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VOL. 131 | NO. 33 | Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Presidents Day In An Election Year, Minority Business and Spring Training

By Bill Dries

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Presidents Day in a presidential election year.
Consider the political kaleidoscope of a foggy office-bound or home-bound Monday in Memphis with former President George W. Bush on the tube in the late afternoon defending his brother’s presidential campaign without once uttering the word Trump.
No further word of a Trump appearance promised for Memphis and some of Donald Trump’s own statements Monday suggested that by the time Memphis is on his schedule, he might be running as an independent.
Then there is the obsession in one corner of social media with Supreme Court history in rich detail.
And heads were turned Monday evening by the excerpt on the Grammys from the Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton – a founding father born in the West Indies who established the nation’s financial system and the Federalist party. He never became a president, in part, because the vice president killed him. Hamilton wasn’t the only one who had been talking bad about Aaron Burr. The top of the ticket, President Thomas Jefferson, had decided to dump Burr from the ticket in the next election and Burr was trying to transition to become governor of New York.

By the way, Memphis again a presence at the Grammies from the BB King tribute to Record of the Year for Uptown Funk which Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson recorded at Royal -- deep in the heart of South Memphis, which may not be precisely Uptown in our physical geography but is definitely the keeper of the funk.

Out of the office and in the city itself, Presidents Day was the day early voting in advance of our turn at the presidential primary wheel expanded from one site to 21 sites across Shelby County.
And we got more details about Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the area on Wednesday.

The Republican presidential field appears to still have tunnel vision on the weekend outcome in the South Carolina primaries.
But the two Democratic contenders are coming this way. And they are coming for the same voters – older and with a history of supporting Bill Clinton in the 1990s and then Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Tennessee primary.
You'll remember that Clinton carried the state in the 2008 primary but Obama carried Shelby County.
We go over the available evidence of this in some detail from a weekend opening of the local Bernie Sanders headquarters, without the Senator from Vermont and the earlier visit to the city by former President Bill Clinton himself.
Clinton’s remarks at Whitehaven High School continue to make headlines elsewhere in the country as they are parsed by reporters looking for trends and directions in a national campaign with no incumbent.

At City Hall, minority business growth was the order of the day Monday.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has named Joann Massey as director of the Minority and Women-Owned Business Development office.
This was a big topic in last year’s race for mayor – one on which Strickland and incumbent Mayor A C Wharton agreed as well as city council member Harold Collins – the top three candidates in the race.
Strickland’s appointment includes consolidating two structures in city government that dealt with the same issue – one of those offices established just recently. And Strickland is reviewing the planned move by Wharton last year of the city’s minority business effort into the Universal Life Insurance building which is currently under renovation.

Next month, the city will observe Black Restaurant Week, a further call to action in a city whose cuisine scene has long been more diverse than the city’s national image would have you believe.
There are eight participating restaurants in this first observance that is intended to prompt more conversation about the city’s diversity and the relationship of that diversity to its economic growth as well as the secret of that dish that you are still talking about a week later.

Back to City Hall for a moment. Tuesday is council day at City Hall and police body cameras look to be the major topic with an update from the mayor on that during committee sessions Tuesday morning. We also have more details from a Kansas Federal Court lawsuit by a competitor of Taser, the company that got the city’s body camera contract. The lawsuit alleges Taser used political influence to get contracts in some cities.

Meanwhile, Wharton is going to work for ALSAC, the fund-raising part of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, on a part-time basis we learned Monday. Wharton formed a consulting company after leaving City Hall at the top of the year.
ALSAC was the first stop after City Hall for another Memphis Mayor Dick Hackett in 1992.

Is there a sharper and more perilous cutting edge to be on than the cutting edge of technology?
After 20 years in business, the founder of the Memphis-based videoconference technology company Interactive Solutions Inc. talks about the challenges. And many of them have nothing at all to do with changing technology. They are the crises that no business owner can anticipate but that many know from experience.
I’m just wondering if there’s not a more modern term than videoconferencing.

Meanwhile, the founder of RKA Construction talks about the move from construction work for a road building company to home renovations in High Point Terrace to new home construction.

In Nashville Tuesday, state Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown will have another go at repealing the Hall income tax.
The version to be discussed in a subcommittee Tuesday morning would repeal the state part of the tax but allow local government to keep their 2.25 percent share by a majority vote of a county commission or city council or a referendum.
The tax is a 6 percent rate on interest and dividends.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has questioned where the revenue lost by the state would be replaced. Kelsey cites a healthy state budget surplus that includes recurring funding.
Local governments including Shelby County and Memphis have opposed such a repeal citing the loss of local funding.

Don Wade has some thoughts on Will Barton’s fourth year in the NBA, some math on the situation for today’s Tigers in next month’s AAC tournament and the coming of Tigers baseball later this week.

Yes, later this week – baseball. Because if it is Presidents Day can spring training be far behind?

PROPERTY SALES 51 328 20,960
MORTGAGES 58 387 24,132
BUILDING PERMITS 170 842 43,435
BANKRUPTCIES 50 288 13,468