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VOL. 131 | NO. 79 | Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Budget Basics, A Peak At Greensward Mediation and Elvis & Nixon

By Bill Dries

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Spurs 94 – Grizzlies 68 in game 2 of the NBA playoffs. The TNT post-game show just showed the highlights of the game while Shaq and Charles Barkley talked about how big the women are in San Antonio. I’m not making this up. They didn’t even try to talk about the game. This is just grim.

It was a busy council day at City Hall.
The centerpiece was Mayor Jim Strickland’s first budget proposal with no leaks until he walked into the council chamber and laid it out.
Here are the basics of it. No property tax hike. About $9 million more in the operating budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. But he says that is because revenue projections – tax collections are trending better as we enter the new fiscal year in a few months. Pay raises for cops and firefighters but no taking back the benefit cuts city employees took starting two years ago. Two police recruit classes slated in the next fiscal year. And a $10 million bigger step toward the city’s ramp to fully funding its benefits liability by 2020. No use of the city’s reserve fund. The city’s capital budget proposal is higher than he wanted due to a set of several surprises laid at the feet of the previous administration.

The audience was larger than usual. Normally every division director in the administration sits in the two front rows in council chambers in what is a political tradition.
Beyond those two rows there were homeowners and students from Hutchison School and Mitchell High School.
The Mitchell High basketball team was being honored for three-peating as state champions and their coach, Andre Turner – yes, that Andre Turner – said their goal is to win a fourth.

The homeowners were from the area north of Shelby Farms Park and most were not happy about plans for the Parkside at Shelby Farms Park development, a $200 million project featuring three six-story apartment buildings on the park’s northern border.

Other homeowners in a smaller group were from the Hutchison school area and opposed plans to light the athletic fields at the school. The students showed up to push for the lighting.

Both projects cleared the council.

On the Overton Park Greensward beat, we survey the growing complexity of the situation that has turned the focus away from the Greensward itself these days to the places where the players are talking this over. And some interesting things are happening starting with who is attending what meeting.

After our story went up online Tuesday evening, Richard Smith, the zoo’s representative in the mediation sessions, penned an op-ed piece on the search for a compromise in all of this that maps out the context that sets up the dispute and then talks about how that context has changed in recent months and weeks.

In Nashville, the Legislature’s quicker pace as the session moves toward an end was highlighted Tuesday by continued reaction to the death of the bathroom bill. House Republican leader Gerald McCormick said the companies that spoke out against the bill will likely face retribution on other fronts.

The House, meanwhile, is moved to tax fantasy sports betting to also make it legal following a Tennessee Attorney General’s opinion that the fantasy leagues are illegal because they are gambling. And an online voter registration bill is on the governor’s desk as the legislature prepares Wednesday to consider an override of Gov. Bill Haslam’s veto of the Bible bill.

Next week we become Mayor-Land for a day or how about Mayorstock. It’s a gathering of mayors from the region by Urban Land Institute to talk about issues. This is the kind of gathering that can be long on buzzwords and short on substance. But there is reason to think this is a departure from that because of what prompted the group to begin talking things over. It was the 2011 flood along the Mississippi River and its tributaries that in the Memphis area was the second highest level of flooding on record. Nothing like a lot of muddy water to wipe away artificial boundaries.

The Children’s Museum of Memphis has a new lunch place – one of three Lisa’s Lunchbox locations and the namesake and founder of the business has some other plans including teaming up with Love Pop Soda Shop.

The 100th anniversary of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is May 7. In the nine days before that, a big red ball will be showing up at different points around the city to mark the occasion. It’s an inflatable 250-pound red ball that is usually wedged into different places. It’s been some pretty exotic places in the name of art. Here are the stops in Memphis later this month and into May. And the big red ball is not just something to look at. Interaction is encouraged. It’s going to be big, red and a lot of fun… and no rolling it onto the Greensward.

Don Wade has a notebook column that includes thoughts on where Avery Woodson is bound after leaving the U of M and speculation about Paxton Lynch going to the New York Jets.

Other Reading:

Rolling Stone on what to expect when Paul Simon plays the Beale Street Music Festival next month.

Lots of buzz locally about this ESPN piece on the Grit and Grind brand, it’s origins and it’s future – a kind of sports archaeological dig to read between now and Friday’s game 3 at FedExForum.

Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker in The Hill on how dangerous a contested Republican convention this summer could be for GOP incumbents in the House and Senate.

Other In General:

We included a mention of this in a previous Last Word: the movie Elvis and Nixon built around Elvis Presley’s 1970 impromptu visit to the White House opens Friday. Here are the trailers and a featurette to put a little Elvis in your attitude.

PROPERTY SALES 50 226 2,557
MORTGAGES 44 145 1,731
BUILDING PERMITS 204 569 5,701