Skip to content

An Open Letter to Steve Forbes

March 1, 2010

Dear Mr. Forbes,

Last Tuesday, I had the privilege of welcoming home a team of physicians, surgeons, and specialists from Memphis’ Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center who traveled to Haiti to attend to the youngest victims of the devastating earthquake.  These are exceptionally brilliant and compassionate lifesavers and caregivers, some of the finest in the world.  They selflessly gave up weeks of their own lives, careers, and time with their families to minister to the needs of impoverished strangers on the other side of the planet.

When I stepped out of Le Bonheur, I looked up at their new hospital, currently under construction and slated to open this summer.  This $340-million, 610,000-square-foot facility will double their current space for care, research, and teaching.  Across the street, FedEx is sponsoring the constructing of a home to provide housing for families of long-term patients.

FedEx House will sit at the corner of a larger mixed-income, mixed-housing development called Legends Park.  It’s one of several Hope VI developments that have flourished in Memphis over the past couple of decades.  This past summer, HUD Deputy Secretary Ronald Sims called Memphis “one of the bright shining examples in the United States today,” of inner-city revitalization and blight removal.

Down the street from Le Bonheur and Legends Park I could see St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital, which provides lifesaving care to children from around the world, regardless of their ability to pay.  Around the corner, the new UT Baptist Research Park is under construction, which will make Memphis a global leader in bioscience.  Methodist University Hospital, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs came to get a new liver last summer, is a short distance away.

The following night, the Memphis Grizzlies defeated Toronto in a thrilling overtime battle.  The Grizz are doing better now than they have in years, and might even secure a post-season berth.  Two nights later at FedEx Forum, near historic Beale Street, our beloved University of Memphis Tigers utterly dominated the visiting Southern Methodist University Mustangs.  The coach of the Tigers is a young man named Josh Pastner, who may be the least miserable person alive.

This past Saturday, I saw a ballet at the Jeniam Center, our new, $15 million performing arts complex in the heart of our midtown arts district.  This facility, modeled after Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf Theatre, was financed completely by private gifts and contributions.

In a few weeks, we’re going to break ground on the Salvation Army Kroc Center, a 100,000 square foot worship, arts, education, and recreation center a few blocks away.  We’re one of only 25 cities in the United States that will build a Kroc Center, which required our community to raise $25 million in private funds.  Memphis is routinely cited as one of the most charitable cities in the United States.

My point is not about a hospital or a housing complex.  It’s not about a basketball team or a ballet.  It’s about our people.  As their mayor, I simply cannot allow to pass without comment some of the things you have published about our city.

Your magazine mentioned “unemployment, taxes (both sales and income), commute times, violent crime and how its pro sports teams have fared… weather and Superfund pollution sites… [and] corruption based on convictions of public officials,” as the factors for inclusion on your recent list of America’s most miserable cities.

By your own criteria, there are far more cities on your list that have far higher unemployment and far longer commute times than Memphis. Most of them lack professional sports altogether.  Violent crime in Memphis is declining steadily.  There is a new era of transparency and ethical behavior in City Hall, due to a couple of executive orders that I drafted and signed when I took office last October.  The sun shines here 230 days a year.

Memphis is not a miserable city, not by any definition, not by any metric.

Memphis is a city of joy. You can hear it coming up from our high school gymnasiums and football fields every Friday evening.  You can hear it rocking on Beale Street late every Saturday night. You can hear it in our churches every Sunday morning.

Memphis is a city of innovation. The accomplishments of our past are outshone only by the brilliance of what’s happening right now in our arts and business sectors.  I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve enjoyed the music of Otis Redding or Al Green or B.B. King or Johnny Cash.  Those artists and countless other achieved lasting, worldwide fame after getting started in Memphis.  Brands like FedEx and AutoZone were born here and keep their world headquarters here; companies like International Paper and ServiceMaster have both relocated here in the past five years.

Memphis is a city of resilience. Floods, fire, pestilence, and poverty may have tested us, but they have never broken us.  We are a city built on a bluff, positioned to withstand storms that other cities cannot.  If the rates of unemployment, high school drop outs, and crime are to be our new battlegrounds, then we will join those fights, and we will prevail.  For all of the problems you might show me, I can point to a legion of government agencies, non-profit organizations, churches, volunteer groups, and grassroots activists working together as one Memphis to find the solutions.

Maybe it’s something in our water.  Maybe it’s something in our soil.  I think it’s something in our souls that makes us Memphians.  We know who we are – and miserable is not part of the definition.

We know too that our city’s song is not complete.  It is being written every day, and it is sung by a chorus of hopeful, energetic voices that will resonate for generations.

