Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chick-Fil-A to Demolish Cumberland Presbyterian Building on Union?

Posted By on Thu, Apr 17, 2008 at 4:00 AM

According to Memphis Heritage, Chick-Fil-A has applied to the city's construction codes department to demolish the former Cumberland Presbyterian Church book store at Union and Rembert.

Last month, Chick-Fil-A announced plans to develop the property, but Memphis Heritage hoped to meet with the company to discuss the possibility of saving the Gothic Revival building.

Memphis Heritage president June West contacted Chick-Fil-A and reminded them that "ultimately Chick-Fil-A will want to be a part of the Midtown community and want to receive the trust and respect from area customers."

Perry Ragsdale, vice president of design and construction for Chick-Fil-A, responded, "We are currently in the negotiation and inspection period and it is not appropriate for us to meet with you at this time."

-- Michael Finger

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Memphis Police Department Unveils Real Time Crime Center

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Boasting a massive wall of 42 large-screen monitors, the Memphis Police Department's new Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) is a couch potato’s dream come true.

But RTCC officers won't be watching the game or Project Runway. They'll be monitoring multiple cameras placed in crime hotspots around the city. The screens also serve as computer monitors displaying maps of where crime is happening as soon as it's reported. There's even an up-to-the-minute "news ticker" displaying the last 15 reported crimes in the city.

The RTCC, which was modeled after the New York Police Department's Real Time Crime Center, allows officers to search multiple databases for information on crime locations, crime suspects, or vehicles within minutes. Previously, the information-gathering process could take several days. Patrol officers will even be able to pull up real time crime data on their PDAs.

"This will enable us to fight crime in a much better way than we ever have before," said MPD Director Larry Godwin at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

The center isn't up and running yet, but it will be ready for a test run in time for the Memphis In May Beale Street Music Festival. Godwin says it should be running 24/7 by June. (Police hope local media will keep the location of the center under wraps.)

Godwin says the technology at the Memphis center surpasses New Yorks model. Memphis patrol officers file police reports directly into PDAs, and that information is fed immediately into the real time crime databases. New York officers still use a paper reporting system.

The Memphis center was also built more cheaply than New York's $12 million center. The Memphis RTCC cost $3.5 million, $1.6 million of which came from grant funding.

--Bianca Phillips

Memphis School Board President Tomeka Hart Responds to City Council

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

In an email to council education chair Janis Fullilove yesterday, Memphis City School Board president Tomeka Hart asked for clarification of the two bodies' working relationship.

"While I had hoped that we could work together to develop an annual agenda ... the MCS staff has received requests to report to the committee on a bi-monthly basis. ... It is difficult for our staff to prepare for such a meeting, and as you know under Tennessee Code Annotated, the Superintendent reports to the School Board, with his/her staff reporting to him/her."

The council's education committee expected representatives of the school district to be at City Hall yesterday and to participate in a discussion about alternative schools, discipline, graduation rates, and the school district’s budget. Only school board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. attended, angering members of the council.

Hart said that she and the superintendent would attend committee meetings May 20th to present the MCS budget.

Full Text of email

Councilwoman Fullilove,

I left you a voicemail, but decided to send you this email in case we do not connect today. We need clarification regarding the MCS presentations to the Education Committee. As I stated to you when we met, I feel strongly that the School Board and City Council should have a good working relationship; certainly one better than what the bodies have had in the past. The two bodies should be committed to working together to make sure our children and citizens receive the best service as related to their education, standard/conditions of living, safety/security, well-being, etc. To do so, the two bodies should meet on a regular basis to discuss the issues affecting our children and communities. With that, I want to make sure the bodies understand their roles and reporting responsibilities.

While I had hoped that we could work together to develop an annual agenda (i.e. quarterly meetings to discuss selected issues), the MCS staff has received requests to report to the committee on a bi-monthly basis (once or twice with a week's notice), and to be prepared to discuss broad management level issues. It is difficult for our staff to prepare for such a meeting, and as you know under Tennessee Code Annotated, the Superintendent reports to the School Board, with his/her staff reporting to him/her. Additionally, the TCA defines the role of the Superintendent and the Board, giving the responsibilities of management to the Superintendent and that of governance and policy setting to the School Board. Thus, under state law, the School Board does not even have the authority to control the management function of education.

