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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Entrepreneurship Empowerment Camp // The Urban League I know

Entrepreneurship Empowerment Camp // The Urban League I know

entrepreneurship empowerment camp

The urban league i know

By Jerome Robinson

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

I remember in my early twenties seeing the Memphis Urban League for the first time.  I had no idea what it was or what it was about. It was there in my thirties, it was still there in my forties, and now I am fifty-one and I got a call to work on something for the Memphis Urban League.  I had no idea how to get started.  I knew nothing about them.  I googled them and I still didn’t learn much.  I got to meet the board of directors and the executive director and while they all seemed like really nice people, I still could not figure out who they really were.  Several race related issues hit the news and I expected to see someone from the Urban League in the news taking a stand, but that didn’t happen.  People around me talked and would give their opinions of what the Urban League was doing or in most cases not doing.  I sat down one day with executive director Tonja Sesley-Baymon and in my overly transparent way, I shared way to much of my personal story with her.  Tonja had a wall up around her, she seemed a little disconnected.  So I was starting to ask myself, who really is the Memphis Urban League and what do they do?

The JustMyMemphis Fun Crew started working on a new website for the organization and we shot some short videos to help promote them.  I was not there for the shoot, so while watching an interview of Tonja Sesley-Baymon I saw something I had not seen before.  Her “Why” showed up.  She had lost her brother.  He needed help, he wanted help, but ultimately he did not find the help he was looking for and as a result Tonja lost a brother, the community lost the gifts this young man was yet to share, and our city lost another piece of its soul.  But for Tonja, his lost would create a power that lives on today not just in her but in the Memphis Urban League.  For me, this was the moment I learned who and what the Urban League was all about.  So I went to work, looking for for stories to share about the work being done.  I had not seen the impact yet but now every time I step in their office I feel it.  There is a spirit of growth and development of those without voices, without hopes, and without directions.

The Fun Crew went behind the scenes of a program Mr. Barry Jackson had been working on.  Barry is the Workforce Economics & Development Specialist – Save Our Sons Facilitator for the Memphis Urban League and graduation was coming up for his Youth Entrepreneurship Empowerment program.
We spent a couple days at the Urban League headquarters just capturing what was going on with this group of young people that had devoted their summer to learning how to be entrepreneurs instead of just a summer of school break.  I wasn’t there to see the program in person.  The Fun Crew was though and the video below is the result.  I have to tell you, I am a fairly emotional guy at times.  My heart takes over and then come the tears.  I missed the lesson that guys don’t cry!  So when I saw this video for the first time, yes I got a little emotional.

Young entrepreneruship empowerment camp

This was the Urban League I know.  The work they do is changing lives, but almost no one could see that.  Not because it wasn’t being done.  But because our city, our communities, our world is so focused on the negative.  We are focused on talking about what isn’t getting done and as a result we miss the positive stuff happening right in front of us.  The young people that came to the Youth Entrepreneurship Empowerment Camp are talented young people but without the hope and polish and promise given to youth of other communities.  But at the Memphis Urban League these youth got coaching, training, styling, and then put in the spotlight.  The goal was to show them just a little of what is possible.  Give them a spark and allow it to blaze up into an amazing future.  This is the Memphis Urban League I know.  This is the organization that has been serving our city for 75 years.  I hope all of Memphis will look around and find ways to help support organizations like the Urban League.

At JustMyMemphis, the Fun Crew started asking this question one night over drinks, Whats Your Story?  Once I decided to ask that question of the Memphis Urban League, I realized that while we were not paying attention this organization was at the work of helping individuals and communities reach their full potential.  This is what a #BeAmazing organization looks like and I am so proud I get to help them in at least a small way!

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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Vitality Displaces Stagnancy

Vitality Displaces Stagnancy

Vitality displaces stagnancy

By Joe B. Kent // Guest Blogger

This article is being brought to you by HomeTown Home Services, Is it time for a Home Improvement?

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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C’MON CHAMBER GET REAL

C’MON CHAMBER GET REAL

C’MON Chamber Get ReAL

By Joe B. Kent

$70M IN MEMPHIS-SHELBY TAX REVENUE SHORTFALLS

Memphis/Shelby County has sacrificed the true economic growth engines of safe/paved streets, education and public transit for excessive tax abatements that do not serve the overall business community and the taxpayer. The cost to the community in excessive tax abatements is estimated to be $70M in annually recurring tax revenue. 

This $70M figure is derived from an article in The Commercial Appeal and another in Smart City Memphis that combines $22M in annual tax losses from retention PILOTs with $47M in tax shortfalls from slow total wage growth versus Memphis/Shelby County peers’ average total wage growth rate. 

Greater Memphis Chamber Blog on PILOTs 

Last week the Greater Memphis Chamber released a blog that discussed the economic development tool of payment-in-lieu of taxes (PILOT) administered by the local Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE). The Chamber opens the article by admitting that PILOTs are controversial and then touts the benefit of PILOTs to taxpayers. The problem is the Chamber blog only tells part of the story.  

