Thursday, October 31, 2013

Memphis City Council Rules Committee Still Working on 'Easy Stuff'

Posted by on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 4:20 PM

Leaders of the various Memphis City Council committees will rotate each year if the full council approves a proposal from the ad hoc group of council members looking to change the rules and procedures of the city's legislative body.

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The proposal was approved by the committee created last month to rein in some behaviors from council members and change how the council conducts business. Councilman Myron Lowery brought the proposal to the table in the committee's meeting Thursday afternoon.

"Some people believe they own a committee because they have chaired them for two or three years," Lowery said.

Councilman Bill Boyd countered that the years spent chairing a committee bring an expertise on a topic which "serves the whole council." But that expertise can be problematic, said Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, as some "start acting like members of the administration and not legislators."

The committee also approved a "fiscal consent" category for the council's agenda that will allow some routine spending items to pass more quickly through the council approval process.

The committee said it will also enforce the Thursday deadline for submitting agenda items for the following Tuesday's council meeting. Halbert said she is "uncomfortable" voting on items that she has not time to consider and said the rule is frequently broken by members of A C Wharton's administration.

The committee also discussed creating uniform procedures for limiting speaking times for council members and members of the public and discussed policies on council members leaving meetings early.

While neither meeting of the committee have yet produced the fireworks some expected, Halbert said she wanted the committee to deal with "the easy stuff" first.

"We have stuff coming that might be a little funny looking and a little sensitive," she said.

Money Flows for Memphis Road Projects

Posted by on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Projects to repair and maintain Memphis roads and bridges will soon get big cash injections if the Memphis City Council approves them during their meeting Tuesday night.

The council will consider:

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- Accepting more than $5.5 million in state and federal dollars to fund the next phase of the project to clean up and revitalize the area around Elvis Presley Boulevard and Brooks Road. The $40.9 million project will include improvements to roads, sidewalks, signage, traffic lights, and more and is expected to be complete by 2016.

- Accepting $5.3 million in state and federal funds to repair 14 bridges on Sam Cooper Boulevard.

- Accepting $11.6 million in funds to pave some Memphis roads.

- Accepting nearly $9 million in funds to improve traffic signals around the city.

Dear Memphis: A New Way to Gripe or Hype

Posted by on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 10:19 AM

From DearCity.org
  • From DearCity.org

Attention all complainers, curmudgeons, haters, know-it-all-suburbanites, too-cool Midtowners, worry-wart East Siders, defensive Dowtowners and anyone else with a my-way-or-the-highway opinion about Memphis: there's a new place to ply your trade online.

Dearcity.org launched an expanded site for many major metro cities earlier this month. The first Dear City site launched four years ago in Copenhagen, Denmark by two friends, Mikael Staer and Philip Battin. They then opened sites for New York, London, and Berlin.

Dear City site users search for their city and leave an anonymous message or read messages left by others. The site is billed as a tool for change, a "social cluster of opinions that express the thoughts of the man on the street."

"Dear City becomes a documentation of contemporary life and its ups and downs," the site says. "We believe change is achieved through all levels of communication."

So far, only two messages have been on the Dear City Memphis page. One pleads for (someone?) to clean up Elvis Presley Boulevard and save historic buildings. Another says the current public transportation system makes it tough to visit the city's neighborhoods.

Comments don't have to be negative, of course. But a quick look at the comments sections of Memphis media outlets, Topix, or local social media predicts the Dear City Memphis site won't likely tout the city's rainbows and sunshine.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cook Convention Center Expansion To Be Studied

Posted by on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 2:23 PM

A group may soon be formed to study the possible expansion of the Cook Convention Center.

The Memphis City Council will consider a joint resolution with the Shelby County Commission on Tuesday to “establish a Memphis Cook Convention Center Expansion Study Committee,” according to the council’s committee agenda published Wednesday afternoon.

Such a group would certainly not be the first formed in Memphis to discuss the future of the aging convention center. Then-Memphis-Mayor Willie Herenton formed a study group in 2008 to replace the Cook and similar proposals have come before the city council since then.

But the pressure to up the city’s convention game rose this year after the $585 million Music City Center opened in Nashville this summer. The enormous space is expected to compete nationally for meetings conferences and the like and will likely capture some of the Cook’s market share.

