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On The Election Forum

 

The Daily News moderated a city council candidates forum this week for the Downtown Neighborhood Association.

Downtown was split in the recent redistricting of the council earlier this year. The area south of Poplar Avenue was moved to council District 6 and the area north of Poplar including Uptown remains in council District 7.

Seven of the 14 contenders for district 7 made the forum. Three of the four contenders for district 6 were there.

I asked how the candidates if elected would respond when the next city budget season rolls around in the spring and another council member proposes making this year’s 18 cent “one time only” property tax hike a permanent part of the city property tax rate.

Most on the panel said they would not favor extending the tax hike, but also said the city may very well need more revenue which it would have to get from somewhere other than the property tax rate. A few said they would have to know where the revenue from the 18 cents would go if it was renewed and made part of the property tax rate.

Several pushed a payroll tax but with the distinction that the tax should not apply to those who work in Memphis and live in Memphis – only to those who work in Memphis and live outside of Memphis or the state. There have been numerous legal opinions over the years concluding that such a distinction would not be legal.

The biggest disagreement and the best discussion, in my opinion, came as the candidates talked about the recent U.S. Census numbers that show the Memphis area has the highest poverty rate of any metropolitan area in the country.

District 7 contenders Raymond Bursi and Kemba Ford talked bluntly about their belief that the Memphis City School system was failing its students and not preparing them to compete in the workplace. It brought an equally blunt response from Rhoda Stigall and Clara Ford, candidates in the District 6 race and educators who have worked in the MCS system. They defended the school system and said it was unfair to put that much of the blame on teachers. They also pointed out that many of the other candidates were also MCS graduates who turned out pretty well.

Another dominant theme was the belief that the city of Memphis should do more of its business with Memphians.

Equally interesting were the life stories about what brought these candidates to the point of deciding to run for office. Campaigns are a mix of constant introductions to voters and opinions about what should happen. Both are valid topics for voters to consider.

Our politics gets some deserved criticism for being too much about personality and name recognition. But knowing where a candidate comes from can help voters get to the next step, which is how the candidates feel about a particular issue or what they would do if elected or re-elected. A balanced mix of the two elements is where voters can feel like they are taking less of a chance in weighing what one stranger promises to do versus what another stranger promises to do.

The forums are probably not the best use of time for campaign strategists who want their candidate blitzing toward the end of the early voting period – making contact with as many potential voters as possible. Those voters sometimes see the forums as a place for candidates to perform a well honed tap dance that delivers the message the candidates want regardless of what the questions are.

Some candidates get angry when they show up at a forum that features more candidates than uncommitted voters. Some uncommitted voters get frustrated when a large group of candidates show up and they don’t recognize any of them.

Having noted that, the DNA forum was an interesting discussion among a group of ten candidates across the district boundaries.

I cover more of these forums than I moderate. And it can be a perilous assignment because each candidate is watching to make sure their rivals don’t get an unfair advantage – a few more seconds to speak, always being called on first or last to answer a question.

What I found was that the candidates, this time around, really got drawn into the discussion. They were listening to one another for more than mistakes or points of attack to use in future encounters.

 

 

First Tennessee takes a leap forward on the tech front

Just in time for the debut of the new iPhone in matter of days: First Tennessee Bank is the first Tennessee-based bank and among the first in the country to allow customers to deposit checks by snapping iPhone photos of them.

Using the iPhone to photograph a check sends an electronic image to First Tennessee for deposit. Mobile deposit is now available for eligible iPhone users currently enrolled in mobile banking, and First Tennessee is developing mobile deposit for other smartphones.

More information is available at www.ftb.com/mobiledeposit.

“With mobile deposit, we are able to accommodate our customers’ fast-paced lifestyles and provide added convenience and security,” said First Tennessee chief marketing officer Dan Marks.

At a presentation in New York City earlier this month at the Barclays Capital 2011 Global Financial Services Conference, Bryan Jordan – president and CEO of First Tennessee parent co. First Horizon National Corp. – said the company is spending big on tech upgrades and revamps.

“Over the last three years, we’ve gone through a $100 million dollar-plus investment in our technology platforms and systems,” Jordan said.

He added that the company has largely completely refreshed its platforms on the sales side and in the back office, which he said would help with things like efficiency and customer services levels.

Reuters: Morgan Keegan advisers preparing to leave

Hundreds of the more than 1,200 brokers in Morgan Keegan’s private client group have lined up job leads, according to a Tuesday Reuters story citing multiple executive recruiters.

Reuters cited one New Jersey-based recruiter who said all of the 100 or so advisers she’s talked to have job opportunities lined up.

Recruiter Ron Edde told me “the vast majority of the (Morgan Keegan) advisors I’m working with (in excess of a dozen at the moment) are leaving because they are tiring of reading the stories about the uncertainty surrounding the company and their own situation as a result of that uncertainty. Also, a number of them tell me that their customers are getting squeamish and want the situation stabilized.

“Can’t say I blame the clients, or the advisors, for feeling that way. In the firm’s defense, it’s not Morgan Keegan’s fault that Regions announced publicly that the firm was being put up on the block.”

He said he’d “bet the farm” that several of his clients will move within the next 30 days.

Memphian Mark Greaney has some books on the way

I’ve got Oct. 4 and Dec. 13 noted on my calendar.

Those are the days new books come out by Memphian Mark Greaney, who’s written a series of thrillers about a superspy known as the Gray Man, someone who pretty much makes Jason Bourne look like Jimmy Olsen.

“Ballistic” is the third novel in Greaney’s Gray Man series, and it comes out Oct. 4. I’ve read the previous two, and I knew it was going to be an awesome series when the first book had a scene, early on, where the Gray Man rescues someone in distress and gives him instructions on how to get to safety.

He tells the young guy something to the effect of “To survive, you’re going to have to get nasty out here.”

The thankful guy he saved is like “Thanks, mister! What about you?”

You can almost see the stone cold stare in your head as you read the Gray Man say “….I’m already nasty.”

As I wrote in Wednesday’s edition of The Daily News, Greaney’s book that comes out Dec. 13 is one on which he collaborated with some author whose name you might have heard of: Tom Clancy. It’s called “Locked On.”

CVS could have been across from a Walgreens

In today’s paper, I wrote about the fate of the former Artisan Hotel in Midtown, 1837 Union Ave.

Listing agent Tony Westmoreland has encountered his fair share of hiccups during his roughly two-month span of marketing the property.

The reason being is the building is in need of extensive repairs. In fact, before Westmoreland was made aware that the entire building had been stripped of everything of value, he advised a $2.5 million listing price to TennVada Holdings LLC, the Las Vegas investment group that owns it.

Upon learning that the once full-service, 178-room hotel and its amenities was now simply a hotel shell, he quickly dropped the listing price to $1.6 million.

But get this: once upon a time, CVS/pharmacy had expressed interest with the out-of-town entity for the 164,969-square-foot hotel/motel hi rise. That would have put the pharmacy directly across from Walgreens at Union and South McLean.

But we all know the ending to that story. Ultimately, CVS purchased the former Union Avenue United Methodist Church, 2117 Union Ave., earlier this year for $2.3 million. That site is across from an Ike’s Pharmacy.

The reason they opted out? Demolition costs.

“It’s unfortunate that CVS was talking to these people before they purchased the old church,” Westmoreland said. “That would have been a great transaction, but with the demo cost, they probably decided to go in that area. The land value of the (Artisan) lot would be valuable if the hotel went through the demolition process but as it stands at the moment, it has very little value.”

Dansette

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