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VOL. 131 | NO. 217 | Monday, October 31, 2016


Bill Dries

Last Word: Early Vote Numbers, Crime Q&A and School Suspensions in Memphis

By Bill Dries

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The last weekend of early voting is done and now we get the early vote surge through Thursday, which is the last day for early voting at the 21 polling places across Shelby County.

Through this past Friday, 161,239 early votes had been cast in Shelby County. That compares to 156,645 to the same point in 2008 and 151,809 in 2012.

So, the voter turnout is running ahead of the last two Presidential general election in which the early vote accounted for about 61 percent of the total turnout – early and election day. The greater turnout is with the extra hour of early voting that began Thursday factored in.

A few things to watch for starting with whether the early voting surge to this Thursday goes above 20,000 a day – or about 4,000 early voters per day more, which was the pattern in 2008. Also the suburban early voting sites are seeing the highest turnout with New Bethel Church in Germantown the most popular early voting site with a turnout of 11,862 through Friday.

We still don’t have precinct-by-precinct turnout numbers as we have had routinely on a daily basis in lots of past elections and this weekend for the first time we got a look at partial numbers on the demographics of the early voter turnout, which we also have had on a daily basis in past elections.

As for the demographic information – we have that through last Thursday.

It shows 50,364 African-American early voters, 49.994 white, 179 Hispanic – and the largest category at 60,702 is “other.” Other could indicate other races, those of mixed race and those voters who did not indicate their race when they registered to vote.

Also through Thursday, 98,587 of the early voters were women and the remaining 62,652 were men.


The Daily News editorial board Q&A with Bill Gibbons and Harold Collins at the Memphis-Shelby Crime Commission who talked with us at length about what their new anti-crime plan will and won't include. The plan will be more focused on the crime numbers and less on the longer term objectives included in past crime plans like pre-k and social programs.

We've done a transcript here because the plan will probably debut in November and there is so much attention on criminal justice system reform as well as the violent crime spike we had at the start of 2016. A more concise transcript can be found in the print version of our weekly, The Memphis News.

A sad Saturday at the Liberty Bowl for the Tigers and Don Wade looks at what to take away from the loss to Tulsa.

First Tennessee’s Capital Markets unit buys a Houston securities firm that does a lot of work on Small Business Administration loans.

The big turn on the northernmost part of the Wolf River – the part that makes the turn in Raleigh – is a key part of the Wolf River Greenway project. And it can be a difficult part for planners as well. They have about $9 million in federal funding to deal with some of those concerns. And there will be a bit of a change in the route of the greenway as a result.

The Tennessee Legislature is not in session, but that hasn’t stopped fallout from the political connections of Andy Miller Jr., a prominent contributor to Republican candidates whose military health care company settled with the feds in an investigation of alleged kickbacks. In the settlement, Miller’s companies admit no wrongdoing. Seven current and former Republican lawmakers – none of them from the Shelby County delegation –have financial ties to Miller.

Chalkbeat breaks down suspensions across Tennessee’s public schools in the 2014-2015 school year and what the report describes as “sky-high” suspension rates at Memphis schools are a big part of the story. Meanwhile SCS has posted a double digit drop in its suspension rate since the 2013-2014 school year. So there is a lot going on with these numbers. There is a breakdown by schools across several categories including suspensions and expulsions.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said earlier this year that the high suspension rate is a concern especially among African-American students.

And that concern extends to the state-run Achievement School District as well as SCS. The ASD has eliminated expulsions.

But the ASD tops the list of the highest percentages of students suspended overall with 21.4 percent compared to 18.5 percent in the SCS And the two school systems are a close first and second with the highest percentages of black students suspended.

Memphis Theological Seminary is getting a new 300-seat chapel for its campus at Union and East Parkway. Dr. Ralph and Barbara Hamilton have donated $2 million toward the effort after making an initial $1 million contribution toward the effort which should break ground early next year.

The cover story in The Memphis News, by Madeline Faber, is about the Memphis office market becoming more active which means a look at the dominance of East Memphis in that market. Meanwhile, multifamily CRE gets a big boost in Collierville in a year in which a lot of apartment developments have changed hands.

The Memphis News Almanac: Ben Carson in West Memphis (yes, we proudly include West Memphis); Ramesses tickets go on sale, PSI on Presidents Island and Blue Guitar Waltz.

In putting together the Memphis News Almanac a couple of weeks ago, (We work a month or two ahead) I was immersed in the Memphis of 1986 – specifically The Daily News archives from 1986 – and came across some items about the author John Naisbitt coming to the city to talk about his best-selling book “Megatrends”.

The book was about four years old at that point and by 1986 was being touted by local political leaders here and elsewhere as a way to move cities forward but looking further into the future also adopting a broader viewpoint than just what happened with Memphis and Shelby County or even this region. It was at a time when we were exploring whether the service sector and its various industries were the way of the future and the replacement for manufacturing jobs.

Megatrends was the first in a series of influential books and authors to come the way of our city and other cities struggling for a view of the future that they could get ahead of.

Probably the most recent book with that kind of impact was “The Rise of the Creative Class” by Richard Florida, a University of Toronto professor. The 2000 book also took a while to reach Memphis in its impact and its method for attracting younger creatives.

Florida’s theories had critics as well as advocates here and elsewhere.

The Houston Chronicle finds Florida with a new book, ‘The New Urban Crisis” and it includes Florida walking back some of the ideas and assumptions he made 16 years ago.

We close with a note about the passing of Curly Putman, the Nashville songwriter who penned “Green, Green Grass of Home” the massive hit for Tom Jones in the 1960s that Elvis Presley seriously coveted and which Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a year earlier – his version being the one Jones heard and modeled his version on.

We learned of Putman’s passing Sunday evening from U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. One of Putman’s less-noted jobs was writing the ballad “If The Right Man Was There” for Alexander’s 1978 campaign for governor. The ballad wasn’t quite the extraordinary political jingle that helped get Memphian Winfield Dunn elected governor in 1970. But Alexander won nevertheless and in his Sunday night statement said he is “forever grateful.”

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