Thursday, June 28, 2012

Citizens' Dispute Center Moves to Family Safety Center

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 1:02 PM

By next week, citizens who need to get orders of protection or file arrest warrants will do so at the new Family Safety Center since the Citizens' Dispute Center is moving from its current home at 201 Poplar to the new center at 1750 Madison in Midtown.

“Having the Citizens’ Dispute Center located at the Family Safety Center will make it easier for victims. It will ensure victims get a better-coordinated response by all of the agencies involved in their case,” said Olliette Murry-Drobot, executive director of the Family Safety Center.

The Citizens' Dispute Center processed more than 4,000 orders of protection, issued when someone is threatened by another person, in 2011. After filing their order at the center, the victim will be able to meet with officers from the domestic violence units of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office or the Memphis Police Department in the same building.

About 20 social service agencies, such as the Shelby County Rape Crisis Center and the Shelby County Crime Victims Center, are represented at the Family Safety Center. It's open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 :30 p.m. Call 901-222-4400 for more information.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

National Civil Rights Museum Unveils New Design

Posted By on Tue, Jun 26, 2012 at 8:10 PM

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About the only thing remaining the same after the National Civil Rights Museum's $27 million, 14-month renovation will be the room Dr. Martin Luther King stayed in at the Lorraine Motel.

Nearly every other exhibit in the museum is getting a massive overhaul with new technology, redesigned text, and more interactive areas that allow visitors to feel like they were a part of civil rights history. The new design created by Howard + Revis and Self Tucker Architects was unveiled Tuesday night in the museum's theater.

The exhibit icons, such as the Montgomery Bus and the lunch counter exhibit will remain in place, but the placards telling their story will be replaced, as will all of the text information in the museum. Although there will still be plenty for visitors to read, the new design adds more elements that show rather than tell the story.

For example, they're adding a Board vs. Board of Education courtroom where visitors can sit in court benches and look over documents relating to the case. There will also be a new theater that plays the "From the Mountaintop" speech, and visitors will be allowed to climb on-board the sanitation strike garbage truck. Most every exhibit will include touch screens that visitors can interact with for further information.

New exhibits will be dedicated to the black power movement and the Mississippi Summer Project, a grassroots efforts to register as many African American voters as possible in Mississippi in June 1964.

Other changes include outdoor listening posts with short history videos for people who stop by after-hours, an expanded entrance theater, a lobby staircase, a banquet room space, and improved exterior signage, including the embossed name of the museum on the entrance wall.

The museum remains open for now, but it will close in November as renovations begin. Some exhibits will be moved to the museum extension across the street, which will remain open. Also, visitors will be allowed for the first time in the museum's 21-year history to stand on the balcony where King was assassinated. The balcony space will close again when the museum re-opens in early 2014.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mayor Luttrell Announces "Meet the Mayor" Sessions

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 4:27 PM

Mark Luttrell
  • Mark Luttrell

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is giving citizens a chance to sit with him face-to-face to share their concerns about county government and suggestions on how to make it better.

The first "Meet the Mayor" session is scheduled for Tuesday, July 10th, and each participant will be given a 10-minute meeting. Division directors will be present or available by phone for specific questions or concerns the mayor may need help answering.

“I routinely attend community forums and neighborhood meetings, but those do not allow me enough time to speak personally with citizens. This will get me better acquainted with people and use their ideas to improve Shelby County government,” Luttrell said.

Meetings are first-come, first-served and will last from 1 to 3 p.m. on the eighth floor of the Vasco Smith Administration Building at 160 N. Main. To schedule a meeting, call 222-2000.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

City Council Committee Approves Lease of Property for Overton Square Garage

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 3:26 PM

Plans to build a $16 million parking garage and Lick Creek flood retention basin in Overton Square are moving right along, thanks to the Memphis City Council's executive committee approving the acquisition and lease of property for the garage's development today.

The resolution that passed also approved the lease of that Overton Square property to Loeb Properties and Hattiloo Theatre to further the Square's redevelopment.

The 450-space parking garage, designed by Looney Ricks Kiss, will be built atop a flood basin designed to collect 28 percent of the excess runoff water that may collect in a 20-year flood event. Pumps installed in the basin will help drain the water. The garage will be built on the far end of the massive parking lot that faces Side Street Grill and TheatreWorks. Hattiloo Theatre will locate to a newly constructed space in front of the garage facing Cooper.