Memphis is actually not my hometown.  I was born and raised in a small town, about 240 miles east of Memphis.  My wife and I made a deliberate choice to put our roots down here, make our careers here, and raise our children here about 40 years ago.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Memphis, but please accept this letter as my formal invitation to come visit us at your earliest convenience.

You’ll have the time of your life, I promise you.

Best wishes,
A C Wharton
A C Wharton, Jr.
Mayor, City of Memphis

81 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2010 5:44 pm


  2. bigsnooze permalink
    March 1, 2010 5:52 pm

    Great Letter.

  3. Dee permalink
    March 1, 2010 7:04 pm

    Beautifully written Mayor AC Wharton 🙂

  4. Wholigan Hog permalink
    March 1, 2010 7:20 pm

    I agree with Mayor Wharton that Memphis does have bright stars that shine but I disagree that Memphis is filled with happiness. I was born in Memphis and still work here. Memphis has been the armpit of racial strife for years. Memphis used to recieve City Beautiful awards but that was a long time ago. We have come a long way from those days. We have had City Counsel members jailed for their actions in office, fire fighters and police officers also commiting numerous crimes including murder, assult and acting like gangsters. Many students graduate from Memphis schools barely able to read or write. Thousands of drivers have no insurance. The last 5 wrecks that I was involved in involved uninsured drivers. Memphis suffered a lot under the last Mayor and you have a lot of work still to do to make Memphis shine again. I do see parts of Memphis slowly recovering from the slums that they have been for so long but the gang problem is still going strong and growing. Maybe you will be the one who starts Memphis back on the right track. I sincerly hope so. Good luck.

    • jaybe permalink
      March 1, 2010 8:51 pm

      jesus… after 5 wrecks try driving beter

    • Madame Butterfly permalink
      March 1, 2010 10:37 pm

      I quit reading the local paper and watching the news years ago. It wasn’t because I didn’t like hearing all the good things the Mayor described. Maybe Steve Forbes has been watching and reading them instead of me. I’m a big supporter of the Mayor and hope he can turn things around.

  5. March 1, 2010 7:35 pm

    Wow. Amen.

  6. AKW permalink
    March 1, 2010 7:39 pm

    I’m proud to be a Memphian and proud of Mayor Wharton!

  7. Ted Townsend permalink
    March 1, 2010 7:45 pm

    Wonderful letter Mr. Mayor! Thank you for being a clear voice above those that can only hear their own misery that, in turn, they wish to displace on us.

  8. March 1, 2010 7:46 pm

    Very well spoken!

  9. Denise Martin permalink
    March 1, 2010 8:07 pm

    What a great letter! It is so nice to read communication from a Mayor that is not filled with threats and hate. I am very proud to be from Memphis.

    The mention of our long commute time almost made me laugh. Has Mr. Forbes ever driven in Memphis??? Our commute is very low compared to other major cities. You can get anywhere in 30-45 minutes….in rush hour traffic.

    Oh by the way – Wholigan Hog – you said that ” The last 5 wrecks that I was involved in involved uninsured drivers.” I think this says something about your driving ability. Maybe you need to take a refresher driving course???

    Thank you Mr. Mayor for defending our city!

  10. mkf permalink
    March 1, 2010 8:08 pm

    Steve Forbes, you got served by AC Wharton!

  11. Meka Egwuekwe permalink
    March 1, 2010 8:35 pm

    Very well written, Mr. Mayor! I too love Memphis! I’ve lived all over, including Atlanta, Boston, and the Bay Area and I know I made the right choice coming to this great city. Our friends at Forbes may be good at selling magazines, but I am not confident they are all that good at reality. If they were, they’d realize the folly of their miserable cities index in the first place!

  12. Darla Ives permalink
    March 1, 2010 8:54 pm

    What a wonderful letter, Mr. Mayor! I just moved here a year ago after visiting my son and his family here for about 10 years. I love Memphis! What pride you communicate – and well deserved! I sure hope Mr. Forbes takes you up on your offer to visit!

  13. March 1, 2010 9:06 pm

    Well said!
    I am one of the growing number of young professionals who have grown up in Memphis, ‘escaped’ from Memphis, then made the deliberate decision to return to our hometown to become part of the solution.
    Memphis was once regularly listed as “cleanest city” “most hospitable city” etc, and I think that Memphians have recently re-energized. It IS possible for us to come together and rebuild to not only reclaim our former glory, but become something even better. GO MEMPHIS!!!
    Kat G

  14. hawthorne permalink
    March 1, 2010 9:46 pm

    kinda beautiful. i love this letter.
    if more people backed mayor wharton’s sentiments, or even slightly believed in the hope that is just under the surface.. memphis could finally move forward.
    i am willing to participate in any way to spread this message and shine a light on that hope.
    i believe in the goodness of this city. there is no other place like it.
    the history, the hardship, the hope for progress – the whole package.
    i, in no way, am being an idealist.
    the reality is this:
    WE make memphis.
    and WE choose what it becomes.

