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VOL. 133 | NO. 24 | Thursday, February 1, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: 50 Years Ago, Skeleton Hotel in Court and New Moves on Forrest

By Bill Dries

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It was 50 years ago Thursday that the event that sparked the 1968 sanitation workers strike happened near Colonial and Sea Isle in East Memphis. City sanitation workers Robert Walker and Echol Cole were killed when the trash compactor on back of their city truck malfunctioned and crushed them.

Eleven days later a strike by 1,300 black sanitation workers began and changed Memphis forever. At noon Thursday our time, civic leaders and sanitation workers in 70 U.S. cities will observe a moment of silence in honor of Cole and Walker and the beginning of "I Am A Man" -- "The Mountaintop" and all of the still vivid imagery from this city's pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.

"The public read the story and shuddered. Down in sanitation the men didn't talk about it much, but the incident tugged at the periphery of their thoughts like a nightmare on the edge of waking. They had seen the hydraulic ram in action."  -"At The River I Stand" by Joan Turner Beifuss

Tigers over USF Wednesday at the Sun Dome 86 – 74. It snaps a two-game losing streak. Jeremiah Martin with 25 points in the effort.

The skeleton hotel is in environmental court Thursday in a move by the Downtown Memphis Commission to have what is left of the old Benchmark Hotel at Union and B.B. King declared a public nuisance. This began in November with a DMC legal filing. The owners, MNR Hospitality LLC, recently put up banners on both street sides of the property that tout a 2019 opening as a Fairfield Inns & Suites. That was in response to DMC complaints.

Most of the major candidates for Tennessee Gov. – Democratic and Republican – meet Thursday in the capitol for the Tennessee Press Association forum moderated by our publisher and the TPA’s president Eric Barnes. The live feed begins streaming at 8:30 a.m. The forum starts an hour later. You can see it here.

As the city of Memphis and the Memphis Greenspace nonprofit prepare to go back to the Tennessee Historical Commission in the next two months provided court-ordered mediation doesn't work out, the commission’s authority is being challenged on another front in the Tennessee Legislature. It’s not a direct challenge reports our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard in his “View From The Hill” column.

The state Capitol Commission, this past summer, voted not to seek a waiver from the Historical Commission that would allow for the removal of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the capitol. There is a bill in the current session that orders the Capitol Commission to move the bust to the new state museum once the museum is complete – no hearing before the Historical Commission. This faces an uphill battle. But Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, in saying that, is quick to add that he thinks there are changes on the way long term.

The current legislative session marks the debut of the renovated Cordell Hull Building where legislators have their offices and there are new rules with the new session that allow gun carry permit holders to bring weapons into the building. Memphis Democrat Joe Towns is the House sponsor of a bill that would overturn the policy enacted by the House and Senate leadership.

I hesitate to use the phrase “Meanwhile in Nashville…” because I know there are some of you who read those three words and stop reading. I’m not trying to be anti-Nashville. It’s just that you can read about the happenings there outside of the Legislature just about anywhere else these days. Nashville is a PR machine – except maybe this week. The city has a full-on political sex scandal in the mayor’s office and it went public Wednesday. The Tennessean reports Mayor Megan Barry has admitted an affair with the police officer heading her security detail. And that officer has retired effective Wednesday. This began as an investigation by the Tennessean into the officer’s overtime.

More on the closing of the Radial distribution center in southeast Memphis with responses from Radial and Target executives – Target being the company whose products Radial was distributing from the center near Lamar and Holmes. And some speculation about that Target’s purchase of Shipt may be part of this.

An update on the off-year for the Memphis spelling bee. It is back on for 2019 with the University of Memphis announcing Wednesday it is stepping in to cosponsor it with the Tennessee Titans. This after The Commercial Appeal dropped out as the long-time sponsor of the education tradition that is part of the Scripps national bee.

Agricenter is developing a 20-year master plan that will likely include a new roadway system on the property that balances large crowds coming to events with the resident tenants and their needs. Agricenter president John Butler tells us parts of the plan could go into action six months after the plan is finalized.

A follow-up to our January cover story on grade-changing and grade floors in Shelby County Schools. The suspended principal of Hamilton High could become a classroom teacher and get back pay for the time she’s been suspended beyond 20 days. The initial recommendation was a suspension to be followed by the termination of Monekea Smith.

More on the school system’s move to buy the Bayer Building on Jackson Avenue and leave its long-time central office at Hollywood and Avery. The move which is in the due diligence phase means a key piece of land could become available as the Fairgrounds is being redeveloped.

While we are in follow-up land, AP’s Jonathan Mattise on six years of breaks for business customers of TVA as residential rates increased. That’s what a new study of TVA’s rates for electricity shows. TVA says it is an incentive to use power in off-peak hours. Critics including two former TVA board chairmen say it is a violation of TVA’s basic mission, a mission TVA CEO Bill Johnson recited at the outset of his presentation last month to Memphis City Council members.

The owner of Southern Meat Market indicted on federal food stamp fraud.

Candidates win and candidates lose and for those who lose the question is whether they will throw in the towel on retail politics or try again. The same thing happens with the people who work in the campaigns. A new political communications firm comes out of that experience and what its founder sees as a gap for African-American firms who work in local campaigns.

A rare morning game for the Hustle with a school-age audience that includes a start toward financial literacy in the giftbags each student got.

Our hand-held technology is truly a wonder except when it comes to the moon. You would think the super blue blood moon – which is simply enormous as it rises – would point to just how much of a wonder phones with cameras are. That is until you try to snap a picture of it. Then you discover that once again the moon, no matter how large it appears to you, is still tiny to your camera. That is unless you have taken classes in this or worked with your phone for hours until it is like an appendage of your body. Despite that, the blood moon Wednesday was quite a site and for many of us the memory will have to do.

PROPERTY SALES 56 295 6,392
MORTGAGES 26 180 4,035
BUILDING PERMITS 128 840 15,361
BANKRUPTCIES 31 153 3,270