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VOL. 132 | NO. 184 | Friday, September 15, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Juvenile Court Return, Berlin Boyd's Week and Tony Allen Thoughts

By Bill Dries

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Two weeks ago Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael was on Behind The Headlines in a half-hour conversation about the court and federal oversight that drew quite a bit of reaction to Michael’s strong opinions about the need to end that oversight. Even before that reaction we had planned to do a second part of the conversation with those who favor continued federal oversight of the court.

The show that airs Friday at 7 p.m. on WKNO TV features Bill Powell, the coordinator of the settlement agreement who resigned this past June just as the letter from Michael, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Sheriff Bill Oldham seeking an end to the federal oversight went public. Powell tells us on the show that he resigned because of the letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He adds that he saw an early draft of the letter that said something quite different. It did not request an end to federal oversight. And Powell said the court still needs federal supervision because it has basically fought the monitors and others seeking to change the court even though it signed off on the settlement five years ago.

For context you can see the earlier show with Michael in the video section of this page and the show that airs Friday will be up on our video page Monday afternoon. We’ll also go a bit broader with the discussion in a piece for Tuesday’s edition that includes our other guests on the show: Josh Spickler of Just City and Rev. Keith Norman, pastor of First Baptist Church- Broad.

In D.C. Wednesday, Mike Dunavant was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the new U.S. Attorney for West Tennessee including Memphis. He has been District Attorney General for several counties adjacent and near Shelby County for the last 11 years.

On the education front, a state Attorney General’s legal opinion on the refusal of Shelby County Schools and Metro Nashville Schools to share student information with the Achievement School District and charter schools. And graduation rates for the state and individual school systems.

The latest in a set of proposals to expand a landfill in Frayser next to a school gets voted down at the Land Use Control Board Thursday on its way to a city council vote probably in October. There were several dozen very vocal opponents of the dump plan, many carrying signs who will likely be back at City Hall in about a month.

The latest in the controversy over City Council chairman Berlin Boyd’s contract with the Beale Street Merchants Association is that the city’s Beale Street Task Force will meet Monday morning at City Hall where we might hear Boyd speak about this for the first time in public.

For now, much of this is playing out on Facebook in an extended thread of comments to Boyd’s original defense of his work for the merchants. “Please explain to me how this is unethical,” he wrote in a Facebook reply Thursday. “I have a contract with private business owners on a street that the city of Memphis owns. Our role and our responsibilities are defined in our contract, which is fundraising. … I have no personal interest in any lease with any tenant on Beale Street. So how is this a conflict of interest? If you sell a home to a known drug dealer and you didn’t disclose it does that make you guilty?”

As a sort of spinoff from this really interesting thread, Bernal Smith II, the publisher of The New Tri-State Defender, has published an “open letter” urging Boyd to consider perceptions and how this looks.

An observation or two from having seen this happen several times. If this keeps going, it will lead to specific changes probably in ordinance form, which will probably come after an overall review of the city’s ethics ordinance. That type of comprehensive review is usually local government’s way of dealing with the perception question. An incident like this is how more specific prohibitions get made. And sometimes the incident doesn’t have to have anything to do with local government. The last major overhaul of ethics ordinances – city and county – was the result of the Tennessee Waltz corruption sting – a federal investigation aimed squarely at state legislators not local officials – although a few did get caught in the process. The Legislature required the review and set new standards for what those ethics ordinances should include.

There has existed for some time now a distinction between disclosing a potential conflict of interest and a recusal from voting on the same matter. They are not always the same thing and attorneys on both sides of Civic Center Plaza have advised a commissioner or a council member to disclose without a recusal.

Fixing the recusal on Beale Street spending Boyd says he forgot to follow through on at the Sept. 5 council meeting this coming Tuesday with the approval of the minutes from that meeting probably won’t put out the political fire. It might however slow the council’s roll on the increasing number of items added to the council agenda earlier in the meeting day during committee sessions. The number of these items tends to go up until someone on the council calls attention to it. Many of those items are also approved with what are called “same night minutes” – in other words the minutes for those particular items are approved the same night they are voted on instead of the customary wait to approve the minutes at the next council session in two or three weeks.

What makes this a difficult fire to put out is it involves Beale Street, which ever since the 19th century when Robertson Topp developed the street has been synonymous with controversy. The district is in one of those periods when control of it is in sustained flux. And that makes it even more volatile politically because Beale Street even at its best is always – always – always political.

A question: Is a rickshaw really a rickshaw if someone is pedaling a bicycle in front of the carriage instead of pulling it on foot? What is the difference between a pedal-powered rickshaw and a pedi-cab? The answer from a bit of Googling is time since the pulled rickshaws (as opposed to the pedaled rickshaws) didn’t make it very far into the 20th century. This may be academic since Memphis Rickshaw is stepping into what is an on-again off-again mode of transportation Downtown when you don’t want to walk but you didn’t drive and you still aren’t over the horse that collapsed on the mall not too long ago.

City Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen tells us the city doesn’t have a specific city-owned site picked out for the new location of the Brooks, if there is to be a new location. And he talks in general terms about what the after-life of the current museum could look like if Brooks goes somewhere else in the city -- a return to the marble box without its additions?

At the top of the Friday Sports Section:

The Redbirds are up two games in the best of five Pacific Coast League championship series with El Paso, taking game 2 at AutoZone Park Thursday 2-0. The series now moves to El Paso.

Don Wade talks with Redbirds owner Peter B. Freund and those around him and finds he adheres to baseball’s addiction to superstition.

Some memories of Tony Allen, the Grindfather, upon his official departure from the Grizz and Memphis but likely not the annals of the city’s colorful sports history including a ceremonial first pitch several years ago at AutoZone Park.

David Climer on Rocky Top’s still tentative and fluid quarterback question.

Dave Link in Knoxville says UT’s defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is the person to watch in Saturday’s Florida game in Gainesville.

Terry McCormick on Tim Shaw, a former linebacker battling ALS, who is one of six special team captains for the Titans this season.

How young is your financial advisor, if you have one? There are some concerns in the industry that it's getting too gray. And the drive to attract younger talent to the field is among the factors in the move of Strategic Financial Partners from Ridge Lake Boulevard to Shady Grove Road, according to the firm's president Russ VanderSteeg.

In politics, Andy Ogles of Nashville is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Bob Corker – the first declared contender in the 2018 race with Corker so far not announcing whether he will seek re-election starting in the August statewide Republican primary that Ogles will be in. Ogles, per the Associated Press piece, is state leader of Americans for Prosperity, part of the national political network of brothers Charles and David Koch – and a very active part in the state capitol recently. The AP piece also includes other Republicans looking at the race with their decisions more closely related to what Corker ultimately decides about his political future.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751