Thursday, July 24, 2008

No Media for Rove's Dinner Speech, Says Tennessee GOP

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Reported without comment: The Tennessee Republican Party has opted to bar news media access to Saturday's annual "Statesmen's Dinner" in Nashville. The featured speaker this year is former White House adviser Karl Rove, whose appearance will be a "closed ticketed event," said the party's communications director, Bill Hobbs, who explained, "We just decided to do it that way.'

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Talking with Kriner Cash

Posted on Wed, Jul 23, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash says he comes from a "different cut of tree."

"I always believe in turning negative into positives," he says. If that’s the case, he will have plenty to choose from.

The new superintendent -- so new, in fact, that he sometimes calls the Memphis City Schools "them" instead of "us" -- is heading up a school district currently embroiled in a court battle over almost $70 million in cut city funding. The system also has challenges in educational achievement, student safety, and mismanagement.

The Flyer recently sat down with Cash to see what he’s thinking, other than 'What did I get myself into?'

Flyer: What is the school system’s greatest challenge?

Cash: It seems to me that the greatest challenge is to help change the perception of our general constituents about our school system, turning from one that is probably a fairly low rating to one that is a much higher rating. On a scale of one to 10, it seems to me the perception is -- in general -- a two to three and we’d like it to be a seven to nine.

How do you change that perception?

You change that perception by improving services, improving the perceived quality of education programming, by improving the product that comes out by graduation. When a student graduates, he or she is reading at a college level and is ready to go right into college or post-secondary careers.

When we look at the data, we have some room to improve.

There are a lot of positive elements in the school system as well, and we need to do a better job of publicizing and marketing them. That helps change perception, too. I want to use our radio station and our TV station to get the message out about the exemplary things that are going on in our schools and create interest and demand for those programs.

Where are you looking to cut the budget?

There is going to be hundreds of folks who will have to get cut if I have to stay without this $66 million. There are probably 300 or 400 positions that will be affected. And then there’s a whole range of what we call budget object lines that are also going to be impacted by this.

For example, professional services, property maintenance, contracted services. We have to get in and really look at those and cut those to the bone. Furniture, technology and equipment. Travel. All of that is going to have to be looked at to come up with the $66 million. Salaries and benefits, though, will be the biggest driver.

Given the fiscal uncertainty, how do you create stability in the school district?

We’ve already begun to do that, first just by conveying the sense of strong leadership, of urgency, of accountability and of increased expectations for everyone.

In any organization that slipped a little bit in terms of direction, the troops really want direction. They want leadership, so by just having this accountability system that cascades from the board of commissioners through the superintendent down into every administrative employee for example, I see people excited about that.

We haven’t had that. There’s been a lot of activity but there hasn’t been concentrated productivity in our main operational areas, so I’m bringing a renewed focus on both the business side of the house and the academic side of the house.

When community starts seeing the results, that’s how stability comes about.

You also have to re-examine your practices and procedures for doing business, from payroll to purchase orders, your warehousing at the Central Nutrition Center, to transportation, facilities management. There are places where we are saving money and there are other places where we could save a whole lot more if we improve our processes and efficiency.

The Nutrition Center is one. Opening up our books and our business practices to outside folks is another. Some business people have offered to do it without charge, so I’m not talking about paying more consultants to come in here. We have enough consultants.

Given all the challenges, why would you -- or anyone -- want this job?

Most people don’t want it and most people can’t do it. You don’t see a long line out in America right now for superintendencies, period, let alone the large, urban districts.

It is one of the toughest jobs in America today. The issues are the demands and the no-win situations that a lot of people feel. I don’t feel that way, though. I come from a different cut of tree and I always believe in turning negatives into positives.

When people really want to see change and they’re actually asked to help with it, as opposed to ignored, there’s almost a revolution that occurs.

Right now, right at this moment, we have to capture it because there is a small revolution going on in Memphis.

I think that’s what excites me at this stage in my life. I’m not in it for any money; I’m not in it for any personal prestige or influence or power. I’m in it because we didn’t quite get to finish our work in Miami and I want to see the work through. Of all the places, Memphis has all the ingredients to get it down on a large scale.

