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VOL. 132 | NO. 46 | Monday, March 6, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Bar Louie's Corner, Chucalissa and Shark Tank for Ag

By Bill Dries

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The key corner at the intersection of Madison Avenue and North Cooper Street is the southwest corner where since the opening of a renovated Overton Square several years ago Bar Louie has had the corner. And the restaurant chain wants to keep the corner although its landlord wants to make a change. That’s the bottom line in bankruptcy reorganization court documents filed in February.

There were already lots of questions about what would become of the “collaborative review” of the Memphis Police Department that the Strickland administration and the U.S. Justice Department signed off on back in October – about a month before the presidential election.

Since then, President Donald Trump’s new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has said he is not interested in continuing the consent decrees governing police departments investigated by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. He hasn’t had as much to say about the reviews like that slated for the Memphis Police Department. This is a review the city agreed to cooperate in.

But Friday was an interesting moment with interesting timing and lots that wasn’t said.

The Justice Department put out a highly unusual press release in Washington Friday afternoon saying the review of the MPD was off and giving no reason. Just a few hours later, as City Hall was fielding questions about what in the name of Barney Fife was going on, the Justice Department said, never mind.

That’s not exactly what they said. They put out another press release saying the review was back on again because the city had turned in a signed memorandum of understanding that apparently had been the hold up. The statement also said they had referenced the lack of a signed MOU in the earlier press release. They did not.

Among the unanswered questions: What, if anything, has been going on between October and now without a signed MOU?

An ugly end to the Tigers basketball season Saturday on the road with a loss 103-62 to SMU. It was so bad ESPN bowed out of the final three minutes for some kind of documentary on Mary Lou Retton until the LSU game was ready to go.

Still in need of a change of subject – here are some SEC football notes.

Later this month, the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility hears from both sides in a complaint against District Attorney General Amy Weirich for her conduct in the 2009 murder trial of Noura Jackson.

Jackson’s conviction was reversed by the Supreme Court in part because of a key piece of evidence that the other prosecutor, Stephen Jones, didn’t turn over to the defense during the trial and for Weirich calling out Jackson in closing arguments for not testifying in her own defense.

Last week, the panel of three attorneys considering a complaint against Jones decided against any sanctions for him, saying it was an inadvertent error.

About two months from the formal opening of Crosstown Concourse and the local craft beer brewery in the concourse has pulled a building permit to begin construction work on Crosstown Brewing Co.

The cover story in our weekly, The Memphis News, is about southwest Memphis – a part of our city unlike any other part whether it is in its hilly terrain, its suburban homes in a rural area or the mystery of Chucalissa. There is also the recent changes at T.O. Fuller State Park, which at more than 1,100 acres is the perfect companion to the Native American museum and archaeological site. We also talk about the concept of “resiliency.” In the case of southwest Memphis that will mean a long term voluntary buyout of several dozen homes – many of them vacant – on or near the Cypress Creek flood plain and building new housing in the same area.

I have to admit that this is a story I’ve had on my list for quite a while. The resiliency efforts came along as I began to focus on childhood memories of going to Chucalissa, which was a common childhood experience for my generation of Memphians. There are still field trips but I’m not sure it is as widespread as it was then. So a couple of weeks ago, I decided half a century was probably long enough between visits. The museum is pretty modest but if you have thought at all about what was here before there was a Memphis, your imagination will fill in a lot of the spaces. The trails in back of the central mound link up to a trail loop into T.O. Fuller which adjoins Chucalissa and in this trail-happy city this state park is remarkable. At times between hills even with the kudzu dormant (but not for long) you are in another world that changes again at the top of the next hill or around the next valley.

Sam Stockard, our Nashville correspondent, talks about opposition to the “heartbeat bill” in the Tennessee Legislature from an unexpected source. Tennessee Right to Life terms the bill that bars abortions once a heartbeat is detected by ultrasound “unfortunate.”

The Memphis Farm & Gin Show this past weekend had the ag version of a “Shark Tank” for ag tech startups – 14 of them to be exact got to make their pitch. And the night before, we talked to several of them about their ideas as well as to one of those hearing the pitches and Pete Nelson of AgLaunch, the accelerator that Nelson says is in the right place at the right time. We also heard that there isn’t enough innovation yet in agriculture because of some perceptions about what is a relatively small group of farmers with lots of acreage. There is also what happens for most of us when we hear the word innovation. We tend to think about apps and Silicon Valley and advanced health care research. We got some push back on that perception.

Plenty of signs of spring this week now that we are past all of those Facebook memories from two years ago with snow on the ground.

The Memphis News Almanac: The violent end of People’s Grocery and its owners, Billy Sunday comes to Confederate Park, nuclear fears at Dunlap and Monreo and Christ United Methodist expands.

PROPERTY SALES 64 87 1,429
MORTGAGES 39 60 1,107