While this blog has rightly criticized the Greater Memphis Chamber (GMC) on workforce, there is no way the Chamber can be this bad ! No Way ! They must have powerful help. And they do from the spooner elitists and SCORE board. Its impossible to be this bad, unless even the GMC is being obstructed.
This blog will take a historical look at this cockblocking of the workforce development system, which will include a review of the entirely useless Shelby County Joint Economic Community Development Board (SC-JECDB).
Keep in mind The SCORE Board, at the end of the legislative session, took a victory lap for phonics and ACT WorkKeys. While both have their places, they are hardly an innovation and I am a WorkKeys or like tool advocate. ACT WorkKeys, assess individuals’ academic competencies against workplace criterion references and is used to build common language in support of workforce and economic development.
At the same time, and Blackjack will love this, history says that Tennessee was the first ACT WorkKeys state in the country. The implementation occurred in the 1990’s under Governor Ned McWherter and Dr. Charles Smith, Commissioner of Education. But the elitists soon killed WorkKeys while erroneously pushing a 4 yr college for all. Again WorkKeys, while a credible and needed tool, is not an innovation to take a victory lap about.
First, lets review the last presentation on workforce involving the GMC on June 17,. 2021. I am convinced the elitists are even cockblocking the Chamber, just as the elitists have done for years with the regional economy. Gwyn Fisher, Greater Memphis State Regional Economic Development Director, opens up the presentation by commending the publicly treasonous and incestuous GMC / University of Memphis partnership. Then, without any representation on the panel from 2 yr colleges, Ted Townsend launches into a UofM/Chamber outsourced Brookings data presentation on workforce, all while the UofM pursues Carnegie R1 research status. Odd……
Anyway, the data presentation correctly emphasized Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers and diversity, while without 2 yr colleges on the panel, seemed slanted toward 4 yr degrees (See page pg 14). This is unfortunate, as the labor market is paying for 2 yr degrees. Southwest CC 2 year wages are $45K and The UofM 4 yr wages are $46K. See SCORE Higher Ed By the Numbers report.
At the same time, per the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System, Shelby County completion rates languish most, due to falling 2 yr and less post-secondary completions. Using STEM program completions, as defined by the Chamber, from 2014 – 19, Above 2 yr completions increased by 64%, while 2 yr or less fell by 38%. The greatest opportunity for quickly increasing completion rates is 2 yr and less degrees. And the labor market is paying for them !
Historic All Time Spooner Cockblock
Spooner cockblocking of the workforce development system goes back years in Memphis. I suspect the cockblock started, 20 years ago, right when Memphis Tomorrow started, as this corresponds with the beginning of local ecosystem decline. And then, to make it worse, local elitists teamed up with the SCORE Board. Anyway, lets look at a timeline for this multi-billion dollar taxpayer cockblock.
2009 – As early as 2009, connecting the workforce development system was a concern. See Shelby County Joint Economic and Community Development Board (SC-JECDB minutes)
2011 – County Commission later follows the disastrous advice of Mayor Luttrell to fund Memphis Tomorrow with $1M. See SC-JECDB minutes
2014 – Co-chaired by FedEx’s Christine Richards, Memphis Tomorrow Fast Forward FOCUS Economic Development plan is launched, and includes the Greater Memphis Alliance for Competitive Workforce (GMACW) initiative
2014 – GMACW hires Dr. Glen Fenter of ASU Midsouth who supports ACT WorkKeys implementation
2015 – Spooner elitists rig a deal for Canadian provider that has little to no United States domestic experience in workforce development
2016 – Mayor Jim Strickland launches WorkKeys as a local initiative.
2016 and after – ACT WorkKeys never widely promoted and implementation fails to occur
2016 – Connected workforce development flounders and Haslam and Hyde launch Complete Tennessee initiative
2016– I join the Chamber and begin to promote my small business workforce development solution.
2016 – With small business solutions in hand and workforce development locally disconnected, I file formal complaint of concern with County Mayor Luttrell, who also sat on the GMACW Board and chaired the SC-JECDB Board. Luttrell does nothing with complaint.