I don’t want to go back to a small system. I’ve done that. I’m interested in the large challenges.

You’ve been given what the daily newspaper dubbed “a hero’s welcome.” How does that make you feel?

There’s pressure there. I’m pragmatic about it. It’s early; it’s new. We’ve had a year almost of an interim scenario. Dan Ward did a great job, but it’s tough. Being the interim is a different role than being in the seat and knowing that you have a mandate to go forward, which is what I feel I have. That’s what that welcome told me is that, you have a mandate now to improve the system, and we’re behind you but we want to see that.

Everyday I’m going to give my full to it and the only one I worry about is my wife when I get up at 2 and 3 in the morning and start writing stuff down. Because you’re always thinking about this work. It does consume you, quite honestly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Director Godwin's Looking For Him -- and We Found Him: MPD Enforcer's Dirk Diggler!

Posted By on Tue, Jul 22, 2008 at 4:00 AM

by DEREK HAIRE

In what appears to be an attempt to silence his critics, Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin has filed an interstate subpoena for discovery against the owner of the blog MPD Enforcer 2.0, an anonymous website geared toward and run by current and former members of the Memphis Police Department. The anonymous Google Blogspot site has, for the last four months, served as a sort of online water cooler where Memphis' uniformed patrol officers can voice their anonymous discontent with the leadership of MPD, whoM they collectively refer to as "the 12th Floor."

The MPD Enforcer 2.0 quickly became a clearinghouse of unreported or unpublished stories of interest to Memphis police officers, in part thanks to its name. In the 1990s a paper version of the MPD Enforcer was circulated among Memphis Police by hand. Later, during the dawning days of the internet, an online version appeared on the Geocities website.

Today, the MPD Enforcer 2.0, written and maintained by a group of people with no connection to the original paper version of the Enforcer, enjoys new life on Google's Blogspot website, where anyone within or without the MPD can publish whatever they like without fear of recrimination. The only method of contacting the current administrator of the Enforcer 2.0, who operates under the pseudonym Dirk Diggler, is via his AOL email address, and he agreed to an email interview with the Memphis Flyer under the condition that his identity remained secret.

Q: How did you find out about the subpoena? Was it through a friend, an email tip, a letter from AOL, etc?

A: AOL sent an email to us and included a copy of the subpoena.

Q: Since you started the blog, have you had any contact with or endorsement from the writers of the original MPD Enforcer, or are you working independently of them?

A: Since starting the blog, we have had someone contact us and claimed to be the author of the original Enforcer. They praised us for keeping up the good fight and gave a general endorsement. To the best of our knowledge, they have not contributed. We accept tips from a numerous amount of anonymous resources.

Q: What contact, if any, have you had with AOL about your account since July 11? Have they given you any indication that they intend to comply with the subpoena?

A: AOL only contacted us after receiving the subpoena. AOL gave us a limited amount of time to respond and we are currently seeking legal counsel. Further, we are consulting with the Justice Department to see if there is a possible "color of law" violation being committed by Director Godwin.


Q: Have you received any threatening or harassing emails from self-identified members of MPD?

A: We have never received any threatening or harassing e-mails from anyone. All communications have been positive and congratulatory. On the other hand, we have received numerous troubling comments on the blog. It appeared to be nothing more that the administration trying to disrupt our public forum. We had to lock down the comments section, but that issue was resolved.

Q: In your opinion, why do you think Director Godwin is trying to out you? Do you think it is connected to a particular story or blog post?

A: We feel that Director Godwin is trying to put an end to our blog because it exposes the intimate secrets of the administration. I would like to make this perfectly clear. The blog and comments posted have nothing to do with the person Larry Godwin. The aim is at the direction of the police department and the decline in morale. The public position of the Director's office makes it fair game for any citizen to comment on. If there was another person in the Director's office that was steering the ship towards the rocky reef, every man or woman on that boat would voice an opinion. We provide the location for anonymous "venting" and will continue to do so until the internet is no longer available.


Q: Has the subpoena changed your attitude toward blogging? If you are outed, will you continue to write?

