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VOL. 133 | NO. 171 | Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: New Council Smell, Harris's First Pick and Detroit's Comeback

By Bill Dries

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After months of renovation work, the new Memphis City Council committee room was ready for the council Tuesday on the fifth floor of City Hall. The council had been meeting in its chambers on the ground floor for the seven hours of committee meetings that precede the council’s main voting meeting at 3:30 p.m. two Tuesdays a month. The council room has that new council smell -- kind of ironic for a body that is about to get three new members by the end of the year.

This may not seem like a big deal but the council spends a lot of time in committee sessions twice a month and committee is where a lot of important issues get discussed for the first to the 21st time in some cases.

Gone is the committee room table that council members have used in various locations on the fifth floor for the last half century. Not sure if the table itself is 50 years old. In fact, I'm sure there have been at least two committee tables. But you get the idea.

The new arrangement is a slightly curved dais of 13 seats. Four video screens in the room and a glass wall facing the elevators for those kibitzing to be able to do that and watch the council.

Gone are the committee table baskets where council members would discard the paperwork of politics and government. Kind of fun reading the notations made on some of the papers – usually not newsworthy, but every once in a while…

A version of the “tripod room” remains – an area where television cameras with tripods have been confined since the council had enough of being blocked into their chairs at the committee table by tripods set up behind them.

Council members were still adjusting to the new surroundings. “Can you put some trash cans on the list,” council member Edmund Ford Jr. said between committee sessions Tuesday morning. “I’ve already got a clock on there,” replied council member Patrice Robinson. After another committee session later, council chairman Berlin Boyd emerged from his office across the hall with a waste basket and then a clock.

A clock is no small consideration during Tuesday council days. The slate of committees start at 8:30 a.m. and break for lunch, which can sometimes double as a private attorney-client meeting, and then move into the afternoon – sometimes breaking just in time for the 3:30 p.m. session downstairs. So a committee meeting that runs late can have a chain reaction effect on the later committee sessions.

The council offices across the hall have not changed in the renovation although council staff got an upgrade to their offices.

Now to the important stuff at City Hall on council day. The council approved the TDZ financing part of the second convention center hotel deal. And there was another discussion about Beale Street and safety but ultimately no action on recommendations from the Beale Street Task Force. The council did approve $700,000 for more substantial barriers to be used in blocking off streets around the district as a guard against someone running a car into the crowds, especially on Second Street.

More on all things Beale when next we meet.

The first public move by Shelby County Mayor-elect Lee Harris in putting together his team at the county building – the appointment of Patrice Thomas as his chief administrative officer. Thomas comes from being deputy chief operating officer at City Hall in a career on the city side that has included being city comptroller. The CAO runs county government on a day-to-day basis and Thomas is very much a known quantity in that regard, continually tested on the details of how the city works by council members.

Harris’s transition committee met without him Tuesday Downtown. Here is that.

Detroit’s planning and development director Maurice Cox in town this week to talk about Detroit’s comeback on its own terms, which includes the people of Detroit.

Meanwhile, Frank Smith of the Clayborn Reborn effort says in several months the historic church will likely close to begin permanent renovations.

In our old Newsmakers feature – a Q&A with someone in the world of business who has advanced in that world – Kate Simone, our associate editor, who skillfully put those features together, would always submit a question asking the person what talent they wish they had. The most frequent answer to that by far involved some kind of musical skill – either playing an instrument or singing or both. Meet Steve Dunavant who has found the intersection of accounting and music.

HealthLink Europe and International expands its medical device distribution North American HQ in Memphis two years after setting up shop here.

The Tigers offensive line ahead of Saturday’s opener with Mercer and the gaps closed since the end of last season.

Guess who is the PCL manager of the year for the second consecutive year?

PROPERTY SALES 50 226 2,557
MORTGAGES 44 145 1,731
BUILDING PERMITS 204 569 5,701