Friday, February 17, 2017

More Tennessee Students Are Turning to Online Fundraising for Help With Tuition

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 1:21 PM

GoFundMe, the DIY online fundraising platform, says that Tennessee students collected $1.3 million in tuition and education-related donations on their website last year for higher education.

Today, the fundraising giant officially launched their college fundraising hub on their website that will offer guidelinees for students seeking to fundraise all or some of their college tuition. It also serves to match potential donors with students.

According to the Institute for College Access and Debt, 60 percent of Tennessee students graduate from a public or non-profit university with student loan debt averaging more than $26,000 per student.

That's a four percent increase in student debt amounts from 2015 for some of Tennessee's largest universities, including the University of Memphis.

According to GoFundMe's national data, 130,000 individual campaigns have raised $60 million in tuition and other education-related expenses from more than 850,000 donors in the last three years alone.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

#adaywithoutimmigrants in Memphis; Not Quantifiable, But Noticeable

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 5:33 PM

Businesses and organizations across the United States locked their doors as part of the #daywithoutimmigrants protest, a wide-spread clap-back to the consistent, yet, statistically unfounded insistence of President Donald Trump's campaign and administration's talking points that blame economic woes on undocumented immigrants residing in the United States.

In Memphis, the effects of the protest were visible on Summer Avenue. Multiple establishments including La Michoacana and La Guadalapana were closed outside of posted hours. Though there was no clear explanation on any of the Summer Avenue businesses, the implication was clear to many Memphians across social media.
Posted on El Mercadito de Memphis' Facebook page. "Today we will be closed and united!"
  • Posted on El Mercadito de Memphis' Facebook page. "Today we will be closed and united!"

Latino Memphis, a social services organization dedicated to connecting both documented and undocumented Spanish-speaking immigrants to resources imperative to livelihood in the Mid-South, said they kept their doors open today, but only for the sake of those they serve.

"At this time, we need to be pulling together, not only from a humane perspective, but from a economic perspective," said Mauricio Calvo, the executive director of Latino Memphis.

Calvo notes that there are more than 100,000 Spanish-speaking individuals in Memphis. In Calvo's view, today's protest was "not meant to harm anyone", but noted that actions of civil defiance do add up, even if incrementally.

There were additional reports of large numbers of students absent from schools with significant Latino populations, but those have yet to be confirmed by Shelby County Schools.

It's unclear to what extent today's #adaywithoutimmigrants protests impacted Memphis outside of Summer Avenue, but as many immigrants are undocumented — many employers who profit from undocumented workers would be unable to offer any quantification.

ArtsMemphis Combats Funding Threats

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 11:22 AM


ArtsMemphis is combatting threats to federal arts funding with postcards, information, fun, and beer.

The nonprofit arts agency will host a Presidents’ Day (Monday, Feb. 20) event called #ArtMatters at Memphis Made Brewing to help Memphians show their support for the arts and to urge their lawmakers to stop cuts to federal arts programs.

President Donald Trump has targeted the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH) , and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for funding cuts. ArtsMemphis is hoping its event will facilitate communication between Congress — which holds the strings of the federal purse — and art-loving Midsoutherners.

"Legislators on Capitol Hill will begin working on the federal budget this spring,” said ays ArtsMemphis executive director Elizabeth Rouse. “Receiving a swarm of constituent mail can greatly impact the way a legislator votes on a particular issue. Our postcard campaign will be a powerful advocacy tool in the fight to keep arts support in the national budget.

"ArtsMemphis will provide the information that supports our position and how this issue affects Memphis. Members of the public will be asked to send their message to Congress though postcards, calls, and videos but we need your help."

Federal arts funding has ripple effects throughout Tennessee, according to ArtsMemphis. According to their figures, the NEA granted $1.3 million to Tennessee programs in 2016. “For every $1 that the NEA invests in our communities, an additional $9 in state, local, and private funding follows,” ArttsMemphis said in a news release.

The event is free and open to the public and runs from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. At Memphis Made Brewing at 768 Cooper.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

North Memphis Selected for $1 Million Equitable Development Grant

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 1:56 PM

The Pinch District, an unofficial entrance into North Memphis, is due for a development spike ahead of the St.Jude expansion. The area will be one of the development hotspots that Memphis Partners will be monitoring. - MICAELA WATTS
  • Micaela Watts
  • The Pinch District, an unofficial entrance into North Memphis, is due for a development spike ahead of the St.Jude expansion. The area will be one of the development hotspots that Memphis Partners will be monitoring.

