Thirty percent of Shelby Countians are not Memphians. And it's clear from comments reported in the media that these folks and their leaders want nothing to do with Memphis. The latest evidence of this came when the dynamic duo of Mark Norris and Curry Todd proposed legislation to remove the Gray's Creek area from Memphis' annexation zone.
Memphis leaders cried "racism" and rushed to preemptively annex the area. It was a knee-jerk response to a couple of knee-jerks. I don't think the city has the desire — or the resources — to annex Gray's Creek, but they felt their hand was forced. It's all so tiresome and pointless. If I were king of Memphis, I would do the following:
1. Quit chasing those who want to live in suburbia. They like their neighborhoods, their chain restaurants, their malls, and their schools. Good for them. Live and let live. The small cities are intent on creating demographic islands. Let them. We're a river town, not a farm community.
2. Market what we are: a vibrant, interesting place to live. Celebrate our cultural amenities: the museums, the Orpheum, the fantastic theater scene, the ballet, the symphony, the Grizzlies and Tigers and Redbirds, the river, our colleges, our cool downtown, our greenlines, our great restaurants, bars, and clubs, the cultural, racial, and gender diversity our kids experience in their public and parochial schools.
3. Shut up about race. It just ticks people off. And quit responding to the Memphis-haters. Most of them couldn't find Overton Park if you plopped them down in Overton Square. They don't live here. They don't matter.
4. Focus like a laser on making our now-county schools as good as they can be. Recognize that poverty makes that job Herculean, but give talented, bright kids of all income levels an option to attend a school that suits their needs. Get rid of both the former schools systems' deadwood. Keep only the best and most innovative.
5. Remember that we're the center of the local universe, a magnet for the area's creativity and culture and the people who enjoy urban living. However many there are of us, let's work with that and build together. When the brightest and most creative suburban kids grow up, they won't want to live on a creek near Fayette County. They don't carry the baggage their parents do. Don't let anybody tell you Memphis doesn't have a bright future. It does, if we work to make it happen.