A 13-member committee has been appointed by Mayor Mark Luttrell to explore new ways the county can improve its air quality and meet ozone pollution standards.
The committee met informally for the first time on Tuesday, and it's charged with examining air pollution from cars, industry, and other sources. The group will be required to submit its plans to Luttrell in a few months.
“We were notified months ago that Shelby County’s air quality did not meet federal standards. That finding and the recent decision by the City of Memphis to stop vehicle emissions testing led to my decision to form this committee. We need to take a comprehensive look at this issue to ensure corrective measures are taken,” Luttrell said.
Here's a list of those appointed to the committee:
· Co-Chairperson: Harvey Kennedy — Chief Administrative Officer, Shelby County Government
· Co-Chairperson — Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy
· Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald
· Kim Hackney — Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Shelby County Government
· Kelly Rayne — Shelby County Attorney
· Carter Gray — Assistant Shelby County Attorney
· Yvonne Madlock — Director, Shelby County Health Department
· Tyler Zerwekh - Administrator of Environmental Health Services, Shelby County Health Department
· Bob Rogers — Manager, Pollution Control, Shelby County Health Department
· Tom Needham — Director, Shelby County Public Works
· Pragati Srivastava — Administrator, Metropolitan Planning Office
· Paula Lewis — Executive Assistant, Shelby County Chief Administrative Office
· Martha Lott — General Services Director, City of Memphis
The giant, rusted replica of a glass milk bottle on top of an old dairy plant at 1039 S. Bellevue will be coming down soon as the building is demolished under the city's Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
Also included in the project, which is intended to fight blight in selected neighborhoods, is the renovation of the South Memphis Alliance Laundromat. The currently-inoperable laundromat will become the South Memphis Alliance Center for Children and Families and the South Memphis Alliance Community Laundromat and Resource Center.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program targeted six Memphis neighborhoods for blight demolition: Frayser, Binghampton, the Vance Avenue area, Glenview, Orange Mound, and Soulsville. These areas were chosen based on their high number of foreclosures, high cost of mortgages, and heavily blighted properties.
On Thursday night, several hundred people gathered in the parking lot of the Cleveland Street Flea Market in Midtown to watch artists Eli Gold and Colin Kidder install a large, spinning sculpture made from 51 repurposed bicycle wheels across the street from the old Sears Crosstown building.
Intended to serve as the new "gateway" into Crosstown, the sculpture — titled "Beacon" — was created with money donated by Harry Freeman and Sara Ratner. The two had attended a Crosstown Arts MemFeast event in 2011, at which Gold and Kidder proposed to build the sculpture. At MemFeast events, artists present ideas for projects, and attendees vote on their favorite. The winner receives money to make their proposal a reality. The sculptors didn't win the MemFeast vote, but Freeman and Ratner liked their idea for a kinetic sculpture so much that they offered $3,000 to the artists after the event.
"That was an amazing example of the kind of community we want to create [for Crosstown]," said Christopher Miner of Crosstown Arts. "There's artists like Colin and Eli who want to do something and people like Harry and Sara who are interested in helping."
Since May, the completed sculpture has been sitting in the Crosstown Arts parking lot at 427 N. Watkins, awaiting its installation on the metal pole in a small grassy area at the intersection of N. Watkins and Cleveland.
"People in the neighborhood have stopped by every day to look at it," Miner said.
When Gold and Kidder made their proposal at MemFeast, they suggested adding the sculpture to the side of the Sears Crosstown building.
"They weren't married to that idea," Miner said. "We like the idea of the sculpture acting as a gateway to the neighborhood. It's more visible [at Cleveland and Watkins]."
Just last week, the Sears Crosstown Development Team announced that they had signed memorandums of understanding for ALSAC, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Church Health Center, Gestalt Community Schools, Methodist Healthcare, Memphis Teacher Residency, Rhodes College, the West Clinic, and Crosstown Arts as founding partners committed to redeveloping the 1.4 million-square-foot Sears Crosstown building.
Those with a desire for an adrenaline rush will have the opportunity to rappel down the city’s 365-foot iBank Tower this Saturday.
