday and was tied up Friday. Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog:

Jobs, jobs, jobs. If you lived in Ohio in the 60s, 70s or 80s, you’d know that was the campaign mantra of Jim Rhodes, the man who served 4 terms as governor between 1963 and 1983. The one constant during his terms was that job growth and employment were the best things that could happen; everything else of value would stem from that. Of course, there was that nasty Kent State business he was involved in in 1970, but that doesn’t apply to what I’m talking about, so I won’t go into any detail about that.

A piece in the Business section of Sunday’s Commercial Appeal brings up why job development is so important. The article, “Unemployment fuels business negatives,” looks at the results of a Survey Memphis poll of 200 business leaders.

In the story, noted area economic expert John Gnuschke, points out that while job creation is the most important thing our leaders should have been doing, “we have not been successful over the last decade in creating job opportunities for people who enter the labor market.” Gotta agree with him there. Also, that the larger problems with the economy are bringing that issue into specific focus.

So, while local business types think things are getting better nationally, they see local conditions are getting worse. Of course, for those of us on the other side of being gainfully employed, that’s not good news.

I’m not going to complain about money spent on things like AutoZone Park or FedEx Forum. A city needs those types of amenities help attract and retain residents. Events like Memphis in May add to the ambiance of the area. There were a lot of things in Memphis when I moved back in 2007 that weren’t here when I left in 1998. However, some things never left. Such as the inability for elected leaders to present a coherent plan on bringing consistent, long-term economic development to this area.

I really don’t care what happens to the Pyramid. I also don’t think it will have any bearing on the future of the area. The city and county will never recover all the money flushed down that oddly-shaped rathole, no matter who moves into the building. Here’s a town with three arenas that is content with spending money to keep two of them closed instead of using those spaces for any other purpose. I defy anyone currently (or previously) in office to call that leadership.

The leader of the area’s largest employer (and a man with proven insight) says publicly that safety is the area’s most important concern. The city is infamous for its place among the most dangerous cities in the nation. Meanwhile, the city council fights over whether it’s a good idea to let people from outside the city serve on the police force. Here’s a tip to council people who think letting people outside the city work as cops is somehow racist: I’m black and I don’t care who my police are or where they come from, as long as there are enough of them… Here’s another tip: it’s a stupid idea to lower education standards to racially balance the ranks – if you’re asking people to risk their lives while making potentially life and death decisions for others – let’s get the smartest, best-educated people we can. And if you don’t think enough of them are black Memphians, make sure the education system is turning out good candidates.

I can’t imagine that any of the last few superintendents of the Memphis City Schools (and I include the mayor in that number) would claim they had done a good job in that position. One thing that attracts businesses to communities is the quality of public education. A main topic of concern for parents moving into the area seems not to be where are the good city schools as much as where are the least bad city schools. The system is currently calling in cell phones and other mobile devices because of money being spend on ringtones, screen savers and personal long distance calls (among other problems). All the crap that has beset the city schools over the past 25 years should embarrass any adult associated with its operation (and that includes parents who can’t be bothered with how their children are being educated).

Taking all that in, I can’t say I’m surprised that any business leader would have a lack of confidence about what’s going to happen here next. After years of controversial and occasionally uninspired leadership, I would think we’d be better off if the mayor (and other officer holders) would offer an apology, rather than a threat of more divisiveness by talking about things such as running for Congress. The number of former elected officials now serving prison terms makes me believe that too many of our “leaders” are more interested in their own benefit than ours.

I’ve been voting since 1974. I know that no candidate can propose a plan that will cover events that have yet to occur, but I’m beginning to think that I’m going to not vote for anyone who doesn’t have the courtesy to at least offer specifics on how they’re going to solve the problems around here. Make yourselves worthy of Las Savell’s sign… make Memphis a better place, willya?

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About Doug Johnson

I spent 25 years in the news business, working in print, radio and television. After a steady rise to the middle, I made the leap to the private sector, which chewed and then tried spitting me out after 2 years. I zigged (instead of zagging) into a position in television production.
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2 Responses to A Slight Case of the Jitters

  1. Joe Gannon says:

    I think I have an idea for your next job: Doug Johnson for Mayor of Memphis. I hear the job may be open soon.

    • Doug Johnson says:

      Thanks for the support Joe. Of course, some people would say that since you live 1400 miles away, you would end up watching that particular debacle with a smile on your face…

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