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VOL. 133 | NO. 47 | Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Forrest and Slavery, The Tariff Blitz and Angus McEachran

By Bill Dries

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The report on poverty in Memphis over the last 50 years is on its way to a Greater Memphis Chamber breakfast meeting Thursday. And Terri Lee Freeman, the president of the National Civil Rights Museum and Elena Delavega, the University of Memphis lead researcher of the report, say their message is that as goes Memphis in this regard so goes the nation. And if employers start with lower pay at hiring with percentage raises across the board they feed the racial income gap and bonuses do as well.

Freeman and Delavega were our guests on “Behind The Headlines” to break down the figures showing African-Americans in Memphis make about half of the median income white Memphians make and that gap has persisted over five decades no matter what the economy has good or bad and even as black median income has grown. It also shows almost half of African-American children live in poverty – a number that is not a mirror image of the national trends.

Three months after the take down of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue and two other Confederate monuments in city parks, there is about to be a new plaque on the site of Forrest’s one time home and slave market at B.B. King and Adams. Since 1955, the Tennessee Historical Commission plaque has noted it was Forrest’s home before the Civil War but not said anything specific about how Forrest became wealthy. The new plaque announced by Calvary Episcopal Church and Rhodes College will mention the slave market on the site with an unveiling set for April 4.

At press time, it was still unclear if the two plaques will coexist or if the new one will replace the older one. There is a precedent in Tom Lee Park where the 2006 monument to Lee’s 1925 river rescue of several dozen people stands yards from the older 1950s era monument that proclaims Lee a “worthy Negro.” The base with the wording is still in place after the Tom Lee Storm of last Memorial Day weekend toppled the obelisk that once stood atop the base.

Jimario Rivers is one of two seniors honored over the weekend at the ECU game, along with Alex Moffatt, as the Tigers move to March Madness.

Dr. Douglas Green, chairman of the Immunology Department of St. Jude, was among those who spoke with high school students and their teachers last week during a day-long immersion in the research work of the children's research hospital.

Don Wade sets up the Tigers first post season game in Orlando Thursday after Sunday’s win over ECU in the last game of a very up and down season. Also post-season honors for Jeremiah Martin in the American Athletic Conference as he heals.

A group of 100 students from 30 high schools locally and their teachers got a day long immersion last week in the rise of St. Jude as a graduate school. This is the third year the children’s research hospital has done this with some screening of students to see which are best suited for what appears to be a pretty detailed view of what the hospital does. The teachers also had some course work during the day.

Murals and food deserts up for discussion during Tuesday’s council day at City Hall. And council votes on bond financing for the renovation of the convention center.

A late addition to Tuesday’s city council committee list. In addition to talking about murals and what may be offensive about some of them or not at the 2:15 p.m. executive session … the council has also added a resolution that encourages Delta Air Lines to consider increasing its Memphis presence. The resolution a response to the Georgia Legislature’s consideration of sanctions against the Atlanta-based corporation for its decision to end a travel discount for National Rifle Association members.

Kudos to the council office for getting the documents that go with the committee list and the agenda on line with the new city website last week. We’ve noted that wasn’t the case for the past two council meetings and wanted to acknowledge the good this week.

President Donald Trump doubled down at the top of the week on last week’s declarations about tariffs. Last week, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander specifically opposed the proposed steel tariffs without ever mentioning Trump. “According to an independent study, when President Bush imposed steel tariffs in 2002, it raised consumer prices and ‘[m]ore American workers lost their jobs in 2002 to higher steel prices than the total number employed by the U.S. steel industry itself,” Alexander said in a written statement then. Monday evening in D.C. he said pretty much the same thing on the Senate floor with some new ground:

“These new tariffs may save a few jobs in plants that produce steel and aluminum, but they will destroy many more jobs in auto plants that use steel and aluminum. … The backlash to the 2002 tariffs was so strong that President Bush terminated them. It would be better if President Trump terminates the idea of these new tariffs even before they are implemented.”

In football this is what is called a blitz. Alexander and other Congressional Republican are trying to talk Trump out of the tariffs on steel and aluminum before they take effect.

