Restauranteur Taylor Berger has dropped his bid for a seat on the Shelby County Commission.
According to his campaign's Facebook page, Berger said the race would add to his already busy schedule and he didn't want to jeopardize his family and business concerns.
"I ran because I wanted to make a difference. I still do, but my wife, Alison, works and we have two young children. I’m helping open three restaurants this summer, plus Tennessee Brewery Untapped. I am a marketing consultant and am completing my real estate license. I am committed to Make Memphis! and several other non-profit and faith-based initiatives. To run this race right, I’d jeopardize my family and business.
I'm so grateful for all the support I've received, and look forward to doing great things in this city for a long time to come!"
The Memphis man indicted earlier this month for killing his dog in his dishwasher pleaded guilty to the charges this week and will serve 16 months in prison, according to Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich.
Curry pleaded guilty in criminal court to felony charges of aggravated animal cruelty.
Victims of serial rapist Anthony Alliano brought a new lawsuit against Memphis and Shelby County agencies Wednesday for damages stemming from what they say was a years-long delay in justice as law enforcement agencies mishandled their rape kits.
All three of the victims gave body fluid samples and DNA evidence to investigators after they were raped, according to the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The evidence was placed in sexual assault kits and transported to city and county agents for testing, the suit says. But the local governments “failed to timely submit, responsibly handle, and make due diligence” on about 12,000 such rape kits.
Evidence from the three victims in the new lawsuit was tested years after its submission. By that time, the evidence had spoiled to the point that it could no longer be legally used, the suit says, and this violates the victims’ constitutional rights to due process and violates the equal protection clause.
The suit names the city, the county, the Shelby County Rape Crisis Center, the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, former Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons, current Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich, former Memphis Police Department (MPD) director Larry Godwin, current MPD director Toney Armstrong, and Alliano.
The new suit also acknowledges the prior suit filed against the city in December. That federal class action lawsuit was filed by an unnamed Memphis woman who said she was raped in 2001. The lawsuit brought Wednesday says its victims have specific and relevant facts and claims, which warrants a case separate from the general class action suit.
Alliano is in jail now, convicted of raping eight women, the suit says. The lawsuit goes further, though, saying Alliano is believed to have committed more than 100 rapes in the Memphis and Shelby County area with the majority of them occurring in the Cordova area.
MidSouthCon held its 32nd convention at the Hilton in East Memphis last weekend.
Mayors from 15 cities along the Mississippi River, including Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, wrapped up two days of talks in Washington Wednesday with promises from federal agencies to help their communities with disaster planning, economic development, environmental protection projects, and more.
The mayors gave reporters a “play by play” report of their activities in a Wednesday-morning news conference and reminded them that the river generates $200 billion in revenues annually. They also stressed the need for state and local government cooperation in improving the river as it covers 10 states, 31 Congressional districts, and 124 cities “all bonded by one river,” said Dubuque Iowa Mayor Roy Buol.
“The Mississippi River supports jobs, and provides food and water, and gives our culture and traditions a sense of permanence,” Buol said. “Yet, so many times, it is taken for granted but we, as mayors, certainly do not.”
• Vicksburg, Miss. Mayor George Flaggs said he talked with the U.S. Army Corps. Of Engineers to develop a general management plan for the river to help improve the economic performance of river activity. Flaggs asked Corps. officials to collaborate with the mayors’ group to develop a performance monitoring tool to give cities and businesses more economic data “so we can improve the river.”
• Tom Thompson, Mayor of Grafton, Ill., said he spoke with the Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental organizations to improve funding for clean and drinking water programs. President Bararck Obama’s new budget cuts $500 million from such programs.
• Hickman, Ky. Mayor David Lattus said he spoke with White House officials from the president’s Rural Council to make the river more resilient in the face of changes from the effects of climate change. For example, Lattus gave the flood of 2008 and 2011, the drought of 2012, and the spring flooding of 2013. The president’ new budget includes $8 billion for climate-change control projects like clean energy production.
Also, Lattus said they discussed reclaiming the river’s natural landscape, increasing capacity for storm water events and shoring up infrastructure for the river’s ports.
• The EPA told St. Cloud, Minn. Mayor David Kleis that the agency will work with his group to form a an accident prevention program on the river to guard against chemical spills. He said the recent chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River revealed policy gaps in the protection of the Mississippi River.
“This would be devastating if it happened on the Mississippi River and we are looking for ways to prevent it in the future,” he said.
• Osceola, Ark. Mayor Dickie Kennemore said he will work with the U.S. Department of Transportation to ready the Mississippi River to transport shipping containers. Putting the containers on the river would “help our balance of trade” with trucking companies and take more freight traffic off the roads, which, he said, would lead to a decrease cost in road repair.