“Over the Edge,” will provide the first 100 people who raise a minimum of $1,000 with the chance to rappel down the tower located on 5050 Poplar Ave from 8:30am to 4:30pm.
The event is sponsored by Special Olympics Tennessee, a nonprofit that helps thousands of children and adults with disabilities improve their physical fitness and sports skills, enhancing their self-confidence and social competency in the process.
“The hardest part is actually getting over the edge. Once you’re over, it’s like, ‘oh my God. I’m actually repelling down a building,’” said Lisa Taylor, director for Special Olympics of Greater Memphis. “The reception has been really great. The first year, we had about 68 rapellers. Last year, about 65 to 68 as well. This year, the goal is to increase it to 80.”
Besides raising $1,000, participants must be at least 18-years-old and weigh no more than 300 pounds.
Money raised will benefit the more than 16,000 athletes who participate with Special Olympics Tennessee.
“Children and adults with mental and physical disabilities face challenges every day, but they step outside the box and they try everything,” Taylor said. “People who participate [with Over the Edge] are not just supporting the Special Olympics, they’re stepping outside of the box and challenging themselves to do something they normally wouldn’t do. They’re facing their fears.”
There will be food and drinks for sale and music provided by DJ Keith Dinkins with Dingo Entertainment and Ken Houston of the No Hit Wonders. Participants will receive a t-shirt and goody bag.
The annual event began in 2010. For more information, contact Lisa Taylor at (901) 683-1271.
A guitar worth more than $5,000 belonging to a member of George Clinton's P-Funk All Stars was recovered, and an arrest warrant has been issued for Memphis man Neika Lightfoot in connection with the theft.
The guitar went missing while the All Stars were performing last August at Shelby Farms. Someone posing as a security guard entered the band's tour bus and stole the guitar. It was recently recovered in Atlanta, where it had been sold to a Guitar Center store. The guitar was located there thanks to a Google search by a friend of the victim.
Authorities have determined Lightfoot, 35, was connected to the theft. The Shelby County Sheriff's Office is asking for the public's help in locating Lightfoot. The guitar has been returned to its owner, Shaunna Hall.
(Note: Hall is also a founding member of '90s alt-rocker band 4 Non Blondes).
This weekend, kids with incarcerated parents or relatives will get an opportunity to secure a mentor that helps them stay on the right path throughout the school year.
SoGiv, a nonprofit that sells footwear and apparel, and donates a portion of the proceeds to a worthy cause, is hosting the workshop “SoGiv-A-Mentor,” Saturday, 1 to-3 p.m. at 258 N. Merton St. The group is partnering with fellow nonprofit, Families of Incarcerated Individuals, for the event.
Edward Bogard, founder of SoGiv, said the event is targeting students aged 7- to 17-years-old.
“It's a long school year ahead, and having someone you can lean on or seek for advice can make all the difference in the world,” Bogard said. “We want to continue to do our part and make positive impacts on children's lives throughout the upcoming school year as much as possible. [We want to] let the children know to follow their dreams, because anything is possible.”
Bogard — along with guest facilitators Meko Yance, editor of BG Magazine, and Dr. David Acey, founder of Africa In April — will host breakout sessions that provide ways for kids to avoid going down a similar path as their incarcerated relatives.
There will also be lunch provided during the workshop, along with door prizes, and special performances by acoustic soul artist CC Hill, and R&B crooner AJAE Moore.
For more information, people can visit sogiv.org.
Updated plans for the two-way bike path that will connect Overton Park to the Shelby Farms Greenline were on display this afternoon at an open house-style public meeting at the Lester Street Community Center.
The path will begin in Overton Park with a paved trail connecting the existing Old Forest trails to Sam Cooper, but that part of the project is being undertaken by the Overton Park Conservancy. The rest of the project is spearheaded by Livable Memphis.
Improved timers will be added to the intersection of Sam Cooper and East Parkway, allowing more time for cyclists and pedestrians to cross on the north side. From there, the sidewalk on the along the north side of Sam Cooper will be widened to allow more room for cyclists and pedestrians. That property is currently owned by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, but the city should be allowed to take some right-of-way at no cost.
