Foes of a CVS pharmacy to rise at the intersection of Union and Cooper were in full battle array this morning, holding signs and asking for honks of support as they mourned the impending demolition of Union Avenue United Methodist Church.
The group's leader, Gordon Alexander of the Midtown Action Coalition, conceded that the protest was symbolic. Since the demonstration was already scheduled, he and others decided to proceed even though hope of preserving the historic building is all but lost.
"We have no alternative," he said. "They're going to tear the church down."
Friday, Chancellor Arnold Goldin upheld an earlier decision that essentially clears the way for the historic structure to be razed. It will be replaced by what protestors consider a bland, suburban-style retail pharmacy that doesn't fit with the neighborhood's quirky bohemian character.
Once built, the new CVS will sit directly across from a large Ike's Pharmacy and variety store. CVS bought the building for more than $2 million from St. Luke's UMC — almost $1 million more than a Presbyterian church would have paid to reuse the building as a church, Alexander said.
He called CVS' rebuff of about 1,500 signatures against its acquisition of the building "stubborn" and "arrogant."
"They basically bought their way in," he said.
Although company representatives have argued their new store will create jobs and fit as much as possible with the neighborhood's overall look, the protestors weren't buying it. And if Alexander has his way, plenty of people in Midtown won't be buying it either. He fully envisions an all-out boycott.
"Lots of people won't shop at CVS," he said.
The demolition could proceed in a few weeks.
Egypt. Egypt. Egypt .... that's all we've hearing about these days. But unless you've been following the story very closely, it can be a little difficult to wrap your head around what's really going on over there.
The Memphis International Solidarity Committee was recently founded to educate the public about the uprising in Egypt. They're hosting a public discussion called "From Cairo to Memphis" at Memphis College of Art's Callicott Auditorium on Friday, February 25th from 6 to 9 p.m.
Three of the scheduled speakers — Ahmed Zaafan, Zeina Salem, Saad Kamel — will be on-hand via Skype from Egypt. Other speakers include Neal Gammill, Dr. Rob Canfield, Ahmed Elnahas, Merci Decker, and Justin Sledge. A Q&A session will follow the panel discussion.
And if a little education isn't enough incentive to come, there's also free vegetarian food.
For more, check out the Memphis International Solidarity Committee's blog.
At the city's second Ignite Memphis event tonight, 16 participants will deliver five-minute presentations on topics ranging from Memphis' tap water to the "dark side of social networking."
Each participant will deliver a Power Point presentation with 20 slides set to advance every 15 seconds. The Ignite series launched in Seattle several years ago as a "fast-paced geek event," and it's since spread to major cities across the country. LaunchMemphis and MemphisConnect joined forces to hold the first local Ignite event last October. Click here to read reporter Mary Cashiola's coverage of that event.
"Ignite 2" features talks by Opera Memphis director Ned Canty ("Opera Doesn't Suck"), artist Ian Lemmonds ("A Brief History of Lies"), Mark's Menus app founder Mark Dinstuhl ("“Entrepreneurs- Public Menace”), among others.
The event kicks off in the University Theater at Christian Brothers University from 6 to 9:30 p.m. For more, go here.
It’s official: Memphis is on the grid.
On Tuesday morning, representatives from San Francisco-based ECOtality North America hosted a partner forum at The Peabody to welcome the Bluff City into a five-state embrace of electric vehicles and charging stations called “The EV Project.”
“Electric vehicles are coming, and we want to make sure businesses in Tennessee are as EV-friendly as possible,” said ECOtality’s Stephanie Cox.
Previously, only Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and about 20 smaller towns in East and Middle Tennessee were included in the state’s piece of the federally funded effort to help Americans depend less on fossil fuels and clean up the environment.
The EV project’s purpose is to develop a $230 million commercial and residential charging network to coincide with the continuing release of electric or hybrid vehicles, particularly the all-electric Nissan LEAF. That car is expected to help consumers save about $1,800 a year on fuel costs.
Production for the LEAF, which has a lithium ion battery and can go 100 miles between charges, will be moved in 2012 to the Nissan plant in Smyrna just outside of Nashville. The plant is expected to manufacture 150,000 electric cars a year, along with 200,000 battery packs. Many of the car’s components are made from recycled materials such as plastic water bottles.
“It’s not a question of if; it’s how fast we’re going to see reliance on electric vehicles,” said Mayor A C Wharton.