“Also, the fact is that they are expanding the Panama Canal and that will be a driving force behind the expansion of container shipping worldwide,” Lattus said. “Those on Mississippi River and other inland waterways want a bite of that apple.”
He said his group would work with USDOT, state and local governments, and private companies to develop the infrastructure for container shipping on the river.
A new group has formed to halt parking on the historic Greensward at Overton Park.
“Get Off Our Lawn” (GOOL) was founded earlier this month, according to its Facebook page. The group’s sole purpose is to
GOOL says the city has allowed the Memphis Zoo to use the field for overflow parking and that the damage done to the public park is “unacceptable.”
“We want the Overton Park Greensward restored as a calm public space, not a chaotic private parking lot,” says the group’s Facebook page. “We are sick of the noise, dust, fumes, and destruction. We want the cars and trucks to get off our lawn now and forever.”
The group says they would also like to see an ease of traffic in the park overall. To do this, they suggest either running shuttles from parking garages at Crosstown and Overton Square or building a new parking garage close to the zoo’s entrance.
Wade and online neckwear company, The Tie Bar, will release their second line of bow ties and pocket squares Thursday at the company’s website. Inspiration for the new line comes from Memphis, Harlem, New Orleans, and Chicago.
The Memphis collection is “diverse and dynamic,” according to the company. The collection’s “melodic patterns, motley color, and unique textures” is Wade’s acknowledgment the “city’s musical roots and soulful heritage.” The collection also features designs inspired by the “Memphis-Arkansas bridge.”
“Memphis is known for its influence of musical genres such as blues, soul, gospel and rock n’ roll,” Wade said in a news release. “Artists and musicians such as Al Green, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis Presley all made their mark here.”
The Harlem collection is “bold and graphic” inspired by the mosaics and art that "fill the streets." The New Orleans collection was inspired by the “lush flowers and vines” of the city. The Chicago line “mimics the industrial sensibility of the Illinois city.”
Memphis scored low in the annual ranking of well-being from national health care information company Healthways and national polling firm Gallup.
The 2013 rankings were based on surveys from community residents in categories including emotional health, work environment, physical health, and more. Two thousand people in the Memphis area were surveyed for the new ranking, according to Gallup-Healthways.
The community rankings are the newest data from the State of American Well-Being report. State rankings were published in February and Tennessee ranked near the bottom.
Memphis was ranked 135th of the 189 largest communities in the country that were surveyed for the poll. This landed the city right in between Tulsa, Okla. (134) And Pensacola, Fla. (136) Other cities ranked close to Memphis were New Orleans (120) Wilmington, N.C. (126), Knoxville (150), Las Vegas (144), and Modesto, Calif. (151).
Provo, Utah was ranked as the top community in the country for levels of well-being. The worst was the Huntington, W.Va. area. Nashville landed in the 72nd spot. Little Rock was ranked 154th. Jackson, Miss. was ranked 167th.
Tennessee came in at 44th place among the 50 states. The state was ranked in between Missouri (43) and Arkansas (45). Tennessee scored out of the bottom 10 only in the categories of work environment, healthy behaviors, and basic access to health care.
The top state for well-being is North Dakota, according to the ranking. West Virginia is at the bottom of the list. Mississippi ranked 48th.
The ranking is more scientific and meant to be taken more seriously than other national polls that rank cities on, say, their manliness or sweatiness (as Old Spice deodorant used to do), for example. Healthways and Gallup produce the report for community and business leaders to make decisions about their communities.
“For an individual, high well-being means a life well-lived—all the things that are important to each of us, what we think about, and how we experience our lives,” said Healthways CEO Ben Leedle. “In the aggregate, high well-being means healthier populations, more productive and profitable businesses, and more economically vibrant communities.”
The City of Memphis is rolling forward with its bike-focused efforts as green lane projects have been announced throughout the city and two new cycling campaigns are underway.
Green lanes, named for their famous green paint rather than environmental impact, are a generic term for types of protected bicycle lanes where there is a buffer between moving bikes and moving cars.
“That buffer area can take different shapes and forms,” said Kyle Wagenschutz, the bicycle/pedestrian coordinator for the city. “It could be that you paint the buffer area in the roadway. It could be that you use parked cars as the buffer area, so instead of having the parked cars against the curb, they would be a little off the curb and the bikes would be against the curb. That wall of parked cars creates the buffer.”
The city’s first green lane was built last year on Overton Park Avenue between Cleveland Avenue and Bellevue Boulevard, the same year Mayor Wharton committed to building 15 miles of bike lanes. The city is in the process of solidifying that goal: 22 miles worth of lanes have been identified and funded. Eighty percent of the total project costs will be funded through federal grants, with the city having to match the remaining 20 percent.
