Thanks to Strong Towns member Brad Tabke (twitter) for sending us the view from the top of the Memphis Bass Pro pyramid.
To interpret it for you: On the left you have the city with all its people, businesses, hopes and dreams. On the right, you have the great natural resource of the Mississippi river and all its potential to enhance the prosperity of the community. In between, you have the wealth of the community -- yesterday's wealth, today's wealth and tomorrow's wealth - - dedicated to moving cars and storing cars, culminating in the hundreds of millions of dollars of subsidy for the pyramid-shaped retail outlet from which the photo is taken.
What you see in this photo is the most valuable land in the city. There is no clearer explanation for why our cities are going broke than to see how this valuable resource has been squandered. There is no return here. No wealth. Just massive, ongoing expense passed from generation to generation.
This also explains why a great city like Memphis would feel compelled to gamble with hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money instead of making small, incremental, low-risk investments in their core neighborhoods. They feel a desperate need to make up for the fact that their most valuable land produces nothing but expenses. That's an impossibly high burden they've placed on themselves.
If you want your city to be wealthy and prosperous, stop obsessing about cars and start obsessing about your people, your community's wealth and the taxpayer's return-on-investment.