  15. mwdavisii permalink
    March 1, 2010 10:24 pm

    Great Letter! Thank you!

  16. Catherine Hayley permalink
    March 1, 2010 10:26 pm

    Wonderful letter, Mayor Wharton. I am a former Memphian who is looking forward to returning in April. I love the city I was raised in and look forward to working towards making it an even better place. Thank you for standing up for our home.

  17. Jennifer permalink
    March 1, 2010 10:31 pm

    Yeah! This is great. I’m new to Memphis, and I love hearing this 🙂

  18. M artskers permalink
    March 1, 2010 10:45 pm

    Thank you for fighting for Memphis, Mr. Mayor.

    The sad fact, however, is that one of the things that DOES make us miserable is our obsession with race. You already know that, since you addressed it in your speech to the Memphis Rotary Club last week. We are in serious danger of having the upcoming race for the 9th congressional district seat in the House of Representatives degenerate into the kind of racial mudslinging we haven’t seen in this town in many years.

    My hope is that you will forcefully and unambiguously decry and condemn the tactics of one of the candidates, who has already promised he will do so, to make the election primarily about race, and that you will put your money where your mouth is by endorsing that divisive candidate’s opponent.

    Please, Mr. Mayor, put some meat on the bones of the “One Memphis” slogan you used during your campaign for the mayoralty. That, I can assure you, will go considerably farther towards avoiding the re-appearance of an age-old source of misery in this town than any letter to an out-of-town publication possibly could.

    • Rosetta permalink
      June 15, 2010 8:28 am

      That’s one opinion, and you are probably not even in his voting district. I could be wrong, If I am I apologize. I do however, believe the Mayor should remain nutural.

  19. March 1, 2010 11:00 pm

    Great letter! I intend to also send Mr. Forbes a letter discussing the positive attributes of the city. I was born here in 1955 and watched us change, for better and for worse. There IS a lot of soul here and have recently returned to believing that Memphis has a BIG ten years ahead. Keep it up, keep on talkin and let’s make it happen. Forbes Magazine will really have something to talk about soon enough.

  20. Monica Lester permalink
    March 1, 2010 11:11 pm

    Great Letter Mayor Wharton.

    I no longer live in Memphis but I still love Memphis and want it to be better. There is a phrase that says, “A team is only as good as it’s leader” but “the leader is only as good as his team will allow him/her to be.” Please continue to be a good leader by passing down your spirit of positivity, growth, and possibility. I hope Memphian’s will allow you to be your best; thereby, allowing themselves to become better as well.

  21. MyKidsDad permalink
    March 1, 2010 11:19 pm

    Mayor Wharton,

    What a well written letter. Congratulations on taking on Forbes.

    The root problem in Memphis is the proliferation of gangs–and the crime, violence and family breakups they bring. You can not just deal with them–YOU Mr. Mayor can DOMINATE the gangs. You just have to make Memphis a miserable place for them to operate.
    Chicago is no shining light on a hillside–but they dealt with their gang problem years ago by figuring how how they were organized–and cutting off “the head of the serpent.” Turns out most of their gang activity–a huge percentage–was a well oiled machine run by the head of the gang from the County or City jail. You ought to dig into what they did–our Police Officers deserve to have a plan better than the one the gangs have.
    You can do it! And the community will support whatever hammer you bring down on gangs–the scourge of our area.

    Thanks for your leadership.

  22. Slick permalink
    March 1, 2010 11:46 pm

    Finally, a mayor that cares for and takes up for his city above his own self indulgence. I believe Memphis is due for a surge of pride.
    Thank you, Mr. Wharton.

  23. March 1, 2010 11:50 pm

    Beautifully written. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

  24. Liz Edmundson permalink
    March 2, 2010 12:21 am

    I am proud to be a Memphian and am proud to have AC as our mayor!

  25. Impressed, as Usual, with A C Wharton, Jr. permalink
    March 2, 2010 12:21 am

    Bravo, Mr. Mayor. Bravo!

  26. Denise permalink
    March 2, 2010 12:24 am

    Thanks Mr.Wharton! Job well done, don’t no if Herenton would’ve defended Memphis like that! Keep up the good work! Also can we get some jobs for our youth please, summer is slowly coming! Herenton shut alot of things down, and i have a youth that i would like to see with a job! Thanks again

  27. Josh permalink
    March 2, 2010 1:08 am

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write something positive about the city Mr Mayor. Way to lead by example!

