Thursday, March 16, 2017

Crosstown Concourse Opening Delayed

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 3:48 PM

  • Rendering courtesy of Crosstown Concourse

Originally scheduled to open its doors on May 13 of this year, the team behind Crosstown Concourse announced a new opening date of August 19, 2017.

According to a statement sent out by Crosstown, the 1.5 million square foot structure will have completed renovations to the building as a whole by the original opening date in May, but additional time is needed for office and retail tenants to complete individualized construction for their respective spaces.

The statement also notes that the newly announced date falls in close proximity of the original opening date of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. distribution center, the building's original occupant, in August of 1927.

The groundbreaking ceremony and name reveal for Crosstown Concourse was held on Feb. 21, 2015 — 88 years to the date from when Sears had their own groundbreaking in 1927.

Wanted: MPD Seeks Public Input on Use of Force

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 12:38 PM


The Memphis Police Department is asking the citizens of Memphis to complete an online survey designed to gather public opinion on what is perceived as reasonable use of force when an officer encounters a resisting suspect.

MPD has partnered with an organization called Response to Resistance (RTR), which provides surveys for police departments across the nation to use as a tool for gathering community input on use of force by police.

The survey takes about 8 minutes to complete and shows five short reenactment videos that portray scenarios of a suspect who is being placed under a legal and lawful arrest. Each portrayal escalates in suspect resistance, and respondents are asked to rank what they feel are the appropriate and justified use of force tactics used by the arresting officer.

According the RTR website, MPD officers were asked to complete the survey in October of 2016. You can view the department results compared to your by entering a code provided by RTR at the end of the survey.

MPD Director Michael Rallings has called the survey a proactive measure, one that will provide civilians with insight into use of force decisions MPD officers are faced with daily.

"It further allows us, as a law enforcement agency to understand what the public perceives to be a reasonable force used by an officer," said Rallings.

Those interested have until tomorrow, March 17, to complete the survey, which can be found here.

Overton Park Conservancy Ready to Pay for Project Design

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 11:38 AM

  • Brandon Dill

The Overton Park Conservancy (OPC) has come up with its half of the funds needed for the design phase of a project that will ultimately end parking on the park’s Greensward.

The OPC board voted recently to give the city $250,000 to pay for consultants to design a re-configured parking lot for the Memphis Zoo. OPC and the zoo agreed to pay the costs in a deal that would give the zoo the new parking spots and end Greensward parking.

Designers with Memphis-based Powers Hill Design will begin the design phase in April. That phase will include “a robust public engagement process,” according to a statement from OPC. When engineers will then finish their work in the space “likely this fall, we will have cost estimates for the construction and implementation phase. At that time, a funding plan for completion of the project will be finalized.”

“We are confident that the Powers Hill team will be able to deliver a solution that is practical, implementable, and sensitive to the importance of the park and the zoo to Memphians and visitors,” OPC said. “The community has already put in significant work to shape this plan through the parking and traffic study conducted last year.

The collaborative efforts that helped us reach this consensus solution will continue to be valuable as we bring the project to fruition.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Violent Crimes Are Down, Property Crimes Are Up

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 12:37 PM

Major violent crimes in Memphis and Shelby County are down for the second month in a row, according to the latest numbers released by the Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission (MSCCC). 

Compared to January and February of 2016, major violent crimes —  which include rape, murder, robberies, and aggravated assault — have decreased by 2.8 percent in Memphis proper, and 2.9 percent for all of Shelby County. 

Though major violent crimes in the city and county are decreasing, the overall crime rate for Memphis is up by 7.6 percent compared to January 1 through February 28 of 2016. Shelby County's overall crime has also increased by 5.2 percent. 
The 2017 figure is a 30.3% decrease from 2006 and a 12.7% increase from 2016. - Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). The 2017 TBI figures are preliminary. - MEMPHIS SHELBY COUNTY CRIME COMMISSION
  • Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission
  • The 2017 figure is a 30.3% decrease from 2006 and a 12.7% increase from 2016.Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). The 2017 TBI figures are preliminary.

According to the MSCCC, much of the rise in the area's overall crime rate can be attributed to an increase in major property crimes, particularly motor vehicle thefts. Memphis' property crime rate is up from 2016 by 14.6 percent, Shelby County by 12.7 percent. Major property crimes also include burglaries and other theft offenses.

Memphis Police Department Director Michael Rallings has urged Memphians to prevent motor theft with one suggestion; try not to leave your vehicle running when you are not occupying it.