Part of the funds that will be used to build the garage and basin are federal disaster relief dollars acquired by the city after a May 2010 Lick Creek flooding event, and the rest is public dollars.

"Engineers agree that Lick Creek is the most sensitive basin in Memphis," said architect Tom Marshall.

Marshall presented a slide slow that identified 48 city projects that could help mitigate flooding in other areas of town. But that wasn't enough to please city councilwoman Wanda Halbert, who complained that the city didn't have enough concrete plans to resolve flooding issues in other areas.

"I would appreciate not having to back into my community and explain to them why I'm using their tax dollars on this project that deals with more than flooding," Halbert said, in reference to the fact that taxpayer dollars are being spent not only on the flood basin, but on the parking garage.

City director of Housing and Community Development Robert Libscomb said he would come back to the council soon to present the city's plans for other areas.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Airport Forum Blames High Memphis Airfares On Fuel Prices, Lack of Competition

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 2:23 PM

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The answers to why Memphis has some of the highest airfares in the country came as no surprise to many assembled in the audience at a Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce-sponsored air service public forum this morning at Christian Brothers University.

That's because the overwhelming responses — high jet fuel prices and a lack of competition — given by the airline industry executives who sat on the six-person panel were the same answers that have been given time and time again since the citizen demand for lower airfares picked up steam a few months ago.

According to Commercial Appeal editor and panel moderator Chris Peck, the panel was intended to help people understand why they pay what they do for tickets. But at the panel's end, lower airfare advocate Cheri DelBrocco stood up and told the panel that people are looking for answers as to how the powers-that-be plan to lower those fares.

"That's what we came for," said a clearly frustrated DelBrocco, who had earlier called the panel a "dog and pony show" on the Delta Does Memphis Facebook page.

Throughout the event, moderator Peck read written questions to the panel from note cards collected from the audience. Airline Weekly managing partner Seth Kaplan was asked why fares here are so high.

His response? "I cannot overstate the impact of how high fuel prices in the airline industry has forced airlines to raise fares."

When asked why Little Rock, which tends to have lower fares than Memphis, hasn't been as affected by those high fuel prices, Kaplan said the lack of a low-cost competitor to Delta Airlines, which has a hub here, is what hurts Memphis airfares. He also said a few expensive non-stop flights in Memphis drive up the average cost of fares here.

"The average fare is $100 more here than in Little Rock, but Memphis has some non-stop flight options that Little Rock doesn't have. That brings up the average fare prices here," Kaplan said.

Kaplan said low-cost competitors are more likely to come to an airport that's making money. In Memphis, Delta has actually cut back flights. Memphis Airport Authority president Larry Cox said Delta has cut back flights from 235 per day to 150.

But Cox said Delta's shrinking service along with a new incentive package the airport can begin offering carriers on July 1st may actually help lure low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines. In the past, Cox said Southwest had turned Memphis down because both the old Northwest Airlines hub and the Delta hub were too big to compete against.

"This is the right time and the right incentive to make a difference," Cox said.

Memphis Convention & Visitor's Bureau president Kevin Kane revealed that he and Cox have been trying to lure Southwest to Memphis for 20 years. He said there were some legal reasons before as to why Southwest couldn't locate here, but those were no longer an issue.

"When Southwest does ramp up, Delta will do whatever they can to be competitive," Kane said.

Southwest Airlines is expected to locate to Memphis in the next 12 months, but Kaplan said Memphians may be surprised to see that it might not make as much difference in fare prices as they'd like to see.

"Southwest will be here with their own planes at some point. That will be helpful, but don't think that will change the world and fares will tumble," Kaplan said.

Chip Barclay, president of the American Association of Airport Executives, agreed.

"Southwest will not solve all your problems. They primarily serve the high-volume markets," Barclay said, alluding to the fact that airline carriers in Memphis are actually cutting back service. He did, however, say that Memphis still has a robust level of service compared with other cities its size.