To supplement the LEAF and other vehicles’ relatively short charging range, high-voltage charging stations are going to be installed around the state to help drivers with longer trips.
Since quick charges take about 30 minutes, the charging stations are going to be put where people tend to stop and spend an hour or more — shopping centers, libraries, hotels, hospitals and other attractions. That way, the inconvenience of having to stop and juice up is more “bearable,” as Cox put it.
Anyone who orders one of the five-passenger sedans is eligible for a $2,500 tax incentive from the state. The zero-emission cars will be priced at about $22,500. About 100 of them are already on the road since their December release, and more will be rolling out during the spring and summer.
“The message is, let’s become less dependent on foreign oil,” said Jerry Collins, president and CEO of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.
As the Tennessee Valley Authority’s largest power distributor, MLGW has a vested interest in ensuring the infrastructure necessary to support electric cars comes to the Memphis area.
ECOtality will be hosting two more informational forums in Knoxville on Thursday and Chattanooga on March 22nd.
Story by Andrew Caldwell
Last month, ArtsMemphis donated Apple iPads to a few local arts organizations with one catch — use the tablet in a creative way.
Seven nonprofit arts groups were chosen to receive the iPads as part of a pilot program to encourage creativity in their production processes. The program, funded by the Jeniam Technology Fund and ArtsMemphis, will be following the participating organizations’ use of the intuitive accessory in order to determine whether to donate iPads to other arts groups in the future. The trial period will last several months, and to make things interesting, a cash prize is up for grabs to the arts group that can employ the device in the most original and productive way.
ArtsMemphis president Susan Schadt said she hopes “the portable, relatively inexpensive tool will encourage innovation and creativity.”
Applicants to the program were asked to propose how they planned to make use of their iPad. Based on those answers, seven of the 26 organizations that applied received the computers. Those groups included Ballet Memphis, Beale Street Caravan, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and Theatre Memphis, among others.
Nearly a month into their pilot program, Schadt, said that everything is going really well, but that it is still too early to make a decision about the program’s future.
Nonetheless, ArtsMemphis has seen promising results over the past few weeks. According to Debbie Litch, executive producer of Theatre Memphis, they have been using their iPad “as a wireless remote for [the] light board … [eliminating] the need to move a heavy console as well as cables during tech rehearsals.” Theatre Memphis also has incorporated the tablet computer into their music education program.
Each of the iPads came equipped with the ArtsMemphis App, created by Resolute Interactive, giving users access to updates from the ArtsMemphis events calendar. The application was one of the first of its kind created for a nonprofit arts organization and is available for free for iPhone and iTouch users.
This morning concluded the three-day Opportunity Challenge that brought together influential people from the local business and civic communities to brainstorm about improving Memphis.
The nonprofit CEOs for Cities and Mayor A C Wharton's Office of Talent & Human Capital staged the event at the Memphis Bioworks Foundation. Its first day was spent listening to national experts make suggestions, and most of the rest of the time involved idea sessions. The session's main objective was to come up with ways to help even the most unemployable or vulnerable citizens put their talents to work.
Charlie Cannon of the Rhode Island School of Design, who facilitated Opportunity Challenge, broke the group's ideas into two main categories. The first was finding ways to make Memphis a learning city, where lifelong learning and civic engagement are encouraged regardless of financial reward, and the other was to make it into a venture city where new ideas are embraced and supported.
"We are in a moment of urgency and opportunity," he said, referring to a PowerPoint slide. "We need to redefine the American dream."
One way is by making education more accessible to the poor or other marginalized groups. Although it's not usually identified as such, Memphis is a college town that often draws the best and brightest to learn and teach, but many of its own citizens languish. Meanwhile, those who come from outside often feel disconnected.
"Barbecue is great, blues is great, but there are so many more faces to this city," Wharton said.
He also admitted that just getting a group of "well-intentioned people together with great vision" at an Opportunity Challenge conference isn't enough. Talent development has to be intentional — and sustained — to improve the city's economic destiny. And as was expressed earlier in the week, education is one of the pillars of any such initiative. A good place to begin is in cities, where population is already dense.
Whereas the dollar used to be everyone's currency of choice, brain power is most important locally, nationally, and internationally, Wharton said. Brain power begins (and ends) with people. He cited a well-known nursery rhyme to make his point.
"There's the church, there's the steeple," Wharton said, "Open the door and see the people."
Without the people, there is no church. There is no city.