Memphis was selected as one of six cities to receive a $1 million grant from the Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC), with additional access to an estimated $90 million in foundation-backed capital.

The grant, awarded to the Memphis Partners for Resilient Communities, will specifically target the greater area of North Memphis, which has endured multiple rounds of disinvestment for decades now; whether in the form of industrial job loss or declining public transit that, in turn, restricts access to jobs, healthcare, and fresh foods.

Memphis Partners, an initiative comprised of North Memphis representatives, formed for the competitive application process, has stated their goals for the SPARCC funding and capital access include:

Institutionalize policies and practices that incorporate diverse racial perspectives into community planning and development projects

Promote investment patterns and strategies that result in equitable development outcomes for neighborhoods and their residents

Improve health outcomes for residents by enhancing connectivity to healthy food, health services, access to green space and trails, and quality affordable housing

Improve climate resilience of neighborhoods and the region through targeted home weatherization, repair, and improvement efforts

"In the past, policy and programmatic decisions about how to invest in the places we live, work, and play have all too often led to a deeper poverty and risk for people of color and low-income communities," said Melinda Pollack, a national partner with SPARCC.

The timing of the SPARCC initiative comes just ahead of major development projects surrounding North Memphis communities, including the massive mixed-use Crosstown Concourse, set to open in 2017, the anticipated $1 billion in new developments from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and in the Pinch District, which is slated to receive $40 million in infrastructure improvements under the City of Memphis' North Gateway Project.

SPARCC's grant and leadership support will help to ensure that equitable practice and policies accompany these major projects, so that all residents of economically depressed areas bordering major development will benefit as well.

The other cities to receive a SPARCC grant are Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

For grant-related purposes, North Memphis is defined as the area bordered on the north and the west by the Wolf River, North Graham on the east, and North Parkway/ Summer Avenue on the south.

Memphis Pets of the Week (Feb. 16-22)

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 11:20 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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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Police Focus of State of City Address

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 2:40 PM

Strickland - FACEBOOK
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  • Strickland

Public safety was the centerpiece of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s first-ever State of the City address, which he delivered Thursday in Frayser.

Strickland, a former Memphis City Council member, was sworn in on New Year’s Day of 2016 after defeating incumbent Mayor A C Wharton in 2015.

On Thursday, he gave a long report of positive things happening in Memphis. Many of those included accomplishments made by his administration in its first year, things like shorter 911 answer times, more paved streets, and a stable fiscal situation for the city.

But, of course, he said public safety remains the largest challenge for the city.

“No question about it, the most important role for city government is providing for public safety,” Strickland said at the weekly meeting of the Frayser Exchange Club. “The steps that we’re describing today will further strengthen the city’s commitment.”

Police staffing
Strickland reported that while property crime was down slightly last year, violent crime rose 3.2 percent and the number of homicides peaked.

To remedy that, Strickland wants more police officers in the Memphis Police Department. The number of MPD officers was around 2,400 in the late 2000s and that number has dwindled to just more than 1,900 today.

Here’s what Strickland reported on the police staffing situation:

• 2,000 applied for the police academy last year, 500 has been a longtime average
• 31 recruits will join the force immediately after graduating the academy this week
• A new class of about 100 recruits begins in September
• From 2008 to 2011, 728 police officers graduated from the academy.
• From 2012 to 2015, 162 graduated.
• None graduated in 2014.
• In the next year, MPD will have a net increase in officers for the time in six years.

Violent crimes bureau

Strickland said MPD director Michael Rallings has recently launched a violent crimes bureau to provide a more focused investigation of serious crimes. The unit will find and arrest violent and repeat offenders.

901 BLOC Squad

MPD will double its efforts with the street-level gang intervention unit called the 901 BLOC Squad. Since the program lunched in Frayser a few years ago, Strickland said there has been a 32 percent reduction in youth violence in Frayser. The program will soon be rolled out in Orange Mound and the Mt. Moriah corridor.

Memphis Pets of the Week (Feb. 9-15)

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 10:22 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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'Gourmet' Grocery Remains in Revised 'Midtown Market'

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 9:53 AM

  • Belz HRP Partners

The project to put apartments and retails space on the site of the shuttered hotel at Union and McLean is back and developers want a 15-year tax break worth more than $6.6 million to do it.

A group called Belz HRP Partners (a union of Memphis-based Belz Enterprises and Georgia-based Harbour Retail Partners) have asked the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. (CCRFC) for the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) deal for project, called Midtown Market. That group told CCRFC officials they can’t afford to finance or build the project without government assistance.

