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VOL. 132 | NO. 104 | Thursday, May 25, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Sessions Visit, Election Day and Beale Street's Journey

By Bill Dries

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Memphis Thursday to talk about crime in a city whose record homicide count in 2016 Sessions has recently mentioned. Sessions is in town to talk with local, state and federal prosecutors and law enforcement. When the Attorney General comes to town, he or she is usually coming with policy talking points from the White House.

That will be the case Thursday with Sessions expected to push his call for those parts of the criminal justice system under his control to more aggressively prosecute crime and seek longer sentences. Sessions has also said he believes there is a link between the drug trade and the rise in violent crime in major U.S. cities including Memphis.

Sessions comes to town the day after reports that he did not disclose contacts he had with foreign officials and meetings he had with Russian officials in applying for a security clearance. His contacts with the Russians in his work on Trump’s campaign caused him to recuse himself from the Justice Department investigation of alleged collusion between the campaign and the Russian government.

His Memphis stop will draw a protest on the Main Street Mall from a coalition of local groups including the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, NAACP, Sister Reach, Black Lives Matter and Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited the city in December 2014 with talking points that emphasized the need for national standards for local law enforcement on profiling practices when police make stops. Then-Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong instead called for similar federal standards to better define a return to community policing. The Holder visit came against the backdrop of a string of fatal police shootings in cities across the nation that called into question police practices and policies. And Holder also drew protesters.

Thursday is also election day in Lakeland, which is electing a new commissioner to fill a vacancy on the city’s board of commissioners. Normally, citizens in Lakeland vote for a few commissioners at a time. In fact, the Lakeland ballot in regularly scheduled elections is a single list of those running for the commission with voters choosing a couple of names from the list and the top two vote-getters claiming their prize. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and once the polls close we will have the vote count @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols. DEMOCRACY.

Railgarten got approval Wednesday from the Board of Adjustment for the tiki bar and shipping containers that put the Midtown restaurant/bar in peril soon after a very good opening. This comes the day after the City Council affirmed the special use permit it granted earlier this year. That after a bit of scolding for the owners not nailing down parking rights in the area and new stricter guidelines on entertainment.

As the BOA was meeting, the owners of the reopened Senses nightclub in East Memphis were in General Sessions Environmental Court over its opening that drew the attention of local code enforcement and not in a good way. So Senses is applying for a special use permit it should have had from the outset but can remain open until then. Judge Larry Potter said Wednesday he ruled that way because of conflicting letters from code enforcement – one saying the nightclub could open and the second saying it could not.

There are also some conditions on the club including requiring 15 security guards on site during business hours and no walk-up business. That means if you don’t park on the lot, you aren’t supposed to be able to get in.

This is a measure designed to prevent club patrons from parking in the nearby neighborhood. It’s a problem the council quizzed the Railgarten principals about Tuesday. In the case of Railgarten, the remedy was security guards patrolling nearby parking areas and warning those coming from those areas that they will be towed if they don’t move their cars.

More on Beale Street’s journey, which now includes a cut in the Saturday late night $10 cover charge per the Memphis City Council. Council members had been considering abolishing the Beale Street Bucks program but there is a task force forming now to try to find a new crowd control measure. A couple of scenarios being debated and a very colorful history of past efforts. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland says the cover charge is the most effective way to control crowds. And the idea of a cover charge is what is used for Memphis In May. Some council members questioning why police can’t just block further access to Beale when it reaches a certain level. And they also point out that police have done that in Tom Lee Park during Memphis In May at times.

State tax revenues doing very well in April, better than expected.

What has 10,000 residents, 33,000 employees and 1,170 acres? The Memphis Medical District and the district collaborative has issued its first annual neighborhood report. Find the link here.

More on the new City & State location coming to the same area.

Chalkbeat on the first of several changes with the end of the current school year this week. The principal of Raleigh Egypt 6-12 school is the new principal at Bolton High School. Bo Griffin is an essential part of Shelby County Schools strategy in Raleigh of competing side-by-side with the Achievement School District’s takeover of Raleigh Egypt Middle School.

Bolton is a key part of SCS’s still emerging strategy for northwest Shelby County. There are already plans by superintendent Dorsey Hopson for a new Woodstock K-12 School that would mean closing Lucy and Northaven Elementary Schools and Woodstock Middle with the new K-12 being built on or adjacent to the middle school site. Hopson has said there would still be a need for Bolton in that scenario with Bolton having more than 1,000 students. Bolton might also become some form of an ag curriculum high school. On this front and others this will be a busy summer between school years for Shelby County Schools. More on that next week.

Meanwhile, Memphis Scholars the charter school within the ASD operating Raleigh Egypt Middle is moving out of that school and taking the operation to one of its other ASD charter schools -- either Memphis Scholars Florida-Kansas Elementary in South Memphis or Memphis Scholars Caldwell-Guthrie Elementary in North Memphis. It’s not clear yet which it will be.

Back to the city council, here’s a recap of all things budget from Tuesday including what you use for comparables in setting a new certified tax rate when the nearest comparable shows the effects of the second worse economic downturn in U.S. history.

The Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab Center in Cordova has plans for a $6 million expansion partially on the site of the home for the last 25 years. The home has a much longer history of 90 years with the anniversary of the opening of the home this past Tuesday. The original site was on Tucker in Midtown where the Poplar Point Health and Rehab Center is currently.

A Financial Times story I somehow missed about two-and-a-half weeks ago on the ongoing return of Sam Phillips Recording. And check out the "Sister Goodbye" video and song recorded by Emily Barker there during this look around with a video that shows you the studio in action.

PROPERTY SALES 56 295 6,392
MORTGAGES 26 180 4,035
BUILDING PERMITS 128 840 15,361
BANKRUPTCIES 31 153 3,270