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VOL. 133 | NO. 51 | Monday, March 12, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: River Crests, Tigers Post-Season and Library Shift

By Bill Dries

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The slow fall of the Mississippi River begins. The river at Memphis crested at 39.2 feet over the weekend. By Friday it should be below flood stage, which at Memphis is 34 feet. The high river season here was marked mostly by a lot of watching by Memphis public works and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the river and its tributaries moved into the bottom land it usually occupies at this time of the year.

The Arkansas side of the Big River Crossing and Big River Trail system near the Arkansas side closed earlier in the river’s rise but should reopen this week – maybe early next week -- with the river dropping. The crossing itself has remained open from the Memphis side throughout the river rise. It’s just the Arkansas gate at the other end that has been closed.

City Public Works director Robert Knecht explains last week's breakdown at the north wastewater treatment plan, whose recovery remains a work in progress as the week begins and the crest of the Mississippi River is behind us.

Of course, Friday as the river was about to crest, the Maynard Stiles Wastewater Treatment Plant – one of the city’s two treatment plants -- was shut down for about 24 hours. That after a surge of river flood water and a mechanical failure of motors in a sewer pump combined to wreak havoc with the plant that normally treats 150 million gallons of wastewater a day. It will be later this week before the plant is fully functioning again.

Nearby, General DeWitt Spain Airport closed for several hours late Saturday into Sunday morning as water in the lowlands around the airport actually rose a bit. The runway there remained open but required permission to land because of workers on the runway. That points to the other complication in this and that is the rise of the tributaries that feed the Mississippi from within Shelby County, which are much more narrow than the Mississippi.

Season over for the University of Memphis basketball team. But the drama over who will lead the team is just beginning in some ways. For a brief time during the AAC tournament, the focus shifted to the court before the second half of Saturday’s Cincinnati semifinal game in Orlando when the Tigers collapsed.

The Tigers basketball team is now in the off-season with Saturday's defeat by Cincinnati in the AAC tournament in Orlando. Still ahead is a decision about making a change from coach Tubby Smith to former Tiger Penny Hardaway.

Coach Tubby Smith has his defenders by the numbers the team put up including Cincinnati’s coach after Saturday’s game. And with Penny Hardaway reportedly waiting in the wings to take over, there is plenty of debate about how sacking Smith after two seasons could shorten the window for future Tigers coaches to produce. This feels like a much bigger moment for basketball in Memphis than just the exit of one coach and the arrival of a new coach.

The last Tigers player to become coach – Larry Finch – had an ugly exit from the team he gave most of his adult life and career to. Hardaway’s presence could mean not only different expectations of the program. It could also change the fan base for the Tigers to one that more closely resembles the fan base for the Grizz, especially if the Grizz continue to flounder, that is if the streak of lost games – now approaching 20 – isn’t a bid to secure the top NBA draft pick. And if the fan base changes, what happens if the boosters decide it’s time for another change as they did with Finch?

The Cloud 901 area at the Benjamin Hooks Central Library is the leading edge of broader changes to the role of Memphis Public Libraries where books coexist with activities, programs and events.

The Week Ahead likely won’t answer those deeper questions but it does include a couple of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around town.

The cover story of our weekly, The Memphis News, is an examination of changes already underway at Memphis Public Libraries that are about to be followed by some more noticeable bricks and mortar changes to the system of 18 libraries – 17 in Memphis and one in Bartlett. In those changes already unfolding, the libraries don’t try to compete for all of the tech you may have. They provide something you don’t have no matter how much tech you have – interaction and a connection with others that matches the collaborative way learning takes place for all of us.

Our Around Memphis reading list has more thoughts on what the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. means for the times we live in today. Also an overdue obituary for Ida B. Wells in The New York Times.

The latest on what will be some kind of re-examination of EDGE – the city-county economic development agency – is a letter from Greater Memphis Chamber president Phil Trenary late last week that indicates the move to shift the emphasis of EDGE is something business leaders signaled earlier they wanted to pursue through the chamber. With that in mind, Trenary says look for an economic development study that will outline a possible roadmap to changing the city’s pursuit of economic growth.

It’s been 12 years since the state’s last political corruption scandal nicknamed Tennessee Waltz. And in the state court of criminal appeals last week, one of the defendants, former state Senator Roscoe Dixon of Memphis, lost his bid to restore his right to vote after serving a five-year three-month sentence on federal corruption charges. At issue in the case is the state law the Tennessee Legislature passed in the wake of a corruption sting that targeted state legislators and included the arrest of one in the capitol itself. The law bars those convicted of political corruption from ever running for office again and from ever voting again. Dixon didn’t challenge the law. He challenged whether his offense was before the law took effect. The appeals court said it was not.


The first chief medical officer of Good Shepherd Pharmacy, Dr. Amara Elochukwu, talks about how to make sure patients who may not be able to afford prescriptions get them and the evolution of the pharmacy with a unique mission.

Bredesen and Blackburn in the U.S. Senate race on the Trump tariffs.

The Atlantic on what to expect when David Byrne comes to town for the Beale Street Music Festival.

And a web exclusive from Conan on TBS of another BSMF artist, Margo Price, whose plays a tune from her most recent album “All American Made,” which like its predecessor was made right here. She and her guitar also had a lot to say about the pay gap via Rolling Stone.

More from the Texas Standard on the Texas view of Dale Watson’s recent move to Whitehaven, which is becoming a very introspective moment for Austin.

The Memphis News Almanac: The Well becomes The Antenna Club, a new drug store and “Pixie Golf” on Navy Road, building a 300-bed jail and the founding of St. Joseph Hospital.

PROPERTY SALES 62 288 2,619
MORTGAGES 52 197 1,783