The CCRFC, a board of the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC), already gave the group a 15-year PILOT deal for an original version of the plan in October 2015. But “the original development was not able to move forward as planned,” according to a CCRFC document.

The original plan would have razed the old, shuttered hotel building on the site and built a four-story building with 188 apartments and retail space for what developer said at the time could have been a high-end grocery store (more on that below). That project would have cost $43.5 million to build.

Developers revised the project, which now calls for a mix of new construction and adaptive re-use (or, renovating some of the current space). Everything about the project is smaller from the number of apartments (now 175) to the size of the retail space and the amount of parking spaces. Shrinking all of that brought the price tag to $33.5 million.

The four-story office building that fronts the southwest corner of Union and McLean will be razed in the new plan and replaced with new construction. The eight-story Artisan Hotel on the site will be converted into apartments. The Methodist Minor Medical Office building on the site will be renovated on an as-needed basis, according to the CCRFC documents.

“In addition to the apartments, the development is working to bring a national gourmet grocery store into the anchor tenant position of the retail,” reads the group’s application to the CCRFC. “This grocery operator will be able to serve the needs of Midtown as well as Downtown and will be a unique offering currently not offered anywhere west of the Parkway. There will also be a mix of restaurant and other retail filling the balance of the shop space and catering to the immediate needs of the neighborhood as well as building on the momentum of Overton Square and the Cooper-Young district which is attracting more people to Midtown.”

The project is, of course, in Midtown and the tax deal would come, ultimately, from the Downtown Memphis Commission from funds collected from Downtown residents and businesses.

The CCRFC changed its PILOT policy in July, after the Midtown Market project got its first PILOT. Any PILOT deal now given to projects outside the Central Business Improvement District can only last for up to eight years.

But CCRFC staff recommend giving the Midtown Market project a pass on that as it was already given a PILOT in 2015. CCRFC planners recommend giving Belz HRB Partners a 14-year PILOT but would add an additional year to it if the developers added public art and lighting.

“This new investment will immediately remedy a long-blighted property and add density to the core city with 175 new apartment units and new ground-floor commercial space,” reads the staff review of the project.

The CCRFC is slated to vote on the PILOT deal for Midtown Market on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Holt, Harris Take Aim at Lottery Commercials

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 2:49 PM

Holt (left). Harris (right). A 'Biscuits and Gravy' game ticket from the Tennessee Lottery (below).
  • Holt (left). Harris (right). A 'Biscuits and Gravy' game ticket from the Tennessee Lottery (below).
Tennessee state Rep. Andy Holt, a Republican, filed legislation Thursday targeting the “predatory marketing tactics” found in Tennessee Lottery commercials and the bill will be carried in the Senate by Memphis Democrat Lee Harris.

Holt, of Dresden, criticized the commercials last month. He said three television commercial seemed to suggest Tennesseans should buy lottery tickets instead of exchanging Christmas gifts, feeding themselves, or saving for a child’s education.

He threatened action against the lottery at the time. Apparently, lottery officials never responded and, apparently, Holt got tired of waiting.

“I have, very publicly, asked the Tennessee Lottery to ensure me (and the countless Tennesseans who are upset over these practices) that they would no longer run these types of ads,” Holt said in a Wednesday news statement. “When the media asked them for comment, they had nothing to say, and they've said nothing to me. So, now we're introducing bi-partisan legislation to put an end to these damaging ads."

That legislation will set up an independent commission to vet all lottery ads. As of now, that commission would include “a marketing consultant, pastor, financial adviser, and an addiction counselor.” That group would ensure the ads would not encourage players to buy tickets “over the purchase of life-sustaining goods/services; and must not market the lottery as a potential means to provide for financial wellbeing.” Holt said the group would be funded by lottery revenues.

Memphis Stink Alert: Rotten Eggs Possible Thursday

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 12:21 PM

  • Presidents Island Industrial Association
"Ooooh that smell. Can't you smell that smell?" — Lynyrd Skynyrd

"I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord" - Phil Collins

Thursday could be stinky and If you wonder why, the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

A Presidents Island company will be “performing an operational process” from 7 a.m. To 4 p.m. Thursday using a chemical that smells like rotten eggs or sulfur, according to Memphis Light Gas & Water (MLGW). The company is Excel TSD, a waste management and environmental services company.

“Depending on the wind/weather conditions, residents and businesses in various areas could smell this strong, sulfuric odor on this date,” read a Wednesday news statement from MLGW.

