Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bikesmith Mobile Shop to Service Crosstown Residents

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 12:31 PM

Residents of Crosstown Concourse will soon have a curb-side bike service beginning May 5, as Bikesmith will be servicing Crosstown with a mobile bike shop.

Bikesmith, starting as one of the first mobile bike shops in the country, and now also a full service shop offering bikes and beers near Broad Avenue, will begin parking their mobile bike truck near the concourse on a regular schedule, offering repair services, such as a flat tire fix.

"It's a great partnership," Jim Steffen, Bikesmith's owner said. "It allows us to provide great service to the residents and workers of Crosstown. We can pick your bike up at your door and return it right back to you while you watch TV or make dinner."

Additionally, Bikesmith will give residents the choice of ordering bikes and accessories from the brick and mortar on Hollywood and have it delivered to them at the Concourse.

"We'll provide a convenience that's really innovative and fits nicely with the Concourse's ease of living," Steffen said.

He says everything in the store is fair game to be delivered— except the beer.

Flyer Illustrator Greg Cravens Named to National Board

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 10:19 AM

The National Cartoonist Society (NCS), formed just after WWII by cartoonists returning from USO tours to entertain U.S. troops overseas, has named Memphis-based cartoonist Greg Cravens to their incoming board of directors. The decision comes after Greg was the local coordinator of an NCS/St. Jude event last May. The event brought more than 200 internationally known cartoonists to Memphis to draw for St. Jude patients and to fundraise though a series of cartoon art auctions and live events.

Greg’s artwork is familiar to residents of the Memphis area over the past twenty-five years. He has illustrated advertising for FedEx, The Memphis Flyer, The Peabody, Rock 103, The Grizzlies, Redbirds, Shoney’s, Perkins, The Memphis Zoo, Jack Pirtle’s Chicken, Keras Chevrolet, and hundreds more businesses. Because of his work on the syndicated comic strip The Buckets, he was allowed to join the NCS in 2002, and shortly after was nominated for a Silver Reuben award for his work for the Memphis Flyer.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Dog Park Plan Draws Ire of Protestors

Posted By on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 2:41 PM

A protestor holds a up a sign as council member Berlin Boyd explains the Mud Island Dog Park project. - TOB SELLS
  • Tob Sells
  • A protestor holds a up a sign as council member Berlin Boyd explains the Mud Island Dog Park project.

A new dog park on Mud Island got the go-ahead from a Memphis City Council committee Tuesday and while its main proponent said it will cost half of what was listed on council documents, the move still drew some protestors.

The aptly named Mud Island Dog Park was shown to cost about $475,000 in government documents issued before the council’s meeting Tuesday. That price got the attention of some on social media, including the group Homeless Organizing for Power & Equality (HOPE), which noted that the city “spends zero dollars on homelessness.”

“A place for dogs to s*#!%? but nowhere for our citizens to rest!?” read a post from the group before Tuesday vote.

  • (Facebook) Homeless Organizing for Power & Equality

Council member Berlin Boyd explained that Hollywood Feed, the Memphis-based chain of pet supplies, would pay more than half of the project's cost.

Boyd said he’d been working on the project since 2011, two years before then-council-member Lee Harris (now a state Senator) proposed such a park on Mud Island in 2013. Boyd, it would seem, worked on the Mud Island Dog Park project during his stint as an interim council member in 2011.

Boyd said Overton Bark, the dog park at Overton Park (which was also partially funded by Hollywood Feed) is “crowded and pretty small” and that he wanted to get more people and dogs into such parks.

He said the $475,00 project would include water fountains and canopies to shade visitors from the sun. Boyd never said exactly how many taxpayer dollars would be spent to build the park, planned for the corner of A.W. Willis and Island Drive.

But no matter the sum, the project for dogs was enough to draw a handful of protestors to the small committee meeting at Memphis City Hall with signs that read, “Help the Needy, Not the Greedy!,” “Is this for real?,” “Why do the richest neighborhoods need government assistance?” and more.

“When it comes to seriously addressing poverty and inequity, it seems that many of our elected officials are barking up the wrong tree!” read the Tuesday post from HOPE.

