The city of Memphis announced today that the animal shelter on Tchulahoma Road will be closed for employee training Monday, January 11th through Thursday, January 14th.
The shelter has had its problems in recent months, starting with an investigation that found animals starving to death. Even after the shelter director was removed, however, we got word that problems were still ongoing. That account, about a dog that was set to be adopted but was ultimately euthanized, definitely seemed to suggest that more employee training was necessary.
The city also says that Memphis mayor A C Wharton is in the final stages of confirming an administrator to run the shelter.
Wednesday's mayoral job forum was one of the most-well attended local events I've been to in a long time.
The parking lot of the Benjamin Hooks central library was completely full, with the overflow spilling into the shopping center next door, and the forum itself was standing-room only.
But with a local unemployment rate of 10 percent, it's not all that surprising.
Panelists talked about entrepreneurship, the PILOT program, and trying to educate a future workforce that is "unprepared," but many of the attendees seemed like they were more interested in finding a job for themselves.
To that end, panelist TaJaun Stout Mitchell gave an update on ongoing stimulus projects. Of the local projects, 76 percent of them are less than 50 percent complete, and there are 38 projects that have not yet been started. For more, visit recovery.gov.
"Unfortunately with any project of this size, it comes from Washington to Nashville to the local government," she said. "There is a challenge of the lag time."
Mark Yates with Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare also mentioned about 170 to 200 new jobs — from low-level environmental services to specialized nursing — for the new LeBonheur facility at Poplar and Yates.
After several questions from the audience, Memphis mayor A C Wharton said the city would be doing something more after the second wave of stimulus money.
"This is Job Forum.1 or whatever they call it these days," he said.
I've just gotten word that a meeting between concerned citizens and the developers of Overton Square has been scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 16th, at 10 a.m. at the Memphis College of Art's Callicott Auditorium.
They should be presenting the proposed site design with both the building elevations and the construction materials. There will also be a walking tour of the site Sunday, Jan. 17th, between 2 - 3 p.m. and a follow-up meeting for citizen comment Saturday, Jan. 23rd, at 10 a.m., also at MCA.
Last month, the owner of the site postponed a request before the City Council to demolish buildings on the south side Madison at Cooper. I wrote a blog post about that here, as well as a longer In the Bluff column here about what the controversy is about. I also mentioned it in this Anderton's blog post.
On another note, I can't go to the first meeting, so if anybody wants to play roving reporter and do a guest blog for In the Bluff, please feel free to volunteer. Only stipulations are, I probably can't pay you and you have to use tons of dashes when you write it up. (Yes, that's what those weird A things are some of you always see when reading this blog — dashes in disguise!)
Daphne McFerren is the director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis, while Ken Reardon is the director of the university's graduate program in city and regional planning.
For tickets, click here.
While many of us were away from the office over the holidays (some of us trapped in snow storms in West Texas, but that's a story for another day and another blog), the Memphis and Shelby County governments were finalizing some last-minute business.
Last week, Memphis and Shelby County filed a federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo under the Fair Housing Act.
This is something local elected officials and attorneys have been talking about for some time in response to the credit crunch and the rise in area foreclosures.
More than a year ago, then-Shelby County mayor A C Wharton said the lawyer in him was about to come out:
"We're going to sue somebody if I have anything to say about it. ... I'm for whatever it takes."
At issue is whether mortgage companies tried to ensnare certain home buyers in exploitative loans.
From a November 2008 Flyer cover story:
The city of Baltimore also has a case pending in which it sued Wells Fargo, alleging that lenders participated in reverse red-lining.
"Two factors they relied heavily on there — a high degree of racial segregation in housing and a historical lack of access to traditional banks — I think exist in Memphis," Memphis Area Legal Services' Webb Brewer says. "We feel like we could make a very strong case in Memphis for disproportional bad terms for African-American borrowers."
Under the Baltimore case, as well as similar cases in Cleveland and San Diego, or a case brought by Shelby County, the jurisdiction would have to quantify the economic damage and prove that damage is attributable to the banks.
In Memphis and Shelby County, where the tax base rests on home values, the economic impact could be frightening. The county will be undergoing a property reappraisal next year, and it's expected that many homeowners will challenge the reappraisal.
In Baltimore, the city alleges that reverse redlining, or targeting black neighborhoods for bad loans, cost the city millions of dollars. During a recent hearing on Well Fargo's motion to dismiss, the federal judge on the case said he might limit the damages to the cost of dealing with only the 150 homes Wells Fargo foreclosed on, not the overall blight of the neighborhood (which foreclosed homes often contribute to) or the cost of increased services for those neighborhoods.
From an article in the Baltimore Sun:
John P. Relman, an attorney for the city, said it was the city's burden to show the widespread drain on property tax revenues caused by Wells Fargo's "illegal activity" and that it would be inappropriate to limit the lawsuit at this stage.
"If they did something illegal, which reverse redlining is," Relman said, "it's plausible that they are responsible for the consequences of their conduct."
To bolster its claims, the city has submitted sworn statements from two former Wells Fargo loan officers, who said bank employees targeted predominantly black ZIP codes for subprime loans that were referred to as "ghetto loans." The lawsuits filed against lenders by other cities did not offer such specific evidence, Relman said.
Similar cases in Cleveland and Birmingham have been dismissed.