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Editorial Results (free)

1. Shelby County Early Voting Tops 4,300 -

A total of 4,324 citizens had voted early through Monday, July 16, the last day of the 14-day voting period confined to five sites. Early voting expanded Tuesday to 22 additional sites across Shelby County.

2. Last Word: The Jenkins Ruling, No More City Court Clerk and Harwell's Quest -

Making your early voting plan for Friday’s debut of the voting period in advance of the Aug. 2 election day? Well, you might want to hold off until after Tuesday morning. That’s when the latest changes could get set in stone … or not.

3. What Do Statewide Candidates Say About Health Care in Tennessee? -

According to Think Tennessee’s State of Our State dashboard, the state ranks near the bottom in the number of adults with heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It also ranks near the bottom of all states for the health of senior citizens, infant mortality, number of adults who smoke, and at the absolute bottom in childhood obesity. Tennesseans are, on the whole, not healthy. What can and should our next political leaders do about it?

4. Report: Goldman Looks to Partner With Apple on Credit Card -

NEW YORK (AP) – Goldman Sachs and Apple are looking to partner together to create a new credit card, the first foray by Goldman Sachs into the $1 trillion credit card market, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

5. Chicken Processor to Open $40M Mississippi Plant, Hiring 300 -

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – An Alabama-based chicken processor will open a plant in northeast Mississippi to make and distribute frozen chicken products.

Peco Foods on Monday announced its plan to invest $40 million in West Point, hiring 300 people over the next four years.

6. Capitalism Isn’t Broken, It’s Been Hijacked -

We live in tense times. In our era, we’ve seen systemic and corporate fraud at SkyTel, Enron, and others. We’ve watched our tax dollars bail out many of the largest banks and insurance companies.

7. Customer-Focused Government Not Always a Pleaser -

Gov. Bill Haslam is fond of saying government should run more like a business, and during his eighth and final State of the State address he invoked the term “customer-focused” at least twice in a victory lap.

8. Last Word: Grizz Speculation, SCS Grade Floors and Cedar Heights -

Grizz lose to the Wizards 93-87 in Washington. And ESPN columnist Zach Lowe says the team has lost its identity as well as a lot of games. CBSSports reports Marc Gasol is open to a trade but will not request one. And if you are looking to go far afield with the theories, here’s one from a Dallas Mavericks fansight, mavsmoneyball, that includes a really good graphic on the salaries of Grizz players.

9. Social Security Recipients Will See 2 Percent Boost in 2018 -

WASHINGTON (AP) – Millions of Social Security recipients and other retirees will get a 2 percent increase in benefits next year, the largest increase since 2012, thought it comes to only $25 a month for the average beneficiary.

10. State Politicians in No Hurry to Fix Health Insurance -

We don’t need no stinkin’ special session on Medicaid expansion.

That’s pretty much the Republican response to House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh’s call for Gov. Bill Haslam to bring lawmakers back to Nashville after the Graham-Cassidy bill failed in Congress.

11. On-Street Parking Rates Increasing Downtown -

The Memphis City Council gave final approval Tuesday, April 11, to new rates for on-street metered parking. The rate goes up to $1.50 per hour from the current $1.25, and those parking at the meters in the entertainment district have the option of buying up to four hours at the $1.50 hourly rate.

12. On-Street Parking Rates Increasing Downtown -

The Memphis City Council gave final approval Tuesday, April 11, to new rates for on-street metered parking. The rate goes up to $1.50 per hour from the current $1.25, and those parking at the meters in the entertainment district have the option of buying up to four hours at the $1.50 hourly rate.

13. Oral Chemo Bill Heading for House Vote as Big Pharma Watches -

Despite objections to a pharmaceutical reporting requirement, a House committee passed legislation Tuesday, April 4, designed to make oral chemotherapy medication more affordable.

By a 16-2 vote, the House Insurance and Banking Committee approved legislation sponsored by Rep. William Lamberth prohibiting an insurance provider from requiring a higher insurance co-payment for oral anti-cancer medication than for injected chemotherapy medication. The measure moves next to the Calendar & Rules Committee and then the House floor.

14. Rallings: Escort List Has Mistakes But Name Selection Isn’t Political -

Mistakes were made in putting together the list of 81 citizens who require a police escort at City Hall, Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said this week.

“We’ll continue to review the list. It’s a work in progress,” Rallings said after a committee session with Memphis City Council members Tuesday, Feb. 21. “We admit there are some errors on the list.”

15. Election Fallout: What a Trump Or Clinton Presidency Means for State -

Donald Trump is going to win easily in Tennessee.