The issue will come before the full council in two weeks.

ALSAC, Farm Burger Ready Space in Crosstown

Posted By on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 1:50 PM

  • Rendering courtesy of Crosstown Concourse
As renovations to Crosstown Concourse, a 1.5 million square foot structure housing businesses, apartments, a high school, and a YMCA, near the crossing of Cleveland Street and North Parkway, wrap up, three tenants pulled permits for spots in the building Tuesday.

Crosstown Arts, co-founder and co-developer of Crosstown Concourse, pulled a nearly $5 million permit for a space inside the building.

American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), the fundraising arm of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, is moving parts of its operations into the building. That group pulled a permit Tuesday for nearly $6 million.

Another new tenant, Farm Burger, an Atlanta-based burger joint offering grass-fed beef, will join Crosstown. That company will spend about $300,000 for its space at Crosstown, according to a building permit.

Other expected tenants of Crosstown include, A Step Ahead Foundation, City Leadership, SunTrust, and about 20 other businesses and organizations.

This is not including the number of eateries that will occupy spaces, such as MemPops, Area 51 Ice Cream, and Mama Gaia, an organic vegetarian restaurant that recently opened its doors to the public at the end of last month.

Crosstown is set to open August 19 of this year, a date very close to the original opening date of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. distribution center, the building's original occupant, in August of 1927.

Memphis Pets of the Week (April 13-19)

Posted By on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 10:43 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, April 11, 2017

UPDATE: Zoo Parking Project Finds a New Way Forward

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 12:41 PM

  • Brandon Dill

The plan for new parking at the Memphis Zoo will move forward after Memphis City Council members approved a new way forward Tuesday through another disagreement on the project between officials from the zoo and th Overton Park Conservancy (OPC).

The original plan was approved last June. It included a newly designed parking lot for the zoo to add hundreds of spaces, a berm around the Overton Park Greensward, and an end to the use of Greensward as an overflow parking lot for the zoo.

The plan hit a snag recently as zoo and OPC leaders wrangled over funding the project.

The issue was debated at a committee meeting at Memphis City Hall Tuesday and the final decision was made with a vote Tuesday evening by the full council.

Council member Reid Hedgepeth floated an idea to delay the vote on the matter until June 20. The delay would allow more time for leaders to shape up financial plans. That delay failed, however.

A new proposal from Hedgepeth gave OPC leaders until June 11 to show that they could, in fact, raise the funds necessary to help build the new parking lot.

In a show of compromise, Hedgpeth offered up an amendment to the original plan, which would shrink the size of the new parking lot's parking spaces by one square foot. This move would save more than acre of the Greensward from the project.

The plan was approved Tuesday.


Memphis City Council members will vote Tuesday evening on how to move ahead with a parking project for Overton Park, a vote preceded by a contentious debate as the issue moved through a committee.

The parking plan would give the Memphis Zoo new parking spaces and end parking on the Overton Park Greensward (OPC). Council members voted on July 19, 2016 to approve that plan which was, at the time, was agreed upon by the OPC and the zoo. However, that plan did not include specific timelines for financing the project.

This was not an issue until OPC leaders came to council members three weeks ago to give the city its portion — $250,000 — for the design portion of the project. Zoo president Chuck Brady took the opportunity to contest the move, noting that the zoo would not put any money towards the project because OPC did not have its share of funds for building the project.

He said there was little point to spend money on designing something that might not be built. He re-stated the position Tuesday but noted that the full board of the zoo met and approved the move.

“We expect the compromise project to go forward as it was designed,” Brady said. “With no changes in financing and no changes in scope.”
OPC chairman, Eric Barnes, told council members that his board approved a measure to fund half of the design costs and half of the construction costs. That vote came after conversations earlier this year with city hall officials about a different financing plan that would allow zoo parking fees to offset the cost of the project.

With that option off the table, Barnes said his board has started fundraising to support the project from corporate entities, private individuals, and more.

Council member Patrice Robinson asked Brady that if visitors are charged to enter the zoo, why can that money not be invested in a new parking lot? Brady told Robinson that funds from parking, entry, and concessions comprise only about 80 percent of what it costs to run the zoo. He said the additional $14 million is collected annually by fundraising.

