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Editorial Results (free)

1. Northgate’s Shift -

When the Kroger store opened at Northgate shopping center in Frayser 58 years ago, the store gave away a Shetland pony.

When the store closed Tuesday, Feb. 18, it was the last of the original tenants in a center whose changing fortunes mirror those of the blue-collar suburb still feeling the loss of its blue-collar jobs.

2. CDC Leaders Have Challenges in Communities -

Community development corporations are designed to help create more housing in areas where investors and banks might not normally invest without incentives.

But the CDCs, as they are known, are increasingly in the business of adding business development to the housing in a combination of community building.

3. Council OKs Registry for Blighted Properties -

For months, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and the Memphis City Council had delayed final votes on his proposal to require the registration of property to make it easier for the city to find the owners of blighted property.

4. 2012 Bankruptcies Steady in Shelby County -

Bankruptcy filings in Shelby County were up slightly in 2012 compared to 2011. Chapter 13 filings with repayment plans made up most of the total.

The 12,471 filings in 2012, according to The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com, were 57 more than for 2011, or a 0.4 percent increase.

5. Foreclosures Up 30 Pct. in Q1 -

The timing and backdrop seem fitting. During the first quarter of 2012, the same three-month period in which the state of Tennessee announced its participation in a $25 billion settlement with some of the biggest lenders over foreclosure abuses, the number of foreclosures in Shelby County swelled by almost 30 percent.

6. Coming Back -

If you were a beautician in Frayser in the 1960s, you probably trained for your job at the Jett School of Beauty either at the Northgate Shopping Center or a strip shopping center on North Watkins Street in the Georgian Hills section of Frayser.

7. Foreclosure Notice Bill Heads to State Senate -

The Tennessee General Assembly is moving closer toward reducing the number of newspaper notices lenders are required to run before foreclosing on a home.

State Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and State Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir, filed companion bills that originally sought to reduce the required number of newspaper notices from three to one. Along with that reduction would come less of a description of the property.

8. Bill Would Alter Foreclosure Notices -

The judiciary committees in the House and Senate of the Tennessee General Assembly are scheduled to vote on companion bills Tuesday that would give homeowners less advance warning before their homes are foreclosed.

9. Tenn. Bill Would Reduce Foreclosure Notices -

The judiciary committees in the House and Senate of the Tennessee General Assembly are scheduled to vote on companion bills Tuesday that would give homeowners less advance warning before their homes are foreclosed.

10. Haslam Chimes in on Local Issues -

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has a warning about his developing set of regional economic development strategies.

“The days where government was able to be seen as somebody who was always giving something are gone, quite frankly,” Haslam told a group of 40 business and civic leaders at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. “They’re gone for at least the foreseeable future.”

11. Shadows of Doubt -

As the housing market continues to improve, a significant backlog of foreclosed and distressed properties that have not been put on the market could bring the recovery to a screeching halt.

Many lenders across the nation – mostly banks – are struggling to keep up with the overwhelming number of borrowers who have stopped making their mortgage payments. And with the fledgling recovery in housing still weak, banks, institutional investors and even some homeowners who want to sell their homes are waiting until the market shows marked improvement.

12. Commission Considers Pay Raise for Firefighters -

Shelby County Commissioners consider a 1.5 percent pay hike for county firefighters at Monday’s meeting of the body.

The proposal comes two weeks after the commission approved an extra 1 percent pay raise for Shelby County sheriff’s deputies.

13. U.S. Judiciary Cmte. to Hold Field Briefing in Memphis -

A U.S. House Judiciary Committee subcommittee is holding a field briefing in Memphis Monday on “Home Foreclosures in Memphis” at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law Downtown.

14. Changing Tide -

The foreclosure crisis took an interesting twist in the past year.

No longer was the problem relegated only to blighted communities like Frayser, Raleigh and Hickory Hill.

Although those areas were still severely afflicted by loan defaults and vacant homes, the biggest foreclosure headlines of the previous 12 months centered on some of the area’s most ambitious projects and most prominent properties.

