We’re always excited by the prospect of new faces and fresh voices willing to get involved in our city’s political process.

To that end, we’ve been encouraged by reviews that we’ve heard about Denise Parkinson and by reports about her intentions to run for District 5 of Memphis City Council. That’s why her Q&A with Memphis Flyer was so disappointing.

If facts are often the first casualty of a political campaign, it could be argued that her fingerprints are on the murder weapon.

The Illuminati

The dominant features of the Q&A were mistakes of facts and insinuations about clandestine conspiracies – two tendencies already much too prevalent in this city.

The article begins with dire warnings about “shadowy, quasi-governmental nonprofits that are systematically looting the system.” She urges us to “connect the dots” and indicts Memphis Light, Gas & Water, the Riverfront Development Corporation and the Mid-South Fair as examples of these plundering agencies.

There’s only one problem: there’s not one quasi-governmental nonprofit among them. MLGW is in fact a government agency; nothing shadowy there. The RDC and the Mid-South Fair are incorporated private nonprofit organizations and are no more quasi-governmental than the Memphis Arts Council and Agricenter International.

Sticky Fingers

We’re not exactly sure how the public coffers are mysteriously being emptied by these entities, but we assume she’ll reveal that during her campaign (or to the federal grand jury). Actually, the RDC – whose performance contract with city government to maintain downtown riverfronts and parks provides about half of its budget – has actually saved Memphis city government more than $1 million. A key reason the Mid-South Fair is retrenching is because it doesn’t get public funding. MLGW budgets are debated in public meetings and approved by city officials.

But this was just the open volley of a barrage of political hyperbole that shows that her mayoral aspirations while living in Little Rock were put to good use. She then offers up the revelation that “government by demolition” is destroying our skyline.

We fight the impulse to say, “what skyline?” but instead, we think of the vacant Pyramid, the long-empty old police department headquarters, the deteriorating Sterick Building, the dozens of empty buildings on Main Street, and in our downtown neighborhood, the god-awful boarded-up eyesores across from the main Fire Department HQs that apparently pass for historic buildings.

A Good Problem To Have

Sometimes, it looks an awful lot like serious code enforcement by local government would erase a big part of downtown, so it’s a little mind-numbing to contemplate what government by demolition even means.

God forbid that we would actually want a real skyline here any way. After all, these days, even Mobile, Alabama, has more to brag about than we do.

Maybe it’s just us, but it would be an exciting problem to have if we had to demolish some of these eyesores to put up some new buildings, because, when compared to our rival cities, our downtown has underperformed for more than a decade.

Conspiracies Galore

But Ms. Parkinson’s not content to stop there. Then she raises the specter of the paving over and bulldozing of historic parks. Excuse us, but can you say Overton Park expressway? She didn’t connect these dots, but we’re confident it would have been shocking.

Next, she suggests that Memphis needs to be more family friendly and more kid friendly to beef up its tourism. There’s no specifics, just an allegation that she lays out there, but looking over the CVB portfolio of attractions, it’s pretty hard to figure out just where the family unfriendly attractions are (unless you’re dragging the kids down Beale Street at 2 a.m.).

As for her call to beef up tourism, it’s worth noting that the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau – with a budget significantly lower than its peer cities – has a greater ROI than its Nashville counterpart. And it’s not even a close call.


Finally, she’s able to take inspiration from efforts to save Libertyland. We admit that we’ve never grasped the compelling reason why this makes any historical or financial sense. The best justification we’ve heard for saving this third-rate theme park is that it provided summer jobs for area youths, but there are many more financially sensible ways to do this than Libertyland, not to mention teaching job and soft skills these youths could actually use.

We don’t mean to be too hard on Ms. Parkinson, but when you come out of the shoot promising to deliver reform and progress – two things badly needed in this city – at least also promise to deliver the facts.

Giving her the benefit of a doubt, perhaps she was just working too hard to offer up some red meat to her supporters, but if the interview is any indication, it’s going to be a long, long summer.