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VOL. 132 | NO. 219 | Friday, November 3, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Changes Behind Highland Row, Lee Harris Opens and Ron Olson Moves

By Bill Dries

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Shelby County Commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer says the commission, through its attorneys, is in ‘the final stages of launching litigation” against big pharma over the opioid problem locally. And in a written statement Thursday she said she believes the litigation “will result in significant recovery for hundreds of millions of dollars that Shelby County has spent trying to heal, save, nurse and otherwise deal with the opioid crisis.” Shafer specifically announced the hiring on a contingency basis of a national law firm.

The commission and the Memphis City Council have each been hearing pitches from attorneys on this possibility for about a month or so. In this case, there is already some debate among commissioners about how this is being done. In the press conference Thursday among Shafer, and fellow commissioners Terry Roland, Reginald Milton and Van Turner, Shafer cited the county charter for her authority as chair to hire special counsel.

Commissioner David Reaves, in a Facebook post after the press conference, said the lawsuit is ill-advised and will only “make lawyers rich and make the cost of health care go up.” He also says there should have been a vote of the full commission on lawyering up even on a contingency basis. “There was no pending litigation against the county. There was no reason to exercise a power that is specifically held for emergencies,” he added.

Before the recession, there were already plans for the Highland Row development. And homeowners west of the Highland frontage between Midland and Central were nervous about what would go on the Ellsworth side of the property. The decision was townhomes to maintain the residential basis along the street. Now the plan is no townhomes, but conventional single-family homes – 22 units -- in a gated community. And the homes are being done by Patton & Taylor, who bought the land from the developers of Highland Row. No name for the development yet. But you could call the closing documents the “Ellsworth Papers” if you were of a certain age. Sorry, I’m watching the Ken Burns’ “Vietnam” reruns on WKNO. Don’t worry though, I’m switching to “The Collection” on Masterpiece

State Senator Lee Harris, three weeks into his bid for Shelby County Mayor in the Democratic primary, says the county races will be about President Donald Trump – at least for him and probably for local Republicans. Harris outlined what is primarily an appeal to Democrats during the first of three fundraisers in three days Wednesday evening in Victorian Village. More on this from a rival in the Democratic primary in our Monday edition.

Other political declarations, Allan Creasy is running for state House District 97. That is the seat currently held by Republican Jim Coley. PRIMARY? And Robert “Chip” Trouy is running for Assessor in the Republican primaries this coming May.

Republican contender for Governor Randy Boyd in Memphis Thursday for a “law and order roundtable” with law enforcement leaders from here and elsewhere in West Tennessee as well as Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and state Senator Brian Kelsey. Boyd saying later he is “deeply troubled” by the city’s rise in violent crime even as the murder rate, as measured by the Crime Commission, is down from a year ago. Boyd also focusing on “the dangerous rise in opioid abuse and addiction.”

It took 12 years, but researchers at St. Jude working with a University of Memphis student have developed a way to do liver biopsies without a needle. It’s a non-invasive imaging method that allows more frequent testing. This grew out of research into iron overload that can damage the liver with monthly blood transfusions used to treat at-risk sickle cell patients.

Meanwhile, this is pancreatic cancer awareness month across the city.

Some more thoughts on this busy week for the Fairgrounds redevelopment that will likely stay busy into next week.

“Behind The Headlines” is a reporters roundtable with Toby Sells of The Memphis Flyer. We’ll be talking about the Fairgrounds among other topics. The show airs Friday at 7 p.m. on WKNO TV.

In our Friday Sports Section:

Tigers football Friday evening in Tulsa against the Golden Hurricanes.

The Tigers' possible All-American Anthony Miller wasn’t a walk-on in any conventional sense, ran a 4.7 second 40-yard dash in high school, had a signing ceremony at CBHS for the Tigers that was a blank piece of paper with no scholarship attached and got mentioned in an NFL Hall-of-Famer’s Tweet about being a sure thing in the NFL.

Before the Tigers basketball season begins next week, the Tigers played LeMoyne-Owen College Thursday evening in an exhibition at the forum and I almost hesitate to use the score because that’s really not the point. That said, Tigers win 101-78. Of more importance was the debut of a team that amounts to starting over for what has been the city’s equivalent of a pro sports team long before the Grizz came to town. This doesn’t happen too often to this extent. So take a good look and compare notes next week with Don Wade on this.

Cracks in the Grizz foundation as the team is on the road starting with a Saturday game in Los Angeles against the Clippers and then Sunday with the Lakers.

Dave Link in Knoxville on what Butch Jones is telling recruits and commitments about playing football at Rocky Top in rocky times.

Terry McCormick on the real Titans’ offense.

The cover story by Andy Meek in our weekly, The Memphis News, is about the Memphis Music Export effort – a business export office specifically to promote Memphis music – live and being made and recorded right now in this city of yours and mine. It includes ideas like grants to musicians for their operating costs in return for some promotional material about the city at their merchandise table. It also includes organizing Memphis music showcases in other cities.

A PDF of the new issue is up now on this website. The hard copies are on the street Friday morning. The online version goes up on this website Friday afternoon.

Omnivore Recordings announces Friday the release of Big Star Live at Lafayette’s – not the current Lafayette’s – the original Lafayette’s – same Overton Square space, different era. The Omnivore package includes a 1972 interview with Alex Chilton and Andy Hummel by Jon Scott on FM 100 per this trailer Omnivore put on YouTube Thursday. The release date for “Live at Lafayette’s Music Room” is January 12. The Lafayette’s set dates to four months before the critics convention at the same place where the band also played and the critics went all fanboy – although it was the 70s and that word hadn’t been invented yet.

Now what about the 1975 bootlegs of Big Star at WLYX, billed as Big Star’s finale? Anyone got a recording that is worthy of such treatment?

Back to the FM 100 reference to close this out. Morning drive – the air shift when most of you are driving to work in the morning – is changing profoundly at the radio station with the new year as Ron Olson leaves to do a new morning show at WRVR. Both stations are part of the broadcasting group owned by Entercom. So Olson, who will be teamed with Karen Perrin – I should say re-teaming – at RVR will be moving to a different studio in the same hallway. But for listeners of FM 100 this will be a big change. Olson has worked for FM 100 since the mid 1970s with about a four-year break in the early 1980s when he worked at K-97, actually brought that station’s new format on the air at the time. Olson is the best kind of institution you can have in radio – one that keeps looking for something different and new and doesn’t rely on the past or take himself too seriously.

PROPERTY SALES 39 202 12,960
MORTGAGES 25 110 8,113
BUILDING PERMITS 114 645 30,579
BANKRUPTCIES 37 122 6,186