Last Word: Reading Early Voting Tea Leaves, Corker Qualifies and New Carrot

By Bill Dries

This should be the week that the Tennessee Legislature adjourns and state Senators and state Representatives return to their districts to begin campaigning in earnest for the August primaries and the November general election beyond that. The only hold-up to adjournment this week would be any more tremors surrounding education policy, specifically the TNReady test debacle of last week.

Democratic contender for Tennessee Governor Craig Fitzhugh was part of the political activity around town on the last weekend of the early voitng period for the May county primaries.

Meanwhile, all three of the election cycles this year merged this past weekend locally – the last weekend of early voting in the county primaries that are on the May 1 election day ballot. Some inside baseball here on how to tell who is running when even if you don’t keep up with this sort of stuff. And a look at the early voter turnout based on the county commission district the early voters live in turns out to be quite a set of tea leaves to be read. So take a few more sips and peer deeply into the cosmos that awaits at the bottom of your cup.

Two very disturbing things alleged this past week in the state and federal cases against two now former Memphis Police officers. They are charged with escorting and safeguarding drug shipments within the city and robbing drug dealers in traffic stops. Those two separate criminal enterprises come together in the case prosecutors have made against them with an operation in which an undercover cop was sent out to see if he could get stopped and robbed by them. The allegations say he did – not once but twice which led to the second part of the probe.

This is not the first time these kinds of allegations have come up. We did extensive coverage of this in 2008 and 2009 including a group of at least five cops who robbed drug dealers over a four-year period based on targeting cars cruising in the Beale Street area that had custom tire rims.


Our Around Memphis reading list includes reaction outside the city to the state House’s decision last week to cut funding for the city’s bicentennial in retaliation for the removal of Confederate monuments in city parks.

Huffington Post on U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s increasingly qualified position via the Sunday morning talk shows on the race for the seat he is giving up. Corker says he won’t be campaigning against Democratic nominee and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen but that he intends to vote for and has made the maximum political contribution allowed to Republican nominee and current U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

As the weekend began Friday, we got our first good look at a new economic development strategy being called the Memphis Opportunity Package. This is what Greater Memphis Chamber chairman Richard Smith referred to informally last December as an approach that is more carrot than stick.

The basic premise is a 10-year PILOT or property tax abatement for economic development prospects with no hard requirements for minority or women-owned business contracts by the company coming to town or expanding. The company would set goals for that in talks with EDGE and if they meet the goals that would go toward up to another decade on the PILOT. The bigger the percentage, the longer the extension. This would require approval from state officials in Nashville.

And if it sounds familiar – it is. This was the other side of discussions several years ago within the chamber and with elected officialdom city and county that ended with specific minority business goals to get a PILOT at the outset.

More mayors than you can shake a stick at this week Downtown at the RegionSmart summit that we are a part of along with the Urban Land Institute and the Mid-South Mayors’ Council. Here is the scene setter from Patrick Lantrip as the cover story in our weekly, The Memphis News. If you have kept up with this over the last two years, the discussion this year reflects a changing discussion nationally about what regionalism is and is not. And it wades pretty deep into the waters of incentives, which can indeed have fast currents and rip tides.

Did someone say river? The Riverfront Development Corporation is no more. The RDC was rebranded as of Friday as the Memphis River Parks Partnership. More on this when next we meet or maybe you watched “Behind The Headlines” this weekend and are ahead of the curve of where we are going with this.

Here is the rest of The Week Ahead.

A very interesting story from The Clarion Ledger about a British data mining firm that replicated what Cambridge Analytica did and used it for the Brexit campaign. The alleged link to the Ole Miss campus and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant surfaced last week in the testimony of a former business development director of Cambridge Analytica before the British Parliament.

Tigers basketball coach Penny Hardaway is getting high rankings for his recruiting class.

Tigers basketball coach Penny Hardaway says he and his team got into the recruiting wars late but have done well – just how well is reflected in some of the rankings coming in of the different recruiting classes.

Hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments at Methodist North are part of a Methodist Limb Preservation Center that is changing cases that previously might have seen doctors amputate a leg, foot or arm.

The Memphis News Almanac: Riverboats return to the Memphis riverfront, The Showboats make their USFL debut, The River goes for a record, The Council weighs cuts to Memphis City Schools, Cranberries in concert and Ray escapes.