Dumpsters in Downtown alleys and on Downtown sidewalks became illegal at the beginning of November and even though businesses there knew the change in policy was coming, many did nothing to prepare for it.
Each dumpster was to come with a fine of $500 for each month they remained. But those fines were reduced by a Memphis City Council committee Tuesday to $200. It is expected that council members, city staff and Downtown merchants will work together to devise a more-permanent solution to what could become a stinking, rodent-infested problem.
If Downtown merchants, especially restaurants, have to get rid of their dumpsters, city leaders said Tuesday they would pile their trash in alleys between buildings or other out of the way places, which will create health hazards.
A proposal from council member Lee Harris would have used $300,000 in city funds to build six concrete pads for trash compactors, which would have been built by private companies and the merchants they serve. But the proposal died in committee as members the money would have had to come from city reserves and go to private entities.
“We just don’t have the money,” said council member Jim Strickland. “(Tennessee State Comptroller Justin Wilson) is already upset at us about not having enough money in reserves. We don’t have a money tree on Mud Island that we can just pull from.”
Harris said he was more interested in protecting Downtown stakeholders than in spending reserve funds. Jerome Rubin, former council member and vice president of operation for the Downtown Memphis Commission, said the $300,000 investment was vital to protect health concerns and that the funds could be recouped by the city through a new fee on Downtown businesses and residents.
The council will vote on building the compactor pads in its meeting Tuesday afternoon.
This morning around 10:30 a.m., Trolley #452 on the Madison Line caught on fire near the Bellevue intersection. Nine people and the driver were on board at the time the trolley caught on fire. Passengers reported hearing "a loud pop" near the trolley driver's area, and the trolley immediately began filling with smoke, according to MATA spokesperson Allison Burton.
All passengers were able to safely exit the trolley. Seven people were transported to hospitals after suffering from smoke inhalation, but none are in critical condition. There's no word yet on what caused the fire.
The Madison rail line has been temporarily suspended, and MATA will be provided bus service along that route instead. Trolley #452 was built in 1927 and was purchased from New Orleans Regional Transit Authority in 1997. It had been refurbished in 2004.
In other news, MATA president and general manager Will Hudson has announced that he'll be retiring in January after serving in that role for 20 years. Hudson got his start at MATA as a bus driver 49 years ago. Hudson is the first African-American president of MATA. Under his leadership, MATA reconstructed Central Station downtown and constructed the trolley's Riverfront Loop and Madison Line, among other projects.
Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Office Scott Brockman has released the following statement regarding the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning that killed a TSA agent and wounded at least six others.
“Details about the shooting that occurred at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) today are still emerging. Certainly, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Thus far, the incident affected our operations at Memphis International Airport (MEM). The next non-stop flight to LAX from Memphis is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Delta. At this point, travelers should check with Delta to obtain status updates.
Our primary concern at Memphis International Airport is the security and safety of our employees and passengers. We have strong security procedures in place and have the ability to respond quickly should threats arise. MEM has its own highly-trained police force. The individuals working for the Airport Police are trained in all types of emergency response situations. In addition, the Airport Authority conducts active shooter training for our employees and stakeholders.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was far away from tense Congressional chambers filled with pointed criticisms Friday as her Memphis visit felt at times more like a pep rally.
The secretary’s event at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library was a push to get residents enrolled in a health insurance plan in the one-month-old Health Insurance Marketplace.
The new, government-run health insurance “store” is a product of the Affordable Care Act. The marketplace has been a source of intense scrutiny this week by Republicans who have pointed to the failures of healthcare.gov, the marketplace’s online home, as a systemic failure of the health care law overall.
Sebelius took full responsibility and apologized to the country for the site’s failures in testimony Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose members grilled her in sometimes-heated exchanges. The failures also account for a growing number of GOP leaders calling for Sebelius’ resignation.
But nearly 1,000 miles away from the halls of Congress, Sebelius was welcomed in Memphis to raucous applause, standing ovations, and local leaders calling her “our general” for health issues and a “warrior” for health care advocacy.
Sebelius first met with local stakeholders — politicians such as Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Congressman Steve Cohen, public health officials, pastors, and CEOs - in the library’s Memphis Room. She then addressed a standing-room-only crowd of locals who had come to either hear the secretary speak or to get help signing up for health insurance.
She apologized again Friday for the “frustrating” process for those trying and failing to get health care at healthcare.gov. She also gave a tongue-in-cheek apology for the 2008 University of Kansas win over the University of Memphis in the NCAA championship, which happened when Sebelius was governor of Kansas.
Officials constantly reminded the crowd and the media that the marketplace is one month into a six-month open enrollment period, which ends March 31st. Wharton noted that critics lambasted the launch of the Social Security program, which is now considered essential to many.
Cohen said Republicans are using the Affordable Care Act to undermine and politically damage President Barack Obama and that nearly 88,000 Memphians will be eligible for coverage through the marketplace.