Everyone, most of all the campaigns for both Trump and Hillary Clinton, accept this fact, as evidenced by the lack of campaign time spent in the state – and most of the South, for that matter – during this contentious campaign cycle.

16. $4 a Month? Social Security Recipients to Get Tiny Increase -

WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions of Social Security recipients and federal retirees will get a 0.3 percent increase in monthly benefits next year, the fifth year in a row that older Americans will have to settle for historically low raises. The adjustment adds up to a monthly increase of less than $4 a month for an average recipient.

17. Shelby County Schools Budgets – Past and Present – Amended -

The final numbers are in for Shelby County Schools and the quest for funding of the county’s largest public school system.

The SCS board approved Tuesday, July 26, the revised operating and capital budgets for the school system for the fiscal year that began 26 days earlier.

18. EDGE OKs Fast Track PILOT Program -

The board of the Memphis-Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine has approved a new tax incentive package designed to give Memphis a more competitive edge against North Mississippi.

The EDGE board green-lighted the Fast Track PILOT program at its Wednesday, May 18, meeting, making it EDGE’s fifth payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program.

19. Speaker Harwell's Health Care Task Force Holds First Meeting -

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Members of a health care task force assigned with proposing alternatives to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's Insure Tennessee plan on Tuesday stressed their desire to include "circuit breakers" to prevent out-of-control costs.

20. New Haslam Spending Proposed for Roads, TennCare, Schools -

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday proposed new spending on Tennessee roads, TennCare and schools.

The annual budget amendment reflects the governor's priorities for spending about $65 million in savings beyond what was originally projected for the budget year beginning July 1.

21. Politics of Deannexation Proposal Grows More Complex -

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is heading to Nashville Wednesday, March 16, to talk with legislators about what he considers City Hall’s highest priority in the 2016 session of the Tennessee Legislature – defeating a deannexation proposal.

22. AARP: Price Hikes Doubled Average Drug Price Over 7 Years -

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – The average cost for a year's supply of a prescription drug doubled in just seven years to more than $11,000 – about three-quarters of the average annual Social Security benefit.

23. Rare Wins for Democrats on Guns, Outsourcing -

Legislative Democrats got a chance to beat their chests a little bit after a proposal to allow guns in the state Capitol and Legislative Plaza failed, and they hope to do the same with outsourcing.

24. Haslam, Colleges Agree to Outside Review of Outsourcing Plan -

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Gov. Bill Haslam's administration announced Wednesday that it has agreed with higher education leaders to have an outside group review the Republican's privatization plan for building maintenance at Tennessee's public colleges and universities.

25. Tri-State Bank HQ Sale Heightens Speculation -

The northeast corner of Main and Beale streets is more than prime real estate; it’s historic ground with a direct connection to ongoing racial and economic issues.

Tri-State Bank, the city’s 70-year old black-owned bank, and Belz Investco announced Thursday, Dec. 31, that the bank was selling its headquarters, 180 S. Main St., to Belz Investco GP in a $3 million deal.

26. Refugees, Regents, Privatization On Tap for New Session -

State Sen. Ken Yager isn’t quite ready for the state of Tennessee to reclaim the Refugee Resettlement Program from Catholic Charities.

27. Competition for Jones Lang Lasalle in Tennessee -

Amid debate about privatization within state government, legislators are glad to see Tennessee seeking competition in its building leasing program.

“To me, when you’ve got competition, you’ve got people who may do something for next to nothing just to get their foot in the door,” says state Rep. Mike Sparks, who raised questions about the state’s leasing program and contract with Jones Lang Lasalle, which started charging commissions when it got involved in 2012.

28. Is State’s Role to Provide a Service or Turn a Profit? -

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appears to be on the brink of privatizing state government. But he won’t be able to do it without a battle, especially from university unions and Democratic lawmakers.

29. Mayoral Debate Clash Focuses on City Finances -

Memphis city government’s financial problems and how those problems happened was the flashpoint for the latest meeting of the top mayoral contenders on the Oct. 8 ballot.

The Wednesday, Aug. 19, forum sponsored by The Commercial Appeal at the University of Memphis saw incumbent Mayor A C Wharton Jr. clash with challengers and city council members Jim Strickland and Harold Collins. The fourth debate contender, Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams, argued for different city priorities and a slower move toward economic development goals.

30. Congress OKs Bill Reshaping Medicare Doctors' Fees -

WASHINGTON (AP) – Conservatives hated that it's expected to swell federal deficits over the coming decade. Liberals complained that it shortchanged health programs for children and women.

