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VOL. 10 | NO. 20 | Saturday, May 13, 2017

Daily Digest

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Airbnb, City of Memphis Reach Tax Agreement

Airbnb has announced it has entered into a tax agreement with the city of Memphis to collect and remit taxes on behalf of its Memphis hosts.

The agreement, which will take effect June 1, will automatically collect and remit local taxes for all Airbnb bookings in Memphis, including a 3.5 percent Memphis Short Term Room Occupancy Tax as well as a Tourism Improvement District Assessment of $2 per bedroom per night.

“It’s important to our administration that government be able to work seamlessly with businesses and residents, and this agreement is evidence of that,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland in a written statement.

Though this partnership is common in many cities across the world, it is the first of its kind in Tennessee.

“Home sharing is introducing a whole new world of travelers to the authenticity of Memphis while offering a unique economic opportunity for hundreds of Memphis residents,” said Laura Spanjian, Tennessee policy director for Airbnb. “We are so proud to have collaborated on this deal, which will unlock new annual tax revenue for Memphis.”

Around 300 Memphis residents share their homes on the Airbnb platform, according to the company.

These homeowners hosted roughly 40,000 guests and earned $3.9 million in supplemental income in 2016.

During the Beale Street Music Festival, Airbnb hosts welcomed an additional 1,700 guests to the city and the company projected a $1 million economic impact for Memphis based on host income and guest spending with local merchants during the festival.

– Patrick Lantrip

Two SCS Teachers to Attend Development Programs

GP Memphis Cellulose has announced its 2017 teacher development program awardees who will participate in company-sponsored summer learning programs.

Luanne Pyron, a third-grade teacher at Arlington Elementary School, was selected to attend Keystone Science School’s 2017 “Key Issues Institute: Bringing Environmental Issues to the Classroom,” this summer in Silverthorne, Colorado.

And Nastasia Dangerfield, an eighth-grade teacher at Woodstock Middle School, has been selected to attend The Bill of Rights Institute’s 2017 “Founder’s Fellowship” program this July in Washington, D.C.

Through the GP Foundation, all or part of the teachers’ expenses will be covered, including travel, lodging and meals. Following their respective learning programs, teachers receive hands-on curriculum tailored to fit the needs of their classroom students.

The Key Issues Institute brings together educators from around the world for an interactive 4 1/2-day workshop to help teachers of all subjects bring environmental issues and STEM-based learning (science, technology, engineering and math) to the classroom.

The Founder’s Fellowship program provides training and tools for social studies teachers in grades 7-12 to help educate students about America’s founders, their ideals and economic and civil liberties.

“Georgia-Pacific recognizes that an investment in our teachers is an investment in our communities,” said Chuck LaPorte, mill manager, GP Memphis Cellulose. “We are proud to support these programs that offer unique learning opportunities for teachers and provides them access to creative tools that bring learning to life in the classroom.”

Since 2015, the GP Foundation has sponsored seven teachers from Shelby County Schools to participate in summer development programs.

– Daily News staff

Mama Gaia Restaurant Announces New Location

Mama Gaia, a fast-casual organic vegetarian restaurant that opened its first location at Crosstown Concourse, has announced a second location.

Mama Gaia will operate the new cafe inside Ballet Memphis’ new headquarters building that is under construction at the intersection of Cooper Street and Madison Avenue in Overton Square. It is set to open this summer.

Open to the general public, the cafe will offer a select food menu each day, including breakfast items as well as coffee drinks, wine and beer.

Created and owned by Philipp and Cru Peri von Holtzendorff-Fehling, Mama Gaia opened its first location in March in the concourse.

– Andy Meek

NASCAR Race Returns To Memphis on June 3

NASCAR driver Harrison Burton and other guests will hold a press conference Monday, May 15, at noon at Memphis International Raceway to mark the return of NASCAR to Memphis.

Burton, the 16-year-old driver of the No. 12 DEX Imaging Toyota, will test his No. 12 Toyota on the Memphis oval.

He will be joined by Pam Kendrick, president of Memphis International Raceway; his father, Jeff Burton, a NBC Sports analyst and 21-time NASCAR Cup series winner; and Kevin Kane, president and CEO of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau, among others.

Harrison Burton won his first victory in late April at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

He is the points leader for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and will try to build on that lead when the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Memphis 125 is held on June 3.

The last NASCAR race held at Memphis International Raceway was in 2009.

