Healthy ignorance often brings communities a breath of fresh air. And that potential resides with Ronnie Ramos, Executive Editor of the Daily Memphian who is from Indianapolis. After all, ignorance is what results in people asking questions that no one else asks.
Healthy ignorance is why Ramos may have stumbled into the All News Is Local Facebook Group with the following challenge: “Joe B Kent and Fergus Nolan I’d love just one actual example where a rich person is controlling me and what we [The Daily Memphian] publish.” Ramos received plenty of responses that focused on the slant in and what the Daily Memphian (DM) CHOOSES Not to publish.
Jack and The Daily Memphian – Can Hold No Jockstraps
The social media exchange followed The DM published story on this Wednesday’s EDGE meeting. The story slant trumpeted the successful testimony of Jack Sammons that resulted in an awarded EDGE tax incentive for Jack’s locally booming Ampro business, now in the newly lucrative hand sanitizer business. As a local businessman, Jack is looking for ways to increase his booming bottom line. And, as one might expect, Jack shows up at an EDGE Board meeting.
Now in Jack’s former policymaking role, as a City Councilman, let’s be honest. Jack could hold no one’s jockstrap in defending, as economic development, policy that awards a $270K job tax incentive for a booming local business going nowhere and 15 new low wage jobs. And neither can The Daily Memphian hold a jockstrap in defending the slant of the DM regarding this Ampro “economic development” incentive.
And besides, Jack as a businessman and civic leader, had the opportunity to reform EDGE in 2018-19. Jack was appointed to serve on the County EDGE Task Force. At Jack’s first and only meeting, Jack talked big saying, “leave no stone unturned” and was never seen again at any further EDGE Task Force meetings.
All of that to say, leaving “no stone unturned” would lead a civic leader to question the Memphis Tomorrow CEO organization that birthed EDGE. Memphis Tomorrow, founded by Pitt Hyde and Daily Memphian donor, is down in ALL of its selected community betterment categories over 20 years while using Federal, State and Local tax dollars.
Now Jack clearly did not want to turn any stones related to Memphis Tomorrow or reform EDGE for that matter. After all, like many other local CEOs, Jack needs a “go to” to increase his booming bottom line with nothing other than a local taxpayer funded “free market” subsidy. You can’t make this stuff up !
And at the same time, with their donor base, nonprofit status and partnerships with numerous publicly funded entities, the Daily Memphian has failed to confront the horrific deficiencies of the Memphis Tomorrow public-private complex or question excessive local tax incentives. The type of journalistic effort required is that of Edward Meeman who persistently and relentlessly confornted the Crump Machine of days gone by. But that is unlikely to occur with The Daily Memphian regarding the Memphis Tomorrow public-private complex.
The former, is not to mention The Daily Memphian’s very own Eric Barnes won’t even read, for publishing consideration, a citizen’s opinion submission on excessive incentives. This nonreading occurred about the same time the New York Times published an editorial from the Taliban.
But The Daily Memphian does have employed staff columnists that CHOOSE to write about the Civil War, for no apparent reason, taking down the statues 3 years ago, political commentary from those employed by The University of Memphis and a superior website than the Commercial Appeal.
Then again, as far as local journalism, its more of the same after hefty DM promises of investigative journalism. So needless to say, there are a whole bunch of questions.
Questions for Ronnie
These are questions for Ronnie Ramos who is locally new. Ramos may or may not want to ask these questions. And I say the former with experience, after my own local professional demise. After working in other communities for a number of years, I started asking the fundamental question, “What in the Hell is going on around here?” Anyway, here are the questions for Ronnie:
Using local public and Bureau of Labor and Statistics data, do you know unreported by staff writers, that Memphis/Shelby paid $14.5K for each new job created in the economy from 2010-18 while both Nashville and Indianapolis, where you are from, paid $2.5K for each new job?
Do you know that locally unreported by staff writers, according to the 2019 State of TN Comptroller PILOT Report that Shelby County has 512 parcels under PILOT contract, Davidson 35, Knox 68 and Hamilton 37 ?
Can you find, anywhere, a published public document or resource, that alerts local taxpayers of the total dollar amount of property tax abatements and tax increment financing (TIFs) occurring and administered by 9 abating boards across all of Shelby County and its municipalities ? If not, do you find this strange?
What would happen in Indianapolis, regarding a hypothetical civic organization, that is down in ALL of their selected categories, versus their peers, over 20 years while their initiatives use Federal, State and Local tax dollars ? Would there be any persistent reporting about it ?
Can you defend as “economic development”, policy, that awards job tax incentives to existing local companies in exchange for, in many cases, no new jobs or new low wage jobs ? Or job tax incentives that abate EXISTING taxes for low wage jobs ? Or what about urban renewal real estate development incentives with double the term length of peer cities ?
Those questions are just the beginning and, we hope, Ronnie, being new and a healthy type of ignorant will bring in a breath of fresh air and press these needed questions and several others. We’ll see…..