Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Guest Editorial: For Park Commission

Commercial Appeal
Letter to the Editor
By Fred L. Davis, Member Memphis Park Commission

The Memphis City Council is about to pass on an ordinance that would dismantle the Park Commission. Why does the council want to do this?

Is the commission doing too good a job of keeping politics out of its operations? Is it serving too many diverse needs? If that is the case, the council should state which needs the commission should stop serving. The commission's 100-year history is free of scandals and investigations.

Or does the council have so much free time that it needs another project? I'm at a loss.

The commission was created to manage and preserve the city's most precious natural resources, and to provide a buffer between them and politics. Some of the city's most capable citizens have served as its chairman, including Abe Plough, Bert Ferguson, John D. Martin, William Wolbrecht and John Maxwell.

The commission made enormous progress under John Malmo, who resigned as chairman last June. It spent $200,000 and 2 1/2 years developing a 20-year capital facilities plan, which the City Council approved. If there was any fault with Malmo's service, it was not showing proper deference to the council's ego.

Perhaps its seamless operation has led Memphians to take the commission for granted, and led the council to conclude that anyone can do the commission's work. The commission does not exist just to oversee parks, playgrounds and community centers and provide after-school and summer activities for children. It is also custodian of Memphis's art, recreational and cultural jewels - the Memphis Zoo, the Pink Palace, Lichterman Nature Center and the Goldsmith Civic Garden Center among them.

The commission does not directly manage every facility for which it is responsible, but it does have budget, planning and policy oversight. These responsibilities require decision makers who have acquired these skills in other areas and are willing to share their expertise with the city.

Memphis needs the Park Commission now more than ever.

Copyright 2000 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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Friday, April 21, 2000

Park Board Approvals May Be Last

Commercial Appeal
by Wayne Risher

The Memphis Park Commission board conducted minor business Thursday in what may have been the last meeting in its nearly 100-year history.

After a 70-minute delay waiting for a third member to show up to make the meeting official, the board approved a lease agreement for Gagliano and Sowell baseball fields and an adult baseball program entry fee.

The City Council has scheduled a final reading Tuesday on an ordinance abolishing the Park Commission board and replacing it with an advisory board.

Council members have complained that the board is an unnecessary layer of government and unresponsive to public needs.

Park board supporters have decried the council move as an attempt to politicize the city's parks and recreation system.

Board members Fred Davis and Peggy Seessel waited more than an hour past the board's scheduled 1 p.m. meeting time Thursday for the third member, George Jones.

The five-member board, which needs three members to transact business, lost member Rob Baird and chairman John Malmo to resignations last year, and they weren't replaced.

Copyright 2000 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN


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Wednesday, April 05, 2000

New Agency to Take Bids for Riverside Walkway, Plaza

Commercial Appeal
by Deborah M. Clubb

The Riverfront Development Corp. will take bids in two weeks for a long-delayed cobblestone walkway and plaza on Riverside Drive.

The new nonprofit organization will contract with the city to spend $4.1 million that the City Council appropriated for the project more than three years ago.

The goal is to begin construction at the end of the Memphis in May International Festival and be done before the 2001 festival starts, said RDC president Benny Lendermon.

The city's Riverfront Steering Committee, appointed by Mayor Willie Herenton, officially became the RDC Tuesday when its members became the RDC board of directors and approved its bylaws.

"This marks the beginning, hopefully, of a wonderful time with the river," said RDC incorporator and chairman John Stokes.

RDC leaders are pushing to make the cobblestone walkway their first success as they take charge of management and development of Memphis's 5-mile waterfront.

A minority contractors' lawsuit stopped the original cobblestones project after its designs were approved in early 1997.

The Pickering Firm designed the 10-foot-wide walkway to wind from Jefferson Davis Park and the Tennessee Welcome Center to Tom Lee Park on the western edge of Riverside Drive.

Ritchie Smith Associates designed the $400,000 Ron Terry Plaza funded by First Tennessee Bank to overlook the river on the cobblestones near the foot of Union. Terry was the bank's longtime chairman.

Lendermon said the new bid should be free of the lawsuit's concerns that arose when the city rejected the low bidder.

On Tuesday, Stokes named steering committee members to the RDC board and introduced voting ex officio members: Pete Aviotti Jr. to represent Herenton, Councilman John Vergos to represent the City Council chairman, and chief administrative officer Rick Masson.

Aviott, a Herenton adviser, also chairs the mayor's light rail planning committee and the Super Terminal-Memphis Steering Committee.

Other RDC members are Redbirds co-founder Kristi Jernigan, vice chairman; Plough Foundation executive director Rick Haynes, treasurer; former University of Tennessee, Memphis, chancellor James C. Hunt, secretary; architect Diane Dixon, hotel operator Mabra Holeyfield and TVA official Bill Taylor.Center City Commission president Jeff Sanford and Public Works deputy director Cindy Buchanan were named nonvoting ex officio members.

Fred Davis, a member of the Memphis Park Commission who had been a steering committee member, has said he will join the RDC board only if the park commission survives current City Council actions to eliminate it, Lendermon said.

An RDC nominating committee will seek three to five additional members "with a real love for the river" from the private sector, Stokes said. New members would fill gaps on the board with expertise in areas such as law, marketing and individual philanthropy, said Jernigan.

The RDC will issue requests for proposals for a riverfront master plan on April 14. A firm will be selected on May 24.

Lendermon said he was encouraged by the interest shown by major firms in a recent request for qualifications that was distributed internationally. Some have worked on major waterfront redevelopment projects.

"But the key is to get the person who is best for Memphis. Memphis is different. Memphis is unique," said Lendermon, who retired as city Public Works director to head the new nonprofit RDC.

Copyright 2000 The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN

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Tuesday, April 04, 2000

RDC Board Meetings - 2000

Here are the RDC Board of Directors meeting minutes for the entire year 2000 (year of inception), scanned into a single PDF file. The first, organizational meeting occured on April 4, 2000.

Click here to download the PDF file [1.7 MB]

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