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VOL. 132 | NO. 63 | Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: The CA Marks A Year, Bike Lanes and Nicole Miller for Fashion Week

By Bill Dries

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The city of Memphis is in a two-front legal fight in federal court over alleged surveillance of protesters that landed several dozen of them on the City Hall list – according to each of the two lawsuits filed this past month.

The cases got two different federal judges and the city moved to combine the cases in one court. Federal Judge Sheryl Lipman denied the motion saying there are some differences.

Penn National, the company that owns Hollywood Casino in Tunica has bought two more Tunica casinos – Bally’s and Resorts Tunica in a $44 million deal.

It’s been about a year since Gannett Co. closed on the deal in which it bought The Commercial Appeal. And at the time Gannett said it wouldn’t make any drastic changes toward a new direction for a year. Just a little bit shy of that one-year mark there were deep cuts in the CA newsroom Tuesday. This comes about two weeks before the paper prepares to move its printing to Jackson, Tn. Look for Gannett executives to talk Wednesday about their plan for the chain’s group of Tennessee newspapers.

A string of wins here and a string of losses there. The Grizz are back on Beale Wednesday to play the Pacers as the end of the regular season is in sight and thoughts begin to solidify about the NBA’s second season – the playoffs. The Grizz are admitting to some frustration.

As promised when last we met, more from Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson’s meeting Monday evening with parents, teachers and students affected by his “Critical Focus” turnaround plan for a set of 19 low-achievement and low-enrollment schools.

For the four school years he has been superintendent, Hopson has struggled with the certain knowledge that the problems in these schools and others are beyond the narrow scope of any school system. And Monday he said in the most forceful way yet that the problem has been “systemic” neglect of these schools and communities over a number of years.

Critical Focus is an ambitious effort to begin to reverse that. And while the school system is going beyond its scope in the effort, Hopson made it clear that the school system cannot be the only player in this that steps up and does more. And if the schools don't improve the academic growth of students and draw more students -- he said they may close.

As that was underway, the city was holding on open house not too far away at the Central Library on a set of 10 road repaving proposals – in other words, bike lane proposals that could start this fall. And two of the 10 projects drew a lot of attention and some disagreement.

In the Tennessee Legislature:

Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax bill is on its way to House Finance after clearing House Local Government Tuesday with hardly a peep heard by our Nashville correspondent, Sam Stockard. And Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville is pacing the bill in the Senate in what amounts to watching the House for any hiccups in the timing of this. Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity is quarreling with the math of the tax cuts saying the Hall Tax roll back shouldn’t count because the previous Legislature approved that.

Norris’s broadband internet bill is also on the move clearing last minute hurdles in committee. The bill allows electric co-ops to offer retail broadband on their own or by partnering with private telecoms. But don’t mistake this for backing of Chattanooga’s move to offer internet services in neighboring Bradley County.

Memphis Democrat Sara Kyle has a bill in the Senate that would bar the state from outsourcing jobs at state parks and the bill cleared a Senate committee Tuesday with no debate.

State Senator Brian Kelsey’s school voucher bill is in committee again on Wednesday. And Tuesday evening the Memphis branch NAACP came out against the legislation which would be a pilot program initially applying only to schools in Shelby County.

The NAACP statement on this says the pilot program unfairly targets schools in Shelby County – public schools which would lose an estimated $18 million annually across all seven of the county’s public school districts, according to the state’s fiscal note on the bill.

“That appearance also calls into question its constitutional merit,” the statement adds. “If you want to pilot vouchers, do it in a small district to ‘test’, not ours.”

The national NAACP has recently been wading into the education reform debate. A NAACP panel was here in January for one in a series of hearings on charter schools and their impact on public education in America.

Memphis Fashion Week takes the catwalk to Crosstown Concourse April 7 and other locations around town during the week. And this year, the event is drawing an appearance by designer Nicole Miller – known for designs that feature bright patterns and prints.

Over the years, we've examined this whole movement of what you could call "Memphis Love" -- a pushback against years of withering criticism of any attempt to engender some kind of mass and sustained good and positive feeling about the city's direction. That is much simpler in its statement than the undertaking has been because with the move to feel better about Memphis has come a realization that we also can't fool ourselves about the city's very real problems in the process.

So, we are due for a check-up of sorts on our emotional engagement with Memphis and that is among the items on the agenda for the RegionSmart Summit we are involved in along with the Urban Land Institute on April 27. Peter Kageyama sets the stage for his talk at the conference specifically about "The Love Affair Between People and Their Places" with his own observations about Memphis over several years.

A new tenant at the Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park near ByhaliaMcCormick & Co. opening a $6-million 48-job distribution center for the spices and herbs it makes.

The return of Samsung’s Note 7.

And Facebook moves closer to Snapchat.

PROPERTY SALES 51 223 1,152
MORTGAGES 55 189 861
BUILDING PERMITS 149 541 2,593