FedEx Urges Kids’ Safety on Halloween

FedEx Corp. is delivering more than packages this Halloween.

Twice as many kids are killed while walking on Oct. 31 compared to other days of the year.

In 1999, Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx created the Safe Kids Walk This Way program to teach safe behaviors to motorists and child pedestrians and create safer, more walkable communities.

Every day, more than 75,000 FedEx vehicles are on the road, sharing the streets with pedestrians.

Among the top safety tips that Safe Kids USA and FedEx recommends for drivers include slowing down in residential neighborhoods and school zones, remembering that popular trick-or-treating hours typicaling occur during 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Also, be especially alert and take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.

For more tips on how to help kids become safer pedestrians on Halloween, as well as throughout the year, visit www.safekids.org.

Fixing Unemployment

“You’re hired.”

Nobody seems to be saying that phrase much these days, judging from the unemployment rate – and not to mention the drubbing lots of politicians are going to take next week.

Getting down to the root cause of the stubbornly high unemployment rates on the national, state and local levels has produced an interesting debate among academics and economists.

To wit: is the persistent joblessness because the nation has a structural unemployment problem? Or because of a widespread lack of consumer demand.

If it’s the former, that would mean the main driver of the unemployment rate is a mismatch between job skills and available jobs. Maybe lots of construction workers are out of a job, and the only jobs open at construction firms are, I don’t know, in HR or some highly skilled area.

If it’s the latter, then the main driver of unemployment is lots and lots of consumers too scared about the future to buy anything they don’t absolutely need. When consumers aren’t buying, companies lose money, don’t need as many workers, and so on.

Figuring out which of those two possibilities is the right one has everything to do with getting the nation back on track. Because depending on which one you think it is, it requires a very different response.

If we have some kind of structural unemployment problem, the recovery can’t really be sped up. The economy and the private sector would only recover slowly, bit by bit, as problems as slowly wrung out of the system.

No easy answers, and years to solve that problem.

If the answer is the latter and widespread lack of demand is behind all this, that suggests a robust government response might do some good.

A financial advisor who works in Memphis told me the answer was absolutely, positively, the former. That the nation has a structural unemployment problem.

Is he right?

Notes From The Last Day of Early Voting

There was a lot of political activity going on around town on this last day of early voting.

Rev. Al Sharpton came to town Thursday morning to rally about 100 consolidation opponents at the AFSCME union hall at Beale and Danny Thomas Boulevard.

Those in the crowd were mostly AFSCME members. Also in the crowd, Memphis city council member Wanda Halbert, Shelby County Commissioner James Harvey, state Representative Barbara Cooper, local Democratic party chairman Van Turner and city school board candidate Sara Lewis.

The American Federal of State County and Municipal Employees is one of the big three municipal unions. Warren Cole, executive director of the Memphis local, said consolidation would mean fewer government jobs during a recession.

Sharpton said it would dilute Memphis voting strength and added it’s not fair since the six suburban municipalities will keep their charter in the proposed merger.

“You are being co-opted,” Sharpton said to cheers from the crowd. “In a poker game, everybody got to put up.”

The arguments about diluted voting strength and less representation on a 25-member metro council are the precise arguments the suburban mayors have been making against consolidation for different reasons.

They claim the population outside Memphis will be at the mercy of Memphis voters – voters they point out who elected Willie Herenton to office five times in 18 years.

After the rally, Sharpton was asked about the similar arguments for very different reasons.

“Sometimes there are unusual alliances. Sometimes you can get to the same place for different reasons. I think that is all the more reason that this should be defeated,” he said. “You have people from different perspectives that agree with the same conclusion.”

Sharpton’s presence in town was noted at a rally Thursday evening by consolidation charter supporters at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Rebuild Government chairman Darrell Cobbins said Sharpton had added a “controversial tone” to the last stage of the campaign.

Metro Charter Commission vice chairman Andre Fowlkes said opponents have been spreading “fabrications and myths.”

“All of their fears and their excuses are location specific or circumstance specific. It’s only specific to their pocket of the community,” he said. “I have never heard an opponent say that it’s bad for the totality of the area. I haven’t heard that once.”