A: Absolutely not. If anything, it has made us more focused on searching for the truth. Further, it has caused us to focus on the individual officers and their need for justice. For decades, the Memphis Police Department has had a history of handing down discipline based on political or personal beliefs. Many officers have been charged and suspended over an arrest/incident with someone who is connected to another in political office. That's just not fair. We are in the developmental phase of creating an impartial support group for officers who have been wrongly disciplined. Once established, we plan on attacking the issues in a litigious setting.

Director Godwin has filed a motion for discovery of the identity of Mr. Diggler under the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act, which has been made law in thirteen states, among them Tennessee and Virginia. According to Channel 24 Eyewitness News reporter Jeni DiPrizio, subpoenas have been sent to AOL, Google, and Zimbio, Inc., but among the three, only AOL is based in a state where the law is applicable. AOL is headquartered in Virginia, but Google and Zimbio are both based in California, and neither company has contacted Mr. Diggler about Director Godwin's legal motion.

Under the law, the jurisdiction of the discovery state has the power to quash the subpoena, which in this case is the 20th Judicial Circuit of Virginia. In a previous case, IPA vs. May, Judge Thomas D. Horne of the 20th Circuit issued a protective order on behalf of AOL on the grounds that the plaintiff had failed to furnish a "mandate, writ or commission" to the court under the UFDA as required by Virginia law.

To put it in layman's terms, Director Godwin may face a long, tedious legal battle if he truly wants to publicly identify Mr. Diggler and his associates in court. As the original Dirk Diggler might say, "You're not the boss of me, Jack. I'm Dirk Diggler and I say when we roll."

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Hot Enough For You?

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Work Begins on Beale Street Landing

Posted By on Sat, Jul 19, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Construction started this week on Beale Street Landing, the $30 million boat landing at the north end of Tom Lee Park.

Workers were moving building materials and a large crane on to the site. The project is scheduled for completion in 2010. It will cover a total of six acres and add four acres to Tom Lee Park by building a dam in the river and filling in behind it. A small wetlands area at the tip of the park will be eliminated.

The 25-acre park is the site of the Beale Street Music Festival and the Memphis In May barbecue contest, among other events, but lacks food and beverage stands and a signature feature to attract return visitors.

Beale Street Landing will include a boat landing for tour boats, concrete islands for pedestrians to get close to the water, a parking lot, restaurant, and gift shop. It is being funded with $19.5 million in city funds and $10.5 million in state and federal funds.

-- John Branston

Flyer, Memphis Magazine Reap Awards Bounty from SPJ in Atlanta

Posted By on Sat, Jul 19, 2008 at 4:00 AM

The Memphis Flyer and its sister publication, Memphis Magazine, made a strong showing Saturday night at the annual Southeastern States "Green Eyeshades" awards meeting of the Society for Professional Journalists in Atlanta.

The Flyer won four first place awards, at or near the top among all publications represented from the 11 states involved, as well as two third-place awards. Memphis Magazine won a first, a second, and a third.

Recipients and their awards were:

*Jackson Baker, First Place, Political Coverage, Print-Non-Daily, for "Four More Years" and other Flyer articles on the 2007 Memphis mayor's race.

*Jackson Baker, First Place, Editorials, Print-Non-Daily, for three Flyer editorials, "A Bridge Too Far," "Undoing the Lockbox," and "The Same Old Challenge."

*Chris Davis, First Place, Disaster Coverage, Print-Non-Daily,' for "The Windless Hurricane," a Flyer report on the after-effects of Katrina in Mississippi.

*Bianca Phillips, First Place, Feature Reporting, Print-Non-Daily, for "The Old Age of Aquarius," a Flyer report on the enduring life of an old and famous commune.

*Preston Lauterbach, First Place, Disaster Coverage, Print-Magazine, for "Anatomy of an Inferno," a Memphis Magazine chronicle of a catastrophic blaze in downtown Memphis.

*Leonard Gill, Second Place, Criticism, Print-Magazine, "A Pilgrim's Progress" and two other book reviews in Memphis Magazine.

*Vance Lauderdale (Michael Finger), Third Place, Humorous Commentary, Print-Magazine, for "Ask Vance," a running series of columns on facts and fictions about Memphis and its history.

