VOL. 131 | NO. 17 | Monday, January 25, 2016
Last Word: The Big Fizzle, John Jay Hooker's Exit And "A Great Sports Town"
By Bill Dries
Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it – isn’t that how the saying goes?
In our case, it might be better to say everybody talks about the television weather coverage but nobody does anything about it.
As we all know now, Memphis dodged the “blizzard” warning artfully and passive-aggressively teased by several television stations who shall go un-named here because they know who they are and you do too.
That’s because they spent much of the day of "the blizzard that wasn’t" whining about the reaction from viewers who complained about the hype and then the promos the stations ran the day of the big fizzle.
We didn’t get much in the way of snow in Memphis, but we got a couple of feet of hype.
That said, there should be some allowances -- completely separate from the hype -- for the nature of weather, which is unpredictable.
So in fairness, here is a no-whining day-after post by Erik Proseus, who is a meteorologist, at the MemphisWeather.Net blog.
John Jay Hooker died Sunday in Nashville.
One of my earliest political memories is watching a stricken-looking Hooker on television with his family conceding the 1970 race for Tennessee Governor to Memphian Winfield Dunn.
Dunn was the first Republican in nearly 50 years to become governor at the time which made Hooker the first Democratic nominee in almost half a century to lose a run for governor.
The 1970 election set in motion the state’s political rhythm of Republican to Democrat to Republican that continues to this day to call the tune in the Governor's race.
Dunn’s 2007 autobiography “From A Standing Start” had a lot to say about the 1970 race for governor, including insights into the role outgoing Democratic Governor Buford Ellington played.
Ellington, who had defeated Hooker four years earlier in a bitter Democratic primary for governor, wasn’t in Hooker’s corner at all in 1970.
Hooker was an influential and iconoclastic political figure continuing long after being his party’s nominee for governor.
He continued trying to break the political rhythm he helped set in motion.
Hooker would run for governor again as well as U.S. Senate but would never again be his party’s nominee. He never won elected office. But he remained an influential state-wide supporter of those who did including former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Sr. on this end of the state.
An attorney by training, including time in Robert Kennedy’s Justice Department, the last few acts in Hooker’s public life were courtroom and legal causes.
He repeatedly challenged the state’s current method of judicial selection, arguing in several court cases that appellate court judges, including those on the Tennessee Supreme Court, should be popularly elected in contested elections.
His last political quest was personal. Diagnosed a year ago this month with cancer, Hooker advocated for a state-wide “death with dignity” or assisted suicide law.
Nashville was a busy place on several fronts as the weekend came to a close
Tennessee House majority whip Jeremy Durham of Franklin resigned his leadership position Sunday after The Tennessean newspaper found three women who said they got inappropriate text messages from Durham.
Two of the women produced text messages they said Durham sent in 2013.
The Republican caucus took up Durham’s other troubles at the start earlier this month of the 2016 legislative session. And the caucus never really got to a discussion of a prescription drug fraud case presented to a grand jury in which the grand jury did not charge Durham and a 2014 letter on state stationary in which Durham urged a judge to be lenient in sentencing a pastor who pleaded guilty to statutory rape and child porn charges.
As he did then, Durham continues to blame the media for all of this. He initially denied he has resigned the whip’s position before conceding later in the day Sunday that he had in fact stepped down. But he is not giving up his house seat representing Franklin.
Andy Meek brings in another CEO to talk about big plans – in this case Meri Armour of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
Armour sets the agenda for the hospital’s expansion at Poplar and Dunlap as well as its outpatient center on Humphreys Boulevard in the East Memphis medical corridor and beyond
Madeline Faber sets up the Memphis Blight Authority – its terms and its purpose within a city government that saw something approximating a different blight program rolled out at each press conference the previous city administration held at which a bulldozer was driven into a building to demolish it.
What was missing in those efforts was a coordinated land bank-type organization that qualified for state and federal grants. Those grants in turn can get those blight efforts on a scale that isn’t anecdotal and can go beyond leaving an open lot or gap in neighborhoods where well-kept homes often sit next to overgrown lots with weeds and brush so high and thick you don’t even know there is a house there.
A $60-million HUD grant announced late last week for Shelby County government goes toward flood control measures that include relocation for some South Memphis residents and creating a wetland and recreation area in north Shelby County. It also includes funding for the northernmost point of the Wolf River Greenway we’ve written about extensively in the last year.
Did someone say greensward? No? Well, here’s a recap of where the Overton Park controversy is at the start of the week anyway. You are welcome.
There is a phrase used by Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace in the cover story of our weekly The Memphis News – “a great sports town.”
That’s something you don’t hear said a lot, mainly because of our history in pursuing an NFL franchise and the hard-fought debates we have over building increasingly expensive sports venues in a poor city.
Perhaps the phrase should be “a great sports town in its own right.”
Don Wade’s cover story also includes Fred Jones, founder of the Southern Heritage Classic and a backer of the city NBA Now campaign that landed the Grizzlies – two ventures that Jones notes were both expected to fail.
And it talks about the challenges of sports events and teams that don’t always endure. Those are hard lessons as well, despite the lore created by such ventures that endures long after the hard lessons are learned.
Wallace and Jones as well as Tigers athletic director Tom Bowen and Craig Unger, general manager of the Memphis Redbirds, talk more about this and in greater detail at Thursday’s Daily News Seminar at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
In The Memphis News Almanac: The Elvis Presley Coliseum, LBJ’s re-election effort, a drug store with apartments over it at Jackson and University and the Whizz Bang Corporation.