Perception of safety is important to get more people riding bikes, Wagenschutz said, and green lanes help soothe concerns. According to the city, the number of people cycling has doubled over the past three years and the accident rate for bicyclists, the number of accidents per person, has decreased 32 percent. With those statistics, the highest-used bicycling facilities in the city are ones that are separated from moving cars like the Shelby Farms Greenline and the Wolf River Greenway.
“The Wolf River Greenway, on a weekend, will see 2,000 people a day using it. On that same gorgeous beautiful day, we’re unlikely to see that same usage on Madison Avenue,” Wagenschutz said. “It’s because the Wolf River Greenway, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing to look at, provides a level of comfort.”
Ideas for the green lanes and bicycle-centric designs come from countries in Northern and Western Europe like Denmark and the Netherlands — both of which have a large cycling population.
“We’re taking inspiration from how they designed their roadways in those countries and importing it back to America, adapting it for the culture, and adapting it for the design that’s prevalent here in the U.S.,” Wagenschutz said. “[They] have sort of mastered the art of design for roadways in such a way that it’s created these kinds of spaces for bicyclists and cars to operate independently of one another.”
The city has also launched the Get There Together campaign to put the focus on people, rather than choice of transit, to try and change the mindsets of how people travel within Memphis.
“This new way of thinking embraces the mutual obligation we each have to each other to make sure we’re attentive, conscientious, and respectful to one another, regardless of how we have chosen to get around,” the website reads.
Wagenschutz has also been working on a month-long project for the city called the 30-Day Car-Free Challenge, where for the month of April, Memphians can sign up to change their mode of transportation, even for a day, and be entered into contests for prizes. More information about both campaigns, and all bicycling projects, is available at http://bikepedmemphis.com.
The DMC is asking artists within a 250-mile radius of Memphis to submit proposals on their works. Eligible mediums include sculpture, artistic lighting, murals, vacant storefront enhancements, video, and new media work. The pieces should be suitable for outdoor display and have a life expectancy of at least 18 months. The commission has a budget of $47,000 for the production of the pieces and artists fees.
A committee will then select the pieces for the show from those proposals. Those pieces will be installed on October 3 and will remain for a year. A panel of judges will select its favorite piece and the winning artist will receive $1,000.
More information on the program is available at GoSouthMain.com/Mosaic.
Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority board chairman Jack Sammons told his board Thursday morning that "if we hadn't built the ground transportation center, we'd be in trouble."
Revenues and savings from the new parking garage were shared at the board meeting this morning, and all seemed to agree that the parking garage is helping the airport financially.
"We are better off by $4 million a year because we built the ground transportation center," said Forrest Artz, the Airport Authority's Vice-president of Finance and Administration, at the monthly board meeting.
That's partly because they're saving $2 million a year in busing costs from shuttling employees and passengers to and from the neighboring parking businesses.
In fiscal year 2012, before the new garage opened, public parking revenues from other parking lots at the airport totaled around $10 million, but they were spending $2 million to shuttle people to their vehicles.
The projected revenues for 2014, $12.4 million, include what they expect to bring in from the new garage. But they only expect to spend a little over $100,000 for shuttling costs and $850,000 in parking garage operating costs.
By 2015, they expect to phase out shuttling and expect parking revenues of $13 million.
The new garage did better for the month of February than the Airport Authority had budgeted it would.
In February, the authority budgeted $473,000 for expenses related to the parking garage, but it only spent $296,000. Actual expense numbers fell under-budget for the garage year-to-date as well. In fact, the authority is seven percent under-budget for all operations year-to-date.
In other news, Vice-president of Operations John Greaud said the airport would soon be getting new flight information screens that will show passengers all flights from all airlines. Currently, the existing screens are operated by each airline and some don't even have them.
The number of people flying into and out of Memphis is also up by six percent for the month.
Sammons took a few minutes at the end of the meeting to talk about the plans to tear down parts of the A and C concourses. He said Southwest Airlines is not interested in expanding service without having a more open taxiway, which would be created after parts of A and C are demolished. Currently, planes from multiple airlines are getting backed up because there's not room on the taxiway for enough planes coming in and out. It's a problem that was created when Delta pulled its hub status and a larger variety of airlines began operating flights. Now the ends of A and C concourses get in the way of planes from different airlines that need to take off or come in at the same times.
"You can't have a car lot without a driveway," Sammons said.
Homelessness in Memphis fell 21 percent since 2012, according to the annual homeless census taken in the city by the Community Alliance for the Homeless.