Council member Reid Hedgepeth confers with Memphis Zoo president Chuck Brady after a contentious committee meeting on the zoo parking project. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Council member Reid Hedgepeth confers with Memphis Zoo president Chuck Brady after a contentious committee meeting on the zoo parking project.

“If we defer any revenues we get in, we have to cut back on other aspects of the zoo,” Brady said.

Council member Martavius Jones peppered Brady with questions about zoo finances, trying to make the point that the zoo does have recurring revenues streams, unlike the OPC.

“So, naturally, it may take the OPC longer to raise this money than any enterprise that has money coming in every day and charging admission,” Jones said.

He argued that the project should move forward to, at least, get a design of the project. If OPC is unable to come up with the construction money, he said, then “at least there will be a design.” Jones also noted that budget season is almost upon city hall and that if “we have to withhold $250,000 from the zoo to pay for the design, I’m willing to do it.”

“I don’t want to use any additional public dollars for parking but if the parties are saying that they will not move forward on this, we’ll have 2016 January, February, March redux up here and I don’t think anyone wants that,” Jones said, referring to the hours of hot debates and public protests around the Greensward issue.

But council member Reid Hedgepeth asked his colleagues to look at the issue from the zoo’s point of view. He said it would not be fair for the zoo’s board to spend $250,000 on a plan that may or may not be implemented.

“To spend half of a million dollars on a design is a lot of money and it’s a whole lot of money to spend on a design that won’t be implemented," Hedgepeth said.

He said the process won’t be fair until OPC can show that they can pay for its share of the project.

To that, Barnes said his board has raised $6 million since its inception in 2011 wth all that money going back into the park, a public entity. He said he’d hoped that earn the board some good faith from the council that it would raise the money necessary for the project’s construction.

“You know all know who funds us,” Barnes said. They have funded projects all kinds of projects all over over town and it borders on an insult to question our good faith.”

Hedgepeth said his argument was not meant to be an insult but that he didn’t want the city to have to pick up a construction tab and for the zoo to have to unnecessarily spend $250,000. Hedgepeth said, “show us you have $1 million or something to say we can move forward,” in a comment that felt more off-the-cuff than a serious legislative directive.

Council member Worth Morgan said the original agreement should, probably, included a finance timelines. However, “we had faith that we’d sit down at the table and work it out without arguing over it.” He said the financing timeline issues shows a “complete lack of trust between the zoo board and the OPC.”

Like Jones, Morgan also hinted at some legislative tactics he might use to move the project along. He said the original agreement might need to be changed to include a timeline.

To go along with that compromise, may be another for park advocates who want to shrink the size of the parking spaces in the zoo’s new lot. That part of the plan, which was suggested by Hedgepeth last year, would make the space 10 foot by 20 foot, the same as at Tiger Lane.

However, park advocates have noted that zoo visitors don’t need spaces so big and that making them so large, the plan takes another acre of land from the Greensward.

Council member Joe Brown did not weigh in on the debate, only to say that “I’m with you,” and motioning to Hedgepeth.

Hedgepeth said after the meeting that his pro-zoo positions on the parking project were not informed by the fact that many of his major campaign donors are also Memphis Zoo board members.

City's Public Assembly Permit Process to Remain Unchanged

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 12:25 PM

January's Women's March brought 9,000 people to the downtown area. In this case, MPD had ample time to prepare accordingly. - February's pro-immigration march permit was granted under the three day exception. Even though police had a considerably shorter time to organize public protection, many that attended the march said police presence was noticeably stronger than the Women's March, though the crowd was a third of the size. - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • January's Women's March brought 9,000 people to the downtown area. In this case, MPD had ample time to prepare accordingly. February's pro-immigration march permit was granted under the three day exception. Even though police had a considerably shorter time to organize public protection, many that attended the march said police presence was noticeably stronger than the Women's March, though the crowd was a third of the size.

Though Memphis City Councilman Worth Morgan said he was certain that today's brief discussion of the public assembly permit application process will be one of many, it appears, for now, that the application process will remain the same.