As for the economic impact of Memphis' high fares, Kane said the convention business hasn't slowed since fares have risen. He said 2012 has been a record year for conventions in Memphis and that a lack of large hotels presents more of a problem than high airfare. John Moore, president of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce, said the higher fares were affecting small businesses much more than large corporations, such as FedEx, which often cut deals with airlines to fly their employees.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Police Seek Whitehaven Bank Robber

Posted By on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 at 3:33 PM

A female bank robbery suspect has been on the loose for nearly three weeks, and the Memphis Police are turning to the public for help.

An African American female with straight, short hair, bangs, and eyeglasses robbed the Regions Bank at 4134 Elvis Presley on Thursday, May 24th at 4:25 p.m. But her method of robbing the bank wasn't the traditional stick-up. Rather than brandish a weapon and demand cash, the suspect received a cash advance using a stolen credit card.

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This incident was captured on video surveillance, and the investigation is ongoing. Anyone who has seen this woman should contact the Memphis Police Department.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Red Light District Idea Tabled For One Year

Posted By on Tue, Jun 5, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Will Memphis ever have a red light district? Well have to wait for at least a year to find out.
  • Will Memphis ever have a red light district? We'll have to wait for at least a year to find out.

Memphis City Councilman Shea Flinn's proposal to establish an ad hoc committee to study the need for a red light district for the city's strip clubs was tabled for one year while the council waits to see what effect the new county ordinance governing adult businesses has on the local economy.

For over a year, Flinn has been talking about the possibility of moving the strip clubs to an established district, where dancers would likely be able to have more nudity than is allowed under the county law while still allowing beer sales. Under the county ordinance that took effect January 1st, adult businesses are not allowed to sell alcohol if the dancers' genitals are exposed. Because of the law, dancers in most clubs now wear bikinis or shorts and halter tops, and the clubs continue to serve alcohol.

Strip club owners have argued that requiring dancers to be totally covered hurts business. Flinn's proposed committee would have studied whether or not a city red light district, where alcohol and some nudity would be permitted, would have made a difference.

Councilman Bill Boyd moved to hold the proposal for one year, and Flinn agreed with that motion. He said it would allow the proposed committee to have a better understanding of whether or not the county law was working.

Councilman Joe Brown called the idea of a red light entertainment district the equivalent of "a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah" and said council members should be ashamed of themselves for discussing issues of immorality.

"I will not be a part of any ad hoc committee," said Brown, after the motion was accepted to table the discussion for a year. "I would be ashamed of anyone on this body who would be on it."

To read more on Flinn's proposal, read this Q&A from the Memphis Flyer.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Memphis Joins National Protected Bike Lane Project

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 10:57 AM

A rendering of the proposed green lane for Broad Avenue.

The Green Lane Project, sponsored by the national bicycling nonprofit Bikes Belong Foundation, will include Memphis and five other U.S. cities in its plan to support the development of protected bike lanes over the next two years.

"Protected bike lanes," also known as "green lanes," are lanes buffered from traffic with curbs, planters, posts, or parked cars. The goal of the Green Lane Project is to provide resources and technical assistance to selected cities in their efforts to install these buffered lanes. Other cities participating in the initiative are Austin, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon.

“Mayor A C Wharton has catalyzed a dramatic turnaround for bicycling in Memphis, making the city a
perfect partner for the Green Lane Project,” said Martha Roskowski, Green Lane Project director for
Bikes Belong. “Green lanes benefit everyone who uses city streets, not just people on bicycles. They
ease congestion, save valuable resources, and help create a healthier community.”

The proposed Overton-Broad connector path, which will connect Overton Park to the Shelby Farms Greenline, will be a protected two-way bike lane, separated from traffic by a landscaped buffer. The connector project is still in the planning stages.

“The Broad Avenue Overton project will use innovative bicycle facility design to provide access to an
underserved community, inspire reinvestment in the urban core, build on the success of what Broad
Avenue has already done, and connect public green spaces,” said Kyle Wagenschutz, Memphis’
bikeway/pedestrian coordinator. “We’re thrilled by the prospect of what’s ahead for our city over the
next two years with the support of the Green Lane Project.”

Over the past year, the city has installed 35 miles of bike lanes, and more than 55 more miles are scheduled to go in over the next year. That development led to Memphis moving from one of the worst cities for bicycling according to Bicycling Magazine in 2008 to being named the “Most Improved City” in the same magazine's Best Bike City Rankings for 2012.

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