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VOL. 132 | NO. 19 | Thursday, January 26, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Connecting Downtown, Tranquil Treasure and Gas Tax Complexities

By Bill Dries

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Temple over the Tigers Wednesday in Philadelphia 77-66. East Carolina at the Forum is coming up Saturday. Grizz and Raptors at the Forum Wednesday evening and the Grizz win 101 – 99. The Grizz are on the road starting Friday against the Trail Blazers.

The Riverfront Development Corp. not only continues with Mayor Jim Strickland’s naming of a riverfront task force – it is in a better position after spending a lot of the recession and its aftermath twisting in the wind politically.

The RDC is part of the mayor’s task force and is paying the bills with private funding it rounded up for the consultant that will help the task force map out a set of not only long-term plans for the riverfront but also some quick wins that help to build momentum on the way to the city’s bicentennial.

RDC president Benny Lendermon counts the change as a better relationship with City Hall and the task force as a way to sort through tough issues without the politics or at least less politics.

Downtown Memphis Commission president Terence Patterson at the Brass Door Tuesday evening for the Downtown Neighborhood Association reinforcing the new theme about Downtown development we heard Wednesday morning in the Strickland press conference.

It’s about tying together and connecting new attractions and businesses and events that have come along in recent years – the gaps between those things are the latest emphasis.

And Patterson talks about Downtown trouble spots including the 100 N. Main building – the city’s tallest building behind a fence and empty.

As promised when we last met, more from this week’s bus tour on the TVA decision to drill its own water wells for its new $1 billion natural gas-fired power plant in southwest Memphis. The critics of the decision seem to be aiming at future controversies with a call for some kind of regulatory authority and affecting the permitting process going forward.

Meanwhile, for many on the tour the highlight was a chance to look around the Sheahan Pumping Station near the University of Memphis – the second oldest water pumping facility in the Memphis Light Gas and Water system. The circa 1930s buildings include stone work on the buildings that depict water flowing from a fountain. And the main building with high ceilings and big mechanical pieces has a curved stone archway that includes a front door that has to be one of the grandest entrances in the city. It’s a palace – a tranquil treasure.

First it was FedEx, now word that Amazon is looking into auto parts distribution and speculation about what that would mean for another corporation with a Memphis birthright and HQ – AutoZone.

Speaking of Amazon, it will begin collecting sales tax in Mississippi starting next month and sending it to the capitol there under an agreement in advance of a July 1 start date that applies to all companies – Internet and catalog -- with more than $250,000 in sales in Mississippi.

Shelby County Schools prepares for what seems certain to be votes next Tuesday to close Dunbar and Carnes Elementary Schools.

In the Tennessee Legislature:

Our Nashville correspondent, Sam Stockard, in his "View From The Hill" column finds a tough sell for Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax proposal on Capitol Hill.

Haslam is now on the road campaigning for what is known as the IMPROVE Act, starting in Murfreesboro Wednesday. He’s in Memphis Friday to administer the oath of office to the newest Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Mary Wagner, first and foremost. But he will also be asked about the IMPROVE Act and its prospects.

The state’s prosecutors are pushing back against the idea that funding for drunk driving enforcement and prosecution might be sacrificed in the IMPROVE push. Haslam’s package as it exists currently would include passing a broader open container law that would allow $18 million in federal funding connected to such legislation to be used in the road fund instead of the highway safety program.

Tennessee state law currently says the driver of a car cannot have an open container of an alcoholic beverage. But it’s not illegal for a passenger in a car to have an open container. Because the law doesn’t ban open containers for everyone in a car, the federal funding cannot be used for road projects. Change the law and the state has about $5.6 million that could be shifted to roads.

Former state Rep. Joe Armstrong of Knoxville won’t be going to prison on his federal tax fraud conviction. He was sentenced Wednesday to probation.

No criminal charges to be filed against Memphis Police officer Leon Dickson in the fatal shooting last march of Alexio Allen in Raleigh. Allen was shot as police responded to a call from Allen’s family about an argument, with Allen and a family member struggling over a rifle when Dickson shot him.

The decision by Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich follows an investigation of the incident by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and a review of the TBI report by Weirich’s office. Weirich now files in Chancery Court to open the file of the TBI’s investigation and its report to the public which has become standard operating procedure for fatal police shootings.

Some buzz around the new CMT series “Sun Records,” which debuts next month, about the absence of a Carl Perkins character. Not true. Actor Dustin Ingram will play Mr. Blue Suede Shoes. He comes to the part from having played Alice Cooper in the short-lived 2016 television series “Vinyl” and the “True Blood” television series as well as playing a character named “Wolverine” on Longmire.

Teknor Apex is king of the hill in Haywood County when it comes to jobs. Those jobs are making various types of hoses – from compounds the company makes at other locations. The plant is expanding in Brownsville with a 200,000 square foot distribution facility that is a $32.2 million investment that will create 50 jobs.

The Memphis Real Estate Recap includes three commercial parcels in Whitehaven selling for $1.4 million – two retail areas and one building. Also more details on Planet Fitness at the Imperial Lanes site.

The Dow breaks 20,000 Wednesday. An AP Q&A on what that means and what happens next.

PROPERTY SALES 50 226 2,557
MORTGAGES 44 145 1,731
BUILDING PERMITS 204 569 5,701