"We must do our due diligence when securing our vehicles," the police director said. "Leaving vehicles running while unattended has contributed to a rise in auto thefts. It is not only illegal by city ordinance, but also leaves you vulnerable to being a crime victim."

The increase in property crimes is a departure from the overall trend of the last ten years in Memphis and Shelby County. Collectively, there has been a 30 percent drop city and countywide in the last decade.

The same goes for the overall crime rate for Memphis and Shelby County. Collectively, the area's crime rate has decreased by 20.2 percent since 2006.

Bill Gibbons, president of the MSCCC has called the drop in violent crimes, "encouraging", adding that "this is an area where we can all agree that progress is essential."

Gibbons has also noted that at this point, it's too early to guess at any specific cause for the drop in violent crimes, but notes that he does know that, "local law enforcement is approaching violent crime with a renewed focus on using available resources in a productive, data-driven way."

"While encouraged by the decline in violent crime so far this year compared to last year, I can't say at this point it's a trend," said Gibbons, who added, "We'll have to wait and see."

Memphis Pets of the Week (March 16-22)

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 11:40 AM

Each week, the Flyer will feature adoptable dogs and cats from Memphis Animal Services. All photos are credited to Memphis Pets Alive. More pictures can be found on the Memphis Pets Alive Facebook page.

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City Plans Road Projects, Bike Lanes

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 11:10 AM


The city’s Division of Engineering plans to re-pave 10 streets throughout Memphis, hoping to add to the number of bike lanes in the city.

A public meeting is planned for Monday, March 27 to discuss these plans with the public and get feedback on the proposed designs for each street. At the meeting, which will be held at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, city officials and consultants will be on hand to answer any questions and record any concerns.

The city will take the attendees’ comments and criticism into consideration when deciding how to proceed with each street. If a design has an overwhelming amount of negative feedback, officials will go back to the drawing board and hold additional public meetings if necessary. Designs that are well-received by the public will begin being constructed this summer.

The projects, officially known as the Surface Transportation Program Repaving Group 5 and 6 will be funded majority federally funded.

The repaving projects include:

N. Highland St. - Summer Ave. to Walnut Grove Rd.

Riverside Dr. - Jefferson Ave. to Beale St.

N. Perkins St. - Summer Ave. to Walnut Grove

Hickory Hill Rd. - Mt. Moriah Rd. to Winchester Rd.

Knight Arnold Rd. - Hickory Hill Rd. to Ridgeway Rd.

Riverdale Rd. - Winchester Rd. to Shelby Dr.

Cooper St. - Washington Ave. to Central Ave

Getwell Rd. - Park Ave. to I-240

Airways Blvd. - Shelby Dr. to TN/MS State Line

Mendenhall Rd.- Knight Arnold Rd. to Mt. Moriah Rd.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Meet the Resistance: ACLU Hosts 'Resistance Training' Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 10:57 AM

The People Power logo. - ACLU
  • ACLU
  • The People Power logo.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is hoping to organize “the mass resistance to President (Donald) Trump’s bankrupt policies” with a nationwide meeting Saturday that includes three events in Memphis.

The organization will hold a “Resistance Training” town hall meeting in Miami. The event will also launch a new platform for the organization called “People Power.” The ACLU will livestream that launch event and the training to communities across the country.

“With a nationwide presence through our 50-plus state affiliates, the ACLU is well positioned to take on the incredible responsibility of grassroots organizing coast to coast,” Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s national political director, said in a February blog post. “This type of program is new for us at ACLU, but it is necessary if we are going to overcome the Trump administration’s attempts to curtail civil rights and eventually advance a 21st century civil liberties agenda.”

Watch parties for Saturday’s event — billed as “People Power Action Events” — are planned across the country in homes, community centers, restaurants, and more.

Three events are planned for Memphis, including the Trolley Stop Market, The Caritas Village, and a private residence on Minden. Events are also planned in rural parts of West Tennessee, including Martin, Ridgley, and Ripley.

The ACLU promises the event will “promote ideas for action to defend sanctuary cities, resist deportation raids, oppose the Muslim Ban, maintain Planned Parenthood funding,” and more.

For more information or to find an event go to the People Power website.

Red dots mark the locations of Saturday's ACLU events across Tennessee. - ACLU
  • ACLU
  • Red dots mark the locations of Saturday's ACLU events across Tennessee.

Supreme Court: Servers Can't Sue Employers for Skimming Tips

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 10:34 AM

A bartender pours a beer at TPC Southwind. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • A bartender pours a beer at TPC Southwind.

