VOL. 7 | NO. 19 | Saturday, May 3, 2014
Mall Owners Concerned About City Plans
Leaders of the holding company that owns Raleigh Springs Mall expressed concern Thursday, May 1, about Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s plans to turn the mall into a town center.
Michael Aschenbrener, attorney for Raleigh Springs Mall LLC, says the group has been working diligently to renovate and revitalize the mall since it bought the property a year ago.
That includes $1.5 million spent on a new roof for the mall, which has approximately 15 tenants and has signed leases for three more.
Aschenbrener said the owners had been talking with the city about a renovation of the mall until those talks stopped late last year. He said the owners hope to have future discussions.
Wharton’s plan is to demolish parts of the mall and locate city government services on the site, including moving the Old Allen police precinct, the citywide police traffic precinct and a public library to the mall property.
Raleigh Springs Mall is one of three town centers Wharton has proposed, including one at the Southbrook Mall in Whitehaven. The Southbrook plan has drawn opposition from the nonprofit group that owns that mall and instead wants $1.5 million in city funding to repair the roof and heating and air conditioning system. The administration has said city funding can’t be used because it would be public funding for a private use.
The third town center site is the Soulsville Town Center in South Memphis.
All three plans are built on the concept of moving city government offices to the sites and using them as a catalyst for private development.
Entercom Launches ESPN 790 AM
Entercom Memphis has launched ESPN 790 AM, offering around-the-clock national sports coverage and national ESPN personalities to complement its local station 92.9 FM ESPN.
Among the personalities and shows that will air on 790 AM: Colin Cowherd, Van Pelt & Russillo, The Dan Le Batard Show and a special broadcast of the Paul Finebaum Show. Local sports content and personalities can be heard on sister stations 92.9 FM ESPN and 680 AM.
In addition to the national ESPN content weekdays, ESPN 790 AM will continue to feature select games for the St. Louis Cardinals and University of Tennessee, as well as other select college football and basketball games and the NFL.
Job Ready Program Receives $25,000 Grant
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis has received a $25,000 contribution from the Walmart Foundation’s Tennessee State Giving Program to assist with its Job Ready program.
The Job Ready program prepares Boys & Girls Clubs members and alumni ages 16 to 21 with skills to secure employment and be successful at work. Using the comprehensive program materials and assessment tools that Job Ready provides, club staff can tailor the program to meet members’ specific needs.
Participants learn how to identify job opportunities, write effective resumes, perform well in interviews, dress appropriately, develop good work habits and work effectively with others.
In 2013, the Tennessee State Giving Program awarded more than $1 million to organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, Feed America First of Tennessee and the YMCA of Middle Tennessee.
Brown Contempt Hearing Scheduled for Friday
Former Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown’s March contempt citation in Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court is set to be heard by a special Criminal Court judge Friday, May 2.
Senior Judge Paul G. Summers, acting as a special judge in the case, denied motions by Brown’s attorneys to delay the hearing to correct what they say are errors in the March 24 contempt order.
Juvenile Court Magistrate Harold Horne cited Brown multiple times for contempt as Brown challenged Horne’s authority to hear a case and said, “This sorry operation needs to stop.”
Horne says Brown disrupted the court by continuing to challenge the court.
Brown, who is the Democratic nominee for district attorney general, also claimed that Horne lacked the authority to have him jailed for contempt and could only fine him $10.
Brown was released from jail later that day on a Criminal Court order pending a hearing in Criminal Court.
Attorneys Taylor M. Eskridge and Andre Wharton, representing Brown, wanted to delay Friday’s hearing to add details of the decision by Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person Jr. to set bail and release Brown that day before the matter got to Criminal Court.
They claim Brown’s attorneys were denied a hearing before Person on the matter.
UTHSC Alumni Director Honored
Michelle Nixon, director of alumni programs at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has been honored with the Imhotep Award from UTHSC’s Student Government Association Executive Council.
Council President Ben Maddox presented the award, which acknowledges outstanding service to students. Nixon, who joined UTHSC in 2012, works in the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs and has supported a number of student initiatives that give back to the UTHSC community, including Student Philanthropy Week in April.