– Daily News staff

MLGW to Donate 200 Window Air Conditioners

Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division is donating 200 window air-conditioning units to qualified low-income seniors and disabled residents of Shelby County.

Neighborhood Christian Center will host a screening and application process for the free units at 785 Jackson Ave. on Tuesday, May 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

To qualify, applicants must be a resident of Shelby County, a low-income senior age 60 or older, and without operable air conditioning. Once an individual is screened and pre-qualifies, a pre-qualification voucher will be issued to verify that the applicant has met the guidelines up to the field inspection.

Field inspections will be conducted by MLGW to verify that the residence meets installation requirements.

Households are only eligible to receive an air conditioner once every three years from the MLGW “Play It Cool” program.

Applicants will need the following credentials on hand:

• Tennessee state ID or driver’s license to verify age and address.

• Most recent pay stub or Social Security Income statement to verify income.

Air conditioners will not be installed at addresses with operating units, or on residences with window bars or storm windows. MLGW field inspections will begin in late May and the installation of units will be performed by MLGW employees starting in June.

Applicants for the Play It Cool program may also contact the Neighborhood Christian Center’s hotline number at 901-881-6013 for a pre-recorded message detailing qualifications for eligibility.

– Daily News staff

Memphis Zoo Offers Peek at Baby Sloth

A new two-toed sloth will make a special appearance at the Memphis Zoo Saturday, May 13, during what is being billed as “Baby Day” at the zoo.

The 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. event is a set of talks and educational opportunities throughout the zoo highlighting babies it has welcomed in recent years. It includes talks with zoo staff and keepers who care for the animals.

The event is free with the price of general admission.

The sloth, named Baby Lua, is not yet on exhibit, but will make a brief appearance at 11:30 a.m. at the Wings of Wonder Bird Show Amphitheater.

The day begins at 10 a.m. with a chance to meet Baby Bogey, the zoo’s baby giraffe, and includes a 10:30 a.m. session with Baby Winnie, the zoo’s new hippo.

– Bill Dries

Macy’s Outlet Opens At Oak Court Saturday

Macy’s is opening its outlet store concept Macy’s Backstage, the first such store in Tennessee, on Saturday, May 13.

The new outlet opens inside the Oak Court Mall Macy’s store at 9 a.m. As part of the opening, the first 100 customers will be given a $20 gift card.

Customers can enter from the outside parking lot as well as through the Macy’s store itself. Inside, they’ll see deals on everything from handbags to games for kids to clothes.

The Backstage motif – treating the customers as if they were a star – runs through the entire store, including the dressing rooms, where customers are greeted with messages on the walls like “You look fabulous!”

– Andy Meek

Memphis Airport Names Air Research Manager

The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority has announced that David “Chip” Gentry will be its new Air Service Research and Development Manager effective May 30.

In this position, Gentry will work to develop new initiatives and strategies with the intention of increasing domestic and international passenger activity and cargo air service at Memphis International Airport. According to the MSCAA, he will achieve this by working with airlines to maintain existing service and add more routes. He will also act as a liaison between passengers and the airlines by meeting with regional corporate, leisure and convention travel executives to help locate new destinations.

The Auburn University graduate has more than 20 years of experience in the aviation industry and most recently served as vice president of air service development for Montgomery Regional Airport and the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, a position he has held since November 2013.

His experience also includes serving as director of airport and community relations for Silver Airlines and as senior manager of market planning for Pinnacle Airlines.

– Patrick Lantrip

Jackson Visits City Hall In Push for Career Education

At the top of the Tuesday, May 9, Memphis City Council session, the council heard from civil rights leader and two-time presidential contender Rev. Jesse Jackson.

In town for a regional meeting of his Rainbow Coalition-Operation PUSH organization, Jackson also met with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland Tuesday to talk about minority business growth.

“The fairness gap in Memphis is embarrassing,” Jackson told the council on the same topic. He also touched on next year’s 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis.

Jackson was part of King’s inner circle during that trip to Memphis in support of striking sanitation workers.

“We need you to work with us to close the gap … so we can have a celebration 50 years later,” Jackson said.

Earlier in the day, Jackson announced his organization is partnering with Shelby County Schools for an engineering-based Career Technical Education program at Whitehaven High School.

SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson has been working on plans for a CTE Academy, which along with a conversion of East High School to a T-STEM school – emphasizing transportation applications – is part of a broader emphasis on technical education built around students earning associate degrees and training certificates.