While we don't want to create another reporting body for the MCS staff, we certainly understand the Council's need and desire for more information regarding the district in efforts of holding the district accountable for the funds you provide. To that end, we have always provided the Council with our annual audit and a detailed annual budget to assist you in making your funding decisions. The Superintendent and Board members have and will always attend the budget presentation to answer any questions the Education Committee and Council may have. Further, as I stated in our meeting, I look forward to the members of the Board meeting and working with the Council more regularly.

When the Education Committee voted to require us to make a presention of our audit to the Audit Committee, it did so on the basis that the council requires all of its quasi-governmental bodies to do so. The MCS was created by the Tennessee Legislature and is thus an actual governmental body; not a quasi-governmental body operating under the arms of the Council. To be sure, the Council's resolution establishing this requirement does not list MCS as a body required to present its audit. However, in the spirit of collaboration, we send you our annual audit each year. Further, Martavius Jones (Vice-President and Chair of our Audit Committee) and I will gladly meet with the committee to discuss our audit. However, we are not available do so on May 6, but would like to set a time that is convenient for the committee and us. I will set this up with Councilman Boyd.

As for the meeting on April 15, the MCS has historically submitted our budgets to the Council's and Commission's education committes on April 15, giving you time to review it and develop your questions. The Superintendent and Board members then return at a later date to answer the Education Committee's questions. The budget is then presented to the full council. We plan to submit the budget to your committee on April 15, and then the Superintendent, I and any other Board member who wants to attend, are scheduled to meet with your committee on May 20 to answer any questions you may have.

Please call me when you get an opportunity so we can discuss this. I welcome the opportunity to have a closer working relationship with the Council. I just want to make sure we do it properly, respecting the roles and responsibilities of each other. Also, I would like to assure you that the School Board and staff are very much aware of the issues and challenges facing the MCS. The School Board acts within its power and challenges the Superintendent to address the issues and to provide effective solutions.


Tomeka Hart

Priscilla Presley is No Longer Dancing With the Stars

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

First, there was the Memphis Tigers' heart-breaking defeat in the finals of the NCAA tournament, now THIS. How much anguish can we bedraggled Memphians take?

From Huffington Post: Despite committing to the cause and calming her nerves each week with yoga and candles, Priscilla Presley became the latest celebrity casualty Tuesday on Dancing With the Stars.

The 62-year-old actress, who came into the results show in last place, failed to capture enough viewer votes to overcome her low score. Judges said her rumba was dull and technically imprecise, awarding her just 21 out of 30 points.

"It lacked spontaneity for me," said head judge Len Goodman. "It was too careful. I was disappointed with the performance."

Still, Presley was gracious, telling the judges, "I applaud you. You did a great job," as she left the ballroom.

"This has been an incredible experience," she said. "It is life-changing. ... I learned so much about myself and all the things I can do."

More here.

Councilman Bill Boyd Has a Prayer

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Bill Boyd, a newly elected member of the Memphis City Council, gave the following prayer Tuesday while acting as "chaplain of the day."

Part speech and part prayer, it was a slightly revised version of a controversial prayer that has circulated on the Internet for several years. It apparently originated with a pastor in Kansas named Joe Wright and was delivered by him at the opening session of the Kansas House of Representatives on January 23, 1996. Radio commentator Paul Harvey reportedly later aired the prayer on his program and it got a warm response.

Let us pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you today to seek your direction and guidance and ask your forgiveness.

We confess that we as a society of free-willed individuals have ridiculed the absolute truth of your word and we have lost our spiritual compass and have inverted our values.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem.

We have abused power and called it political entitlement.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

Father, you know the hearts of every man and woman in this chamber. Cleanse us if there be some wicked way or evil within us.

Guide and bless these council members who have been sent here by the people of Memphis and who have been blessed by you to govern this great city. Grant us your wisdom to rule and may our decisions direct us to the center of your will. I ask this in the name of your son, the living savior, Jesus Christ.

Boyd left out parts of the original text including the following lines:

"We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism."

"We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable."

"We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare."

"We have coveted our neighbors' possessions and called it ambition.”

"We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment."

