NeighborHOOD Reflection

NeighborHOOD Reflection

NeighborHOOD Reflection
By Britney Thornton // Guest Blogger

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So how much would it take to motivate you to work? Pause. $8.50. Insert mental gasp. Really? Yeah, my friends say that a job has to at least be paying $8.50 for them to apply.
My recent conversation with a real disenfranchised youth in Orange Mound definitely surprised me. Apparently the fight for $15 message has not made its way to Ethel Street–a formerly notorious street for all things not so positive near the core of historic Orange Mound. I could not resist wondering how many more people would be willing to settle for $8.50 per hour? How this amount meets the needs of an individual– let alone a family? How much of a difference $15 would make?

Stopping to say hey to a familiar face, I rolled down my window to speak to Tarik on Ethel Street. “You coming out to ride with us?” Reservation. “Naw I ain’t gonna rob you.” Confusion. “What? I didn’t say anything about robbing me!” “Oh I thought you said ‘You gone rob us?'”

In actuality, I met with some college students days prior who were interested in starting a small business–a lawn care service working with disenfranchised youth age 16-24 to be exact. Their ask of me as an “experienced” non-profit leader was to connect them to real people who could give more insight on what would motivate a young person to want to work in said business.

Always down to connect to current residents in Orange Mound, I agreed to assist. To chauffeur them around. Not really having a plan, I drove the University of Memphis and Southwest college students around looking for real people to talk to. Somehow, we ended up on Ethel Street and I recognized a familiar face I had called out to earlier on a bike ride to “come ride with us next time.”

Epic fail.

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Why would he assume that I would ask “If he was going to rob me.” Though we enjoyed good conversation with the Orange Mound transplant, his inclination to assume the worst really touched me. What lived experiences made it natural for him to jump to this conclusion? Who did he see in me when I rolled down my window to speak to him? Who did I see when I decided to stop? What were the college students thinking throughout the interaction?

People watching is one of my most favorite hobbies. Humans are by far the most interesting creatures roaming the earth. So complex. So simple. So difficult. So willing. A mixed bag full of all things good and all things bad–I love us.

We walked away with more perspective. I was able to use Tarik’s input to write a story for my friend’s blog. The college students were able to strengthen their business plan. What Tarik got out of the interview, I am not sure? An opportunity to vent??

According to Merriam-Webster, reciprocity means “the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country or organization to another.” I’ll leave it up to you to decide how much good and how much bad came from our experience.

Just another neighborHOOD reflection.

britney thornton
Guest Blogger
Britney Thornton is a native Memphian from Orange Mound.  Licensed social worker, licensed educator, and former law student. Britney has found her passion as a community organizer.  A graduate from Baylor University and the University of Pennsylvania, she enjoys eating good food and traveling to new countries.  Founder of the non-profit JUICE Orange Mound, Britney challenges systems of oppression by thinking of new and creative ways to address old issues.  Innovative, personable, and driven, Britney is determined to redevelop not only the beloved community of Historic Orange Mound but also the great city of Memphis, Tennessee.

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Vitality Displaces Stagnancy

Vitality Displaces Stagnancy

Vitality displaces stagnancy

By Joe B. Kent // Guest Blogger

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VITALITY DISPLACES STAGNANCY

Vitality displaces stagnancy. And vital systems in an investigative press and legislative oversight that check local economic and workforce development efforts are not working in Memphis and Shelby County. In fact, Commissioner Terry Roland referenced a need for a more investigative press in County Commission Budget Committee session on Wednesday June 27, 2018.

It’s known in local leadership circles but not press reported that new unneeded tax incentive programs for inner city real estate development are accelerating as true market demand increases which is the opposite of what should be occurring. Increased demand was just reported by The Memphis Flyer. It’s also known in local leadership circles but not press reported that over the last seven years, the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) has systematically justified large corporate retention tax abatements which also benefit real estate investors using a bogus accounting model without adequate local legislative oversight. And it’s also widely known in local leadership circles but not press reported that excessive tax abatements for real estate development sacrifice true economic development that benefits all in safer/paved streets, a more prepared workforce and better public transit. Economic development is routinely defined as process that a community undertakes to improve the well-being of its people which real estate development alone fails to accomplish.