Ideas generated from the Opportunity Challenge will be written in a grant-sponsored book.
If you've driven down Cooper lately, you may have noticed that 2 Chicks and a Broom is no longer in its charming little bungalow. Fear not! The green cleaning service has simply relocated to 2206 Union Avenue. "We just needed more space," says one of the chicks.
Check out their new digs at 2206 Union or visit their website.
Although early voting on the Memphis City Schools charter surrender issue has already begun, there's still plenty of Memphians who aren't sure what the proposed merger really means for the city and county school systems.
A panel of experts on the issue will address the facts about what a proposed merger could mean in an upcoming consolidation forum at First Baptist Church (200 E. Parkway North) next Monday. Panelists include the Flyer's political reporter and senior editor Jackson Baker, County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, and Ryan Tracy of Stand for Children.
The panel begins at 6 p.m. on Monday, February 21st in the church's fellowship hall.
From the event's press release: "As the purpose of the forum is to educate, not advocate, none of the panelists will take a position on either side of the debate, but will simply provide objective facts and answer questions."
No questions will be taken from the audience during the event, but attendees are encouraged to visit
this website to submit questions or they may arrive early to do so in person. Individuals with young children can visit the same site through Friday, February 19th, to reserve free childcare for any child under the age of 7.
Your average video gamer spends about 80 percent of his time failing to reach the all-important next level.
But no matter how many aliens annihilate him, how many racecars run him off the road, or how many enemy soldiers spray his avatar with bullets, that gamer keeps coming back for more.
Katherine von Jan, co-founder and chief creative of Derring-do Design, says tapping in to this deeply ingrained desire to triumph over adversity could help Memphis improve its economic outlook.
von Jan’s presentation was part of an Opportunity Challenge conference today at the Memphis Bioworks foundation that’s being spearheaded by the nonprofit CEOs for Cities and Mayor A C Wharton’s office. The three-day think-a-thon aspires to help Memphis enable and retain young talent instead of losing it to other cities. The conference continues through Friday.
The key to improving Memphis’ economic destiny — where only 24 percent of people have a college education — is to create a system, akin to a game, that encourages even the most disenfranchised citizens to advance through the levels of success, von Jan said. “In gaming, you start from zero and build up.”
Beneath the day’s rhetoric, education surfaced again and again.
Economist Joe Cortwright, president of Impresa Inc. and a senior policy adviser for CEOs for Cities, said college-educated people have higher incomes and spend less time being unemployed during their lifetimes than those with a lower educational level, period. And “what is true for individuals is also true for places,” he said.
While Memphis has lots of things going for it, the city also has disparate pockets of hope and hopelessness that don’t tend to mix. Not only has it been stigmatized in the media, but the city’s own citizenry tends to cast it in an unflattering light, said Andre Fowlkes of the business incubator LaunchMemphis.
“We present Memphis on a garbage can lid,” he said.
Another pressing issue underlying the Opportunity Challenge is the shift to a talent-based economy, or an economy built on new and changing markets or ideas. He who produces the most widgets isn’t necessarily the most successful nowadays. A tanking economy has borne that out.
“That was the sledgehammer to really bring it home,” Fowlkes said.
Since about 20 percent of Memphis’ population lives below the poverty line, with 30 percent younger than 18, and with unemployment in Shelby County at almost 10 percent, it’s time to re-evaluate, or at least understand some things about how poverty affects education.
Laurel Dukehart, president of Gateway to College National Network, said working with poor people who want to succeed has taught her a lot. Most kids drop out of high school or college not because they’re shiftless or stupid, but because of things beyond their control. Try carrying a full course load when you’re broke and your car engine fries or you have to help a bedridden relative who has no access to health care.
“It’s about poverty,” she said. “It’s about a lack of role models.”
While things like access to technology are talent accelerators, things like persistent poverty are talent killers. And the surest way out of poverty is education.
Possible solutions to overcoming local poverty and education issues will be offered Friday morning at Bioworks.
For the first time in more than a month, Memphis Fire Services was able to cruise through a budget request without a single hint of opposition. Fire department director Alvin Benson was all smiles as a result.
This morning, he and his staff requested using $1.5 million from their capital improvement budget to buy land for a new fire station in the Winchester/Hacks Cross area. Members of the city council's Public Safety & Homeland Security Comittee approved the request unanimously.
Once built, the station will be along Centennial Drive in the Southwind area. It will be financed with general obligation bonds.