The Rebuild Government rally drew a crowd of around 30.

As it was underway, Democratic nominee for governor Mike McWherter was stumping for votes outside the Glenview Community Center as a line of people waited to vote in the last hour of the early voting period.

McWherter had some help from state House speaker Pro Tempore Lois Deberry as well as state Representatives G.A. Hardaway and Mike Kernell.

McWherter believes there are still some undecided voters waiting to election day. He believes his criticism of Republican rival Bill Haslam’s recent statements on gun permits have gotten enough political traction to have something to do with that.

Earlier, McWherter had said he believed the race would be decided by the early vote. He will be in town Friday for the first part of his “72 hour plan.”

Once the early voting sites closed, campaigns on the Nov. 2 ballot then all moved into their 72 hour strategy, as in 72 hours to election day on Tuesday. The campaign strategy is based on the premise that election day voters have different motivations than early voters who tend to be the most committed and active supporters of a given candidate.

No true political event is ever without other undercurrents.

Some in the crowd at AFSCME were still convinced the Aug. 5 election count was fraudulent. One t-shirt spotted in the crowd read, “Did My Vote Count?” While in Memphis, Sharpton also said he has his doubts about the Aug. 5 election results although the Chancery Court challenge of the vote count was dismissed earlier this month.

Elsewhere in the crowd, word was circulating of a fundraiser tonight for General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson, who is weighing a bid for Memphis mayor in the 2011 elections. That after Jackson ran unsuccessfully this year in the Democratic primary for Shelby County mayor.

Look for our breakdown of the early voting stats from us as soon as we have it. The figures tell us everything but who you early voters selected.

Our game plan on Nov. 2 is the same as it has been in recent elections. We will tweet (@memphisdaily) election results starting after 7 p.m. that night and post at least two web stories during that. The first web story will be the early voting results which are the first results announced, usually between 7:30 and 8 pm. The second web story will be a comprehensive wrap up of the overall results once the last precinct is in, no matter how late.

Laizze faire Corker

The thesis of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.’s Wednesday real estate market discussion made it clear that smart people were involved in a difficult situation, with no clear answer on the table.

Panelists for the event were Tim Bolding, executive director of United Housing Inc.; Sean Dobson, CEO and chairman of the board of Amherst Holdings LLC; Greg Gonzales, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions; Andrew Howell, executive vice president and COO of Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati; Alex Pollock, resident fellow with American Enterprise Institute; and Jim Vogel, executive vice president at First Tennessee Financial.

And while several audience members and panelists disagreed on various issues, Corker made numerous references that the biggest challenge the real estate market faces is getting Washington to come up with a solution that addresses the politics rather than the problem.

When responding to a frustrated builder, Corker advised to be resilient.

“I used to love to develop and build buildings,” Corker said. “But over time in the Chattanooga market, you could buy and renovate cheaper than you could build them. Housing prices have dropped, and we have ended up in this quandary.”

Dobson responded, “Maybe building more houses at this point in the cycle is not the key. It’s a dangerous thing for the nation to say, ‘let’s put money on a house,’ because I don’t know about your house, but my house doesn’t have much dividends. We need to rethink this concentration as somehow an asset. It’s dangerous to focus on housing as a light in the distance.”

Pollock chimed in, saying appraisals are part of the pessimistic market. We need to go back to the way things were years ago, he said, when a houses’ value was determined based on sustainability over time, and not just in recent years.

“The fact is, it’s collateral, so why is there any government involved?” Corker asked. “Government acts on where it sits, and there’s not an American who would disagree. The housing industry is the most basic industry there is – why is there any government involved?”

And the lender can only do so much, Howell added.

“They can’t hold 15 to 30 years on a balance sheet,” Howell said. “If the investor’s not there, the whole thing comes to a screeching halt.”

Among other issues addressed included the foreclosure crisis. Bolding was concerned about clearing the bank-closed properties out to maintain the quality of neighborhoods.

He also added that a new generation of homebuyers was vital.

And in response to an audience comment about the loan paperwork process, Howell agreed with the power of the rising generation.