31. Eliminating Hall Income Tax Raises New Problems -

Republican lawmakers are lining up legislation to reduce or phase out Tennessee’s Hall income tax on investments, even though Gov. Bill Haslam is concerned about losing revenue amid the state’s economic ups and downs.

32. Drowning in Student Loan Debt -

Three-and-a-half years after graduating from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Yasameen Hoffman is still trying to land the kind of full-time job that will help her start paying off her student loan.

33. A Present for the Kids -

GIVE THANKS. This Christmas, our country has given our kids a chance. As a county, we had a chance to do it for ourselves but local government wouldn’t fund it and local citizens wouldn’t pay for it. As a state, our governor had to be talked into asking for it and our Legislature would rather not talk about asking for help at all.

34. Milhaus Acquires Highland Row Property -

44 S. Highland St.; 366, 374 and 380 Ellsworth St.
Memphis, TN 38111
Sale Amount: $4.3 million

35. Greater Imani Buys Broadmoor Property -

Greater Imani Baptist Church has purchased property from Broadmoor Baptist Church for $1.6 million.

Greater Imani acquired the Broadmoor property at 3824 Austin Peay Highway, according to a Nov. 3 warranty deed. Greater Imani filed a $2 million loan with Citizens Savings Bank and Trust Co. in conjunction with the purchase, according to a deed of trust filed the same day. William A. Adkins Jr., board president for Greater Imani, signed the deed of trust.

36. Pension ‘Concept’ Flips Council Script -

For most of her seven years on the Memphis City Council, Wanda Halbert has been the most outspoken member when it comes to last-minute items added to the council’s agenda for a vote.

So, when Halbert rolled out a compromise plan on the city’s pension changes Tuesday, Dec. 2, she took some heat from other council members.

37. Greater Imani Church Buys Broadmoor Property -

Greater Imani Baptist Church has purchased property from Broadmoor Baptist Church for $1.6 million.

Greater Imani acquired the Broadmoor property at 3824 Austin Peay Highway, according to a Nov. 3 warranty deed. Greater Imani filed a $2 million loan with Citizens Savings Bank and Trust Co. in conjunction with the purchase, according to a deed of trust filed the same day. William A. Adkins Jr., board president for Greater Imani, signed the deed of trust.

38. Why are Tennesseans So Afraid of an Income Tax? -

The odds of an income tax becoming a reality in Tennessee – one of the nation’s lowest-taxed states – are slim to none.

And, yet there is an amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot that would change Tennessee’s constitution by giving the Legislature authority to prohibit passage of an income tax or payroll tax in the state.

39. City Employees Return to Court Over Benefits -

The basic elements of an overhaul of city health insurance and pension benefits got some changes this week at the Memphis City Council. And it looks like the council might put off a vote on pension benefit changes originally set for a vote in October.

40. Council Aims at Moving Insurance Targets -

At just about every turn of the debate at City Hall about changes in health insurance coverage, Memphis City Council members have seen crucial numbers shift about the impact of the changes and the city’s liability.

41. Council To Review Conflicting Health Insurance Numbers -

City government’s open enrollment period for health insurance begins in October and new details of health insurance benefit cuts approved in June go in the mail later this month. Yet Memphis City Council members meet in a special committee session next week to again review conflicting numbers from actuaries on the coverage.

42. City Union Presents Alternative Plan on Benefits -

Memphis Fire Fighters Association president Thomas Malone takes the union’s plan for reversing city employee and retiree health insurance coverage cutbacks to a city oversight committee Thursday, Aug. 21, on employee issues.

43. Wharton Courts Alternatives in Benefits Dispute -

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. says any alternatives are welcome to the coming health insurance changes for city employees and retirees.

But delaying the roll out of those changes in January is not an option. And neither is reopening the city budget or the city property tax rate.

44. Fire, Police Union Brass Say Lawsuit is Coming -

The leaders of the Memphis police and fire unions say they will sue the city over changes in employee health insurance approved this month and are prepared to add pension changes to the litigation if the council approves those changes next month.

45. Long Council Day Comes With Change, Emotions -

It was apparent early in the long council day Tuesday, June 17, at City Hall that there wouldn’t be many amendments to the $600 million operating budget and $84 million capital budget the council would approve later that evening.

46. Hopson Pushes Realignment, New Goals in Budget -

After hearing from more than a dozen citizens Tuesday, April 22, including some who quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their arguments against specific Shelby County Schools budget cuts, superintendent Dorsey Hopson had his own quote from the civil rights leader.

