VOL. 11 | NO. 12 | Saturday, March 24, 2018
Benchmark Hotel Case Continued Until April
The public nuisance case between the Downtown Memphis Commission and the owners of the former Benchmark Hotel has been continued until April 12.
Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter had declared the site a public nuisance in February despite claims by the building’s owners, MNR Hospitality, that it was still an active construction site. The building had been in a partially demolished state for more than a year and a half.
The lack of progress eventually prompted the DMC to seek legal action with the support of several high-profile neighbors, including The Rendezvous’ John Vergos, and The Peabody hotel’s Marty Belz.
Potter retired March 1, and the Shelby County Commission is set to appoint his replacement April 2.
– Patrick Lantrip
Rhodes College Senior Named Watson Fellow
Jennifer Bitterly, a senior English and philosophy major at Rhodes College, has been named a Watson Fellow, a prestigious designation that includes a stipend to be used for travel and study abroad for 2018-2019.
Bitterly is one of only 40 graduating college seniors nationwide awarded the fellowship. She plans to visit Guatemala, South Africa, Greece, India and Mongolia while completing her project titled “Searching for Home, Shaping the Self.”
“I hope to learn how the relational value of home takes shape through physical place,” she says. “Though the idea of home may appear simple, in my experience it is richly layered and offers rewarding insight into how our personal and communal identities are formed through and from our surroundings.”
A graduate of La Reina High School in California, Bitterly received the Bellingrath Scholarship at Rhodes. She spent a semester in Spain as a Buckman Fellow and also has studied and been an intern abroad in Ecuador and Argentina.
In 2017, while participating in the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, she explored concepts of home within migrant communities in Memphis and the Mid-South. This past year, she has worked as a legal assistant at an immigration law firm in Memphis, where she prepares hardship waivers for families.
In addition, Bitterly has participated in Rhodes’ mock trial program all four years of college, where she is a two-time winner of the American Mock Trial Association’s All-American attorney award.
She also is a Rhodes Diplomat; vice president of the English honor society Sigma Tau Delta; and a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, the philosophy honor society Phi Sigma Tau, and Omicron Delta Kappa, an honor society for outstanding scholarship and leadership.
After completing the Watson Fellowship, Bitterly plans to pursue graduate studies.
“I am currently considering both law school and a doctorate in an interdisciplinary field such as American Studies, potentially as a joint J.D./Ph.D,” she says.
Established in 1968, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship provides for one year of independent study and travel outside the United States. Bitterly is Rhodes’ 12th Watson Fellow since 2002.
– Daily News staff
Wealth Management Firm Gets New Logo, Brand
Wealth management firm Hilliard Lyons, which has 10 branches in Tennessee, including a Memphis office, is unveiling a new brand and logo firm-wide.
The Tennessee branches – which employ 70 wealth advisers, client service associates and other staff – are getting new exterior signage this week.
The new logo and branding elements are a departure from the firm’s former bull, bear and ticker tape logo, which the firm has used since 1973.
The new logo incorporates a golden pathway and a modern typeface, and will be the most visible part of the firm’s redefined brand. While the logo makes a nod to the firm’s heritage by including “EST. 1854,” it’s also a cleaner look.
The Louisville, Kentucky-based firm has rebranded everything that the public will see, including letterhead, business cards, statements, the firm’s website, and websites for wealth advisers.
– Andy Meek
State Lawmakers Pass ‘In God We Trust’ Bill
Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill to require public schools to prominently display the national motto, “In God We Trust.”
It would take effect immediately if Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signs it. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously and cleared the House in an 81-8 vote, with both chambers controlled by Republicans.
The measure requires schools to display the motto in a prominent location, either as a plaque, artwork, or in some other form.
Whether this motto represents an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion is a question that has invited legal challenges in other states with similar laws.
But the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Susan Lynn, says the bill shouldn’t bother “faithless people” and “people of other faiths” because it’s the motto of the country.
“Our national motto and founding documents are the cornerstone of freedom and we should teach our children about these things,” Lynn said.
Haslam said he’ll look at the legislation when it hits his desk, but added that “at the end of the day, I’ve never been one that thought that having a motto somewhere changes a lot of people’s thoughts.”
– The Associated Press
Tigers Men’s Basketball Season Tickets on Sale
Now that the University of Memphis has hired former Tiger great Penny Hardaway as head coach, the university is wasting no time promoting season tickets for the 2018-19 men’s basketball season.
After Hardaway’s introductory press conference on Tuesday, March 20, at the Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center, university president M. David Rudd made clear how important the fans are to the school’s success. He said season ticket sales had dropped to 4,115 this season and that the school is estimating a loss in revenue of about $4.7 million because of the decline in season ticket sales and donations.