During the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee (PSHS) meeting, Memphis Police Department Director Mike Rallings advocated for keeping the permit process as it stands without making any changes.

"We already have a system in place that works," said Rallings.

The current application requires an advance notice of 14 business days if the event attendance is expected to surpass 25 persons, however there is an exception to the 14 days notice stipulation for events organized within three days of current affairs becoming public knowledge.

In this case, organizers must give written notice to police.

This exception was applied to grant an emergency permit for February's pro-immigration march, in the wake of President Donald Trump's executive order banning travel for seven majority Muslim countries.

The vast majority of the 14 business day rule is attributed to assessing the need for police protection and organizing accordingly. Because both MPD and the City of Memphis maintain that the police force is short 500 officers, Rallings repeatedly reinforced the need for collaboration between the public and police, particularly after the committee meeting had ended.

"Public safety is not a role just for police. So if citizens know that something is going on, I expect citizens to take responsibility," said Rallings, adding that maintaining public safety at large assemblies in the face of a police shortage will only work through citizens collaborating with MPD.

The 14 day rule has drawn ire from local activists who were denied a permit. In at least one case, activists wanting to hold a rally and march in support of the indigenous people of Standing Rock were denied a permit on the basis of inadequate notice.

The protest happened anyway.

Referring to such occasions, Rallings said that if the event remains peaceful, no arrests would be made.

"We've taken the position that we try to protect citizen's first amendment rights," said Rallings.

The second half of the brief PSHS meeting heard intel from the MPD's Real Time Crime Center and the Internal Affairs Bureau regarding police-worn body cams, and the reduction in civilian complaints against the police.

With body cams deployed to 99.6 percent of the police force, both internal affairs and the crime center are able to analyze data regarding complaints in a fuller context.

MPD's Deputy Chief of Police Information Technology, Jim Harvey told the committee that the initial reduction in complaints, 75 percent, was inaccurate and only reflected one precinct.

Complaints against the department as a whole have dropped though, by 39 percent. Referencing studies done elsewhere on body cameras and their correlation with a drop in complaints against police, Harvey said he expects that the number of complaints will continue their decline.

“I think you’re going to see officers being a lot nicer to the public, and the public being a lot nicer to the officers," said Harvey, who added that the complaints being dropped are largely frivolous in nature.

Conversely, MPD's chief legal officer Bruce McMullen pointed out that there are incidents where the officer's behavior was in the wrong, and reviewing footage will work both ways.

"Our job is not to cover up complaints, but protect citizens," said McMullen.

When the PSHS chairman, Councilman Worth Morgan asked if the recordings helped expedite IAB's investigation process, McMullen said that, if anything, it adds time to the investigation.

"We're talking about a lot of videos to review", said McMullen. "But it's worth it overall."

Pop-up Park Coming to the Riverfront

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 10:18 AM

A pop-up park called RiverPlay is coming to Memphis' Mississippi riverfront early next month and staying through August.

RiverPlay, part of the Fourth Bluff project, which previously gave Memphis a riverfront ice-skating rink, will be a gathering and recreational space with playing fields, basketball courts, a skating rink, and spots for mobile food vendors at the Mississippi River Park.

Partners of RiverPlay— the Memphis Grizzlies, the City of Memphis, Riverfront Development Corporation, and Downtown Memphis Commission— all agree that this pop-up park will be a good opportunity to connect people in the city to the riverfront, downtown, and to the city as a whole.

“Creating better connections between downtown and the riverfront is one of our top priorities,” Terence Patterson, president and CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission said. “We love this activation and the opportunity it affords for rethinking how we use these downtown spaces.”

The Fourth Bluff project is a product of the national initiative, Reimagining The Civic Commons, a partnership of the JPB Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and others, which aims to increase civic engagement, economic opportunity, and environmental sustainability by revamping and connecting parks, libraries, community centers, and other public places.

Memphis is one of only five cities included in the program nationwide.

“Memphis has the best natural riverfront in the country, and it is important that find ways to make the most out of every square inch of these remarkable public spaces,” Mayor Jim Strickland said. “As our downtown core continues to develop and welcome new residents, workers, and visitors all the time, programs like Fourth Bluff and innovative projects like RiverPlay illuminate exact why our riverfront is so special.”