2017 – Obstructed by the elitists, which is common, GMACW’s Fenter departs. (This seems to parallel the recent Dr. Damon Fleming departure from the UofM)
2017 – EDGE takes over GMACW
2017 – Complete Tennessee issues first report and states institutional ignorance of labor market in Memphis. This was a core deliverable of GMACW
2017 – I am kicked out of the Greater Memphis Chamber without cause or provision of Chamber bylaws while promoting my connected workforce development solution. As data shows, local elitists despise local small business.
2019 – Complete Tennessee folds into SCORE
2019 – In October, Chamber launches Upskill901 workforce initiative, along with with Brookings out of DC and Burning Glass from Boston.
2021 – SCORE Board takes victory lap for ACT WorkKeys legislation.
2021 – Chamber appears obstructed by the elitists.
2021 – Local disconnected workforce efforts remain.
The elitists have staying power and one has to stick with it for a while to find out what is really going on. History says, there has been a sustained and intentional effort to cockblock connected workforce development efforts in Memphis. And its not the rank and file but the spooner elitists that are botching the workforce development system. Think Blackjack, Puke, Orifice Ingram and Loser Frist.
The public University of Memphis (UofM), in partnership with the Greater Memphis Chamber (GMC), has moved the economic development goal posts. The moved goal posts come through a research partnership with the Washington DC based Brookings Institute, who in the last Memphis/Shelby FOCUS economic development plan, failed to deploy any measurement parameters whatsoever!
In typical Memphis rigged system fashion, the Brookings failure was rewarded with yet another contract by the UofM/Chamber partnership. The moved goal posts come in the form of Brookings establishing a more accommodative 10-member peer group (to be examined in the following section), than the 16-member group previously established by the UofM Memphis Economy project.
Riddled with conflict, the UofM / Chamber partnership is an act of public treason and could only be the brainchild of a civic, corporate socialist imbecile. It’s a partnership that surrenders public university thought leadership, on matters of public economic development, to the private GMC, all while the UofM hypocritically pursues Carnegie R1 institutional research status.
Keep in mind, the UofM touts $98M in additional annual wages or effectively $3M in estimated Memphis/Shelby tax revenue resulting, upon becoming an R1 institution. But what if, in 2017, the UofM had just been a solid R2 public university community partner? In this way, the UofM would have locally advocated the elements contained in the UofM “We Are Not Lost – Amazon Gave Us a Road Map” publication, while leveraging their originally selected 16 member peer economic measurement platform.
Had the former occurred by the UofM, there is a good chance that the $3M increase in annual local tax revenue from R1, would be dwarfed from 1) tax incentive reform and 2) the implementation of a public workforce/economic development plan. Had these two items occurred, future local tax coffers would have likely seen $25M+ additional in annual tax revenue.
That’s not to mention that such a local public university, would not have been on binge, bullying the local taxpayer out of $45 in local grants and tax incentives. Let’s hope the UofM achieves R1. But in the end, being a good public partner and independent university thought leader, dwarfs R1 status for community benefit.
And another aside to lacking local credibility was Dr. David Rudd, strangely finding it necessary, to assert a false top 25 ranking for UofM Men and Women tennis teams before the UofM Board of Trustees. The assertion came regarding the ridiculous $10-14M City participation in the $20M tennis center. In 2019, the UofM was not even in the Men’s or Women’s top 75 and that is nothing against the local tennis program and its great student athletes at all. But sadly, false assertions seem to have become habit for the UofM under Rudd. See 15 minutes in the Trustee meeting video.
Its just such a strange and unneeded false assertion, when all that needed to be said is that “Our UofM Tennis teams are quickly becoming more competitive, as compared to recent years”. Anyway, back to the moved goal posts.
Moved Goal Posts and Consolidation???
The elitists will do ANYTHING to control the narrative, to include not measuring anything or moving goal posts to dodge accountability. That’s why nothing seems to change. The problem is not so much below average total wage growth but how much taxpayers have paid, in excessive tax incentives, for deficient growth. Further, it appears the elitists want to talk about governmental consolidation, which while not transformational, does have merit.
