Last Word: Holder in Memphis for MLK 50, EDGE Sets a Date and South City Moves

By Bill Dries

The week of MLK50 commemorations began Monday with a speech by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the arrival Monday afternoon of Rev. Bernice King, the youngest child of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Meanwhile, Monday's day of free admission to the museum, underwritten by FedEx drew a long line. It also drew some remote trepidation that tends to make the situation seem worse than it is once you actually go there for yourself.

Parking spots on the streets around the museum Monday were sparse but findable. Look for street closures going into Wednesday's commemoration there and Tuesday's around Mason Temple. But much of the land that has been cleared in South Main for future development is doubling as parking this week with our informal survey showing most of it at a flat fee of $5. You might have to walk some but probably not as much as you think.


Now back to Bernice King and Eric Holder: This is not the first visit to Memphis or the National Civil Rights Museum for either. In the case of King’s daughter, who was five when her father died, time has not healed the trauma that a visit to Memphis has meant for all of King’s children and his widow at one time or another.

But at the 50 year mark, when the youngest of King’s children is older than he was when he was assassinated, time has offered more of a view of what his death meant for his family. At this point, we seem more willing to consider King’s human side. And there is new consideration of the role his widow, Coretta Scott King, played in building and preserving his legacy and her own activism. More on that when next we meet.

Bernice King and her brother, Martin Luther King III, are in town Tuesday and at Mason Temple Tuesday evening specifically to commemorate 50 years to the day since their father’s last speech – the Mountaintop speech.

EDGE sets a date to vote on the bonds Elvis Presley Enterprises wants to build a convention center on its Whitehaven campus. That meeting will be Thursday and given Graceland’s lawsuit against EDGE filed after the last EDGE meeting where this matter was delayed, the stage is set to make that lawsuit moot no matter whether the outcome is up or down -- sort of. It turns out EDGE will also vote on a previous plan for some type of concert venue of varying seat numbers and configurations.

Graceland claims in the latest lawsuit that it cannot get a vote one way or the other on its latest proposal and that because EDGE is in the incentive business it pretty much has to approve the Graceland request. Graceland also contends the use of bonds does not amount to a city and/or county government incentive like a TIF, TDZ or any other similar set of letters that amount to a tax break.

But here’s where this could be -- let’s say competitive – Graceland Holdings’ Joel Weinshanker in filling out the paperwork for EDGE checked the no box for the standard question on the EDGE forms about whether he is involved in any pending litigation. There are two pending lawsuits against Weinshanker including by the original manager of Guest House at Graceland. The question will be whether legally those lawsuits are connected to his role at Graceland. They also go to concerns on the part of the Grizz organization that runs FedExForum has about whether Graceland intends to get its foot in the door and break the noncompete the Grizz have with the city and county. The noncompete is basically the city and county don’t fund a competing indoor 5,000-plus fixed seat indoor arena in exchange for the Grizz running the forum including taking on any red ink.

For about nine years, the Universal Life Insurance building – a monument to black business enterprise in the era of racial segregation by law – has been empty. If you’ve been by that corner of Danny Thomas and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue you’ve seen all of the renovation work on the circa 1920s palace that inside looked like the set of the movie “Double Indemnity” with its frosted glass office windows and transoms. The city and business leaders formally cut the ribbon on the reopening Tuesday morning.

And elsewhere in the redevelopment area known as South City, Capstone Building Corp. of Birmingham announces the first of the mixed-use developments to be built where the city’s last large public housing development, Foote Homes, once stood. Actually there are still boarded-up parts of Foote Homes that are still to be demolished. One side of Danny Thomas is leveled. The other is awaiting. Capstone's first phase of South City will be a $23 million project – 114 apartment units in 31 buildings covering 126,000 square feet.

In our Economic Development Emphasis:

Jeff Burkhead is the owner of The Stock Market, the first signed tenant for The Leke District. 

River City Capital Investment, the lending arm of Community LIFT, has closed on three loans that are a total of $195,000 in support to small businesses. That’s out of pool of $5 million meant to go in places that need just that kind of financial push to leverage private investment.

Jeff Burkhead, the owner of The Stock Market grocery store, the first tenant leased up in Lakeland’s Lake District development, talks about his experience in grocery business and the competition in the local grocery business. Also a welcome to C. Richard Cotton and his byline to The Daily News.

Shelby County commissioners approve a moratorium to Labor Day on any contracts or budget amendments higher than $50,000 to express their displeasure at a multi-year contract for inmate medical services that was exempted from the county’s minority business goals for contracting. And Patrick Dandridge is the new Environmental Court Judge through the August elections.

Republican contender for Shelby County Mayor David Lenoir talked about the county's projected revenue surplus and the recertified county property tax rate set last year during a campaign event in Arlington last week.

Meanwhile on the campaign trail going into the May county primaries, a tax skirmish surfaces with word of a projected $18 million to $25 million revenue surplus when the fiscal year ends June 30. Trustee and Republican contender for county mayor David Lenoir says it is proof that the resetting of the county tax rate last July that is supposed to create the same amount of revenue for county government with the new reappraisals by the Assessor every four years didn’t do what it was supposed to do.

J.T. Young, the new head of Memphis Light Gas and Water Division, on “Behind The Headlines” says putting all utilities underground would be very expensive and take time. He also tells us he wants to see more of an effort on communications in advance of severe weather that could take out power to some parts of the city.

Two Tennessee insurers say they’ve seen a drop in opioid prescriptions in their plans.

The Arkansas lawsuit against opioid manufacturers now includes every county government in the state. This lawsuit was filed last month in Crittenden County Circuit Court in Marion.

Shoemaker Financial expands and rebrands as Shoemaker Insurance Solutions.

A couple of summer shows booked for Mud Island Amphitheatre. Widespread Panic doing two shows – June 29 and 30 and Alison Krauss is back at the amphitheatre July 14. And while we are at it, opening day for Mud Island River Park is April 14.

The football Tigers go to Nashville for an April 7 practice including a tailgate party. Does this means the Titans might try again to develop a Memphis fan base? That’s okay, Tom the Tiger can still go on the road for the cause.