Installation of the pop-up park will begin on the 22nd of this month, while portions of Riverside Drive will be closed for the Memphis In May festivities.

Additions to the riverfront come at the same time city officials are looking to repave and add bike lanes to the south side of Riverside Drive.

Firewood Shortage Creates Business Opportunity

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 10:12 AM


State officials say a shortage of firewood in Tennessee campgrounds could be a business opportunity for entrepreneurs.

There’s a shortage of heat-treated firewood, specifically. Officials have banned untreated firewood at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee State Parks, and at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers–Nashville District campgrounds.

Why? Tree-killing pests. State officials said Monday that the insects and the diseases they carry are becoming “an increasing problem in Tennessee and all over the United States.” The insects can’t move far on their own but can move hundreds of miles when visitors transport firewood to sites in their cars.

“As public agencies continue to protect our forests through these firewood policies, more citizens will need to have sources of safer firewood,” said Trish Johnson, director of forest conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. “This demand is creating new opportunities for local entrepreneurs to help our forests and gain a new source of income.”

Government officials want to help would-be firewood entrepreneurs learn the business. A free workshop in Jackson on Friday, April 21 will show participants how to start up their operations, how to prepare firewood for sale and for use in Tennessee parks, and about the dangers of untreated firewood.

The workshop is scheduled from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. at the University of Tennessee Extension Center. Staff from Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Forestry, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, The Nature Conservancy, and The University of Tennessee will be on hand.

Alexander: In-Flight Cell Phone Call Ban 'Common Sense'

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 9:55 AM

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) lauded a Monday move by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to continue the ban on in-flight cell phone calls, calling the stance “common sense.”

The ban has been in place since 1991. In 2013, Alexander and Sen. Dian Feinstein (D-Calif.) sponsored a bill to set the ban formally into law.

At that time, the FCC considered lifting the ban with the then-new-FCC-chairman Tom Wheeler saying “the time is right to review our outdated and restrictive rules.”

Current FCC chairman Ajit Pai said Monday that the 2013 consideration was “ill-conceived.”

“I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest,” Pai said in a statement Monday. “Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”

For this, Alexander said Pai “earned the gratitude of 2 million Americans who fly.” While privacy on an airplane may not be enshrined in the Constitution, he said, “surely it is in common sense.”
“Imagine 2 million passengers, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts,” Alexander said in a statement. “The Transportation Security Administration would have to hire three times as many air marshals to deal with the fistfights.”

Alexander said airport lobbies are sometimes filled with travelers “shouting personal details into a microphone: babbling about last night’s love life, bathroom plans, next week’s schedule, orders to an assistant, arguments with spouses. Imagine this noise while you travel, restrained by your seatbelt, unable to escape.”

The FCC will consider making the ban permanent with an upcoming review and vote.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Proposed Silos Could Obstruct Well-Known Mississippi Vista

Posted By on Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 1:58 PM

This rendering was commissioned by Lauren Crews, owner of the Marine Hospital. Crews said he felt that the rendering provided by ACBL did not provide a complete representation of the silo's visibility. - COURTESY OF LAUREN CREWS
  • Courtesy of Lauren Crews
  • This rendering was commissioned by Lauren Crews, owner of the Marine Hospital. Crews said he felt that the rendering provided by ACBL did not provide a complete representation of the silo's visibility.

French Fort area residents and institutions are raising concern over two proposed silos that they say will pierce the skyline and interrupt one of the most well known vistas of the Mississippi River.

One of the nation's largest marine transportation companies, American Commercial Barge Line (ACBL), is seeking a zoning variance from Memphis' Board of Adjustments in order to construct two cement silos that top out at 145 feet in height. The current height allowed for the zone is 60 feet.

The silos would be built adjacent to Chickasaw Heritage Park, where historic ceremonial mounds leftover from the indigenous Chickasaw nation offer an unobstructed view of the Mississippi River.

