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Letter From the Editor

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I confess to being a faithful reader of letters to the editor in The Commercial Appeal. A day seldom goes by when one or more readers isn't bashing Memphis for its crime, taxes, education system, corruption, etc. Memphis gets compared to Detroit at least once a week.

But here's the thing: It's almost always someone from Eads, Olive Branch, Bartlett, Germantown, or another 'burb who's doing the bitching. It's much the same with the Flyer's online comments. Most of those who are bashing Memphis don't even live here anymore, if they ever did.

What is wrong with these people? I mean, we get it. You've moved out; your life is awesome in the suburbs. So why do you feel compelled to keep trashing Memphis like you're a spurned lover? We didn't dump you; you left. Get counseling, get over yourself.

Yes, Memphis has poverty and crime and our education system is a work in progress, but guess what? You can say the same thing about St. Louis, New Orleans, Little Rock, Chicago, Kansas City, Cleveland — any number of American cities. It pretty much comes with the urban territory. Mayor Wharton is an honest and decent man. The city council has a lot of engaged and sentient folks — and a couple of goofballs. Those aren't bad odds. Bottom line: We're not Detroit, not even close.

As John Branston pointed out in his City Beat blog last week, a May U.S. Census report says the population of Memphis grew from 647,612 in 2010 to 655,155 in July 2012. And, as Wharton said in a recent press conference, the city's pension plan is nearly 75 percent funded, a far cry from the situation that led to Detroit's bankruptcy. And you know what? The average household in DeSoto County has a higher total tax bill than Memphians do, thanks to Mississippi's income tax and high vehicle registration fee.

So yeah, Memphis has issues, but those of us who live here do so because we love the place and we see what's really happening around us, instead of some outsider's paranoid fantasy.

We see the problems, hell, we live with them. But we also see what's going on at Crosstown, Overton Square, Broad Avenue, Cooper-Young, South Main, Evergreen, Whitehaven, Shelby Farms, the Greenline, Stax, Overton Park, the Levitt Shell, and the Kroc Center. We see new retail, new restaurants, and new grocery stores popping up all over. We see rising home sales, an exciting and well-managed NBA team, a world-class zoo, a vibrant music and indie film scene, a thriving art community, wonderful theaters, excellent colleges, great neighborhoods, supportive corporations and businesses, a mighty river, abundant natural resources, and a future that is getting brighter, not dimming.

So chill out, ex-Memphians and haters of all stripes. Enjoy your life and quit worrying about Memphis.

We got this.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

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