VOL. 131 | NO. 133 | Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Last Word: Two Paths, Council Day, Conley Writes and WIGS Debut
By Bill Dries
Two ways to look at the Fourth of July in Memphis. It was either soggy or the fireworks began early.
For probably less than a minute, the mother accused to killing four of her children last week in southeast Shelby County will make her first court appearance Tuesday morning either in person at 201 Poplar Ave. or by video link from Jail East.
That brief appearance will be replayed over and over again and we will watch it over and over again for some indication of who she is, what kind of person she is.
For all of the wall-to-wall coverage of this tragedy and speculation about it through the long weekend, we don’t know a whole lot beyond the basic details given out Friday afternoon.
Four children, ages six months to four years, were stabbed to death in an apartment in southeast Memphis. A fifth child, the oldest, made his way out of the apartment and to neighbors who called the Sheriff’s Department.
They took the mother of the children, Shanynthia Gardner, into custody and charged here with 12 counts of aggravated child abuse and four counts of first degree murder. She had some cuts on her arms and neck.
There could be more charges filed, according to Sheriff Bill Oldham. That’s it. Much of the rest is that recurring loop of b-roll and speculation that passes for reporting.
Beyond that every detail will be seized on as a building block toward various theories to make some sense of this.
Probably the most profound thing said by anyone in the aftermath of this was when Oldham said there usually isn’t any explanation for these kinds of crimes that make any sense and sometimes there is just no explanation at all.
So begin two paths from one horrible moment.
For Oldham and his investigators, attorneys – prosecution and defense – and, of course, the families, there is a path that is all about the specifics of how this happened with no detail of these six lives being too small, no moment no matter how fleeting unexamined in retrospect.
It is a kind of claustrophobia in which broader questions, assumptions and theories have no place. There is only what happened here to be dealt with.
For the rest of us who didn’t know anyone involved, there is a search for some link to the way we live our lives and the people we know – the larger world that this woman and her children were a part of until last Friday when everything changed.
Surely, some of us think, there is an answer to why this happened in the life she and her children lived in the same community that we live our lives in. And if there is an answer to that, is there an answer that we should take from it in our own lives.
Others will look to the common secrets – from anxieties to ambitions -- that all of us have and keep to ourselves as we live our lives with others.
The day before this happened, we had Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich on Behind The Headlines as our latest set of conversations on the WKNO program about crime, violence and criminal justice in our city.
We also talked with them about some of the points made in an earlier show about the criminal justice system and fines and fees that keep some defendants working their way through that system.
This was also the day before Strickland announced his plan to end the Overton Park Greensward controversy.
The city council will likely vote on this at its July 19 meeting. And it’s not listed on the committee agendas for this Tuesday’s council day as of Monday evening.
Here is the initial review and reaction which came from all quarters pretty quickly. And the most notable thing about the reaction is how it lines up – some of the groups who warned against any permanent incursion onto the Greensward are generally supporting the plan with some reservations. The zoo is most decidedly not supporting the plan and plans to make its point Tuesday at City Hall.
So even if this isn’t on the committee agendas Tuesday, it will most likely come up at the end of Tuesday’s council session when citizens can comment on any topic not on the agenda.
The zoo sent out an email to its members urging a big turnout for the Tuesday council session to make known their displeasure with Strickland’s plan and the zoo is offering shuttle rides to City Hall from the zoo parking lot.
Critics of the zoo are finding some irony in the zoo’s use of shuttle buses given the zoo’s criticism of shuttles as a means of getting its patrons from a proposed surface parking lot on East Parkway or any other remote location to the zoo’s entrance.
The zoo favors trams that run through the Old Forest. The forest is a state protected area and state officials told Strickland they would never allow any kind of motorized traffic in the Old Forest.
All of this is happening just past the peak season for the park in general and the zoo in particular – that time of the year when the summer heat drops daytime attendance for both.
Here is what is on the agenda and committee list Tuesday at City Hall.
Grizz recap: Mike Conley returns to the Grizz with a five-year $153-million deal that is an NBA record. And he is joined by forward Chandler Parsons at $94 million over four years. Conley talks about the decision on Players' Tribune. Meanwhile, Matt Barnes is off to Sacramento. Lots of speculation in the national sports press, including Sports Illustrated, about what this says about the Grizz ownership and its plans for the future.
The cover story by Andy Meek in our weekly, The Memphis News, looks at the change in leadership of several of the major institution in our city’s healthcare industry. On a daily basis, it can be easy to miss these kinds of changes. But as an industry there has been a lot of change at and near the top of the organization charts of these institutions and it doesn’t happen very often.
And here is more specifically on Dr. Audrey Gregory, the new CEO of two of the three Saint Francis hospitals in the Memphis area, which is a return visit to the city for Gregory who was COO at Saint Francis in 2011.
Meanwhile, there is an alternative to Insure Tennessee emerging from the much-ridiculed task force state House Speaker Beth Harwell set up earlier this year to explore such options.
So wine in grocery stores is now a fact of life. And the first impressions via social media are that you are paying for the convenience of buying wine in supermarkets and that the supermarkets are seeing if they can handle the higher end of the market at least initially.
Meanwhile, noticed Saturday that the neon Joe’s Wines & Liquor satellite is down at Belvedere and Poplar. Not in a mourning shroud – gone from the base – not there.
Auto sales up for first six months of 2016 even though they appear to be slowing over a longer period of time.
The income gap nationally widened last year with most of the gain in income going to those at the very top.
A fourth straight month in June of an expansion nationally of manufacturing.
The Memphis News Almanac: One of the many things I love about doing the almanac is finding concerts. We’ve done a whole range from Usher opening FedExForum to Ignacy Paderewski playing the Lyric Theater.
And many thanks to Ron Hall for “Memphis Rocks,” the book listing Memphis rock concerts from 1954 through 1985 that I use on at least a weekly basis. Confession: Sometimes it’s not really for work unless you count someone I haven’t seen for 40 years seeing me on a parking lot and out of the blue without so much as a “hello”, “how are you?” asking who opened for Tull in 1979.
Back to my point: Take a look at the folks who were in town for the Fourth of July weekend in 1976. It’s got to be the greatest aggregation of musical talent coming through here in a three or four day period in a lifetime. That’s saying a lot given that 40 years ago we were in the midst of a golden age for the concert circuit in Memphis.
And if you’ve got concert ticket stubs from any era and any style of music, send me a scan of the stub -- firstname.lastname@example.org.
The concept of “adverse childhood experiences” as something with a lasting impact on children to be dealt with through therapy and neuroscience breakthroughs is about two years old in Memphis.
That’s when the first public discussions and forums began followed by the opening of centers in 2015.
The ACE Awareness Foundation is about to expand with more centers in the fall and a telephone support line just got started for parents to reach out for help.
Today is the last day to register to vote in Shelby County in advance of the Aug. 4 elections. Early voting begins on July 15.