Wednesday, December 13, 2006

December 14, 2006


Watchdog decided to visit two monuments to the greed and stupidity of two Memphis City Council members who are lately much in the news. At Whitehaven, the course was open on a beautiful golf day with no more than a few golfers and no customers in the huge clubhouse in which most of the rooms were locked. At Riverside, the clubhouse was closed. Who is responsible for these $5.5 million dollar blunders?

• TaJuan Stout Mitchell who will soon take a high priced job ($85,000) with the Herenton Administration as a replacement for Gale Jones Carson as executive assistant. She is obviously interested in raising her pension under the 2001 pension resolution.
• Edmund Ford who is under investigation for taking bribes.
• The City Council who voted for these two projects.

The monuments are the Whitehaven golf course and clubhouse (TaJuan Stout Mitchell) and the Riverside club house (Edmund Ford).

Since no city council seats are elected city-wide any more, each council member concerns himself/herself primarily with what is good for the district in which each is elected. It makes it easier for them to get re-elected. As a result, council members divvy up pork barrel projects for each one’s district with little regard to real city needs. Here are the two recent examples of poor use of taxpayer money to benefit individual council members.

• Whitehaven Golf Center

$4 million for a golf course very few will play plus $700,000 a year to maintain it.

When the city council eliminated the Memphis Park Commission they said it was because the citizen-board disregarded the council priority list for park projects.
One such project was the board’s refusal to rebuild the recently purchased Whitehaven Country Club property into a city golf course, as desired by council woman Tajuan Stout Mitchell.

The board refused to do so because the $200,000 master plan for Memphis parks submitted by the park board (and approved earlier by the city council) called for that property to be turned into a multi-use, neighborhood park to replace McKellar Park, which had been sold to the airport authority. Outside experts who prepared the master plan recommended against any new city-owned golf facilities.

The council approved the golf center in Ms. Mitchell’s district and allocated more than $4 million for a nine-hole golf course and community building. The parks division included $700,000 in next year’s operating budget for maintenance and operation of the facility.

After revenue from operations, this new center should place an additional half-million dollars a year burden on the city’s operating budget.

When one former councilman was asked why it was approved, he answered, “Oh, we just had to give Tajuan her four million dollars.”

• Riverside Golf Clubhouse

$1.5 million for a “Taj Mahal” at a little-played golf facility

After Mitchell got “her $4 million” for Whitehaven Golf Center, Councilman Edmund Ford then demanded a new clubhouse for Riverside Golf Course in his district, and the council, of course, approved.

A new $1.5 million, 5,000-square-foot club house and snack bar at Riverside.This facility is more than twice the size of the clubhouse at the 18-hole golf course of the most expensive private country club in Memphis.

Maintenance and operating costs, which already exceed revenue at Riverside, will now go up annually for taxpayers.


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