In planning and development items, the council delayed for two weeks a vote on closing an alley and part of Pontotoc Avenue west of Danny Thomas Boulevard and south of FedExForum to accommodate 240 apartment units that are planned for both sides of Pontotoc at Danny Thomas. The Nashville-based developers, ECG Acquisitions LLC, say the rental units will be affordable housing.

The Land Use Control Board recommended rejection. Some council members point out that a section of Pontotoc further west will be closed for the “I Am A Man Plaza” on the south side of Clayborn Temple.

– Bill Dries

Lifeblood Teams Up With Memphis in May for Drive

In partnership with the Memphis in May International Festival, Lifeblood is inviting the community to help with a blood drive.

Through noon Monday, May 15, all blood donors will be entered into a drawing to receive one of 10 pairs of complimentary passes to attend the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest May 17-20.

Donors can give blood at one of five community donor centers or at a mobile blood drive. All blood types are needed in order to prevent any blood type shortages from occurring; however, Lifeblood is in particular need of donations from Type O-negative donors. Type O-negative blood is the only type that can safely be given to patients of all blood types. There also is a need for platelet donations from Type A donors and platelet and plasma donations from Type AB donors.

Donors can visit clublifeblood.org on the day of their donation and click on the “Fast Track Health History.” This allows donors to complete the interview portion of their donation online.

Volunteer blood donors must be at least 16 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Additional height/weight requirements apply to donors 22 and younger, and donors who are 16 and 17 years of age must have signed permission from a parent or guardian. A photo ID is also required to donate.

– Andy Meek

Tigers Defeat UT Martin In ‘Babe’ Howard Classic

The University of Memphis scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the W.S. “Babe” Howard Classic in dramatic fashion, 7-6, over the University of Tennessee at Martin Tuesday, May 9, at USA Stadium. The Tigers improved to 26-23.

The Tigers’ Tyler Webb was able to get things started in the ninth with a single up the middle before he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Brandon Grudzielanek then tied the game up with a two-out single to drive in Webb and make the score 6-6. Then Alec Trela provided a walk-off single to center field that scored Grudzielanek to end the game.

Blake Bennett was the winning pitcher after he tossed a perfect top of the ninth inning with two strikeouts.

Chris Carrier smashed his 11th home run of the season to get the Tigers on the board Tuesday and after Grudzielanek legged out a bunt single, Trela hit a two-run homer to give Memphis a 3-2 lead over UT Martin.

The Skyhawks grabbed a 6-5 lead in the top of the eighth after an infield single, a stolen base, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly to center.

Zach Schritenthal finished the game 2-for-4, while Grudzielanek and Trela also each had two hits. Trela drove in a game-high three runs.

– Don Wade

Postal Service Seeking Higher Stamp Prices

The U.S. Postal Service is hoping it can soon raise stamp prices by a penny or more. The postal service on Wednesday, May 10, reported a quarterly loss of $562 million, despite growth in package delivery, due to continued erosion in the use of first-class mail as well as expensive mandates for its retiree health care obligations. It also attributed losses to a forced reduction in stamp prices last year.

The postal service is generally barred under federal law from raising prices more than the rate of inflation. But it is seeking greater regulatory leeway to increase prices, including a 1-cent rate hike provided in a measure being considered by Congress.

The current cost of a first-class stamp is 49 cents.

“America deserves a financially stable postal service that can continue to play a vital role in our economy and society,” said Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan. She said the postal service continues to aggressively cut costs.

The financial report shows what it described as “controllable” income of more than $12 million for the three months that ended March 31. But when taking into account expenses to prefund retiree health care and other items considered beyond the management’s control, it posted a loss.

Operating revenue came to $17.3 billion, a decrease of $474 million from the same time last year.

First-class mail volume is down as people rely more on email for online bill payments. The number of first-class and marketing mail items delivered during the last quarter was 34 billion pieces, nearly a 4 percent decrease.

The financial numbers released Wednesday bring the postal service’s year-to-date earnings to $900 million, better than the $1.7 billion loss for the same period last year, largely due to reduced expenses for the health care pre-funding.

– The Associated Press

Port Alliance Sponsoring Chamber Council, Series

Port Alliance/H.Saga International, a member of the Greater Memphis Chamber, has become the title sponsor of the chamber’s Small Business Council and title sponsor for a new chamber leadership series called Listen, Learn & Lead.