But unfortunately, instead of just publicly advancing the case for consolidation, the elitists must move goal posts and seemingly rig data sets, for their presumed consolidation case. So here is what has happened to the previous 16-member peer group and data set. Gone are Charlotte, Greensboro, Jacksonville, Omaha, Cincinnati, Tulsa, and Little Rock. New, to the now 10-member peer group is Milwaukee and includes: Birmingham, Louisville, Nashville, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and Milwaukee.
Most alarming, is the illogical exclusion of Charlotte from the peer group, who like Memphis, is a southeastern non-consolidated border city with a significant 33% Black population. The non-consolidated Charlotte also led the previous peer group in total wage growth. So, it appears, if you can’t beat them, exclude them and a high performing non-consolidated city vanishes from the data set.
Also illogical is the new addition of Milwaukee to the peer group, which is a northern non-border city, with a lower than Charlotte 27% Black population and lower total wage growth than Memphis. In the end, the new peer group allows Memphis “economic developers” to shave 4% points off their 10 yr. total wage growth deficiency, against a lower peer average of 36.5% down from 40.3%.
To get a complete understanding, the below table contains both old and new peer groups, with recently excluded members shaded in red. The chart at the beginning of this section, visually depicts the impact of the moved goal posts. Also below, are tables and charts for Tennessee municipals.
TN Peer Group
Senate Bill 623 (SB0623) should be vetoed by Governor Lee. This education bill was thoughtlessly amended at the last minute of the legislative session, with from from Memphis, Representative Mark While and Senator Brian Kelsey co-sponsoring the measure. The bill, originally a technical housekeeping bill, was amended with a heavy social studies instructional mandate, which included punitive local education agency (LEA) funding sanctions if not followed.
As written, the most controversial part of the bill, would require “impartial” instruction regarding some of history’s greatest atrocities. If not followed, LEA funding could be withheld. To further complicate implementation, while putting LEA funding at risk, the heavy mandate contained no funding support for educator professional development. Professional development was not even discussed during the floor debate. Given the omission of professional development, for this reason alone, SB 0623 should be vetoed.
Like with the controversial Reading 360 initiative, advocated for by SCORE, no educator testimony was entertained regarding SB0623. But even SCORE is opposed to the thoughtless SB0623 bill.
While much of the hour long floor debate revealed a lack of understanding of state standards, the bill amendment sparked a healthy and robust debate. Strong points regarding social studies instruction were made on both sides of the debate. The presenting amendment sponsor, Representative John Ragan of Oak Ridge, was under the mistaken impression that classroom social studies instruction could not deviate from the state standards, as did other legislators.
State standards layout minimum learning outcomes for Tennessee K-12 students. Instructional time is typically prioritized around the standards to best insure student performance on standardized tests and compliance with state law. At the same time, other content beyond what is specifically addressed in the standards can be covered in classroom instruction.
One question that came up during the debate was would instruction concerning Critical Race Theory be disallowed in Tennessee classrooms? Let’s explore.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Conclusion
Regardless of one’s beliefs in CRT, there is nothing that would disallow the instruction of a data supported theory in Tennessee classrooms. In fact, such a theory facilitates student research and exploration on both sides of the issue. At the same time, given CRT is not included in the Tennessee standards, CRT is likely to be covered at varying levels throughout the State of Tennessee.
Given the arguably overamplified racial polarization in the country, professional development is needed to support teachers in introducing theories as theories and not as fact, for age appropriate exploratory research and classroom discussion/debate. The use of reliable source documents should be part of professional development as well.
Its rather sad, but it would be a shame if the K-12 classroom becomes divided like the electorate, while sourcing competing “fact” documents from the likes of CNN, Fox, OAN and Newsmax.
Given this discussion, while I believe racism exists in our society, I do not believe we live in a racist society. To that extent, professional development is needed to help educators engage facts, theories and other controversial subject matter in such a way that it helps to unite rather than divide for a better state and country.
In the meantime, SB0623 should be vetoed.
In the nationally low cost Memphis business operation center, through a range of public “economic development” programs, Memphis excessively subsidizes corporate/real estate interests while small business and workforce are left behind. As one would expect, this misguided policy landscape, creates imbalances that result in deficient economic development outcomes.
A few years back, after paying $29 for retail downtown public garage parking in Philadelphia, a day later in Memphis, I found garage parking for $6 ! Upon discovering this, I became breathless, while sweating profusely, thinking I had been warped back in time.
