This was the Year of the Big Idea in Action: The idea was consolidation of Memphis and Shelby County schools, a process that was set in motion a year ago by a 5-4 vote of the Memphis City Schools Board of Education to surrender its charter. That decision was reaffirmed by Memphis voters by a 68-32 margin in a referendum. The merger will take place in August of 2013, with or without suburban schools, which could become separate systems.
• School Choice by the Numbers: Charter schools have enrolled approximately 5,000 students in Memphis. The Memphis City Schools Optional Schools program has more than 13,000 students. Both charters and optional schools recruit students. But the most popular choice in Memphis City Schools is traditional schools, which have more than 80,000 students.
• The Most Eventful Weekend of the Year: It started on Friday the 13th of May, when the Memphis Grizzlies won Game Six against the Oklahoma Thunder. Two days later, President Barack Obama visited Memphis and Booker T. Washington High School for its graduation ceremony. In between, the Mississippi River rose to a near-record crest, drawing national news media and thousands of visitors.
• A Good Company: That's one that creates jobs, provides a useful service or product, and creates value for shareholders. That would be AutoZone. Its stock is up 20 percent this year and 100 percent in the last two years. Discount auto parts have been a recession fighter, and AutoZone's hundreds of employees in its corporate headquarters are crucial to the health of downtown, especially at a time when Morgan Keegan and Pinnacle are struggling.
• The Mystery Tax: In June, the Memphis City Council seemingly raised property taxes by 18 cents to pay for schools, but you won't find it on 2011 tax bills, which put the Memphis property tax rate at $3.18, a penny less than the 2010 rate. The tax rate includes what council members called a "one-time" levy of 18 cents for Memphis schools, which Superintendent Kriner Cash and board members threatened to keep closed in August if they didn't get their money. Will the "one-time" tax be back next year? Stay tuned.
• The Most Overpaid College Football Coach in America: It is Larry Porter, recently fired head coach at the University of Memphis, who will get $1.2 million per win in his two seasons.
• Surprise Story: The controversy over bike lanes. Bicycles are #61 in Christian Lander's book Stuff White People Like —between "Toyota Prius" and "Knowing What's Best for Poor People."
• Memphis Dubious Honors in 2011: Highest air fares (Bureau of Transportation Statistics); poorest urban area (U.S. Census Bureau); Top 20 in Fattest (Men's Health magazine); Top 10 in Most Dangerous (FBI crime statistics).
• Elvis Would Be Proud: The top-selling Krispy Kreme in America is on Elvis Presley Blvd. in Whitehaven.
• It Came From Memphis and Went Straight to Walmart: That would be bacon jerky from Memphis-based Monogram Food Solutions.
• Valentine's Day Special. The city, the governor, and the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce rolled out the red carpet for Mitsubishi Electric, which is coming to Memphis and bringing 275 jobs. Does anyone remember what Mitsubishi Electric makes? Answer: power transformers.
• Best Quotes: "When you shave that skanky face of yours in the morning, you need to say, 'Dude, you're gonna rock the world today.'" — motivational speaker James Smith at the "Get Motivated" business seminar at FedExForum in March.
"All people can do now is watch, wait, hope, and pray." — ABC's Diane Sawyer, reporting in fishing waders from Memphis as the river reached 47 feet in May.
"I want to say that Graceland is safe, and we would charge hell with water pistols to keep it that way." — emergency preparedness director Bob Nations at a press briefing as the river rose to 44 feet.
"The person introducing the keynote speaker usually has to give a lot of statistics about the speaker no one knows, like where he works — everyone knows that — or to whom he is married — everyone knows First Lady Michelle Obama — or where the speaker was born." — Booker T. Washington student Christopher Dean, introducing President Obama in May.
"It does." — federal judge Samuel H. Mays ruling in August that the lack of Memphis representation on the Shelby County Board of Education violates the one-person, one-vote principle.
• Waiting Game: 1,255 days since Beale Street Landing construction began. And 1,155 days since Bass Pro Shops signed a development agreement for the Pyramid.