The chemical is mercaptan and MLGW said its the same “chemical odorant” that it adds to natural gas to give it that rotten egg/sulfur smell so that it can be detected.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Race Again focus of Beale Street Talks

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2017 at 12:18 PM

Beale Street
  • Beale Street
It is clear race will be a big part of the ongoing discussions about the future of Beale Street.

Memphis City Council members discussed the street again Tuesday, two weeks after council members said a company was cheated out of a contract to manage Beale Street because the company’s leadership is mainly African American.

Tuesday’s discussion did not yield any next steps for the future of Beale Street. But it did give council member Janis Fullilove plenty of time to vent her frustrations and sarcastically throw shade on the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC), the organization that now manages the street.

DMC president Terrence Patterson presented council members with some successes they’ve had managing the street over the last three years. Patterson said his group has held back on some plans because the group was only to manage the street on an interim basis while the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority (BSTDA) found a permanent manager.

The BSTDA voted against giving the contract to 21 Beale, a black-led business, which was the last company standing during two rounds of requests for proposals from the Beale board. The board decided to continue to let the DMC manage the street.

Fullilove said of Patterson, who is black, “I see they sent a brother this time to address us.” She then ticked off a list of some of the events the DMC has put on, saying each name with a “who cares” inflection in her voice, but ended by saying “all of those are good things.”

“From the historical perspective, we’re not getting it,” Fullilove said. “Black folk, whether you like it or not, we were there on Beale Street. That was us.”

Furthering the race angle of the discussion was council member Barbara Swearengen, who asked who on the Beale Street board made the motion to not give the management contract to 21 Beale, She was told Jamal Whitlow. She asked if he is black or white and was told he is black.

She then asked how many member of the DMC were black and how much of their contract spending goes to black firms. She was told total spending with minority-and-women owned firms totaled about 36 percent of the DMC’s contract budget. But Swearengen wanted to know how much of that was spent with black businesses. The DMC officials did not have that figure on hand.

The discussion ended only because the meeting had run out of time. But Tourism Committee chairman Martavius Jones said the discussion would continue at the next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

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MPD Camera Program Rolling Out

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2017 at 10:25 AM


The Memphis Police Department (MPD) has deployed body-worn cameras and in-car cameras on every officer and in every police car in nine police stations and the entire traffic division, according to a presentation given to the Memphis City Council Tuesday.

Those cameras are producing massive amounts of videos for the MPD, which brings in a daily average of 633 hours of body-cam footage and 627 hours of car video.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Following Warning From State, County Approves Funding For Planned Parenthood

Posted By on Mon, Feb 6, 2017 at 6:37 PM

Planned Parenthood supporters showed up to the Shelby County Commission meeting to voice their disapproval of the delay of funding for free condoms. - MICAELA WATTS
  • Micaela Watts
  • Planned Parenthood supporters showed up to the Shelby County Commission meeting to voice their disapproval of the delay of funding for free condoms.

After weeks of delay, the Shelby County Commission voted 7-5 to approve $115,000 in funding for Planned Parenthood's Greater Memphis Region's (PPGMR) free condom program following the Tennessee Department of Health's intervention.

Commissioners Heidi Shafer, Terry Roland, David Reaves, Steve Basar, and George Chism voted against the allotted funding for PPGMR — despite a warning from the Tennessee Department of Health that interfering with funding for "extraneous reasons" could result in a total loss of a $407,000 grant for HIV prevention services and possible legal repercussions. Commissioner Mark Billingsley recused his vote.

In the case of the PPGMR grant, the extraneous reasons would have likely included objections to the grant on the grounds of disagreeing with PPGMR's position as a medical provider of abortions.

At last Wednesday's county commissioners' meeting, PPGMR's CEO Ashley Coffield noted, "I know we disagree about abortion rights, but there is a time and a place for those discussions."
Pictured above: Condoms. Decades of data from a multitude of health organizations say that they help to prevent the need for an abortion.
  • Pictured above: Condoms. Decades of data from a multitude of health organizations say that they help to prevent the need for an abortion.

Tonight's vote followed a lengthy public comment section, where one commenter opposed to the PPGMR grant accused the organization of being a "racist organization that exists to kill black people".

Though Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell's administration approved the $115,000 contract in November of 2016, the vote to approve the funding has been delayed for weeks while some commissioners — most notably Commissioner Terry Roland — debated whether or not the Shelby County Health Department could do a better job with condom distribution.

In a since deleted tweet marked with the hashtag "babykillers", Terry Roland voiced his moral objections to approving funding for the women's healthcare provider.