The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau began managing the Cook Center two years ago. CVB president Kevin Kane told a council committee earlier this month that Memphis is, indeed, losing conventions and meetings to Nashville and that the Cook needs an upgrade and that city needs more hotel space.

Memphis Zoo extends contract for pandas

Posted by on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 1:00 PM

The Memphis Zoo has extended its contract with China 10 more years to keep giant pandas. The agreement, signed by the Memphis Zoo, Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens, and China’s State Forestry Administration, extends the loan for two bears at half the cost of the previous loan.

According to Abbey Dane, the communications director at the zoo, the contract isn't negotiated on specifically keeping Ya Ya and Le Le — the two bears in the China exhibit currently — only the ability to keep pandas in the exhibit. The zoo has tried to breed the two over the past decade, but have yet to be successful.

The zoo has borrowed the pandas since 2003.

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Indie Memphis Introduces Bike Share Program

Posted by on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 10:47 AM

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Indie Memphis festival-goers can leave their cars at home this year. Indie Memphis is launching IndieBikes, a bike share program that loans free bikes to festival participants traveling between film venues.

The loaner bikes are available for three hours at a time, and users will be given maps that showcase bike lanes and trails, parks, and nearby restaurants. The program is co-sponsored by Revolutions Memphis. Bike locks and night lights are also provided. Those who wish to borrow a bike for the duration of the festival may do so at the Peddler Bike Shop, which is offering long-term rentals.

To check out a bike through IndieBikes, stop by the Indie Memphis Central Box Office at 49 S. Cooper (next to the Circuit Playhouse).

IndieBikes will kick off today (Wednesday) with a bike parade leaving Revolutions Bike Co-op (at First Congregational Church, 1000 S. Cooper) at 4:30 p.m. The bikes featured in the parade were decorated by Memphis College of Art students. The parade will move down Cooper and end at Circuit Playhouse.

The IndieBikes hours of operation are as follows:

Thursday, Oct 31st
5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Bikes must be returned by 11 p.m.

Friday, Nov 1st
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Bikes must be returned by midnight

Saturday, Nov. 2nd
Noon to 10 p.m.
Bikes must be returned by midnight

Sunday, Nov. 3rd
Noon to 7 p.m.
Bikes must be returned by 9 p.m.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sebelius' Memphis Trip To Come After Tough Testimony

Posted by on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 1:32 PM

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be in Memphis Friday promoting the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace.

The event is designed to help Memphis-area residents get enrolled in a health insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace, a product of the Affordable Care Act. The event will feature federally trained marketplace Navigators and other counselors to aid in the application process.

Sebelius’ trip to Memphis will come after she testifies Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the new healthcare law and especially the problems that have plagued the rollout of healthcare.gov, the online home of the insurance marketplaces.

National GOP leaders have harshly criticized Sebelius on the rollout and have called for a Government Accounting Office investigation of some of her fundraising efforts supporting the ACA.

Friday’s event runs from 1 p.m. — 4 p.m. at the Benjamin Hooks Central Library at 3030 Poplar.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Suspect Charged In Millington Shooting

Posted by on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 4:56 PM

Amos Patton of Cordova has been charged with one count of assault within the maritime and territorial jurisdiction and one count of carrying and using a firearm during and in relation to a federal crime of violence following yesterday's afternoon shooting at the Tennessee Army National Guard Recruiting Center in Millington.

On October 24th, Patton, 42, was asked by his commanders at the recruiting center to come in for a meeting. At that meeting, he was notified that he was being relieved of duty and recommended for a reduction in rank and a separation from active duty because of misconduct, according to an affidavit of complaint.

Patton was asked to return some government property, so he went to his government vehicle and returned with what was described in the affidavit as a "fanny pack." When Patton reached into the pack, a Tennessee Army National Guardsmen yelled and another officer attempted to subdue him. But Patton was still able to fire the gun he had in the pack. Shots fired from the gun struck three National Guard personnel.

Patton ran from the building, but he was caught and held until the Millington Police Department arrived and arrested him.

Patton faces up to 20 years for assault and a minimum of 10 years for the firearms charge if he is convicted.

