Categorized | Opinion

How Do You Kill a City?

By Charles P. Reed

Charles P. Reed pictureThere are any number of ways to kill a city.
There are natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires or volcanic eruptions which can completely wipe out a city entirely, Waveland, Miss.
These events usually come quickly and hopefully without any loss of life.
Then there have been cities that have been killed by their own hand.  One city comes to mind in Southwest Alabama. This city was located on a main highway that preyed on transit auto traffic by issuing speeding tickets in order to generate revenue. (That was before traffic cameras much like the ones Millington uses.)  The way it worked was simple.  Just prior to entering the city limits, the state speed limit was 50 mph.   Then the speed limit would drop dramatically to a much lower speed, like 30 mph, within a very short distance.
Guess what, a cop with a radar gun would be just beyond the posted “30 mph” sign and zap, you would be pulled over and be given a citation for speeding.  Then you would be escorted to the city hall to pay your fine.  You could either pay the fine or serve 30 days in jail.  After national outrage, the state of Alabama revoked the city’s charter.
Now this little town is just a wide spot in the road.  I guess you might say that the death of this city was by the state “execution” of a judicial action.  Then there is the death of a city by its own hand, suicide, which in my opinion is the worst of all possible deaths that could happen to a city.
This is a death due to many, many bad decisions made by the city leaders over a long period of time usually based on either ignorance, greed or stupidity or a combination of all the aforementioned.
I have wondered many times over the years, “Why has Millington not grown and thrived like the other cities in Shelby County like Collierville, Germantown or Arlington?”
In the case of Millington, a decision was made a very long time ago to “stifle” the growth of the city.  This incredibility stupefying decision to deliberately stunt the growth of Millington was made by the surrounding big land owners.  The reasoning was simple, “If Millington didn’t grow, then they the local planters, wouldn’t have to compete with any other local businesses for the existing labor pool of workers who lived in and around Millington.”  This was told to me by a person who should know and has lived in Millington for 80-plus years and has been very involved in Millington politics and policies. I personally know this to be true because when I ran for alderman, another candidate told me when I asked why Millington had not grown like other municipalities in Shelby County that, “What was good for Millington in 1955 was good for Millington today.”  That was in 1996.
I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.  That was, without doubt, the stupidest thing that I had ever heard!!  That pervasive mindset has endured to this day and has become the basis for any and every decision regarding the operation of Millington to this very day.
In order for a city to survive, IT MUST GROW!  Growth equates to revenue and if you don’t have one then you don’t have the other!  That is why Millington has just had borrowed $5 million and is having to pay a service fee of $2.4 million.   Because Millington does not have the revenue to pay the service fee on the loan, on June 9, 2015 the alderpersons decided rescinded Resolution 2013-13 which they had put into place in order to protected the revenue from the new ½ cent sales tax that was to be used “exclusively” for the purpose of the establishment and operation of the Millington School System.
That was that Resolution 2013-13 said.  That means the each and every day the Millington Schools lose $2,222 of revenue that is desperately needed. I have been told that in the very near future the Millington school System will need up to $15 million plus to teardown the old unused buildings on campus and to build new badly needed facilities.
I believe and have said many times, “The cornerstone of any successful community is a successful school system!”  Maybe, just maybe if we can make the schools here in Millington something special then people just might consider living here!  What a novel idea!!  The choice is yours!  CHOOSE WISELY! Hold those who control the money, the city alderpersons and mayor accountable for their actions!  If the Millington Schools are not fully funded, and I don’t mean by anteing up the minimum required by state law but rather go above and beyond what is required,  that to me is being fully funded!  The alternative is that the Millington School System will fail and the operation will be turned over to the combined Shelby County school system.  Believe me, I do not think that is something that you would want to happen!
That would truly be the straw that broke the camels back!  Why would anyone want to move to a city that has extremely limited employment opportunities, little to no housing to choose from, no businesses and most of all does not have control of its school system.  Enough said!
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November 2015
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