“We’re analyzing through faulty data,” Howell said. “Kids with their iPhones could probably do it better than the system that we have today.”

Pollock advocated self-discipline: “The same behavior that generates regular savings is the same behavior that generates loan payments.”

This education must begin at the high school level, Dobson said.

“Buying a home is the biggest purchase one makes in a lifetime,” Dobson said. “I’ve got a 10-year-old that’s getting credit card applications.”

Gonzales pointed out that he gets calls from across the state on a fairly regular basis from people facing financial literacy. But numerous outlets, such as banks and other organizations, are trying to help, and are rarely spoken of.

Corker brought the discussion to a close by saying how much he had learned during the two-hour debate, as compared to a recent Chattanooga forum, where he felt not much was accomplished.

“Getting from here to a far more rational market will be a complex process,” Corker said. “This is as an exceptional a panel as we could ever get in Washington. Try to create political will to deal with it, and hopefully, we’ll get it right.”

Wharton, One Year In

I wrote a story in Wednesday’s Daily News about Mayor Wharton hitting the one-year mark in office.

How do you think he’s done?

The man himself has some thoughts of his own, which he posted as a note on his Facebook page. In case you missed it:

Earlier today, I personally filed 138 lawsuits on behalf of the City of Memphis against owners of properties that have fallen into serious neglect within the city limits.

This action was taken as a part of the legal strategy we are now employing in our larger campaign to end the blight that has lowered property values and stained the appeal of neighborhoods from Westwood and Orange Mound to Frayser and Raleigh. Overgrown lots and abandoned properties are a community-wide epidemic. Statistics show that less than 1% of the complaints we receive from citizens involve properties that are actually owned by the city. Holding the real negligent property owners accountable is critical to address this issue.

If you live near or know of a house that the City of Memphis should consider for legal action, please call the Mayor’s Citizens Service Center at 901.576.6500 and let us know the address and condition of the property. We are relying on YOU to be our eyes and ears in the neighborhoods!

Today is also significant in that it marks exactly one year since I was sworn in as Mayor for the City of Memphis. It has certainly been a productive year:

* After years of negotiation, the signing of the 20-year lease for the Pyramid by Bass Pro will result in the creative reuse of this major facility and the more expansive development of the Pinch District and Uptown.
* Our economic and workforce development efforts have gained speed through a major retooling of the Workforce Investment Network, the efforts of our Office of Talent and Human Capital, and an unprecedented level of cooperation between city and county government around the pivotal issues of job creation and retention.
* We were successful in securing the support of the Memphis City Council for a $5 million fund for economic development opportunities, portions of which will be applied to a revolving loan program for minority and women-owned businesses.
* As a first step in the improvement of the Fairgrounds area, Tiger Lane was completed within 90 days and 55% minority participation.
* We have met the challenge of funding Memphis City Schools head-on by outlining funding for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 inclusive of some $23 million in budget reductions.
* The Memphis Police Department continues to advance our war on crime using state-of-the-art, data-driven police techniques that have earned international acclaim. Since last year, the most violent crimes in the city of Memphis are down over 40%.
* The Shelby Farms Greenline opened with much fanfare, providing a world-class health and fitness amenity that connects the farthest reaches of Memphis with the core city.
* The new Unified Development Code, Midtown Overlay, and University District Overlay will now guide sustainable, high-quality urban design for Memphis.

Along with our budding partnerships with reputable community development corporations in neighborhood redevelopment, our HOPE VI projects, and the new level of engagement our city is experiencing with federal and national agencies, we have been busy on many different fronts to advance our great city.

Beyond these and other accomplishments, however, we know that the issue of trust is much more important and much more difficult to quantify. We work daily to rebuild your trust in your government by being more transparent, routing out inefficiencies and broken systems, modeling cooperation, and ensuring that civility continually defines our discussions, actions, and even our disagreements.

With your help, we have accomplished a lot — but we know that much more needs to be done. The days and weeks ahead will continue to be best measured by the progress we make and course we set.

Today, I want to reaffirm to you that I am resolved to the work ahead. Our highest hopes for this city and its people will be realized by working together.

Dansette

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