My answer had two parts. One was to boost the profile of the University of Tennessee Medical School and the downtown/Midtown medical center so that it looks more like Birmingham, Little Rock, Jackson, Mississippi, and Nashville. The other was to focus on 50 little things instead of a few big ones, on the assumption that one-third of them might stick, which isn’t bad. With some reader input, here are 50 little things. Most of them require no legislation from Nashville or Washington. In theory, at least, they are doable right here. And most would cost less than $1 million.
1. Start school at 8:15 a.m. instead of 7:15 a.m.
2. Start school closer to Labor Day if not after.
3. Have an attendance requirement.
4. Baseball is half sport, half foodfest. Better hot dogs and cheaper food at AutoZone Park.
5. Boiled peanuts at the ballpark and farmers markets.
6. A pontoon bridge to the tip of Mud Island.
7. A German restaurant.
8. Wildflower cannons fired over Sam Cooper-Interstate 40 junction and vacant lots.
9. Put the Grand Carousel from Libertyland some place other than in storage.
10. Improve Overton Park golf course even if it loses money.
11. Emphasize the black middle class and professional class.
12. Kirk Whalum and Soulsville USA are to Memphis as Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis are to New Orleans.
13. Splash parks.
14. Stop running the monorail, trolley cars, and buses empty.
15. Let cops take patrol cars home.
17. One full-time job per city employee.
18. A five-parks bike ride along the river.
19. Do the Harahan Bridge project.
20. A public dunk tank for owners of blighted property.
21. Repeat, Memphis: It’s not 1968.
22. Face it, school consolidation is not a civil rights issue.
23. A local TV channel for food, houses, and extreme sports.
24. Local television stations honor one graduation a year.
25. A $5 fine for downtown parking meter tickets.
26. Teach For America for people over 55.
27. A North Parkway public entrance to the zoo.
28. Fix the broken sidewalk on the north side of the zoo.
29. Cheap bottled water on the river.
30. Water fountains that work in public places.
31. Before building, ask: If you can’t keep a public outdoor bathroom clean, functional, and safe then why do it?
32. Create a journalism endowment.
33. Memphis vs. Louisville, Cincinnati, and Ole Miss.
34. Outdoor basketball goals and soccer goals with nets.
35. A tennis racquet and bike giveaway.
36. Vocational education.
37. Sex education.
38. Nutrition education.
39. A salary cap for nonprofits tied to the salary of the President of the United States ($400,000). More than that and they make “voluntary” tax contributions.
40. Put Bud Chittom in charge of Beale Street.
41. Undercover cops in the Old Forest at Overton Park.
42. Redbox outlets that work.
43. Insurance incentives for not going to the doctor.
44. Shade trees at playgrounds.
45. Deductible payments of principle instead of interest on home mortgage loans.
46. Move the barbecue contest to Tiger Lane.
47. An alternative “Get Motivated” speakers day.
48. Reinvent Peabody Place, soon.
49 and 50. Scratch 1-48. It’s schools and crime.