Alliance volunteers fan out across the city each January and conduct surveys with homeless people. The latest results were announced at a news conference Thursday morning by leaders from the Alliance, which includes elected officials, and those from the non-profit and faith communities.
The latest reduction builds on the 13 percent reduction in homelessness reported in 2012. Family homelessness last year was reduced by 31 percent, according to the census results.
The Department of Children’s Services connected Cleaves with Estival Place, which was established in 1991 by the Metropolitan Inner-Faith Association and later donated to the Promise Development Corporation. The place and the programs it offers has helped Cleaves become a better mother, she said.
“I was in the fast life and didn’t have time for (her children),” she said. “I wanted to rip and run the streets and all of that. We were living here and there and it was like God sent an angel over my head and now I feel stress free and peaceful. Now I have a place I can call home.”
"Come on into the marketplace," croons Memphis soulster Will Graves in a new song urging uninsured Memphians to check out healthcare.gov.
"He got sick and his coverage was rejected. But he knows he's not the only one. Oh no. With open enrollment, everyone should know there's coverage for pre-existing conditions," Graves continues in this song performed in the style of the 1979 soul classic "Come and Go With Me" by Teddy Pendergrass.
Mayor A C Wharton's office commissioned the song to encourage Memphians to sign up before the March 31st open enrollment deadlines. But the song sounds more like baby-making music than a jingle promoting insurance. Judge for yourself.
The city is hosting an open enrollment event at Mississippi Blvd. Christian Church on Saturday, March 29th from 10:00 a.m. — 4:00 p.m.
The city's Memphis Light, Gas and Water Committee met with the MLGW board to discuss having individual water meters installed at newly-constructed condos and on conversions to condominiums today.
In January, City Councilman Myron Lowery proposed an ordinance that, if passed, would require all newly constructed condominiums to receive individual water meters. In the past, MLGW president Jerry Collins has said that the company was in support of Myron's proposal. However, a decision wasn't made regarding the proposed ordinance during the meeting Tuesday, March 18th. The matter is slated to be discussed during the next MLGW committee meeting on April 1st.
Another topic tackled during the meeting dealt with existing multi-family apartments and condominiums that have landlords neglecting to pay utility bills. Over recent years, this has had adverse impacts on tenants, and forced some to evacuate their homes. In 2013, tenants of Garden Walk Condominiums were required to exit their residences after a $30,000 water bill wasn't fulfilled by its homeowner association.
To avoid similar occurrences in the future, the MLGW committee requested that if an apartment complex owner neglects to pay an existing MLGW water bill for two consecutive months, MLGW notifies Memphis Code Enforcement. Code Enforcement would then issue a citation and, if necessary, take the matter to court. This would be done to make sure MLGW is compensated for its distributed utilities and people would not be forced to leave their homes. A decision was not made on this proposal either and will also be revisited during the next committee meeting.
The Memphis City Council heard about some important issues and projects Tuesday afternoon but pushed debate on them back two weeks as they were pressed for time in their committee meetings.
John Doyle, the museum’s executive director, told council members the Hall of Fame has no physical home and that a location could serve as an interpretive center and a visitors center for tourists on Beale Street.
Doyle said his group has already raised $550,000 and expects to have an additional $150,000 this fall. The city money would come from the $250,000 left in the Midtown Corridor Study Fund.
The council will discuss their portion of the funding in their next scheduled meeting in two weeks.
- Council chairman Jim Strickland wants to cut the city’s Weights and Measures Department from next year’s budget.
Weights and measures employees inspect scales at businesses around the city to ensure that, for example, when citizens pump one gallon of gas at a station, they actually get one gallon of gas.
State inspectors do much of the same work as the Memphis unit. But state inspections are random both in their location and the scales they test. City inspectors can also show up at random businesses but when they do, they inspect all of their scales.
The city unit was placed on the chopping block during last year’s budget talks but was saved at the last minute. Council members said then that the city department duplicates the efforts of the state and that the city needs to save money.
Strickland made the same argument briefly Tuesday, noting that cutting the department would save the city between $400,000 and $500,000. The need for the cuts are intensified this year, he said, as the council begins to fill the multi-million-dollar gap in the city pension fund.
The department employs nine and if the department was cut, those employees would lose their jobs, though some of them qualify for involuntary retirement.
The topic will be discussed in the council's next meeting on April 1.
School Litigation Fund
The council did begin the process Tuesday to establish a fund to pay the $57.5 million a court ordered the city to pay the Shelby County Schools system for the 2008-2009 school year.
The resolution to establish the fund also asks Memphis Mayor A C Wharton to put $4.8 million in the fund next year. That payment would be the first of 12 installment payments to the fund.
The issue will also come back before the council during their next meeting on April 1.