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VOL. 132 | NO. 37 | Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: How Do You Get On The List, Sedgwick & Thornwood and Musicals

By Bill Dries

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Monday was Presidents Day and thus a holiday at City Hall. But for the occupant on City Hall’s top floor it was anything but a holiday. The list Memphis Police made for who has to have a uniformed police officer next to them to go anywhere in City Hall is turning into a controversy over possible surveillance of citizens participating in the last year or so of protests around the city.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland took questions on the controversy after a bit of good news in his day that we’ll get to a bit later. Police Director Michael Rallings who is not a fan of question and answer sessions that turn into 10-second sound bites made his first statement on the matter a video statement.

Between them there is some puzzlement about how the 81 people wound up on the list and Strickland says allegations of police surveillance are news to him and a separate matter from the list as far as he's concerned.

There is likely to be more on this later Tuesday as Strickland takes his state of the city message to the Memphis Rotary Club.

No holiday at the county building Monday as the County Commission was in session and much of the attention was on how the commission stands on bills before the Tennessee Legislature in Nashville. The commission is for the medical marijuana proposal and against state Sen. Brian Kelsey’s school voucher bill. Kelsey’s bill had the added hurdle of an $18 million-a-year fiscal note attached to the bill Monday on Capitol Hill.

A few notes from the commission session. The commission honored Mike Swift, who retires in April as county finance director after 26 years in the county administration, coming to work Downtown at the start of a budget season under then-Mayor Bill Morris and leaving at the start of another budget season under current-Mayor Mark Luttrell. Former County Mayor A C Wharton gave Swift credit for being the force behind the county’s blueprint for paying down its debt that Wharton implemented starting in 2002.

County Commission Legislative Specialist Peggy Church was also honored for her retirement, also after 26 years with the commission. Commissioner Heidi Shafer referred to Church as "the queen of resolutions" and Church got her very own resolution written by someone else.

And the commission noted that over the weekend former Shelby County Commissioner Carolyn Gates died. In addition to her service on the commissioner, Gates ran for mayor in the 1994 Republican primary for mayor – the first GOP primary for county mayor. She finished second to Jim Rout in the hard fought contest that also marked her exit from politics.

Gates joined the commission shortly after Minerva Johnican was elected the first woman on the commission in 1975. Gates service followed the county government restructuring that turned the Shelby County Quarterly Court into today’s Shelby County Commission.

Now back to that bit of good news in what was a pretty grim day for City Hall – Sedgwick Claims Management is expanding its Memphis presence to the tune of $34 million and 150 new jobs. Sedgwick will seek a 15-year PILOT agreement from EDGE for the expansion.

In Germantown, a $13 million building permit filed that is another groundbreaking for the Thornwood mixed use development at Germantown and Neshoba Roads where three other parts are underway or completed.

This is council day at City Hall which means a first reading vote on changes to the municipal union impasse rules and another discussion/sorting out of the affairs of Beale Street.

In Nashville, Sam Stockard finds some qualified satisfaction from the Senate’s Democratic leader – Lee Harris of Memphis – about the House investigation of Eads Republican state Rep. Mark Lovell’s alleged misbehavior.

In our Women & Business Special Edition ahead of our Thursday seminar at the Brooks:

Two Memphis middle-schoolers go on Shark Tank and get a deal for their body-care line for girls and teens. And their success is driven by their mother’s entrepreneurial experience.

Some of that experience reinforced by Susan Packard, a cofounder of Scripps Interactive – the cable network home to HGTV that Packard was chief operating officer of. She talked with us before her trip to Memphis at the end of March to keynote the Memphis Women’s Summit by the Junior League of Memphis. We don’t know if this will be part of her remarks, but there is an analogy to the recently Super Bowl. And she doesn’t believe in a corporate ladder.

When we talked with Lynn Evans, the Memphis CPA and consultant who is the chairwoman of the Tennessee Valley Authority board, last month about the new TVA plant and the controversy over its water wells, we also talked to her about her rise to the chairmanship of TVA and her time on the Memphis Light Gas and Water Division board before that. We also found she is no fan of cold weather which played a role in her arrival here.

And meet Dr. Michelle Martin who later this week will be formally introduced at a Wednesday reception as the first leader of the new Center for Innovation in Health Equity Research at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The center is a direct response to a health care disparity long-discussed and lamented in this city – the poorer cancer-related outcomes for African-Americans and other minorities. That is higher incident rates, cancer diagnosed at later stages and poorer five-year survival rates.

The rumors are true: a traveling Broadway production of Hamilton is coming to the Orpheum but not until the 2018-2019 season. Here are the 2017-2018 seasons for the Orpheum and Playhouse on the Square.

Kraft Heinz withdraws its bid for Unilever.

Several media organizations want a judge to compel the Feds to tell how much and who they paid for a tool to unlock an iPhone integral to an investigation of a terrorist attack.

And new questions elsewhere about the duck boats that were once a part of the Memphis riverfront.

PROPERTY SALES 66 66 6,612
MORTGAGES 78 78 4,207
BUILDING PERMITS 158 158 16,073
BANKRUPTCIES 45 45 3,441