Flyer Video: How to Operate Memphis' New Parking Meters

Posted by on Fri, Oct 25, 2013 at 9:00 AM

New parking meters should be showing up around Downtown Memphis and the Medical District by the end of November .
The digital meters will cost the city more than $1.7 million but are expected to pay for themselves, according to city engineer John Cameron, who predicted the meters will generate $892,000 in new fees annually.
The new metering program will replace nearly 1,200 analog meters, which only accept coins. The new meters will accept coins and credit and debit cards.
Most of the meters will be set up to handle multiple parking spaces by the block. A driver will park in a space, walk to the meter, pay it, take the receipt issued by the machine and place it on their vehicle's dashboard so police can easily see if the car is parked illegally or not.
However, some individual meters will also be installed for single parking spaces.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Suspect In Custody In Shooting Near Millington Base

Posted by on Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 1:29 PM

Two National Guardsmen, Maj. William J. Crawford and Sgt. Maj. Ricky R. McKenzie, were transported to the Regional Medical Center of Memphis with non-life threatening injuries following an afternoon shooting at the National Guard Armory across the street from the Millington Naval base. One person was shot in the leg, the other in the foot. The shots were fired from a small handgun, according to Major Max Haston, Adjutant General of the Tennessee National Guard.

The suspect, a National Guardsman who has been described by some reports as an African-American man in his 30s, was taken into custody by the Millington Police Department. The suspect has not yet named.

The shots were not technically fired on the Naval base since the Armory is located across the street.

The shooting is being investigated by the local authorities, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

After the shooting, the Naval base was locked down for a short time as a precaution. That lockdown has been lifted.

"We were hoping it was just a drill when we first got the call," said Millington police chief Rita Stanback at the press conference.

At a press conference at 5 p.m., Haston said the shooting victims are National Guard recruiters with about 15 years of service or more. Haston wouldn't comment on a motive except to say, "We were going through administrative policies with this individual."

Lyft Looking for a Ride in Memphis

Posted by on Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Lyft car on the road
  • Lyft
  • Lyft car on the road

Lyft, the on-demand ridesharing company, is testing the Memphis market for a possible expansion here.

The Lyft program is driven by a mobile app that allows you to find drivers in your area and order a ride from them. You’ll know a Lyft car when you see one as the cars all sport the company’s signature pink mustache on their grills.

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The San Francisco-based start up ran an ad looking for drivers in Memphis on Facebook recently but the expansion isn’t a sure thing.

“We are currently testing ads in 20 cities where Lyft is not operating but that we are interested in exploring,” company spokesman Page Thelen said. “While Memphis would be a great city for Lyft, we have not made any plans to launch there at this time.”

Lyft drivers are vetted and approved by the company but aren’t commercially licensed, which makes Lyft different from some rideshare companies. The drivers are just regular people with cars who sign up to give rides for a suggested donation instead of a fee, a difference that allows drivers to get around having a commercial license.

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An October 17 blog post from the company says it just recently expanded into Baltimore, the 16th city in the country to get the service. Other Lyft cities include Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta, Indianapolis and St. Paul.

Should the company bring its service to Memphis, riders can expect a friendly fist bump from drivers and to be able to pick their own music and charge their phones or other electronics during the ride.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Delta Airlines To Cut More Flights

Posted by on Tue, Oct 22, 2013 at 1:55 PM

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Delta Airlines announced on Tuesday that it will reduce the number of peak-day departure flights leaving the Memphis International Airport from 64 to 40, beginning December 3rd.

Delta staff will also be reduced by 312 workers. Employees are being offered retirement or relocation options. The flight attendant base in Memphis will be forced to close.

There's no word yet on what flights Delta will cut.

“This is not completely unexpected news, but it is nonetheless disappointing,” said Scott Brockman, chief operating officer for the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. “This is also an opportunity to bring additional low-cost air service providers to Memphis, as well as expand service with existing carriers. Southwest Airlines will soon make its debut, and Frontier Airlines has announced its return in March. That’s a good start, but we’re committed to continued, relentless pursuit of additional frequent and affordable air service.”

Earlier this year, Delta announced Memphis would no longer be a hub.

Two Le Bonheur Employees, Hospital Wing Pilot Killed In Crash

Posted by on Tue, Oct 22, 2013 at 11:51 AM

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Tuesday morning, a pilot, respiratory therapist, and nurse lost their lives in a helicopter crash. They were en route to assist a patient more than an hour away in Bolivar.

Two of the victims were staff members of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. The other was a Hospital Wing pilot.

