Ah, the annual Best of Memphis issue. It's been going on for 20 years or so, and during that time our little reader participation experiment has grown into our largest issue and a major event on the fall social calendar.
We're proud of Best of Memphis, and we do our best to ensure that it accurately reflects the opinions of our readers. That means that you can only vote once and that you have to fill out a large portion of the ballot for it to count. That means you can't have your employees and family vote every hour or buy a place on the ballot. It's not fool-proof, but it's certainly more reflective of public opinion than, say, a North Korean presidential election. So there's that.
Speaking of "best," I recently read an article called "Five Ways to Grow Your Best Self," and it occurred to me that the lessons it contained would work for a city as well as they would for an individual. For instance, No. 1 was, "Make Time for Reflection." Surely, it would benefit all our leaders — and our mayoral candidates — to step back from the distractions of public discourse and campaign sound bites now and then and reflect on what's truly important for the city's future. Not just what will garner more votes.
No. 2 was "Determine Values." What are Memphis' core values? How do we best enhance and live (and govern) in alignment with them? Here's a thought: We're a friendly city, famous for our iconoclasts, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, and weirdos. Let's recognize that and celebrate it. Funky is a value, dammit.
"Assess Strengths and Weaknesses:" It's clear we need to work on our flawed public education system and the poverty and crime that rides in tandem with an undereducated populace. It's also clear that we have many strengths: our location, our climate, and what may become the most important asset of all in the coming decades — abundant water resources. If we market these strengths properly, more opportunities will arise and poverty and crime will decrease.
The fourth way to grow our best self is to "Examine Habits." We need to ask ourselves, "What habits help us grow?" and "What habits keep us stuck and floundering?" Our worst habit, in my opinion, is our perpetuation of the "circular firing squad." We keep shooting at each other over racial issues and the urban/suburban divide, failing to realize we're all on the same cruise ship, and if it sinks, we all go down, regardless of zip code or skin color.
And finally, oddly enough, the article suggests that we "Take a Poll" — ask those who care about us to give us feedback, to tell us where we're screwing up and what we're doing right. That doesn't mean "listen to the haters." It means we need to try to see ourselves as others who have our interests at heart see us.
Okay, end of inspirational message. Now, go out and vote in the real city election, if you haven't already. Election Day is only a week away.
Oh, and Kumbaya, y'all.