As the Metal Museum's executive director, Carissa Hussong, works next to Chickasaw Heritage Park and can speak to the daily use of the park by tourists and Memphians alike. She acknowledges that, if constructed, the silos will interfere with the view from the museum, but not nearly as much as the view from the ceremonial mound. 
This rendering of the proposed silos shows the altered view from Metal Museum Drive, facing south. - COURTESY OF THE METAL MUSEUM
  • Courtesy of The Metal Museum
  • This rendering of the proposed silos shows the altered view from Metal Museum Drive, facing south.

"I've seen buses of tourists stop by just to take in the view. People come here every day to eat lunch in the park, or watch the sunset," said Hussong. "Having those silos built would completely change the feel of the area."

A Facebook page alerting the public to ACBL's plans has already drawn comments from area residents who are concerned not only about the obstructed view, but about potential impact the punctured skyline could have on development and home values.

Traci Rector Hamersen commented, "The French fort neighborhood will lose even more value and future development capability with this build. Surely there are spots north or south on the river less than a mile in either direction that they could mount these giant bins."

Hussong also expressed concern about property values, but noted that as of now, it's the ambience and character of the area that is most concerning.

"We respect the company's right to invest in their property, but we think they need to do so with regards to existing regulations," said Hussong. "This would take away from a Memphis asset that benefits everyone."

The Memphis Flyer  has reached out to ACBL for comment, and this story will be updated with additional information as it's made available.

The company's hearing at the Board of Adjustments is scheduled for April 26, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N Main St, room 468.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

City to Discuss Protest Permits and Police-Worn Body Cameras

Posted By on Sat, Apr 8, 2017 at 4:05 PM

The now Memphis-infamous Bridge Protest was thousands strong, and the Memphis Police Department currently has roughly 2,000 officers. In the recent past, city officials have attributed the delay or complete denial of public assembly permits to a need to balance police resources and public safety for all involved. - BRANDON DILL
  • Brandon Dill
  • The now Memphis-infamous Bridge Protest was thousands strong, and the Memphis Police Department currently has roughly 2,000 officers. In the recent past, city officials have attributed the delay or complete denial of public assembly permits to a need to balance police resources and public safety for all involved.

The next Memphis City Council Public Safety and Homeland Security (PSHS) Committee meeting will feature two conversations pertinent to the recent increase in public demonstrations in Memphis, and the national conversation on police accountability.

The chairman of the PSHS committee, Worth Morgan, said that recent protests have pushed the application process for marches, parades, and protests to the forefront, and discussion around the process is needed at this point. The city currently requires 14 business days notice before issuing a public assembly permit.

"I wanted to have a conversation that asks, 'Is 14 business days the best we can do?' And that's a conversation that has to involve the police and a better understanding of the logistics and the overtime pay involved, said Morgan.

The permit conversation is two-pronged, and the second part will center around the city's exception to their public assembly ordinance that stipulates emergency permits can be granted if the event taking place is prompted by "Spontaneous events occasioned by news or affairs coming into public knowledge within three days of such public assembly".

This exception was used to grant a permit for the pro-immigration march prompted by President Donald Trump's so-called "Muslim Ban" on February 1 of this year. Initially though, organizers behind the rally were denied a permit under the 14-day stipulation.

The city also denied a permit last month to activists wanting to assemble to raise awareness of the ongoing conflict at Standing Rock.

According to the executive director for the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, Bradley Watkins, the current process in place potentially reinforces apathy to current affairs.

"The only thing that the permit office accomplishes by dragging their feat on permits is that it teaches people not to bother," noted Watkins.

Watkins maintains that it's not the place of the permit office to decided whether or not people can protest. Rather, notifying the city is a courtesy and a way to facilitate communication between activists and police.

"The Police and the city can have communication with these activists, which can help things run smoothly...or not and have problems," said Watkins.

Both Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings and the department's chief legal officer, Bruce McMullen, are expected to participate in the permit discussion.

On Morgan's part, the councilman has stated that he is "more than open" to amending the existing ordinance if the discussion identifies better practices.

The discussion around the use of body cameras on city police will examine recent data gathered by MPD's Real Time Crime Center that shows a significant drop — roughly 75% — in civilian complaints since the implementation of body cameras.

Morgan says the conversation is a chance for the city's Internal Affairs Bureau to add context around the drop in complaints.