15. Q1 Property Foreclosures Up Slightly -

Lenders repossessed almost as many homes, apartment buildings and other properties in Shelby County during the first quarter of this year as they did during the same period in 2009.

And in what’s akin to the real estate version of the game hot potato, lenders worked fast to unload what they collected.

16. Project Greenway -

There’s no doubt 2010 will go down as a watershed year for the Wolf River Greenway, the $28 million, 22-mile nature corridor that traces the Wolf River from Memphis’ eastern border to Downtown.

The team responsible for giving life to the Greenway – the city parks department, the Wolf River Conservancy and the Hyde Family Foundations – has achieved a pair of key milestones, both of which are being celebrated as the jumpstart this project sorely needed.

17. City’s Dilemma: Fight Crime or Bust Blight? -

Some Memphis City Council members question whether the city’s crackdown on crime is coming at the expense of efforts to eliminate or prevent blight in neighborhoods.

That sentiment surfaced in a council committee session this week. It came the same week that Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. talked of an emerging anti-crime strategy at his first town hall meeting.

18. Emotions High Surrounding Buehler Homes Approval -

Supporters wore blue and opponents wore red.

The political fight over a plan by Buehler Homes to build 125 rental homes on 140 parcels of tax delinquent land was approved this week by the Shelby County Commission.

19. Foreclosures Mellow in Q1 -

Shelby County’s usual spate of foreclosures appears to be slowing.

From every vantage point of the foreclosure process – the original foreclosure notice, the lender seizing property and the sale to a new owner – the numbers fell in the first quarter.

20. City Council To Consider Frayser Foreclosure Woes -

Steve Lockwood, executive director of the Frayser Community Development Corp., offers a nine-digit figure when quantifying the pain of the housing slump in Frayser, the epicenter of foreclosure activity in Shelby County.

21. Payday Loan Vote Foreshadows Next Step - This week’s vote by the Memphis City Council regulating the location of payday lenders, check-cashing and title loan businesses in the city generated pointed questions about demographics, money, private business, the threat of litigation and the role of the council.

If that vote is any indication, Monday’s vote by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners on the same joint city-county ordinance likely will do the same thing.

The third and final reading by the City Council on a measure that would put new restrictions on where those fringe-lending businesses can operate passed Tuesday night on a unanimous vote.

The County Commission’s third and final reading of the same ordinance – which limits those businesses to operating no closer than 1,000 feet from each other – will take place during Monday’s commission meeting.

Politics, politics

Bill Morrison is the council member who sponsored the ordinance on the city side and who first got the idea to try and clamp down on where those businesses can operate.

He said he began sketching out a plan for the ordinance, which would create new zoning guidelines for the businesses, with officials such as Assistant City Attorney Thomas Pacello and Mary Baker, deputy director of the city-county Office of Planning and Development.

But for a body that often has gone out of its way to keep a focus on the financial burdens of city taxpayers and residents, Morrison’s idea sparked a surprising mix of responses.

In addition to that, representatives of the businesses and of the fringe-lending industry itself mounted an intense behind-the-scenes effort against Morrison’s original proposal, the basic idea of which was to break up the existing clusters of check-cashing stores, payday loan and title loan shops around the city.

Working the angles

That lobbying effort continued throughout Tuesday night’s council meeting, when individual council members repeatedly left the dais to venture into the audience and huddle with representatives of the industry.

Steve Lockwood, executive director of the Frayser Community Development Corp. and an opponent of the fringe lenders, brandished statistics at Tuesday’s meeting showing how one debtor ended up paying after one year more than $800 on a $440 payday loan.

Several council members, including Barbara Swearengen Ware, promoted one of the same arguments put forward repeatedly by representatives of the industry in private discussions about the issue. That argument was this:

“When you talk about regulating a legal business, you’re treading on thin ice, to say the least,” she said. “And to say that where they locate – the regulation needs to be in the interest rates (they charge) ... We’re not talking about strip clubs, people.”

After some inaudible whispering among council members, Ware continued: “You say strip joints are legal? Well, let’s make them illegal ... It’s supply and demand that’s driving these businesses. Nobody’s holding a gun to these people to make them walk in and hand somebody the title to their car.”

