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VOL. 132 | NO. 193 | Thursday, September 28, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Political Tide Comes In, First Tn and Pinnacle Settle and The No Compete

By Bill Dries

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In East Memphis Thursday afternoon, Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir will formally announce what has been evident for some time – he is running for Shelby County Mayor in 2018 starting with the May Republican primary. The primary field includes Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland and Juvenile Court Clerk Joy Touliatos. Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism is the only declared Democratic mayoral contender as we speak. Look for that to change.

In East Memphis Wednesday evening, city council member Edmund Ford Jr. kicked off his bid for the Shelby County Commission seat currently held by his cousin, Justin Ford. Both Fords are term limited in their current positions.

As promised when last we met, the most comprehensive look at the political chain reaction to come started by Tuesday’s announcement by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker that he would not be seeking re-election next year.

Since “View From The Hill” went to press at our Downtown offices Wednesday, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has confirmed that he is interested in the Senate seat starting with the August Democratic primary. Berke had most recently been talked about as a contender for governor in 2018.

Corker talked to reporters at some length in his Washington office Wednesday afternoon and said he had talked with U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher about running for his seat. He also put them and Gov. Bill Haslam on a list of those he considers to be “top contenders” along with former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. He also said despite his high personal opinion of Manning, it’s not likely to happen and added that Manning texted him Wednesday with a request “Please don’t fan the flames.”

Like most civil lawsuits, the one between First Tennessee and Pinnacle Financial has been settled. The settlement was announced late Wednesday afternoon with very little detail at least from the two sides. Fortunately, there was the record of Chancery Court filings leading up to the settlement offering more detail on the dispute over Pinnacle’s move into the Memphis market and allegations that Pinnacle recruited First Tennessee executives it later hired while they were still working at First Tennessee – an unusual public airing of allegations in an industry where such matters seldom get to the stage of going to court.

Speaking of legalities, City Attorney Bruce McMullen walked us through what the city’s path will be at next month’s much anticipated meeting of the Tennessee Historical Commission in Athens, Tennessee. The administration’s goal is a waiver from the commission that allows the city to remove the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a city park. But much of what has to happen has nothing to do with the statue or any arguments on any of the many sides of this controversy.

Shelby County Commission Chairwoman Heidi Shafer and FedExForum have history from before she was elected to the commission seven years ago. So her views on the forum’s no-compete clause that caused Graceland to change its plans for a concert venue offer a different perspective. But one that is pretty close to what we’ve heard from other elected leaders who have varying degrees of reluctance to get involved in this.

The corporate name that comes up the most often in officialdom is Amazon – specifically the political sweepstakes of sorts to land the company’s second North American headquarters. Amazon has become the new watchword when talking about the need to be ready for the outside world. An op-ed in Fast Company reviews Amazon’s tax history and offers another watchword – caution.

The Memphis Rotary had its first luncheon Tuesday in its new weekly home – Clayborn Temple. The club’s board voted recently to move from the University Club to the historic church south of FedExForum. Meanwhile, Clayborn Reborn – the organization leading the renovation of the church -- promises a “special announcement about our plans to preserve and share Clayborn Temple’s story” in about a month. And the city should be breaking ground at any moment for “I Am A Man” plaza on the lot just across Pontotoc from the church. The plaza is on a tight schedule to be ready for the public in April for the 50th anniversary of the 1968 sanitation workers strike.

What I’ve come to call the “skeleton hotel” -- naming things is my thing -- at Union and B.B. King on the northwest corner looks like it has something going on after being taken down to concrete floors and pillars in lieu of a major renovation that stalled. There are some new banners on the fencing around the “skeleton” showing a Fairfield Inns and Suites logo and promising an opening in 2019. This is the old Benchmark hotel, which was a symbol of minority business growth starting in the mid 1980s.

SI ranks Tigers football as one of the most watchable college football programs in the country.

It turns out the University of Central Florida-Tigers football match up that got called off by hurricane is back on this Saturday in an away game for the Tigers which opens conference play for Memphis. And it is on ESPN2.

On the subject of football at the Liberty Bowl. The three football tenants at the stadium are not happy with the loss of 3,000 parking spaces in the latest, tentative Fairgrounds plans.

Reaction from our representative in Washington on tax reform Wednesday with the unveiling of the proposed Unified Tax Reform Framework. First, AP on the $5-trillion plan.

U.S. Rep. David Kustoff:

“It has been more than 30 years since we reformed our tax system, and West Tennesseans have suffered under excessive, burdensome taxes for long enough. It is time to for us to provide real relief and allow hard-working Americans to keep more of their own money in their pockets, where it belongs. Our tax reform plan will lower taxes on the middle class, create more good-paying jobs, raise working class wages and boost confidence in the American economy. I am ready to work with President Trump and my colleagues in Congress on comprehensive tax reform, and I will not rest until we get results for the people of the Eighth District of Tennessee.”

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander:

“You don’t need to be an accountant to know that our tax code is way too complicated, takes too many dollars away from Tennesseans and makes it harder to create good-paying jobs for Tennessee families. I welcome the president’s leadership in outlining his plans for tax reform and will continue to work with him and my Senate and House colleagues to create a simpler system that will keep more money in Tennesseans’ pockets and help create and grow jobs.”

Opera Comedy at the Memphis Slim House in Soulsville. Welcome to the McCleave Project of Opera Memphis which is another revolutionary move in an arts community that is already turning heads for its bold and innovative methods in recent years. The McCleave Project is an effort to diversify the audience for opera in a city that is majority African-American and it takes its name from the first black woman to sing the title role in Aida in Europe 90 years ago. Stateside there were not those kinds of opportunities, so Florence McCleave and her husband settled in Memphis and she taught voice out of her house on Vance and brought artists she knew to what is now LeMoyne-Owen College to perform. Never doubt that all roads lead to Memphis.

Spend enough time on the road and the odds of some things happening becomes greater. Most of us think immediately of accidents, problems. At the Peabody’s Skyway this week, FedEx Freight honored some of its drivers for another kind of probability – the greater chance these drivers have of driving into some bad situations as they are happening and saving lives. A total of 53 drivers were honored.

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