“For this program to be successful it takes many things,” Rudd said. “One of those things is the participation of our city and our fans. From a financial perspective, we need our fans back and we need them now.”
In honor of Penny, 2018-19 season tickets will be increased by $0.01 this season. Because an enhanced level of interest in season tickets is anticipated, all seats will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Season tickets start at $100.01.
Detailed ticket and pricing information is available at gotigersgo.com. Fans can buy season tickets by calling 901-678-2331 or visiting the athletic ticket office inside the Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame Building, 570 Normal St., Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
– Don Wade
Overton Park Conservancy Science Fair Sunday
A science fair at the East Parkway Pavilion of Overton Park Sunday, March 25, will feature lessons about the Old Forest area of the park from researchers at the University of Memphis, Rhodes College and Christian Brothers University.
Hosted by the Overton Park Conservancy, the Park Fun Day and Science Fair runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
It includes an 11:30 a.m. “Bio Blitz,” a tour of the Old Forest with conservancy staff to record as many species as possible in the forest. The event will also feature the finals of the International Society of Arboriculture Southern Chapter tree-climbing contest.
The free, family-friendly event will also have games and food.
– Bill Dries
AutoZone Board OKs $1B Share Buyback
The board of directors for Memphis-based auto parts retailer AutoZone has approved the company buying back $1 billion of its shares.
It’s a continuation of the company’s ongoing buyback of AutoZone common stock. Since the buyback program started in 1998, and including the new authorization, AutoZone’s board has authorized the repurchase of $19.7 billion of its stock.
Buying back shares is one way to improve a company’s earnings-per-share figure. As of Feb. 10, AutoZone had 5,514 stores in the U.S., 532 stores in Mexico, 16 in Brazil and 26 IMC branches, for a total count of 6,088.
– Andy Meek
Neurologist Joins Regional One Health
Dr. Jesus Martinez, a neurologist, has joined Regional One Health. He’s also an instructor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Martinez treats patients with all kinds of neurological conditions, but he has a focus on helping patients with epilepsy and seizure disorders. Martinez has also taken a special interest in helping patients who suffer from headaches.
Patients often self-medicate to treat headaches, but Martinez says a person who is taking pain medications more than twice a week for headaches needs to see a doctor. Rather than just treating the pain, Martinez searches for the cause of the headaches to prevent them.
He sees patients at the Multispecialty Care Clinic at Regional One Health’s East Campus, at 6555 Quince Road.
– Andy Meek
Memphians Taking Part In March Against Gun Violence
Memphis will join cities in all 50 states Saturday, March 24, in responding to the national call to action against gun violence by March For Our Lives.
Organized by a grassroots coalition of high school youth from across greater Memphis, the local march is an officially recognized partner of the national March For Our Lives movement and will mirror the youth-led march on Washington, D.C.
Students are also planning walkouts at multiple local high schools on April 20, marking the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. (Memphis-area high schoolers did not participate in the national walkouts March 14, the one-month anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, due to it coinciding with spring break.)
“This march will show the importance of gun violence – an issue that needs to be addressed immediately – as a nonpartisan issue, and it will reiterate the importance of the upcoming walkouts as an essential part of this movement,” said Savanah Thompson, a march organizer and White Station High School freshman. “We’ll be encouraging youth and adult allies to directly contact their representatives and learn the need for comprehensive gun legislation.”
The Memphis march, which is expected to draw thousands of local youth as well as adult allies, will begin at 10 a.m. at Clayborn Temple, 294 Hernando St., and end at the National Civil Rights Museum, where youth leaders will address the crowd, voter registration booths will be stationed, and there will be opportunities to contact elected representatives.
In addition, ride-sharing company Lyft is offering free rides to marches around the country, including the Memphis rally. Those who RSVP to the event at marchforourlives.com/events will receive a promo code on Friday, March 23. Attendees who aren’t able to RSVP can get a code at life.com/mfol Saturday morning.
– Daily News staff
Teach901 Job Fair Set for March 28
Teach901 is set to hold its next Educator Job Fair of the season Wednesday, March 28, at Crosstown Concourse.
The job fairs connect education job seekers with recruiters from public, charter and parochial schools in Memphis. New and experienced teachers, as well as recent college graduates and seniors graduating in May, are invited to attend and network.
Wednesday’s event runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the fourth floor of Crosstown Concourse’s central atrium, 1350 Concourse Ave. Job seekers can register for the fair at teach901.com/hiring-events, or search and apply to local education job openings anytime at jobs.teach901.com.