Recently, I learned that public parking is highly publicly subsidized in Memphis, which helps to explain my experience just a few years pack. Public parking is subsidized largely for the benefit of corporate and real estate development interests. This has resulted in an oversupply of downtown public parking and subsidized corporate parking rates for the likes of First Horizons and ServiceMaster.
For example, First Horizons pays $3.50 per day, not even the $6 cost of a Big Mac and Fries, for daily public garage parking, At the same time, the taxpayer, through the Office of Planning and Development, pays $8.25, which based on analysis, would be about the daily rate that is needed to cover public parking costs.
Meanwhile, ServiceMaster pays nothing, for 1,000 spaces, as a result of an economic development subsidy awarded in 2016. This subsidy is not publicly quantified anywhere, as is common with a tax abatement, but should be. The value of this ServiceMaster parking subsidy, over 15 years, is approximately $32M. And First Horizons parking gets subsidized, even though the bank, over its 150+ year history, only knows as home, Downtown Memphis.
So why not course correct and subsidize areas of need like workforce development ?
Progressive Vision of Course Correction
Paul Young, the new Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) CEO, could provide the progressive course correction the City of Memphis needs. After all, Young did not create these imbalances and he must know that the bulk of economic development improvement, resides in workforce and small business development.
Think about it. Young has plenty to work with. Either shutting down the $138M PILOT Extension Fund (PEF) or redirecting its future excesses to workforce development, would be a major progressive course correcting step, to serve local economic development needs.
With including interest cost, approximately $92M of $138M of the PEF committed, that leaves $46M for workforce over the next 25 years. And getting First Horizons and other corporate parkers, to at least pay the super business friendly $6 cost of a Big Mac and Fries for daily corporate parking, would result in more effectively covering public parking costs.
After all, with $77M committed on top of $75M already spent, Memphis is set to have the best public parking in America, with a $152M total scheduled public spend over 40 years. This will result in a massive annual $3.8M subsidy, for downtown public parking over 40 years, which for the most part, should typically be a self supporting enterprise.
And don’t forget about the opportunity Young has to reduce downtown PILOT term lengths to the more common 10 yrs, while disallowing PILOT extensions, all for the benefit of the taxpayer and public general funds.
So with significant resources in hand, there is hope for course correction. We shall see……
The winners are Patrice Robinson, Martavius Jones and performance of local government. Robinson/Jones should feel confident about their job tax incentive reform proposal made at yesterday’s Joint City Council / County Commission session. See table above.
Here’s why they should feel confident. The market is set. FedEx is paying $20 per hour w/ benefits and Amazon, without tax incentives after a $200M capital investment, is paying $15 per hour w/ benefits. In present day Memphis, the market does not get any more clear than that, with a sweet spot at $17 per hr.
Through tax incentive reform, Robinson/Jones demonstrated a savvy intuition to strike the right community balance between market forces and public needs, that support increasing tax revenues and wages with a $17 per hour with benefits target. Away from eliminating incentives and futuristic modeling that has historically paved the way for excessive incentives, the proposal is brilliant in its simplicity, balance and alignment with community needs and market conditions.
The Robison/Jones proposal supports property tax abatements starting at 71% declining to 30% based on the percentage of jobs paying at least $17 per hour with benefits. The proposal needs more work, as eluded to by Councilor Rhonda Logan. Such work likely includes resolving PILOT term lengths and provisions that check any abatement of already existing property taxes in PILOT awards. Abating existing taxes brings significant opportunity costs, that should require trade off analysis by local legislative bodies.
Richard Smith of FedEx gave a thoughtful video presentation, calling for more oversight, transparency and accountability, aligned with a published economic development plan, while not “giving away the store” with excessive incentives. Smith seemed, in many ways, hungry for public leadership. Its a public economic development plan that is needed, which has always been the public sector’s job to author.
To that extent, local government staffs, on their own, put together two legislative packages, rich with useful information highlighting excessive tax incentives when compared with other municipalities, references to independent research, tax incentive approval process maps and an eroding EDGE approval process. Local government should gleam with confidence and know they got this !