47. School Closings Votes Leave Issues -

Shelby County Schools board members completed Tuesday, Feb. 25, the first half of their actions to prepare the new map of the demerged school system for the academic year that begins in August. And they set the stage for more possible changes in years to come.

48. Bipartisan Budget Agreement Nears Final Passage -

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate lined up Wednesday to give final congressional approval to legislation scaling back across-the-board cuts on programs ranging from the Pentagon to the national park system, adding a late dusting of bipartisanship to a year more likely to be remembered for a partial government shutdown and near-perpetual gridlock.

49. Bad Blood -

December was already going to be a busy month at City Hall for the administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.

He would be bringing a plan to provide $15 million in city financing for the $180 million Crosstown revitalization project and rolling out its fix to address the Tennessee Comptroller’s vocal concerns about the city’s unfunded pension liability.

50. Council OKs Crosstown, Debates Schools Lawsuit -

Memphis City Council members approved the Crosstown planned development Tuesday, Nov. 19, marking the latest move through local government for the $180 million project with construction scheduled to begin late this year or early next year.

51. Wenco Files Construction Loan for Volvo of Memphis -

7910 Trinity Road
Cordova, TN 38018
Loan Amount: $4.2 million

Loan Date: Nov. 7, 2013
Maturity Date: n/a
Borrower: Wenco Properties LLC
Lender: Wells Fargo Bank NA
Details: Wenco Properties LLC has filed a $4.2 million construction loan through Wells Fargo Bank for the Volvo of Memphis dealership it is building at 7910 Trinity Road in Cordova.

52. Trolley Station Sells For $2.7 Million -

Trolley Station, a Class C shopping center at the northwest corner of South Perkins Road and American Way, has sold for $2.7 million to a Georgia-based company.

Vishal Trolley Station LLC purchased the property from Kimco Trolley Station LP in an Oct. 29 special warranty deed, financing the deal with a $1.9 million deed of trust through Citizens Savings Bank & Trust Co. Shiv K. Aggarwal signed the trust deed as sole manager of Vishal Trolley Station.

53. Trolley Station Sells for $2.7 Million -

Trolley Station, a Class C shopping center at the northwest corner of South Perkins Road and American Way, has sold for $2.7 million to a Georgia-based company.

Vishal Trolley Station LLC purchased the property from Kimco Trolley Station LP in an Oct. 29 special warranty deed, financing the deal with a $1.9 million deed of trust through Citizens Savings Bank & Trust Co. Shiv K. Aggarwal signed the trust deed as sole manager of Vishal Trolley Station.

54. Council Keeps Southbrook Mall Renovation Alive -

Memphis City Council members voted Tuesday, Nov. 5, to start over again in plans to find a legal use for city funds in renovating the Southbrook Mall in Whitehaven.

And the administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. gave a qualified endorsement through what amounts to a new feasibility study on the mall due before the council in a month.

55. Covington Biomass Gasification Plant Online -

Covington, Tenn., Mayor David Gordon describes himself as a “confirmed nerd” who enjoys reading scientific papers.

56. City Pension Crisis Meets Sanitation Overhaul -

The city’s looming pension liability crisis and the proposed solution to it intersected Tuesday, Oct. 1, with a plan to overhaul city sanitation services and, in the process, provide a pension supplement to sanitation workers.

57. Council Approves Smart Meters, Delays Vote on Solid Waste Fee and Plan -

Memphis City Council members approved a $10.1 million contract Tuesday, Aug. 20, for Memphis Light Gas and Water Division to buy 60,000 Smart Meters.

And the council delayed a final vote on setting a solid waste fee that is the starting point for changes over several years to the way the city collects garbage. The two-week delay in setting the fee also delays acting on a plan to provide sanitation workers with a retirement supplement of up to $1,000 a month funded with the savings from the changes in the services.

58. Plan Changes City’s Garbage Collection -

City Public Works officials and the municipal union representing sanitation workers have reached an agreement on a plan to increase the workload for sanitation workers, move toward broader and easier recycling measures, and use some of the savings from the plan to fund a retirement supplement for older workers.

59. Kronos Aims to Bring Green Energy to All -

Kronos Energy Solutions is hard at work on a new hybrid charging system for electric cars, which it hopes to debut in the next six to nine months, and the company is also making plans for possible expansion of its headquarters in Cordova by early next year.

60. Garbage Services Weighs Collection Overhaul -

As City Hall roils in a tempestuous budget season, discussions about changing how the city collects garbage for its citizens have been making progress.

