Monday, November 7, 2016

Supreme Court Reverses Conviction of Man Who Secretly Filmed Nude Daughter

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 4:16 PM

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The conviction of a Knoxville-area man who secretly filmed his 12-year-old daughter and her friend while they were nude, has been reversed and dismissed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

In a unanimous opinion, justices said Monday the conviction for especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor could not stand because the videos only showed the girls naked. Current state law requires a conviction on the charge only if such videos show victims engaged in sexual activity. The court concluded that the videos did now show the victim engaged in sexual activity.

Thomas Whited was convicted in 2013 by a Knox County jury on nine counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, one count of attempt to commit that offense, 13 counts of observation without consent, and one count of attempt to commit that offense.

So, Whited will still be held on the other 15 convictions against him that remain. The Supreme Court sent the case back to atrial court for re-sentencing.

Whited’s wife found hidden-camera cell phone videos on his phone that showed their daughter entering and exiting the shower. Other videos on his phone showed the Whiteds’ daughter and her 14-year-old friend changing out of swimsuits. All of the videos were taken at the Whiteds’ home.

State law says the material must “be evaluated based on what is depicted, without reference to the defendant’s subjective intent.” The court determined that, regardless of Whited’s intent in making the videos, the content depicted nudity alone, and not a minor engaged in sexual activity.

“[W]e must hold that the videos at issue do not rise to a level at which the trier of fact could reasonably find that they include ‘sexual activity,’ defined as the ‘lascivious exhibition’ of the minor’s private body areas,” Justice Holly Kirby wrote in Monday's opinion.

The court said the state can retry Whited on the lesser charge of attempt of the offense of especially aggravated sexual exploitation. Also, justices said the evidence would have supported a conviction for photography without consent.

ESPN Producer Falsely Accused as White Supremacist

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 3:43 PM

Citizens and media in Memphis are feverishly working to identify the Trump supporter whose ultra-racist tangent was caught on film and subsequently ricocheted all throughout the internet.

So far, we only know for certain the one man who is NOT responsible for the abhorrent spew, and that man is Brad Carson, producer for ESPN 92.9.

An unknown person for unknown reasons falsely tagged Carson in the viral video, and almost immediately the sports-show producer began receiving death threats via email and social media.

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  • Twitter
This isn't the first time an individual has outed themselves to the world at large as a racist, rancid, festering boil upon the dermis of humanity. It likely won't be the last. But, with searching tools more available than ever, false accusations are now easier than ever to spread.

Just ask Brad Carson.

Brandon Lev, the recpient of the foul spew and quite possibly one of the most patient humans on earth, has been the only one to identify themselves and come forward about what happened. That's somewhat surprising as the unidentified boil seems awfully proud of sharing his views.

Carry on, Internet- but do so with caution.


He Said, She Said: Memphis Researchers Dove Deep on Debate Speech

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 3:16 PM

OFFICIAL FACEBOOK BIO PHOTOS FOR TRUMP, CLINTON
  • Official Facebook bio photos for Trump, Clinton
Trump appealed to the heart. Clinton appealed to the head.

That’s one key takeaway from the final presidential debate, according to a group of University of Memphis (U of M) researchers who watch political speeches the way pro coaches watch game film.

Languages Across Cultures at the U of M works through the school’s Institute for Intelligent Systems to unravel political speech in Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, and English using computer language tools.

The group focuses on political crises, distinctions between credible threats and bluffs in national and international security, and contentious political behavior.

This year, the group followed the three televised debates between 2016 Presidential hopefuls, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. They found, among other things, that Clinton’s language tended to be more “information dense,” while Trump’s language tended to be more emotional.

The group published all of its findings on the Language Across Cultures blog. Leah Windsor, the principal investigator with the project, said, of course, that her group is nonpartisan and focused solely on the speech itself.

Here are some of the findings from the group’s research:

• Trump used more negative emotion.

• Clinton used more positive emotion.

• In the first debate, Clinton used more nonfluencies (words like well, um, err. mmmm, uh) than Trump did. Men usually use these “fillers” more than women do, because it is a tactic to “hold the floor” and retain their speaking turn, rather than yield to others in the conversation.

Given that Trump interrupted Clinton upwards of 50 times, she likely adopted this tactic so she could make her speaking points. Our analysis validates this assertion, because she also used more masculine language than did Trump.

• In persuading voters, Clinton goes the central route, to their heads.

• In persuading voters, Trump goes the peripheral route, to their hearts.

