Ranting

Time For A Divorce

March 2nd, 2017

When I last wrote about de-annexation, the state was rattling its city-meddling sword again – you know, the one they used to slice up two school districts into seven, to cut off our right to name our own parks, to stab our LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws in the heart – that sword. This time, they were going to amputate ­any community in the city that decided they didn’t like the city and would like to go it on their own. 

That legislation didn’t make it, but I wrote that maybe some reasonable divorce settlement might be worth considering.

Since then, the state rattled again and Mayor Strickland was successful in getting them to sheath their weapon long enough to do a study. That study resulted in a reasonable recommendation so I’m visiting that earlier column again in light of that recommendation and in the hope that reason will prevail.

But you and I both know that reason is rare in Nashville and that most divorces are messy.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, March 3, 2017, and in The Memphis News, March 4-10, 2017

Divorce Copy

IT’S OVER. LET’S MAKE IT FINAL.

I said divorce might be best in a column two years ago, so let’s get on with it already. After all, it was a shotgun wedding.

He grew up in an old neighborhood under the shade of old oaks – a city boy with more ambition than brains, a dreamer always looking past the weeds in his own yard to greener grass. He was fun alright – into good times and great restaurants, live music and funky joints, nights that start with sunsets on the river and end at dawn next to somebody. He spent big, too big. Lived large, too large. And, truth be told, he could be a bit scary and more than a bit grabby.

She was from the suburbs, clear cut for new starts on new streets and coves named for trees and flowers, big new boxes of America’s wants and franchised tastes on big parkways with big parking and little planning. She was simpler, less urbane and more likely to sing in the choir than on a rooftop. And, truth be told, they were not nearly as attractive together as they were apart.

This was never going to work.

Her family says he was just after her money, and that he took advantage of her and made promises he couldn’t keep. His family says she’s lucky to have him, and that she’s holding him back with constant complaints and neediness. And, truth be told, they both have a point, and there was never enough money.

Windyke South Cordova Southwind wants a divorce from Memphis. Everybody knows she’s been openly fooling around with the Tennessee General Assembly for years and they’re forcing the issue. Memphis has been to counseling and has offered terms.

These annexation nuptials are not all bliss. After the Whitehaven marriage, much of the congregation ran to Hickory Hill. After the Hickory Hill marriage, they ran to north Mississippi. Some folks just can’t live and grow together, sharing ups and downs and budgets, solving problems and moving ahead. They’d rather just move.

Fine.

When I first saw yet more state legislation shamelessly pandering to suburban whining (re: six new school systems in Shelby County) I wanted de-annexation to fail. But the settlement looks manageable; those communities can leave but they’ll still owe their bond debts, the city only loses about $8 million in net annual revenue and about 11,000 residents, and an additional bunch of land with very little population will also be returned to the county. 

Let’s do this.

Instead of continuing to grab more and more land and infrastructure we have to support with less and less resources, Memphis can concentrate on the core city where smarter allocation of resources returns a more viable future.

It’s already where those in the much-wooed creative class – the cool kids – want to live. The suburbs get the house and its upkeep; Memphis gets to keep the cool kids.

I’m a Memphian, and I want a divorce, but I think we can still be friends. With benefits.

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