During Philanthropy Week, nearly 100 students reached out to those in need through drives for used cellphones, bone marrow donor registration and feeding the homeless. Students also helped to execute oral cancer screening, a senior caregivers health fair, and a health careers simulation experience with MIFA COOL high school students.
Super Dollar Raises Funds for Miracle Network
The annual campaign by fred’s Super Dollar to collect money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has brought in almost $780,000 in customer donations.
The campaign ran from Feb. 25 through April 20. Shoppers were offered a chance to buy paper Miracle Balloons for $1 each at any store location.
All proceeds benefit the Children’s Miracle Network hospital closest to the Super Dollar where the balloon was purchased.
Since 2006, fred’s Super Dollar has raised more than $4.9 million, one Miracle Balloon at a time.
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is a nonprofit organization dedicated to generating funds and awareness for children’s hospitals and their programs across the country.
Contracts to Buy Homes Up, First Time Since June
More Americans signed contracts to buy homes in March, the first increase since June and a sign that the housing market might pick up after a sluggish start to the year.
The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index rose 3.4 percent to 97.4 last month. Still, the index remains 7.9 percent below its level a year ago.
Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases: A one- to two-month lag usually exists between a signed contract and a completed sale.
The gain partly reflects a recovery from the harsh winter. Snowstorms and freezing temperatures kept many potential buyers away from open houses in January and February.
A limited supply of available homes has pushed up prices in the past year even as sales have slowed. That’s likely discouraged many buyers and caused sales of existing homes to steadily decline since last summer.
Still, the rise in pending sales means that home sales could rebound during the spring buying season. It comes after two dismal sales reports last week suggested that sales and construction would increase only modestly this year.
Sales of existing homes fell in March to their lowest level since July 2012, the Realtors said last week. It was the seventh drop in eight months. The drop, though, was small, and many economists said it showed that existing-home sales had likely bottomed out.
At the same time, fewer Americans are applying for mortgages, a sign of weaker demand. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s mortgage applications index fell 3 percent last week from the previous week.
And sales of new homes plunged 14.5 percent in March to the slowest pace in eight months, according to a government report last week. A jump in prices contributed to the decline.
Higher mortgage rates have also weighed on sales. Rates are about a percentage point higher than they were a year ago.
First Horizon Settles Federal Litigation
Memphis-based First Horizon National Corp. has reached a litigation settlement agreement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, as conservator for the Federal National Mortgage Association, also known as Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., also known as Freddie Mac.
As part of the agreement, a lawsuit begun in 2011 will be dropped against all defendants, including First Horizon.
The lawsuit concerned the purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of certain securities backed by mortgage loans originated by First Horizon in 2004, 2005 and 2006, before the company sold its national mortgage businesses in 2008.
First Horizon will pay $110 million to the plaintiffs under the settlement terms and will avoid the costs and risks of ongoing litigation related to the dispute.
Mobile Retail Trucks Prepare for Launch
Next week, a small business incubator called MEMMobile that’s focused on developing and launching a fleet of mobile retail trucks in the city will be formally unveiled.
The first set of MEMMobile trucks are the women’s apparel-focused Henny Penny; K’Presha Haul of Fashion, focused on men and women’s apparel; Sache T-Shirt Truck, which will focus on custom-printed T-shirts; Thigh High Jeans, focused on repurposed denim apparel; and The Bikesmith, focused on bike sales and repair.
A public event and press conference will be held May 8 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Memphis City Hall. At that event, members of the public can shop at the five MEMMobile trucks and enjoy lunch from food trucks on site. MEMMobile business owners will attend and speak, along with representatives from alt.Consulting, the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.
School Board Approves IT Service Overhaul
Shelby County Schools board members approved Tuesday, April 29, a set of three resolutions totaling $13 million to switch the school system’s Internet service contracts to AT&T effective July 1.
Each contract runs three years, with two one-year renewal options.
Superintendent Dorsey Hopson recommended the change, telling the school board earlier this month that the school system should save an estimated $4 million over the agreement it had with Nashville-based Education Networks of America Inc.
The board also met in private session with its attorney a week ago about the contract switch after Hopson said ENA executives had raised the possibility of a lawsuit if the school system switched providers.
The vote Tuesday to switch the contracts was 5-0 in favor, with board members David Pickler and Billy Orgel absent.