See if this sounds familiar. Voters approved the use of ranked-choice voting – also known as instant-runoff voting – in a referendum. But before it can be used its legality is challenged and there is a move to do away with RCV. That’s the broad outline of what is happening in Maine with a few key differences. RCV there would be for statewide races for the legislature, governor and U.S. House. And the state’s version of a Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Here’s the fuller explanation from Maine Public Radio. But the bottom line is RCV will be used in the upcoming state elections in Maine and also on the ballot is a referendum to repeal ranked-choice voting. Maine to Memphis, who knew?

Other adventures outside of Memphis but still about Memphis…

Nashville’s Metro Council meets Tuesday, just like our very own city council, and the Nashville group will take up a contract with the Memphis law firm Burch, Porter & Johnson to investigate Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s use of police overtime for the head of her security detail while the two were having an affair. The law firm’s investigation will be led by former Memphis city council member, U.S. Attorney and Tennessee attorney general Mike Cody. The choice for the metro council was between BP&J and Butler Snow whose team would have been led by former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton of the Memphis office who just recently completed an examination of grade changing at Trezevant High School for Shelby County Schools. The Metro Council committee is recommending BP&J to the full council – which has 41 members – 41!

Let me count the ways this is politically mind boggling. This is more than the 33-member state Senate that represents the entire state of Tennessee. It’s three Memphis City Councils and change – three Shelby County Commissions and change. It’s just about twice as large as the council and commission put together. It’s almost four times larger than the entire U.S. House and Senate delegation that represents Tennessee in Washington. You’ve been in lines at midnight at Cash Saver on Madison that puzzled and annoyed you but weren’t this long.

Republican U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi announced Monday he will give up the Senate seat he has held since 1978 effective April 1 per the New York Times. That means Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appoints an interim senator and by everyone’s assumption keeps the seat in the R column. It also means Mississippi has two races for the U.S. Senate this year – the race for the rest of Cochran’s term and the regularly scheduled race for the Senate seat that Republican Roger Wicker is seeking re-election to already. Here is more background from Politico including who some of the contenders for the appointment might be. Trump has suggested Bryant appoint himself, according to Politico. But Bryant appears to have ruled that out.

The panel of experts at last week's Chandler Reports Year In Review seminar confirm investors remain a forice in residential real estate locally.


Notes from last week’s Year in Review Seminar by Chandler Reports, the real estate information company that is part of The Daily News Co. Inc. And the panel discussion among our residential real estate experts confirms the big role investors continue to play in the Memphis market. And in the year that was a record for many in the local industry, some indications of a lot more activity on the new home construction side is meshing with difficulty in finding affordable lots to build on. The lot supply is less than half what it was a decade ago.

More of the year end perspective this time for financial investors from David Waddell who points to the second longest economic expansion on record. But Waddell and others are warning of a correction at a decade past the recession’s entry point and against counting on the benefits of tax reform with the economy performing very close to its potential. The concern is chiefly a pick-up in inflation that prompts the Fed to step up its planned interest rate hikes.

Angus McEachran, the editor of The Commercial Appeal, who started there as a copy boy, died Monday after a brief illness at the age of 78. He retired in 2002 after having been not only editor but editor and publisher of the CA – a dual position that gave him a great amount of power over a very large and important institution at a critical time in print journalism. And his priority in using that power was the journalism – the reporting – at the precise moment when the financial model for print journalism was shifting in a seismic way. He didn’t consider himself very far removed at all from being a reporter. He still had sources that he used and he liked the pursuit of a story.

During the eight years I worked there he was easily the most intimidating person I have ever encountered. And by then he had probably mellowed quite a bit – although there were times when I didn’t think mellow was a word in his vocabulary. I’m pretty sure that he still had the rubber “bullshit” stamp somewhere in his office that he used when it was a daily part of his duties long before I got there. His presence was more felt than heard in my time.

When he was in the newsroom while you were working on a big story, he could be the most supportive voice there that overruled all of the other things that can get in the way of that pursuit for a reporter. The two – intimidation and support -- worked together to make any support you got from him a very valuable kind of validation.

If he had questions, he asked them bluntly. If he had doubts, likewise. You might have disagreed with the approach but there was never any doubt about where both were coming from.

PROPERTY SALES 66 66 6,612
MORTGAGES 78 78 4,207
BUILDING PERMITS 158 158 16,073
BANKRUPTCIES 45 45 3,441