Saturday, August 14, 2004

Damn Those Kids

Man, you work so hard to make downtown a swell place. Real world class, ya know? Lots of stuff to do, plenty of places to spend money. And then all those damn kids come in and just spoil it for the rest of us! What are ya gonna do?

After laboring hard, shilling for the greedheads of the downtown cabal, the Commercial Appeal is still beating the drum of "no cruising downtown." The sheer wrong-headedness in this editorial can only be explained by the willingness of the daily paper to propagandise for the developers and property owners who stand to get wealthy from turning the downtown into a clean, shiny, tourist-based shopping district, an island of carefully policed wealth amidst the general decay that is the rest of inside-the-loop Memphis.

The City has been working hard to pack every kind of tourist and sports destination into the downtown, Beale Street and South Main area. It doesn't matter that there's insufficient parking. It doesn't matter that the streets can't handle the traffic load. It doesn't matter that events downtown are scheduled willy-nilly, unnecessarily piling one event's traffic on top of another's. A parking situation that is deliberately kept in artificial shortage is also to blame.

What matters is that young people -- overwhelmingly black and lower income -- are flocking downtown to hang out and be seen. They don't have much money to spend beyond clothes and cars, but they want to be where the action is. Where the party is, where the people are. They gum up the works for the businessmen into extracting cash from adult partiers and tourists. They are bad cholesterol in the downtown's narrow arteries.

They chase away the paying customers.

Then you also have the hoity-toities who want to live in their lofts and towers, just like the really cool people in Manhattan do, but without all the noise and the smells and the bums and the other unpleasant things. You know: the reminders of everyday life for most of Memphis.

Manhattan on the Mississippi isn't like the Park Slope and Upper West Side of some elites' dreams. It's still a bit too much Hell's Kitchen for their sensitive tastes. Something's gotta be done about all the riff-raff screwing it up for them. I imagine there's more than a few who would be delighted if they could turn downtown into a gated community where only the well-to-do and the aesthetically pleasing are allowed to enter.

If the downtown were all private property, I wouldn't mind. But it's not, it's lot of private property being subsidised and defended by my tax money through a series of well-connected "public-private partnerships" designed to repulse assaults on The Dream.

It's not right that much of mid-City and Midtown Memphis must suffer from various kinds of neglect -- some benign and some intentional. Why does the paper of a city of nearly 700,000 people most worry about the well-being and comfort of a mere 10,000? It's shameful that the paper that claims it wants to "tell the stories" of the people of Memphis instead uses its privilege and platform to craft a fictional tale that serves the interests of a wealthy and elite few.

It is a shame, but then it's also business as usual around here. Emphasis on business. Remember, despite all the high-minded talk that comes out of the Commercial Appeal's editorial offices, it too is in the business of making money. Low-income black kids hanging out with their friends don't profit the paper or their allies and customers in the business community. Don't forget that.

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