• In the first and second debates, Clinton used more tentative language (rather than certain) than Trump did.

Speaking in absolutes could make negotiations difficult, limiting the ability to compromise.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Tennessee Smashes Early Voting Records While Disqualifying Thousands of Previously Inactive Voters

Posted By on Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 3:38 PM

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Early voters in Tennessee are showing up in record numbers for this presidential election.

According to the Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, 1,675,679 voters have either voted early or cast their absentee ballot. This number easily surpasses the 1.24 million Tennessean that voted in the March presidential primaries, which was also a record-breaking number.

This election's number of early voters has also passed the previous record of early voters in 2008 by more than 95,000.

"I'm thrilled that people are engaged and took advantage of the convenience of early voting," said Hargett in a statement released today.

The Flyer is awaiting confirmation to make sure Hargett actually meant "engaged" instead of "terrified".

Hargett may be impressed by the early voter turnout, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is not thrilled with Hargett's recent assertion that Tennessee has federally protected authority to "purge" voters who have not participated in prior local or national elections.

Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down an Ohio law that allowed for the purging of registered voters who had not participated in recent elections. Hargett has said that the Tennessee law allowing for the same end result is substantially different than the Ohio law that was struck down.

Taking a cue from Republican nominee Donald Trump's best oratorical practices, the ACLU-TN said in a letter to Hargett's office, "wrong".

"Tennessee's procedures are predicated on a person's failure to vote and will undoubtedly be found to violate the National Voter Registration Act and the Sixth Circuit Court's decision," the letter said before going on to call for the state secretary to inform county commission offices that the law is invalid in order to prevent any additional voter purges.

One broadcast news station in Nashville reported that in Davidson County, 19,000 would-be voters have been disqualified.

The ACLU-TN is asking for any Tennesseans who feel they might have been deemed ineligible to vote due to previous inactivity to contact them.






Raleigh Springs Mall Project Could Soon Be Cleared for Take Off

Posted By on Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 11:27 AM

The enormous site that was once home to the Raleigh Springs Mall could soon become a town center. - APPLE MAPS
  • Apple Maps
  • The enormous site that was once home to the Raleigh Springs Mall could soon become a town center.

The much-delayed Raleigh Springs Mall project could clear a final hurdle in a couple of weeks, an event that could make the city’s vision for the area into a reality.

A tentative agreement has been reached between the city and one of the last remaining property owners in the mall area, said Memphis City Council member Bill Morrison. The agreement only needs the blessing of Shelby County Circuit Court Judge James Russell, who is set to review the matter on Friday, Nov. 18.

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Morrison and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland brought the news to a large crowd gathered in Raleigh Thursday night. That crowd, Morrison said, has been patient with and committed to the project for years, attending countless hours of city council and community meetings.

“The day I see that mall start coming down, which is hopefully in January, I might have to shed a tear of great relief to know we finally got there,” Morrison said Friday. “It’s been seven years. I joked last night that I had long hair and weighed 180 pounds [when the process began].”

The city council approved a vision plan for the Raleigh Redevelopment Project in November 2013. A year later, the council approved $23.7 million for the transformation project.

City leaders want to raze the old mall. In its place would be a town center with a “state of the art” library, Morrison said, and a “world class” skate park. A new Memphis Police Department precinct in the building would replace the Old Allen Station.

A one-mile walking trail would surround the entire campus, which would include a large water feature that Morrison said will also serve as a retention pond that will save about 600 homes from a 100-year flood event. The campus will also feature a community orchard and pecan grove.

Should Judge Russell sign off on the city’s agreement, Morrison said he hopes demolition would begin in January and the building would be completely gone by April. Should construction begin in the summer, the project could be open by summer 2018, Morrison said. But the entire timeline is tentative, he said.

Morrison had another, smaller piece of good news for Raleigh residents Thursday. A new sign will welcome visitors there. The state has given the city a small tract of land off Austin Peay to erect a large sign to read: “Welcome to Raleigh.” The sign will be landscaped and lit with solar power, Morrison said.

All of this comes as the area is “making a comeback,” Morrison said. He said a vacant strip center along Austin Peay will soon be completely occupied. Another empty strip center is being renovated. Also, he said, a Smoothie King has moved into the former (and vacant) Burger King location there.

“[The town center project] will just accelerate all of that progress in the area,” Morrison said.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fund Invests in Memphis to Transform Recycling Program

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 3:04 PM


In an attempt to increase recycling efforts across the city, the Closed Loop Fund has invested in the transition from dual-stream recycling to single-stream recycling in Memphis.