  28. Nicole permalink
    March 2, 2010 1:22 am

    Mr. Mayor – thank you for standing up for Memphis with this articulate and impassioned letter. It is so nice to read a dignified response that point-by-point refutes all of the negative things said about our city. Like any city, we have several focus areas that need improvement…but we finally seem headed in the right direction and Memphis is not at all a miserable place to live. You are a much needed breath of fresh air and I look forward to doing what I can to make our city even better.

  29. Patty Abraham permalink
    March 2, 2010 1:33 am

    Dear Mayor,
    As a former Memphian, who left 30 years ago, but still has most of my family there, your letter makes me proud to say I still call Memphis home. Your letter was forwarded to me from my Grand-daughter, who is also a proud Memphian. For someone to rate Memphis at the bottom of the scale without even visiting is not acceptable. Thank you for standing up for the city.

  30. Barry Ford permalink
    March 2, 2010 1:56 am

    AC…you actually make a case for me to NOT to move back to Chicago with that letter to Steve Forbes. Very very good.

    Indeed, many cities and communities across this nation suffer from localized problems that often are a mirror on larger regional or national issues, but, as you well stated, we do overcome…albeit sometimes, eventually….we do.

    The letter made me quite proud, and though as mentioned in later published comments, we still have work to do in areas of race relations and certainly in areas of mass transit, we should very well be considered a “City Beautiful”.

    Thanks for the confidence booster, AC!!

  31. Amy Fortenberry permalink
    March 2, 2010 2:27 am

    Mayor Wharton, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have lived in Memphis for 13 years now, and it is a breath of fresh air to have you as our mayor. I so appreciate your positive attitude and your rallying cry to create “One Memphis”. Thank you for all you do for us and for this city.

  32. Wholigan Hog permalink
    March 2, 2010 3:47 am

    In 3 of the 5 wrecks I was sitting still and the other 2, I was rear ended. Insurance is required by state law but not enforced in Memphis as per the past mayor. Why should people obey the laws when they are not enforced? Crimes are ignored all the time in this city probably because the jails are so full there is not enought room to house them all.

  33. March 2, 2010 3:52 am

    I am a Memphian by birth and by heart. I now live in Washington, D.C., and there is not a day that passes that I do not miss the friendliness, charm, and soul of my hometown. While most people say don’t take the Forbes rankings personal…I am so glad that you did. Memphis is all about being personal: it is what makes it part of everyone who was born there, lived there, or just visited. Thanks to you and your redirected vision, it seems like I soon will be missing Memphis even more!

  34. Sara permalink
    March 2, 2010 4:13 am

    After reading that letter you wrote to “Forbes”, I know EXACTLY what your initials “A.C.” stand for….Absolutely Correct!!!!
    If a person doesn’t LIVE in a particular city day in and day out, they really do NOT know. Thank You Very Much for those PERFECT WORDS
    Mr. “Absolutely Correct” Wharton!

  35. Skyler Harris permalink
    March 2, 2010 3:17 pm

    Very well spoken, Mayor Wharton!
    I am a college student, attending an in-state university that is outside of Memphis; and so often I have to defend our city to people who haven’t even visited it. I applaud you for the things you have done for Memphis, and for the drive that you are putting behind re-vamping the Bluff City. What a wonderful change to have a mayor filled with positive energy and a love for diversity and change. Great Job!

  36. Rita Hall permalink
    March 2, 2010 4:01 pm

    Mr. Mayor,

    Some ill-conceived comments simply should not be dignified with a response. Forbes magazine’s comments are a prime example, and yet you responded. After too many years of mayoral antics that have embarrassed sensible Memphians, it is refreshing to finally have a leader who fearlessly rises above the fray to hold high the banner of the good people of Memphis, with dignity, intelligence, and thoughtfulness. In the 1970s and ’80s, we were proud to live a city renowned for its cleanliness and beauty, the friendliness of its people, the quality of its water. In the last twenty years, national attention to Memphis has increasingly focused on its violent crime, educational failings, high property taxes, unhealthy lifestyles, and a slew of other negative trends. Sadly, to these reports, there have been no official responses of which Memphians could be proud. How wonderful to finally have a mayor interested in leading Memphis forward to the harmony, unity, and dignity it so deeply deserves after decades of strife, separatism, and increasingly disreputable behavior on the part of city officials.

    Mr. Mayor, thank you for your courageous stance, your positivity, and your devotion to helping expose Memphis, a diamond in the rough, as a shining city on the bluff anyone would be proud to call home.

