“There’s no leadership in this city,” City Council District 5 candidate Chooch Pickard told members of the Midtown Republican Club last night.
“And that’s where my experience lies,” the preservation architect and designer said. “My job requires creative problem solving through collaboration. Now on the Council all we have are extreme views.” He cited the turmoil over pensions and the dispute on the Zoo Parking Greensward as examples. The native of Illinois who moved to Memphis because he saw an authenticity here lacking in other cities, referenced his involvement in “New Face for an Old Broad. We took a $20,000 investment and turned it into a $20 million area. I’ve also been involved in the Crosstown project. It’s a great example of technical urbanism.”
Pickard next went to another issue dividing Memphians – the Colieum. “We shouldn’t spend money to tear down what can be preserved,” he said. “No. 1, the building is paid for and it’s in good shape. 2. In the 1950s we got good designs. It’s an example of good midcentury architecture. An authentic Memphis is not what (Robert) Lipscomb (Memphis Housing Director) wanted to do.
“Did you know that Tiger Lane cost $16.5 million? One million of that went just to design a parking lot. It’s what we call a windfall for the architect. Compare that to the Overton Square parking lot which will pay for itself.”
All this indicates to Pickard the “need for a plan. We don’t have one for the city. We used to have a city architect. We don’t anymore. We have the same population as Detroit, but twice as much land. We can’t afford to be so spread out. We can’t afford the cost of the infrastructure when a city is so spread out.”
Pickard is involved with the MATA board and he sees that as another example of what we do wrong. “We have to have a bigger picture for it than just a transportation system for the poor.” He cited the desire of millenials to be in a city and rely on transportation other than a car and said MATA can make money.
He also feels that there should be “stricter guidelines on how we do PILOTS. We need stronger claw back provisions. PILOT freezes taxes at a pre development rate. We can have better oversight. DeSoto County offers them, too, and Nashville hardly gives any. We don’t do TIFs (tax increment financing) and they have helped in other places.”
When it comes to smart meters, Pickard warned that “MLGW can’t make rate changes without City Council approval.” That means that those against smart meters will want to consider that in their vote. Pickard does not think MLGW should raise the rates based on the time you most need them. He also agreed that Midtown has too many power outages and MLGW needs to address this problem.
Pickard laments that “there is no process that includes the citizens of Memphis in our government.” He’d like to change that.
Tomorrow – election day – is the day we find out what happens next.