*Chris Herrington, Third Place, Criticism, Print-Non-Daily, for "Come Together," "Bumpin' Grind," and "Out of the Past," three Flyer music articles.

*Chris Herrington and Greg Akers, Third Place, Humorous Commentary, Print Non-Daily, for "Elvis Presley, 1935-2007: A Wonderful Life," a Flyer what-if obituary premised on the King's survival for 30 more years after his actual death.

Friday, July 18, 2008

John Ford Guilty on All Counts in TennCare Case

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Former state Senator John Ford, already serving a 5 1/2-year federal prison term in Louisiana for bribery and extortion in connection with the Tennessee Waltz scandal, was convicted by a jury in federal court in Nashville on Friday of two counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false statements.

The new conviction is based on what the government successfully argued was improper use of Ford’s legislative office to secure state TennCare contracts for an out-of-state firm that paid him to do so. September 29 is the date set for sentencing Ford on the new conviction.

Hannah Montana: Through Memphis "Eyes"

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2008 at 4:00 AM

On July 26th, millions of American tween girls (and yes, a few boys), will be glued to Disney Channel for the closest thing to a Hannah Montana concert -- in their own living room! -- as they'll ever get. The broadcast, you see, will be in 3-D.

And the millions of 3-D glasses that will be worn that night were manufactured here in Memphis by American Paper Optics. (APO's president, John Jerit, was featured on the November 2005 cover of Memphis magazine). The glasses will be distributed free (a word rarely associated with the Hannah Montana Phenomenon) at Wal-Mart locations coast to coast (and in Canada).

They'll also be inserted in the July 21st issue of TV Guide.

"We started to work with Disney Marketing about three months before the 3-D movie was released in February," says Jerit. "As the success of the movie swelled, my quotations to Disney grew from 300,000 four-packs for a DVD to over 3,500,000. Of course, the delivery schedule stayed the same, even though the order grew tenfold. The success of the movie in theaters spawned the upcoming TV broadcast. Once Disney found a major sponsor and distributor (Wal-Mart), the order took on a life of its own. It was what I referred to as not '3-D' but '4-M' -- Miley, Montana, Marketing, Monster."

APO won't be slowing down after the Hannah Montana show. Says Jerit, "We are now in production for nearly nine million glasses for the Journey to the Center of the Earth DVD that will have four-packs included in the DVD case."

-- Frank Murtaugh

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Whitten Road Hotel Closed

Posted on Thu, Jul 17, 2008 at 4:00 AM

After a year-long undercover investigation by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Narcotics and Street Crimes bureaus, the East Memphis Traveler’s Inn has been temporarily closed.

The hotel, located at 1776 Whitten Road, was closed as a result of a public nuisance action.

On Tuesday, the grand jury indicted 11 people on 15 counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, distribute, or sell.

In a statement, Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell said, "We believe the closing of this hotel and the indictment of these 11 people will significantly reduce crime not only in this part of Shelby County, but in the neighboring communities of Memphis and Bartlett. Let this be a warning to those involved in organized criminal activity."

During the 12-month investigation, deputies responded to more than a 100 calls of burglaries, thefts of property, domestic violence, prostitution and drug sales at the hotel.

“We will not hesitate to go after business owners who ignore — and in some cases even condone — drug trafficking, prostitution, and other crimes occurring on their properties. Such owners need to understand they are subject to being shut down and having their personal property forfeited and sold at auction,” warned District Attorney Bill Gibbons.

After Rampage's Rampage

Posted on Thu, Jul 17, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Gossip site TMZ is reporting that Memphis native -- and ultimate fighter -- Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was picked up by police yesterday afternoon.

A day before, Jackson had apparently gone on a different kind of rampage, getting into a car crash near Newport Beach and then fleeing the scene ... in a truck with a giant picture of him on the side.

TMZ reports that during yesterday's arrest, police picked up Jackson because they deemed him to be a threat to himself and others, and took him to the hospital for observation.

Of course, TMZ has video of Jackson being handcuffed.

The Flyer hung out with Rampage when he came to town just over a year ago for a local sparring session. To read that story, click here.