  37. March 2, 2010 5:57 pm

    Great letter for a great city! There is progress to be made, but we’re making it! Thank God we have a mayor that understands the importance of a positive outlook, collaboration and continual, day-to-day improvement.

  38. Nichole Johnson permalink
    March 2, 2010 6:29 pm

    Excellent… Thank you so much so that wonderful Letter. I have lived in other countries such as Germany and Korea. I love Memphis better then any place I’ve gone. I went to New Orleans this past weekend, the people are kinda mean. I’m not trying to be nasty I guess I’m just saying you did a great job with this wonderful letter. Thank you for always having that warm light in the things that you do sir.

  39. Mike permalink
    March 2, 2010 7:08 pm

    Bravo, Mr. Mayor! Bravo!

  40. Richard Rossetti permalink
    March 2, 2010 10:35 pm

    Thank you for responding on our behalf Mr. Mayor. This is a wonderful city which I am proud to call home. It is certainly true that we have areas upon which work must be done, but we have many bright points as well and I am glad you made the effort to point some of them out. Thanks again and please work hard to keep this city moving in the right direction!

  41. Kristi Hartman permalink
    March 2, 2010 10:59 pm

    I also choose to live here. After 11 years, I wouldn’t live anywhere else! While we have problems, this city is home to me, my husband, and our twelve-year-old daughter. I love Memphis, and I can’t think of another city where I would rather live. I meet people every single day that show me that God is alive and working to overcome the issues facing Memphis. From our ministers and members at our church, to Reverend Wind’s karate classes at the schools in the afternoons, to Ms. Pat’s kind words at the McDonald’s at Perkins and Quince, we are a city of precious souls who love each other, no matter our color or socioeconomic status. Forbes has it wrong, and I appreciate Mayor Wharton’s letter! I love Memphis!

  42. March 2, 2010 11:07 pm

    Thank you Mayor Wharton for such a great letter about our city. We are “One Memphis”!

  43. Rachel Ware permalink
    March 2, 2010 11:28 pm

    God Bless you Mr. Mayor! I am very proud of our city and hope great things for our future. We couldn’t do those great things without leaders, like you, who believe in our limitless potential.

  44. Jennie B. permalink
    March 3, 2010 4:10 am

    GREAT JOB Mr. Mayor. Exactly what we need to see in our leader! You found what many have chosen to forget about our city and reminded us why it is great to be from Memphis. Keep it up- we need this kind of enthusiasm in City Hall!

  45. Kristina permalink
    March 3, 2010 4:00 pm

    I love my city of Memphis, and have lived here all my life. My entire family resides in Memphis. I would not want to live anywhere else or raise my two boys anywhere else. Thank you mayor for your lovely letter. You represent Memphis in such a wonderful light.

  46. Susan permalink
    March 3, 2010 6:09 pm

    Thank you Mayor Wharton for defending us so beautifully. I was born in Memphis and moved away many times … to Houston, to Chicago, to Raleigh, to Atlanta. All wonderful cities in this great country of ours. None of them held my heart like Memphis. After the last move away, during a visit, I stood in Tom Lee Park and looked back at the city and vowed if I ever got home, I’d never leave again. And, I haven’t and I won’t. There’s no place like Memphis and no people like Memphians. I am PROUD to be one!

  47. Shari Brummer permalink
    March 3, 2010 6:39 pm

    Here is a copy of the letter I left Steve Forbes:
    Dear Mr. Forbes,
    I read the article you posted about Memphis being one of the top ten most miserable cities to live and I completely disagree. I am a Memphis native and lived there until September of 1994, when I moved to Atlanta. Even after fifteen years, when I return “home” to Memphis, I can go to the store or a restaurant and run into friends from grade school and high school. I’m not sure how many larger cities can boast that—certainly not Atlanta. I miss the “funkiness” of the great places to go in Memphis and the neighborhoods where “everyone really does know your name”. This is only one example of many that I could relate.

    I’m sure that some statistics may have led you to arrive at your conclusion, but I believe it an unfair and inaccurate picture of Memphis and you did not take into account the most important part of Memphis, which is its hometown feel and the people that live there. I think that in the future, prior to publishing an article about “miserable” cities, you take into consideration other factors that make a city a worthwhile place to live. I also believe that an article such as this only promotes negativity in a culture that has too much already.

    Thank you,
    Shari Brummer

  48. March 3, 2010 6:42 pm

    Thanks for being such an eloquent, honest spokesman for our great city, Mr. Mayor.
    “What leaves the heart reaches the heart.” I hope Mr. Forbes is listening and accepts your invitation to experience Memphis’ soul, which clearly transcends whatever statistics the pollsters spin.