Council members serve as chaplain of the day a couple of times a year, according to council staff members. While Wright's address in 1996 reportedly caused some lawmakers to leave the chambers in protest, there was little reaction to Boyd's rendering other than a few raised eyebrows and muttered remarks in the media seats at the front of the chambers -- a den of known and suspected heathens.

Rob Lowe Redux: It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Well, it'll be twenty years ago in July, actually, that actor Rob Lowe, then as now a heart-throb and a member of what was being called the Hollywood "Brat Pack," was engaging in the same kind of naughty, naughty behavior that his nanny has now so publicly called him out on.

To wit, he was entertaining a skein of nubile young women in his room at Atlanta's downtown Hilton during the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Teaching the band to play, as it were. And, er videotaping the results. On behalf of our sister publication, Memphis Magazine, the Flyer's Jackson Baker was on hand to observe the first intimations of this, the earliest known Rob Lowe Sex Scandal.

In this, a relevant portion of Baker's article, "Party Animals," a chronicle of that summer's two major-party conventions that appeared in the October 1998 issue of Memphis, Lowe is observed on the last night of the convention, on his way to his hotel room, down the hall from the suite that served as then Senator (and presidential candidate) Al Gore's convention HQ:

"...Even at a political convention, there is a witching hour, and when it comes, early in the morning, the last party-goers begin to make off toward their rooms.

"Rob Lowe, with a pretty young woman alongside, is telling her, 'No! you look nice," as they head toward his suite.

"Shortly thereafter, a lady belonging to the Gore entourage interrupts a conversation between former Gore campaign worker Larry Harrington and a Memphis man. 'Have either of you seen my daughter?' She asks.

"In the putting together of two-plus-two which follows, the Memphis man suggests to the distressed mother a polite knock on Lowe's door.

" 'No, no!' insists Harrington. 'You should go to a phone and call.' Greatly pleased with his own advice, he says, 'That's why I'm the political coordinator.'

"As it turns out, the hotel's switchboard is under orders from Lowe not to forward any calls. The mother asks the Memphis man to sit up with her and help her deal with it all.

" 'You have to ask yourself,' he is telling her some thirty minutes later, 'what you would do if a movie star of the opposite sex asked you up privately like that.'

"She thinks about it. 'If Paul Newman asked me to his room,' she says, 'I'd go just like that!' And she snaps her fingers.

" 'You see?' says the Memphis man."

John Malloy: Crazy for "Lear"

Posted on Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Want to see a crazy geriatric running naked through a terrible storm, howling like a scalded wolf?

Sorry to those who might be expecting a YouTube link or something, but this an act you'll have to catch live.

Okay, John Malloy, the 75-year-old actor currently interpreting Shakespeare's King Lear in a staged reading at Rhodes College, probably won't strip to the buff. But you've got to believe this grizzled stage and screen vet when he promises to leave everything on stage.

Malloy, whose appearances include a memorable turn as one of the clownish bums in Steinbeck's Cannery Row with Nick Nolte and Debra Winger, has been trying to launch a production of Lear since he was barely ancient enough to play the part. Meaty roles in Cymbeline, Hamlet, and Henry V, left Malloy hungry to take on Shakespeare's granddaddy of all tragedies.

In the mid 1990s he organized readings of Lear and other Shakespeare tragedies at the P&H Café and helped to organize productions of the Bard's work in conjunction with Sleeping Cat Studios. But everything he did, he did with an eye toward getting himself crowned.

Tonight and tomorrow -- April 16th and 17th -- Malloy will be joined by a cadre of gifted local performers, including a rare appearance by Michael Conway, the weirdly wonderful, physically gigantic veteran of Disney World stunt shows, mystery dinner theater, and Mike McCarthy films, whose 2002 turn as Macbeth earned favorable reviews. Bo List, executive producer for Germantown Community Theatre and contributor to The Memphis Flyer, directs this bare-bones Lear. List, whose directing credits are extensive, staged Theatre Memphis' beautifully conceived 2003 production of Hamlet.

For additional information, call the McCoy Theater 843-3839.

--by Chris Davis

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Herenton Says Police Officers Should Be Allowed to Live Outside City Limits

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Mayor says, Let police live outside city limits Memphis mayor Willie Herenton spoke at the City Council's public safety committee Tuesday morning, saying he agreed with a proposed resolution to let police officers live 20 miles outside the city limits.