Sanitation services are part of the city’s operating budget, but they are not funded through the city’s general fund, the largest pot of revenue the city of Memphis has. They are funded with the monthly $25.05 solid waste fee paid by citizens.

61. Shorb: Increased Care Comes With Need for Lower Costs -

In increasing access to care and outcomes, health care organizations in Memphis and elsewhere in the nation need to find innovative solutions to bring down the cost of providing care, Gary Shorb, president and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, said in a speech to industry leaders at the University Club earlier this month.

62. Critics Revive Past Promises to Knock Obama Budget -

WASHINGTON (AP) – Advocates for seniors say President Barack Obama is breaking his promise to protect Social Security, while conservatives say he is breaking his promise not to raise taxes on the middle class.

63. School Board’s Choices Intensify Merger Debate -

Countywide school board members began making what are considered the toughest and most controversial decisions of the schools merger Thursday, Feb. 28.

But the series of votes on 10 merger recommendations at the four-and-a-half hour meeting didn’t do much to settle the emerging questions about what is motivating the board as the schools merger start date draws closer.

64. School Board Approves Outsourcing After Long Debate -

Countywide school board members approved Thursday, Feb. 28, the first of the three most controversial schools merger recommendations they are likely to face – outsourcing custodial services across the single merged school system.

65. Mayor, Banks Revive Program Targeting City’s Unbanked -

It started with a letter. More than two dozen of them, actually. Bankers from around Memphis got a missive from Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. in 2010 that solicited help from bankers like Joe DiNicolantonio, West Tennessee area president for Regions Bank.

66. School Board Delays Vote On School Closings -

Countywide school board members put off a vote Tuesday, Nov. 20, on a recommendation to close 21 schools in northwest and southwest Memphis.

The recommendation from the schools consolidation planning commission is considered one of the most controversial items from the citizens group that made 172 recommendations in all on the move to a merger of Shelby County's two public school systems earlier this year.

67. Labor Heads Say Obama Backs Them on 'Fiscal Cliff' -

WASHINGTON (AP) – Labor leaders said Tuesday that President Barack Obama remains committed to preserving tax cuts for middle class families and ensuring the wealthy pay more in taxes, outlining plans for a public campaign to pressure Republican lawmakers.

68. School Board Questions Processes -

The process that countywide school board members are using to filter school merger recommendations from the transition planning commission looks a lot like the commission itself.

The group of senior administrators from both school systems even has a similar name – the transition steering committee. And like the transition planning commission, it will explore hiring consulting firms to advise it.

69. Board Approves Formation of Transition Group -

There are recommendations to come, decisions by two school superintendents instead of one about who works on the coming schools merger and more public meetings after 75 already by the schools consolidation planning commission.

70. School Board Takes First Steps Toward Merger Supt. And Plan -

Countywide school board members gave themselves a majority of the seats on a 13-member committee to begin the search for a superintendent to lead Shelby County’s two public school systems into an August 2013 merger and beyond.

71. Towering Questions -

It’s been slightly more than two years since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, but when it comes to small businesses meeting its demands, confusion still abounds.

While some provisions of health care reform – such as expansion of coverage to adult children up to age 26, new coverage options for individuals with pre-existing conditions and eliminating lifetime caps on coverage – have been implemented, the government will continue to roll out provisions through 2014 and beyond.

72. Countywide School Board Plans Make Different Recommendations to Court - Recommendations for the creation of a new countywide school board began coming in late Friday, Aug. 12, to the Federal Court clerk's office.

The Memphis City School board recommends a seven district countywide school board with an election of that board to be held no later than March 2012.

73. ‘In This Together’ -

For some Memphis consumers, it’s a completely natural impulse to go out of the way to keep from going far away when there’s money to spend. Those particular consumers will run over a TCBY to get to YoLo, shove past a Starbucks to get their caffeine fix at Otherlands, Republic or Cafe Eclectic, hop over an IHOP to stand in line at Brother Juniper’s and dodge Dillard’s to suit up at shops like Oak Hall and James Davis.

74. No News Blues: Haslam Clip Service Drops Hundreds -

NASHVILLE (AP) – No news is not good news to hundreds of political figures who have quit receiving a popular daily roundup of state media reports e-mailed by Gov. Bill Haslam's office.

75. City Council Still Debating Budget Decision -

In some ways, the city budget season isn’t over just yet.

Memphis City Council member Joe Brown moved Tuesday, July 5, to reverse an effective 4.6 percent pay cut for city employees through 12 unpaid furlough days.

