Monday, December 30, 2013

New Leaders Announced for Memphis City Council Committees

Posted By on Mon, Dec 30, 2013 at 8:52 AM

New leadership assignments for Memphis City Council committees were announced Monday morning in the first public move by new council chairman Jim Strickland.

  • Strickland

Committee leadership positions can be important. Those in chairman or vice chairman roles lead meetings and can use that influence to shape the debate on big issues. For example, Janis Fullilove used her position as chairwoman of the MLGW committee to slow (but not stop) the expansion of the city’s smart meter program.

But some council members will say the leadership roles carry little weight as no piece of legislation can be stopped in council committees and must go before the full council for a vote. Strickland has said that while he kept his budget meetings moving ahead and usually on time in 2013, his position gave him little sway over the final approved budget.

The new committee assignments have a couple of shake-ups but many leadership positions remained as they were in 2013.

Fullilove was pulled as chairwoman of the MLGW committee but will remain as a voting member of the committee. Myron Lowery will serve as its chairman. Bill Boyd will be the committee’s vice chairman.

Lee Harris will be the chairman of the budget committee in 2014. It’s a big leadership opportunity for Harris who has the least legislative experience of any on the council as he joined the body in 2011.

Here’s the full 2014 committee line-up:

Chairman - Edmund Ford Jr.
Vice Chairman — Bill Morrison

Chairman — Lee Harris
Vice Chairman- Harold Collins

Chairman — Wanda Halbert
Vice Chairman- Janis Fullilove
Members — Joe Brown, Kemp Conrad, Shea Flinn, Bill Morrison

Chairman-Joe Brown
Vice Chairman- Wanda Halbert
Members - Harold Collins, Shea Flinn, Janis Fullilove, Lee Harris

Chairman — Myron Lowery
Vice Chairman- Bill Boyd
Members - Joe Brown, Kemp Conrad, Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove

Chairman — Bill Boyd
Vice Chairman-Edmund Ford Jr.
Members — Shea Flinn, Wanda Halbert, Lee Harris, Myron Lowery

Chairman — Shea Flinn
Vice Chairman — Myron Lowery
Member — Harold Collins, Lee Harris, Reid Hedgepeth, Bill Morrison

Chairman — Harold Collins
Vice Chairman — Shea Flinn
Members Joe Brown, Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove, Wanda Halbert

Chairman — Kemp Conrad
Vice Chairman — Joe Brown
Members Bill Boyd, Harold Collins, Shea Flinn, Lee Harris

Chairman — Janis Fullilove
Vice Chairman — Reid Hedgepeth
Members - Bill Boyd, Kemp Conrad, Edmund Ford Jr., Lee Harris

Chairman — Reid Hedgepeth
Vice Chairman — Kemp Conrad
Members — Bill Boyd, Harold Collins, Janis Fullilove, Wanda Halbert

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy Zach Randolph Day!

Posted By on Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Zach Randolph
  • Zach Randolph

At 4 p.m. on Friday, Mayor A C Wharton will declare December 27th to be "Zach Randolph Day" in a ceremony at Walmart Neighborhood Market at 2856 Hickory Hill.

The honor is intended as a way to thank Randolph for his charitable contributions. Randolph will be present and signing autographs at the event.

Over the years, Randolph has paid electric bills for people who couldn't afford them.

“I remember my first year in Memphis, it was real hot out so I paid a bunch of people’s electric bills,” Randolph told “I remember it was real bad and people didn’t have air conditioning so I wanted to make a difference, so I paid their bills for a month so they wouldn’t have to worry about it for the time being."

He's contributed funds to the Grizzlies charitable foundation to ensure that children from the Boys & Girls Club get Christmas gifts. And he's donated large sums to the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association among other charitable contributions.

He also rescued a pit bull that was stuck in a drain pipe near the Shelby Farms Greenline. The dog had heartworms and skin infections, and it was taken in the Villalobos Rescue Center in New Orleans . Randolph donated $10,000 to cover the dog's medical expenses. The pup was named Little Z-Bo.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Local Bars Hold Clothing Drive For the Homeless

Posted By on Mon, Dec 23, 2013 at 3:39 PM


A handful of Memphis bars are teaming up this holiday season to collect clothing for the city's homeless population.

Between December 26th and January 8th, Local (95 S Main, 2126 Madison), Blind Bear (119 S. Main), and Newby's (539 S. Highland) will accept donations of gently used clothing. After the drive is complete, the items will be donated to the Manna House (a hospitality hub that offers clothing, coffee, and showers to the homeless) and Room at the Inn (an organization that pairs homeless people with participating churches for shelter).

