Thanks for your article on the Mississippi coast ("Desolation Row," February 2nd issue). I grew up there and still have family in Gulfport and Biloxi. It's time someone remembered that this is where Katrina hit hardest and that the devastation is unimaginable. Mississippians have now been hit over and over, first by Katrina, then the government, then the insurance companies, and finally by the news media that for the most part have totally ignored them.
My sister and brother live three blocks from the beach in Gulfport and both had full coverage replacement value insurance. My sister was paid $10,000 in insurance for her completely unlivable $72,000 home and all the furniture, etc. that she lost. She can't do anything with the house because four feet of water gutted it and left a large crack across the foundation. She owes $48,000 on the mortgage and the mortgage company is steadily adding interest on the loan. This is their idea of working with her!
This is just one story and you can multiply that by hundreds of thousands. These are people, like my sister, who have worked hard their whole lives and now have nothing but a mortgage with no home, no possessions, and very little return on the money they've paid into insurance for years. People trying to rent are facing prices triple what they were before the storm and they either pay or go without. Try paying rent like that on top of a mortgage still owed on a house that's gone!
The IRS requires a 23-page questionnaire that storm victims have to fill out on their losses before they can file their taxes. FEMA is still woefully incompetent and keeps people who need help running in circles with repetitive paperwork, untrained staff, and a total lack of organization. This is what people on the coast have been living with for six months now!
No to Bass Pro
As a person who moved to Memphis when our city's center was nothing more than a few disjointed neighborhoods and deserted streets, I am continually surprised and encouraged by the renovation of downtown. However, the pending decision to put a humongous Bass Pro Shops in the most recognizable landmark in Memphis is, by far, the most shortsighted plan of the downtown renaissance.
Without the uniqueness of The Pyramid, the Memphis skyline would lack a recognizable symbol. The thought of that landmark now being accompanied by a huge Bass Pro Shops sign is almost too much to bear. The name Memphis will become synonymous with Bass Pro Shops. No matter how we try to play it off, a retail chain will come to symbolize our city.
Doesn't it seem strange that rather than choosing to use this space to house an interesting cultural venue, such as an aquarium, museum, or entertainment complex, we are selling out to the highest bidder? Why aren't we looking at other cities that have undergone similar transformations for examples of what would provide long-term financial and cultural benefits for Memphis?
Surely our city leaders don't believe that Memphis will become recognized worldwide for an outdoor sporting goods store. A venture like an aquarium, while expensive, on the other hand, would be the kind of attraction that ensures that tourists of all backgrounds and places will come and keep coming downtown for years. More importantly, an aquarium or museum offers the substance that's needed to fill such an important space. Memphis is a historic, dignified, and diverse city. Shouldn't we do everything in our power to make sure that the rest of the world realizes that too?
The Humane Thing
Your article in the February 23rd issue, "Running an Animal Shelter," describing the fate of another poorly funded humane group, is sad. The humane movement has always been full of folks with good hearts who can't seem to pool their efforts very well. The Memphis and Shelby County Humane Society has been around for over 70 years now, fighting the good fight and growing, despite ups and downs and competition for scarce funds.
If everyone in the humane movement would unite under the umbrella of some permanent organization like the Humane Society, much more could be accomplished toward the common goal. Next time you are asked for a donation to this or that animal group, try to find out whether they duplicate what the Humane Society is doing (or would do, if they had the money).
Robert A. Lanier
Sniper for Litterers?
While it's always nice to see such a glowing review of our fair city, Gary Smith (letters, Feb 23rd issue) must not have visited the Whitehaven area during his stay in Memphis. Every morning on my walk, I see streets filled with fast food sacks, cups, beer cans and bottles, Cds, and lottery tickets. Increased fines are not the answer. The police are already stretched to the limit without having to add another baby sitting task to their list. I personally favor a system of strategically placed snipers. Someone throws their trash from a moving car, the driver gets a bullet in the head. But, hey, that's just me.Wayne DixonMemphis