Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Virtual Visit with the Mayor; Speaking in Front of the Council

Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 11:03 AM

Memphis mayor A C Wharton
  • Memphis mayor A C Wharton
There are two events coming up I thought might interest y'all:

The first — the mayor's virtual town hall meeting — is tonight at 6 p.m.

Billed as "four locations, one conversation," the meeting will be held at the Ben Hooks central library, the Orange Mound community center, the Bert Ferguson Community Center, and the Whitehaven library concurrently.

The second — MPACT's "How to Speak in Front of City Council — is tomorrow from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the organization's offices on South Main. The event is free for members and $10 for non-members, and will feature TN Stand for Children Memphis director Kenya Bradshaw.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Road Share: Tips for Drivers and Cyclists

Posted By on Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 10:29 AM

Sometimes I hear complaints that Memphis drivers don't know how to share the road with cyclists.

Or maybe it's more of a don't want to share the road with cyclists. (When you hear about things being thrown at people on bicycles, that doesn't seem like something you should have to teach people not to do.)

But for my purposes, I'm going to assume that it's a knowledge issue, which I'm sure it is for a majority of the driving population.

A friend of mine posted "How to Drive Around Cyclists" from Bicycling magazine on Facebook recently and, though I'm not completely sure when it was written, it still seems like a good primer.


Drivers and cyclists: If there's even been an oil-and-water combination, this is it. We both use roads; we'd both prefer to do so without the other in the way. But the juxtaposition puts cyclists in far greater peril than drivers. For that reason, nearly every rider would like nonpedaling motorists to know how vulnerable they are. And, yes, riders also need to take responsibility for their own safety, but a few simple tips for drivers will make the roads safer for everyone.

Most of it seems to boil down to drivers should give bicycles a 3 ft. berth, go slow, and pay particular attention at intersections. The piece also gives riders tips to be safer around crazy drivers. And everybody knows we have a few of those around here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Council, Commission Meet Over Consolidation

Posted By on Fri, Jun 25, 2010 at 11:42 AM

The Metro Charter Commission, enacted by a joint City Council/County Commission vote to create a new charter for a combined government, presented 14 recommendations to those two bodies yesterday at the U of M.

The recommendations included separate school systems; adopting the annexation reserve areas of the suburban cities; mayors and legislators limited to two four-year terms; non-partisan elections; an appointed chief of police to head up public safety and an elected sheriff to be over the jails; an annual five-year strategic plan from the mayor's office; a countywide network of parks; an office of general counsel that would streamline and stem legal controversy; a three-year property-tax freeze under the new government; three taxing districts (urban, general, and special); and, among others, one IT system for all of the various branches of government, including judicial and the constitutional offices such as the sheriff.

Still pending is how the legislative districts would be drawn under the new government.

"This is not personal; this is structural," said charter commission chair Julie Ellis. "Our two-government structure impedes collaboration and cooperation. ... We have found there is a tremendous opportunity to operate more efficiently."

As evidence, Ellis also cited Shelby County's loss of population and income ($1.9 billion, to be exact) over the past decade. About 2,500 local households moved to Nashville alone.

Continue reading »

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Junkyard Camp

Posted By on Thu, Jun 24, 2010 at 8:30 AM

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This week I wrote about the Junkyard Memphis' art and music camp held on Broad Avenue for our print publication, and as usual, I wanted to give you guys a little bit more material.

Here are some kids working on the sound sculptures with conservatory-trained percussionist Donald Knaack, or The Junkman:

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The license plates and signs they were drilling would eventually be included on this:

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The end result was this (also shown is a wooden xylophone with a nice assortment of pots, pans, and a colander):

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Now I'm just going to tell you straight up. During the camp, and especially during the concert at the end of the week, it was HOT. Stifling, can't breathe HOT. Sweat dripping down your back and legs HOT.

But everyone ignored it as best they could in the name of art and music.

You, however, can sit back in your nice air-conditioned home or office, it certainly makes no difference to me, and watch part of the concert here.

On the other hand, you didn't get to play on it after the kids were done, either, so maybe it's an even trade.

Junkyard Camp was made possible by the Palazola Townsend Gudelsky Family; Mitch and Laurie Major; Laura and Lowry Howell; Michael Richardson; Greg, Carla and Alexandra Touliatos; Historical Broad Business Association; and Lisa and Chris Williamson.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Logo-Rama

Posted By on Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 11:11 AM

If you had to draw a logo from Memphis — and not the oak leaf/riverboat thing gracing City Hall right now — what would it look like?

