City Reporter 

City Reporter

Private Group Offers To Build New "No-Kill" Animal Shelter

With the city dragging its heels on building a new animal shelter, a private animal-rescue group has come forward to try to get the job done.

The Responsible Animal Owners of Tennessee (RAOT) are currently in talks to receive over 10 acres of donated land so that they can open a no-kill shelter sometime in the near future.

"Our short-term plan is to get the shelter built," says RAOT's director, Robin Heise. "Our long-term goal is to work with the city's shelter and take in more rescues, do more spay-and-neuters, and train animals to work with the handicapped."

The group plans to raise money for the new shelter by doing a variety of fund-raisers, including a performance by the Recovery Repertory Theatre June 9th.

"Financially, we're just getting started," says Heise, "but we've got to start somewhere."

Although the shelter will not be operational until two to five years from now, RAOT plans to staff the facility with volunteers to start and base all their operating procedures on the shelter in San Francisco.

"We want to try and get Maddie's funds, but those don't kick in until the shelter has proven successful."

The Maddie funding refers to about $200 million slated for no-kill shelters across the country in memory of one man's pet. To get any of that money, the shelter has to meet strict operational guidelines, one of which is to work with the municipal shelter.

In Memphis' case, the no-kill shelter would take in animals that have already run out of time at the Memphis Animal Shelter and provide a more concerted effort to get them adopted.

"Those that can't be adopted will be allowed to live out their lives at the shelter or will be trained to help the handicapped," says Heise. "You can do things with these animals instead of putting them down."

In May, the Memphis City Council voted to delay $1 million in funding for land acquisition and engineering for the city's proposed animal shelter. The current shelter, located on several acres of the airport's land on Tchulahoma Road, was the subject of a Flyer cover story in April that cited a need for a new shelter.

But for many animal-rescue groups, the only answer is privatization.

"It's not just an idea anymore; it's happening," says Heise. "I've been wanting to do it for years. Donna Malone, the president of the RAOT, and I got together on this about 9 months ago and we've been going forward ever since." --Mary Cashiola

DeSoto Center Hopes To Play Name Game

The proposed FedEx NBA arena naming-rights deal isn't the only game in town. The DeSoto County Civic Center (DCCC) is in the market for a local company to lend its name -- and money -- to the 2-year-old facility.

According to DCCC general manager Stuart Taylor, "We're always looking for potential prospects. We have companies that we are talking to but I wouldn't say we have any deals per se. We're just working on presentations."

The state government of Mississippi recently signed a law that, according to Taylor, applied specifically to DeSoto County. The new bill allows a private company to gain revenue off a public facility.

Taylor says that he is talking to "the major companies in the area" such as FedEx, International Paper, and AutoZone. Both FedEx and AutoZone have well-publicized naming-rights deals involving the proposed NBA arena and the downtown ballpark, respectively. He is hoping for a deal worth $5 million to $7 million.

While some disparage the private naming of public facilities, Taylor says, "It's been going on for years and years and years. If you go back to the college campuses, they name their sports facility buildings on campus after individuals. Only during the last 10 years has it been really publicized as the big arenas, the big headliners have started doing it."

DCCC's goal is different from FedEx's proposal, reportedly worth over $100 million. Whereas the FedEx arrangement was, according to the NBA pursuit team, critical to luring the Vancouver Grizzlies to Memphis, the naming-rights package for the DCCC simply provides funds for the facility. "That's really about all it does," Taylor says. "It provides an advertisement for them. It provides [the DCCC] with necessary revenue. Other than that it doesn't affect the building itself." -- Chris Przybyszewski

Long Debate Ends In KIPP Approval

After a lengthy debate, on Monday night the Memphis City Schools board voted 6-2 in favor of superintendent Johnnie Watson's KIPP proposal.

Watson brought the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) idea to the board after a trip to New York, where the program is earning praise. Watson says KIPP is working in schools in New York and Texas, and he expects similar results from the programs that will begin shortly in Memphis.

The schools that will take part here have not been selected, but Watson did say he is looking into facilities in North Memphis and the Orange Mound area.

The program allows students 70 percent more time in the classroom and is geared to help those who need to catch up academically. In addition, the program is strictly voluntary for the students, parents, and teachers.

"The beauty of KIPP is that it is decided upon by choice," said Commissioner Lora Jobe.