"Off the top of their head, everyone can probably think of two reasons why that might be the case. One is the officers are behaving better, and two is that the citizens are behaving better as well," said Morgan, who added that he recognizes that most people will have a bias towards which of the two reasons has contributed more to the drop in complaints.

Though the rollout of the body cameras was halted in 2016, Rallings has said that the majority of officers are now equipped with the recording technology.

As with the conversation around public assembly protests, Morgan again is hopeful that gleaning context from the discussion will provide helpful insight.

"I think it will be an interesting conversation," Morgan said. "This is a chance to have a broad look at how body cameras have affected these investigations."

The PSHS Committee will meet on Tuesday at 9:45 a.m. in City Hall.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Riverside Drive to Potentially be Repaved, Bike Lanes

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 2:46 PM

A mile and a half long riverside bike ride on a newly-paved bike lane from Big River Crossing to Bass Pro Shop might soon be possible, as the city has plans to repave Riverside Drive adding bike lanes once again.

The proposed design would reduce the number of lanes to one going in each direction, divided by the median, with bike lanes on either side of the street.


The street is one of 10 in Memphis that the city’s Division of Engineering has recently made plans to repave under the 80 percent federally-funded Surface Transportation Program Repaving project.

The last time the city decided to reduce Riverside Drive, south of Beale Street, to two lanes, adding bike lanes, was during a pilot phase from June 2013 to May 2014, in which car traffic was pushed to the east of the median and the bike lanes to the west.

Although the pilot was meant to help the public envision what Riverside Drive could be, it mostly served to show the public what they did not want it to be.

Many were unhappy with the exclusion of a left turning lane into Tom Lee Park, causing traffic to back-up behind those turning left.

Other frustrations with the design stemmed from the lack of space for vehicles to pull over in case of emergencies.

Nicholas Oyler, Bikeway and Pedestrian Program Manager for the City of Memphis, says those concerns are mitigated in the proposed design.

"We expect people to be much happier because after hearing many valid complaints, we considered them when conceiving the new design," Oyler said.

Some of those considerations include having a left turning lane near the Tom Lee Park entrance and widened bike lanes which can double as a shoulder for idle cars and emergency vehicles.

Overall, the city says safety for all those who use Riverside Drive, whether by foot, bike, or car, is the main priority of the project.

Drivers speed down Riverside Drive at an average of 10 miles over the speed limit according to the city.

The proposed two-lane street with narrower lanes is designed to promote slower traffic, which will make the pedestrian experience safer and give them a shorter crossing distance.

“It’s currently like an autobahn,” Oyler said. “It’s a dangerous contest if you are trying to cross the street on foot.”

Pedestrians are also protected by the bike lanes, in which the bikers are protected from traffic by a row of planters.

The city foresees slower traffic lessening the amount of serious accidents on the riverfront road.

During the pilot, though the amount of sideswipe and rear-end accidents were higher than usual, the amount of serious accidents was about 15 percent lower than the average.

Oyler iterates that in the proposed design the existing median will divide the north and southbound lanes, preventing sideswipes— another improvement.

he city says the goal of the new bike lanes, per request of many citizens, is to improve accessibility and connectivity to attractions like the Harahan bridge and the Bass Pro Shop at the opposite end of Riverside Drive, adding to the connectivity of bicycle networks in the city.

President of the South Main Neighborhood Association, Don Williams, who resides in condos on Front Street, says that a bike-friendly neighborhood is important to downtown citizens.

“Having more bike lanes attracts millennials to the city and keeps them here,” Williams said. “People have got to have a way to get places and bike lanes are the perfect way to do that.”

Although Williams is in favor of the new proposal, he agrees with the general consensus that the pilot design was not effective.

“That was a bit much, too far in the other direction,” he said. “I think there's a happy median that will make bikers happy and not slow down traffic.”

Others like Sylvia Crum, the director of Revolutions Bicycle Cooperative, are also pleased to see bike lanes being added back to the street. Crum feels the city listened carefully to comments from the previous plan and altered the new design accordingly.

“I’m very excited about the bike lanes, they calm traffic” Crum said. “The Mississippi River is a great resource and attraction, but the road has to be safe in order to get there and enjoy it.”

