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VOL. 133 | NO. 44 | Thursday, March 1, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Rising River, Driving The Dream and Harwell Advances Medical Pot

By Bill Dries

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The Mississippi River at Memphis should reach flood stage at any moment. As Last Word was going up online Wednesday evening the National Weather Service at Memphis put the river level here at 33.52 feet. Flood stage at Memphis is 34 feet. The river is forecast to crest some time next week at 38 feet, four feet over flood stage. Keep in mind that in April 2011, the river at Memphis crested 10 feet higher, at 48 feet on the Memphis river gauge – which turned to be the one on the support beams of the bridge over Beale Street at Riverside Drive. That was the second highest river level at Memphis ever recorded.

Increasingly it appears there is at least a difference of opinion as we get deeper into our observance of the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers strike and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. The difference, I think, is coming down to whether to acknowledge the past that influences the present or confront the present that is influenced by the past. I think the discussions Memphians find themselves having prove that these aren’t the same thing because the key words involved are “acknowledge” and “confront.”


So far, an emphasis on the present seems to be carrying the day in terms of importance. But that may change as we get closer to April 4 – the assassination anniversary. Bernard Lafayette, a cofounder of SNCC – Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee – and an aide to King spoke Wednesday afternoon at Lindenwood Christian Church as part of a lecture series by Memphis Theological Seminary. Lafayette talked about coming to Memphis with King in April 1968 and being sent to Washington earlier in the day that King was killed to tend to the business of the upcoming Poor People’s Campaign in Washington D.C.

Lafayette talked of his flight landing in Washington D.C. to a turmoil that began while he was in the air. He also reflected on a life after the assassination in which his own commitment to nonviolent social change has remained solid through the experience of that trauma.

Cecilia Johnson-Powell is leading United Way's Driving the Dream initiative.

United Way of the Mid-South has revived a pilot program from 2016 that is a coalition and coordination of 18 agencies. “Driving the Dream” seeks to coordinate all of those agencies into something beyond more than a dozen agencies flooding an area with services and programs with no agency working with another agency. This is about coordination around a goal of self sufficiency for those in poverty. It has a central coordinating agency with five full-time staff members and its funding is separate from other United Way undertakings or funds. Former Mayor Dick Hackett who is now executive director of Catholic Charities is among those participating in “Driving the Dream.

The National Civil Rights Museum’s approach to the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was to include a study of poverty in Memphis in the 50 years that have come and gone since those events. The report done by NCRM and the University of Memphis was released Tuesday. Here are some of the basic points with much more to come about the data and what it means. That starts with Friday’s installment of “Behind The Headlines.”

A reminder about Thursday's Real Estate Review at Memphis Botanic Garden by Chandler Reports, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year and is part of The Daily News Co. Inc. The 3:30 p.m. event includes Chandler numbers for 2017 and a panel of real estate industry experts to discuss what the numbers mean for what is ahead.

The Shelby County Schools board backs the idea of making American Way Middle School an Innovation Zone school and some kind of SCS intervention at Hawkins Mill Elementary in Frayser. That’s instead of the state’s recommendation to close Hawkins Mill and turn American Way over to the state-run Achievement School District or a charter.

The board also delayed a vote on an $11 million expenditure for a broader use of the Expeditionary Learning curriculum for reading and literacy for more discussion around what is working now in the school system’s literacy efforts and what isn’t. EL, as it is known in the acronym-happy world of government, is being used in some schools as we discovered not too long ago. That’s when we sat in on an hour-long crash course in EL and Eureka math designed specifically for parents. One of the best school nights I’ve had in recent memory and a way past my Catholic School fractions block.

First Horizon’s annual meeting for shareholders next month with high hopes and big dollar amounts for the parent company of First Tennessee Bank.

More on the Terminix strategy ServiceMaster is unfolding.


The medical pot bill moved out of a House subcommittee in Nashville this week with House Speaker Beth Harwell’s vote making that possible.

The Tennessee Journal on the line being blurred between Harwell’s campaign for Governor and her political action committee.

A bill cosponsored by Memphis Democrat Antonio Parkinson in the House would allow school districts to hire off-duty law enforcement officers to beef up school security at up to two officers per school and the state would contribute some civil asset forfeiture revenue to the offer.

Our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard looks at the role the Tennessee Legislature’s Republican majority played in U.S. Senator Bob Corker’s decision to stay with his earlier call of passing on a re-election bid this year.

Several of the major candidates for Tennessee Governor are at least willing to consider a work requirement for receiving TennCare. It was one of the topics that came up at a health care forum in Nashville earlier this week.

Philip Acree Cavalier is the new provost of the University of Tennessee at Martin.

A New York Times photo essay on the sites of lynchings includes Arlington and Summer Avenue.

No local tie-in here to end this edition of Last Word, just a piece in The New Yorker about forgotten books and their largely forgotten author to contemplate the next time the rain moves in for a long stay.

PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047