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VOL. 132 | NO. 229 | Friday, November 17, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: 2018 Head Start, Tax Reform Bill Votes and Tigers Basketball in Decline

By Bill Dries

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Can you smell the paper? Friday is the first day that candidates in the 2018 elections can start picking up qualifying petitions for their place on the ballot – in this case the May county primary elections in Shelby County. Here is the scene setter.

In the story, we refer to the Election Commission’s Downtown office moving. The office on Washington Avenue between Second and B.B. King is moving across the alley in the back to 157 Poplar, which is where some of you vote early but not often. It turns out 157 Poplar was where the Election Commission moved from several years ago in the first place. The Election Commission office at Shelby Farms remains where it is and is not affected by this. But the election commission Downtown office will be closed Nov. 27-30 except to issue qualifying petitions which are also available at the Shelby Farms office.

The cover story in the new issue of our weekly, The Memphis News, is an early look at the 2018 election season to mark Friday’s formal start of the proceedings. It’s got some candidates and it’s got more of the backdrop for these elections locally with some possibilities about what could happen mixed in.

The PDF of the new issue is up on this website now. The hard copies hit the streets Friday morning and the online version of the cover story goes up here Friday afternoon.

Democratic contender for Governor and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean in the city Thursday to open his Memphis headquarters in the Poplar Corridor and here for the next week. His campaign treasurer is Calvin Anderson, a veteran of many Democratic causes and the former VP of Blue Cross Blue Shield. His local steering committee includes two city council members, two county commissioners and a Millington alderman.

More with Dean in the Tuesday edition.

In the Republican field for Governor, U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin touting an endorsement from economist Arthur Laffer, originator of the Reagan-era Laffer Curve and advisor to President Ronald Reagan. He is now an advisor to Black and praised her for the House passage Thursday of a federal tax reform bill that Black is sure to tout between now and the August statewide primary.

You may remember that earlier this year, Laffer was on Capitol Hill in Nashville urging legislators not to cut the state sales tax on groceries which was later approved by the Legislature as part of the Haslam administration package that included a gas tax hike with offsetting cuts in other kinds of taxes.

In the House vote Thursday, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis voting no and U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Germantown voting yes.


“For three decades, special interests have been tailoring the tax code to their needs. Today, we fought back and passed tax reform that puts money in the pockets of West Tennesseans, not Washington bureaucrats. I will continue to work alongside President Trump to keep the promises we made to the American people.”


“I voted against the Republican Tax Plan today, H.R. 1, because it is a con job on the middle class, blows up the national debt, and hurts thousands of families in communities like Memphis. Sold as a tax cut for every American, this ill-conceived plan actually raises taxes on millions of middle class families while giving massive tax cuts to the rich and corporate America. The bill disproportionately benefits the rich, transferring over 50% of the plan’s benefits to the top 1% of income earners”

Richard W. Smith, president and CEO of FedEx Trade Networks and son of FedEx founder Fred Smith, is the new chairman of the board of the Greater Memphis Chamber. He was the choice of the chamber board Thursday evening. 

Jennifer Oswalt, the interim president of the Downtown Memphis Commission, becomes the permanent choice for the post and also emerged as the top choice of the search consultants.

At the top of our Friday Sports Section a must-read “Press Box” column by Don Wade on Tigers basketball – “A Program in Decline”.

By contrast, a potentially historic day for the Tigers football tradition Saturday at the Liberty Bowl as the Tigers play SMU and all it takes is one win here or against East Carolina a week later for a bowl bid. Lots of speculation among the bowl forecasters that it would be the Birmingham Bowl in Birmingham two days before Christmas against UAB.

The contrast between the fortunes of Tigers basketball and Tigers football is one of those stories that is about the culture of Memphis and how it shifts and changes over time. And it didn’t necessarily look like a long term trend at the outset because of what the right coach and the right players can do. Even more doubt about the life of this shift in fortunes when you consider that a Tigers football coach who makes his mark almost automatically finds himself under consideration for a coaching job somewhere else. But from Justin Fuente comes Mike Norvell comes … At some point perhaps that becomes a trend.

Grizz coach David Fizdale on managing minutes and Mike Conley’s wounds.

Dave Link continues to carry the torch for a Rocky Top bowl bid, this time with interim coach Brady Hoke at the helm against LSU on Saturday.

Terry McCormick on Titans’ tackle Taylor Lewan’s dirt bike days.

A deeper dive into Graceland’s lawsuit against the Grizz over the arena non-compete offers a chronology of how this dispute unfolded behind the scenes and exactly what the non-compete says on the critical point of public funding for arenas.

Overton Park and The Brooks is our topic on Behind The Headlines. And our guests are Tina Sullivan of the Overton Park Conservancy, Emily Ballew Neff of the Brooks and Alan Crone of the Strickland administration. The show airs at 7 p.m. Friday on WKNO TV.

It’s no coincidence that Peroxychem’s Frayser plant will be next to one of the city’s two wastewater treatment plants. EDGE granted the company’s seven-year PILOT. Peroxychem makes peracetic acid, a disinfectant used for wastewater treatment. When the city broke ground on five years' worth of renovation work at the T.E. Maxson Wastewater Treatment Facility in southwest Memphis a few weeks ago, it was a move toward using the chemical for the same treatment of wastewater before it is discharged into the Mississippi River.

The Fed gives Memphis area banks good grades in the third quarter.

Paradigm Markets and Creative adds a company – Paradigm Digital.

I will be off for the Thanksgiving week. So Last Word will return Tuesday, Nov. 28.

PROPERTY SALES 69 163 12,921
MORTGAGES 35 85 8,088
BUILDING PERMITS 109 531 30,465
BANKRUPTCIES 18 85 6,149