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VOL. 131 | NO. 109 | Wednesday, June 1, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: As The Wheel Tax Turns, New Zoo Poll and Once Every Dozen Years

By Bill Dries

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When the school year ends, that’s not necessarily when leaders of school systems can take it easy.

That’s because the business of school systems is about looking months if not years ahead on your mental calendar.

So bright and early Wednesday morning, Shelby County Commissioners will be debating and discussing funding for Shelby County Schools in the new fiscal year.

The commission’s budget committee could be making some key recommendations Wednesday including using more of the county wheel tax revenue for the schools operating budget instead of capital budget items.

Meanwhile, the city council budget committee was putting in the hours Tuesday evening in its second budget wrap-up – double wrap, I guess you could call it.

The recommendations to the full council include a 1.5 percent pay raise for city employees other than fire and police. Mayor Jim Strickland already included a larger raise for them in his original budget proposal way back in April.

Also $300,000 for a full-time director for the Whitehaven Economic Development Corp. that would oversee economic development in the area and link that development up with airport development.

The two Overton Park protesters arrested on Memorial Day made their first court appearance Tuesday and come back to court Sept. 1.

More detail on the arrests coming in as well.

Fergus Nolan, who was the first arrested, tells us he was not sitting-in on the driveway onto the Greensward Monday. He says he was trying to leave the area ahead of the police deadline to move or be arrested when the cops arrested him ahead of that time and as he was trying to photograph the police van that later took him to 201 Poplar.

Don’t look for this chapter in the controversy to close out just yet.

The zoo is out with some polling on how the Greensward controversy is playing citywide.

Public Opinion Strategies of Virginia, near Washington DC, did a sample of 400 Memphians for a detailed set of questions that took about 16 minutes on average.

More on this coming up later this week.

The bottom line is it shows high favorable ratings for the zoo, tied with the Memphis Pink Palace Museum and higher than the National Civil Rights Museum, Children’s Museum of Memphis, The Brooks and Graceland.

The polling asked if what you’ve seen, read or heard recently about the zoo gives you a more favorable or less favorable impression of the zoo.

The breakdown by gender, race, political affiliation and part of the city never got below 55 percent for more favorable and never topped 32 percent for less favorable. The 32 percent was among white Memphians.

The new Zambezi River Hippo Camp exhibit had a lot to do with the more favorable numbers.

And the Greensward controversy had a lot to do with the less favorable numbers.

The key findings memo from Public Opinion concludes that a small group in the less favorable numbers are opposed to using the Greensward for public parking and thinks the zoo has overstepped its boundaries. But a larger group in the less favorable numbers is “turned off” by the fight in general.

So to the specific question of the zoo using the Greensward for overflow parking: those polled favored the zoo using the greensward 62 percent to 30 percent against it.

Among the Midtowners who participated, the poll shows 49 percent favor the status quo versus 43 percent who don’t.

On the various options, the polling shows 71 percent citywide favor sticking with that parking arrangement. In Midtown, 55 percent oppose continuing that.

The second most popular option citywide is using the city General Services area for parking, favored by 67 percent of those polled.

And just about an even split on the idea of using some of the golf course.

A full 72 percent oppose building a new parking garage.

As I said, more to come on this and the coming weekend in the park, which promises to be a busy one for several reasons.

The poll is already drawing jeers and cheers for being the polling company Mitt Romney used in his unsuccessful 2012 Presidential campaign as well as being the pollsters for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell in their most recent election victories.

Roxie’s Grocery in Uptown heavily damaged in a Tuesday morning before dawn fire. Fire Department thinks it was electrical.

He’s been in town before. But Tuesday was the day new Grizz coach David Fizdale met the public at FedExForum.

ServiceMaster isn’t the only local corporation looking for a new headquarters. MAA is also searching and there are more indications there than in the public disclosures about ServiceMaster which have been few and far between.

It looks like a Memphis MAA HQ will be new construction and wherever that is within Memphis it will be a tight fit given ServiceMaster’s search and the Evergreen Packaging HQ search.

Talk about competitive. There’s the Memphis pizza market. Papa Murphy’s will have 14 stores in the city by the end of the summer. It’s now at eight here with its “take and bake” concept – as in pick up your pizza and bake it at home.

Agape Child and Family Services has been doing hard work on several fronts locally including being a key player in the hard fought comeback of the Frayser area, working in several apartment complexes. We take a look at Agape’s foster care program and how people make the decision to become a foster parent.

Political stirrings in the suburbs where it is filing season in four sets of local elections on the November ballot. Meanwhile, early voting on the August ballot is about six weeks away.

And the August election is an unusual cycle – one that comes along every 12 years. The cycle is best known for what’s not on the ballot. There is no statewide race for U.S. Senate or Governor on the August primary ballot or the November general election ballot. We looked at voter turnout and found that as in most things political, turnout also depends on what else is on the ballot and who is in those races.

MORTGAGES 110 170 916
BUILDING PERMITS 133 290 1,948