A two-way bike path, allowing bicycle traffic in both directions, will begin in the cul-de-sac off the Sam Cooper sidewalk. That will lead to Broad Avenue, where the two-way path will continue on the south side of the street. This is a deviation from the past plan to place the path on the north side. Historic Broad Avenue Business Association vice-president Pat Brown said the path was moved to the south side to be in line with national standards, which show a preference to bike facilities being placed where the most activity happens. That prevents cyclists and pedestrians from having to cross busy streets to get to their destinations.
"The businesses are just thrilled to have the lane on our side now," Brown said.
The two-way path will continue to Tillman, where it will turn onto that street and eventually connect to the Shelby Farms Greenline. Most sections of the path will be buffered with a physical barrier than can be landscaped. Bollards will be placed on some areas of the path to prevent cars from turning off of intersections and on to the path.
A formal presentation of this plan is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at First Baptist Church at 2835 Broad.
“No Papers, No Fear,” painted in purple letters and surrounded by pink flowers and butterflies, stood out from the six-foot backdrop of a flatbed truck’s makeshift stage at yesterday’s Memphis Unafraid rally.
“No somos illegales! No somos criminales,” the crowd of over 200 chanted in unison in front of the stage, where between 5 and 9 p.m., undocumented individuals and supporters performed skits, poetry, and speeches to highlight what they said are injustices to basic human rights.
The event at El Mercadito on Ridgeway Road across from Hickory Ridge Mall was one stop on the UndocuBus’s tour of the southern United States on its way to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 3rd.
The UndocuBus started its journey in Phoenix, Arizona on July 29th, on the anniversary of the state’s implementation of strict immigration laws that many immigrants and human rights advocates claim have led to unfair racial profiling and long-term detentions at private prisons during deportation proceedings.
The group is heading to the convention to join activists and allies in North Carolina, who are organizing around labor and immigration laws in that state, and to show Democrats the movement is powerful enough to warrant their support.
Six new undocumented members will join the bus when it leaves for Nashville Thursday, including four Memphians.
Alejandro Guizar, a 19-year-old college student from Knoxville, said he is joining the movement because he wants to give people courage to stand up for themselves and their community.
“When people are in the shadows, they get taken advantage of, and nobody ever finds out about it,” he said. “There is no way to defend yourself. You don’t know what to do. You don’t want to go out and ask for help. People are just scared.”
Gerardo Torres who has been on the bus since Phoenix said the immigration laws target the Latino community and create fear of the police.
“They say its not about skin color or about being Mexican,” he said, “but I’ve never seen any police officer stopping a white person. Phoenix is not just Mexicans. It’s a lot of other immigrants from a lot of other nations, but it’s focused on the Mexican people.”
Though many criticize the Undocubus for being lawless, Torres said, “Sometimes you have to break laws in order to get rid of unjust laws.”
He also said the eye-opening experiences and community support are what gives him the strength to shed his fear and speak out.
Support for the bus has reached outside the Latino community, drawing a supportive editorial from the New York Times.
Six supporters from the Chicago-based Immigrant Youth Justice League came to Memphis to follow the bus through Tennessee and show their solidarity with undocumented friends on the bus. Univision, a Spanish-language television program, is documenting the group’s travels.
Local support came from the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Workers Interfaith Network, Memphis Socialist Party, Communities United Under One Voice, and Unitarian Universalists as well as many local Latino businesses and community members.
So far, the bus has stopped in Denver, Albaquerque, Austin, and New Orleans without any interference from law enforcement.
Two public meetings to gather input on what cyclists, pedestrians, and other stakeholders would like to see in the proposed bike path connecting Overton Park to the Shelby Farms Greenline via Broad and Tillman are scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 16th.
A day time "open house" drop-in meeting is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Lester Street Community Center (317 Tillman), and a formal presentation is scheduled for 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church Broad (2835 Broad).
The Overton-Broad connector project, currently being spearheaded by Livable Memphis, will include paved trails through Overton Park connecting to Sam Cooper and a two-lane bike path leading down Broad and Tillman to the Shelby Farms Greenline. See this story from the Flyer for more information.
Memphis police removed protesters at the Memphis Occupy camp on the Main Street Mall, and city public works crews began removing tents and other items around 6 a.m. this morning.
