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VOL. 123 | NO. 64 | Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Daily Digest

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LeMoyne-Owen CDC To Build Center, Subdivision

     LeMoyne-Owen College Community Development Corp. (LOC-CDC) has applied for a $501,000 building permit for a lifestyle center and subdivision at 915 E. McLemore Ave.
     The lifestyle center, called Soulsville USA, will include 77,000 square feet of office, retail and commercial space, including a 27,000-square-foot grocery store, William's Apple Market.
     "We are about 75 percent leased up," said Jeffrey Higgs, executive director of LOC-CDC.
     Soulsville USA will include women's shoes, men's clothing, a health center, a food court, a beauty and barber shop and various other tenants. The office space will be partially occupied by LOC-CDC, which will relocate there. In addition, Judge Larry Potter will have an environmental court area in the building, and the Memphis Code Enforcement office also will move to the Soulsville USA office space.
     Behind the lifestyle center a 13-lot, market-rate subdivision is planned and will be called The Villas at Soulsville. LOC-CDC has built a lot of affordable housing in the area, but Higgs said this project is different from previous ones.
     "What's happening now is we're getting a lot of calls from people who could live anywhere in the county, but they want to come back to the neighborhood - but want something a little more than affordable housing," Higgs said.
     The houses in the subdivision will start at 2,000 square feet. Homeowners may choose from about five different designs for their houses, Higgs said. The subdivision will be in a cul-de-sac: "one way in, one way out," adding to a sense of safety, he said.
     The approximately $11 million project is slated for completion in May 2009. Self Tucker Architects Inc. will work on the project; the contractor has not been chosen.

Herenton Goes National While Keeping Local Press at Bay

     It was an eventful week last week for Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton.
     Talk of resignation, the still-secret results of a blackmail probe and national media exposure all swirled around the mayor. He told reporters early in the week, for example, that a letter he sent earlier this month to the city's chief administrative officer announcing his plans to retire at the end of July did not mean he intends to leave office.
     Part of that confusion stems from less-than-candid remarks from the mayor himself about the matter. When asked, "Why would you turn away (from the office) now?" in a television interview broadcast earlier this month, he responded by asking, "What's left for me to do?"
     Meanwhile, The Daily News on Thursday was the first to report that the mayor was sent a draft report earlier this month containing the findings of a special prosecutor investigating an alleged blackmail plot the mayor insisted had been hatched last year to derail his October re-election bid. In a press conference at City Hall last year, he called it the "2007 political conspiracy," although he has been silent about whether the report confirms or disputes his allegations.
     Local reporters with requests to interview the mayor to discuss all of those events and newsworthy items involving his office have repeatedly been met with this response or a variation of it: "We're not doing any interviews today."
     But that seems to be only where local media outlets and, for that matter, the general public in Memphis are concerned. The mayor sat down at City Hall Friday with a reporter and photographer from The New York Times and talked at length about the events of last week.
     The story generated from that conversation, "Mayor Seeks Job Switch, but Response is Lukewarm," ran in Sunday's New York Times in the paper's front section. Part of the interview was over the mayor's resignation letter and his interest in the job of city schools superintendent. In the interview, Herenton mistakenly referred to himself more than once as already the superintendent and the Memphis City Council as the school board, according to the story.

School System Case Continues With Special Master Issue

     All sides in the 45-year-old Shelby County Schools System desegregation case have until April 26 to agree on a special master to oversee the restart of racial desegregation of the schools.
     U.S. District Court Judge Bernice Donald set the date last week in denying a stay of her July court order. The school system requested the stay as it appeals her ruling. Donald ruled in July that the schools system had not achieved unitary status. She also ordered a goal of having each county school reflect the racial makeup of the overall school district within 15 percentage points.
     All sides in the 1963 lawsuit Robinson v. Shelby County Board of Education had sought to end the lawsuit and have the school system declared unitary. Instead Donald ordered changes that all sides have said would require the renewal of widespread court-ordered busing. Appointing a special master to oversee the changes is the first step.
     "Defendant must recognize that plaguing its district is the existence of schools with substantially disproportionate racial compositions," Donald wrote in last week's ruling. "A presumption against schools with substantially disproportionate racial compositions is warranted when the school exists in a system that has a history of segregation."

State Ethics Commission Warns Officials With Overdue Disclosures

     The state has yet to receive about 900 financial disclosure reports from local elected officials, and the executive director of the Tennessee Ethics Commission says the delinquent officials could face penalties.
     Bruce Androphy said officials who have not filed have received warning letters.
     Any who still have not filed by the end of April will be ordered to attend a hearing and likely will face penalties.
     Officials found in violation of the ethics policy can be fined up to $750 over 35 days. If the problem still is not cleared up, then the officials can be fined up to $10,000.
     "At some point, people have to be responsible for their actions, or in this case, inactions," Androphy said. "Hopefully that will shake the tree, but I anticipate we'll still have a number who just haven't filed."
     More than 5,000 local officials have filed reports.
     The Ethics Commission extended this year's deadline for filing reports because there were problems with the online filing system.
     The commission received complaints from some officials who said they couldn't file because they either didn't have access to the Internet or didn't know how to use a computer.
     A computer glitch also affected the filings of more than 100 officials.
     But Androphy said only a small portion of the officials who have not filed can blame the online system.
     "The majority of people just haven't done the form," Androphy said.
     Elected officials, candidates for public office and some political appointees must publicly disclose their source of income, outstanding loans and investments.
     The reports are intended to expose any conflicts of interest the officials might have.
     The ethics filing rules came after the FBI's Operation Tennessee Waltz corruption sting of state and local officials in 2005.

Gore to Launch 'We' Campaign Wednesday

     Former Vice President Al Gore plans to launch a three-year, multimillion dollar advocacy campaign calling for the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
     The Alliance for Climate Protection's "We" campaign, which will combine advertising and online organizing with grassroots groups, is designed to educate the public about global warming and urge solutions from elected officials.
     Gore said the campaign set to launch Wednesday is intended to promote a major shift in public opinion and engagement on the issue.
     The Alliance for Climate Protection was founded in 2006 by Gore, who currently serves as the chairman of its bipartisan board of directors.

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