"Memphis is the first major municipality in the South we’ve invested in," said Bridget Croke, the CLP's external affairs coordinator. "It's the largest city we've invested in so far."

Pouring $3.25 million into Memphis at zero interest, the Fund, a collection of consumer product companies and retailers who aim to increase recycling across the United States, will allow the city to purchase 40 thousand single-stream recycling carts. Rather than residents parsing their recyclables into separate bins and carrying them to the curb, they'll be able to fill a single 96-gallon cart and roll it to the sidewalk.
"We’re excited to watch Memphis become an example and create a case study that proves to other similar municipalities that recycling should be a priority and makes economic sense," Croke said.

The new carts will hold five times more than the current bins. Projections estimate it will divert 17 thousand tons of trash from local landfills and reduce 48 thousand tons of Greenhouse Gas emissions across 110 thousand homes in the Mid-South.
JOSHUA CANNON
  • Joshua Cannon
"This is a big benefit to us," said Mayor Jim Strickland, noting that the carts will streamline an often neglected task. "My wife and I both work full time, and we have two kids. Sometimes it's hard to remember to recycle. These carts make it so you don't have to think. They will make a difference to busy people."

The partnership also includes an education grant and resources to kickstart the initiative. In addition to the carts, 100 recycling containers will be placed around FedEx Forum beginning December 3rd when the Grizzlies take on the Los Angeles Lakers.

"We know just setting them out is half the battle," said John Walker, the executive vice president of business operations for the Grizzlies. "Education is key to this initiative, so we will be running public service announcements through all Grizzlies games and through other events at FedEx Forum."

The Grizzlies will also work with local organizations Clean Memphis and Memphis City Beautiful to create recycling incentives for kids at schools across the city. 
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  • Joshua Cannon

"Recycling is nothing new in Memphis, we've had an active program for many years," Strickland said. "But we think we can do better."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

TDOC Sex Offender Compliance Sweep Yields Hundreds of Violations

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 3:24 PM

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The Tennessee Department of Corrections released their yearly numbers today from Operation Blackout, a state-wide sweep where parole officers and local law enforcement officers team up to check homes of registered sex offenders for any Halloween-related violations.

In a 10-day span, officers performed more than 3,000 compliance checks on homes of registered sex offenders, and netted 378 violations. Halloween yielded an additional 1,214 checks and 33 violations.

It's worth noting that the compliance checks cover a wide range of guidelines, and 378 violations does not necessarily mean there were 378 offenders donning masks and roaming neighborhoods.

Under Tennessee DOC guidelines, offenders may not leave their porch lights on, decorate their houses for the fall or Halloween season, leave their domiciles between the hours 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., or open the door for anyone other than a law-enforcement officer.





Murder Appeal Reviewed After Discovery of Secret Witness Payment

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 2:43 PM

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  • Murderpedia
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A death row inmate will ask a federal appeals court to review his case Wednesday after his attorneys discovered law enforcement officials secretly paid a key witness $750 to testify, a fact prosecutors kept from defense attorneys and jurors.

Andrew Thomas was convicted in 2001 of the 1997 shooting death of an armored truck driver who was leaving a Summer Avenue Walgreens with the store’s deposit. Thomas has maintained his innocence through the years.

He has appealed his case through the Tennessee Supreme Court and to a lower-level federal court, though all of his appeals have, so far, been denied.

Oral arguments on his appeal will begin Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit at the University of Memphis Law School.

A centerpiece to the arguments will be a piece of evidence, a statement from the state’s key witness in the matter, Angela Jackson. During the original trial, overseen by the U.S. Attorney's office, Jackson repeatedly testified that she did not receive a reward or “one red cent” for her testimony, which linked Thomas to the crime.

However, after the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in 2011, Thomas’ attorneys discovered “by happenstance” that law enforcement agents secretly paid $750 to Jackson for her statement.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich was the lead prosecutor on the case. She did not disclose the fact that Jackson had been paid to Thomas’ attorneys or to jury members during the trial. It is not known whether or not Weirich knew about the payment. The payment was made while the case was still in the hands of the U.S. Attorney's office, according to a source in Weirich's office.

Questions to be heard Wednesday will include whether or not the outcome of the trial would have been different with the knowledge of the $750 payment. Was Jackson’s testimony false and if it was, did it affect the trial outcome? Did Weirich break evidence laws by not disclosing the payment to defense attorneys and the jury?