– Daily News staff
U of M Deputy AD Alnutt Takes Job at Buffalo
Mark Alnutt, the University of Memphis’ deputy director of athletics, has taken a job as the University of Buffalo’s athletic director.
Alnutt spent the previous three years at Memphis. He replaces Allen Greene, who was hired in January to take over as Auburn’s athletic director.
Alnutt previously spent three years as Southeast Missouri State’s AD after a 15-year tenure in various athletic department roles at his alma mater, Missouri. Alnutt played linebacker and earned a sociology degree at Missouri in the mid-1990s.
He takes over a Mid-American Conference program on the rise. The Bulls women’s basketball team won the program’s first two NCAA Tournament games and will face defending champion South Carolina on Saturday. The men’s team also won its first NCAA Tournament game by upsetting third seed Arizona before losing to Kentucky in the second round Saturday.
The Bulls football team is coming off a 6-6 season in coach Lance Leipold’s third year. It marked just the third time Buffalo has finished a season without a losing record since joining the MAC in 1999.
– The Associated Press
Chamber’s Chairman Circle Leader Shea Flinn Resigns
Greater Memphis Chamber senior vice president of the Chairman’s Circle, Shea Flinn, has announced he will be leaving his post, effective May 4.
“This will be my three-year anniversary here, and I have other opportunities,” Flinn told The Daily News. “I think it will be a beneficial change for the Chairman’s Circle to gin it up for a while and get some new eyes on stuff.”
While Flinn did not disclose specifics on his future plans, he said he will continue to work as general counsel of his family’s business, Flinn Broadcasting, which owns several television and radio stations across the county, including Q107.5 and Hot 107.1 in Memphis.
As for a possible return to politics, the former city councilman, who left his post for the chamber in 2015, did not explicitly rule out the possibility.
“I never say never on something like that, but there are no immediate plans,” he said.
Flinn said his replacement will need to have a good understanding of the city, its issues and the efforts that are ongoing to alleviate any problems.
“Hopefully we can find somebody relatively quickly and I can provide on-the-job training,” he said. “We’re doing this in a very orderly manner. We’ll bring them in and we’ll get to work together while they get their sea legs, then we’ll do the passing of the baton.”
Flinn said that though he is leaving, he has thoroughly enjoyed his time at the chamber and sincerely believes in the service it provides for the city.
“It wasn’t an easy decision for me, but I think it’s the right decision for both me and the Chairman’s Circle as they embark on their next phase of leadership in the community,” he said.
Flinn made the announcement via a March 19 email to the Chairman’s Circle and chamber board members, in which he said he would continue to work on upcoming policy issues that are important to the membership, including deannexation, until his May 4 departure.
– Patrick Lantrip
Hopdoddy Sets Date For Overton Square Opening
Hopdoddy Burger Bar has announced it’s opening its first Memphis location on April 2 at Overton Square.
Hopdoddy works directly with farmers and ranchers around the country to source the best ingredients available. In addition to favorites like the Buffalo Bill – made with a bison patty, Frank’s Hot Sauce, bacon, blue jack cheese and “sassy sauce” – Hopdoddy will roll out new food and drink items for the first time.
New menu items include a quarter-pound burger called The Lil’ Doddy, available as a single or double burger, as well as a Breakfast Burger, available all day, made with an angus beef, breakfast sausage and ham patty, American cheese, fried egg, potato hay and Applewood smoked bacon on a brioche bun.
A new shareable section will include combinations of the famous Hopdoddy Kennebec fries, from parmesan truffle to hot honey and sage.
The shake menu includes flavors such as s’mores, bananas foster, Oreo cookies & cream and more.
Behind the bar, Hopdoddy will roll out new cocktails such as a three-whiskey L.I.T. and the Pamplejousse. Beers from local breweries like Ghost River Brewing Co. and Wiseacre Brewing Co. will be on tap.
– Andy Meek
USL Memphis Selects First Sporting Director
USL Memphis has named Andrew Bell, formerly of the Charleston Battery, its inaugural sporting director, team president Craig Unger announced. Bell, who has spent nearly 20 years with the United Soccer League’s Battery, will be tasked with handling all player and technical staff-related decisions and building the USL Memphis front office ahead of the team’s 2019 debut.
“We are excited to take this first step in building a world-class franchise,” Unger said. “Andrew brings tremendous experience on both the technical and business side of soccer, and his knowledge, passion and dedication to the game is exactly what we need as we get ready to bring professional soccer to AutoZone Park.”
A native of Wokingham, Berkshire, England, Bell began working for the Battery as its radio play-by-play announcer in 1999 after moving to the United States in 1995. He served in a variety of roles for the team, including director of marketing, director of sales and his most recent role as president, which he held from 2008 until moving to USL Memphis.