Food service workers in Tennessee cannot sue their employer for illegally distributing tips to non-tipped employees, according to a new ruling from the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The court ruled on the issue Thursday in a case filed in Memphis in 2014.

Kim Hardy was a server and bartender at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) at Southwind. Customers at the club were charged a mandatory tip in its bars and restaurants. Hardy noticed that the club distributed those tips to many different types of employees including those in the kitchen and in management.

Hardy sued TPC, claiming the club owed her damages because it “knowingly, willfully, fraudulently, maliciously, and/or with reckless disregard failed to pay her and other similarly situated employees all of the tips” they were owed. She sought compensatory and punitive damages.

A Memphis trial court dismissed her claim, noting that a private employee had no explicit right to file suit on the claims, according to the Tennessee Tip Statue. An amendment to that state law in 2013 said a tipped employee’s only course of action on a tipping violation was through the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

A state appeals court reversed the trial court’s decision in 2015 to examine the law and remanded the case back to court.

“(The appeals court) recognized that the Tip Statute did not say directly that a food service employee such as Ms. Hardy could file a lawsuit seeking damages for violation of the law,” according to Thursday statement from the Tennessee Supreme Court. “Nevertheless, relying on a 1998 Court of Appeals decision, it held that Ms. Hardy had an ‘implied private right of action’ under the Tip Statute, that is, it found implied intent by the legislature to allow a private citizen to file a lawsuit for violation of the law.”

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and heard it. But the court ultimately overruled the original decision on the appeal. The state legislature had not explicitly provided a private citizen, like Hardy, to “file a lawsuit to collect damages for violation of the Tip Statute.” So, even if the company broke the law and skimmed the tips, employees could no sue the company.

“The only remedy provided in the law was to charge an employer, such as the (TPC), with a misdemeanor,” read the court’s statement this week. “Since the court declined to find ‘implied’ intent by the legislature to allow a private right of action, it affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Ms. Hardy’s lawsuit.”

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Suit: Who Can Legally Massage Horses in Tennessee?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 10:45 AM

A lawsuit filed this week seeks to protect horse massage (and those who can legally do it) in Tennessee.

The Beacon Center, a free market think think in Nashville, filed the suit against the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. The suit stems from a recent move by the board to dictate that horse massage can be done only by a licensed veterinarian.

Two Nashville-area horse trainers, Martha Stowe and Laurie Wheeler, had been practicing horse massage on Stowe’s farm in Franklin. They both got cease and desist letters from the state vet board. The Beacon Center said the two were subjected to fines and even jail time if they continued to practice horse massage.

“I can’t hurt a horse by doing mayofascial release (the form of massage the pair used on horses),” Stowe in a YouTube video about the case. “I’m not treating, I’m not diagnosing any kind of illness. If there’s a severe injury, I call (the client) and say, hey, this horse needs a veterinarian.”

The center took up the case on the therapists’ behalf, calling the law “unconstitutional.” Then, it gave the board two week to rescind the rule before filing the suit. The law is excessive, the center said, and restricts Stowe’s and Wheeler’s livelihoods.

“We will be putting our energy and resources into making sure that the government restores Laurie and Martha's right to earn an honest living,” said Braden Boucek, the Beacon Center’s litigation director. “Both the U.S. Constitution and Tennessee Constitution protect the right to earn a living, meaning individuals have a right to pursue a chosen business or profession free from arbitrary or excessive government interference. This regulation clearly runs afoul of that right.

“The vet board is now requiring a license to rub a horse. It is time we stop criminalizing compassion. What's next, a license to pet your dog or feed your cat?"

The center also fought (and won) a case in Nashville that would allow residents to open their homes to others through services like AirBnB, according to the center. It is also eyeing another possible victory as Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam seeks to repeal a rule that now requires licenses for salon shampooers.

Friday, March 3, 2017

J/k, the DOJ Will Work With MPD After All

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 2:35 PM

  • Department of Justice

An update from the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has announced they will continue with their review process of the Memphis Police Department's community policing and use of deadly force policies after stating earlier today that they would be dissolving the partnership.

According to the COPS office, the previous announcement occurred because the office had not received a signed memorandum of agreement (MOA) from Mayor Jim Strickland, a critical requirement of the reform process.

"The COPS Office looks forward to a productive engagement and commends Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings for his commitment to community policing, organizational transformation, and improved police-community trust," said COPS press secretary Mary Bradenberger.

