Mayor Wharton Has Questions

When a pollster calls you at home, many Republicans like me resent the intrusion on our time and into our personal information. Yesterday when I received such a call I almost reacted by declining, but then thought it might be more informative on what the poll was asking than on what I would be giving.

A woman identified herself as calling for Yacoubian polling here on behalf of Mayor Wharton’s Innovation Team. I didn’t even know he had one, but more on this later. First she asked to verify my address. Then she asked to speak to the head of the household. I informed her that it wasn’t me and she asked if he would speak with her. I told her no, so she settled on me. That was already rather insulting, but not surprising.

She asked me if the quality of life for me had improved, stayed the same or worsened in my neighborhood. She wanted to know how long we had lived here and how satisfied we are with it: very, some or not. Specifically, she wanted that rating on the general appearance, parks and recreation facilities, shopping, banks and credit unions, churches and community gathering places.

Then we proceeded to discuss whether I do the following activities inside or outside my community. That was a little puzzling because she really didn’t explain the boundaries of Midtown. I guess it only matters in my perception of it. Anyway, the activities covered grocery shopping, restaurants, religious activities, banking, doctor/dentist/clinics, laundry, other shopping and work.

Onto neighborhood groups. Did I belong to any and how often I attend meetings. Was I registered to vote and did I vote in all elections (you bet!)?

She asked about my feelings on public safety. Do I feel safe home alone? How about alone during the day or at night? I’m not sure what the distinction was in those two questions. Did fear of crime limit me by myself? Did the police patrol the neighborhood enough and did I own or rent my home?

Finally she asked my first name and verified my telephone number. That seemed a bit intrusive. She was friendly, however, and ended by telling me to have “a blessed day.”

Why is Mayor Wharton doing this and who is paying for it? You wonder why they want to get so personal. It smells a little like re-election time is coming near and Wharton wants to find out what he should say.

Then I looked into his Innovation team. Perhaps I haven’t read my Commercial Appeal very well because I didn’t realize this has been going on since 2012. I was surprised to see who is behind it. I found this press release that says:

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s administration is set to begin a concerted effort to bring back neighborhood retail in three parts of the city.

Wharton and his Innovation Delivery Team, funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies of New York, rolled out the first moves Monday, July 2, for parts of South Memphis, Binghampton and the Madison and Cleveland area.

Glenn Beck has been warning listeners that Mayor Bloomberg of New York has been spending money aplenty in grassroots levels to influence elected officials of areas. He’s done it in Mississippi and looks like he’s inserting himself here, too.

It begins with access to the best retail experts available on the persistent problem of creating and attracting retail in blighted areas.

“The demand in our Memphis core city neighborhoods for things like groceries and apparel is very strong,” said Doug McGowen, director of the Innovation Delivery Team. “But what we lag in Memphis in is being at the national conversation of attracting new retailers where we need them. We’re bringing national experts in to work with our existing retailers to give them the most modern business practices to provide them with reliable data about the market in which they operate…

“The bottom line is as local businesses seek to either expand or open new business in core city neighborhoods, we need to be there to respond with the services they need,” McGowen said.

City Hall’s direct contribution to the effort will be intensified and sustained anti-blight efforts aimed at opening up parts of the core city to commercial development on a scale that works well with surrounding residential areas.

The city’s other Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative, the Family Rewards program, was affected by the City Council’s decision in June to cut the $400,000 in matching funds the city was to put up.

The program offers low-income families money for tasks like making doctors appointments and attending school.

Then I ran across more about Bloomberg Philanthropies. Another thing mentioned in the Wharton Innovation team concerns Bloomberg’s obsession with curbing gun ownership. This from the Commercial Appeal last summer:

(Wharton) assembled the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team headed by Doug McGowen, former head of the Naval Support Activity Mid-South base in Millington. The team — funded through a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies — has met with everyone from gang members to CEOs, police, pastors and community leaders. They’ve also analyzed what has worked in other cities.

The goal: reducing youth gun violence by 10 percent citywide and 20 percent in two target areas — parts of Frayser and South Memphis — by September 2014.

What other hands are behind what happens to Memphians in our city?

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