During his tenure as Battery president, the club won two USL championships in 2010 and 2012 and advanced to the final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2008, which was the last time a non-Major League Soccer team played in U.S. Soccer’s national championship match.
Off the pitch, Bell was instrumental in a revitalized fan experience at Charleston’s MUSC Health Stadium, including significant investments in stadium infrastructure, such as a 3,000-square-foot video board, an English-styled pub called The Three Lions Club, sky boxes, and state-of-the-art media capabilities. For the team, recent renovations to the stadium included new locker rooms, a gym, enhanced athletic training facilities, and a practice field designed to replicate the playing surface at the stadium.
– Don Wade
FedEx Rolls Out New Supply Chain Technology
Memphis-based FedEx Corp. has launched a comprehensive solution for returns management known as FedEx Returns Technology, which gives high-volume merchants and “e-tailers” the ability to quickly and easily improve their customer experience
The FedEx Returns Technology platform will allow merchants to have complete visibility into returns, giving them an easy way to track shipments, manage inventory, analyze returns trends and make more informed decisions based on shoppers’ returns behaviors, according to FedEx.
The new technology will also be integrated into more than 1,700 participating FedEx Office locations across the U.S.
“Returns have rapidly evolved into a critical factor, second only to cost, in satisfying today’s e-commerce customers,” Ryan Kelly, senior vice president of FedEx Supply Chain, said in a release. “FedEx Returns Technology bridges the gap between digital and physical, allowing merchants to define a returns strategy that works for their business model and for their customers.”
– Patrick Lantrip
Memphis Football Ticket Prices to Increase in 2018
The University of Memphis athletic department announced Monday, March 19, the season ticket plan for the 2018 football season, and it includes some price increases.
Before the 2017 season, Memphis announced it was partnering with IMG Learfield Ticketing Solutions to research ticket prices across the 12 schools in the American Athletic Conference. In the three seating types that compare with AAC schools, Memphis ticket prices were ranked ninth in lower sideline seats, 12th in upper sideline seats and 10th in end zone seats. Taken all together, Memphis had the least expensive ticket prices among the 12-school conference.
The price adjustment that began in 2017 is being continued in 2018 with prices that more closely align Memphis with the median price – which is the sixth- or seventh-ranked school in each price type.
2018 ticket prices:
• Premium chairback seats: $350, plus a Tiger Scholarship Fund donation
• Lower Sideline: $300, plus a $25 TSF donation
• Upper Sideline: $230, or $190 for TSF members
• End Zone: $150
• Family Fun Zone (includes four tickets): $400
These new prices will still leave Memphis in the middle of the pack in the AAC relative to season ticket prices and last among teams that finished the season in the Top 25, the U of M reports.
Another change in 2018 is that only season ticket holders can purchase a season parking pass. Each season ticket holder account will be limited to purchasing up to four season parking passes. For more detailed information, visit gotigersgo.com/footballtickets or call 901-678-2331.
– Don Wade
No Death Penalty Option In Lorenzen Wright Murder
The ex-wife of former University of Memphis standout and NBA player Lorenzen Wright won’t face the death penalty if convicted of killing him more than seven years ago in Tennessee.
Shelby County prosecutor Paul Hagerman said before a hearing Monday, March 19, that Sherra Wright won’t face death if found guilty of first degree murder in her ex-husband’s shooting death. She has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond.
Sherra Wright was arrested in December in Riverside, California, on a fugitive from justice warrant. Lorenzen Wright’s decomposing body was found in a swampy field on July 28, 2010 – 10 days after he was reported missing. An autopsy report said he died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Hagerman said another person charged with first-degree murder in the case, Billy Ray Turner, also won’t face death if convicted at trial. Turner also is being held without bond, and he also has pleaded not guilty.
Turner’s lawyer, John Keith Perry, said he was “happy” that the death penalty is off the table.
Perry said he did not know why the Shelby County district attorney’s office declined to make it a capital case. Hagerman provided no details about the decision in court.
Lorenzen Wright played 13 seasons in the NBA as a forward and center, including several for the Memphis Grizzlies. He was born and raised in Memphis.
Wright and Turner are scheduled to return to court on April 12 for a review of their bond. Their lawyers hope Judge Lee Coffee issues bond amounts that their clients will be able to post.
“Now that the state has announced that this won’t be a capital case, they are both entitled to bond,” said Steve Farese Jr., one of Wright’s two lawyers.
– The Associated Press
St. Jude Named Title Partner Of Annual Seattle Marathon
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been named the new title partner for the 2018 Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon And 1/2 Marathon.
