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VOL. 131 | NO. 241 | Monday, December 5, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Boca, Poe Killed by Politics and Embedding In The Real Memphis

By Bill Dries

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BOCA BOWL – As expected, the University of Memphis Tigers football team is going south for the post season. They got and accepted Sunday the formal invitation to play in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 20 against Western Kentucky. Ticket information should be forthcoming Monday for those of you who didn’t get enough during the Emerald Coast Classic with the basketball Tigers not too long ago.

Also over the weekend, four Memphis high schools claimed state championships in their respective divisions – East, Lausanne, Trezevant and Whitehaven.

The new chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party is Scott Golden, familiar in Memphis and West Tennessee politics as a staffer to Cong. Marsha Blackburn and Stephen Fincher. The state GOP’s executive committee had quite a decision to make at the Saturday session in Nashville.

This was at first a three-way contest among Golden, Brent Leatherwood, who has been the executive director of the state party and Bill Giannini, a former chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party. Golden and Leatherwood advanced to a runoff with Golden winning 33-26.

Tennessee party chairman Ryan Haynes announced after the November election that he would not be seeking another term and Trump forces in the state had been critical of the state party’s leadership. The Republican establishment lined up in most cases with Marco Rubio in the primary campaign.

A curious political note to be found in this recent article from The Smithsonian about the death of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe’s death was a mystery that becomes more a mystery the further away we get from the times he lived in. One of the theories about his death is “cooping” – the 19th century practice, in Baltimore at least, of kidnapping someone on election day and taking them to various polling places to vote more than once, changing their clothes along the way. Poe was found dying in the gutter outside a polling place on election day wearing someone else’s clothes. So it seems the imperfect practice of democracy may have killed the author of some of our nation’s most frightening tales.

Look for the release, probably this week, of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation file on the January fatal police shooting of Jonathon Bratcher in South Memphis. Chancellor JoeDae Jenkins ordered the file opened Friday on a motion by Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

Weirich’s office, in accordance with the court order, immediately released a five-page summary based on the TBI report that Weirich wrote in October to Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings explaining why her office who not be filing criminal charges against either of the Memphis Police officers involved in the incident. The bottom line, according to the memo, is this was a gunfight in which at least 30 shots were fired by Bratcher and the two police officers on a major city thoroughfare by two churches that had children in them at the time.

A few followups from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s weekly message:

First, the Frayser 2020 development plan that lost a bid for city funding several years ago will be “folded into” the Memphis 3.0 plan Strickland’s administration is currently holding public meetings on. Strickland kicked off the set of 14 sessions last week at Ed Rice Community Center in Frayser. Those meetings continue in other parts of the city through Saturday.

Second, there are some city incentives behind the decision of Cargill announced last week to rebuild at its former Presidents Island corn mill as the new site for its joint venture with Calysta. But these aren’t the normal incentives. The city has agreed to ask EDGE to issue $8 million in revenue bonds for the project if Cargill and Calysta want it. The revenue bonds would be paid off with revenues made by users of the pipeline that is an essential part of the new facility to be built there.

The Big River Crossing on the Harahan Bridge is up and running with really bracing river winter breeze. BNSF continues its trestle work on the Frisco Bridge. So it was perhaps inevitable that the third in the trio of bridges – the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge -- would be included. Arkansas road officials will be inspecting the auto bridge over the next two weeks with some lane closures that are supposed to be non-rush hour closures. That’s a cautionary note because the safety cones on the Interstate 40-240 overpass to the east – the tallest overpass in the state of Tennessee -- were supposed to be gone several weeks ago but keep reappearing as if they are a permanent feature raised and lowered periodically for our driving pleasure. What? Me? Skeptical?

Pot and ambulances top the Shelby County Commission agenda Monday. But you might also see some more commission discussion about the flawed roll-out of the criminal justice system’s new computer system. The roll-out, so far, has drawn a lawsuit against Sheriff Bill Oldham and some lively discussion last week among commissioners about a possible lawsuit against the company that has the nearly $10 million contract for the new system. There was also some discussion about the court order by General Sessions Court judges who are now requiring their court documents be printed out instead of doing this the paperless way. Some think the court order isn’t a failure of the new system but a failure of the judges to adapt. Regardless, General Sessions Court Clerk Ed Stanton, the recipient of the court order, says he has to comply and it means overtime as well as new employees which cost money.

The Pizza Hut on Germantown Parkway in Cordova is gone and construction is underway on the region’s first “Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers.” And there could be more Freddy as it were.

A few thoughts on The Memphis News cover story on Airbnbs by K. Denise Jennings: This is more than someone with a spare room to rent. It’s hand in glove with the single-family rental growth we were already seeing before Airbnb started cropping up around the city.

And we learn in the story that the growth here has been more gradual than in other cities. The city’s regulatory approach to this has been different than those other cities, in part because the move to a fee on Airbnbs isn’t a regulatory fee. It is a revenue stream that funds tourism promotion efforts that include specifically promoting Airbnbs.

For the travelers, this is an opportunity to in effect be embedded in the Memphis that isn’t within a tourism zone or bubble so to speak. Increasingly our visitors have been venturing beyond those bubbles for several years now. Some of it is the generational change in the Elvis faithful who are trending younger and want to explore the city’s overall musical heritage including Stax and Sun and go beyond those boundaries into the cultural heart of Memphis that’s represented at the National Civil Rights Museum.

And a final impression – we are still trying to wrap our head around that. When we do, we will understand why Beale Street has to and is already capable of becoming more than a good-time bar and restaurant district. It can have a cultural life and a daytime existence that are each every bit as essential as its night-time face.

A follow up to our mention of a study that looked at income levels to rents across the nation that included Memphis in the areas where rent is up but incomes have gone up more. It’s a study by SmartAsset and here is the link to the study and data that the folks at SmartAsset sent our way as the weekend began.  Dig in and observations are always welcome – the geekier and wonkier, the better. We do both here.

Memphis is designated a “maker city” by Etsy.

AP with an accounting of how much we spent nationally on health care in 2015. It was the fastest rate of growth in eight years. According to the report commissioned by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the growth was driven by Obamacare coverage expansion and the high cost of prescription drugs. The AP story is an overview. Here is the three-page summary directly from the HHS report if you want to go deeper.

More thoughts about how the Trump administration could unfold – this time from AP specifically on tech issues.

The Memphis News Almanac: A Christmas protest, our centennial and Louis Rukeyser and trouble at the original Crowne Plaza.

PROPERTY SALES 36 154 6,546
MORTGAGES 34 94 4,129
BUILDING PERMITS 201 554 15,915
BANKRUPTCIES 43 126 3,396