CitID is amassing a logo or visual interpretation of cities around the world:

"Ever heard of Tegucicalpa? How about Sandnes or Brunswick? Probably not. Right now they're just hard-to-pronounce foreign words that you will not remember. The fact is, they are all cities somewhere on our planet. Places you're most likely never to visit. Through this project you will become aware of them, and maybe even remember their names; Here you get to meet them personally and visually, in an inspiring artistic context."

I saw this on Eric Mathews' Twitter the other day, but I had so much fun looking through the gallery, I thought I'd share. Plus, Memphis is not yet represented, and if CitID is going to meet its goal of having all continents, countries, capitals, and cities represented, someone around here is going to have to get on the stick.

(I'd do it myself, but well, I can't draw. My artistic ability is limited to constructing phrases and pulling faces.)

Here are some of the ones already submitted for other cities, just for inspiration:

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CitID says it will take multiple entries from cities. Selected work will be included in a forthcoming book.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

For the Dogs?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 22, 2010 at 10:16 AM

No one is ever going to accuse City Council member Barbara Swearengen Ware of liking dogs.

The City Council parks committee discussed the city's first dog park, recently opened behind the MCS administration building (and the parks division offices) on Avery, and Ware is not in favor of it.

"I don't want to spend another dime on dogs," Ware said. "We should encourage dog owners to think about what they're going to do with their dogs before they buy them."

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The dog park cost the city $14,000 — $10,000 of which, parks director Cindy Buchanan pointed out, was for fencing and could be reused in another capacity later.

"The reason we built this one the way we did, where we did, was because it's a test," Buchanan said. "We've been getting lots and lots of requests, going back to 2000."

"We put it across from our offices so we can keep an eye on it: Is it being used? Is it being used appropriately?" Buchanan said.

None of which seemed to satisfy Ware, who said the city shouldn't be spending money on dogs that they could be spending on people.

Continue reading »

Monday, June 21, 2010

Today is Go Skate Day

Posted By on Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 3:06 PM

UPDATE, 3 p.m.: The local Go Skate Day event has been canceled. Sorry for the short notice!

Random skateboarding picture
  • Random skateboarding picture

Local skaters are celebrating International Go Skate Day today from 4 - 11 p.m. at "Al Town," the DIY skatepark located on Suzette just off of Crump.

Al Town has been a fairly well-kept secret for the past two years — I've heard rumors, but never actually seen it. I think it's in an old warehouse. But today all are welcome at Al Town, whether it's to skate or just check out what they've done with the place.

Skatelife Memphis founder Aaron Shafer tells me the skaters have most recently built a quarter-pipe, but there's also a mound they call "the volcano" and something else called the "wall ride" (my notes are unclear on what exactly this is, but I do know it's graffitied out. So there's that).

For more information, find the event on Facebook by clicking here.

ps. Anyone who goes, feel free to send me pictures and I'll post them here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

In the Zone?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 9:34 AM

About 50 people turned up for last night's public meeting at Peabody Elementary on the proposed Midtown zoning overlay.

After the proposed Overton Square grocery store development fell through earlier this year, the Memphis Regional Design Center got together with the Midtown Development Corporation, the Cooper-Young Development Corporation, and the Cooper-Young Business Association to draft a plan that would dictate development standards for renovations and new construction.

"The community says, 'this is what we want our neighborhood to look like,'" said Memphis city councilman Shea Flinn, who was instrumental in beginning the overlay process. "We're not going to prostitute ourselves for any developer who comes along."

In the overlay area, which is in a sort of upside down L/arrow shape because of the historic neighborhoods already designated in Midtown, current commercial zoning would change to mixed-use commercial and there would be a review process for all commercial development.

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"Outside of downtown, it's illegal right now to have buildings with commercial on the ground floor and residential above," said Charles "Chooch" Pickard, executive director of the regional design center.

Continue reading »

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Talk of the Town Hall

Posted By on Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Last night, I checked out the town hall meeting on consolidation put on by MemphisConnect.com, Rebuild Government, and Livable Memphis.

The charter commission is currently drafting what would be the new consolidated government — the one that both city and county voters will decide on at the polls November 2nd — at their weekly Thursday meetings.

But I'm just going to be honest with you. I have a hard time getting to *all* of the metro charter commission meetings (Thursday is a big day for meetings, for whatever reason) so I'm not as up to speed as I would like to be about what they've decided.

Some highlights from last night's meeting: There would be a three-year freeze on property taxes under the new government, an appointed police chief would be in charge of law enforcement while the elected sheriff would be over the jail and security in the courts, and MLGW would become a separate authority much like the airport authority (I have my concerns about this). That actual number of seats on the metro council have not yet been decided, but members will be limited to two terms.

There will be three public hearings done by the metro charter commission shortly before they are to submit the final draft of the charter: July 8th at the Ben Hooks Central Library, July 15th at Southwind High School, and July 22nd at the Ed Rice Community Center. I believe they are all at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DFS Pamper Party

Posted By on Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 8:30 AM

In our print edition this week, I wrote about one of my favorite organizations — Dress for Success — and an event they held last week at True Salon.

