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VOL. 133 | NO. 5 | Friday, January 5, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Saturday In The Parks, The Citizen and Kroger Backlash

By Bill Dries

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No protest or march permits applied for at City Hall as of Thursday morning in anticipation of a Saturday Confederate monuments protest, according to city chief legal officer Bruce McMullen at Thursday’s taping of “Behind The Headlines.” Our discussion included lots about the city’s move toward taking down the monuments Dec. 20 and what could happen next. Also, McMullen tells us there were some other nonprofits that talked with the city about Health Sciences and Memphis Parks before Memphis Greenspace. The show airs Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on WKNO TV.

As promised here when last we met, more on the possibility of Saturday protests and the concept of urging Memphians to ignore the protests and avoid the areas where they could be. It’s a strategy used before with some mixed results. As the story indicates there could be more developments on this with a Friday press conference by the Memphis Branch NAACP. Watch this website for updates late Friday morning.

Late last year, Lewis Donelson marked his 100th birthday. He died Thursday and a review of the events and directions of this city that he influenced is a long one. So are the tributes from both sides of the aisle – Democratic and Republican as well as attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants, counter claimants and intervenors. His 2012 autobiography is essential reading and essential information about Memphis. When it came out we talked with him about some of the observations in the book and some not in the book.

The Midtown Market development on the southwest corner of Union and McLean has a new name with Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony – The Citizen. And a quote from Ron Belz on the Facebook Live feed on the project … and really all projects like this – “If there is no margin, there is no mission.”

Plans for an auto body parts distribution center in northeast Memphis at Appling and Reese Roads. The site includes an acre of wetlands that feed into Fletcher Creek.

And a building permit pulled Thursday for a $23.2 million retirement facility in East Memphis on Briarcrest Avenue.

Low Fi Coffee moves from a South Main pop up to a spot with the Brooks gift shop.

It appears Memphis Wrecking Co. is ready to move on from its plan to expand a Frayser construction landfill closer to Whitney Elementary School. The company said so in a Thursday release but notes that its project to expand in Frayser is still on the city council’s agenda for a much delayed vote next week. If it comes to a vote there, the only question based on statements from council members is whether it has any votes on the 13-member body. So when Tuesday rolls around look for either a confirmation that Memphis Wrecking will look elsewhere definitively or another delay in the council vote on the Frayser site.

In the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, Marsha Blackburn and Stephen Fincher file their fundraising totals for the quarter that probably reflect Blackburn’s head start over Fincher at this point.

Meanwhile, Jeff Webb of Varsity Brands of Memphis says he will not be joining the GOP primary race for the U.S. Senate.

The fundraising numbers being touted are an early message to other potential contenders that the dollars and cents price of competing – especially in a statewide race – will be steep. It’s a method of discouraging those who might grab a low but key percentage of votes in a close race.

This is a different kettle of fish for incumbent state legislators seeking re-election who go back into session Tuesday, which means they are banned from any fundraising or accepting donations until April. That means you will probably see a lot of petition pulling by legislative incumbents Friday when the period opens for candidates in the August state and federal primaries to serve notice to any and all challengers.

Among those at the counter Friday at the Election Commission on opening day will be Republican state Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown.

Friday evening, George Monger, a former Shelby County Election Commissioner whose last run was for Memphis City Council in 2007 as a teenager, declares his political intentions for 2018. He is billing the campaign opening as “the worst kept secret campaign announcement.” I’m thinking this is a bid for the county commission. We shall see. Monger didn’t win his council race 11 years ago but did establish that the city charter’s old requirement that council members must be at least 23 years old hadn’t been updated when the charter was amended in 1995 to create the super district council seats that replaced at large citywide council seats.

A followup to our “View From The Hill” column Thursday on the effort to pass medical marijuana in the Tennessee Legislature. State Rep. Jeremy Faison, the legislator from Cosby, Tn. pushing for this, whom our Nashville correspondent talked with extensively for the Thursday edition piece and past pieces on this and other issues, reacted on Twitter with word Thursday that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will let federal prosecutors consider aggressively enforcing federal pot laws in places where marijuana is legal.

Faison’s Tweet: “The states that you weren’t supposed to win, cast more votes for cannabis than they did @realDonaldTrump. @jeffsessions is securing a defeat for you in 2020. Queen Hillary is responsible for far more deaths than cannabis. #pursuerealcrime #leavestatesalone”

Also reaction on social media to Wednesday’s word that three Kroger stores – one in Clarksdale, another in Southgate and still another on Lamar near Airways will close in less than a month. Memphis City Council member Jamita Swearengen posted on Facebook: “We are not going to let this happen without a fight,” referring to the Lamar-Airways closing. She and fellow council member Edmund Ford Jr. will be talking more about the two Memphis locations Friday afternoon at City Hall.

With that in mind, there was a meeting Thursday evening in Orange Mound on the Lamar-Airways closing among concerned citizens.

Shelby County Commissioners and County Mayor Mark Luttrell had a discussion about opioids this week in the first committee sessions of the new year that did not involve competing attorneys and legal claims. Luttrell says he has an opioid prevention and awareness campaign that the health department will coordinate that should be on the streets in about a week.

In our Friday Sports Section:

About the case for Central Florida football and an imperfect college football playoff structure that reaches its end Monday.

Don Wade on Tampa Bay defensive tackle Clinton McDonald who is part of a long tradition of outstanding defensive players in the NFL who come out of the Memphis football tradition.

Early signing date results at Rocky Top from Dave Link.

And Terry McCormick on the lag in fan interest in the Titans’ post-season wild card bid.

All HVAC issues at Millington Schools are resolved. So it is back to class Friday.

Drama at the Arkansas Plant Board – yes, that is the first time I have ever put those six words together. The board is standing by its planned ban on dicamba. DICAMBA.

The year ahead and a bit about the year completed, now that it is all done and in the books – that is the cover story by Andy Meek in our weekly, The Memphis News.

A 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 cover story goes up here Friday afternoon.

PROPERTY SALES 93 424 6,970
MORTGAGES 42 281 4,410
BUILDING PERMITS 196 704 16,619
BANKRUPTCIES 38 174 3,570