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VOL. 131 | NO. 151 | Friday, July 29, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Convention Bounces, Changing Schools and Blue Collar Changes

By Bill Dries

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Before the balloons dropped Thursday and a Katy Perry soundtrack brought the Democratic National Convention to an end, state Representative Raumesh Akbari of Memphis spoke at the convention on its final day.

With both conventions over, the Clinton and Trump campaigns will be on the road nationally to test the duration of their respective post-convention poll bumps. Off stage, the two campaigns will also be looking for more indications to make their respective decisions about which states are safely in their column, which they should cede to the other side and which are worth fighting for.

In our case, the best clues to that may come next Thursday in the state and federal primary elections.

Some updated turnout numbers from early voting in Shelby County.

Thursday was the highest turnout day of the early voting period so far with 5,141 early voters for a total since the period started July 15 of 31,873.

That compares to 47,842 early voters 12 days into the 2012 early voting period.

By party, the number of those voting in the Democratic primaries spiked by about 700 more people than those voting in the Republican primary for the Wednesday countywide total, breaking what had been a pretty even turnout for each set of primaries until then.

So the post convention bump for Democrats here might have been a boost in early voting turnout for the election before Trump and Clinton meet on the November ballot.

There are two more days to vote early – Friday and Saturday.

Repeat after me: Election Day is August 4. DEMOCRACY. Yes, say it in all caps.

A different kind of preparation underway in advance of the Aug. 8 start of the new school year here in Shelby County. Beyond those preparations, which are no small matter, we take a look at the latest wave of change over the last six years in Shelby County. Shelby County Schools is undergoing a reformation that is more basic that the move to merger in late 2010 or the demerger that followed the single school year of the merger.

Behind The Headlines on WKNO Friday evening at 7 p.m. will feature more school talk with Germantown Schools superintendent Jason Manuel and Bartlett Schools superintendent David Stephens on the start of the school year.

The cover story in our weekly, The Memphis News, is about still more ideas on changing education – in this case how we prepare students for careers right out of high school. The Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce – GMACW (We really need help in naming things – sports teams, economic development entities. You name it. On second thought… )

Where was I? The alliance is looking at some ideas to draw better paying jobs and get students the training they need to walk into those jobs right out of high school. But high school, under some of these scenarios may be six years instead of four. And it could end with not only a diploma but an associate degree. Calling a college degree a four-year degree is also more of a nod to the past with college students averaging one to two more years in college these days to get the degree.

So there are already plenty of changes afoot in this discussion.

There is a lot of debate about the new nature of what we have called blue collar jobs. Whatever you call jobs that take more than a high school diploma but less than a “four-year” college degree, they are not low-skill, low-pay jobs.

The weekly is up on this very website via a PDF and the hard copy hits the racks around town Friday morning with the story online Friday afternoon.

Kudos to our photographer Andrew Breig for the cover shot from Moore Tech’s new welding shop.

The welding classes there are a perfect illustration of how blue collar jobs have changed. You hear welding and you might think this could be a high-paying job but how technical is it?

The welding program at Moore Tech is part of an effort by the city’s medical device giants to find more skilled labor for what many of us consider to be a pursuit that is decidedly un-blue collar.

More on Pinnacle Financial Partners, the company that is the anchor tenant in Boyle’s new office building to be built at 949 Shady Grove Road in East Memphis. This is the second largest bank in the state that entered the Memphis market just last year when it bought Magna Bank.

Mallory Alexander’s president talks about the company’s expansion in Houston, its Asia traffic after getting a freight license in China last year and unexpected traction from Shanghai.

The county tax rate is in the books for another year and it is the same $4.37. But the Shelby County Commission debate on the tax rate remains eternal.

Don Wade’s Press Box column on the idea of limiting the number of relief pitchers in Major League Baseball games in the name of picking up the pace of the game.

Other Reading:

A mobster from Boston who went into the federal witness relocation program has surfaced in Memphis as a leader at the nondenominational Faith Keepers Ministry. And according to a story this week in the Boston Globe, he knows a few after the fact details about a legendary heist of half a billion dollars worth of masterworks of art from a museum in Boston 26 years ago.


Home ownership at a 51-year low.

The average rate on a 30-year mortgage goes higher for a second straight week.

Applications to drill for oil and gas in the U.S. are down as a result of the slump at the pump.

PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047