Sunday, May 16, 2004

Letters: RDC not listening to public input

The Commercial Appeal
Letters to the Editor

I was one of approximately 70 people who attended the Promenade walk conducted by the planner for Cooper-Robertson. That walk was the only public meeting the RDC held in which the public was actually asked for input.

If you review the summary of the walk's input on the RDC Web site, it's clear the RDC disregarded the public comment it received about its plan and tried to avoid any negative input on its presentation.

The RDC plan was presented at the third public meeting, and the audience was asked: ''What do you like about this plan?" Participants weren't informed of the Founders' vision until this final meeting, when the attorney who had filed the case to block hotel development, leading to the 1965 Supreme Court case, disclosed that the land was held as an easement for public use.

The RDC claims its plan increases public space by 60 percent. While it calculates the space added by wider sidewalks, it fails to calculate all of the ''public space" space created by existing sidewalks and other areas. There is no minimum amount of walking space dedicated to the public in its proposal. It labels ''public areas" as green in its plan, when they won't contain grass, but rather add to the concrete and brick that already dominate downtown.

Thankfully, citizens have the right to have another vision. The City Council should have the wisdom to pursue the original alternative.

Sue A. Williams

Why do I feel I am not part of the "public" as described by our city's leaders? I am a Memphian. My family lives within the city limits. I love downtown. My family plays, worships and entertains there. So why we are denied access to the sidewalks and egress that my tax dollars built for ''public use"?

Is it Henry Turley who did not want my family to access public use areas because it would disturb him for one month out of 12? Was it Kevin Kane who did not want my family to use the public sidewalks in front of his home? Did Mayor Willie Herenton order the closing of the stairs to Tom Lee Park?

Surely it was not the participants in Memphis in May. They would not have asked to walk to the far ends of the park to gain access. They bring visitors, income and a positive image to a city that desperately needs anything positive. Who locked these gates?

Is this what we are to expect if the city gives away the land that has been set aside for "public use" for 185 years? How far will we have to walk to get a view of the river then?

Memphis has done a fabulous job renewing downtown without losing sight of the history and feel of a Southern river city. Please do not spoil the efforts that have gone into these improvements. Do not try to pass off the renovation of the bluffs as a "public" service.

William McBride

Don't ruin the best bluff view in Memphis with bank and office buildings and condo penthouses for the few elite who can afford them. The Founders meant the Promenade to be green space, ample and open to the people, forever. The RDC should sit down with concerned citizen groups and find out what the people want on their land.

Humans who live and work in cities need large green spaces, not little strips at the edges of concrete walks. Maybe even a space as large as three Confederate Parks stitched together, in the heart of downtown, where they can see it from their offices and apartments and get to it easily for a bite of lunch. When you have only 30 minutes, you don't have time to go to Tom Lee Park or Mud Island, but you can be on the Promenade in an instant.

Through legal machinations, the RDC would have Memphians pay for this land even though it already belongs to them. The RDC plan is up for approval by the City Council, although no ecological or environmental study has been done to determine the impact the plan might have on the Wolf River or the Chickasaw Bluffs.
The fate of this land has been decided, in 1828 by the Founders, in 1867 and 1965 by the highest court in Tennessee. The Promenade belongs to the people of Memphis, not to the highest bidder.

Mimi Harris Waite

Copyright 2004, - Memphis, TN

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