Thursday, April 22, 2010

Raise the Roof

Posted By on Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 3:08 PM

Not all of you might know this, but I love a good business story.

Which is why, when I found myself up on the rooftop of the Peabody the other night and heard from public relations director Kelly Earnest that they had considered canceling the 2009 season, I had to know more.

The result is Back on Top, about the Peabody's "disappointing" 2008 season and what the hotel did to turn the event back around.

And believe me, it is back around. (There's a Rooftop Party tonight, btw. If you're not attending Style Sessions' Swap & Shop event at the Hunt-Phelan or you are a guy, you should consider checking it out.)

Here is the event back in 1981:


And here's what it looked like last week:


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bartlett Woman's Execution Date Set

Posted By on Tue, Apr 20, 2010 at 11:01 AM

Yesterday, former Bartlett resident Gaile Owens was scheduled to be executed September 28th.

Owens was involved in the 1986 murder of her husband, Ron Owens, after hiring a North Memphis man to kill him.

After police questioned her, Owens confessed to the plot and eventually agreed to a plea deal to serve life in prison.

Because her case could not be severed from that of her co-defendant, Sidney Porterfield, he was required to plead guilty for Owens' deal to be accepted.

Instead, the case went to trial, and without taking the stand in her own defense, Owens was found guilty.


In the intervening years, evidence has come to light that she was a victim of domestic abuse, and former publisher John Seigenthaler wrote an opinion piece in The Tennessean, comparing Owens' case to that of Selma, Tennessee, battered wife Mary Winkler.

Last week, I sent a list of questions to Owens through her attorneys, including if she regretted not testifying at her trial.

"It's hard to say what you would do if given another opportunity," she wrote back. "I felt at the time my decision to not testify was the right decision and was the best I could do to protect [my family]. My concern then and continues to be to protect my sons as much as I can.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Transportation Imagination?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Attn: Cyclists, Public Transportation Users, Pedestrians, Motorists, and Light-Rail enthusiasts:

The MPO, the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization, begins its new long-term transportation planning initiative this month. I know, I know, it sounds like a snooze-fest, but it's really important, especially if you want to give input into how people in the region will get around for the next 25 years.

Imagine 2035 will stress the need to coordinate transportation and land-use planning and show where new growth and development is likely to occur.

“This process will give our community the chance to discuss the ‘what-ifs’ of our metropolitan area, and consider the trade-offs between how our community grows and the transportation decisions needed to support that growth,” says Martha Lott, MPO administrator.

“This is a great chance for the community to not only see what our region might look like 25 years from now, but also take an active part in shaping its future,” adds Brett Roler, IMAGINE 2035 Project Manager.

The first meeting is next Monday, April 19th, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Arlington Town Hall. To see the list of the rest of the meetings, click through.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Funding the RDC

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 11:49 AM

This week, I wrote about the Riverfront Development Corporation and the current funding shortfall with its Beale Street Landing project.

The RDC needs about $9 million to finish the project. The Wharton administration is talking about allocating about $1 million in the upcoming fiscal year's budget, which would keep the project moving, but puts the final piece of the project — the park — in jeopardy.

Basically, I think it would be a mistake to leave the project unfinished. We've put millions of dollars into the project already; to not finish it would make that money go to waste. ... And I think it would leave a very visible reminder of local government's failings, both financially and procedurally.

But if people think one of those failings is the creation and the operation of the RDC, the city can do something about that. It can bring the riverside parks back in-house.

I hope the RDC can find private money to finish the Beale Street Landing. If they can, it would prove to citizens that the RDC model works. But looking at the financial statements, I wonder how likely that is.

After the jump, I've posted the RDC's financial highlights from 2003 on in one handy-dandy place so you can see for yourself.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

City/MCS Reach Funding Agreement

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 3:10 PM

Tonight's Memphis City Council meeting might provide some closure to the ongoing city school funding crisis.

Memphis mayor A C Wharton, Memphis City Schools (MCS) superintendent Kriner Cash, and City Council chair Harold Collins presented a proposal to the Council's education committee in which the city would pay $20 million to the school system by May 1st.

The city would then pay the district another $20 million by July 1st, to be followed by another $10 million payment October 1st. Under the agreement, voted unanimously by the education committee, the issues involved in litigation between the city and the city schools are still on the table.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Down for the Count

Posted By on Mon, Apr 5, 2010 at 3:24 PM

[Ed. note: This is a guest blog from Flyer intern Natalie Mayo.]

April 1st might be April Fool's day, but last week's rally to support the 2010 Census was no joke.

During the 2000 U.S. Census, roughly 200,000 Shelby Countians were uncounted. Because every 100 residents not counted means a loss of $1 million over the next 10 years, local leaders spent so-called "Census Day" making sure Shelby County was down for the count.

“It is our city’s obligation to participate,” Shelby County mayor Joe Ford said at the rally on the Main Street Mall. “We cannot move forward until we mail our Census forms back.”

By Census Day, only 44 percent of Memphians had participated. Nationally, that number was at 54 percent.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Metro Divisions: How Many Is Too Many?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 2, 2010 at 11:28 AM

The Memphis Shelby County Metropolitan Charter Commission is trying to minimize the number of departments in its proposed consolidated government. But it's struggling.

"The city has 13 divisions. The county has what? Five?" said metro charter commission member Richard Smith. "We have 12 task forces. If every one of those adds two divisions, that gets us up to 24. We should be shooting for less than 18."

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Flight Path

Posted By on Fri, Apr 2, 2010 at 1:30 AM

A few weeks? months? years? ago, I wrote about the beautification of Plough Blvd. (And I have to say, I was rather proud of my headline. Srsly, it's worth clicking that link just to see the headline.)

I didn't have a pretty drawing then, but I do now.


Or you can download it here: ploughblvd.pdf

Jim Covington with the chamber distributed this as part of last Tuesday evening's Pizza with the Planners focusing on the aerotropolis, an economic development concept proposed by UNC professor John Kasarda. In the metro area, for example, one in three jobs are already tied to the airport.

Pizza with the Planners is a regular event hosted by Livable Memphis. The next one is *next* Thursday, April 8th, and focuses on public health and air quality. To register, click here.

Continue reading »

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Highways = 18 Percent Population Drop?

Posted By on Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 11:27 AM

After my recent post on population and population density, a friend of mine tipped me to an interview on and a new study out of Brown University that shows that for every significant highway that gets built through a city, the population of that central city declines by about 18 percent.

Brown economics professor Nathaniel Baum-Snow says highway construction, overall, has been a good thing.

"I do think that there was a welfare benefit from highway construction for a lot of people. People get to live in bigger homes, they have more choice in where they'd like to live. Now most households are dual-worker households, which wasn't true back in 1950. Highways have allowed two people living in the same house to commute to different areas each day."

Though an economist, he wrote his 2000 dissertation on the effect of public projects to expand urban rail transit, and says he always had an interest in public policy. When writing about highways and suburbanization, Baum-Snow realized that there isn't a lot of empirical evidence about how employment centers moved from the central city to the suburbs or how commutes have changed over time.

"Not only has the nature of residential and employment locations have changed dramatically, but the nature of commuting patterns have also changed dramatically. Now, the vast majority of commutes do not involve the central city at all, even commutes made by people who live in metropolitan areas, whereas in 1960, the majority certainly involved central cities either as origins or destinations or both. And that’s a major change," Baum-Snow says.

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