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VOL. 132 | NO. 8 | Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Rallings at Rotary, The Weight of Cotton and Ugwueke's Path

By Bill Dries

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It’s becoming pretty obvious that this is going to be a big year for the issue of crime and violence in our city. It’s also becoming the year that Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings has found his voice in a job that may be the ultimate glass house for politicians.

Rallings told Rotarians Tuesday that this is the year he will “bring the fire” when it comes to discussions about the city’s historic problem with violence and then walked through a 37-page Power Point presentation that dissected the city’s 228 homicides in just about every way imaginable.

Lots of proverbs on Capitol Hill Tuesday as the Tennessee Legislature went back in session. “The man’s cotton weighs what the man’s cotton weighs.” That's from Democratic state Senator Reginald Tate, who was the only one of the five Democrats in the Senate to vote for Oak Ridge Republican Randy McNally as the new speaker of the Senate and Lt. Governor. The other four abstained.

That’s where our coverage of the session begins with Sam Stockard, our Nashville correspondent and columnist. And we will have more on McNally’s path as Lt. Governor Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville tells us there will be bills in the hopper immediately from the Juvenile Justice Realignment Task Force that agreed on its final recommendations the day before the gavel fell on the 2017 session. The recommendations represent six months of work and include a law that bars Juvenile Courts from sending juveniles to detention for “status offences” like truancy and smoking. Status offenders have not been detained in Shelby County for the last 15 years.

Just off Capitol Hill, Tennessee Economic and Community Development commissioner Randy Boyd is leaving the post and he is considering a bid for governor in 2018.

In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant has signed an executive order that requires all state employees to take online training in sexual harassment awareness and prevention.

The Grizz in Oklahoma Wednesday for the Thunder and the Tigers won’t be far away as they play Tulsa Wednesday.

The new leader of Methodist Healthcare, Michael Ugwueke, has worked construction and delivered pizzas before his rise through the ranks at Methodist. He began his duties New Year’s Day with questions about the future of federal government’s role in healthcare and an ambitious expansion of Methodist’s already sizeable presence in the city’s traditional medical center.

Meanwhile, some changes in the ranks at Methodist with Dr. Guy Reed as the interim executive vice president of medical affairs. And in the change, Dr. David Stern takes on statewide responsibilities in the UT system for the educational opportunities medical students at UT get in hospitals here and elsewhere across the state.

The area around Carnes Elementary School is expected to be a hot spot with the St. Jude expansion. But because it’s on the other side of Danny Thomas Boulevard from the hospital, it could be a while before the ripple effect reaches there. However, there are some stirrings in the neighborhood already with a community garden and plans for another in an area where there are gaps between what were once rows of houses. Meanwhile, Carnes Elementary School itself is among the schools SCS leaders are considering closing.

The national “Giving Tuesday” movement gets some local branding and adds “Grit. Grind. Give” to the campaign in this basketball town.

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