Over the years, the Greater Memphis Chamber has been unable to author a public economic development plan, which can be explained by the fact that the private sector, not the public is the Chamber’s customer. On the other hand, it would seem that the Chamber would see it in their interest to bring public incentives in line with market conditions. After all, while being a significant consumer of both local public services and and tax incentives, even FedEx, would likely be hard pressed to understand publicly incenting jobs much less than their very own $20 per hour.
Ultimately, the data compiled by local government staffs reveal a need for tax incentive reform to reverse an eroding job incentive approval process, while not giving away the store.
Erosion and Process
Page 10 of the legislative package, assembled by local government staffs, revealed significant erosion in the EDGE job tax incentive approval process, with average wages declining, over time, for approved PILOTs. The table, on page 10, is entitled “Countywide Average Wages vs PILOT Projects”. Informed by the table, the chart above graphs, in blue, EDGE’s average wage PILOT approvals over time, with actual countywide average wages, informed by BLS, appearing in orange.
Erosion is shown with the EDGE average wage approvals declining and in fact, descending below actual average county wages. As far as historic approval process, Councilman Jones remarked that legislative bodies did better than the independent EDGE Board that started in 2011. Jones is correct.
Further details in the legislative packet document other municipalities requiring local legislative approval. With this possibility looming of a possible return to local legislative approval, Councilman Worth Morgan prioritized speed in the process as preferable, while for the most part, defending the status quo. Morgan also remarked that only gains occur with PILOTs, but the fact is that taxpayer losses do occur, when abating existing property taxes, which often results in significant opportunity costs.
Commissioner Whaley asserted changes must be made in light of local economic development outcomes and Commissioner Sawyer stressed the need for legislative action, the need for community engagement and involvement in the educational system by PILOT recipients.
Folks seem to like, what is an unreliable measure, the benefit cost ratio. It it is to be used, it should be correctly calculated, while not calculating in already existing property taxes, when figuring project revenue, as that artificially inflates both the benefit cost ratio and overall project revenue.
The winners are Robinson, Jones and local government. All should be confident. They nailed it while having all community stakeholders and taxpayers in mind…..
Get this. Over 20 years, taxpayers will pay $12M more than One Beale private developers, in Carlisle Development, for $10M in public parking garage assets. Its more elitist bullying of the taxpayer, in a majority Black community in need, carried out by a racially diverse public private complex.
This comes as the the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) loans taxpayer cash to Carlisle Development, using generous commercially unavailable terms, while the taxpayer borrows, at private placement rates, for Highland Row public garage construction.
Bully elitism is routinely occurring through appropriations, public parking financing and excessive incentives. Very recent appropriation examples include $20K by the DMC, for a Adams Keegan’s “national search”, that yielded local Paul Young and just this week $100K for Downtown’s Innovate Memphis for a transit plan “update”.
Bully elitism goes on and on. But why should, over 20 years, taxpayers pay $12M more for $10M in public parking assets than private developers? They shouldn’t !
To make matters worse, in 2018, EDGE had $21M sitting on their balance sheet, that could have been loaned for public garage construction, at the time of this private bond placement. And today, $25M sits on EDGE balance sheets. All of these unrestricted cash assets sitting on board balance sheets seem to be reserved for the elitist Memphis Tomorrow “government efficiency” program, while taxpayers pay through the nose and get no benefit from such public funds sitting with quasi government agencies.
The private bond placement occurred under the Memphis and Shelby County Community Redevelopment (CRA) Agency and board leadership of McKinley “Mack” Martin, who also serves as FedEx senior counsel. CRA placed the bonds at 7.25% for 20 yrs, which are payed for by local tax dollars directed to support public parking infrastructure, in the Highland Row tax increment financing (TIF) district.
The former bond placement compares unfavorably for taxpayers, when compared to the terms taxpayers extended to Carlisle Development at 2% for 50 yrs for the $10M construction of a “public” garage with the private One Beale development.
The actual CRA Highland Row bond placement was for $12.5M. For the purpose of this $10M comparative discussion, using the table above and driven by the DMC $10M One Beale DMC parking garage loan, the annual bond payments were reduced by 20%, as shown in these CRA financials.
