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VOL. 132 | NO. 49 | Thursday, March 9, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: There Goes the Off-Election Year, Pinch Plans Move and No Permit

By Bill Dries

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Here we go again. When the new year began, 2017 looked to be an off-election year in most of Shelby County. Some Arlington aldermen and school board races were the only elections on tap for the year. But the months leading up to the September elections in Arlington are filling up.

There is an April special election primary for the open state House seat in District 95 that Mark Lovell resigned from abruptly last month. And the winners of those primaries advance to a June special general election.

On the same day that Shelby County Commissioners were pondering whether they really needed to appoint an interim state Rep. before the special election, Michele Dial announced her resignation from the Lakeland Commission for family reasons triggering a special nonpartisan election within 75-80 days once the city officially receives the resignation. That is likely to happen at the Lakeland Commission’s Thursday meeting.

That would put Lakeland’s nonpartisan special election on the ballot in May, between the state Rep. District 95 primary and general election.

Some of you may remember that in 2013 there were five election days between July and November, only one of them for regularly scheduled elections in Arlington and Lakeland. The rest were special elections. A total of 11 elections in four months.

Lakeland isn’t up for municipal elections four years later because the commissioners there took advantage of a state law that allows a one-time only lengthening of terms to get their odd-numbered year election cycle on the same cycle as even-numbered elections countywide and statewide.

Organizers of a local protest Friday Downtown as part of protests across the country over the Dakota Access Pipeline have been denied a permit by the city to march from Beale Street Landing to City Hall.

An email from the city permits office Wednesday morning said the permit was denied because “the pipeline protest has been going on for quite some time.” It also cites the timing of a Friday night march Downtown – “disruption of businesses on Main Street that have outside venues.”

And the organizers apparently had to get the consent of the Downtown Memphis Commission as well as the Beale Street Merchants Association.

Organizers say the protest is on – permit or not.

The city ruled earlier this year that no permit was needed for a march Downtown that was a protest of President Donald Trump’s first immigration travel ban order. The legal reasoning then was that the local action was a reaction to a spontaneous event and thus exempt from the city’s requirement of at least 14 days notice.

The organizers plan to appeal in this case along the same grounds.

Look for the Gateway project – the development of the nine blocks between the St. Jude campus and the Pyramid – to go to the Land Use Control Board April 13 and to the Memphis City Council April 25.

The city's Division of Housing and Community Development has filed its November "District Concept Study" with the Office of Planning and Development. These are very general ideas and renderings. Look for this to be amended closer to mid-April with more specific plans for the LUCB and a staff report from OPD on the specifics.

It’s the latest indication of a quickening pace in a plan with a lot of moving parts beyond the nine blocks grid.

That includes the idea of a new convention center hotel and word that the city’s original convention center hotel and still its largest at 600 rooms – now a Sheraton – is for sale.

City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen talked with us about the city hiring a hotel expert for what are so far concepts for such a hotel but that the city anticipates will soon become specific plans.

Don Wade on the Tigers playing for high stakes in troubled times in the AAC tournament that opens Friday. It is the gateway to the NCAA -- sorry, proximity thing. Whatever happens in the tournament, there remains the question of Dedric Lawson possibly not returning to the Tigers.

Allegiant Memphis to Los Angeles air service returns and not just for the season.

Plans for a gun shop and shooting range in Cordova.

In the Tennessee Legislature:

The school voucher bill of Republican state Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown cleared the Senate Education Committee Wednesday. The bill is still in subcommittee in the state House.

The bill has drawn vocal opposition across party lines on the Shelby County Commission and it has become a factor in the commission’s debate over whether they should appoint someone to the vacant State House District 95 seat ASAP.

In committee sessions here Wednesday, commissioner Terry Roland argued against an appointment given the April special election primary and the distinct possibility the Legislature will have gone home for the year by the time the commission can act or at least will have already decided the most important issues including the voucher question.

Commissioner Van Turner says the Shelby delegation should have another reliable no vote in place in the House on the voucher bill.

Complicating this is that the commission’s next meeting is March 20 – it’s only meeting in March.

Our Nashville correspondent, Sam Stockard, on a shift in strategy by Memphis House Democrat Raumesh Akbari in her pursuit of legislation to reduce suspensions of kindergarten students. The bill has given way at least for now to a task force to review the matter and find out what the practices are on such suspensions across the state.

More trouble on capitol hill for the gas tax bill – a one week delay in House Transportation for Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill. But the bill now includes using sales tax revenue to fund road projects, something Haslam opposes. After this delay, there is some thought that the bill will return with all of the changes to Haslam's original proposal stripped from it -- or at least the most prominent amendments.

One of several pot bills in the Legislature – this one to make possession of less than an eighth of an ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable by a fine only – was voted down in Senate committee.

In his “View From The Hill” column, Stockard reviews the adminstration’s decision to postpone state park privatization.

In the Mississippi Legislature, there is a bill to cut state tax exemptions to colleges and universities that refuse to fly the state’s Confederate-themed flag.

Back to the February 1 immigration travel ban march Downtown which ended with Muslim prayers in the courtyard of the National Civil Rights Museum.

For the last 15 years, March has been a month of open houses at mosques in Memphis and Shelby County and this month, the tradition continues in the Muslims in Memphis series of events.

Those events began last weekend and continue.

Butler Snow becoming the place to go for former federal prosecutors. Former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton is the latest to put his expertise to use there.

Meanwhile, Baker Donelson has expanded its health care litigation group.

A Pew Research Center report on what happens to the U.S. labor force with no new immigrants.

And a survey of private employers shows 298,000 jobs added nationally in the last month.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751