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VOL. 133 | NO. 22 | Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Credit Hours & Tn Promise, Opioid Differences and Nikki's Hot Rebrand

By Bill Dries

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A very busy Monday and I feel like some of this is may be fueled by some of us just now getting completely over the flu or someone close who has the flu for the first time in the New Year. Whatever the case, Monday came with a curtain call of sorts by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a court order on the Confederate monuments, year-end stats on crime in Memphis and countywide… a PILOT here, a building permit or three there.

If you think back on the campaign Bill Haslam began running for governor seven years ago this month, he was a mayor of Knoxville running as a pro-business Republican. And his top two rivals who were in for the duration of the primary campaign – Ron Ramsey and Zach Wamp --were also elected officials who were running as a more socially conservative version of that. Haslam started his State of the State address Monday evening by telling legislators he felt then like he was called to become governor, only to be reminded by the future First Lady, Crissy Haslam, that could very well be the case. But he wouldn’t be governor unless he was called by voters.

That said, Haslam is in his last year of two terms as governor and it is education issues that will likely be his legacy. And it might be the legacy of the next governor. In the current Republican six-pack for governor, Randy Boyd and Bill Lee were in town last week for discussions that were all about education. We talked with each about career technical education in particular. Lee during a walk-through at Moore Tech where he touted his master plumber's license and put on a welding mask to watch some of the students work. We talked with Boyd just before he met with a group of several dozen teachers and other educators at Christian Brothers University. And that meeting was a reminder that testing and constantly evaluating where students are remains a concern for teachers on the front line. That included a kindergarten teacher who read off a list of a dozen tests she gives in a year’s time to children who don’t yet know what a test is.

Back to Haslam, his state of the state message was general as these speeches go. They usually include noting a dollar amount the budget calls for in this part of the state or this city or that county. None of that Monday with Haslam. After his speech, specifics of some of the education changes he mentioned generally show he wants to change the terms of Tennessee Promise to include completing 30 credit hours in a year’s time. That is toward the finding that students working on the clock so to speak means a higher rate of graduation and completion.

Haslam also talked about the opioid crisis in state of the state. So did Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Shelby County Health Department director Dr. Alisa Haushalter on “Behind The Headlines.” We didn’t have high ceilings, marble walls or a solid wooden podium for them. But they made their points anyway. Luttrell in particular offered a very different view on the timing of opioid litigation than county commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer did the week before on the same program.

A bit of a discussion in Germantown Monday on the Industrial Development Board over the 11-year tax break Campbell Clinic wanted for the expansion it announced there this past November. The clinic got an 8-year PILOT on the $30 million expansion on South Germantown Road.

The Confederate monuments controversy now appears to be legally engaged. A Nashville chancellor ruled Monday that the Memphis nonprofit that bought two city parks and had the Confederate monuments in them removed cannot sell or transfer them to anyone else. That is at least until a return trip for the city and the Sons of Confederate Veterans to the Tennessee Historical Commission. And that is going to be on the larger issue of whether the city could sell the parks to Memphis Greenspace in December, including the monuments, for $1,000 each. The SCV will contend the city could not do that and violated state laws on removing such monuments from parks. The city will contend it is not barred from selling park land and once sold the park land isn’t covered by the state law.

In our Distribution and Logistics Emphasis:

The Port of Memphis, which many of us call Presidents Island, is on its way to a strategic plan that already comes with some interesting possibilities including the TVA coal-fired plant or Allen Steam plant becoming a rail yard for unit-trains, 100 rail cars of the same product at a time, once TVA moves to its new plant across the road later this year. Randy Richardson of the Port Commission also mentions a second entrance and the Port Commission taking control of rail operations on Presidents Island.

JNJ Express, a primary carrier for FedEx that is also one of the largest independents for UPS, is marking its 25th anniversary with plans for a new trucking facility – its third in the city -- and adding 100 new trucks to a fleet that now stands at more than 450.

The COO of Ozark Motor Lines talks about the impact of federal tax reform on the trucking industry – an industry that locally has backed the recent state gas tax hike as long as the money goes to improve roads and other infrastructure. Donnie Caldwell says it is federal regulations that are fueling an ongoing driver shortage in the industry that already has an aging workforce.

Year-end crime stats from the local Crime Commission show major violent crime and major property crime up compared to 2016. Murders were off the record pace of 2016. But aggravated assaults and robberies spiked. So did car thefts.

Our Monday piece reviewing the ground covered by TVA CEO Bill Johnson with Memphis City Council members drew a response and clarification from Scott Brooks, a TVA spokesman, on the still tentative plan for a 12 percent charge for use of its system to local utilities. Brooks says this would not be 12 percent on top of what the bill is already.

Brooks via email: “This fixed charge would become part of our wholesale rate, but not an additional amount. The 12 percent would be moved from the current variable rate, which is what you pay per kilowatt hour, into a fixed rate. It’s moving income from one column to another, not generating additional income for TVA.”

A guest column from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland on the state of the city.

Lots of changes along the commercial heart of Union Avenue these days. And more to come. Pinnacle Financial Partners filed Monday for a $1.3 million building permit for the bank branch to go on Union at Rozelle. Many of you know this as the burned out corner west of Belvedere where Sean’s Café was until it burned two years ago. The bank will have drive-through that can be a perilous undertaking given the Midtown Overlay. But the bank has a variance to allow it from the Board of Adjustment.

Shelby County Schools pulls permits for classroom additions at Grahamwood and Delano Elementary schools. SCHOOLS.

An update on day one of Shelby County Schools’ optional and open enrollment period: In the first four hours, 6,000 online applications were processed by the school system. 3,200 were for optional schools and the rest were for other schools in the system that have space. In four hours that was more requests for optional schools than the school system had taken by the end of the first day on enrollment last year. And no tents.

And SCS has rescheduled two of the winter workshops we told you about last weekEureka math and expeditionary learning classes for parents. The classes at Holmes Road Elementary and Kate Bond Middle got scrubbed by ice and snow. So Holmes Road is Monday and Kate Bond is Feb. 8. Both workshops start at 5 p.m. with pizza because even parents like pizza.

Nikki’s Hot Ass Chips is rebranding to Nikki’s Hot Products for a line that includes Bloody Mary mix, seasoning and nuts. Founder Nikki Schroeder is aiming for a national distribution deal and tells us there was some pushback from those carrying her products that prompted the change.

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