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VOL. 132 | NO. 250 | Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Extradition Delay, Last Council Day of 2017 and The Skeleton Hotel

By Bill Dries

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When Sherra Wright made her first court appearance Monday in Riverside, California she was in a wheelchair. And her public defender there wants to delay an extradition hearing on the conspiracy, first degree murder and attempted first degree murder charges she faces in Memphis until a doctor can examine here. The hearing is reset for Wednesday.

Meanwhile, authorities here announced the indictment of 25 people Monday on drug trafficking charges. At least 15 of them are members of the Dixie Homes Murda Squad, a gang whose members were targeted in October 2014 with a state court order that forbids 50 gang members including four gang leaders from even congregating in public. That’s in the area where the gang operates. Some of those indicted were included in the no-gang order.

The gang is named for the Dixie Homes public housing development that once stood where the Legends Park mixed-use mixed-income development now stands. That gang began as Dixie Homes was in its last days and remains there and apparently continued selling drugs despite the order since the undercover investigation that included drug buys began this past April.

In the investigation by Memphis Police and the Multi-Agency Gang Unit, five pounds of heroin, two ounces of cocaine and an ounce of marijuana were recovered along with five firearms and 11 cars the investigators claim were bought with money from drug sales. Around $200,000 in cash was also seized. The indicted are specifically charged with conspiracy to sell and distribute heroin.

The U.S. Senate starts voting Tuesday on the tax reform bill -- a version of different House and Senate-passed bills that have been reconciled in the conference process. And all eyes are on U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee over fine print in the bill that gives him and others a tax break on real estate investments. The amendment's disclosure followed Corker's announcement that he would vote for the tax bill after being the only Republican to vote against the original Senate version earlier this month. Corker claims he knew nothing of the amendment. Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said Monday and put in writing that he drafted and added the provision and that it had been in the original House version. He denies it was added to win Corker's vote.

Tuesday is the last council day of 2017 at City Hall. There is lots for the council to consider including MLGW rate hikes – gas, water and electricity. Join us @tdnpols, won't you? Late word that there could be a move to put a second city charter amendment on the November 2018 ballot. It would end runoff elections in the seven single-member district council elections if no candidate gets a majority of the votes cast in the October city elections. Voters would decide whether that becomes part of the city charter if the council votes to add it to the ballot in three readings. The council has already approved another charter change for next year’s ballot that would repeal ranked-choice voting – the voting by ranking a first and second and third preference in those same races to avoid a runoff. Instead of a runoff, there would be a second vote count in which the contenders with the lowest vote total are eliminated and the second preference of their voters is added to the total of the remaining candidates.

And the last Shelby County Commission meeting of the year Monday included a pay raise for the next sheriff, a step toward the county getting into the sewer business and word of more vetoes by the county mayor.

The owners of the skeleton hotel – the former Benchmark hotel that was stripped to the beams by its owners and then left like that for about a year and counting – have pulled a building permit for $600,100 in renovations. The owners put up a bunch of banners across their chain link fence at the northwest corner of Union and B.B. King not too long ago touting a scheduled 2019 opening. Downtown Memphis Commission president Jennifer Oswalt has said the owners put up the banners after the DMC talked of taking legal action against the blight at one of Downtown’s busiest intersections.

When the chairmen of the local Republican and Democratic parties got acquainted, they did so on the set of “Behind The Headlines.” And, of course, Lee Mills and Corey Strong didn’t mind if we recorded it for you to see and asked a few questions. The result is two game plans for the upcoming election year that share some political facts of life but then go in different directions. And some interesting comments about what the impact of the Trump presidency is after you agree that all politics is local. The word "divorce" was used several times.

A more specific lineup for the TEDx Memphis sessions Jan. 6 and a preview of sorts with one of the presenters who will talk about poverty.

PROPERTY SALES 50 389 12,758
MORTGAGES 21 248 8,003
BUILDING PERMITS 295 813 29,934
BANKRUPTCIES 35 164 6,064