Who’s In Charge?
January 21st, 2016
When I was about eight, I learned something about conflict resolution.
Our next-door neighbor, big guy, was throwing his leaves over the hedge into our yard. Dad, not a big guy, asked him to stop. The neighbor asked Dad what he going to do about it, and Dad knocked him through the aforementioned hedge.
He didn’t throw any more leaves into the yard.
Effective, I thought, but to be avoided if possible.
As published in The Memphis Daily News, January 22, 2016, and in The Memphis News, January 23-29, 2016
IT MIGHT BE RIGHT, BUT IT’S FLAT WRONG.
A week or so ago, 27 trees disappeared from Overton Park’s greensward – a fancy word for yours and my yard since Overton Park belongs to us.
But somebody gets to use some of it exclusively. And some more of it whenever they want. And they get big trucks to drive, and maintenance and other cool stuff. And three or four million or so of our bucks a year. And if they don’t like the trees, they can take them down. And if they want to park in the yard, they can do that, too.
Because they have all the park’s lions, and tigers and bears. Oh my.
Even though the Overton Park Conservancy was established as a public/private partnership to take care of our yard and make us proud again of everything in it, the Memphis Zoological Society, another public/private partnership that pre-dates the newer one, has claimed the authority – with the ham-handed finesse of a charging rhinoceros – to remove our city’s trees and stomp our city’s yard into mud if the mood strikes them.
And who gave the society permission to uproot trees donated to the conservancy? Neither mayor nor council picked one warring child over the other. No one cast a vote in favor of the treejacking. Yet the zoo claims their move, if not their arrogance, to be right and just.
From whence came the authority to wield the shovels?
From one Allan Wade, consigliere to the council, stalwart of the statute, champion of the contract, able to opine with such unquestionable force that ten pages from him can bring down forests and park thousands upon thousands of SUVs without a single meeting between differing parties, without a hint of compromise or consideration, without debate or a single vote by anyone elected by any of us to represent our interests.
Wow. Must be a helluva lawyer.
I’m not blaming him. Judging by what you and I are paying him and his private firm – hundreds and hundreds of thousands – and by the fact that he’s been covering the city council’s considerable behind for about a quarter-century, he’s a helluva lawyer. More telling, and the reason he’s earned every penny, is that several councils and several mayors have hidden behind Allan’s informed opinions about difficult issues and let him take the weight for hard decisions.
I know Allan, and I have no doubt that his legal opinion about the existing agreement between city and zoo and park is correct, but you and I both know that what’s happening between our bullying zoo and our resurgent park is just not right.
It will take courage and compromise to bring the parties together and make it right, the right way for a new council and mayor to start things. Even as I write this, that process is in process.
Nevertheless, history dictates that we should keep a close eye on the remaining trees in our yard.
I’m a Memphian, and, in my opinion and I hope in Allan’s, we need a new agreement.