The blog explains that a lowered tax burden in the abatement of property taxes encourages economic growth resulting in higher local tax revenue through capital investment. The article further discusses the TAG Truck Center project that increases property taxes from less than $77,000 to $200,000 for the PILOT term. What the blog does not tell you is that $200,000 per year in tax revenue or $2,200,000 over the 11 year PILOT term cost Memphis/Shelby County taxpayers $6,278,000 per EDGE project summary !!!

Analysis – C’mon Man…..

In this case, Memphis/Shelby County was competing against West Memphis, AR. C’mon Man, what are the chances that TAG prefers West Memphis over Memphis ? So why would economic developers overpay? Because they do not know that economic development is a community process to improve the well-being of its people. Instead, economic developers in Memphis appear to believe that economic development is predominantly tax incentives for corporations.  As a result, Memphis is losing population and declining as an ecosystem versus their peer municipalities. 

 

In closely reviewing the  EDGE project summary, the retention PILOT does not account for: 1) some probability that TAG will remain in Shelby County without a retention PILOT for retaining existing jobs of $4.3M but with a PILOT for new jobs of $1.9M, 2) local impact of remaining workforce upon TAG departure or 3) Forgone economic impact of investing $4.3M into the community. When fully accounting for the TAG PILOT and referencing the EDGE project summary, the following calculation results that assumes a $1.9M tax abatement for new job creation: 

TAG projected revenue ($11.5M) – Retained revenue 60% probability ($7M) – Remaining local economic impact of remaining workforce upon TAG departure (RW $1.3M) – Forgone economic impact of investing in the community (LI $6.5M) = $3.3M revenue loss less $4.3M retention tax abatement results in a $7.6 loss or $633k per year Memphis/Shelby County taxpayer loss. 

Conclusion – C’mon Man Get Real !

The Chamber blog does not disclose the bogus incomplete accounting of EDGE which is a design for community decline. If the Chamber can’t get real, Memphis/Shelby County can’t get economic development right. C’mon Man!

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justmy features

Otis Rush, 1934 – 2018

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twisted time creations art that speaks memphis This article is brought to you by Krewe of DeJavu Check out their menu!Introducing myself, we can start with my name being Conner. It is my mom’s maiden name. I’m 42, and I was born and raised in Memphis. For the last 18...

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Share Your Story Today!

We believe there is an amazing story just waiting to be told inside everyone.  Stories that inspire change, ideas, and action.  Some stories are painful, some are fun, and others are life changing.  BeAmazing and share your story today on JustMy!

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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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twisted time creations art that speaks memphis This article is brought to you by Krewe of DeJavu Check out their menu!Introducing myself, we can start with my name being Conner. It is my mom’s maiden name. I’m 42, and I was born and raised in Memphis. For the last 18...

Time to #BeAmazing

Share Your Story Today!

We believe there is an amazing story just waiting to be told inside everyone.  Stories that inspire change, ideas, and action.  Some stories are painful, some are fun, and others are life changing.  BeAmazing and share your story today on JustMy!

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25 Buzzwords That Make Smart People Look Stupid

25 Buzzwords That Make Smart People Look Stupid

25 buzzwords 

that make smart people look stupid

by Travis Bradberry

This Article is brought to you by Absolute Moving Services. Click to request a quote!

At first, euphemisms surfaced in the workplace to help people deal with touchy subjects that were difficult to talk about. Before long, they morphed into corporate buzzwords that expanded and took over our vocabulary until our everyday conversations started sounding like they’re taking place on another planet:

 

“Listen Ray, I don’t have the bandwidth for it with everything that’s on my plate, but ping me anyway because at the end of the day it’s on my radar and I don’t want to be thrown under the bus because I didn’t circle back around on this no-brainer.”

 

I understand the temptation. These phrases are spicy and they make you feel clever (low hanging fruit is a crutch of mine), but they also annoy the heck out of people.

If you think that you can use these phrases without consequence, you’re kidding yourself. Just pay close attention to how other people react to your using them, and you’ll see that these phrases don’t cast you in a favorable light.

 

After all, TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence of more than a million people and one of the biggest need areas for most people is social awareness. Most of us are so focused on what we’re saying and what we’re going to say next that we lose sight of how our words affect other people.

So give these words a read, think of how often you use some of them, and see if you can catch yourself before you use them again.

Have some fun with it, because at the end of the day if you don’t hit the ground running you can always go back to the drawing board and get the ball rolling…

Think outside the box

Thrown under the bus

Reinvent the wheel

Get the ball rolling

No brainer

Elephant in the room

Apples to apples

Win-win

Reinvent the wheel

Get the ball rolling

On my plate

Elephant in the room

Low hanging fruit

Let’s touch base

At the end of the day

It’s on my radar

Ping me

Get my managers blessing

Pay for the course

Bang for your buck

Synergy

Move the goal post

Circle back around

All hands on deck

Take this offline

Think outside the box

Thrown under the bus

Reinvent the wheel

This article is being brought to you by Absolute Moving Services!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, TIME, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

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