Port Alliance/H.Saga International provides global, integrated trade and logistics solutions.

The chamber’s Small Business Council is made up of more than 80 percent of chamber members, which are businesses that employ 100 or fewer people. The council assists businesses through the Advice on Tap program and educational programming throughout the year.

With the sponsorships, the chamber will be able to provide the tools and resources Memphis businesses need to be successful, “which helps grow the economy locally for everyone,” said Amy Daniels, senior vice president of communications and programming at the chamber.

“The great work of the GMC’s Small Business Council helps good companies become great,” said Bob Wilson, CEO and partner at Port Alliance/H.Saga International. “As a small-business owner, I appreciate and benefit from my association with the Small Business Council, and am pleased to be a title sponsor this year.”

Wilson said he wanted to support an initiative that gives growing companies an opportunity to learn from and form relationships and mentorships with larger companies that have already reached the pinnacle of growth.

“It is imperative that we share best practices with each other to foster further growth in the Memphis area,” Wilson said.

The Listen, Learn & Lead series launches Wednesday, May 10, and is open to members and nonmembers. This series is designed to help businesses form or enhance an intentional, focused culture that will provide future growth and help attract and retain quality talent.

– Daily News staff

MLGW Urges Conservation In Peak Water-Use Hours

Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division is voluntarily requesting commercial, industrial and residential customers, primarily in southwest Memphis, to conserve water during the peak water usage hours of 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. as maintenance work continues at its Davis Water Treatment Plant this week.

MLGW is asking customers within the affected area – bordered by Stateline Road to the south, Airways/East Parkway to the east, North Parkway to the north, and the Mississippi River to the west – to voluntarily limit water consumption to help keep system pressures stable during those peak times.

Residential customers can conserve by not washing vehicles or watering lawns during those hours, for example, and delaying the filling of pools during the peak hours, according to MLGW.

The Davis Water Treatment Plant has been temporarily shut down since May 2 for the maintenance work.

– Daily News staff

International Paper Declares Dividend

Memphis-based International Paper Co. has declared a quarterly dividend of $0.4625 per share on common stock owned from April 1 to June 30.

The dividend is payable June 15 to holders of record at the close of business May 26, according to the announcement made Tuesday, May 9.

The paper products and packaging giant also declared a regular quarterly dividend of $1 per share for April 1 to June 30 in the cumulative $4 preferred stock of the company. That dividend is also payable June 15 to holders of record at the close of business May 26.

– Bill Dries

Redbirds Win 10 Straight, Setting Franchise Record

The Memphis Redbirds (20-11) won their 10th-straight game with a 10-1 victory over the Iowa Cubs Sunday, May 7, in Des Moines, Iowa, setting the franchise record for longest winning streak.

The 10-straight wins eclipsed the Redbirds’ previous franchise record of nine, which was set in April 2000 and matched in August 2014.

The longest winning streak in Memphis baseball history is 18, set by the 1928 Chickasaws of the Single-A Southern Association. The 1980 Chicks (Double-A Expos) have Memphis’ longest affiliated winning streak at 14.

In the record-setting victory, Luke Weaver hurled 7.0 shutout innings, allowing just four hits and striking out four; he did not issue a walk.

In 15.0 innings this season, Weaver has not allowed a run or a walk and has given up only eight hits.

The Redbirds were to continue their series at Iowa with a game Monday night, May 8, and wrap it up the following day. The team begins an eight-game homestand Thursday, May 11.

– Don Wade

UTHSC Expanding Center For Hemophilia, Thrombosis

The University of Tennessee Health Science center has launched and is expanding a comprehensive Hemophilia and Thrombosis Treatment Center, the only one of its kind in a 150-mile radius.

The clinic, one of only 120 in the country, aims to be a one-stop shop bringing together hematology physician services, nursing, case management and social work, infusion therapy, physical therapy, dentistry, a laboratory and pharmaceutical services. The clinic also has primary care physicians for routine health needs and collaborates with specialists.

The clinic has grown gradually, with hematology and primary physician and infusion services launching in March 2016. The multi-team comprehensive care started last month.

The Hemophilia and Thrombosis Treatment Center is managed by University Clinical Health, a clinical practice group affiliated with UTHSC. It’s located at 6401 Poplar Ave.

