Tuesday, January 09, 2007

It's time to shed some blood

Talked to Cracker today and he encouraged me to post this. It is something that I have been calling for with him for four years and something that is near and dear to my heart.

The SCDP needs a major change. The SCDP has a decided lack of people in the target demographic of 25-39. Don't believe me. Go to a Exec. Com. meeting and also to a convention. You'll see my point.

The same people are there year after year after year. This is not good. Give it up to the Republicans, they actively recruit young and/or new people with every election. When was the last time that we actively tried to interest young people to get involved at the local level.

I know about Ford and what he did. That doesn't count because for the most part you don't see these same people working for City Council, County Commission, and school board races in a concentrated, coordinated effort.

This past election we had a candidate for office who was elected because he galvanized young people and bloggers to help out on his campaign both on line and on the street. When he won, he thanked them and helped them out, many of them went on to help out in other elections later in the year. Most of them went to help out on one race in particular.

The reaction from the staff was favorable, enjoying their help and crediting them with helping to win. The candidate's reaction was different, essentially acting as though the election was a predetermined win and that the staff both old and new did nothing spectacular. EVEN though this candidate's win is considered by many to be a turning point election in Memphis politics.

Memphis politics is at the crossroads. The old machines are starting to fall apart. The Ford machine is virtually dead. Herenton has no real coattails and never really has. With the City Council going through what can be calmly called upheaval, at least 3 new members will be elected this fall, we face a key turning point in the future of the SCDP.

WTL hypothesized on who might run for SCDP chair. I want Steffens. This is not because I consider him a close friend who is my son's godfather. I want him because we share a lot of beliefs in what the chair should be.

Keys should be fundraising ability, consensus building, connection with the youth, and the possession of a set of brass balls. One big complaint that I have and have heard expressed is a lack of faith in current chair Matt Kuhn. No one fears him. Witness what happened last year with the failed coup attempt.

I know part of that was the last gasp of the old power brokers, but it makes a point. We need a strong chair who can tell people to keep their mouth shut and stop backbiting and unify. On top of that this candidate needs to connect with the 15-39 year olds in Memphis.

The current group of activists in the local party are, with the exception of the bloggers, predominately in their late forties and up. There is almost no one my age or younger involved and we need to stop this. I hate to say this, but the older activists need to take a step back or at least a step over and try like hell to get good younger people involved.

This is not a black or white issue, or a young and old fight, this is an issue of fighting for the continued survival of the local party. Ask yourself, what was the biggest complaints about the 9th District primary? That a lot of these candidates were too young, too inexperienced, and had not paid their dues by working their way up. Has it been considered that this was the only real opportunity they had what with every other local and county election being full of the same old hacks year after year? Comments welcome.

Friday, January 05, 2007

LIberty Bowl Memorial Parking Lot

Steve asked me to write this when I gave him my reasons why the mayor's ideas should be followed.

Five plus years ago when the Grizz were planning to come to town I was against it. Unlike almost everyone else, I was not for it because of the new arena being built. Well, I was against the new arena but for a different reason altogether. I was against it not for the tax payer expense but for a reason you won't expect.

Namely, a new arena for the Grizzlies would mean that the Liberty Bowl would not get replaced. I felt then and still do today that the stadium is antiquated and is a shithole outside of the playing surface. The bathrooms got updated recently but the concession stands menus look to be the only part of the whole concourse built post Rex Dockery.

In 2001, I had heard about the ADA lawsuits coming to a head. The city was going to have to pay to upgrade the stadium to meet the accessibility guidelines. Mostly in ramps and bathrooms, it would require extensive reworkings that would essentially remove the post 1987 upgrades that rose capacity to 66,000 and bring it back down to around 52 to 55 thousand.

At that time, Louisville had just opened three years earlier Papa Johns Stadium. A not state of the art but a very, very good stadium that could be easily upgraded and came equipped with things that they had been lacking. Luxury boxes for the boosters who donated the money that built the stadium, a press box for an up and coming football team that could accommodate more and better angles and broadcasters and interviews, and also a set of locker rooms and training rooms that were new, and not the closet sized one that was there before.

This cost them around 70 million. I had done a paper for a class that evaluated the impact of stadiums and financing on the cities and universities that conducted them. It was for both pro and collegiate and looked at the total impact. The overwhelming decision was that for pros it was a zero sum game. No real benefit was lost or gained. College though in new arenas built specifically for them received big increases to the athletic and general funds. It also produced an effect typically within around five years for these schools. Witness Rutgers, Pitt, UCF, Louisville, Maryland (basketball), Tigers (Pyramid and Forum), and several other schools.

Now, we can't build a new stadium for 70 million here. Louisville didn't have the demolition costs we are going to have with the Coliseum and the Liberty Bowl. However, we as a city need to give up the NFL dream. We lost it in 1992 when the NFL gave a team to Jacksonville because they promised to completely rebuild the Gator Bowl and make it virtually new and we were just going to renovate LBMS. I know there were other issues, but you can't lie to me and tell me that this didn't play a big factor, Hound Dogs Jesus Christ.

We aren't getting into the SEC either. We are in C-USA. We might end up in another conference because of basketball but unless the Tigers win consistently for the next ten years plus the SEC ain't bringing us in.

We need to embrace who we are as a University and as a city. You could build a very good stadium similar to PJ Stadium here with total costs of between 100 and 120 million. You put in extra locker rooms for the Classic and the Bowl game. You build extra suites. Remember, a lot of businesses are relocating here and it will be easier to get a box here then in Starkville or Oxford. You contact the right people, look at the Forum, on time and on budget.

The city is going to have to spend 50 million to upgrade the Stadium and Coliseum. Take that 50, and say to UofM, I'm sorry University of Memphis, I don't want to piss of any fans of Michigan or Montana, Ole Miss can go to hell, oh wait, you already have, here is half the cost that we were going to have to spend anyway, you raise the rest, you go over that in your find drive, we donate the money to the University's general scholarship fund, and not to this construction.

This way, you get the stadium done right, the only down I see is that you might have to sell the naming rights, Autozone I'm looking at you, so you lose Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, but you keep Rex Dockery Field by god. This will help make Memphis better as a football team, recruiting anyone, I've said it a hundred times, 35000 people looks half full when capacity is 66000, it looks pretty damn good when capacity is 55000. The Classic should receive a spike and the Liberty Bowl Game might not have to rely on corporate sponsors to buy all the tickets at a discount, they could sell more at full price. Only one game will be affected, Memphis vs the other UT, but hey, if this forces more people to buy season tickets and makes things harder on the Orange Goblins to get tickets, GO MEMPHIS.