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VOL. 133 | NO. 25 | Friday, February 2, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Closing the Loophole, Skeleton Hotel Update and Jubilee Conversion

By Bill Dries

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The state legislator who sponsored the most recent version of the law making it much more difficult to remove Confederate monuments acknowledges that the city of Memphis found a legitimate loophole in the 2016 law he crafted. Republican Steve McDaniel, of Parkers Crossroads, tells our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard that he has a bill in the House to close the loophole. But it won't undo what happened here. Although there is still a court fight over that taking shape.

The fix would require Tennessee Historical Commission approval of any move by a local government to sell a park to a nonprofit. And McDaniel has included specific sanctions against local governments that don’t abide by the new process. He also concedes this will not be retroactive to cover the Dec. 20 removal here of Confederate monuments in two city parks.

Five of the seven major contenders for Tennessee Governor met in Nashville Thursday at the winter meeting of the Tennessee Press Association with our publisher, Eric Barnes, moderating the exchange. Here’s the rundown. Republican contenders Bill Lee and Randy Boyd had a minor clash toward the end over the state megasite in Haywood County. And the issue of when the public finds out about incentives for economic development projects came down to a question of timing. Democratic contender Karl Dean continued to stake out a moderate position that rejects ideology.

Republican contender Diane Black was campaigning in Memphis Thursday and missed the Nashville forum. More on Black’s local message in the Tuesday edition. She has bought ad time in the local breakaways for this weekend’s Super Bowl with a bold message around standing for the national anthem. Most of her rivals are also taking their message to TV and social media right about now. And many of those messages are basic introductions to voters. Billboards going up in some of our local races. Spotted Thursday: A Joy Touliatos for Mayor billboard.

The latest financial disclosures from candidates state and local due this week. In the governor’s race:

Boyd reports raising $7.5 million for the second half of 2017 -- $3.2 million in cash August through December;

Black reports $1.75 million from August through December, which is her ending balance. In cash contributions, she raised $2.7 million. She spent just under a million during the same period.

Lee reports just under $1 million in contributions and a $908,000 loan to his own effort -- the second self-loan after a $1.4 million loan

Dean reports contributions of $1.4 million for the period.

Republican Beth Harwell reports $2.1 million in contributions and a $3.1 million loan to her own campaign.

Democrat Craig Fitzhugh reports $304,513 in contributions for the period and he has loaned his campaign $500,000.

Statewide campaigns in Tennessee require millions of dollars just to get yourself known in a long state geographically. But the dollar figures are also used by the contenders – state and local -- to generate momentum in what is a shake-out period for crowded races. Earlier this week, Mae Beavers dropped out of the Republican pack. The candidate with the top dollar figure isn’t always the winner. A statewide campaign requires a lot of money as a basic price of being taken seriously and serious means having some semblance of a statewide organization. The political landscape is littered with the remains of campaigns that were flush with cash but didn’t know how to spend it and where to spend it.

The saga of the skeleton hotel is on the clock after it went to Environmental Court Thursday. Some of the surrounding businesses around the Downtown hotel that is best known as the old Benchmark joined the Downtown Memphis Commission effort to have what’s left of the hotel declared a public nuisance by Judge Larry Potter. The owners of the hotel for the last four years in which the deconstruction of the hotel just short of demolition is the only action they’ve taken argued they could lose their Marriott franchise agreement if Potter follows through and signs the nuisance order. Potter is hoping both sides can work something out. That something would likely be a set of milestones – steps toward some kind of physical progress.

Fleet Foxes booked for March 10 at Cannon Center.

Lots of school moves Thursday, most for the new school year that starts in August, which is just about when you get announcements like this. In summary, the charter group that wants to take the Catholic Jubilee schools in the 2018-2019 school year is a local group led by Christian Brothers University president John Smarrelli. Crosstown High and two other new charters that open come August have gotten state grants for their set up. Bobby White’s Frayser Community Schools charter group will be taking Westside Middle School for the ASD and the ASD closed a charter in Nashville this week that had just opened this past August. Arlington Community Schools is launching a fine arts academy at Arlington High next school year.

In our Friday Sports Section:

The Grizz fall to the Pistons Thursday in Detroit 104-102 in Blake Griffin's debut with the Pistons.

Don Wade’s “Press Box” on the exit of Tyreke Evans from the Grizz after his best season in the NBA since his rookie year in Sacramento. And all for a team that won’t be in the playoffs.

The transformation of Tigers baseball leftfielder Carlos Williams from Ole Miss to the University of Memphis.

Dave Link looks ahead to March Madness for the UT basketball team.

Terry McCormick goes even further with a preview of the beefed-up competition the Titans will face in their own conference at the other end of the off season. You can see it all the way from Super Bowl weekend.

A fire at the original Corky’s BBQ on Poplar. No one was injured in the fire and Corky’s plans to reopen 11 a.m. Friday.

The home of Crosstown Brewing Co. at Crosstown Concourse has been marked up with the company logo for a little while. The opening of the taproom is still a few weeks away. But the brewery has already been making beer and sending Siren Blonde Ale and Traffic IPA to bars and restaurants.

MAA fourth quarter figures after what the COO of the REIT giant describes as “a year of significant change for our organization.”

Six years and change from the 2011 flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. A local plan is developing with that flooding in mind – the second highest river level at Memphis ever recorded – around the concept of resiliency. The concept is already driving three local projects that have secured $60 million in federal grant funding.

Making your own pizza isn’t just about choosing toppings anymore and the evolution of that is also putting a premium on the time it takes to make the pizza.

The Toys R Us store in Buckingham Farms will not be closing.

Memphis-based Fred’s has its second chief financial officer in seven months.

The president and CEO of the Soulsville Foundation, Richard Greenwald, is our guest on “Behind The Headlines” to talk about a possible expansion of the charter school there and an upgrade of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The show airs Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on WKNO TV.

The cover story by Andy Meek in our weekly, The Memphis News, is the local face of DACA and the uncertainty around the future of children who came to the U.S. illegally with their parents who have built a life here.

The PDF of the new issue is up now on this website. The hard copies go in the racks Friday morning. And the online version of the story goes up here Friday afternoon.

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