In other action, the board approved Hopson’s goal of having all school children in the district ready for college or career by 2025. The broad goal is to be followed by a specific plan to meet the goal.
Fraud Investigator Pens Guidebook
Collierville resident Charles E. Piper, a certified fraud examiner with 30 years in law enforcement, most of it as a federal special agent, has written a guidebook for examiners and investigators.
“Investigator and Fraud Fighter Guidebook: Operation War Stories,” published by John Wiley and Sons Inc., explores conducting investigations while handling other cases. It walks a reader through “red flags” and how to spot the indicators of other problems beyond those being investigated.
Piper is owner of Charles Piper’s Professional Services, which performs fraud investigations, consults on fraud prevention and leads anti-fraud training.
Fed Cuts Monthly Bond Purchases Again
The Federal Reserve says it will make a fourth $10 billion cut in its monthly bond purchases to $45 billion because it thinks the U.S. job market needs less help from the Fed.
It is also reaffirming its plan to keep short-term interest rates low to support the economy “for a considerable time” after its bond purchases end, likely late this year.
The Fed’s guidance, issued in a statement after a two-day meeting, had been expected. It conforms to goals that Chair Janet Yellen noted in a speech this month. She said the Fed’s rate policies must be flexible enough to meet unexpected economic challenges.
The Fed sounded a more upbeat note on the economy, saying it had picked up recently after slowing sharply during the winter.
Southwest CEO Vows to Fix On-Time Problem
Southwest Airlines is falling behind other airlines when it comes to arriving on time, and the carrier plans to tinker with its flight schedule to fix that.
CEO Gary Kelly says the airline will add a few minutes between some flights, and it will be more cautious about selling itineraries with tight connections between flights.
Southwest has long prided itself for being on time. It still ranks No. 1 all-time among the six big airlines that have been reporting such records to the government since 1987. But it hasn’t topped the charts for a full year since 2001 and hasn’t beaten all the other major carriers since 2009.
Last year, Southwest fell to 12th place – and behind all its closest rivals in size: United, Delta, American and US Airways – among 16 airlines that reported figures to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Only 76.7 percent of Southwest flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule, which is the government’s definition of being on time. That was down from 83.1 percent in 2012.
Airlines Offering Fewer Flights, Seats
A government watchdog confirms what airline passengers are finding when they try to book a flight: Service to communities of all sizes is declining, but especially to small and medium airports.
The Government Accountability Office told Congress that there are fewer flights and fewer seats available at airports of all sizes than there were seven years ago. Smaller destinations were particularly affected, with flights down as much as 24 percent since 2007. Flights have declined 9 percent and seats 7 percent at large hub airports.
Only government-subsidized air service to rural communities has been increasing, and that’s largely a reflection of congressional efforts to prevent some small airports from losing commercial service entirely. Mergers and high fuel prices are part of the reason.
Associate Dean at UTHSC Steps Down
Robert G. Shreve is relinquishing his role as associate dean for medical education in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine on June 16. Shreve will continue in a full-time administrative role in the office of medical education until he retires at the end of the year.
Shreve has been with the UTHSC College of Medicine since 2002. Most recently, he led the college through its successful eight-year reaccreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.
James “Pat” Ryan, currently assistant dean for basic science curriculum in the UT College of Medicine, will serve as the interim associate dean for medical education, effective in mid-June.
The search for a senior associate dean of medical education and chair of the Department of Medical Education already has started.
US Attorney’s Office Names Civil Rights Head
Brian K. Coleman, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, will lead the civil rights unit of the prosecutor’s office.
Coleman was named to the post Tuesday, April 29, by U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton, as unit chief Larry Laurenzi moved to the post of first assistant in the office.
Coleman has been a federal prosecutor since 2008 and was a state prosecutor before that.
Stanton created the civil rights unit in 2011 in a restructuring of the office, whose territory includes West Tennessee between the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers.
EdR Expecting ‘Strong’ Year
Memphis-based EdR said it is “on track for a strong and successful 2014.”
The student housing developer and manager announced Monday, April 28, that core funds from operations in the first quarter was $19.4 million, or 17 cents per share, up from $16.4 million, or 14 cents per share, over the same period last year.
