I added the Flyer's November 24th issue to my Thanksgiving gratitude list. Thanks especially for Louis Goggans' article on the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, "the little engine that could" — and is — debunking local myths about poverty, homelessness, resource inadequacies, etc. Marginalized people too often are an inconvenient truth, and sadly, city and national leaders too often overlook simple ways in which the marginalized can contribute to their own, and others', sustainability.
Challenged on the employment front ourselves, two neighbors and I have recognized a job opportunity for an unemployed, elderly man who lives nearby. "Cigar" trolls our neighborhood in his truck, looking for metal recyclables that he hauls to places where they can be used. I call Cigar for pickup and delivery of trash that becomes treasure. He's not making a lot of money, but he's also earning pride in knowing he's a valued Memphian. My neighbors and I also get to see the wheels of sustainability move forward by common sense for the common good. That kind of thinking is part of what drives the Peace & Justice Center, and I'm glad they're behind the wheel.
Planning is Good
Regarding John Branston's column "A Bike Plan Too Far" (November 24th issue): For years, I've watched as my hometown area reached for economic development through growth, with all the benefits that was expected to bring. The developers successfully pitched their plans to convince elected officials to ignore the rules they set for land use and road planning. Only now we all realize we were duped, and the clock cannot be turned back.
The staff of the local MPO has done a great job updating the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. This plan is only a portion of the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) required by the federal government in order to receive transportation funds collected through gasoline taxes.
In 2004, the Memphis LRTP was found deficient, and federal highway funds were frozen. One of the deficiencies was no acceptable bicycle and pedestrian plan. An award-winning plan was then produced that satisfied Federal Highway Administration requirements, but it was not implemented. Under the previous Memphis administration, though promises were made to implement the plan, city applications for funds stated that no bicycle facilities would be included in any project. Failure to follow the plan could have resulted in returning those funds.
The law — 23 USC 217(g) — states: "Bicycle transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways shall be considered, where appropriate, in conjunction with all new construction and reconstruction of transportation facilities ...." "Reconstruction" includes repaving. This law was made by Congress, and the language is not new. Thankfully, Mayor Wharton recognized the potential for the loss of funds and responded by not only meeting the requirements but also by committing to comply in a way so bicycle and pedestrian facilities will not be poorly designed afterthoughts.
If we can all work together across city, county, and state lines to agree on what is better for the area as a whole, we can improve the lives of all Mid-South residents.
Recently, Americans have heard a name most were not familiar with: Grover Norquist, the man behind the "no new taxes" pledge that has been signed by nearly every Republican in Congress. When they sign that pledge, they become puppets for Norquist and the secret big-money sponsors of his organization that hold congressional campaign-fund donations.
No one, including me, likes higher taxes, but the fact is since 1985, when Reagan asked Norquist to run Americans for Tax Reform, our deficit has skyrocketed. The first President Bush signed the pledge, and to his credit, he reneged and increased taxes to fight those growing deficits. He lost his reelection campaign. The result was obvious to Republicans: Go against Norquist and those in the shadows who provide funding and you lose the next election.
We are now dealing with the economic fallout of fighting two wars while lowering taxes in the past decade. We hear charges of "class warfare" and how the very rich pay most of the taxes. What is left out is the fact that they control 80 percent of the nation's wealth. Class warfare is a reality, and the middle class is losing the war.