To that extent, for the next 20 yrs, taxpayers will pay $920K per year for $10M in parking assets residing on public balance sheets, while Carlisle private developers will pay $317K for parking assets on private balance sheets. Over 20 years, that represents $12M more for taxpayers. Or put another way, over 20 yrs:
300 at-risk post secondary students, per year, not served with wrap around services
30 small businesses, per year, not served with $10K each in forgivable loans
Transactions like this and many more are why Memphis does not move forward.
With no oversight, transactional bully elitism of a Memphis community in need, is happening all of the time, through transactions such as is discussed in this blog. With such elitist wealth transfers defining “economic development”, no community will move forward, especially a Memphis community in need…..
Out of the gate, taxpayers are being bullied in local tax incentive deliberations. While deliberations operate under a big lie, the public University of Memphis (UofM) has partnered with the Greater Memphis Chamber in local tax incentive deliberations, that involve a closed to the public joint City Council/County Commission convening. Memphians have been robbed of independent public university thought leadership and don’t even know it. Can it get anymore rigged than that ?
With the Chamber routinely partnering with Memphis Tomorrow, Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) and the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC), one would think the publicly funded UofM would partner with local government and taxpayers to level the playing field. But not in Memphis, making the case for institutional bullying by the UofM.
This is the very Memphis/Shelby taxpayer, that has been bullied for years by local corporate/real estate interests. This occurs as local legislators operate under the lie that regulating tax incentives must occur through some rare joint Council/Commission convening and agreement. Such regulation can occur independently, at anytime, by either legislative body and should be ongoing, while using the pulpit of local government. But local legislators seem content accepting the lie and proceeding in their pre-designed elitist sandbox.
Legislators, content being sheltered from reality, as the UofM institutionally bullies taxpayers, have yet to champion any external best practice economic development research during joint discussions. Not even research, by the now untrustworthy UofM, which in 2017 published We Are Not Lost – Amazon Gave Us a Map, was championed by local legislators.
The Amazon Map effectively de-emphasizes tax incentives, while prioritizing areas that excessive corporate incentives dilute, like workforce and public transportation. For that matter, Amazon is making a huge $200M investment in Memphis, without tax incentives, which is sadly going uncelebrated.
Instead, in deliberations, legislators continue to hear from the same entities that have bullied taxpayers for years in EDGE, DMC and Chamber, without the aid of independent public university thought leadership from the UofM. Authored not by research, but by the excessive incentive examples of FedEx, AutoZone, Nike and International Paper, Memphis/Shelby taxpayers are bullied by some $50M per year in excessive corporate incentives, all while a plethora of industrial development boards are systemically fee incented to regularly approve excessive individual incentive awards.
At the same time, Commissioner Tami Sawyer, through questioning of EDGE’s Reid Dulberger, was successful in establishing the existence of an elitist cabal by revealing the formal lobbying relationship between Chamber Chairman Circle member Brian Stephens of Caissa Strategies and EDGE. And Councilman Martavius Jones began making a case for linking incentives to higher wages. Commission Chairman Eddie Jones seems to have his eye on the $138M DMC PILOT Extension Fund, previously used for outlandish and wasteful taxpayer appropriations for developers and downtown public parking.
Given current momentum of discussions, these are specific reforms that should be proposed:
- Public upfront ask of $1.5B returned back to taxpayers from the Memphis Tomorrow complex for deficient economic development leadership over 20 years.
- Define and measure “economic development”
- Centralize all tax incentives, performance and compliance information in a publicly accessible web based repository.
- Reward higher wages with higher EDGE abatement amounts on new capital investment while lowering overall abatements, in for example, 35% – 35K, 40%-$40K, 50%-50K and 100%-100K.
- Require legislative approval for using the EDGE “community reinvestment credit” otherwise known as abating already existing real property taxes and reserving this for high wage transformational economic development opportunities, while performing trade off analysis.
- Shut down the DMC PILOT extension fund, outside of current commitments, while reforming parking operations to return more money to local general funds
- Limit DMC blight reduction real estate development incentives to 10 years, while conceding the removal of “affordable housing” requirements, which is really a marketing tactic for excessive incentives.
