Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bass Pro Is a Go

Posted By on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 12:52 PM

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Bass Pro Shops signed an agreement Wednesday for a 20-year lease on The Pyramid that they hope will transform the north end of downtown from the river to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Wharton noted that Time magazine called Bass Pro "the hottest store in retailing." Time, which was the hottest thing in publishing 50 years ago, made the statement in October of 2005.

The agreement will go to the Memphis City Council on July 27th. The tentative opening date is November, 2011, but Bass Pro representative Jim Hagale said that could change if a seismic retrofit of The Pyramid takes longer than expected.

The city will retain ownership of The Pyramid, which opened in 1991, and receive $1 million a year in rent or two percent of annual gross sales, whichever is greater. The city will pay $30 million in construction costs, which it plans to get from a state rebate of taxes collected in a Tourism Development Zone.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Did The CA Do a Herenton Flip-Flop?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 25, 2010 at 3:02 PM

Is Willie Herenton in legal jeopardy, or is he not in legal jeopardy in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Thursday in what is being called the "honest services" case?

An online story in The Commercial Appeal Thursday said one thing and a later version of the story (repeated in Friday's print newspaper) said exactly the opposite.

Herenton has made an issue of the fairness of The Commercial Appeal in its continuing coverage of him and especially in regard to editorial page editor Otis Sanford's role as moderator in a televised debate (now a non-debate) with Congressman Steve Cohen.

Online news is a hungry beast. Stories are constantly updated. No newspaper's coverage of a public figure should be judged on the basis of a single story. Yadda yadda yadda. But politics and political coverage are contact sports, and what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If The CA shot from the hip on the "honest services" ruling and then thought better of it after doing some reporting, it gives some credence to Herenton's complaints.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Losing Game: Blaming Wells Fargo and Reverse Redlining

Posted By on Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 11:20 AM

The Memphis Flyer is an exhibit.

News articles from The Flyer, Memphis Business Journal, and The Commercial Appeal are included in a defense motion filed this month in the federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo by the city of Memphis and Shelby County.

The lawsuit blames Wells Fargo and alleged "reverse redlining" for predatory lending that devastated personal, family, and community wealth. It was the subject of an article in The New York Times two weeks ago that painted a grim picture of Memphis at a time when Mayor A C Wharton and business groups are trying to sell Memphis as a "City of Choice."

Redlining is the practice of refusing to make conventional mortgage loans in majority-black neighborhoods. Reverse redlining is targeting majority-black areas for risky and exploitative loans.

The lawsuit looks like a long shot. As the newspaper articles show, poverty, bankruptcy, and foreclosures are nothing new in Memphis. Similar suits have been dismissed by federal judges in Baltimore and Birmingham. But win or lose, the lawsuit, which has already attracted national publicity, will be a public relations disaster, especially if it goes to trial. To win it, Memphis will have to put its worst foot forward and look like a place nobody would want to live.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rev. Whalum Has Suggestions for Kriner Cash

Posted By on Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 4:19 PM

Memphis City Schools Board of Education member Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr. will try to get Supertendent Kriner Cash and fellow board members to rehire teacher aides and make other budget moves next week.

Whalum sent out a letter Wednesday with comments collected from a meeting he hosted last week for teachers and others interested in the school system.

The list follows. The school board meets next Monday.

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Councilman Proposes City Employee Pay Cut

Posted By on Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 12:07 PM

Jim Strickland
  • Jim Strickland
Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland wants to amend the budget to cut the pay of city employees to avoid a property tax increase to pay for schools.

Strickland made his proposal in a letter this week to Mayor A C Wharton and City Council Chairman Harold Collins. It can be discussed in the council's executive session next Tuesday, June 22nd. But in order for it to come to a vote in the full council, someone who voted earlier this month to approve the budget would have to offer a motion to reconsider the vote.

Strickland said the Tennessee Supreme Court is unlikely to overrule a $57 million judgment against the City of Memphis for school funding.

"If the council doesn't do anything and the court doesn't hear the appeal, it means the judgment must be paid. The temptation will be to raise taxes," he said.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Other BP: Bass Pro

Posted By on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 10:20 AM

Bass Pro is back in the news. A new report by a pair of researchers in Buffalo, New York, is skeptical about Bass Pro's ability to generate enough sales and development to justify the tax incentives it receives.

Memphis is one of the cities the authors of the report looked at. They didn't get into the special circumstances involving The Pyramid and local connections to Bass Pro, so I don't think the report will make any difference. Here are four reasons why I think Bass Pro is still a go.

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Horn Island to Pensacola Beach, in Pictures

Posted By on Sun, Jun 6, 2010 at 10:34 PM

Memphis College of Art folks at Horn Island
  • Memphis College of Art folks at Horn Island

I spent the last four days on the Gulf Coast, from Horn Island to Pascagoula to Gulf Shores to Pensacola Beach. I met up with a group of 32 students and staff from Memphis College of Art who spent ten days on Horn Island off the Mississippi Coast. I will be writing about that in this week's Flyer cover story. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the beaches in the Gulf and the clean-up that is going on now.

Some general comments:
Horn Island, made famous by artist Walter Anderson, had gotten very little oil as of Friday. It looked pretty pristine despite more than a week of daily storms.

Shrimp season opened early last week. No shortage of seafood (which comes from many areas of the Gulf, especially Texas), but sport fishing is a bust, with federal waters closed beyond three miles out.

Gulf Shores looks like it got more oil than Florida Panhandle or Mississippi barrier islands, but pictures have been distorted with some national media mistaking seaweed for oil or oil residue in photos. The weather was horrible last week, with torrential rain and strong wind blowing in from southwest.

Fishing pier closed for fishing in Gulf Shores.

Pensacola Beach looked unchanged from when I was there six weeks ago. Beach clean as of Saturday, when Jimmy Buffett took a tour.

Hourly contract workers in Gulf Shores are getting $18 to $30 an hour from BP for cleaning up. Must be an area resident to get a job.

The orange booms look futile in the wind. In Pensacola Bay, waves were washing right over them Saturday.

Gulf Shores, Gulf State Park, June 6th
  • Gulf Shores, Gulf State Park, June 6th

MCA student on Horn Island
  • MCA student on Horn Island

MCA students and oil gusher detritus on Horn Island
  • MCA students and oil gusher detritus on Horn Island

Surfers at Pensacola Beach on June 5th
  • Surfers at Pensacola Beach on June 5th


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