A brief filed in the case from attorneys with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says a jury would have certainly viewed Jackson’s statements differently if they know she had been paid.

“A paid informant was allowed to falsely present herself as a financially disinterested witness and the jury was left ignorant of her true role in Mr. Thomas' prosecution,” reads the brief. “If the jury had been informed that Ms. Jackson had been paid for her performance, the jury may have assessed the evidence differently.”

Another point of interest to be heard Wednesday is a review of the prosecution’s characterization of Thomas and his co-defendant, Anthony Bond, as “greed and evil.” Prosecutors used the phrase 21 times in opening and closing arguments, according to court papers.

Habitat for Humanity to Dedicate 21 Homes in Uptown Saturday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 1:47 PM

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When Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter visited Memphis earlier this year to assist Habitat for Humanity in revitalizing the Bearwater Park neighborhood, he met a once homeless man who planned to become a first-time homeowner when the project was complete.

"He told me that seven years ago, he was living under a bridge," the former president told The Flyer. "He was addicted to drugs, and he decided to turn his life around. He got a job at a fast food place, and now he's in charge of Chick-fil-A's kitchen."

And soon he can purchase his first home.

Following the work of more than 1,500 volunteers, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis will dedicate 21 homes, 19 of which were part of Habitat for Humanity’s 2016 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The Carter's also worked on ten beautification projects in Uptown and six Shelby County "aging in place" ramp projects. Habitat's dedication will commemorate the realization of the project.
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Those interested in purchasing a home must be first-time homebuyers who meet a specific criteria: a demonstrated need and the ability to repay a zero-interest mortgage. Habitat homeowners will attend a multi-week homebuyer education course. They'll also complete 350 to 400 hours of “sweat equity” by working on their homes, the homes of others, and volunteering at the Habitat ReStore — a nonprofit home improvement and donation center.

Homeowners must also put down a $1,000 down payment and save $1,000 for an emergency fund. After purchasing their homes, they will make monthly payments to Habitat's Fund for Humanity, which supports the organizations ongoing mission.

No Charges Sought Against Officers Involved in Jonathan Bratcher Shooting

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 12:56 PM

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The officers involved in last year's shooting death of Jonathan Bratcher will not face criminal charges.

Bratcher, 32, was killed Jan. 27, 2016, near Mississippi Boulevard and South Parkway East after firing at officers while fleeing from his vehicle to avoid arrest. His car was being pursued by police on traffic charges.

“Weighing the totality of circumstances of Jan. 27, 2016, no criminal charges will be filed and no indictments will be sought against any officers in the death of Jonathan Bratcher,” Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said Wednesday. “I believe a jury would find that the officers had lawful justification to fire their weapons at the suspect in self-defense, in the defense of others and in order to affect an arrest.”
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Weirich's statement follows the district attorney's review of an investigative file compiled by the Violent Crime Response Team of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). The TBI investigates all fatal shootings that involve Memphis police officers and the Shelby County Sheriff's department per a memorandum of understanding signed last October by those parties and Gen. Weirich.

While by law TBI's investigative reports are not open to the public without a subpoena or court order, Gen. Weirich filed a petition Tuesday in Chancery Court asking a judge to open the investigative report to the public. A hearing on that request has not been set.

Memphis Pets of the Week (Nov. 3-9)

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 11:55 AM

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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.

Slideshow
Memphis Pets of the Week (Nov. 3-9)
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Memphis Pets of the Week (Nov. 3-9)

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.

By Susan Ellis

Click to View 11 slides


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

State Requests More Discipline for AG Weirich

Posted By on Tue, Nov 1, 2016 at 10:28 AM

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State attorneys want to increase disciplinary actions against Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

Weirich already faces discipline from the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility (TBPR) for her conduct during the 2009 murder trial of Noura Jackson. Weirich was the lead attorney on the case.

Jackson was convicted of the stabbing death of her mother, Jennifer Jackson. But the conviction was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court, in part, because Weirich failed to give Jackson’s attorneys a piece of evidence that could have helped Jackson’s case in the trial.

That piece of evidence is at the center of the state’s new request for more discipline of Weirich. State attorneys say Weirich never reviewed the piece of evidence, a handwritten statement from a witness. Therefore, she could not have determined whether or not the evidence would help Jackson’s case, and “failed to exercise appropriate diligence in this matter.”

