Thursday, April 03, 2003

Read Carefully

Today's Commercial Appeal story for dissection is this front page wonder, by Blake Fontenay, titled "Council vote bucks 'smart growth' pitch." See, the Commercial Appeal has been telling us for several months now that "smart growth" is the thing of the future for Memphis, kinda like the Pyramid was, but without the embarrassing failure part.

Shortly after hearing Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton talk about "smart growth" principles Tuesday, City Council members got a chance to put those principles to the test.
With this, and the headline, we are alerted that the Mayor has set the pace and the Council is letting us all down. Mayor's smarth growth=good; Council=bad.
The way some Cordova residents see it, the council failed.
Ahh...cheaters! Using some citizens to put your own words into their mouths. But then this is common journalistic practice. No word on how many supporters vs. opposers, so we have to take their word. Hmmm....
Chris Jones, one of the residents who spoke at the council meeting, said Wharton's remarks about focusing development in inner-city areas instead of fast-growing suburban neighborhoods seemed to fall on deaf ears.
Maybe because Council constituents aren't making it one?
"What's going to happen is people are going to keep moving to Mississippi and Fayette County," said Jones, 35, who lives in the Cumberland Farms subdivision. "The politicians don't seem to get it."
Pssst, hey, Chris, it's race and schools, not development that's doing it. Look at what they're building in the places you mention -- more of what you decry.
Brian Youngs, 30, said he moved to the area to escape the intense development that has overtaken his former hometown of Los Angeles.

Youngs said the project, proposed by politically connected developer Rusty Hyneman, has prompted many in the close-knit community to talk of moving.
Comparing Memphis to LA is a hoot, believe me. My sister lives out there and it's not nearly the same.

And isn't the story always the same? Folks move to "woodsy" nearly-rural new subdivisions, where it's nice. Developers cash in on the neighboring properties. Shock! Who thought that would happen? Certainly not the folks who'd now like to deny to others what they claimed for themselves.

Notice, too, that the Hyneman name is dropped. He's going to be the bad-boy of the developing (hee-hee...get the joke?) smart growth story, as opposed to the Turley/Belz/Hyde axis. But remember, about a year ago, when Hyneman's name came up in an investigation of campaign donations and Council actions? The CA somehow managed to drop his name from the story pretty quickly. I guess it was different then, before Wharton was Mayor and smart growth was his plan.
Neighbors worry that small and inexpensive houses will drive down their property values, increase traffic and overburden area schools.

"It's almost like living in Leave it to Beaver World," Youngs said of the neighborhood. "Now a lot of people are talking about getting out."
Ahhhh..."inexpensive" housing. That's a smart growth ideal, but in this context it's code for "blacks and other undesirables." Not that the CA will tell you that though. The whole race issue has been sidestepped in the paper's coverage of smart growth.

The story then goes on to show how Hyneman went to some lengths to adjust his plan to meet some concerns he'd been given by the Council and some zoning agencies.

But the real irony is this:
Taylor drew Youngs's ire by trying to speed up debate about the project before a seemingly inattentive council.

Taylor twice reminded his colleagues they were late for a reception to honor Jack Belz, another developer who was given the council's annual Humanitarian Award.

"I don't understand that," Youngs said. "You should listen to the people instead of having tea and sandwiches."
Both the City Council and County Commission are well known for not listening to folks at their meetings. It's a long-standing complaint and the paper to their credit have documented it before. But until the paper does in-depth investigative stories on all the developers, and not their straw men, it's meaningless.

And I'm not holding my breath to see if the CA goes after Belz like they do the suburban residential developers. Belz, you see, is on the right side of the issue -- the CA side.

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