76. Pieces of the Puzzle -

Memphis City Council members left the city property tax rate at $3.19 Tuesday, June 21, as they ended their budget season.

But they added 18 cents to the tax rate on a one time basis with a separate resolution.

77. Council Approves City Budget With One Time 18 Cent Tax Hike - Memphis City Council members approved a $661.4 million operating budget and added 18 cents on top of the city property tax rate, although they insist it is a one time only tax hike to pay money owed the Memphis City Schools in the upcoming budget year.

78. Municipal Unions Rally Against Conrad Proposal -

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said Thursday, June 2, he is not “seeking privatization of any of the positions” held by members of the union that represents the city’s sanitation workers.

Wharton’s written statement came the day after Memphis City Council member Kemp Conrad presented a plan for balancing the city’s operating budget in the new fiscal year and beyond with several measures including privatizing or outsourcing the city’s garbage collection.

79. Gov: Budget to Fund More Key Services in Tenn. -

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Increased state revenues will provide millions in extra funding for flood and storm relief, mental health care, and other key projects and services in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday.

80. House GOP Budget Retains Democratic Medicare Cuts -

WASHINGTON (AP) – In a postelection reversal, House Republicans are supporting nearly $450 billion in Medicare cuts that they criticized vigorously last fall after Democrats and President Barack Obama passed them as part of their controversial health care law.

81. The Great Debate -

At our W&A State of the Union in February, we discussed that, in our opinion, the primary threat to America’s national supremacy was not China or an emerging competitor, but our rapidly deteriorating Federal fiscal position. We postulated that the national consciousness on the issue had moved beyond the denial and anger phases and entered into the acceptance phase, with several detailed proposals circling Capitol Hill, and that eventually one would land, forcing debate.

82. Social Security Stopping Mailed Earning Statements -

WASHINGTON (AP) – Those yearly statements that Social Security mails out – here's what you'd get if you retired at 62, at 66, at 70 – will soon stop arriving in workers' mailboxes. It's an effort to save money and steer more people to the agency's website.

83. Medicare Rise Could Mean No Social Security COLA -

WASHINGTON (AP) – Millions of retired and disabled people in the United States had better brace for another year with no increase in Social Security payments.

The government is projecting a slight cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits next year, the first increase since 2009. But for most beneficiaries, rising Medicare premiums threaten to wipe out any increase in payments, leaving them without a raise for a third straight year.

84. GOP: New Obama Budget-Cutting Offer Too Small -

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Democrats on Friday detailed their opening budget offer of $6.5 billion more in spending cuts this year, but neither it nor the $61 billion in cuts passed by House Republicans is expected to survive test votes next week.

85. Collierville Office Building Sells for $1.3M in Foreclosure -

472 W. Poplar Ave.
Collierville, TN 38017
Sale Amount: $1.3 million

Sale Date: Dec. 14, 2010
Buyer: First Citizens National Bank
Seller: Ralph Henson, trustee
Orig. Borrower: Loyal Featherstone Realtors Inc.
Orig. Lender: First Citizens National Bank
Orig. Loan Amount: $1.6 million
Orig. Loan Date: March 7, 2007
Orig. Maturity: March 7, 2008

86. Commission: Read the Charter and Vote -

Both sides in the consolidation debate are urging citizens to read the proposed metro charter and vote.

And as the campaign nears the Nov. 2 Election Day vote on the charter, each side is accusing the other of reading things in the charter that aren’t there.

87. Dem Lawyer Questions Fincher's Disclosure to House -

NASHVILLE (AP) – A prominent Democratic lawyer is asking federal prosecutors to investigate whether Republican congressional candidate Stephen Fincher omitted debts and assets in financial disclosures maintained by the U.S. House.

88. City Council Approves Budgets For New Fiscal Year -

Budget season ended at City Hall Tuesday with the passage of a $623 million operating budget, a $197.7 million five year capital improvements budget and a stable city property tax rate.

All take effect on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

So do new sanitation fees including a $4.50 cent hike in the solid waste fee paid monthly by Memphians. The new rate will be $25.05 a month.

The council also approved a $5 additional monthly fee if residents want to rent an additional garbage container from the city and a ban on sanitation crews emptying trash from anything other than the city provided containers.

The city’s sanitary sewer fee will also go from about $7.90 a month for most residents to $17 per household.

The solid waste fee hikes are the first step toward converting city sanitation services to a “pay as you throw” system that Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom said is more efficient based on its use in other cities of comparable size. The principle of the system is that residents pay for the amount of waste the city picks up.