With proven degreed experience throughout the country in local economic and workforce development efforts, for over year now, I have been going on public record as a taxpayer activist in Memphis, TN. I have gone on record through public comment and continue to do so with local taxpayer funded non-profit boards and legislative bodies regarding the current state of Memphis economic and workforce development efforts.

Thus far, my findings are that the local press does not adequately call into question the progress of local economic and workforce development efforts and local legislative oversight is inadequate. For example, the Joint Council/Commission EDGE committee announced on March 1, 2018 finally after seven years has only met once since being established. This lack of meetings has yet to be questioned by the local press which points to a lack of institutional vitality as unneeded tax abatements accelerate and true economic development efforts suffer.

Instead of leading and crafting economic development policy through the work of public hearing, it seems legislative leaders are waiting to be enlightened by the Memphis corporate community leadership (MCCL) complex in Memphis Tomorrow, Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) and Greater Memphis Chamber. An MCCL complex that seems to mistake real estate development for economic development. Legislative leaders, through public hearing, are uniquely equipped to call on professional leaders from the education, corporate, small business and government sectors to craft, curate and lead local economic development policy efforts as opposed to relying exclusively on the MCCL complex.

Just about 10 days ago I attended the EDGE subsidiaries’ series of quarterly meetings as a professional activist promoting local economic development reform. Meetings included but were not limited to the Greater Memphis Alliance for Competitive Workforce (GMACW), an EDGE subsidiary and full EDGE Board meeting. The below sections address press coverage of the meetings followed by my personal experience as a taxpayer activist at the meetings.

Local Press Coverage of EDGE Meetings

Per Terry Roland’s committee remarks regarding “selective” local press coverage, coverage of the EDGE meetings varied widely. Press outlets chose not to cover the GMACW meeting and only covered the EDGE Board meeting. The reporting from that meeting varied widely between news organizations. The Commercial Appeal provided the most balanced reporting covering public dissent across multiple EDGE projects. The Memphis Business Journal only covered the Parkside TIF project and Memphis Daily News covered all projects except for Hollywood Feed without referencing any public dissent. The following sections describe my experience as a taxpayer activist at the meetings.

 

Greater Memphis Alliance for Competitive Workforce (GMACW) – June 20, 2018

Given the importance of local workforce development, one would think this to be an active Board. Think again. The GMACW Board managed to have only one public 15-minute Board meeting for the entire 2017-18 year. Based on that minimalist result, I mocked the result of one 15-minute public board meeting in the 2017-18 fiscal year to address the important local priority of workforce development.  

Further based on a report on the EDGE website after three years, GMACWs chosen MemphisWorks career navigation platform for students and adult learners had only 8,588 participants. These numbers should look more like 75,000 enrolled participants. This 75,000 participant estimate is based on my professional experience in the career and workforce development space throughout the country and what typically would be achieved in a city the size of Memphis over a three-year term. 

Increased participant results translate into filled jobs and benefits to the tax base. Result deficiencies translate into shortfalls in this case of approximately $10-15M in recurring annual Memphis/Shelby tax revenue shortfalls. To learn more, see MCCL Measured analysis.

EDGE Board Meeting – June 20, 2018

The EDGE Board who like the United States Supreme Court appears to have lifetime terms with most board members serving for as long as seven years, took up a variety of controversial items. The items include new residential payment-in-lieu of taxes (PILOT) and a second amended increased PILOT abatement for Hollywood Feed, a locally based pet store chain. 

In this meeting, as a professional activist, I objected to a list of items while asking for the resignation of EDGE Board members that had served more than four years. Additionally, I proposed that the excessive residential PILOTs in Broad and Thrive projects be reduced so that the abatement does not exceed projected tax revenue as per EDGE project summaries which would have saved taxpayers approximately $9M while still providing a $9M abatement to local developers.