The crash victims have been identified as nurse Carrie Barlow, 43; respiratory therapist Denise Adams, 43; and pilot Charles Smith, 47 (a retired member of the Memphis Police Department's aviation unit).

The three passengers died after their medical helicopter crashed in Fayette County near Somerville. The crash occurred before 7 a.m. The reason for the crash is still unknown.

According to a statement released by Le Bonheur, around 6:20 a.m., they received reports that they had not received regular contact from a Hospital Wing helicopter flying to pick up a patient in Bolivar.

The statement said it was later confirmed that the helicopter was down in Fayette County. The local sheriff’s department, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified and a preliminary investigation is underway.

According to Le Bonheur, the hospital makes 400 flights each year to transport sick and critically injured children for medical care within a 150-mile radius.

The young patient that the medical helicopter was flying to was transported to Le Bonheur by ambulance.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Wharton Issues Order To Eliminate Rape Kit Backlog

Posted by on Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton issued an executive order Monday morning outlining a plan to eliminate the backlog of unprocessed rape kits in Memphis “as soon as is possible.”

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton
  • Memphis Mayor A C Wharton

The order comes after the backlog was discussed publicly by Memphis Police Department (MPD) director Toney Armstrong two months ago as he asked the Memphis City Council to accept $500,000 in state and federal funds to help test some of the kits. The council responded with $1.5 million in new funds to test even more kits and to build a dedicated storage space for the kits.

Memphis police will immediately inventory all backlogged rape kits and establish a plan to have them tested. No “case will be considered ‘cold’,” according to the order. Evidence collected from the tests will be used to in the prosecution of the crimes to the fullest extent of the law.

Going forward, MPD will have policies and procedures to process all new rape kits and set up performance indicators to measure the program’s compliance and success, the order says. In three months, the police director will begin to give monthly reports on the program to the mayor and to the city council’s public safety committee.

“Appropriate processes and procedures in the handling of this evidence help preserve the rights of victims, support the prosecution of criminals, and promote justice for all,” Wharton said in a Monday statement. “We have to get this right.”

Memphis police will work with the District Attorney General’s office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to eliminate the current backlog. Wharton’s order further directs MPD to process all new rape kits immediately.

“The purpose of this order is to ensure that this does not happen again, that these cases are being actively investigated, and that we identify and employ best practices for dealing with sexual assaults in the future,” Wharton said.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Science Blogger Who Was Called An "Urban Whore" Has Memphis Roots

Posted by on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 at 3:54 PM

Danielle Lee
  • Danielle Lee

"Don't start none. Won't be none."

That was South Memphis native and biologist Danielle Lee's response as to why she took to the internet last week to make public an email response from Biology-Online.org that called Lee an "urban whore" for turning down a guest blogger opportunity at that website.

A representative from Biology-Online, simply known as Ofek, sent Lee an email about guest-blogging. Lee already runs a popular blog on the Scientific American website called The Urban Scientist, which is billed as "a hip hop maven" blogging on "urban ecology, evolutionary biology, and diversity in the sciences."

Lee responded to the email from Biology-Online asking what would be required and if there was any compensation for blog posts. In a follow-up email, Ofek told her that there was no compensation. Lee politely declined the offer, and Ofek's response blew her away.

"Because we don't pay for blog entries? Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?" read the email. Lee posted screenshots of the email exchange on the Scientific American website. The blog was taken down by Scientific American, but it was later re-posted after the site owners verified Lee's story. The story went viral over the weekend with posts on Jezebel and the Huffington Post.

Lee grew up in South Memphis and earned her master's degree at the University of Memphis before pursuing a career as a biologist at Oklahoma State University, where she now serves as a post-doctoral associate.

ABC News reported that Ofek has been terminated from Biology-Online, and the site owner has apologized to Lee. The Flyer will run a full Q&A with Lee in next Wednesday's edition. But here's a sneak peek quote from Lee about the importance of diversity in the field of science.


"My ultimate cause is about science communication to underrepresented and underserved audiences. I would like to see more kids who have this natural curiosity who come from the hood, like me, or the barrios or the trailer parks, those places that we so often dismiss," Lee said. "There are a lot of bright people who live in these communities. But we happen to be poor. That doesn’t mean there isn’t promise there or genius or excitement or curiosity. I really want that to come out. I care about amplifying the voices of people who have for far too long been ignored or overlooked or not noticed, particularly when it comes to science."

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