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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Governmental elitism benefits a select few

by Joseph B. Kent — Runaway elitism for the benefit of the small few is the governing doctrine in Memphis.

Empowered and overseen by local legislative bodies, elitism not racism, has governed the competitive decline of the Memphis ecosystem on the back of a majority-black community in need. Elitism is locally carried out, with diverse representation, across a vast public-private complex that is gobbling up federal, state and local tax dollars with too little accountability.

Meanwhile, since 2001 and with unaccountability running amuck in Shelby County, $50 billion in lost wages can be accounted for in deficient total wage growth when Shelby County is compared to its municipal peers. That amounts up to $50,000 for every person in Shelby County and $1.5 billion in deficient public investments.

The elitist formula that dismisses the local taxpaying population for the benefit of the small few is a prescription for the neighborhood decline found in areas such as the historic Orange Mound neighborhood. This occurs within a pageantry of local initiatives and social justice efforts that the data would suggest camouflages runaway elitism on the back of a Memphis community in need.

The value of moving Confederate-era symbols is enhanced when paired with substantive efforts to increase the quality of life for an impoverished city such as Memphis, where stagnation and the lack of local growth has occurred without much-needed taxpayer advocacy and the support of fundamental checks and balances.

Memphis lacks checks and balances that come in the form of rotating board appointments, rigorous legislative oversight, an investigative press and university thought leadership. As a matter of basic process, it’s virtually impossible to defend the recent reappointment of an abating-board chairman who will serve longer than our two mayors and our legislative bodies.

The lack of checks and balances results in a rigged condition that stagnates growth while the small few prosper. This lack of checks and balances contributes mightily to deficient education for our youth, neighborhood decline and nationally high poverty rates, all occurring within a pageantry of local social justice and community betterment initiatives.

Meanwhile, from my vantage point it appears that a rotating band of board appointees within the suspect private-public complex continues to mouth that “we know, we got a long way to go” when the truth is that we’ve started on the wrong foot in the wrong direction.

We need a data-driven course correction, including a public discussion of the perils of the private-public complex that is blocking a wider generation of wealth.

Based on readily-available data, conversations of elitism, within the context of basic taxpayer advocacy for all, in a majority-black community, should be prioritized in the local discourse.

After all, elitism is the parent of racism.

 (Joseph B. Kent is lead consulting facilitator at Path Trek, LLC.)

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