Dear City Council: Enough.

An open letter to the Memphis City Council:

The house I live in has been in my family since 1937. My grandparents raised their baby here, my parents first raised their baby here, and my daughter first raised her baby here.

The fact is that my people helped build Cooper-Young, starting with my great uncle in 1912, and we have maintained a continuous presence in the neighborhood for over a century ─ a legacy built upon our founding of the Levi Community of south Memphis in the mid-1800s.

I am proud to call Cooper-Young home, and prouder still of my neighbors for helping to make it one of the top ten neighborhoods in the country. I am not however, the least bit proud of the Memphis City Council or of your horrific mismanagement of our city as a whole.

Two weeks ago I was forced to make the heart wrenching decision to sell my home. It is the only way for me to crawl out of the quagmire of overdue city and county property taxes that I also inherited along with three family houses. Although I would be lucky to realize my asking price of $67,500 for a property that is currently appraised for your tax purposes at $125,900, this fact alone is not my chief complaint.

I can appreciate the fact that we live in tough economic times and that the city obviously needs to generate revenue in order to function. What I refuse to tolerate however, is the fact that when a prospective home buyer logs on to any of the various MLS websites to research my property, they discover that the schools in my area rank an average of 3 on a scale of 10; that immediately west of McLean and south of Southern ─  only a few hundred feet from my door in either direction ─ property values plummet; that the crime risk for my area is triple the state and national average; and that 2,800 homes in my area are abandoned and boarded up.

How can you expect any reasonable person to have the slightest interest in my home when faced with these statistics? How can you expect me to take seriously my civic duty of paying property taxes, when in reality all I am doing is dumping cash down your bottomless pit of urban blight?

It is time for this city to stop chasing the tail of white flight/suburban sprawl, and start re-investing in the inner city.  Offer tax breaks for those who wish to invest, not tax penalties for those who improve their property.  Stop accepting crime and blight as a natural aspect of urban life, and increase support of grass roots community organizations that attack these problems at their source.  No one wants to live in a blighted community, but raising property taxes while continuing to mismanage the funds already at your disposal is not the answer.

Aaron James, 1882 Manila Avenue

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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