MLGW Wants You on YouTube

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

Memphis, Light, Gas and Water recently announced that utility prices would rise by 30 percent. Now the utility is encouraging customers to cut back on energy use by "greening" their homes and then videotaping the evidence.

Between now and August 31st, MLGW is asking its customers to upload videos about their energy-saving ways on YouTube.com. The videos will be judged by MLGW staff and media representatives, and the top three winners will be awarded $250 Home Depot gift cards.

"We want to give our customers a chance to show us innovative ways that they conserve energy at home everyday. We want to see original and creative home videos that demonstrate procedures that you and your family have in order to keep your utility bill low as possible," said MLGW's Chris Stanley.

Feel better? For more, visit mlgw.com.

--Bianca Phillips

Downtown Memphis is Paradise ... for Walkers

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

A new website called Walkscore.com, created by a Seattle software company, ranks U.S. cities and neighborhoods on their "walkability," or basically: How easy is it to live without a car?

So how did Memphis do? Pretty crappy. We ranked 35th out of 40 cities in the country rated for over-all walkability. The good news is downtown Memphis is rated as one of walkscore.com's "Walkers' Paradises," with a score of 91 out of 100.

I don't know about you, but my feet are "10 feet off Beale" with pride.

My neighborhood, on the eastern edge of Central Gardens, rated a 77. See how your neighborhood rates, complete with amenities map.

--Bruce VanWyngarden

Herenton, Cash Make Nice at City Hall Reception

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

On the same day, ironically, that city government and the school board were locking horns in Chancery Court over next year's funding, the incoming schools superintendent and the city's longstanding mayor made public peace at a City Hall reception that ushered in a new and uncertain era for both local institutions.

Mayor Willie Herenton, a former superintendent and unofficial aspirant for the school position himself, had groused out loud weeks ago about a school board search process that yielded up what he termed "third-raters." The mayor was more diplomatic at Thursday's reception, going so far as to offer the school board's new hire, Miami educator Kriner Cash, an apology.

Though the apology had more to do with the uncertain conditions awaiting Cash than with Herenton's implied insult, the new superintendent was happy to accept the mayor's conciliatory words anyhow. Foreseeing no problem in co-existing with the main man in City Hall, Cash put it this way in an interview after the brief ceremony: "We all know why Herenton said what he did." He then gave a stoic shrug and said, "And if they think they can find somebody better, they can go back into the [search] pool."

As for Herenton, he in fact found much to praise about the new man, citing in his prepared remarks Cash's "background and skills and...passion" and commending Cash later for being of like mind with himself on specific issues. "He's in favor of subdividing the school system into manageable districts, which was one of my ideas as a school superintendent," the mayor said, going on to predict that he and Cash would enjoy a "great relationship."

That relationship was due to get its first test on Friday at Ridgeway High School, where the two men will engage in a one-on-one basketball competition of some sort.

Asked about the competing lawsuits that got their first hearing before an overflow audience in the courtroom of Chancellor Kenny Armstrong on Thursday, Herenton made a point of dissociating himself from the city council's counter-suit against Memphis City Schools. The council suit asks for$152 million in compensation for expended school bonds and was filed as a response to MCS's own suit seeking to regain almost $70 million withheld from the school system by the city council last month.

Herenton noted pointedly that the mayor's office and the city administration as such were "not part of any counter-suit" and declared "there ought to be some compromises on school funding" so as to prevent harm to the education of the city's school children.

The mayor declined to comment on a bizarre rumor, widely circulated on Thursday, that he was the subject of a federal indictment. The rumor was explicitly repudiated by assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What Kind of Phone User Are You?

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Justin Timberlake to Have Memphis Wedding?

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

From ever-reliable gossip site Monsterandcritics.com: Although Justin hasn't proposed to girlfriend Jessica Biel yet, his gran Sadie Bomar has already chosen a venue for the couple to get married.

Sadie -- taking an apparent swipe at Justin's ex, Cameron Diaz -- said: "I just want them to be happy. Justin should get married in his mother Lynne's back yard in Tennessee. She has a big yard with beautiful flowers. I think it would be perfect."

Read more here.

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