‘Opening shot’

That argument about the businesses having a legal and proper right to operate is the same idea Chuck Welch, an attorney from the Nashville office of Farris Bobango Branan PLC, shared with The Daily News in a conversation a few days before the council vote. Welch is one of the industry representatives who has been meeting with local legislators who have for the last few weeks been mulling over the issue.

“What you’ve got is a lawful business that’s a commercial retail establishment, and it’s permitted and regulated by the state of Tennessee,” Welch said.

Council member Joe Brown questioned Morrison during the meeting about whether he was being supported in his effort to push the ordinance by any entity that stands to profit from its passage. That’s something at least one of the industry representatives told a reporter privately before the vote – that some of the bill’s supporters might be able to capitalize on legislation curbing the growth of fringe-lending operations.

Morrison, during Tuesday’s meeting, reiterated the fact that he came up with the plan on his own, with help from officials like Pacello and Baker.

“It does leave something to be desired … but (this ordinance) is a step in the right direction for our city,” Morrison said.

Lockwood called it “an opening shot across the bow.”

...

22. Lee To Announce Next Step In Legal Fees Flap - The Memphis City Council Tuesday affirmed its vote in Oct. to reject paying the legal fees of former Memphis Light Gas & Water Division president Joseph Lee.

The bill for Lee’s legal defense in a grand jury probe that led to his indictment as well as a hearing before the council came to $426,422. The corruption charges were later dropped by federal prosecutors.

The 7-6 vote came at the end of a day in which MLGW president Jerry Collins told council members talks between the utility and Lee’s attorney, Robert Spence, failed to reach any terms for a lesser amount.

Spence told The Daily News an announcement on a decision by Lee about pursuing the legal fees in a lawsuit against the city could be made as early as today.

The council has also given final approval Tuesday to an ordinance regulating the location of financial services, payday loan and title loan businesses.

The council vote was unanimous on third and final reading. Third and final vote before the Shelby County Commission is scheduled for Dec. 8.

The council passed an amended version that emerged as a compromise during this week’s council session.

The ordinance bans the businesses from being with 1,000 feet of each other. The compromise worked out by council member Bill Morrison, with agreement from the payday loan industry, deals with a 90 day grace period for existing businesses to apply for a waiver.

Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware argued the location of the businesses isn’t the problem. It’s the high interest rates the companies charge – up to 264 percent annually.

“We need to deal with the root of the problem,” she said. “And if we could regulate how much (of an) interest rate is charged or how much the fees are, then we would be doing a service to the community,” Ware said. “I know we mean well here, but it’s supply and demand that is driving these businesses.”

But usery rates are regulated by the state and not the city council.

Morrison said the businesses cluster in his district which covers Frayser and Raleigh. Frayser is among the areas of the city hardest hit by home foreclosures.

Council member Harold Collins, whose district includes Hickory Hill – also hit hard by home foreclosures – said there is a connection. He counted at least 20 pay day lenders along one stretch of Winchester.

“Maybe they’re not contributing to the fact that many of the people in my district are losing their homes. But they are sure out there,” he said. “There needs to be some kind of line drawn that will keep the people in Hickory Hill from losing their homes.”

Steve Lockwood, head of the Frayser Community Development Corporation, said the close proximity of the lenders allows people in desperate financial straits to get around a limit of two loans totaling $500 from a particular lender by simply going to the payday lender next door.

He termed the location limits “an opening shot across the bow.” He said his organization’s financial counselors see a connection between the lenders and foreclosures.

“I think that the neighborhoods that are really going to benefit from this are in Cordova,” Lockwood said. “If you want Cordova to look like Winchester or Frayser, don’t pass this.”

In other action, a Fairgrounds development agreement is tentatively set to have the first of three Memphis City Council votes in two weeks.

The city picked Fair Ground LLC to develop a master plan for the property that includes the Mid-South Coliseum, The Liberty Bowl and The Children’s Museum of Memphis. What is still being worked out is a contract with the terms for drawing up that master plan.