Memphis parent Deborah Northcross attended the school board meeting to support KIPP, saying it will bring access to new opportunities. "The KIPP challenge will raise the bar," she says.

In objection, Commissioners Sara Lewis and Wanda Halbert feared that there were too many legal issues to address before the KIPP contract should be approved.

These two board members were not alone. Teachers, ministers, and parents in the school board auditorium raised questions about equity, charter schools, and parent involvement.

"Is there a reason why we are not improving the programs we already have in schools right now?" asked Memphis parent G.A. Hardaway. "Let's take inventory of what we have and keep studying what KIPP has to offer."

Under former Superintendent Gerry House, the system implemented 18 reform models that are currently under review.

Commissioner Michael Hooks says he was more concerned about the KIPP issue splitting the community than the actual controversy of the contract.

"This is only one issue we will deal with, there will be more," Hooks said. "We cannot afford to split this board and make this issue tear us apart."

Voting in favor of KIPP were Commissioners Lee Brown, Michael Hooks Jr., Lora Jobe, board president Barbara Prescott, Carl Johnson, and Hubon Sandridge.

Voting against KIPP were Wanda Halbert and Sara Lewis. Patrice Jordan Robinson was absent. -- Hannah Walton

Memphis Attorney Wins Before U.S. Supreme Court

Memphian Sharon Pollard and her attorney Kathleen Caldwell scored a victory before the U.S. Supreme Court recently. On Monday, June 4th, the court released a unanimous decision on Pollard's harassment case, allowing her to receive more money than had previously been statutorily permitted.

"It doesn't get any bigger than this," says Caldwell. "It is so inspiring to see the legal system spin out like this to make a substantive change in law."

The case, Pollard v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., was brought by Pollard against the Memphis company, alleging that during Pollard's years of employment at DuPont's hydrogen peroxide plant she experienced harassment and discrimination at the hands of her male co-workers.

According to Caldwell, male subordinates left Bible verses on Pollard's desk saying that women should be submissive to men, ostracized Pollard, sabotaged her work, and engaged in offensive name-calling.

U.S. District Court Judge Jon McCalla found in his lower court decision that Pollard had been discriminated against and harassed and awarded her $300,000 in damages. However, in his decision McCalla also noted that $300,000 was not enough to fairly compensate Pollard, but the statute limited compensatory damages to that amount.

DuPont appealed the decision to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and Pollard cross-appealed, arguing that front pay (money awarded when a former employee cannot be reinstated at the company, or money for lost compensation in the period between the court's judgment and reinstatement) is not an element of compensatory damages.

The three-judge panel decision of the District Court agreed with McCalla that $300,000 was not enough to compensate Pollard but said that they were prevented by statute from granting her more because front pay was an element of compensatory damages.

The U.S. Supreme Court, after hearing oral argument from Caldwell on April 23rd, overturned the District Court decision. In a decision penned by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court decided that front pay is not an element of compensatory damages.

Caldwell says that Pollard's case will now be sent back to the District Court for the front pay amount to be set and that the court will also be able to consider Pollard's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress which, if successful, could yield an even higher damages amount for Pollard.

"This is a big victory for all plaintiffs and citizens who live in the 6th Circuit," says Caldwell. "All of the other U.S. circuits had already said that front pay was not limited by the caps, and now the 6th Circuit has to, too. This affects, I think, every Title VII case in the 6th Circuit," Caldwell says, referring to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination. -- Rebekah Gleaves

Muvico's Opening Benefits St. Jude

Muvico Theaters will unveil its 22-screen megaplex at a grand opening celebration in Peabody Place Entertainment Center on Saturday, June 9th.

Proceeds from the gala will benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Guests can tour the three-story facility designed after a grand railway station, sample food, enjoy live music, and view one of the 21 films. The 60- by 80-foot 22nd screen opens at a later date.

Local Memphis restaurants such as Amerigo's, Automatic Slim's, Elvis Presley's Memphis, Gordon Biersch Restaurant and Brewery, Joe's Crab Shack, and Melange will be offering hors d'ouevres. Muvico will also treat guests to popcorn and soft drinks from the concessions.

Two local bands, Swing Time and Don Echoes, will perform as guests tour the theater.

The doors open at 6 p.m. and the shows will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 1(800)274-2151. --Hannah Walton

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