"This has to do with Memphis being a safer city," Herenton said. "We need more police officers. Help us get them."

Two years ago, Herenton called for an additional 500 police officers. However, since that time, the number of officers has hovered around 2,000. "As mayor, I want to make every effort to increase the complement of police officers in the city of Memphis. I think you need to remove all restrictions," Herenton said.

Councilmember Barbara Swearengen Ware asked for a legal opinion, saying she wasn't sure the council has the authority to relax the restriction. The residency requirement was part of a public referendum.

"This doesn't make sense to me in light of the fact that the citizens of Memphis agree that if you are on our payroll, you should live in Memphis," Ware said.

-- Mary Cashiola

Memphis School Board Skips Council Meeting

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2008 at 4:00 AM

The Memphis City Council's education committee was expected to talk about alternative schools, discipline and graduation rates, and the Memphis City Schools budget today with representatives of the school system. Unfortunately, the discussion was tabled when it turned out that school board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. was the only representative of the district at the meeting.

"I came to the meeting with the understanding that there would be staffers from MCS with me to answer the specific questions that you have," said Whalum. "I contacted the superintendent's office ... and he told me to tell the council that if they have specific questions they need to put them in writing."

Whalum also told committee members that the superintendent said it was the president of the board of education who told staffers not to come.

Council members were not happy with the no-shows.

"This is a perfect example where these individuals clearly don't want anyone questioning them about what's going on in the school system," said council member Wanda Halbert, a former school board commissioner.

Committee chair Janis Fullilove said she would not put questions in writing for the district. "Give him that response, please," she said.

The school system's annual budget is more than $1 billion. Last year, the city allocated more than $91 million for education and council members have toyed with the idea of cutting that funding.

"Somebody thinks this council will buckle under public pressure," Whalum said. "If you're serious about what you're saying, pull back the money, period, and let the school board sink or swim."

--Mary Cashiola

Mayor Calls for Property Tax Increase

Posted on Tue, Apr 15, 2008 at 4:00 AM

The Memphis mayor called for a 58-cent property tax increase today, citing declining home values and negative consumer spending.

"Conservative consumer spending means less money in sales tax," Mayor Willie Herenton told the City Council during his fiscal year 2009 budget presentation. "Decreasing home values means less money collected in property taxes."

The mayor's budget includes $595.3 million for general operations and $241.3 million for the city's capital improvement program.

The administration anticipates a $6 million shortfall in local sales tax revenue and a $3 million increase in health care benefits to city employees.

"We must make adjustments," said the mayor.

The budget also includes a 5 percent raise for city employees, equaling $17 million.

by Mary Cashiola

Herenton Offers Council "Will," "Courage," and 58-Cent Tax Hike

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2008 at 4:00 AM

The Memphis City Council, with nine new members and all decked out in University of Memphis jerseys, got a reality jolt Tuesday when Mayor Willie Herenton asked them to approve a 58-cent property tax increase.

Presenting his 17th budget request since 1992, Herenton said "times have changed" and citizens are going to have to get used to higher taxes and reduced services.

"I stand before you with the will and the political courage to make the hard decisions," he said.

Herenton blamed the recession, stagnant sales tax collections, lower interest rates, gas prices, and the likelihood of lower home values next year for the tax-increase request. He said it would enable the city to "hold the line" for the next four years, when he may or may not become superintendent of the Memphis City Schools.

Asked by Councilman Myron Lowery if he is a "lame duck mayor," Herenton appeared offended and said "I don't think it is appropriate" to discuss the bombshell he dropped three weeks ago.

He said he gives "100 percent" every day on the job and "that is all I need to say to you. I don't know what the future holds."

He will make another presentation to the council on schools on May 6th. The tax increase he proposed Tuesday does not cover any increase the school board requests in its budget of nearly $900 million.

About 60 percent of the proposed $595 million operating budget goes for police and fire protection. Herenton proposed adding 125 more police officers. He said Memphians are going to have to get used to regional services instead of neighborhood services, with fewer libraries and community centers. And he suggested that the era of big houses and big cars is coming to an end, and that consolidation of city and county government will happen this year or next year because of financial strain.

Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton is expected to seek a property tax increase of 20-25 cents on the county rate.

City Council members will begin budget hearings later this month. They got a reprieve Tuesday when members of the University of Memphis men's basketball team showed up to pose for pictures and accept congratulations. Council members pulled on blue and silver Tiger jerseys for the occasion.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pending Bill Would Make Cockfighting a Felony in Tennessee

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Tennessee is one of only 13 states with misdemeanor penalties for cockfighting, but a bill pending in both the state Senate and House of Representatives would elevate the crime to felony status.

Popular in rural parts of the state, including small towns in West Tennessee, cockfights pit roosters against one another, often fighting to the death. The animals wear spurs or knives strapped to their feet and spectators gamble on roosters' fates. Some large operations even run concession stands and sell souvenir T-shirts.

Last week, the bill successfully passed through both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Shelby County Senate committee members Beverly Marrero, Paul Stanley, Mark Norris, and Jim Kyle voted in favor of felony penalties.

"It's a very cruel thing to do. I see no value in making this permissible," said Stanley.

John Goodwin of the Humane Society of the United States said the low penalties in Tennessee often attract cockfighters from surrounding states.

"Most states bordering East Tennessee, including Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, punish cockfighting as a felony," said Goodwin. "Tennessee is fast becoming a refuge for people who want to commit this crime without fear of meaningful prosecution."

The bill would also strengthen penalties for spectating at any animal fight, including dogfights. If passed, simply watching a fight would be punishable with a Class A misdemeanor.

The bill is currently in the Finance Ways and Means Committees in both the House and the Senate. Those committee votes are expected some time next week.

-- Bianca Phillips

Northwest and Delta to Merge; Will be Named Delta Airlines

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 4:00 AM

There will be no more Northwest Airlines. In a message to frequent-flyer cardholders today, Northwest spokesperson Bob Soukup wrote:

As a valued Northwest Airlines customer and WorldPerks member, I wanted you to be among the first to hear that we have announced a merger with Delta Air Lines. Subject to regulatory review, our two airlines are joining forces to create America's premier global airline which, upon closing of the merger, will be called Delta Air Lines.

By combining Northwest and Delta, we are building a stronger, more resilient airline that will be a leader in providing customer service and value. Our combined airline will offer unprecedented access to the world, enabling you to fly to more destinations, have more flight choices and more ways than ever to earn and redeem your WorldPerks miles. You can be assured that your WorldPerks miles and Elite program status will be unaffected by this merger. In addition, you can continue to earn miles through use of partners like WorldPerks Visa.

And once the new Delta Air Lines emerges you can look forward to being a part of the world's largest frequent flyer program with expanded benefits. The combined Delta Air Lines will serve more U.S. communities and connect to more worldwide destinations than any global airline. Our hubs -- both Delta's and Northwest's -- will be retained and enhanced. We will be the only U.S. airline to offer direct service from the United States to all of the world's major business centers in Asia, Latin America, Europe, Africa and around North America ...

There's more, but you get the idea.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Best Obituary Ever Written

Posted By on Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Ida's marriage to Karl was a three ring circus, engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering. Ida met and married Albert Sills in 1960. Ida said "I never knew what real happiness was until I got remarried, then it was too late". Ida Mae and Albert settled down in Fox Meadows area of Memphis. Albert wanted a son, Ida wanted a dog. Ida quoted "with my way we just ruin the carpet". But on March 6, 1966 a son was happily born named Lee ...

As much as we hate to send you away to The Commercial Appeal website, we feel it is our civic duty to alert you to the existence of perhaps the greatest obituary ever written.

Please come back and let us know what you think.

Northwest/Delta Merger Could Be Announced Tuesday

Posted By on Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 4:00 AM

From The Wall Street Journal online today: "Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. may unveil their long-delayed merger announcement as early as Tuesday, said people familiar with the matter, in the latest move by airlines to grapple with high fuel prices and a softening economy.

The deal could value Northwest at roughly $3 billion, these people said, though terms were still being negotiated. That would be well below Northwest's market value of more than $4.6 billion as of Feb. 1, reflecting the industry's worsening prospects in recent weeks ...

Read the rest of the WSJ article here.

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