There are still several formidable obstacles to putting a development agreement in writing.

Shelby County government owns some of the Fairgrounds land including some of the land under The Liberty Bowl.

City Housing & Community Development director Robert Lipscomb told City Council members he will again pursue an agreement in which the county would sell its share in The Fairgrounds as well as The Pyramid.

The Shelby County Commission rejected such a sell-off by the county during consideration of a development agreement for The Pyramid involving Bass Pro Shops.

The commission eventually approved the development agreement after the agreement won approval from the city council.

Without a sell-off, the Fairgrounds development agreement appears on its way to the same dual track debate and voting process.

Lipscomb also told The Daily News there are conflicting legal opinions on the amount of public infrastructure financing the city would have to put up to leverage private investment.

He said the amounts vary from $75 million to $200 million. The city is seeking legal opinions on the public amount required under terms of Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) financing. If the amount is $200 million or close to it, Lipscomb said it makes the Fairgrounds renovation much harder to accomplish.

Henry Turley, one of several developer partners in Fair Ground LLC, said he considers the city’s contribution to be $75 million. Turley was instrumental in drafting the state legislation that allowed for the Tourism Development Zones.

The TDZs allow for financing of bonds through sales tax revenue generated in the designated area or zone.

Turley wants to include a big box retail store on the site and possibly a hotel according to tentative plans that are fluid on the location of those and other parts of an overall plan. The sales tax revenue from the store would go to pay off the TDZ bonds. No local government general fund revenue would be used.

...

23. Council Again Rejects Lee Legal Fees -

The Memphis City Council this evening affirmed its vote in Oct. to reject paying the legal fees of former Memphis Light Gas & Water Division president Joseph Lee.

The bill for Lee’s legal defense in a grand jury probe that led to his indictment as well as a hearing before the council came to $426,422. The corruption charges were later dropped by federal prosecutors.

The 7-6 vote came at the end of a day in which MLGW president Jerry Collins told council members talks between the utility and Lee’s attorney, Robert Spence, failed to reach any terms for a lesser amount.

Council members voting against the proposed settlement were: Bill Boyd, Kemp Conrad, Shea Flinn, Reid Hedgepeth, Myron Lowery, Bill Morrison and Jim Strickland. Those voting for it were: Joe Brown, Harold Collins, Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove, Wanda Halbert and Barbara Swearengen Ware.

Spence told The Daily News an announcement on a decision by Lee about pursuing the legal fees in a lawsuit against the city could be made as early as Tuesday.

The council has also given final approval this evening to an ordinance regulating the location of financial services, payday loan and title loan businesses.

The council vote was unanimous on third and final reading. Third and final vote before the Shelby County Commission is scheduled for Dec. 8.

The council passed an amended version that emerged as a compromise during today’s council session.

The ordinance bans the businesses from being with 1,000 feet of each other. The compromise worked out by council member Bill Morrison, with agreement from the payday loan industry, deals with a 90 day grace period for existing businesses to apply for a waiver.

Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware argued the location of the businesses isn’t the problem. It’s the high interest rates the companies charge – up to 264 percent annually.

“We need to deal with the root of the problem,” she said. “And if we could regulate how much (of an) interest rate is charged or how much the fees are, then we would be doing a service to the community,” Ware said. “I know we mean well here, but it’s supply and demand that is driving these businesses.”

But usery rates are regulated by the state and not the city council.

Morrison said the businesses cluster in his district which covers Frayser and Raleigh. Frayser is among the areas of the city hardest hit by home foreclosures.

Council member Harold Collins, whose district includes Hickory Hill – also hit hard by home foreclosures – said there is a connection. He counted at least 20 pay day lenders along one stretch of Winchester.

“Maybe they’re not contributing to the fact that many of the people in my district are losing their homes. But they are sure out there,” he said. “There needs to be some kind of line drawn that will keep the people in Hickory Hill from losing their homes.”

Steve Lockwood, head of the Frayser Community Development Corporation, said the close proximity of the lenders allows people in desperate financial straits to get around a limit of two loans totaling $500 from a particular lender by simply going to the payday lender next door.