– Andy Meek

Airport Authority Names Government Affairs Chief

The Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority has announced Michael Fulton will assume the role of government affairs director, where he will be responsible for managing the governmental affairs functions for the airport, maintaining relationships with government officials or their key staff and providing oversight of local, state and federal initiatives.

Fulton, who begins the new position effective June 12, will also coordinate the development, approval and advocacy of MSCAA’s position on proposed federal and state legislation and actions.

Fulton has more than 10 years of experience in government affairs, most recently serving as senior legislative assistant for U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a role in which Fulton provided strategic guidance on aviation, highway, transit and rail policy.

– Patrick Lantrip

Tenn. Lawmaker Pulls School Bus Seat Belt Bill

A bill that would require school buses to have seat belts in Tennessee has been withdrawn for the year.

The Times Free Press reports that Democratic Rep. JoAnne Favors of Chattanooga late last week pulled her bill, which was inspired by a deadly school bus crash in her city last November.

The legislation would have mandated seat belts in new school buses bought after July 2019.

Fiscal estimates say the proposal would add $12.9 million in annual costs to school districts and $2.2 million in yearly state costs. The bill was changed to make the state pay the whole cost, but the money isn’t currently in the state budget.

Favors believed the cost would be much cheaper.

The Chattanooga bus crash in November killed six elementary school children.

– The Associated Press

Sinclair Broadcast to Buy Tribune Media for $3.9B

Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the nation’s largest local TV station operators, wants to get even bigger. The company announced Monday that it will pay about $3.9 billion for Tribune Media, adding more than 40 stations, including WREG in Memphis as well as KTLA in Los Angeles, WPIX in New York and WGN in Chicago.

Tribune also has stakes in the Food Network and job-search website CareerBuilder.

Sinclair already has 173 stations around the country, including KENV in Salt Lake City, KOMO in Seattle and WKRC in Cincinnati. It doesn’t currently operate any Memphis-area stations.

The Tribune deal, plus other pending acquisitions, will give Sinclair a total of 233 TV stations. But the Hunt Valley, Maryland-based company said it may sell some stations to comply with Federal Communications Commission rules.

Sinclair said it will pay about $43.50 in cash and stock for each share of Tribune, an 8 percent premium from Tribune’s closing price of $40.29 on Friday.

– The Associated Press

Former Banker Pleads Guilty to Felony Theft

A former lead bank teller pleaded guilty Thursday, May 4, to systematically walking out of the bank with concealed cash that eventually totaled some $266,000 over a three-month period in 2009, according to Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

Jessenia Tania Williams, 37, of Cordova was sentenced to eight years in prison following her guilty plea to felony theft over $60,000 in Criminal Court. She will be on probation, but must serve 48 days in prison on weekends and make restitution payments of $200 per month.

Williams was lead bank teller at First Citizens National Bank and had access to the bank vault, the general ledger accounting system and the bank teller accounting system.

An investigation showed that between October and December of 2009, Williams secretly removed cash from the bank more than a half-dozen times in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $100,000.

An external audit at the end of the year turned up a discrepancy in the balance and traced the missing funds to Williams through computer records and bank security video.

– Daily News staff

Report: Medicare Penalties Hit Some Hospitals Harder

Penalties instituted under the Affordable Care Act to reduce hospital readmission rates have cut readmissions for certain conditions, but they also disproportionately penalize hospitals that care for the socio-economically disadvantaged. That’s according to a study by University of Tennessee Health Science Center researchers.

A data comparison by the Health Services and Policy Research Group in the Department of Preventive Medicine at UTHSC evaluated the impact of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program over its first five years. Its report of that analysis was published in the May issue of the health policy thought and research journal “Health Affairs.”

The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program levies fines against hospitals with excess 30-day Medicare readmissions following hospitalizations for certain conditions, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or heart attack. The UTHSC team wanted to understand the overall penalty burden on hospitals, how penalties have changed, and how hospital performance has changed since the HRRP began.

While penalty amounts have risen modestly, the group found that hospitals with higher initial penalties continued to receive higher penalties in subsequent years, even though their readmissions have been declining. These tend to be hospitals that are urban, major teaching institutions, or for-profit facilities that treat larger numbers of Medicare or socio-economically disadvantaged people.

– Andy Meek

PROPERTY SALES 56 289 2,908
MORTGAGES 55 226 2,009
BUILDING PERMITS 108 1,002 6,703
BANKRUPTCIES 42 248 1,225