The event, scheduled for June 9-10, is expected to draw 19,000 participants, including St. Jude Heroes who have committed to fundraising for the hospital while they train. Along with the marathon and half-marathon, the weekend will include a 5K and a health and fitness expo.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is the world’s largest running series, with more than 600,000 runners taking part in more than 30 destination events around the world each year. Since the relationship began in January 2016, more than 24,000 St. Jude Heroes have run in Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series races and raised $9 million for St. Jude patients and their families.
“This partnership presents a unique way for the Seattle community to rally around a common goal of curing childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases,” said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., president and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude.
– Daily News staff
Nearly $240,000 Grant Headed to St. Jude
The National Cancer Institute has awarded a grant of almost $240,000 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The money will be used for research into pediatric cancer survivorship outcomes and interventions.
Founded in 1937, the National Cancer Institute is the largest provider of cancer research funding in the world. Each year, more than 5,000 institutions receive grants from the NCI to support research related to cancer prevention, detection and diagnosis.
– Andy Meek
Our Fallen Heroes Foundation Launches Scholarship Fund
Our Fallen Heroes Foundation is launching a scholarship fund in memory of Memphis firefighter Lt. Trent A. Kirk, who died in 2003 battling a fire at the Family Dollar in Frayser.
The foundation will award three college scholarships annually: one to the child of a fallen firefighter in Shelby County; one to the child of a fallen first responder in Shelby County; and one to a senior at Raleigh Egypt High School, Kirk’s alma mater. The scholarships total $6,500 each year.
The foundation defines “fallen” as any first responder or firefighter who has died in the line of duty or from an illness or accident.
The scholarship is for the biological children or stepchildren of fallen firefighters, police, emergency medical services or sheriff’s deputies.
The deadline to apply for this year’s scholarships is April 15. More information and application forms are available at ourfallenheroesfoundation.org.
– Daily News staff
Bartlett Chick-fil-A To Open April 5
Bartlett’s new Chick-fil-A is set to open in less than three weeks, and in the chain’s grand-opening tradition, the first 100 customers will be rewarded with free Chick-fil-A for a year.
The restaurant, situated at 2940 Kirby Whitten Road near Stage Road, will open Thursday, April 5 – a little more than a year after the popular chicken chain confirmed plans for the Shoppes of Bartlett location
The First 100 Campout, a giveaway that often draws large crowds of Chick-fil-A fans to grand-opening events, offers the first 100 guests a free Chick-fil-A sandwich meal per week for a year. To participate, campers can line up at the restaurant between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. on April 4 and have to remain on site until the grand opening the next day. If more than 100 people show up by 6 a.m., participants will be chosen by a random drawing.
The Kirby Whitten store, which is operated by Allen Arant, is a little less than three miles from Chick-fil-A’s busy Wolfcreek location on North Germantown Parkway near U.S. 64.
– Daily News staff
Unemployment Rate In Shelby County at 4.3 Pct.
Shelby County’s January unemployment rate marked a slight rise from December but was still lower than a year ago, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The 4.3 percent unemployment rate compared to 5.5 percent a year ago, but was up 0.7 percentage points from 3.6 percent in December.
Most of the state’s 95 counties continue to record unemployment rates under 5 percent and all were lower than in January 2017, the department said.
“Because of seasonal employment trends, Tennessee typically sees a slight uptick in county unemployment at the start of the year,” TDLWD commissioner Burns Phillips said. “But the year-to-year comparison of statistics shows just how well the state is doing when it comes to job creation.”
Williamson County continued to have Tennessee’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.5 percent, up 0.3 percent from December.
In other counties in the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area, Fayette County’s unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, down from 5.4 percent a year ago; Tipton County’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent, down from 5.7 percent in January 2017; and the North Mississippi counties came in at 3.8 percent, lower than the 5.0 percent recorded a year ago.
Only the Arkansas portion of the MSA, Crittenden County, saw a rate that was higher than in January 2017 – 4.9 percent in 2018 compared to 4.8 percent a year earlier.
– Daily News staff
Idlewild Presbyterian And MALS Host Free Legal Clinic
Memphis Area Legal Services and Idlewild Presbyterian Church will again sponsor a free legal clinic on Saturday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to noon at Idlewild Presbyterian Church, 1750 Union Ave.
Attorneys will be on hand to help with a variety of issues, including bankruptcy, foreclosures, child support, worker’s compensation, immigration issues and others.
More than 280 people have been served at four previous legal clinics held at Idlewild Presbyterian.
It is not an evangelical event, and all faiths are welcome.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Daily News staff