The City of Memphis' chief communications officer, Ursula Madden, said that their chief legal officer, Bruce McMullen, confirmed MPD's participation of the COPS assessment earlier this week with the acting U.S. Attorney for West Tennessee, Larry Laurenzi. It was agreed that Mayor Jim Strickland would sign the MOA on Friday, March 3.

Madden said that they were "shocked" at the DOJ's press release on Friday morning, and that the mayor had indeed signed a MOA as promised.

"We have been in constant contact with the DOJ and members of the COPS Office since October, and have worked on good faith on this collaborative process," said Madden.

Madden contributed the DOJ's announcement to a miscommunication, and said the City of Memphis was ready to move forward with the COPS Office review process.

Feds Cancel Collaborative Review of MPD Policies

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 10:43 AM

  • Department of Justice
The Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) has announced they will no longer have a collaborative reform partnership with the Memphis Police Department to review their community policing and use of deadly force policies.

Press secretary for the COPS office, Mary Bradenberger, said that the office has made technical assistance and training resources available for MPD's use moving forward.

"The COPS office appreciates the leadership of MPD and the City of Memphis for requesting assistance from the Department of Justice and supports their efforts as they continue to move forward and advance community policing and strengthen relationships in their community," said Bradneberger.

The COPS office announced their partnership with MPD less than six months ago, in late October 2016. The review process was expected to take up two years and would have produced a lengthy report of findings and suggestions for enhancing community policing within the MPD.

Following public criticism of the recently released City Hall escort list, The Memphis Flyer reached out to the COPS office for comment regarding the controversy, but the office declined to respond.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

ACLU-TN Joins Class Action Lawsuit Against Memphis For List

Posted By on Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 3:52 PM

Paul Garner, a local organizer that made the city hall watchlist, speaks at a rally for Darrius Stewart in front of the justice complex at 201 Poplar in late 2015. - MICAELA WATTS
  • Micaela Watts
  • Paul Garner, a local organizer that made the city hall watchlist, speaks at a rally for Darrius Stewart in front of the justice complex at 201 Poplar in late 2015.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is joining a class action lawsuit against the City of Memphis over the creation of a list of citizens who require a police escort into City Hall. The list includes ex-City Hall employees as well as local political activists — including Mary Stewart, the mother of Darrius Stewart who was killed by Memphis Police in 2015.

The lawsuit, Blanchard v. City of Memphis, was filed by Bruce Kramer of Apperson Crump, PLC and alleges that the creation of the "blacklist" violates a 1978 consent decree forbidding the city to use local intelligence to continuously spy on individuals who were exercising their protected first amendment rights.

The decree was established in the wake of an 1976 lawsuit, Kendrick v Chandler, in which the ACLU-TN sued the City of Memphis on behalf of citizens and organizations that wished to exercise free speech without the risk of government surveillance.

ACLU-Tn's legal director, Thomas H. Castelli, said that many people on the list have no criminal record, but have merely participated in protected free political speech, and this implies that the city is once again engaging in "political intelligence actions" against its residents.

"If any surveillance was conducted for the purpose of gathering political intelligence, it would flout the consent decree that has been in place for nearly forty years," said Castelli.

Memphis Police Department Director Michael Rallings had the names of all political protestors removed from the list on March 1, but ACLU-TN maintains that "their original presence on the list still indicates potential violations of the decades-old decree."

So far, the MPD has declined to make public any criteria that would offer an explanation why those without a criminal history and without any known incidents at City Hall would be listed as requiring a police escort.

Mayor Jim Strickland has said that he did not know about the full City Hall list, but his name appears at the top of it as part of a original authorization of agency- a decree he signed that was meant to keep some protestors off of his private property after they staged a "die-in" on Strickland's lawn last year and allegedly peeked in his windows.

Memphis Pets of the Week (March 2-8)

Posted By on Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 10:41 AM

Each week, the Flyer will feature adoptable dogs and cats from Memphis Animal Services. All photos are credited to Memphis Pets Alive. More pictures can be found on the Memphis Pets Alive Facebook page.


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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Henri Brooks' Sentencing Overturned, Second Diversion Request to Follow

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 2:26 PM

Attorneys Michael Ryan Working and Andre Wharton of the Wharton Law Firm say that a second motion for diversion will be filed on behalf of former Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks. - MICAELA WATTS
  • Micaela Watts
  • Attorneys Michael Ryan Working and Andre Wharton of the Wharton Law Firm say that a second motion for diversion will be filed on behalf of former Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks.