With these reforms, local legislators will make true progress for taxpayers. At the same time, other areas that deserve review are 1) the almost $50M that sits, unused and without a plan, on industrial development board balance sheets 2) code enforcement for Memphis Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board PILOTs and 3) fee structures that reward industrial development boards for awarding excessive incentives.
Blackjack Smith knows about the unused money sitting on board balance sheets. FedEx got $3M in grants for their Downtown expansion, while ripping off the taxpayer for another $3M in the non-public approval of the 100% abatement extension for the FedEx World Trade Center in Collierville. All the while, local status quo PILOT advocates lie and say, that Memphis does not provide cash grants as part of their tax incentive offering.
All of this to say, that substantive tax incentive reform is in order for the overall public good.
As for the institutional bullying by the UofM, its really sad and more of the same. The #1 accomplishment that would throw the UofM into the national spotlight is the turnaround of Memphis. That will only occur, with the UofM not surrendering its public university thought leadership and partnering with local and Tennessee taxpayers.
But sadly, time after time, the UofM has chosen not to partner with taxpayers. Its my suspicion that educational institutionalists, from around the state, were so repulsed by the state funded UofM runs on local taxpayers, that included bullying and lies under Rudd and the new local corporate Board of Trustees, that Rudd in a sense was forced out.
Memphis needs independent public university thought leadership, that works in partnership with taxpayers, not more institutional bullying……
The community leadership legacy of civic idiots Blackjack Smith and Puke Hyde is bullying. FedEx/Memphis Tomorrow has authored a pageantry filled, public private bully complex, that rips off the taxpayer, censors public voice, kicks people out of the Chamber of Commerce without cause, botches taxpayer funded initiatives, lies on the public record, bullies people out of public buildings and stifles small business.
All of this occurs as the FedEx public relations foghorn blows non-stop, reinforcing the entirely false perception that Memphis would be nothing without FedEx. After 20 years of this bully nonsense, while ushering in years of community decline, its the only currency local so called “leaders” understand. The fact is the Fedex/Memphis Tomorrow complex is a rerun of the elitist Crump Machine and bully complex of days gone by.
Sheltered in ignorance of anything else, bullying is all that many people know. Following the lead of Blackjack and Puke and rooted in spooner entitlement, bully elitist pansies have, for years now, unfortunately proliferated throughout the Memphis public-private complex, while thinking its “tuff n cool” to bully a community in need. But there is hope.
At the last City Council meeting, the bullying of small business was caught on record. Supposed small business policy advocates in Ted Townsend of the Greater Memphis Chamber and David Waddell of the Epicenter, were nowhere to be found, as the City Council, through ordinance, attempted to bully a new, full taxpaying local pet store out of business.
During the meeting, Councilman JB Smiley, saved the day and stood up to bullying. The measure to disallow the retail sale of pets failed when, Smiley who was originally for the measure, discovered that the Strickland Administration had been bullying Petland owner Mike Davis, through local authorities. The small business bullying described by Davis was similar to what was caught on tape, in 2019 , with AC Wharton and an Airbnb owner.
In City Council testimony (1:38:15) , Davis describes how he returned to his hometown of Memphis 20 months ago, followed all the laws, and invested nearly $1M to open a pet store to be, only now, harassed by City agencies in the Police, Animal Shelter and Code Enforcement, as he is getting ready to open his new store. Davis was paid 3 visits by agencies, in a two hour time frame on the Friday, prior to the City Council meeting and according to Davis, bogusly cited.
Besides the strangely coincidental convergence of City agencies on a local small business, what makes this appear to be more about bullying, is that this move to regulate business with regard to animal rights is something that would typically originate from the political left. But surprisingly, the measure is originating from the right, where none of those that identify as Republicans and supporting the measure, have anything on their bios significantly related to animal rights. Is it one of the local “boll weevils” behind this ordinance? No one really knows.
Those Councilmembers supporting the measure from the right are Colvett, Canale, Carlisle and Morgan. There was one person from the left supporting the measure and that was Warren, whom was left off the image above. Those defeating bullying were Smiley, Logan, Robinson, Thomas, Ford, Johnson, Jones and Swearengen.
Further, during consideration, as if he is the only one, Davis was furthered bullied and accused of unfair lending practices, while citing regulated lending options, that perhaps are far less than optimal, but common in the retail industry. All of this occurs as Memphis needs more small businesses and businesses that pay their full taxes, which Davis is prepared to do.
