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VOL. 133 | NO. 87 | Tuesday, May 1, 2018


Bill Dries

Last Word: Trolleys Roll, Primary Election Day and The Rise of South City

By Bill Dries

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The Main Street troilley line is up and running as of Monday.

MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld likes to joke that the new trolleys are quieter since the transit authority decided to change from using square wheels. Transit humor. They really are quieter. And that may be because MATA wasn’t doing much of anything in the way of maintenance on them four years ago and even less in the way of record keeping when a second trolley car burst into flames causing MATA to shut down everything it ran on rails. So the trolley that rolled out of the MATA barn on North Main Street Monday morning and into service was symbolic of more than getting a trolley or three ready for service. It was about building a new system around the operation of the trolleys.

TVA told us Monday afternoon that its new Allen Plant in southwest Memphis is considered substantially complete and ready to produce non coal-fired power. This is a $1-billion project that replaces what many long time Memphians call the Allen Steam Plant, the coal fired plant just to the north of the new plant. TVA CEO Bill Johnson has called the new natural gas-fired plant a “Rolls Royce Lamborghini.” “That is the most technically advanced plant in the world.” With that in mind, here is some TVA drone footage from the grounds of the plant.

Trolleys, TVA… what else is going on? Only the closest thing we have in America to a secular holy day. Election day, specifically county primaries for 23 county offices including all 13 county commission seats, county mayor and sheriff et al. Here’s a look at what is at stake. And the turnout for this will likely be a good barometer of whether the local reactions to the 2016 presidential general election have translated into political action and if so what kind. The story incorporates some early voter turnout numbers that really don’t answer the question because turnout was up in the Democratic and Republican primaries from 2010 and 2014 – two critical election years in Republican dominance of county government. Memphis is a walk-up town, meaning unlike other parts of the state a lot of us – usually most of us – still vote on election day. So we will be watching the turnout Tuesday evening after the polls close at 7 p.m. You can watch with us @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, where we have what counts on election night – the numbers.

It's election day countywide, the first of three in 2018 with county primaries for 23 offices the order of the day at polling places open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A few election day reminders. You can’t vote today if you voted early. That’s called a felony. You can’t vote at the first polling place you see because unlike early voting, election day means you go to the precinct based on your home address. You can see what your election day precinct and polling place is at www.shelbyvote.com, the web site of the Shelby County Election Commission. A few of them may have changed from the last time you voted so it’s a good idea to check. DEMOCRACY

No action by the Shelby County Commission Monday on the Graceland deal – let them build a 6,200 seat arena contingent on a court ruling that says it doesn’t violate the FedExForum noncompete. But a lot of discussion among commissioners. And some support among commissioners for the financial arrangement advocated by Graceland Holdings managing partner Joel Weinshanker. But also a lot of questions about it and concerns about the strong stand Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has taken on the matter. Enough that there wasn’t even an attempt to get a vote on a resolution backing the idea.

The commission did approve a resolution urging Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to veto a bill passed late in the Tennessee Legislature’s session last week that requires state and local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration agents. Commissioner Mark Billingsley says this would lead to “racial profiling” by police and amount to detention without warrant or probable cause. This as Republican contender for Governor Diane Black has been airing ads declaring she will make sure local law enforcement will work with ICE if elected. It also comes against the backdrop of Memphis Police director Michael Rallings saying just a couple of weeks ago – and in the federal building of all places – that his officers do not and will not question immigrants about their legal status.

The shake-up of Fred’s continues with CEO Michael Bloom announcing his immediate resignation less than two years after coming to the helm of the Memphis-based discount retailer that wants to be in the pharmacy and related health care field … or at least it did until it got cut out of a deal to buy a lot of Rite Aid stores in Rite Aid’s merger with Walgreens. Now Fred’s has put up for sale its specialty pharmacy business and has delayed its annual report as well as an earning call in April.

The New York investors who bought the Gibson Guitar plant are partnering with the Orgel family on future plans for the prime Downtown real estate.


The owners of the Gibson Guitar plant Downtown – a New York real estate investment firm – have partnered with the Orgel family and firm on the redevelopment of the plant and a parking lot south of it on Pontotoc. No specific plans disclosed at this point although the firehouse across B.B. King Boulevard from this does have specific plans.

You should see new buildings coming out of the ground soon on that part of the Foote Homes public housing development demolished recently. That according to city Housing and Community Development division director Paul Young on “Behind The Headlines.” Young also had a lot to say about gentrification and displacement and the difference between those two phenomenon that the city is trying to avoid in the planning for South City.

Bike rides through South Memphis every Thursday in May – part of what is called the South Memphis Glide Ride. The South Memphis Farmers Market on Mississippi Boulevard is the gathering point for the rides led by teenagers who live and attend school in the area. And they have some bicycles there if you don’t bring your own – first-come first-served.

Don Wade with the broader SEC view of the NFL draft.

More indications of a broader exchange of research and information by the Memphis healthcare community. UT Health Science Center has a newly formed Global Surgery Institute that is a place for students specifically interested in mission work abroad. The exchange for the institute is in the lessons learned in providing health care around the world. The driving force behind this effort is a first year medical student who has done medical mission work with her family in the Philippines each year since 1999.

A new oil change business with a different focus is about to open its first location in Shelby County in Germantown.

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