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VOL. 132 | NO. 183 | Thursday, September 14, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: The Monument Letter, Soulsville Gateway and Gas Tax Hike Regrets

By Bill Dries

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The Redbirds take Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League Championship series Wednesday evening with a 6-4 win over El Paso at AutoZone Park. Game 2 is noon Thursday at B.B. King and Union.

Dwight Montgomery was an activist since the early 1970s in Memphis with a long arc of involvement and protest as well as some time in officialdom. He died Wednesday at the age of 67. His first turn in the public eye was as a leader and founder of the Coalition of Black Youth that became the Coalition of Benevolent Youth – or COBY. COBY was a grass roots organization at a time when black political and community involvement was just about nothing but grass roots. As that changed and more black politicians became black office holders, Montgomery remained more activist than politician. In 1978, he was among 50 Leaders of the Future named by Ebony magazine. By the time he served on the Memphis Housing Authority board, he had established his base at Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church. The church was a more stable place that lent itself perfectly to Montgomery’s adherence to the specific path of the most influential public figure in his public life – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was in the vacuum of King’s assassination and in the place of King’s assassination that Montgomery began a journey in which new and young faces and voices often start with little idea of where the journey will take them. At the end of his life, Montgomery had several years invested in leading the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – the organization that King headed. Aside from Ezekiel Bell’s tenure with the local SCLC chapter during King’s lifetime, the organization has had a tough time planting roots in what is an NAACP town. Montgomery’s tenure at the MHA, including a stint as chairman of the board, was just before the city moved toward the elimination of the city’s large public housing developments in the late 1990s and the transformation of those developments to mixed-use mixed-income communities. One of his last acts of activism was being among the religious leaders who signed a letter to the Tennessee Historical Commission calling on the commission to approve a waiver that will allow the city to remove a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Health Sciences Park.

That brings us to the letter itself which Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland released on Medium Wednesday morning. The list of religious leaders signing off on this statement is a long one that looks to have required some serious coordination. This remains a story about differing strategies around a common consensus.

Memphis City Council chairman Berlin Boyd on Facebook Wednesday afternoon to defend the contract his company has with the Beale Street Merchants Association as the council is in the midst of examining how the city-owned property is being run.

This is a contract by Beale Street Merchants Association with Boyd’s company to consult with the merchants on sponsorships.

Boyd on Facebook: “Per the city's ethics ordinance I do not have to disclose my contract because I do not have a personal interest in any leased interest by and/or between the City of Memphis and the Merchants. Regarding recusal, I'm not required by local or state law to recuse myself regarding my current involvement with my clients.”

Former Memphis City Council member Rickey Peete was director of the merchants association during his tenure on the council at a time when the council was pushing legislation in Nashville that would allow the district to remain open later hours and continue to serve booze.

The task force chaired by Boyd will report its recommendations to the full council on the future of the entertainment district -- specifically a cover charge on spring and summer peak Saturday nights -- in October.

More on Joy Touliatos entering the forming race for Shelby County Mayor from two terms as Juvenile Court Clerk. It’s almost time for candidates to make this official and pull petitions for the May county primaries. They can do that in about two months. Meanwhile, early voting in the Arlington elections later this month continues through Saturday. As of Wednesday’s close of business, 425 citizens had cast early ballots in the races for aldermen and school board in Arlington. Last Saturday was the high point with 104 early voters at the Arlington Town Hall. Election day is Sept. 21. DEMOCRACY

The gateway to Soulsville – as a concept – was around before there was a Bicentennial Gateway concept or the Overton Gateway residential development. And it’s had a tougher time thanks to a stubborn recession that took its time moving on. But the concept at Bellevue and Walker is set to expand next to the laundromat that kicked all of this off about five years ago.

With so much discussion since Tuesday’s surprise announcement that the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is considering a move out of Overton Park to some other place in Memphis comes a new study by the group Americans for the Arts who took a year to collect specific data. Among the numbers from 2015: the arts in Shelby County supported 6,138 full-time jobs making it the second-largest employer in the county.

While we are on the subject of the Brooks, Thursday afternoon is The Daily News Seminar on small business with lots of discussion about the foodie scene's development in recent years and the restaurant business in particular. The discussion begins at 3:30 p.m at the Brooks.

More familiar names among the REITs buying and selling commercial property around town. Plymouth REIT of Boston has added an industrial center on Knight Road that is full up in terms of leases. And CW Capital sells American Way Plaza retail center.

Our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard in his "View From The Hill" column reviews recommendations from the summer study group in the Legislature on opioid addiction in the state.

The state’s gas tax hike a topic for the various candidates for Tennessee Governor at the Tennessee Business Roundtable gathering this week in Nashville.

PROPERTY SALES 81 277 20,909
MORTGAGES 85 329 24,074
BUILDING PERMITS 219 672 43,265
BANKRUPTCIES 64 238 13,418