VOL. 133 | NO. 30 | Friday, February 9, 2018
Last Word: Shutdown Round Two, The Pastner Charges and 1968 Virtual Reality
By Bill Dries
The federal government technically shutdown at midnight in Washington, D.C., Friday for the second time in 17 days. But the House and Senate were still going for a vote on a two-year budget compromise before dawn Friday morning as this is posted.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said earlier in the day Thursday that he supported the measure. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said at about the same time that he would oppose it because of his concerns about the deficit – per The Hill. By midnight in D.C. this had not even gotten to the House where a debate over DACA’s absence from the compromise loomed large.
Former Tigers basketball coach Josh Pastner is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting and threatening a woman, who along with her boyfriend, are being sued by Pastner for defamation in Pima County, Arizona. Here is the run down of the charges and counter-charges which are all civil at this point. It includes comments late Thursday from Pastner himself.
This began with claims by Ronald Bell and Jennifer Pendley that they gave illegal gifts to players for Georgia Tech where Pastner is the coach and with Pastner's knowledge. Two Georgia Tech players have been suspended for nine games. In January, Pastner sued Bell and Pendley, saying they falsely accused him of knowing about the gifts. And Thursday, Pendley filed the counterclaim, alleging she was sexually assaulted several times and threatened by Pastner in 2016 when Pastner was coaching the Tigers. She also claims a security guard witnessed the aftermath of one of the alleged assaults. Pastner’s attorney responded out of court with a statement denying all of it. “There was no sexual assault. It is a lie. Josh never acted improperly with Ms. Pendley, never,” said attorney Scott Tompsett.
Tyreke Evans was still with the Grizzlies at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. And James Ennis was not. But there are still deals to be made.
New plans for the tallest building in Memphis, vacant and boarded up now for three years and counting. A developer from New York wants to do a combo apartments/hotel with Loews being the hotel flag at the 100 North Main building. And the ambitious plan includes a 34-story office tower next door – three stories shorter than 100 North Main, by the way.
The state Court of Criminal Appeals rules that the state law requiring those convicted of DUI as a result of a blood or breath test to pay a $250 fee is unconstitutional. This is an important ruling in a Knoxville case that has statewide implications and could be appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The appeals court ruled the fee creates a financial incentive for forensic scientists. The fee was $100 when Tennessee legislators passed it into law. It was increased to $250 eight years ago and TBI director Mark Gwyn told legislators that the increase was necessary to keep the positions for the forensic scientists.
Such fees have been a target of criminal justice reform efforts locally and statewide. The argument is that the fees keep those who have done their time or been given probation for a variety of offenses tied to the criminal justice system unjustly, because many have trouble paying that fine, and other fines. Prosecutors, including Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, have countered that the DUI fees are necessary for the operation of the system and are part of the punishment for crimes. Attempts to reduce or eliminate the fees usually meet fierce resistance in the Legislature from prosecutors who argue they need the revenue streams to continue their work.
Meanwhile, Gwyn is leaving this summer as head of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Gwyn’s 14-year tenure has seen a lot of changes at the TBI, the most recent being the role it now plays in investigating police shootings and deaths that occur in police custody in Memphis and Shelby County and several other local jurisdictions.
Don Wade’s “The Press Box” on the aftermath of Tigers basketball after its loss to East Carolina.
Just two days after his final State of the County address at Memphis Rotary, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has endorsed David Lenoir in the May 1 Republican primary for county mayor. The interesting thing about the timing is that Luttrell chose to do this before the primary election.
Makes you wonder if Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will make a similar call before or after the five-way Republican primary for governor on the August ballot statewide.
Speaking of that election, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn is planning a $1 million TV ad blitz from April 27-Aug. 2 in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate – the other statewide race on the ballot this election year.
The recipients of the annual Dunavant Public Servant Awards, which The Daily News co-sponsors with The Rotary Club of Memphis East, are county chief administrative officer Harvey Kennedy and General Sessions Drug Court Judge Tim Dwyer.
There are at least four bills in the Legislature on Confederate monuments aimed at Memphis, and Memphis legislators are starting to push back against the efforts as a whole in a very vocal way, reports our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard. He also runs down the four proposals getting the most attention in the state Capitol. Three of the four are not retroactive. The one that is would involve using some form of eminent domain. And its sponsor acknowledges his bill probably doesn’t have the votes. The sponsor of one of the other bills says he’s not sure if the city broke the law or not in selling two parks to a nonprofit and the nonprofit then removing the monuments.
There are plans for a virtual reality experience at the National Civil Rights Museum in April in time for the 50th anniversary commemorations of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. This is not a game but an experience that includes what it felt like to be a sanitation worker in Memphis 50 years ago, being a striker in the streets of the city 50 years ago and being at the Lorraine Motel at one of the city’s and the nation’s most fateful moments.
Charles McKinney, the chair of Africana Studies at Rhodes College, on the LeMoyne-Owen College campus this week for the black history month chapel program at Metropolitan Baptist Church: “Perhaps one of the reasons we don’t or won’t or can’t see King as the extremist he actually is, is because we have yet to confront the racial contours of our own nation. They are unseen by many of us – not all of us.”
Rhodes College president Marjorie Hass is our guest on “Behind The Headlines.” She talks about her remarks at her recent installation ceremony in which she made the case for the need for four-year colleges and degrees as there is a lot of talk in post-secondary education about two-year degrees and associates degrees and trade certifications. The program airs at 7 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. Sunday on WKNO-TV Channel 10.
The cover story of our weekly, The Memphis News, is about the first two years of Jim Strickland’s tenure as mayor. The PDF of the new issue is up now on this website. The hard copies are in the racks Friday morning and the online cover story goes up here Friday afternoon.