Council chairman Harold Collins proposed and the council approved an amendment that could cut the solid waste fee to $23.80 by the summer of 2013. The fee drop would be based on estimates that by then revenue from the part of the fee hike that would go to buy new garbage trucks would have done its job for the fleet.

“That means you all have to have a sense of urgency to get that job done,” Collins said to Gilliom. “This is an opportunity for the administration to work with the people of Memphis.”

Some council members doubted the council could legally approve such an action binding on future council members.

Council member Kemp Conrad called the Collins proposal “pure fantasy.”

“That’s just cover for people to vote for a fee increase,” he said. “Either you are for the fee increase or you are for outsourcing.”

Conrad favored outsourcing sanitation services beyond the 35,000 citizens who now have some of their waste picked up by private companies and the rest of it picked up by city crews.

Gilliom said the alternative to the solid waste fee hike, the second in three years, was to outsource garbage pickup for another 75,000 households and lay off more than 230 employees.

The Wharton administration made $13.2 million in cuts to its original operating budget proposal. That included three to five percent pay cuts for all city salaried employees making $80,000 and over a year. The 204 employees having their pay cut include Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. The three city court judges were exempted from the pay cuts.

The pay cuts will generate an $875,609 savings for the city. Wharton said he will try to find ways in the next three months to restore the cut in pay and find the revenue from other parts of city government.

Wharton included the pay cuts after the council’s budget committee directed him to cut without cutting services or employees delivering those services.

In keeping the city property tax rate level, the council also approved the possibility of issuing a separate education tax bill in the event the city loses the final round in a court battle with the Memphis school system over whether it can cut its level of funding to the school system.

Should the Tennessee Supreme Court refuse to hear the city’s appeal or hear the case and decide against the city, the city would have to come up with $57 million – the amount it cut the school system’s budget by in 2008.

Council member Shea Flinn proposed during executive session one time property tax hikes over three fiscal years to generate the revenue and hold it in a special fund pending the outcome of the court case. He also proposed a two week delay in Tuesday’s budget votes to find cuts in the city budget that would negate the need for such tax hikes.

The two week delay was voted down at the executive session, which was attended by most of the 13 council members. Flinn then withdrew the first part from consideration.

The proposal did not resurface at the regular council session.

The CIP budget, which is one time spending on construction projects financed by bonds, drew lots of questions from council members after Wharton included a surprise $5 million economic development fund in the $87 million dollar CIP plan for the coming fiscal year. The budget was already $2.5 million over because of the $15.5 million price tag for the Tiger Lane improvements to The Fairgrounds. Wharton said he wanted the $5 million to assist growing businesses as the need arises. Some on the council questioned why Wharton didn’t put it in the budget originally if it was such a high priority.

Wharton said since the city was going to have to go to market for more bonds because of the added expense of the Tiger Lane project, he decided to try to add the $5 million.

The addition was approved as part of the overall CIP.


89. How to Build a Government in 71 days -

The idea of consolidation is a political perennial in Memphis, but the details of merging Memphis and Shelby County governments are much more elusive.

The Metro Charter Commission’s formation last year represented the most meaningful move toward consolidation in almost 40 years.

90. Former Indy Mayor’s Advice To Local Government: Cut Red Tape -

Combining city and county governments is not the issue, the former mayor of Indianapolis told the Metro Charter Commission last week.

Stephen Goldsmith said the group drafting a consolidation charter for voters on the November ballot should be more focused on efficiency.

91. Upswing in Motion -

When mortgage numbers reach historic lows – as they have in Shelby County during the past two years – any improvement, however small, should be viewed as positive.

The commercial lending industry indeed received a rare dose of good news in December with a bump in commercial purchase mortgage activity, as opposed to refinances.

92. Wharton Considers City Division Cuts To Aid MCS -

There probably will be fewer divisions in city government sometime early next year.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. raised that possibility this week as he and City Council members discussed a framework for coming up with $50 million for the Memphis City Schools.

93. Guards Could Be Outsourced At City Hall -

The city of Memphis wants to see if it can save money by replacing the police officers who monitor the entrance to City Hall with contractors from a private firm.

The city administration through Monday will be taking bids from vendors to provide armed security guards who would be posted primarily in the lobby of City Hall. That’s where a small contingent of Memphis Police Department officers now greets the public, waves visitors through metal detectors, helps people navigate the building and answers general questions.

94. Obama Announces Agreement With Drug Companies -

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama on Monday welcomed the pharmaceutical industry's agreement to help close a gap in Medicare's drug coverage, calling the pact a step forward in the push for overhaul of the nation's health care system.