    Shelley Baur

  49. Richard S permalink
    March 3, 2010 7:24 pm

    What a breath of fresh air…finally someone that takes pride in the city he oversees. Go get em Mr. Mayor!!!

  50. Jackie Jackson permalink
    March 3, 2010 11:43 pm

    This is an example of leadership Memphis needs…accept 100% responsibility and commit 100% to making a difference.

    The media has long placed emphasis on the ills of our city, and we give them plenty to talk about. As individuals, we can make a difference when we take the initiative to silence naysayers. Stop them in their tracks and challenge them to give equal visibility to what’s right about Memphis–the obvious things noted by Mayor Wharton, and the lesser, yet significant things individuals do to promote community and safe, wholesome living.

    Fear and the sensationalism of it by politicians and media have produced results that say this is what people want. Promoting fear and social ills produce windfalls for media outlets. Yet these stories serve to dismantle communities and destroy trust. Common goals (community) and trust are both required if our city is to move city forward.

    This is our city and we have reasons to be proud of it. Let’s shine light on what’s right about Memphis.

  51. March 4, 2010 2:37 am

    Thank you for a wonderful letter. It give a true picture of our great city and surrounding area. It ia great to know that we now have a Mayor who cares about our city and is Proud to be Mayor

    I am a Realtor and will be delighted to add this letter to the packet that I send to people who are being transfered here and want to know what our city has to offer.

  52. March 4, 2010 4:00 am

    Thank you for saying what so many of us know – Memphis is rising again after a period of dismay. When AC spoke about Memphis as county mayor at Spin Street at the Jerry Lee Lewis CD release party – the dang Jerry Lee Lewis CD release party, people, in our city – I knew something amazing was coming. We are defeating the statistics and overcoming the odds daily. Three new college programs downtown, revitalized neighborhoods, new music coming out all the time, great restaurants, Grizz, etc., etc.

    My experience of Memphis, as one who planned to escape the south at one time, is wrapped up in hope, not misery. We have to stay on top of the crime and keep reclaiming crumbling structures but we will do it together.

    And I drove from Germantown to Cooper-Young today in 14 minutes on Park Avenue at the speed limit, hitting one light. That was beautiful.

  53. Scott permalink
    March 4, 2010 4:40 am

    Transmitted to Forbes:
    Misery in the Model – What’s Life?

    Dear Editor –
    The recent rankings decrying particular cities as relatively miserable, relative to one another, gets a media buzz going that isn’t based on meaningful methodology. I’d have expected that element of modern social media was beneath the dignity of the Forbes brand, the otherwise relatively professional approach your publication takes to newsworthy business climate content. Are you trying to draw from some new, untapped readership market? The substantive content that any one of the ranking criteria suggests may be a sufficient basis to write an objective story, identifying municipalities that face challenges, characterizing those one way, while showcasing jurisdictions making favorable changes, and clarifying where models may serve to inform solutions for those in similar circumstances.

    The especially venal partisan politics of the past two decades is fed by exactly these kinds of adverse pronouncements that put others down, in the belief that it builds yourselves up. Perhaps your editors are simply saying to readers, “That’s life!” What happened to national pride, promoting the best of America, of business, of individuals and organizations? Your format suggests you are still inspired by the established principles of reporting on the “doers and doings,” of the ebbs and flows of the global business climate, as Forbes have done since at least 1917. Such lists as the Misery ranking you published, do you no favors. Rather, it appears that your staff writer sits in a cubicle, out of touch with the outside world. Someone has collected dissociated data points, and arranged them in such a way as to suggest causation, rather than mere correlation. Even an uninformed public redupiates such a list. Former publishers associated with the once revered business periodical, must be spinning in their graves. Bring your stalwart commerical journalism back. Was B.C. Forbes denigrating business market segments, the communities that were trying to rebuild in 1931, two years into the Great Depression? Was reporting on the opportunities that existed across the business climate the topic of the day?

    Your readers could identify business opportunities within and among what you referred to as the most miserable metropolitan areas of our day. However, clean up the reporting. The stories needn’t disparage, nor take a Polly-Anna approach to the marketplace. Forbes publications have such meaningful opportunities to highlight business segments in meaningful ways. Seize the opportunities; serve as an articulate voice among the streams of commercial communications and rise above the fray. Doing so may just help your publication make it to a 100th anniversary. Continuous decay in content may not afford Forbes the opportunity to celebrate. What’s Life? It was a magaine. Where can I buy Life?

  54. Alasdair Halleron permalink
    March 4, 2010 7:28 pm

    Excellent Reply Mr Mayor, it annoyed me when I read about us being so miserable! One has to wonder how the PREVIOUS Mayor would have handles this? I guarantee it would have been ignored. Thanks for sticking up for us!

