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VOL. 133 | NO. 164 | Monday, August 20, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Police Surveillance on Trial, Elvis Alternatives and Firestone's Dilemma

By Bill Dries

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In Memphis Federal Court Monday morning, Memphis Police surveillance of protesters over the last two years is on the docket of U.S. District Judge Jon P. McCalla. McCalla ruled earlier this month in advance of the nonjury trial that police conducted “political surveillance” of protesters in violation of a 1978 federal court consent decree.

The July 2016 bridge protest changed Memphis Police tactics to include surveillance of protesters. That change in tactics is at issue in a federal court trial that begins Monday.

That means the trial that starts today is about two things – does the Tennessee American Civil Liberties Union have legal standing to call for contempt proceedings against the city? If it does, the question then becomes what sanctions should McCalla impose. Those sanctions could include some kind of monitors to make sure the MPD isn’t still doing this and training for police officers. The city, in its motions filed in advance of today’s start of the trial but since McCalla’s ruling, is calling for McCalla to set an end date for the decree to be phased out. Here is our story on McCalla’s ruling. And here is our earlier story on 330 pages of documents opened to the public about the police surveillance.

Another Elvis week in the books and some rumblings about the changes over the last two years, particularly the candlelight vigil and charging to go up the hill to the gravesite as well as what had become a street party on Elvis Presley Boulevard.

Another Elvis Week is completed with some rumblings about Graceland charging admission to the tradition.

What was becoming a healthy mix of locals and visitors has now gone back to what it was in the beginning – the Elvis faithful with the addition of a cover charge. So, to me, the question becomes: Is this the only place to hold such a candlelight vigil as a street party? Is Memphis big enough for two candlelight vigils?

There are a couple of options here as I see it: the Elvis statue on Beale Street and the Edge district that includes Sun Studios. Neither would have the official imprint of Graceland or the backdrop that defines the candlelight vigil. But neither would have the cover charge that Memphians are reacting to. And it’s not like either place lacks for tourists particularly during Elvis Week. So how about it? Let’s hear from you. And this seems as good a time as any to direct you to the new email: bdries@dailymemphian.com.

Meanwhile, this is about more than just the candlelight vigil. Graceland has moved much of Elvis Week to Elvis Presley’s Memphis and Guest House at Graceland in Whitehaven. This year that included the Elvis concert – Elvis’s video image and voice synced up to a live band. Previously this has been a big show at FedExForum. With Graceland and the Grizz in court over Graceland’s plan to build a 6,200 seat arena in Whitehaven, Graceland went for the Soundstage across Elvis Presley Boulevard from rock and roll’s mansion on a hill as the venue this year.

It seems pretty clear that Elvis Week is an institution in transition and that transition might include an official version and an unofficial “spillover” if you will. Case in point, Jose Feliciano’s time in town for Elvis Week that included a surprise performance Friday night at Cooper-Young’s Bar DKDC. Kudos to Greg Roberson for his big role in making this happen by the way. Not the first time he has played this role in helping the city’s musical past meet the city’s musical present with one foot in the Sirius XM Elvis channel and the other in the city’s ongoing music scene.

As Elvis week was underway, lots of Memphians were making a different kind of pilgrimage to South Memphis and the house on Lucy Street where Aretha Franklin began her life. Patrick Lantrip with a photo essay.

The land where the Firestone plant in North Memphis stood for more than 50 years is up for a tax sale raising questions about whether it could again become home to some type of manufacturing or industrial use.

The cover story in our weekly, The Memphis News, chronicles the site of the Firestone plant in North Memphis – an industrial behemoth in the Memphis economy when it opened during the Great Depression and now open land more than 30 years after the plant closed. Plans for a youth golf program a decade ago never got as far as the nine-hole golf course envisioned. And now the site is due for a tax sale as city leaders look at a new economic development strategy. Personal disclosure: The story includes a photo from the Firestone plant’s prime. The fellow in the top row at the right end of the row is my uncle Frank Dries, one of many electricians in the family tree.

TV ratings for professional golf up as the Tiger Woods fist pump returns. What does all of that mean for Tiger Woods playing in the city’s debut in the World Golf Championship series next summer? Don Wade does some forecasting.

Here is The Week Ahead and in our Around Memphis reading list “Southern Avenue” -- the band -- getting some well deserved attention far from Memphis, the most Instagramable locations in Memphis and NPR’s retrospective on Wattstax – the concert that brought Memphis to Watts.

As the weekend began, word that Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has vetoed the county commission resolution that requires commission approval any time the mayor hires outside legal counsel that cost more than $50,000 and forbids the use of special counsel by any county elected officials to sue the commission. This was expected and is the latest chapter in an ongoing dispute that is about to reach the end of the four-year terms of Luttrell as well as the current commission with eight of its 13 members leaving the commission as of Sept. 1. Expect a veto override attempt at the Aug. 27 commission meeting if not sooner.

The three front runners to be the next Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives in Nashville in next year’s session.

ServiceMaster’s annual “We Care Day” includes a lap around FedExForum in a miniature race car for a four-year old who got a trip to Disneyworld instead of a checkered flag at the end of the race.

And a recap of the new charter school applications for Memphis that have cleared the rigorous application process with SCS staff and are on their way to the Shelby County Schools board for a vote. Also SCS superintendent Dorsey Hopson on TNReady results for the school district and the gap between literacy efforts for k-3 and the same efforts for high schoolers.

PROPERTY SALES 62 288 2,619
MORTGAGES 52 197 1,783