I spent last weekend working with the wonderful residents of Annesdale Snowden Historic District as they hosted their annual Home Tour. Annesdale is one of ten neighborhood associations that my nonprofit supports.
Annesdale Snowden is an example of what happens when residents work together to create a community where you would be proud to raise your family. At one time in Memphis our City officials were far more supportive of civicness. We had the Center for Neighborhoods; the Memphis/Shelby County Neighborhood Watch, Inc.; foundations such as the Community Foundation were far more civic focused and United Way of the Mid-South was in Midtown. Now the Center for Neighborhoods is all but gone, Neighborhood Watch closed their doors years ago, the Community Foundation is more focused on being a conduit for funders wishing to direct their support to specific issues and United Way is tucked away in an office complex out East.
Before I go any further let me state this is not an attack on City government, or Foundations, heck my nonprofit depends on them. What this is meant to be is a wake up call. We need to be more supportive of civicness. There are neighborhood groups on the front line defending their community and they feel as though no one but them cares.
I look at Mayor Herenton and I see a macro mayor, someone whose focus is on the big picture. Mayors like this are very good at understanding the Grand Vision and believes the destination is more important than the journey. My father was like this. When he would plan for a trip the goal was to get there with the least amount of stops as possible. No side roads and rest stops were selected for their efficiency not their appeal.
The challenge with having a macro view is that you may find yourself isolated from everyone else because they may not see your vision, because they are so focused on the day to day issues. Our neighborhoods need far more support and this doesn't always mean money. Here is an example. Many residents in the urban community have been complaining about drug dealing. Often the drug dealer will toss a pair of tennis shoes around a utility line. This lets buyers know this is a site where drugs are being sold. This action scares and makes residents fell helpless. We contact MLG&W about this all the time, but often they say it's not their responsibility. This is something tangible that the City could jump on to show greater community solidarity.
This is a great City made up of wonderful people, but if we don’t get them the support they need they might not be there forever.