  55. March 4, 2010 9:02 pm

    Mayor Wharton,
    Well done and well said. Keep up the positive vibes for Memphis, we need this type of leadership. Thank you for your hard work.

  56. Bob permalink
    March 4, 2010 9:03 pm

    FORBES did not say Memphis had nothing to offer. They said that it sucked compared to just about any other place in the U.S. That’s a fact. Sad, but a fact. It’s not just the aftershock of wholesale bad politics that you’ve inherited A.C., but the complacency of the citizenry, which, if it were all just one collective individual, would be labeled a very “slow learner” or even a “lost cause.”

    The only thing “progressive” the citzenry can get behind is demolishing historic structures and neighborhoods (as opposed to restoration which is one factor that makes so many other cities superior) in order to bring in “highly unique” replacements like Subway franchises and dollar stores. You know, stuff that makes Memphis a “destination.” That’s the thinking that defines Memphis.

    If you can overcome all that A.C., you should be awarded a gold medal. I’d give you a medal anyway, just for taking it on. Good luck.

  57. Andrea permalink
    March 5, 2010 2:24 pm

    Very well written AC.

  58. Wayne Sparks permalink
    March 5, 2010 3:46 pm

    What a difference a leader can make. What an inspiration to everyone who witnesses it. The voters were not wise enough to get rid of the previous hateful windbag who brought contineous shame to Memphis, but providence pushed that hateful man aside and brought Memphis a leader. Well done Mayor.

  59. March 5, 2010 5:16 pm

    Thank you for your super letter and the spirit of what’s important behind it.

  60. Kim Dang permalink
    March 5, 2010 5:29 pm

    Beautifully written. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

  61. Debbie Sterbin permalink
    March 6, 2010 8:32 pm

    Very well written letter! Thanks for defending my city.

  62. March 7, 2010 3:48 am

    Mr. Mayor,

    It is patently evident why we have so overwhelmingly chosen you as our leader. You both embody and articulate so well the hope that lies within each of us; that Memphis will overcome the negative stereotypes and the negative perceptions of those like Mr. Forbes. We will do that as we, ourselves, reaffirm and embrace the miracles we see every day here in our metropolis on the Mississippi! Thank you for having not allowed the “miserable” assessment to stand uncontested.

  63. March 8, 2010 3:52 am

    Mayor Wharton, you said it all – almost…and it is probably because your omission seems so obvious to all of us – our own king – Elvis! Graceland is still a major tourist attraction after all these years which is amazing.
    My favorite point – “The coach of the Tigers is a young man named Josh Pastner, who may be the least miserable person alive”. Truer words were never spoken.
    Thank you for writing to Forbes and thank you for being our Mayor!

  64. March 10, 2010 9:33 pm

    I am a mortgage loan consultant and received a copy of your response to Steve Forbes as an e-mail last week. Your letter is written from the heart and I was very moved by it. Therefore, I forwarded it to a lot of my friends, Realtors, Appraisers, Attorneys, etc. and suggested to the Realtors to make it a part of their presentation package and/or relocation package promoting Memphis and put it on facebook too. Well done Mayor Wharton!

  65. Ana permalink
    March 15, 2010 8:25 pm

    It is with great pride that I live not only in the City Memphis, but am a downtowner by choice and not by design. Our Mayor has spoken with pride and conviction about our City. He has spoken with love and admiration for the people of Memphis and within the communities. WE ARE MEMPHIS and our Mayor speaks volumes about the endless opportunities for the people of Memphis, and for our visitors who love to visit us and flock to our great city year after year from every corner of the world. Thank you Mr. Mayor!

  66. March 24, 2010 8:48 pm

    Wonderful letter Mr Mayor of Memphis. I moved down here from the outskirts of Chicago because of a layoff from a major corporation. I know I made the right choice, I found a great job in another major corporation, and I plan to live in this area the rest of my life!!! Memphis gave me my life back, and so much more. Thank you people of Memphis!

  67. lindjoy permalink
    March 25, 2010 9:48 pm

    I am ashamed to say that I am ‘out of the loop’ here. since I had to move out of Memphis 8 yrs ago. However, I cannot remember, ever being so offended as when I saw this blurb of Memphis being one of the most miserable cities! How DARE this J-A. Seriously?

    I have a VERY lucid memory of when, God Bless His Memory, Martin Luther King was killed… and I am talking THE DAY. It was ONE OF THE WORST DAYS of my life. And, please let me add that I am Caucasian. Five of the six of my Father’s stores were burned to the ground, but my father was saved because he was liked. Times were very strange then. I was a very small child but remember this very clearly and remember reading on the TV what happened; I remember my Mother crying. I remember that my Mother said that this was a sin… an absolute sin against God.

