Saturday news and opinions

I want to share a photo I took on Monroe Avenue about 10 yesterday morning.

If someone in a wheelchair were trying to get down Monroe, they would not be able to get by. As I have said before, it’s not that the scooters are inherently bad – they are very useful for getting to places not within easy walking distance quickly and cheaply. What’s bad is the inconsiderate riders. They disregard traffic laws, blowing through red lights and nearly running into pedestrians trying to cross the street. They ride the scooters on sidewalks when they are supposed to be ridden in the street. They park without thinking if their chosen parking location will impede the progress of others.

I posted this photo to Facebook, and it received a fair number of comments; the scooters are almost as much of a polarizing issue Downtown as Tom Lee Park is. I want to address a few of those comments here.

One person said, “Really, what is the chance someone in a wheelchair is going to come rolling down Monroe?” Well, if the chance is anything greater than zero, it’s a problem. That chance, is in fact, greater than zero: I have seen people in wheelchairs who work in the area come to Bardog for lunch with co-workers.

Another person pointed out it would take less than 30 seconds to move the scooters. The point is, no one should have to. It shouldn’t be the person in the wheelchair who has to push the scooters out of the way. It’s shouldn’t have to be a good Samaritan who comes along and moves the scooters out of the path. It should be the responsibility of the person who last rode the scooter to park it in a manner that impedes pedestrian traffic as little as possible.

Two more people brought up something I hadn’t even thought of. One of those scooters is parked right in front of a fire hydrant. That’s one more example of scooter riders feeling free to disregard traffic laws. And yeah, it would take a couple of seconds to move the scooter, but it shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Okay, now let’s talk about the other major polarizing issue Downtown, Tom Lee Park, where there is news. Mayor Strickland has announced that Memphis in May will remain in Tom Lee Park in 2020 and will move for one year in 2021 for park renovations. The mayor also said he is committed to keeping Riverside Drive a four-lane road, but installing speed-limiting features and providing better access to the park.

All right. I have opinions. I have lots of opinions today. So far I’ve been pretty 50/50 on the Tom Lee Park matter, seeing validity in the arguments of both Memphis in May and Memphis River Parks Partnership. Now, however, I am starting to sway toward one side more than the other.

First of all, let’s discuss Riverside. Keeping the road four-lane is absolutely the right decision. It provides much easier access to I-55 than alternatives like Front or Second/B.B. King/Crump. I also absolutely agree that speed-limiting features need to be added to Riverside between Beale and Georgia. The posted speed limit of 35 is a joke. If you go anything less than 45, other drivers get mad at you, and I’d guess the average speed is closer to 50. It’s a danger for people trying to cross Riverside from the Pontotoc, Huling, and Butler staircases to get to the park.

As for whether I favor going ahead with the Tom Lee Park renovations… let me preface my opinion with a couple of comments. There are people saying this is happening to funnel money into the pockets of companies/families’ companies of those who run Memphis River Parks Partnership. I know some of those people personally and I absolutely do not believe that is true. They are people who love Memphis and want to see our city prosper.

I also don’t buy into the argument we shouldn’t proceed with Tom Lee because MRPP (then RDC) failed when they built Beale Street Landing, shooting way over budget to build a space that is inadequate to serve the public. True, if I were grading the Beale Street Landing project, probably the best I could give it would be a D+. However, the management of RDC during those years is largely different from current MRPP management. It is not fair to blame people for mistakes that their predecessors made.

The thing I can’t get away from, though, the reason I’m starting to sway toward the “scrap the Tom Lee Park plans or at least delay them for a number of years” side, is Mud Island. There’s so much there that needs to be fixed, so many improvements that could be made. In my opinion MRPP should focus on that park first, spend the allotted money there. Make it the crown jewel of the Mississippi. Show us that you are capable of making a Downtown river park a thousand times better… give us a track record of success first… then let’s talk Tom Lee Park.

Another reason to do Mud Island Park first is that there is another attraction nearby that has tremendous appeal to both tourists and locals – Bass Pro at the Pyramid. It would be very easy for people to come Downtown and shop at Bass Pro and also visit Mud Island River Park in the same day.

Remember when Riverside Drive was reduced to two lanes? There was the impression that the plans were foisted on the people who use Riverside regularly without bothering to get their input; it was presented to them as a fait accompli. There’s a similar perception about the Tom Lee Park plans. Slowing down and delaying park construction for a matter of years would help to remove that perception.

Of course, the results of the mayoral election could change plans. Willie Herenton has already said he would scrap the Tom Lee Park plans, and Tami Sawyer would possibly try to divert the money to lesser-served Memphis neighborhoods. I wonder what Prince Mongo’s plans for Tom Lee Park would be. I’m sure they would be interesting.

On to the rest of the news… the big day is almost here for one Downtown bar. The Silly Goose has their new wood-fired pizza oven installed and I am told the Monday will be the first day they have pizza. I’ll be curious to see how much of a game-changer this will be for the Goose.

Joyce Peterson (@MemphoNewsLady on Twitter) reported that the lights on the Mighty Lights display on the I-40 bridge will read “Hush Y’all” this weekend in honor of the World Golf Championships.

The Memphis Tigers’ conference The American is losing one of its top schools. UConn will leave the conference in 2020, paying a $17 million exit fee. UConn will become an independent in football and will join the Big East in almost all other sports. Penny Hardaway is sad to see UConn go and I agree. Although their men’s basketball program is currently in a slump, they were national champions as recently as five years ago. It will not be easy, and in fact may be impossible, for the AAC to find a replacement with the same level of prestige.

Hmmm…. you know who would be an interesting replacement? Arkansas State. The football program has a history of producing head coaches that go on to great things, and has six alumni currently playing in the NFL. With Memphis nearby, A-State would have a built-in conference rivalry. It’d be a chance for Arkansas State to get out of Arkansas’ shadow and excel, the way Texas A&M did when it got out of the same conference as Texas.The New Wing Order food truck will be at Cordelia’s Market Monday evening for National Chicken Wing Day.

Memphis Flyer barfly Meghan Stuthard has a look at Bar Ware on Front Street and the benefits of having a juice bar next door.

The CA has a look at the throwback Vancouver Grizzlies jerseys the Grizzlies are rumored to wear for select games this coming season.

Yesterday was a really good day. I stopped by Blind Bear with a friend during the lunch hour. Mainly I just wanted to hang out and watch the golf tournament, but cook Phillip brought out the lunch special, chicken in a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce with hand-made onion rings.

Phillip is doing some amazing things in the kitchen. Later in the day he posted a photo of a chicken pot pie that may be on special next week and it looked delicious. You know, a lot of people are missing out by not going to the Blind Bear for lunch. I go by there now and then and wonder why the place isn’t busier. The food is certainly as good as any of the other lunch spots that are popular with the Downtown workers.

Later in the day yesterday I made my way south to Max’s Sports Bar and then South Main Trolley Night. I got to listen to The Handy Band in front of the Machine Shop condos and some hip-hop at the future Slider Out location. After that I went to a friend’s birthday party in one of the most tastefully decorated condos I have ever seen. There I was introduced to a beer I had not tried before, Frio Light. It was quite tasty. Thanks to the host for his hospitality!

That’s it for now. Back tomorrow.