The Division of Engineering wants the public to have the final say in whether the Riverside Drive plan, along with the other nine proposals, are implemented. They’ve posted an online survey to receive feedback that will remain open through the 17th of this month.

For designs that receive positive feedback, construction will begin in the fall.

Council Agenda: Mud Island Dog Park, Expanding Spanish War Memorial Park

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 2:17 PM

The corner of A. W. Willis and Island Drive, the proposed site for a new dog park. - GOOGLE MAPS
  • Google Maps
  • The corner of A. W. Willis and Island Drive, the proposed site for a new dog park.

City officials hope to open a new dog park on Mud Island and to expand Spanish War Memorial Park in Midtown.

Memphis City Council members will review both plans during committee meetings at Memphis City Hall on Tuesday.

The idea for a dog park on Mud Island was first floated back in 2013 by then-council-member Lee Harris, who is now a state senator. At the time, the park was projected to cost about $100,000.

However, on Tuesday, council members will consider spending more than $475,000 for Mud Island Dog Park after receiving two bids for the project in February.

City documents give few details on the park itself. A construction bid notice in January said the park is to be built at the corner of Island Drive and AW Willis Bridge.

The statue at Spanish War Memorial Park in Midtown. - FLICKR/JOE SPAKE
  • Flickr/Joe Spake
  • The statue at Spanish War Memorial Park in Midtown.

The council will also consider a move to expand Spanish War Memorial Park, which is close to Cooper-Young at the corner of East Parkway and Central. To do it, the city would buy 1.4 acres of adjacent land from Union Pacific Railroad (UPR).

The railroad appraised the property at $230,000. City appraisers said it was worth $150,000. The two negotiated a finally buying price of $170,000, according to city documents.

The strip of land is already used as a makeshift entrance to the park. Though, the trail through the wooded area is unfinished, usually unkempt, and sometimes overgrown.

City documents don’t give any details about how the city would use the land or how it would change the park.

A call to city hall for details on both projects was not immediately answered.

New Concourse, Parking Garage Part of Airport Five-Year Plan

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 1:42 PM

Memphis International Airport officials plan to open the new, modernized Concourse B, replace the old three-story parking garage, and, of course, continue to expand air service all in the next five years.

The Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority issued its five-year strategic plan Friday. The plan is a roadmap for the board, which oversees the city’s airport but leaders said the plan (like any plan) can change.

“This document is a snapshot in time and identifes the plan of action formulated for today,” airport president and CEO Scott Brockman said. “Clearly, as with any ‘living’ document, this plan will be updated as necessary to recognize advancements and changes as we navigate towards the future.”

The plan outlines priorities for the major, physical pieces of airport - like the terminal and the runways - as well as looking at business changes in area’s like communications, hiring, and more.

Airport officials began a process to “modernize” its concourses years ago with the unveiling of its initial plans (which were to cost $114 million) in 2014.

At that time, airport officials planned for the new terminal to be completed in about six years. The plan will see all activity that was once spread through three concourses into one, Concourse B.

The plan will give that concourse “more spacious passenger hold rooms, expanded passenger movement areas, new moving walkways, higher ceilings, the introduction of more natural light, a stream-lined concessions program, and other amenities geared to exceed the high expectations of the modern traveler.”

The modernization plan would also make it easier for airplanes to move in and out the terminal, lowering the time needed for planes to get in and out of Memphis.

The strategic plan also calls for the replacement of the existing, three-story parking deck, which now sits between the new economy parking garage (also called the Ground Transportation Center) and the terminal. Officials are shooting to get this project completed sometime between 2020 and 2026.

The economy parking garage, which opened in 2012, may also get an upgrade. The five-year plan calls for the building to get baggage and flight check-in service by 2020.

The plan sets out environmental goals like adding vehicles charging stations in public parking lots, replacing current lights with LEDs, and catching more of the glycol used to de-ice planes.

The plan notes that airport officials are continuing to expand air service to and from Memphis. Officials want new flights with more frequency on larger airplanes. Specifically, officials are battling for more West Coast destinations and are working to enhance international air service.


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