    Obviously, all H. broke loose for MANY years in our city. We, all of us, have been through H. together. ALL OF US… white, black, in-between. Believe me, I am 53 yrs old, and I have seen our city go through many, many changes. In the mean time, I have lived in and out of our city.

    I have to say, after living in the south, and after living in the north, and also in-between, I would rather live NO WHERE else than Memphis, TN. This MORON can kiss it. I am a PhD and I can fully find a better way to write this, but I cannot find a better way to tell this Mr. Forbes.

    We, in Memphis, TN, have found our way, after going through H. together… white, black, in-between, wealthy, poor, in-between, employed, not, housed, not, in-between (I have been almost all of those at one time or another). I, and most everyone else, don’t give a rat’s behind, what color, position, etc. everyone else is. We don’t care what this guy is talking about. Why doesn’t this guy consider coming to live in some other place like OHIO or ILLINOIS or somewhere else (as opposed to his IVORY TOWER) and THEN decide where the REAL
    S-HOLES are… THEN he can make a REAL determination where the worst places are??????

    HOW DARE HE say a THING about MEMPHIS????

    Where in the US would you ever find such affordable and beautiful housing? He would NOT. I know this.

    Where in the US would he think that you would find such beautiful schools for your children? He would NOT. I know this.

    Where can you find affordable food? He would NOT. I know this.

    He needs to take his head out of his Brooks Bros. suits, that are obviously not as well cut as he thinks they are, since they are apparently cutting off his circulation to his BRAIN, and find another place to nab as unacceptable… it is NOT Memphis, TN.

    BTW, WHY are all the people from N.O. still in Memphis if it’s so terrible? N.O. is fabulous. Memphis must be pretty fabulous itself, then; huh????

    Who is HE to judge our city? Who does he think he is, anyway?

    I do not even live in Memphis anymore and I am absolutely offended.

    My Mother, thank God, is not here to see my lack of manners, and thank goodness our Mayor has extended his, in Southern style, but honestly, this guy doesn’t deserve it. And, I apologize, I have been in HIS (Forbes’ not Southern) world too long, I’m afraid… Please forgive me. I’m hoping upon my return I’ll quickly reincorporate, which should be easy, given the easy ways and beauty of Memphis….

    I love my old hometown and it’s as beautiful as ever, if not more so… each time I come back I find it still graceful, with its Southern gentility… although it’s the last thing I have demonstrated here…

    Who is it that should ever apologize for good taste, good manners and understated elegance? It won’t be Mr. Forbes, I’m sure.

  68. Roscoe Jordan permalink
    April 6, 2010 5:20 pm

    Thank You, Mayor Wharton,

    Your response to Mr. Forbes comments about our great City-MEMPHIS was greatly appreciated. Your leadership is greatly appreciated. I moved to Memphis 23 years ago, I see a different Memphis than Mr. Forbes.

  69. Jennifer permalink
    April 7, 2010 2:32 pm

    I love this letter. Very well said Mr Mayor.

  70. April 20, 2010 5:00 pm

    nice writing mayor. i agree with you. thanks

  71. Rosetta permalink
    June 15, 2010 8:13 am

    Mayor Wharton, Memphis can be easily taken for a miserable city. If you were visiting the Hospitals and FedEx and other downtown site, yes Memphis would be idea. However the Forbes magazine, visitors from France, Japan, and Italy all abroad, comes in by way of Whitehaven, headed to the Graceland attraction, Smith and Nephew. Medtronic and others; oh what an eye-sore they will see before arriving to their destination. This is what gives a lot of visitors their first impression of Memphis. When anyone of importance arrives in Memphis, the first site is Whitehaven, not Downtown, or Germantown. Whitehaven is an eyesore, loud music vagrants, prostitutes, tall billboards graffiti, trash and low economy stores you name it. This is actually the only community in Memphis that does not have appropriate landscaping. Yes, I can see why Forbes wrote its fair and justified statement. Whitehaven is a place that is over looked unless you are seeking voters. Then it temporarily becomes the HOT SPOT in Memphis. Each administration makes promises to Whitehaven and its constitutions then disappear in the Sunset. If Whitehaven should come alive again, it probably will be solely from Graceland investments.

  72. August 4, 2010 7:54 pm

    A.C., good job. Ron Kim


  1. our town « Muddy’s Bake Shop
  2. Life Is Awesome » Blog Archive » Shoot Memphis
  3. Way to stand up for Memphis! « Really… Really… Seriously…
  4. Optimistic Misery | Speak to Power
  5. Memphis, I still love you… « Flowery Words

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: