Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cleanliness, Safety Top Overton Park Survey

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 3:52 PM

The results are in: Overton Park users want a safe, litter-free park with better parking and an updated playground. Users also overwhelmingly support the creation of a nonprofit conservancy to manage the Midtown park.

In late June, a group of park preservationists, ecologists, business leaders, and others launched the Speak Up for Overton Park campaign to gauge interest in forming a conservancy and to determine priorities for the park's future. The results were released today.

"We saw this as a way to say, let's take a few steps back and get an idea of what the community wants," said Josh Horton, a volunteer with the Speak Up campaign.

In the fall, the group will present a conservancy proposal to the Memphis City Council, and if created, Horton said the conservancy could use the needs survey results as a "punch list" for which issues to tackle. Besides safety and cleanliness, user also indicated interest in protection for the Old Growth Forest and greensward, more community activities, restrooms, a fenced dog park, foods carts, and bike and pedestrian trails.

For a full report, go to the Speak Up campaign website, or for a quick glance, click on this PDF link for an infographic. OvertonParkSurvey-Infographic.pdf

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Who's That Girl?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 4:16 PM

A few people have asked about the fabulous illustration on this week's cover, done by Greg Cravens.

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Specifically, they want to know about the woman in the boat with mayor A C Wharton.

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Continue reading »

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mayor's Office Launches Service Initiative

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 11:20 AM

On Saturday, August 27th at 9:30 a.m., Memphis Mayor A C Wharton's office will kick off the new One Memphis Cities of Service Initiative at KIPP Memphis Collegiate High School (230 Henry Avenue).

The initiative provides citizens with volunteer opportunities in the areas of youth wellness, civic clean-up efforts, and senior services. The program was created after the city joined Cities of Service, a coalition of city mayors across the country who provide service opportunities to their citizens.

Volunteer opportunities are listed on the new One Memphis service plan website, where citizens can enter their skillsets to find service needs tailored to their interests.

Other initiative sponsors include Literacy Mid-South, Meritan, Memphis Athletic Ministries, Memphis City Beautiful, and MIFA.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rotary Club President Arrested for DUI

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 3:00 PM

John Coats
  • John Coats

John Coats, president of the Memphis Rotary Club, was arrested for a DUI at a Midtown Walgreens just after midnight Saturday morning.

According to the affidavit, Memphis police responded to a DUI call after the Walgreens manager reported that a man was sleeping in the driver's seat of a car parked in the lot. When officers arrived, Coats was revving the car's accelerator at a high RPM, and it appeared he'd fallen asleep with his foot fully depressing the pedal.

Coats initially refused to step out of the vehicle after he was awakened. But after repeated requests, he stepped out and nearly fell. Officers had to hold him up, and they reported smelling a strong presence of alcohol and noticed he had bloodshot eyes.

When asked if he'd been drinking, he replied that he had, and he made repeated requests to call Mayor A C Wharton. When asked to perform a field sobriety test, Coats replied "I am gonna fail. Just book me." Coats refused a blood alcohol test. He was then arrested and charged with DUI, public intoxication, and reckless driving.

The Memphis Rotary Club is currently conducting an evaluation of Memphis Animal Services.

Friday, August 19, 2011

West Memphis Three Freed

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2011 at 1:17 PM

"I'm still very much in shock. I'm still overwhelmed. I spent the last decade in solitary confinement. I'm not used to being around anyone, especially this many people," said Damien Echols, from a press conference announcing his freedom and that of Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. after the three served 18 years for the homicide of three eight-year-old boys from West Memphis, Arkansas.

Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin
  • Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin

Surrounded by their attorneys and supporters Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley timidly addressed the crowd of reporters inside the Craighead County Courthouse in Jonesboro, Arkansas on Friday morning, just moments after the three entered an Alford Plea allowing for their release from prison. The West Memphis Three have been in prison since 1993 after they were convicted of killing Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers.

An Alford Plea is a guilty plea where the defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence. Under the Alford plea, the defendant does admit that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prosecuting attorney Scott Ellington said a 2010 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling brought to light the possibility that the defendants could receive a new trial, and allegations of misconduct on behalf of a juror in the Echols-Baldwin trial could have resulted in a new trial being ordered by the circuit or federal court.

"I further believe it would have been impossible to put on a proper case against the defendants in this particular case after 18 years of extended litigation," Ellington told reporters. "Even if the state were to prevail in a new trail, sentences could be different and the appeals process would begin all over again."

Other contributing factors to the state's acceptance of an Alford Plea include the fact that two of the victims' families have sided with the defense, the mother of one witness who testified against Echols has publicly doubted her daughter's truthfulness, and the state crime lab employee who collected fiber evidence in the Echols and Baldwin homes after their arrests has died.

"Today's proceedings allows the defendants the freedom of speech to say they are innocent, but the fact is, they just plead guilty. I strongly believe that the interests of justice have been served today," said Ellington, who claimed he still believes the three are guilty of the murders.

Ellington said the Alford Plea does allow the state to file new charges if new evidence arises.

"[The Alford Plea] is not perfect by any means," said Echols, seated alongside wife Lori Davis. "But it brings closure in some aspects."

Baldwin's attorney Blake Hendrix told reporters that Baldwin was initially resistant to pleading guilty, but decided to make the plea to free his friend Echols from death row. Baldwin and Misskelley were serving life sentences.

"There are many reasons Jason made this decision, but one was taking one man off of death row. He saved a man's life," Hendrix said.

"[Damien] has had it so much worse than I have. I'm just glad he's out and now he'll be with his wife," Baldwin said.

Echols told reporters he was "just tired" because he hadn't slept in four days, since he learned he would soon be a free man. Davis said she was "thrilled with the results."

"Three men are free," Davis said. "And I have this man I love very much."

* Natalie Maines and Eddie Vedder showed up to support the West Memphis Three.
  • Natalie Maines and Eddie Vedder showed up to support the West Memphis Three.

Photos by Morgan Jon Fox.

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West Memphis Three Developments

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2011 at 10:35 AM

Bianca Phillips is in the courthouse in Jonesboro for today West Memphis Three hearings. The Flyer will update this story as it happens. Follow Bianca on Twitter: @biancaphillips

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Memphis Police "Crime of the Week"

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2011 at 1:55 PM

Memphis Police need help locating two people suspected of burglarizing the Department of Safety office at 3200 E. Shelby Dr. on Friday, July 22nd around 7 a.m.

In the still-unsolved burglary, video surveillance shows two suspects wearing dark clothing, masks, and gloves entering the office. Responding officers discovered broken glass and a pry mark on the doors. Cash was taken from the safe. Anyone with information on this incident is advised to call CrimeStoppers at 528-CASH.

Here's a still shot from the surveillance video. Watch the whole video here.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Call for Photos from Cyclists

Posted By on Tue, Aug 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM

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The Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has put out a call for photos highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly of cycling and walking in Memphis.

Whether its a snapshot of the safest route to your home or office or a picture of broken sidewalks or busy intersections, they're asking bikers and pedestrians to show what's working and what's not in the world of two-wheel and foot traffic. Photos will be used to determine future city bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Photos must be sent along with a description of the subject and location, as well as your name and contact information. High resolution photos are preferred. Mail photos to kyle.wagenschutz@memphistn.gov or john.shaffer@memphistn.gov.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Animal Shelter Director Resigns

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 8:03 AM

Matthew Pepper
  • Matthew Pepper

On the same day controversy arose over webcam screenshots of two pit bulls fighting inside Memphis Animal Services, news broke of Memphis Animal Services director Matthew Pepper's resignation.

Video from the pit bull altercation showed that shelter workers were trying to separate the dogs rather than encourage them to fight, but before the city could respond, rumors of dogfighting in the animal shelter had already circulated around the internet. Pepper put in his resignation on Wednesday, before the images were released.

Pepper's year-and-a-half long career in Memphis has been plagued with problems, some due to speculation over what was happening in webcam screenshots like the one released yesterday and some due to employee misconduct. In June, animal control officer Demetria Hogan lost pit bull Kapone, a family pet that had escaped a Cordova backyard. She was arrested for animal cruelty, and there's an $8,000 reward for Kapone's return.

In his resignation letter, Pepper said "it has become prudent that I find stability in my career and in my personal life." Currently, the Memphis Rotary Club is conducting an audit of the shelter, and there have been talks of privitization.

Pepper took over the shelter in 2009, after former director Ernie Alexander was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals. Before he moved to Memphis, he managed Caddo Parish Animal Services in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Steamboat Company Moves to Memphis This Fall

Posted By on Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 4:20 PM

The sale of the American Queen steamboat to HMS Global Maritime was finalized last week for $15.5 million, and by next April, the 436-passenger ship will launch it's first trip out of Memphis.

The Great American Steamboat Company, which is affiliated with HMS Maritime, will operate overnight cruises on the American Queen, a 16-year-old ship that hasn't sailed since the 2008 shutdown of the Majestic America Line. Great American Steamboat is moving its headquarters to One Commerce Square downtown this September.

American Queen steamboat
  • American Queen steamboat

"We're finally coming home to the center of the American river system," said Jeff Krida of the Great American Steamboat Company at a press conference at City Hall on Monday afternoon.

The American Queen will be docked at Beale Street Landing. At the press conference, Riverfront Development Corporation president Benny Lendermon said construction on the boat dock should be complete by the end of this year. The adjacent Beale Street Landing park project should be under construction by the time the American Queen sets off on its inaugural cruise on April 11th.

As part of an agreement with the Great American Steamboat Company, the city of Memphis will loan the company $9 million in federal funds. The project is expected to bring 589 jobs and an economic impact of $89.5 million.

Krida said riverboat cruise customers are primarily Americans over age 50 interested in Southern culture and cuisine and blues and rock history, making Memphis the ideal location for its headquarters.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two-Alarm Fire at Valero Refinery

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2011 at 8:23 AM

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Memphis Firefighters responded to a two-alarm fire at the Valero Refinery at 543 Mallory around 7:30 a.m. Friday morning.

So far, no serious injuries have been reported, and the fire is under control. The oil refinery reportedly lost power some time early this morning, but there's no word on how that may have been related to the fire.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Memphis Police Officer Dies of Illness

Posted By on Thu, Aug 4, 2011 at 4:56 PM

MPD officer Anthony Rahming, 48, was pronounced dead at Saint Francis Hospital at 5 a.m. Thursday morning.

Rahming became ill before leaving his job on the Charlie shift at Airways Station yesterday at 7 p.m. Later in the evening, he was transported to Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett by private vehicle. He was then transferred to the Saint Francis location on Park Avenue, where he passed away. Official cause of death has yet to be determined.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

City Council May Ban Minors from Liquor Stores

Posted By on Tue, Aug 2, 2011 at 11:08 AM

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People under 21 may soon have to be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or spouse to enter a liquor store in Memphis, according to an ordinance passed by the Memphis City Council in this morning's public safety committee.

Currently, underage people are allowed inside liquor stores but are not allowed to make purchases. Several local liquor stores owners are pushing for the bill, including Josh Hammond of Buster's Liquors and Wines.

Hammond told the council that his store will not sell alcohol to legal age customers who come into the store with their underage friends.

"Then they become unruly if they're denied the sale," Hammond said. "All we can do is kick them out, but we would like to work with law enforcement to deal with these people. This ordinance would give retailers more teeth."

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