“Ms. Weirich’s failure to exercise appropriate diligence caused actual injury to [Jackson], to the third parties who participated in the trial, to judicial resources, and to the administration of justice,” reads a petition to the court from Krisann Hodges, deputy chief disciplinary counsel for the TBPR.

In the petition, Hodges writes that should the board find that Weirich broke conduct rules “aggravating factors may be considered to justify an increase in the degree of discipline.”

“Ms. Weirich has substantial experience in the practice of law, which justifies an increase in the degree of discipline,” Hodges writes.

Hodges has requested that a hearing panel be convened to hear testimony and review evidence in the matter, decide whether or not Weirich broke rules of professional conduct and, if so, to order discipline against her.

Weirich has until late next week to reply to the new charges.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Prairie Farms Expansion Stirs Neighborhood Controversy

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 7:46 PM

The Prairie Farms facility on Madison. - GOOGLE
  • Google
  • The Prairie Farms facility on Madison.

A project at the Prairie Farms plant in Midtown has some neighbors and at least one developer hoping the milk plant will move, while the company’s owner said the project will clean up the site for its neighbors and keep and create skilled jobs in Memphis.

Neighbors of the Midtown production facility complained recently to city officials about the trucks parked in the vacant lot behind the milk plant. Jim Turner, owner of the land and the Prairie Farms milk plant, said he wasn’t aware zoning laws prevented him from parking trucks there.

His company, Turner Holdings LLC, is now asking city officials for a legal change to the vacant lot that would allow it to be used for “vehicle maintenance, repair, warehousing, and temporary parking of trucks and trailers,” according to the company’s city application.
The "back lot" at Prairie Farms. - GOOGLE
  • Google
  • The "back lot" at Prairie Farms.

The Land Use Control Board (LUCB) is slated to review the request during its next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 10 a.m. Turner has scheduled a public meeting on the zoning change for Monday, Oct. 31 at 4:30 p.m. at the Brooks Museum.

This move comes after the company was awarded a tax-break deal from the Memphis and Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) board in June. The seven-year deal is worth more than $1 million and covers what is now a $10 million project to add a new building to the milk plant, which fronts Madison. The project will bring about 50 jobs, Turner said.    

Turner said before his company was awarded the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) deal, he received maybe an average of two complaints a year form neighbors. That increased once the company’s name was in the news about the PILOT deal.

However, Turner said his company has a construction permit for the plant expansion in hand and is moving forward with the plans. That expansion will take place on the company's south lot, not on the vacant lot for which Turner is asking for the zoning change.

But neighbors plan to fight that zoning change. That fight includes a a larger question as to whether or not a factory belongs at all in Midtown, and especially as a close neighborhood to the burgeoning Overton Square.

“That’s just no place for an industrial site right in the middle of that neighborhood,” said Gordon Alexander, a member of the Midtown Action Coalition. “Not only has the dairy changed, but the neighborhood has changed.”

Alexander said neighbors complain that loud noises and lights emit from the dairy site as early as 4:30 a.m. The 18-wheelers that haul in and out of the site are loud, congest traffic, and pose threats to cyclists using the Madison bike lanes.

Turner said the company has operated in the area for more than 80 years. Alexander maintains, though, that in the company’s infancy here, it was a small, neighborhood dairy “that delivered glass bottle to people in Midtown.”

George Cates, founder of Mid-America Apartment Communities, agreed with Alexander’s assertion about the land’s use back in June (during the EDGE meeting that gave Prairie Farms the PILOT) but for a different reason.

He said told EDGE board member the “Turner site would be beneficial if it were used for purposes other than an industrial site, such as a hotel, retail, apartments, or for mixed use,” according to the minutes of that meeting.

“If the site was used for one of the suggested purposes, Mr. Cates stated they would generate more than 25 jobs and the taxes to the city and the county would be substantially greater,” read the minutes.

For some of this, Turner said he felt that some people see the recent controversy on the project as a “reason to kick us out of Midtown.” But he said he doesn’t agree with that. The company has “every right” to change the zoning for the vacant lot and it will “not cause any harm to the neighborhood.”

Turner admitted the exterior of the site looks a “little run down,” adding that the company has been focused on its expansion plan and put off exterior improvements. But a portion of the company’s plan will change that.

The company wants to build a fence around the lot (and the entirety of the facility’s northern and western borders) to help shield the site from neighbors, like The Blue Monkey restaurant and bar to the west and to homes and apartments to the west.