He termed the location limits “an opening shot across the bow.” He said his organization’s financial counselors see a connection between the lenders and foreclosures.

“I think that the neighborhoods that are really going to benefit from this are in Cordova,” Lockwood said. “If you want Cordova to look like Winchester or Frayser, don’t pass this.”

In other action, a Fairgrounds development agreement is tentatively set to have the first of three Memphis City Council votes in two weeks.

The city picked Fair Ground LLC to develop a master plan for the property that includes the Mid-South Coliseum, The Liberty Bowl and The Children’s Museum of Memphis. What is still being worked out is a contract with the terms for drawing up that master plan.

There are still several formidable obstacles to putting a development agreement in writing.

Shelby County government owns some of the Fairgrounds land including some of the land under The Liberty Bowl.

City Housing & Community Development director Robert Lipscomb told City Council members he will again pursue an agreement in which the county would sell its share in The Fairgrounds as well as The Pyramid.

The Shelby County Commission rejected such a sell-off by the county during consideration of a development agreement for The Pyramid involving Bass Pro Shops.

The commission eventually approved the development agreement after the agreement won approval from the city council.

Without a sell-off, the Fairgrounds development agreement appears on its way to the same dual track debate and voting process.

Lipscomb also told The Daily News there are conflicting legal opinions on the amount of public infrastructure financing the city would have to put up to leverage private investment.

He said the amounts vary from $75 million to $200 million. The city is seeking legal opinions on the public amount required under terms of Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) financing. If the amount is $200 million or close to it, Lipscomb said it makes the Fairgrounds renovation much harder to accomplish.

Henry Turley, one of several developer partners in Fair Ground LLC, said he considers the city’s contribution to be $75 million. Turley was instrumental in drafting the state legislation that allowed for the Tourism Development Zones.

The TDZs allow for financing of bonds through sales tax revenue generated in the designated area or zone.

Turley wants to include a big box retail store on the site and possibly a hotel according to tentative plans that are fluid on the location of those and other parts of an overall plan. The sales tax revenue from the store would go to pay off the TDZ bonds. No local government general fund revenue would be used.

...

24. October Foreclosures Present Good News, Bad News -

October was the epitome of one step forward, two steps back on the foreclosure front in Shelby County. While residential foreclosures decreased compared to the same month a year ago, they were up from the previous month. Also, the year-to-date figures remain high, and the toll that foreclosures are taking on home values in the area remains strong.

25. Local Foreclosures Reflect National Crisis -

On the presidential campaign trail, it’s an issue raised as part of daily talking points, economic proposals and stinging attacks against the opposing party’s record.

But in Memphis and Shelby County, the growing number of home foreclosures is more than an abstract concept. It is a drama that threatens to upset the area’s economic structure when it comes to property tax revenue and next year’s countywide property reappraisal, among other things.

26. County Foreclosure Rate Declines in August -

Before Steve Lockwood even heard the latest numbers, he had a “gut feeling” the foreclosure rate was declining in Frayser and Raleigh, the two communities he serves as executive director of the Frayser Community Development Corp.

27. Leveling Foreclosure Rate Could Signal Local Turnaround -

Foreclosures rose nearly 50 percent nationwide in May compared to the same month a year ago, but locally they increased only 4.9 percent. And foreclosures in Shelby County fell 16.6 percent from April, marking the first decline from the previous month since February.

28. Foreclosures Up 40.1% Since Last Year -

All the prevention programs, housing counseling and lender outreach aimed toward at-risk homeowners haven’t kept the local foreclosure problem from worsening.

In April, residential foreclosures rose 40.1 percent in Shelby County from the same month a year ago, according to the latest data from real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.

29. Foreclosure Bite Deepens in Usual Suspects; Suburbs Feel It Too -

Steve Lockwood doesn't need to review an economic impact study or read a housing report to understand how foreclosures have taken a toll on the community where he works.

As executive director of the Frayser Community Development Corp., Lockwood experiences it daily when he drives past shuttered, dilapidated homes. He sees it in the weary faces of people holding tissues to wipe back tears as they ask for help.