 

With this compromised abatement, local developers would have been the beneficiary of $9M more in abated taxes here in Shelby County than in any other county in the State of Tennessee. This is because residential abatements are disallowed everywhere in the State except for Shelby County. The proposal for decreased abatements was not even discussed by the EDGE Board which then voted to approve $18M in excessive residential tax abatements when compared to the rest of the State of Tennessee while ignoring my proposed $9M compromise abatement. 

Next, I objected to the second increase in the Hollywood Feed PILOT doubling the abatement by $650K. The reason for the objection is that locally based Hollywood Feed with 70% store location growth over the last two years does not need an additional $650K in assistance from local taxpayers. With growth like that, the thriving Hollywood Feed should be open to surrendering their current PILOT abatement in full. During the Hollywood Feed presentation, a lady audience member new to EDGE meetings looked at me with her eyes wide open and said, “They are not supposed to be giving money to thriving businesses are they?” And I said, “They are certainly not supposed to be increasing the already existing abatement on two occasions !!”

But during deliberations on the increased PILOT, our trusted EDGE Board congratulated Hollywood Feed on their growth and in a split vote unnecessarily increased the existing Hollywood Feed abatement a second time by $650K using local taxpayer funds. 

Another item that was taken up at the EDGE Board meeting was the Parkside Tax incremental Financing (TIF) approval. Others besides me objected to this project based on disruption to the neighborhood and park surroundings. In total, in one meeting, the trusted EDGE Board appears to have unnecessarily abated a minimum of $10M in local taxpayer funds. The full transcript of my public comment remarks can be found here

Conclusion

The Memphis ecosystem needs institutional checks and balances in local legislative oversight and press to better function to serve local taxpayers in economic and workforce development efforts. This increased institutional vitality will displace stagnancy while helping insure needed progress in local economic and workforce development efforts that reside in the Memphis corporate community leadership non-profit complex. Increased vitality drives economic growth which results in a better more thriving Memphis for all.

 

Joe B. Kent

Guest Blogger

Mr. Joe B. Kent has worked throughout the country on workforce and economic development projects and is a reform activist in Memphis. Joe B. has a BBA in Finance, Masters in Instructional Technology and is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator with an emphasis on labor market information.

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Rawk’n Grub’s Brand New Burger for the Memphis Flyer

Rawk’n Grub’s Brand New Burger for the Memphis Flyer

Rawk’n grub’s

brand new burger for the memphis flyer

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Rawk’n Grub is a restaurant that serves some of the most uniquely named entrees in Memphis. All of these, including the name of his restaurant, come off of the love of music and the phrase “you rawk” that is always said by his significant other. Not only are the names unique, but so is the flavor!

Chef Steph just moved from his food truck to this new location located inside of the Citgo gas station. Now don’t let that fool you, it’s not the place that makes food good, it’s the chef; and he sure does make a name for himself when you first taste his food.

I called up Steph a week before we met up asking if we could feature his new place, and when I showed up to do the feature he had a mouthwatering surprise waiting in the kitchen. Now here is the #BeAmazing part; Chef Steph thought up this recipe of the Shisō High burger the night before the feature, not only that but what you see on camera is the first time the chef made this burger! The flavors complemented themselves so well and it was a combination that I truly have never tasted before. He combines Asian flavors along with his own twist using local ingredients, custom sauces, 6 hour long smoked blue cheese, vanilla vodka soaked pineapple, the shisō herb, and so much more. 

This burger will actually be going on The Memphis flyer coming out soon so don’t wait to go try one of the best burgers in town! Not only that but if you go before September 1st and mention JustMyMemphis you will get a “buy one entree get one free” deal! 

shisō high – the memphis flyer burger

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Krewe Of DeJavu – A Must Visit

Krewe Of DeJavu – A Must Visit

the Krewe of dejavu

a Must Visit

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The Krewe Of DeJavu is a place I was looking forward to visit simply because of the incredible Chef, Gary Williams, that runs the place in an amazing way. This is an Original Authentic Creole restaurant where they also serve the best Soulfood, Vegan, and Vegetarian foods. Chef Gary Williams has rightly developed a reputation as one of the best cooks in the mid-south. The part I love most is that this guy didn’t learn from attending years of culinary school, but he spent years with his mother and grandmother learning from them and through self-teaching. With every bite, you can taste the delicious style of New Orleans as if you were in his grandmothers home right then!