The eight-foot-tall fence would be made of pine wood and brick. Plants like knockout roses, magnolias, loblolly pines would be placed inside and outside of the perimeter of the fence.

Council member Worth Morgan urged everyone involved in the debate to “be as cordial and civil as possible.” He also said there may be a third way available on the issue soon was bound against giving any details.

“There are more options still being pursued right now that can be good for the neighborhood and be good for Turner,” Morgan said. “Right now, our efforts are focused on pursuing some of those options.”

This aerial shot of the Prairie Farms Dairy site shows the production facility on the south side of the property, and the now mostly vacant north side. - APPLE MAPS
  • Apple Maps
  • This aerial shot of the Prairie Farms Dairy site shows the production facility on the south side of the property, and the now mostly vacant north side.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

A $60 Million Federal Grant Is Helping Shelby County Combat Climate Change

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 3:49 PM

JOSHUA CANNON
  • Joshua Cannon
Nearly 11 months after receiving a federal resilience grant to assist with unmet recovery needs following ruinous flood damage in 2011, government officials outlined Thursday at John F. Kennedy Park how they will combat future disasters brought forth by climate change.

“For those who don’t accept science, too bad,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “This project will work to protect us from future floods. We need to be on the frontline of preparing our people for the disaster that’s coming. It’s going to come because we’re ruining our earth."

In January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded Shelby County $60 million in part of its National Disaster Resilience Competition. Breaking up a seismic $1 billion and spreading it between select counties, states, and cities, as well as Puerto Rico, it’s an initiative to strengthen the environment for future generations, said Ed Jennings, Jr., HUD’s southeast regional administrator.

“On behalf of the Obama administration, resiliency is a priority we’ve set,” Jennings said. “It’s not just about how we have enough money to rebuild housing or infrastructure, but that we protect ourselves for a new generation.”

Shelby County's plan, called "Greenprint for Resiliency,” will restore wetlands and flood storage areas along the Wolf River to protect downstream homes and residents. A portion of the grant will be allocated for repairs and upgrades to Rodney Baber Park and Kennedy Park — which, currently, is the only city park with a boat launch ramp into the Wolf River. About $9 million will go toward completing the 18-mile Wolf River Greenway Connection, said Keith Cole, executive director of Wolf River Conservancy.

“For many people, getting outside, enjoying the river, hiking and biking, that’s what the Wolf River Watershed is all about,” Cole said.

HUD’s grant will further assist the Wolf River Conservancy with mitigating future flooding and preventing soil erosion that could have negative affects on the Memphis Sand Aquifer. Native wildlife, too, will be better protected, according to Cole.

“The mission of the Wolf River Conservancy is just as relevant today if not more so since our founding in 1985,” Cole said.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland championed the Greenprint plan, saying it was accomplished by officials at all levels of government working together. Pointing to a nearby softball field where he played as a teenager, Strickland said “the same thing that was true then is true now, you win with teams.”

Noting other recent “game changers” in the Mid-South, Cohen mentioned the new bike and pedestrian friendly Harahan Bridge, a $15 million dollar Tiger grant to increase downtown walkability, and a $30 million federal grant to revive Foote Homes. Though the Greenprint project isn’t “sexy like the Harahan bridge,” Cohen said it was just as imperative.

“This here, $60 million, this is a very big deal,” Cohen said. “Memphis is the city of good abode. This project is going to help people in need, and that’s what we need to do with our time on earth. This is what cities need to be known for.”



Arkansas Supreme Court Disqualifies One of Two Medical Marijuana Initiatives from November Ballot

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 1:47 PM

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The Arkansas Supreme Court disqualified one medical marijuana initiative from the November ballot, but voters will still be able to vote for a competing amendment. 

The court disqualified Issue 7 because it found that there were not enough valid signatures on the petition to qualify it for the ballot. The court disallowed more than 12,000 signatures, leaving the petition with 65,412 signatures. The petition needed nearly 68,000 signatures. 

Supporters of Issue 7 have said that it was written from a patient-centered position, as it allowed more qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana as well as the ability for a patient to grow their own plants if they lived a certain numbers of miles away from a dispensary. 

Arkansas for Compassionate Care, who led the campaign for Issue 7, posted today on their Facebook page that they would continue to fight in court for the allowance of the initiative on the November ballot. The post also urged Arkansas voters to still vote yes to the competing amendment, Issue 6, should they ultimately lose in a higher court.

If both initiatives fail, it could be years before Arkansans have the chance to vote on medical marijuana. 
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