This is the first year since the program's launch in 2013 that any delay of funding has occurred. Shelby County holds the highest rate of new HIV cases every year, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thousands March to Civil Rights Museum in Defiance of Trump's Travel Ban

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 11:44 AM

Though unconfirmed, it's estimated that roughly 3,000 people from Memphis and surrounding areas gathered at Clayborn Temple to march in protest of President Donald Trump's executive order that bans travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.

This marks the third time in less than a year where mass protests have marched through Memphis streets, and the second mass protest since President Trump's inauguration. Two organizers — Veronica Marquez and Christina Condori  with Comunidades Unidas en Una Voz (CUUV) — organized the march within days of the executive order.

By aligning efforts with other activist groups in Memphis such as the Official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter and Memphis Voices for Palestine, word of the march spread to thousands within 24 hours of being announced. 
Trudy Francis of Little Rock, Arkansas traveled to Memphis last night specifically for the pro-immigration march. "I can trace my heritage in this country further back than Donald Trump." - MICAELA WATTS
  • Micaela Watts
  • Trudy Francis of Little Rock, Arkansas traveled to Memphis last night specifically for the pro-immigration march. "I can trace my heritage in this country further back than Donald Trump."

The half-mile march started from Clayborn Temple and traveled along Pontotoc and Mulberry, ending at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Before a selection of speakers from different ethnic backgrounds began, dozens of Muslims knelt for evening prayers, surrounded by thousands of who either claimed a different religion or none at all.

For many in the crowd, there was a tangible difference in police presence when compared to the Women's March held two weeks ago, where the crowd count soared to roughly 9,000.

Ian Nunely, who attended both events, felt the presence of Blue Crush vans and police helicopters circling overhead at the pro-immigration march was meant to send a message.

"The amassing of Blue CRUSH vehicles directly behind the demonstrators at the museum seemed intentional, as if they were constantly peering over the shoulders of the crowd," said Nunely. "There was nothing like that feeling at the Women's March."
Patty Clayton, from Memphis, said that this was her first time marching in protest of political policies. - MICAELA WATTS
  • Micaela Watts
  • Patty Clayton, from Memphis, said that this was her first time marching in protest of political policies.

New Projects On Deck for Downtown

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 10:55 AM


Work will begin soon on three Downtown projects that will breathe even more life into the surging district.

Edge Alley is planned for 600 Monroe, next to High Cotton Brewing.
  • Edge Alley is planned for 600 Monroe, next to High Cotton Brewing.
Here's what 600 Monroe looks like today.
  • Here's what 600 Monroe looks like today.

Edge Alley

Developers are working now to transform a former chrome plating shop in the Edge District into a space for a cafe, coffee roaster, community space, and a spot for a curated group of micro-retailers (more on that below).

Chef and restaurant consultant Timothy Barker and Phil Massey, one of the owners of High Cotton Brewing, purchased 600 Monroe, a spot adjacent to High Cotton. The cafe and coffee concept will bring dining back to that part of the Edge.

The developers are now issuing calls to local makers, artisans, and entrepreneurs to to sell their wares on about 1,000 square feet of space in the front of the building. Four locals will be selected for the spot. Those interested can apply online for a shot at one of the bays.

South Main Market (aka the food hall)

A building permit was pulled Wednesday for 409 South Main, the site of the proposed food hall called South Main Market.

The permit for renovations to the building was valued at more than $302,000 and covers 4,903 square feet. Permits totaling around $1 million have already been executed for the project, which is expected to cost a total of $1.5 million, according to the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC).

The website for the hall still simply says “coming in 2017.” Though, developers have said the hall would be on the buildings first floor and draw about 14 vendors.

Here’s how the DMC described the project:

“Picture a single destination where delicious smells and sights converge on you at the threshold. A hub where you can sit down to a delicious plate of tacos, while your friends enjoy steaming bowls of ramen, plates of succulent rotisserie chicken or samplers of distinct cheeses and wine pairings.

Our vendors will also be the perfect pick-up partners for fresh flowers, a delicious dinner or a locally-made hostess gift.”

The former graduate school for the Memphis College of Art will soon become a boutique hotel.
  • The former graduate school for the Memphis College of Art will soon become a boutique hotel.

Boutique hotel at Art College

Work should begin soon on a plan to turn the former Memphis College of Art (MCA) building at 477 South Main into a 66-room boutique hotel.

California-based Wessman Development pulled at permit Wednesday for renovations totaling more than $5.3 million for the project.

MCA renovated the nearly 5,000 square-foot building into a graduate school in 2010 in a $2.6 million project. The once-dormant building housed the school, the Hyde Gallery, which featured work of students and faculty, and a gift store, which featured pieces made by students.


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