Apart from the Chef’s food, he uses his restaurant in as many ways he can to benefit the community. You can find him and his Krewe at SRVS every year, they’ve been at March of Dimes, Heal The Hood Foundation, and so many more. They truly are all over the community! Not only this, but when they have leftover food at night they go bring it to the homeless when they can. “Help, help, help..” Is what Chef Gary Williams states, he loves to help and he has a huge passion and heart for giving back to the community. 

The most popular association with The Krewe Of DeJavu is their food truck and catering services. Don’t hesitate to go grab their food on wheels or have an event catered by the Krewe, you won’t regret it!

Alden Joins the Krewe to make a true NOLA dish!

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Hanging With Chef Patrick at Rizzo’s Diner

Hanging With Chef Patrick at Rizzo’s Diner

Hanging with chef patrick

at rizzo’s diner

By Alden Zuck

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Into The Kitchen!

Chef Michael Patrick is one of those people that deserve every part of the title “Chef” being placed before their name, and this isn’t just because his food is delicious!

I got the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Rizzo’s Diner with the Chef and see how he prepares a burger that is by no means a normal burger. One of the things that I love most about this Diner is that all the ingredients, whether that be in the back of the kitchen to the ingredients at the bar, all come from a local source. Not only is this great support for the community but you can taste the difference in the freshness through every bite!

As he talked me through his process of creating this burger, there was no doubt that he had an enormous amount of passion behind getting the ingredients just right. Apart from that, a heart for making Rizzo’s Diner a place that is delicious and welcoming in every form.  This is a dish that is inspired by many different people and many different dishes. The homemade patty is seared on both sides along with the bread before cooking in the oven with cheese. 

After finishing up the burger, we headed on over to the bar where Cindy showed us the creation of some of the most popular cocktails at Rizzo’s. I was also very pleasantly surprised to see the large selection of whiskey’s all based in Tennessee.

From spending a short afternoon in this Diner and getting a taste of the Rizzo’s experience, I can confidently say that if you haven’t checked out this gem, this must be the next place on your list! You can check out their menu on our new local 411’s page here!

Rizzo’s diner VIP insight

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Meritan & The Annual Bike Tour

Meritan & The Annual Bike Tour

meritan &

the annual Bike tour

By Alden Zuck

This article is being brought to you by cityCURRENT, Get Involved & Power the GOOD!

Meritan just recently moved into their brand new home at the end of December and now are located in downtown Memphis. The reason for this move was for several reasons, such as most of their clients are from that area, allowing the company to be more accessible to them. After talking with several employees, it seems that the building being one floor has made everything much easier not having to deal with elevator issues or stairs. After touring the building and speaking with the employees, it’s easy to see how this move has assisted in the ability to effectively fulfill their mission within the organization.

If you don’t know, Meritan is a health and social service non-profit that was founded in 1961 and since then they have added on foster care into their work. The heart of everyone who works at Meritan is what makes the company who they are today, they so effortlessly love on their clients, from babies to seniors, and pour themselves into improving the well-being of others and creating an independence into their lives. They live out their mission statement and allow that to make a huge impact on the lives they touch. 

Meritan’s largest fundraiser that they do every year is the Meritan Moonlight Classic Bike Tour, and this year they are re-vamping the event to something bigger and better!

Along with their company, they have moved their bike tour downtown where Bass Pro has so generously offered up their space as the representing sponsor. Another one of the differences is that this year they are providing two routes, one is eight miles and the other is sixteen. They are also moving the start time from midnight to 10pm, therefore there is no excuse to bring your kids out to the fun too! People drive from all over the country to attend this event as they deck out their bikes with lights and bling and put on all sorts of costumes to celebrate. The date this year is August 4th, so put it on your calendar and spread the word!

cityCURRENT is a privately-funded catalyst for the Mid-South and Middle Tennessee. A team of more than 100 partner companies have come together to host FREE events, along with an array of positive-oriented media and philanthropic initiatives to enrich, engage, and impact the community. Our mission is to #PowertheGOOD and we invite you to join with us

 

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