30. Interest Rate Freeze Could Have Minimal Impact in Memphis -

U.S. homeowners facing a spike in the interest rates of their adjustable-rate mortgages could benefit from a plan outlined last week by the Bush administration, but how much aid it brings to Memphis and the Mid-South remains to be seen.

31. A Great Equalizer -

Tamara Mitchell-Ford - the ex-wife of former state Sen. John Ford - dodged a foreclosure sale of her two-story East Memphis home this week the same way scores of cash-strapped debtors do in Memphis. She filed for bankruptcy protection.

32. Black Women Bear Worst Brunt of Subprime Fallout, CDC Director Says -

Minorities are feeling the brunt of the subprime lending fallout more than whites, a study by the nonprofit organization ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) revealed earlier this week.

33. Up, Up and Not Away -

Homeownership is supposed to be the American dream, but Steve Lockwood knows this isn't always the case - especially for those who seek counseling services at the Frayser Community Development Corp., where he serves as executive director.

34. Three Cheers for Frayser -

A $60 million residential development on about 115 acres on the north side of James Road near North McLean Boulevard soon will change the face of the blighted Frayser community.

Frayser is perennially beleaguered by high foreclosure rates, low property values and crime.

35. Forces Gather To Revitalize Blighted Frayser Community -

Denesa Segrest calls the 38127 ZIP code in Frayser the "good secret that people don't know about" - at least not yet.

"They don't know about the good quality of housing, they don't know about the good schools. ... There's a lot that's going on that they just don't know," she said.

36. Frayser Foreclosures Revealed -

Looking out the group's office window at 3394 Overton Crossing St., staffers of the Frayser Community Development Corporation (FCDC) can see a title/payday loan office, a pawn shop and a company that buys foreclosed homes.

37. FORECLOSURES UP 17 PERCENT -

Valerie Smothers has worked hard all her life. Never married, she's worked full-time while serving as a foster parent to children who were neglected, abused or unwanted by their biological families. And now she has to care for her mother, who has Parkinson's disease.

38. City Makes Push for New Affordable Housing -

Steve Lockwood is helping residents of Frayser put a down payment on a very big dream: affordable home ownership.

As executive director of the Frayser Community Development Corp. - which was formed in 2000 to become a revitalization engine for the post-WWII suburb - Lockwood currently oversees several projects, such as the disbursement of federal grant money and the planning of new housing developments.

39. Archived Article: Gov - By Andy Meek

City Approves Frayser Redevelopment Plans

ANDY MEEK

The Daily News

Gene Pearson is one of many planners and city leaders who see potential for growth in Frayser, a Memphis neighborhood that has garnered attention for rising ...

40. Archived Article: Small Biz Focus - By Andy Meek

Mortgage Firm Helps Buyers Live the Dream

ANDY MEEK

The Daily News

Thanks in part to her parents work in the civil rights movement, Jacqueline McFerren always wanted to build a career out of helping people.

And since open...

41. Archived Article: Frayser (lead) - By Andy Meek

Frayser Faces Hurdles in Revitalization

Community leaders work to reduce high foreclosure rate

ANDY MEEK

The Daily News

Steve Lockwood, director of the Frayser Community Development Corp., said his group is one of many wo...

42. Archived Article: Newsmakers - Peace & Justice Center Awards Local Peacemakers

Peace & Justice Center Presents Annual Honors The Mid-South Peace & Justice Center will present the following Peacemaker 2003 awards Thursday at its annual banquet: Diamond Printing, soc...

43. Archived Article: Real Focus - Renovating houses for profit is an art For house renovation developers, art is life By JENNIFER MURLEY The Daily News To some, renovating houses for a living is an art. And just like art, which is pursued and appreciated for personal reasons, indivi...

44. Archived Article: Real Focus (cdc) - The stories all have a similar ring to them City CDCs providing many redevelopment needs By JENNIFER MURLEY The Daily News The stories all have a similar ring. "We used to have prostitutes walking up and down these streets." "That pla...