According to city spokesperson Mary Cashiola, altercations and assaults at the camp, as well as public bathing and urination in the water wall fountain next to the Downtown Memphis Commission, were among the reasons the camp was dismantled.
The Memphis Occupy camp was one of the longest running such camps in the country. The Memphis camp was nearing its one-year anniversary. Previously, the city of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department had told the campers they could stay indefinitely so long as they remained peaceful and sanitary. The campers were also asked not to obstruct pedestrian or vehicular access to public areas and right-of-ways.
After the eviction, the city provided a secure location to stash the Occupiers belongings, and the homeless campers, which made up most of the campsite's population, have been referred to the Community Alliance for the Homeless. Of the nine people at the campsite this morning, eight were homeless.
Members of the Memphis Bus Riders Union are gathering on Saturday, August 11th to discuss the recent gas tax referendum approved by the Memphis City Council. The referendum would ask voters to support or refuse adding a one-cent tax to every gallon of gasoline sold within city limits, with the proceeds going to Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA).
The Bus Riders Union meeting, which will take place from noon to 2 p.m. at the Memphis Center for Independent Living on 1633 Madison Ave., was called because many of its members had concerns regarding the referendum’s content, which some consider to be vague.
“We’re going to be looking at the gas tax proposal and discussing it with the membership to decide if the group will get involved with this issue,” said member Brad Watkins. “We know that there’s a lot of support for it but we have a lot of questions about the language, the oversight to ensure those funds are going to go where we, and a lot of the members of the MATA board, agree that it should go to.”
The city council voted on Tuesday, August 7th in favor of placing the referendum on the November 6th ballot.
Watkins said the organization agrees that there needs to be a dedicated funding source for MATA but are seeking some clarification before they support it.
“In this era of city budgets, where funding comes and goes arbitrarily, this dedicated source of funding would ensure MATA could become the best public transit system that it could be, which is what we hope for,” Watkins said. “But we want to start a community-wide discussion on this to ensure that the gas tax, if passed by the voters, does what it’s supposed to.
The Memphis Bus Riders Union, founded in February, is a grassroots organization that seeks to ensure the needs and priorities of MATA customers are the company’s highest priority.
An e-mail newsletter from the Overton Park Conservancy sent out Monday morning warned park users to use caution in the wake of a series of robberies in the Old Forest.
The letter said several individuals were robbed on the forest trails over the past few days. One robbery of a 64-year-old man walking in the Old Forest on Sunday, August 5th led to the arrests of James Moss, Inell Crayton, and Devekio Bateman. The teenage suspects allegedly punched and kicked their victim before robbing him of his wallet and a cell phone. They fled on bicycles but were later caught in the area near Jackson and Merton.
The MPD now believes the situation to be under control, but the conservancy is urging park users to be aware of their surroundings at all times. The conservancy is working with the MPD to install security cameras in the Rainbow Lake parking lot and the East Parkway parking lot. Those cameras will feed into the MPD's Real Time Crime Center, meaning they'll be under 24-hour surveillance.
The newsletter stated that overall crime in Overton Park is actually on the decrease.
Drivers who pass through seven local intersections on Saturday, August 4th could catch a glimpse of a "living ad."
Teens from the Memphis Ambassadors Program (MAP) will be holding signs reminding parents that school starts on Monday. The MAP program is the city's replacement for the youth summer jobs program, which ran into problems several years ago when some student workers were not paid.
"Living ads" can be spotted between noon and 2 p.m. at Third and Crump; Third and Mitchell; Elvis Presley and Winchester; Yale and Austin Peay; Hickory Hill and Winchester; Lamar and Airways; and Summer and Highland.
MAP students will receive community service credit for the ad campaign. They are required to complete 12 community service projects each year.
“We know that some students wait until after the first week of the school year to go to school, and teachers have told us how hard it is for those students to catch up,” said James Nelson of the City of Memphis Office of Youth Services. “We’ve reminded our MAP students that school is starting, and now our MAP students are reminding others. We don’t want any of our local students to start the school year behind.”
To learn more about the Memphis Ambassador Program, read this Flyer story.