Former Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks won an appeal yesterday from the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals for falsifying an election document that misstated her home address.

In 2014, Brooks was popped by county officials for living outside of her district. After this controversy, Brooks left her post on the Shelby County Commission and, then, lost a bid for Juvenile Court Clerk. She pleaded guilty to the charge in 2015.

Attorneys working for Brooks announced Tuesday that she had won an appeal that reversed her original sentencing in the matter, two years probation and 80 hours of community service.

André Wharton, one of Brooks' attorney, said that, if anything, the reversal is a sign of a healthy criminal justice system in the state of Tennessee, since the appeals court was able to conclude that matters irrelevant to the case ultimately, and wrongfully influenced the court's decision.

"What this shows," said Wharton, "is that we still have a system that works. It worked in this instance. And I would encourage everybody not to give up on our justice system. Challenge it, but do so in a respectful fashion."

Central to the appeal was Brooks' claim that two events — remarks made to a Hispanic man concerning diversity in contracts at a commission meeting and a dismissed assault charge stemming from Brooks allegedly throwing water on a woman — actually had no bearing on the crime. However, those events became a focal point during her original sentencing hearing.

Brooks, who entered an Alford plea of guilty to a felony charge of making a false entry on an election document was not present Tuesday as her lawyers discussed the the implications of the court's reversal of the decision to deny Brooks diversion.

For now, Brooks' sentencing has been set aside until her lawyers can submit a second request for the diversion of Brooks' sentence. If diversion is granted, Brooks original sentence would be thrown out. The Alford plea would still stand. If Brook's is granted diversion, then her lawyers will move to have her conviction expunged.

"In yesterday's opinion, the court essentially ruled that some outside factors from Commissioner Brooks' years of public service in the community came into the court and clouded the trial court's judgement," said Michael Ryan Working, one of Brooks' attorneys, who added that if diversion is granted, the former commissioner would have a chance to have her record expunged.

"The next step will be to determine whether or not the special prosecutor decides to agree on diversion, or whether we will have a new sentencing hearing," said Working.

Task Force Wants Your Opinion on Riverfront

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 10:30 AM

  • John Branston
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s Riverfront Task Force (RFT) wants to know what you think of the riverfront and what you’d like to see there as the group has launched a new online survey.

Strickland launched the task force last month to guide the next stage of development for the riverfront. The move came after the Riverfront Development Corp. (RDC) hired Studio Gang, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in “architecture, urbanism, interiors, and exhibitions” to develop the “Riverfront Concept Plan.”

That plan will come thanks to donations from the Hyde Family Foundation and the Kresge Foundation. But those donations come with promises that the RDC will raise $350,000 to implement portions of the plan and that the city of Memphis sign on as a plan partner.

The task force’s survey was announced Tuesday. It asks basic questions like — How often do you visit the riverfront and how do you get there? What needs the most improvement on the riverfront? The task force’s survey also asks participants’ age, ZIP code, and race.

The survey specifically asks what participants think of the area’s green space, access to the river, Mud Island access, parking, historical landmarks, access to Downtown and nearby attractions, family areas, current festivals, outdoor activities, safety, and landscape.

“Our riverfront is one of our most important, significant, and historic assets,” reads a quote from Strickland on the page. “It is crucially important that we create an interconnected riverfront that reflects our community as a whole and showcases Memphis to the world."

The page also includes a full list of those on the Riverfront Task Force. Here they are:

• Task Force Chairman: Alan Crone, special counsel to the mayor of Memphis Jim Strickland
Berlin Boyd, District 7 representative and chairman of the Memphis City Council
Jared Bulluck, director of community and alumni engagement, Leadership Memphis
Carol Coletta, senior fellow, American Cities Practice, Kresge Foundation
John Farris, chairman, Riverfront Development Corp.
Maria Fuhrmann, grants and partnerships, city of Memphis
Jim Holt, president and CEO, Memphis In May International Festival
Kevin Kane, president and CEO, Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau
Rachel Knox, program associate, Innovate Memphis
Mickell Lowery, president, Downtown Neighborhood Association
Laura Morris, former executive director, Shelby Farms Park Conservancy
Bill Morrison, District 1 representative, Memphis City Council
Terence Patterson, president, Downtown Memphis Commission
Ray Pohlman, vice president, AutoZone
Lauren Taylor, program director for Livable Communities, Hyde Family Foundations
Diane Terrell, vice president of community engagement, Memphis Grizzlies; executive director, Memphis Grizzlies Foundation
Paul Young, director, city of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development

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