Economists are said to have predicted 10 of the last three recessions. Not to be outdone, newspaper columnists can predict 10 of the next three tipping points in Memphis.
The mayoral election: So many Herenton years, so little Herenton enthusiasm. But — seemingly — so little enthusiasm for the challengers, too. Sure, it's risky to come out against an incumbent mayor, but it isn't exactly signing up for a tour of Baghdad. If snakes need cover, then let them imitate the donor list for the mayor's annual Christmas party. Sign on with Morris/Chumney/Willingham/whoever with 40 of your friends. If the mayor looks at you funny next time you need a favor, explain that your secretary did it.
The end of Tennessee Waltz: John Ford going to prison. Who'd have thought it in 2003, when he and Ward Crutchfield and Roscoe Dixon were riding high in Nashville? And who'd have thought that 30 months after the first indictments, and with all these politicos copping pleas, that Joe Cooper would be the only one from the supply side to get indicted? If the other shoe doesn't fall this year, it ain't dropping.
Crime: A crime wave, a no-deals policy, and a police department that's pretty good at catching crooks add up to an overcrowded jail. Memphis can't lock up all the bad guys and hold them forever. They get out more hardened and desperate than before. A new jail and privatization are in our future.
A new superintendent: Carol Johnson is the lamest of lame ducks for one more week. Her farewell meeting should be open-mic night. Why are you leaving? Regrets? Who else should go? No platitudes allowed on this exit exam or else her last paycheck gets sent by mistake to the MLGW customer service center.
State takeover of 17 city schools: No more bluffing. So what is a state appointee going to do that Memphis City Schools didn't or wouldn't do?
New schools: Manassas High School will open in an inner-city black neighborhood that has lost most of its population, and Southwind High School will open in a suburban black neighborhood that has gained population. Let's see some real attendance numbers 30 days after the openings.
Beale Street Landing: Is the boat dock the last or just the latest downtown big thing? Its backers should have their names engraved on a bronze plaque that says, "This was our idea of the best way to spend $29 million on park improvements."
Annexation: Will a lame-duck City Council do what it wouldn't do a year ago and take in the reluctant residents of southeastern Shelby County while cutting out upscale homeowners in Southwind and Windyke? Extra city taxes will hit low-income mortgage holders at the peak of the sub-prime squeeze.
Two "pro" basketball teams: That's one too many for this town. Basketball is in the news every day and it isn't even football season for another month. The Memphis Grizzlies have shaken up their lineup and are shooting for the playoffs. The Memphis NBA Development Team, aka the Memphis Tigers, are a likely preseason number one. Both aim to boost their season-ticket sales. Someone's going to be very disappointed.
The Pyramid and Bass Pro: This "engagement" is so stale it's embarrassing to write about it. No more non-binding letters of intent. A wedding this year or tear it down.
The downtown revival: Saying these two words should be a misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine as long as there are vacancies on every corner at Union and Main.
The Fairgrounds: The pitch for a new stadium hasn't caught fire. Addition by subtraction of the junk around the Liberty Bowl and a realistic report on the cost of handicapped seats will expose it as a pipe dream.
Shelby County schools: School board member David Pickler and federal judge Bernice Donald could not be further apart. If Donald is right, then county schools will have to be paired and/or attendance lines redrawn. If Pickler is right, then federal courts are out of the school desegregation business.
A C is not the answer: He's not running for city mayor. He can't run for county mayor again because of term limits. Backers of Mr. Agreeable as the stop-gap Answer To Everything are finally forced to look for other solutions.