EdR said same-community revenue for the quarter increased 3 percent. Without the reclassification of six properties moving into the same-community portfolio at the beginning of 2014, same-community revenue was up 4.2 percent.
Looking ahead, EdR reaffirmed full year core funds from operations guidance of 62 cents to 68 cents per unit, which would represent an increase of 13 percent to 24 percent over 2013.
Commission Approves Fite Bridge Contracts
Shelby County Commissioners approved Monday, April 28, a set of three resolutions funding a $13.7 million Fite Road bridge, intersection alignment and the relocation of utilities in north Shelby County.
The commission vote was 12-0 in favor of all three contracts, with commissioner Henri Brooks absent.
Of the $13.7 million in contracts with Fisher and Arnold Inc., MCI Communications Services Inc. and Ford Construction Co., $11 million is funded with federal money passed through the state. The remaining $2.7 million is local funding.
The bridge over the Canadian National Railway line that crosses Fite Road is a longtime goal for the businesses in the area, including the Memphis International Raceway.
Commissioner Terry Roland, who represents the area, said a groundbreaking is tentatively set for late May or early June.
Rohman Named Partner at Archer-Malmo
archer-malmo has named chief digital officer Ken Rohman an agency partner.
The appointment demonstrates the firm’s commitment to best-in-class digital talent and work, said archer-malmo CEO Russ Williams. Rohman joined the agency in 2010, and under his leadership the digital practice has grown to more than 50 people across the agency.
In a statement about the appointment, Rohman said the firm has spent the last four years attracting top talent from the region and producing innovative work for clients, and that going forward, he wants the firm to be known nationally for its digital talent and digital-savvy clients.
Tenn. Lawyers Providing More Free Services
The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission says the number of hours Tennessee attorneys are devoting to free and reduced-rate legal services for the poor has increased dramatically.
According to the commission, 42 percent of the state’s 21,645 attorneys reported participating in pro bono activity in 2013. In 2010, only 18 percent of attorneys reported pro bono work. Reporting of pro bono services is not required, but it is encouraged.
The attorneys in 2013 reported an average of 73 hours of pro bono work each, well over the 50-hour aspirational goal set by the Tennessee Supreme Court.
State on Pace to Meet 90 Pct. Graduation Rate
A new report shows Tennessee is on pace to meet a goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the Class of 2020. The report released Monday by the education advocacy group America’s Promise Alliance shows the state increased its graduation rate 17 percentage points from 2003 to 2010, and has continued to make progress with a graduation rate of 87 percent in 2012.
American’s Promise set the 90 percent goal for the nation in 2010.
The report also highlights Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s free tuition plan at two-year colleges, saying other states should note Tennessee’s efforts to increase access to college- and career programs and consider similar legislation.
Under Haslam’s plan that passed during the recent legislative session, any high school graduate will be able to attend a two-year college free of tuition.
West Cancer Center Study Shows Promise
West Cancer Center physician’s pre-clinical study shows promise in prostate treatment
Dr. Daruka Mahadevan, director of the New Therapeutics Program at the West Cancer Center, presented findings of a pre-clinical study at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in San Diego. The study looked at ways of improving response rates and duration of responses in patients with prostate cancer before or after they receive chemotherapy.
Officials Visit Memphis to See Investments at Work
Officials from President Barack Obama’s administration were expected to visit Memphis to look at joint investments by their agencies in a program designed to improve housing and transportation options, protect the environment and build stronger regional economies.
Those expected to tour included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Their agencies have coordinated more than $130 million in investments in the Memphis area through Partnership for Sustainable Communities and $4 billion throughout the U.S. The tour was expected to include an overview of investments at the Harahan Bridge, a visit to the aerotropolis FedEx facility, a business district and a housing development.
Annual HMCT Luncheon Scheduled for May 22
Healthy Memphis Common Table will host its fourth annual meeting and recognition luncheon May 22, during which the organization will also unveil a new name and logo designed to help it expand its reach in the coming years.
This theme of this year’s luncheon is “Cracking the Code to Real Health Equity.” The keynote speaker is Dr. Marshall H. Chin, a nationally recognized health care quality and disparities expert.
Healthy Memphis Common Table will also introduce the recipients of its new Health Care Leaders Impact Award.