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VOL. 133 | NO. 61 | Monday, March 26, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Graceland's New Lawsuit, Memphis March For Our Lives and Trolley Test

By Bill Dries

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Remember the comment from last week’s EDGE meeting by EDGE board member Tom Dyer who said the economic development body was likely to be sued no matter what it did on Graceland’s application for tax breaks on its “convention center” plan in Whitehaven? At week’s end, Graceland followed through with a lawsuit in Chancery Court against EDGE for delaying a decision on the matter. The lawsuit contends EDGE has no intention of making a decision on incentives and that Graceland is entitled to those incentives.

Graceland's plan for what it refers to as a Convention Center is the focus of its second lawsuit in Chancery Court filed at week's end against the EDGE board.

This is the second time Elvis Presley Enterprises has gone to Chancery Court in this larger dispute over its expansion plans and the noncompete agreement in which the Grizz run FedExForum in exchange for no city and/or county funding or tax breaks for any venue that would be competition for the forum. The first lawsuit against the Grizz, the city and the county was thrown out of court earlier this year. More on this – much more – when next we meet in this space.

Tax breaks for economic development in general are proving to be a hot topic on several fronts including the race for Shelby County Mayor. The two contenders for mayor in the May 1 Democratic primary – Lee Harris and Sidney Chism – both think the tax breaks are not effective. But they have very different opinions about whether the system can be changed substantially.

The Saturday Downtown "March For Our Lives" drew several thousand people in a march and rally led by students from Memphis schools calling for stricter gun control laws.

Over the weekend, several thousand Memphians marched in the local version of the “March For Our Lives.” Here is the recap including comments from civil rights veterans Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson. Young and Jackson were among those in the city Saturday evening for the city honors ceremony at the convention center for the 30 surviving strikers from 1968 as well as those currently working for the city sanitation department.

Young and Jackson were also very complimentary of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland 50 years after they came to Memphis as part of Martin Luther King’s inner circle. Young, in particular, saying the city seems to have a very different spirit these days that he attributes to being more open about its past. The ceremony was an invitation-only affair with Strickland saying it is important to honor not only those city employees from 1968 but those on the job today. The comments by Young and Jackson come after the administration has taken hits from critics at several other MLK 50 events in the last six weeks.

Opioids, synthetic versions of opiates, are causing addiction and overdoses even when users of the prescribed drugs take them as directed and the toll of deaths and near deaths is changing the role of public safety locally.

Here is The Week Ahead which includes more MLK 50 events this Easter week.

If you have watched the evolution of our civic discussion about the crisis of opioid addiction, much of the controversy has been about determining who is legally liable for the high human toll and what that means in terms of a dollar amount. The scenery from this vantage point is compelling with fire department ambulances and police patrol cars equipped with doses of an antidote to deal with numerous overdoses that command the attention and time of first responders.

In another turn, there is now plenty of discussion about addiction being addiction no matter the drug and the heightened attention given this particular addiction over others. In the latest edition of our weekly, The Memphis News, Don Wade’s cover story puts all of that to the side for a moment to look at what is at the root of all of those other discussions – before the costs are tallied and before the ambulance is called. What he finds is an addiction that can begin with a legitimate use of prescribed drugs – very different drugs that are synthetic opiates whose power makes them addictive and rapidly so.

Also in our weekly, a full discussion with most of the major contenders for Tennessee Governor and U.S. Senate – Democratic and Republican – on infrastructure, road projects and the connection of those projects to economic development. Here is the overview of the issues piece. And here is the Q&A format with the candidates on this issue.

This is the first in a series of issues pieces from the Tennessee Press Association that we will run each month between now and the August state primaries.

Our Around Memphis reading list includes U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s head-turning speech from the Senate floor last week, more on the Elvis documentary debuting on HBO next month and finding the grave of Charlie Burse of the Memphis Jug Band.

After test runs along a broader stretch of Main Street, the Memphis Area Transit Authority trolleys will progress to making stops along Main Street this week. But this is all still a test with no passengers getting on or off. MATA is test running a 20-minute schedule of the trolleys. So if you are walking along the mall and see a trolley stop where it is supposed to under normal conditions remember -- you are in Memphis where nothing is normal. And everything is a test – unless we are conducting a study of it.

The Memphis News Almanac: Subtraction and addition at the Fairgrounds, Herenton’s take-back, Tom Sawyer’s Island gets bigger and the value of Memphis property in 1958.

PROPERTY SALES 107 331 6,877
MORTGAGES 60 239 4,368
BUILDING PERMITS 190 508 16,423
BANKRUPTCIES 22 136 3,532