In the meantime, Fire Services and its union members are scheduled to appear before the full council later today to resolve, once and for all, their disagreement over buying eight new alternative response vehicles. That conflict began in early January, when the department requested using about $500,000 to buy the vehicles, which officials insist are less expensive to maintain, and more maneuverable, than large fire trucks.
However, members of International Association of Firefighters Local 1784 have objected, saying they would prefer having fully staffed vehicles that can respond to many different kinds of emergencies. The ARVs are only equipped for emergency medical calls, which make up the majority of the fire department's runs. Underlying the disagreement is a fear by union members that trucks will be put out of service, possibly affecting jobs.
You've gotta a love a guy who's willing to don a fuzzy brown dog costume and spend most of the day in a kennel to drum up community interest in adopting pets.
"At 9:30, we had a line at the front door and a line almost down the street," said Matthew Pepper, director of Memphis Animal Services.
His idea to wear the dog getup came from a volunteer group and was helped by local media coverage.
By about 3 p.m. today, more than 40 dogs and cats had found homes. All 31 of the dogs specially prepped for adoption today were gone, replaced by a whole new batch of hopefuls not even halfway through the day. Pepper said he was optimistic that more than 50 animals would find forever homes by 5.
He also said he's tired of the shelter's former reputation; it's now a "fun" place. The shelter was raided in the early morning hours of October 2009 — the first day of A C Wharton's term as Memphis mayor — because of suspected abuse and neglect that led to three dogs being starved to death. A short time later, Wharton fired the previous director.
At least 15,000 animals cycle through the shelter a year, Pepper said. He has no illusions that there will ever be a shortage of animals in need of homes, but if spending a day in a cage helps put a dent in the endless parade, he's more than willing to step up.
"It's made a huge difference since Mr. Pepper took over," said shelter volunteer Ariel Dagastino.
If Memphis is "most miserable," we'd hate to see what "most desirable" looks like. At least that's the attitude many locals seem to have regarding the Bluff City's placement on the annual Forbes "Most Miserable Cities" list.
This weekend, the Hi-Tone is throwing a "Misery Loves Company" Ball, both as an excuse to celebrate the good things about Memphis and as a way to give the Forbes list the proverbial middle finger. The event goes down on Saturday, February 12th at 9 p.m. and features DJ Buck Wilders and the Hook-Up.
Memphis came in at number six in the 2011 list of the top 20 U.S. cities with the highest crime, taxes and unemployment rates, the worst weather, the longest commute times, and the least successful sports teams. According to Forbes, high sales tax plus a still-high crime rate are responsible for Memphis' miserable status. The article fails to mention new crime statistics that show a 24 percent drop in violent crime in Memphis since 2006.
On a more positive note, Memphis also just ranked number six on CareerBliss.com's list of the happiest cities to work in.
“We can’t take these rankings very seriously, especially given how we were ranked on the Most Miserable list and the Happiest Cities to Work list," said Mary Cashiola, the city's brand manager. "But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with them. Or at least prove them partly wrong.”
For more on the "Misery Loves Company" Ball, check out the event's Facebook page.
The Real Talk: Youth Violence forum scheduled for tonight at the Benjamin Hooks Library has been canceled due to the snow. It had previously been rescheduled from January 20th due to inclement weather.
Rather than attempt to reschedule again, the event's organizers are moving the forum online. Click here to take a quick survey asking for your thoughts on how to prevent youth violence. The survey will remain open until February 20th, when the input will used to develop a city/county youth violence reduction plan.
In October, Memphis and five other U.S. cities were chosen to participate in President Barack Obama’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, which is being conducted by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education.
Since then, the city has formed the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Policy Council with representatives from more than 20 public and private agencies. The group’s goal is to reduce youth and gang violence while increasing opportunities for youths.
Other cities chosen to participate in the president’s program include Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and Salinas and San Jose, Calif.
“The cities weren't selected by the size of the problem, but by their willingness to work with the federal government and other factors,” Mary Cashiola, the city’s brand manager, said in an e-mail. “I think our factors were scalability and the collaborations with Operation Safe Community and the business community.”
We know that "news blog" isn't the catchiest title. But we're through with being cutesy. This new Memphis Flyer blog will serve as a our catch-all for city and county news, crime briefs, business stories, and the like.
You know, that good old-fashioned hard news. Check back often (and add us to your bookmarks) as we will be updating several times a week.