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VOL. 131 | NO. 5 | Thursday, January 7, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: The River, Miss Cordelia's, OPEB and the Kumbaya Council

By Bill Dries

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Here comes the river. Not quite at 40 feet on the Mississippi River gauge at Memphis overnight but getting there
For those who weren’t around in 2011 when the river crested at 48.3 feet, the second highest level ever recorded at Memphis, this is the part of the program where lots of people begin to gather at the river.
For some it will be to compare what they've seen before. For others it will be their first look and experience with the concept that nature is bigger than we are.
The smaller those first-time river visitors are, the easier it is for them to accept that. After all, when you are always looking up at the world everything is bigger than you are.
In Tom Lee Park you see them step onto the park's grass, their eyes riveted on the west, perhaps not seeing much beyond the grass at first, a small hand poking out of a coat sleeve shielding their eyes from the sun. And then their first glimpse of the running brown water. And the walk inevitably becomes a run and then a quick halt as the immensity of the river kicks in. Always the two together even when the river is just being eternal.

One of the best spots to see and approach the river is already closed because of the high water.
Greenbelt Park on Mud Island’s northern half was closed Wednesday because of the high water.
State officials were in Wednesday to get a briefing on the efforts by local officials who have planned their work and worked their plan about as much as they can.
Shelby County government reported Wednesday evening no major damage to houses or businesses. But there is water in some yards and backyard storage buildings in Harbor Town on Mud Island. There is also water from the Mississippi’s tributaries in yards and fields in unincorporated northern Shelby County, specifically Billion Road at Old Cuba-Benjestown Road. And barricades are up in the 1400 block of Stonewall Road in North Memphis.

Associated Press has been in Tunica as the waters rise and there are evacuations there.

Back to Mud Island for a bit. In addition to the changes along the river, Miss Cordelia’s on Mud Island has seen plenty of changes recently in the local grocery business. And there has long been the talk about a Downtown supermarket. The managing partner of the store has something to say about that.

After the river, the topic probably on your mind is OPEB, isn’t it?
Other Post Employment Benefits. That’s what most of the Shelby County Commissioners were talking about Wednesday before they got a briefing from emergency responders on the flood preparations.
As legal opinions from the Tennessee Attorney General go, the one that surfaced Wednesday during County Commission committee sessions (say that three times) was very short and concise – a page and a half that has prompted more questions than it has answered.
That’s not a knock on the legal opinion. Tennessee legislators generally ask several questions in seeking such an opinion. Whether that is the case or there is just one question, the AG’s office as a matter of policy sticks very closely to the parameters of the question and goes no further.
In this case the question was one that dealt with City Hall’s favorite topic for about the last year – the liability for benefits given employees and retirees. The questions for Attorney General Herbert Slatery and his staff was about the benefits of those employees of what used to be Memphis City Schools. Specifically how does county government assume that liability? What is the process?
The question not in the opinion is if the county doesn't assume the liability who does?

Here’s a look at some first impressions of what one former Memphis City Council member called the “Kumbaya Council.”

The latest South Main district news is a Homewood Suites hotel planned for Vance and Mulberry between the National Civil Rights Museum and FedExForum.

The latest word on those body cameras Memphis Police were supposed to strap on in September – this past September – is to expect them to be phased-in later this year going from one of the nine Memphis Police precincts to another.
You may remember we had a detailed conversation with Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich last month on our WKNO TV program Behind the Headlines about this. Outfitting cops with the cameras is the easy part. Once they start recording what they do at work, the question becomes how is this digital information stored for both public access and for use in the civil and criminal cases that follow.

If the shape of a new food truck making the rounds this winter seems familiar, it’s because it is a converted FedEx mail truck. No matter how hard you try, this time you won’t be able to see the arrow (inside FedEx joke). Jared Richmond talks about his Gourmade enterprise.

When the city of Memphis announced last year it was expanding its recycling efforts to include a wider variety of garbage and bigger containers, Memphians responded, ready to discard the tiny prehistoric tan containers in a city where you go big or go home.
We did an early story on the coming of the bigger containers and the Public Works department got lots of calls. We’ll refrain from saying they were flooded until after the river crests.
Anyway, the city is on its way to ordering up another 105,000 of the popular items that are the envy of neighbors still waiting for theirs and the Memphis version of keeping up with the Joneses.
It’s a $5.2 million undertaking that the Public Works department is trying to finance with a no-interest loan from the Closed Loop Fund, a social impact fund financed by some of the biggest brand names on the planet.

Elsewhere in our backyard, changes coming to the state penitentiary near Henning, Tn.

And nationally, here’s more detail on the discussion before last month’s decision by the Fed to raise interest rates for the first time in seven years.

Shall We Gather At The River?

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