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VOL. 133 | NO. 14 | Thursday, January 18, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Snow Week, Liberal Arts and Their Critics and Tunica Casinos

By Bill Dries

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Snow Day 3 as this becomes a snow week for many of us. Granted one of those days was a federal holiday in which the temperature was above freezing and the sun was out. During the second consecutive snow day Wednesday for Shelby County Schools students, Candous Brown, a teacher at Raleigh Egypt High School held class anyway via Facebook.

Meanwhile, Houston High student Lydia Waldrop was in the crowd at the Today show this past Friday and wound up getting some valuable exposure for her singing career when Hoda Kotb picked her out of the crowd.

Whether you are on foot or behind the wheel on the streets of Memphis, you’ve probably played the game of how much of this street or this sidewalk is clear of snow and ice. And does the car behind me see the patch ahead. On the other hand, some of the hardened and refrozen several times over snow is packed pretty good at this point for driving on. The patches here and there are a function of a strategy that puts a priority on bridges and overpasses instead of clearing a major thoroughfare for much of its run, especially those that run for most of the city, and motorists then finding a way onto them. City public works director Robert Knecht says the city has used 30 to 40 percent of its supply of the sand-salt mix to treat roads in the current snow week. So there is the matter of supply as well not to mention the estimated $200k the city has spent in a short space of time. Over an eight-hour period starting at midnight Wednesday, the MPD handled 116 car crashes.

Rhodes College president Marjorie Hass had quite a bit to say about liberal arts colleges, their role in an era when a college education is increasingly measured by job market skills, the impact of technology and the need for face-to-face conversations especially over issues that are guaranteed to come with a degree of discomfort.

“Many of the things that matter to us – the disinterested search for truth, the honing of expertise, the careful critical thinking, lively engagement with new ideas – many of those things that matter to us are politicized or even rejected in the Twitter-sphere that is now our public square.”

The remarks came at her installation ceremony on the campus this past weekend after six months on the job in Midtown. Here is the video of her remarks in full from Rhodes.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland started his state of the city set of speeches Wednesday at the Memphis Kiwanis Club. Here are the basics including his response to the death of a woman who appears to have died of exposure sitting on a bench outside City Hall. More depth on this when next we meet in this space.

Deputy District Attorney General Jennifer Nichols became Division 10 Criminal Court Judge Wednesday afternoon at the Criminal Justice Center with Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby administering the oath of office. And yes, Nichols is running for the rest of the term of office in the special nonpartisan judicial election – one of three – on the August ballot countywide. She pulled her petition Wednesday joining attorneys Handel Durham and Jennifer J. Mitchell.

In other filings, county commissioners Willie Brooks and Mark Billingsley have filed for re-election. Outgoing commissioner Melvin Burgess has pulled a petition to run in the Democratic primary for Assessor. Take a look @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols – for a more complete accounting and for future filing updates. DEMOCRACY.

In 2016, $631 million in gross revenues came from the casinos in Tunica. That compares to $1.66 billion in 2006 for all of Mississippi's river casinos with Tunica's casinos being the bulk of that. It turns out 2006 was the peak year for casino revenues. The casino operators we’ve talked with say more casinos in Tunica are not the answer to an attempted comeback for the Mississippi county that was once the nation’s third most popular gaming destination behind Las Vegas and Atlantic City. They say it is partnering with other entertainment entities that aren’t about gaming for a broader experience. They also acknowledge that table games might give a casino the feel of a gambling establishment but can be intimidating for some who are not all about gambling.

The Greater Memphis Chamber continues to work on the red tape that it takes to be counted as a minority businesses. The purpose of certification as an MWBE – minority and women-owned business – is for those businesses to compete for a percentage of government contracts from professional services to paper clips and other office supplies. The certification fair coming up Jan. 23 is more preaching of the gospel of certification and its simplification in the last two years to include free certification.

Lafayette’s is expanding. The resurrected Overton Square cornerstone is pushing the stage back to its original location in the 1970s which means about 60 more seats and a bigger dressing room into what was until recently The Attic shop next door. The Attic will become a new storefront called Midtown Mercantile that will sell Midtown items like Ardent t-shirts etc. Look for the expansion to be completed in mid February.

You might not have noticed the recent change in Overton Square from Schweinehaus to Stanley Bar-B-Que in the building that was originally Paulette’s. That’s because the owners remain the same. And those owners have recently filed for bankruptcy reorganization, remaining open as that is underway.

Don Wade with a preview of our annual Newsmakers Sports Seminar coming up Jan. 25 at the Brooks. The seminar has quickly become the setting to assess the state of sports in our community. And the consensus in advance of our Jan. 25 discussion is that the sports scene is growing and across those different sports the various front offices are watching each other closely to see how they are promoting what they do.

It’s been a decade since the Frayser Community Development Corp. moved into an old bank building on North Watkins near the Frayser Branch Library. It’s an indication of the hard-fought momentum the Frayser CDC has played a large role in that the bank building is about to be expanded – going from 800 square feet to 2,800 square feet. And much of that is to house programs and efforts that are a result of more funding of efforts there as well as more homebuyers in Frayser. The CDC owns 10 lots that it will soon start building 10 new homes on, according to CDC director Steve Lockwood.

In his “View From The Hill” column, our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard confirms that in this short election year session of the Tennessee Legislature  a Medicaid expansion of any kind doesn’t have a shot.

And the schools voucher bill cosponsored by Germantown Republican Brian Kelsey in the Senate is taking a break this session.

More fallout from a state comptroller’s audit of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. An audit of the agency specifically looked at how Memphis and other cities are dealing with thousands of rape kits put on shelves for decades and never tested. The report says four years after a state law required an accounting of rape kits awaiting testing and processing at the time the law didn’t require updates after that. And the audit says Tennessee lawmakers who put up state funding for the effort should have an update on what has happened since then.

Meanwhile, TBI investigators are in town investigating a Wednesday afternoon fatal shooting by Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies in the 1100 block of Decatur in North Memphis. The deputies were trying to serve an arrest warrant on Brian Gregory, 27. The deputies say Gregory rammed their cars with his car and grabbed a gun in his car. They say they fired on him and he died of his injuries later at Regional One Health. A deputy was injured in the incident. His injuries were treated and he was released the same day.

Here is how this works: The TBI investigates and makes conclusions that it then reports to the District Attorney General’s office which makes the call on whether or not to seek charges. The TBI investigation is then made public.

Chalkbeat on ACT do-overs and some improved average composite scores for Shelby County Schools and Arlington Schools as well as a slight drop for the Memphis-based Achievement School District schools – most of which are in Memphis.

You’ve read a lot here about the local pursuit of Amazon’s HQ2 project – a $5-billion second headquarters that Amazon encouraged cities to compete for and which it should be announcing a site for soon. Now comes word of a similar undertaking by Applea corporate campus with 20,000 workers to be built somewhere in the next five years. The Apple pursuit is a direct result of the tax reform bill that recently became law -- specifically its provision that taxes offshore cash corporations bring back to America at a lower rate.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751