School Board Member Likens Detroit Money Problems to Memphis

School Board Member Likens Detroit Money Problems to Memphis

The City of Detroit's attempt to file for bankruptcy has been ruled unconstitutional, but the troubles are being talked about in Memphis. Unified School Board member Reverend Kenneth Whalum says Memphis is headed down the same road.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - A Unified School Board member's comments comparing Memphis to Detroit are causing major controversy. The City of Detroit's attempt to file for bankruptcy has been ruled unconstitutional, but the troubles are being talked about in Memphis. Reverend Kenneth Whalum says Memphis is headed down the same road.

Reverend Whalum says all the signs are there: a city in debt, a city with a high crime rate, a city where a lot of folks live at or below the poverty level. He admits Memphis isn't Detroit, at least not yet.

The cities could pass not as brother and sister, but maybe distant cousins. Both downtowns have their fair share of vacant buildings. They both have a lot of crime.

"If you just look at the facts of the situation in Detroit and just compare, it's the same," Whalum said.

Whalum says schools in both cities leave a lot to be desired. There is poverty and a lot of people unemployed. Both cities have troubles collecting enough money to do their business. Detroit has miles of empty neighborhoods.

Memphis has these business provisions called payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT), where companies can go years without paying property taxes.

According to Whalum, "Our tax base has eroded over time through PILOTs. We've given away the tax base. And the Tennessee Comptroller, whose office I had a long conversation with the other day, is very concerned, as was the last comptroller, over the aggressive use of PILOTs."

We didn't find anybody on the street who felt the same way as Reverend Whalum. Nobody was singing the blues about the Home of the Blues.

Mayor A C Wharton says the facts don't back up comparisons, and frankly, talking about the two drives him crazy.

"It is quite frustrating but particularly if you stop and just really make a comparison. It does get frustrating. I just hit it head on and once and for all."

Reverend Whalum says maybe things are not as bad in Memphis as they are in Detroit right now. However, unless some things are done, he says the next few years might be eye openers.

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