(You might remember, if you read my Style Sessions blog, that a few months ago, Dress for Success partnered with the Flyer for our Swap & Shop event.)

The staff and ownership of True Salon wanted to give back to the community and donated their services to 12 of Dress for Success' Professional Women's Group members, including hair cuts, coloring, hand massages, etc.

Here's my friend Johnnie Hatten with True Salon owner Amy McMurtrey. (Johnnie has the most infectious and omnipresent smile.)

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Also, I couldn't figure a way to get this into my column exactly, but right now the Dress for Success closet has a bunch of rolling racks for all their suits and assorted work attire. But they are kind of hoping someone might want to donate the materials and time to put up permanent clothing racks. So if anyone is interested in that, please contact Tiffany Smith at tiffany@dfsmemphis.org.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Different FedEx Forum

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2010 at 12:43 PM

The Leadership Academy's MemphisConnect.com is trying to do just that tomorrow night: Connect.

In partnership with Rebuild Government and Livable Memphis, MemphisConnect is hosting a town hall meeting 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at the U of M's FedEx Institute of Technology. The meeting and panel discussion, moderated by Darrell Cobbins, will focus on the metro charter commission and consolidation process.

But perhaps the most exciting part is that you don't have to go to be there.

They'll be live-streaming the event at the town hall section of the site and taking questions for the panel — consisting of Rebuild Government's Brian Stephens, Livable Memphis' Emily Trenholm, and retired office of planning and development staffer Gene Bryan — online.

Just go to the site and then log in to your Facebook and Twitter accounts and your updates will post directly to the live feed. Fun!

"From the Memphis Connect point of view, it's part of our mission to promote civic awareness and involvement," says Elizabeth Lemmonds. "We feel like this is an important dialog. If a number of people who might not know what's going on [with the consolidation effort] can log in for a while and learn more about it, it's effort and time well-spent."

(I should note: If you like to kick it old-school, you *can* still attend the event in person. )

Monday, June 14, 2010

Diversity by County

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 12:25 PM

If you're interested in how Memphis' diversity stacks up with that of the rest of the nation — or even the rest of Tennessee — USAToday compiled a county-by-county map of its diversity index.

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The deeper the red, the more likely it is that two people chosen at random in each county have a different race or ethnicity.

The graphic was part of a story about how minority births are driving growth in U.S. diversity:

"The 2009 national index is 52, up from 47 in 2000. That means that the chance of two randomly selected people being different is slightly more than half. In 1980, the index was 34, a 1-in-3 chance. ...

Much of the rapid growth in diversity is driven by an influx of young Hispanic immigrants whose birthrates are higher than those of non-Hispanic whites, creating a race and ethnic chasm and a widening age gap. 'There are more than 500 counties which have a majority of minority children,' says Kenneth Johnson, demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute. 'The population is changing to minority from the bottom up.'"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bass Pro Study

Posted By on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Well, I was going to blog about this Bass Pro report called "Fishing For Taxpayer Cash" today, but it appears John Branston beat me to it.

So now I'm just going to link to John's post instead.

But just a small note: The report has a nice chart about the more than $567 million in taxpayer subsidies given to Bass Pro for its various projects. That equals out to about $29 million in taxpayer subsidies per project. We've promised about $42 million in federal stimulus bonds to fund the Pyramid project.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Around LeBonheur

Posted By on Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 8:30 AM

In this week's print edition, I wrote about the new LeBonheur Children's Hospital. (Do I really need to tell you to go pick it up?)

I was lucky enough to take a tour with Dave Rosenbaum and Sara Burnett before the grand opening next Tuesday. There were still about 300 people working on the building last week, installing equipment into operating rooms, hanging art, and finishing construction.

I thought y'all might be interested in seeing some of the cool stuff from my tour, like the dancing, running, jumping, acrobating children that light up when people walk by them.

[I made Dave stand next to one of them in the first picture, for the second I was lucky enough to have a workman walk by while I was standing there.]

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Continue reading »

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

17 Cents for Education?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 1:50 PM

Memphis City Council member Shea Flinn has proposed a 17-cent tax increase over a maximum of three year to cover the cost of a possible judgment against the city in the city schools/city education-funding court case.

That money would then go into a special account. If the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city of Memphis, the money would be returned to the tax payers.

"The current system of how we fund education is not workable," Flinn said. "If we're going to have a special school district, let's have a special school district and give them taxing authority. If we're not, they should be treated like any other school district in Tennessee and have the sole funder be the county."

Ongoing ...

Continue reading »

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