95. Some Doubt Council Will Finish Budget Today -

The Memphis City Council will have an opportunity today to finalize the city’s operating and capital improvement budgets and set a new property tax rate.

Those items are part of today’s full council agenda and are topics its budget committee has been meeting about until as late as 11 p.m. over the past several weeks.

96. Council Wrenched by School Funding -

Around this time last year, Memphis City Council members axed $66 million from the city school system’s 2008-2009 budget request.

Council members hoped the unprecedented move would start to free the body from an expense they’ve long viewed as a financial albatross.

Yet as the first full week of city budget hearings drew to a close this week, it was clear council members continue wrestling with how to shape this year’s city budget because of Memphis City Schools’ unresolved situation.

Last year the big question was how much to cut. This year the question is how much to put back into the budget.

Addition and subtraction

That question does not refer to the council restoring its funding to MCS.

Instead, council members want to be prepared to absorb the financial blow if they lose a related court appeal.

Shelby County Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ruled earlier this year the council needs to give the school district $57 million it should have received for the 2008-2009 school year.

The city doesn’t have to pay that money unless it loses its appeal. Dr. Timothy Webb, the state commissioner of education, sent a letter to MCS general counsel Dorsey Hopson Thursday that read: "The Department fully expects MCS to prevail in the City's appeal of the Chancellor's decision."

Meanwhile, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton recently presented a budget plan for the coming fiscal year that included no financial contingency for returning the money.

The school funding issue is such a sticky legal and financial morass that it’s taken council members several days of lengthy discussions even to get an idea of how large a shock absorber they should build into the budget.

“The budget presented by the administration is truly not balanced and the City Council must now finish making the hard decisions that are required to prevent a massive tax increase of up to $57 million,” reads a resolution councilman Kemp Conrad brought to the council’s Monday night budget hearing.

Icky and sticky

Armstrong’s order was clear about the $57 million due to MCS for last year. That replenished amount also would conceivably be the new baseline for the 2009-2010 school year.

In the worst-case scenario, it would appear as much as $114 million would have to be paid to MCS for last year and the coming school year, although virtually no council members expect the expense to get that large.

“We may cut expenses and still have to raise taxes,” said councilman Shea Flinn. “We might not be able to cut our way out of this.”

Earlier this week, the council asked the city administration for new versions of the city operating budget, with varying levels of cuts to accommodate as much as $57 million. Then the council’s budget committee scrapped its schedule for Wednesday night’s budget hearing to grapple exclusively with the still-unresolved MCS funding and budget questions.

During more than two hours of discussion, council members warmed to the possibility of sending out two property tax bills this year. One would be the usual tax bill, and the smaller one would raise money for MCS.

City finance director Roland McElrath is to report back to the council on the cost of issuing a second tax bill. No date is set for his report.

Tough choices

Meanwhile, council members will continue combing through the city’s proposed operating budget, studying one city division after another to look for savings.

“As grueling as it may sound, we need to look at every division’s budget,” said council member Wanda Halbert.

Several council members said the body needs to do what families are being forced to do because of the economy: make tough choices about what they can do without.

“In my mind, we either cut expenses in the budget or we raise taxes on the citizens of Memphis,” said council member Jim Strickland. “To me, that’s an easy choice. We need to slug it out and go through every single division’s budget.”


97. Commercial Mortgages Down 41 Percent From ‘07 -

Tom Portis was surprised to hear that BancorpSouth Bank ranked as the top commercial mortgage lender in Shelby County for October, especially in light of its competition in this market.

98. Social Security Benefits Rise by 5.8 Percent -

WASHINGTON (AP) – Social Security benefits for 50 million people will go up 5.8 percent next year, the largest increase in more than a quarter century.

The increase, which will start in January, was announced Thursday by the Social Security Administration. It will mean an additional $63 per month for the average retiree.

99. Mall Purchase Idea Spurs Further Debate -

It would be called the Southeast Satellite Multiplex. The new name is not as snappy as Hickory Ridge Mall, but it does fit the government facility the Herenton administration proposes to retrofit into the mall severely damaged by a tornado in February.

100. Charter Vote Hits Logjam -

Shelby County Commissioners did it the hard way this week on the second of three readings of a new set of proposed charter amendments.

Ultimately, the commission approved the charter amendments Monday for the Nov. 4 ballot. This measure would establish five countywide offices as positions in the county charter instead of the Tennessee Constitution and a separate amendment would limit those holding the five offices to no more than two consecutive terms in office.