From the political right and coming out of COVID, increasing local business regulation, on a matter that few overall locally seem to care about, at a time when Memphis needs more small businesses, just doesn’t add up. This points to bullying out of the elitist complex, that potentially in the end serves one of the “boll weevils”.
Regardless of how one feels about the measure of locally banning retail pet sales, which is already State and Federally regulated, the measure was soundly and appropriately defeated because of a local pattern of elitist and tactical bullying. Smiley, again once for the measure, was so repulsed by what he saw, moved for “same night minutes” which procedurally prevents the measure, from being reconsidered.
What was on display, is the type of elitist and culturally embedded bullying that was mocked nationally by Vanity Fair and responsible for grossly excessive corporate/real estate incentives for the small few, oppressed small business sector, botched taxpayer funded initiatives and locally challenged educational outcomes. In the end, persistent bullying serves no one.
Dammit, Stop the Bullying !
On Monday, the Shelby County Commission should reject any additional funding for the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC). This rejection request comes after the Commission refused, on December 21, to perform due diligence and approving a $62M DMC appropriation, using an unknown about “PILOT Extension Fund”, for unneeded downtown public parking.
DMC financials reveal that the County Commission is appropriating $62M of taxpayer money, for a DMC entity, called the Downtown Mobility Authority (DMA), that lost $1M, prior to COVID in 2019. This $1M loss signals a lack of adequate parking demand to support a $62M public investment.
But even with an already excessive taxpayer funded approval in hand, $62M is not enough. Now, the DMC is asking for another $12M to clean up the 100 N. Main blight, left over by the DMC over 20 years. The former request occurred on Wednesday, as County Commission Chairman Eddie Jones obstructs public meeting participation and Commissioner Mickell Lowery, Commission committee economic development chairman, brings forward to make the request, former DMC President, Jennifer Oswalt, who now lives in Knoxville!
This is the same Oswalt that lied on the Commission public record, on December 21, while understating DMC parking garage liabilities by $12M in pursuit of the now approved $62M for unneeded downtown public parking. This is who your County Commission brings forward, from Knoxville, while obstructing public meeting participation in Commission Chambers.
After Oswalt makes the new $12M 100 N. Main request, in Commission committee, Oswalt then proceeds to ask for another $3.5M for a taxpayer funded loan, for private developer Billy Orgel to build a non-public private parking garage. Stunningly, the Commission economic development committee grants approval for Monday’s full Commission consideration of the new $15.5M DMC request, for potentially a total $77.5M overall appropriation for unneeded downtown public parking.
But there is more. After the additional $15.5M committee approval occurred on Wednesday, the June 30, 2020 DMC financials appeared on the committee agenda for approval. These are the very financials that the Commission refused to review, prior to approving $62M for unneeded downtown parking on December 21, 2020.
During the committee hearing on the DMC financials, the DMC, instead launches into a PowerPoint presentation on the work of the DMC. Sadly, no Commission committee discussion of the DMC financials, which includes the PILOT Extension Fund occurs, as the committee approves the DMC financials.
Based on DMC public information requests, over 25 years, the PILOT Extension Fund, mistakenly earmarked for downtown public parking, will consist of $137M in tax proceeds and taxpayer funded loans receivable. Less current PILOT Extension Funds liabilities, in a majority Black community in need, this is what instead $137M in taxpayer funds, now reserved for unneeded downtown public parking, could have been used for over 25 years:
- 1,300 students, per year, served with post-secondary wrap around services
- 130 small businesses, per year, served with $10K each in forgivable loans
- 1,000 impoverished, per year, served with affordable housing
Besides the fact the PILOT Extension Fund appears to be nothing more than a slush fund, the above missed opportunity of better serving a majority Black community in need, is why no more money should be appropriated to the DMC. This misguided use of public funding reveals, in large part, why Memphis does not move forward, while leaving its people far behind.
County Commissioners should reject all new DMC funding requests, while allowing for the purchase of the 100 N. Main, within the currently approved and obnoxious $62M approved public parking budget, and while rejecting $3.5M for private garage development.