Friday, December 20, 2013

SantaCon is Coming to Memphis Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 3:09 PM

SantaCon in New York City
  • SantaCon in New York City

If anyone hasn’t quite exhumed their Christmas spirit yet this year, the holiday-themed and adults-only SantaCon, a rally of Santas landing in downtown Memphis on Saturday, might be the celebration to revive it. This will be the Bluff City’s first year for the event, which was founded in 1994 in San Francisco. Participants are required to dress up like Santa and address other participants as such, all while consuming alcoholic beverages at various locations. According to the original SantaCon organizers, Father Christmas partakers are also encouraged to bring gifts to give to strangers along the route.

SantaCon starts at noon at the Central BBQ on Butler Avenue, after which the participants will march towards Beale Street by 1 p.m. Four checkpoints in the area are Tater Red’s at 2 p.m., Coyote Ugly at 3 p.m., Hooter’s at 5 p.m., and finally, the Elvis statue in front of the MLGW building at 7 p.m.

More information for the Memphis event, including guidelines and a songbook of “Twisted SantaCon Carols,” is located on the SantaCon website.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shots From the People's Conference on Police Misconduct

Posted By on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Organizers gathered in downtown Memphis yesterday following the first ever People's Conference on Police Misconduct.

The conference was planned by the Memphis United Coalition following an incident on South Main on October 25th, when the organizers of a post-Trolley Tour "cypher" in front of K’PreSha Boutique alleged that police officers responding to a noise complaint over-reacted and escalated the situation. One attendee, Jeffrey Lichtenstein, said his phone was confiscated after he filmed the police action.

A few days before that, on October 21st, Ashley Moore and Paul Garner, volunteers with Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (H.O.P.E.), were arrested for “obstruction of a highway or sidewalk” when they attempted to record the police searching a man at the homeless hospitality center, Manna House.

Protesters gather outside of City Hall in Memphis in response to police harassment at a Hip Hop Performance on South Main this October
  • Chris Shaw
  • Protesters gather outside of City Hall ]in response to police harassment at a Hip Hop Performance on South Main this October

Protesters gather outside of City Hall with messages for police.
  • Chris Shaw
  • Protesters gather outside of City Hall with messages for police.

Protesters march from St. Patrick's Church to City Hall in Memphis after the People's Conference on Police Misconduct.

Darius "Phatmak" Clayton and other local rappers take part in a hip hop cypher outside of City Hall.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

People's Conference on Police Misconduct

Posted By on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 12:43 PM

The Memphis United Coalition will host a conference devoted to police reform on Tuesday, December 17th.

The "People's Conference on Police Misconduct" begins at noon at St. Patrick's Church (277 S. Front) with a "Know Your Rights" workshop and community forum moderated by LeMoyne-Owen College professor Gee Joyner and Rhodes College professor Earle Fisher.


From there, the group will march to Civic Center Plaza downtown at 2 p.m. A public hip-hop "cypher" (a freestyle rap and hip-hop performance) will be held there from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. During that event, representatives from Memphis United will deliver letters demanding police reform to Memphis Police Department (MPD) Director Toney Armstrong, Mayor A C Wharton, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, and members of the Memphis City Council.

An after-party featuring performance by Lurrell Low, Red Planet, YR Generation, Girls Of Gravitron, and Knowledge Nick will be held at K’PreSha Boutique (323 S. Main).

The "People's Conference on Police Misconduct" was planned following an incident on South Main on October 25th, when the organizers of a post-Trolley Tour "cypher" in front of K’PreSha Boutique alleged that police officers responding to a noise complaint over-reacted and escalated the situation. One attendee, Jeffrey Lichtenstein, said his phone was confiscated after he filmed the police action.

A few days before that, on October 21st, Ashley Moore and Paul Garner, volunteers with Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (H.O.P.E.), were arrested for “obstruction of a highway or sidewalk” when they attempted to record the police searching a man at the homeless hospitality center, Manna House.

After these incidents, Memphis United took on the cause of demanding police reform. The coalition was formed in March 2013 to organize the "People’s Conference on Race and Equality," a peaceful alternative to the KKK rally at Health Sciences Park.

Memphis United is demanding sensitivity and crisis intervention training for Memphis patrol officers, adherence to the MPD’s policy that allows civilians to record police actions, an end to harassment based on race, nationality, disability, economic status, and gender identity, and an the immediate testing of the the 12,000 back-logged rape kits.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Senators File Bill Against In-Flight Cell Calls

Posted By on Fri, Dec 13, 2013 at 9:31 AM

As promised, Senators filed legislation to prohibit cell phone conversations on commercial airline flights just before a federal commission approved the first step in lifting the 22-year ban in a Thursday meeting.

Federal Communications Commission commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday to begin the process that could allow passengers to text and make cell phone voice calls when their flights are above 10,000 feet. But as we reported in a story last week, the process will be a long one with at least months of mandatory public comment.

But a group of Senators couldn’t wait. They filed the Commercial Flight Courtesy Act, which would prohibit cell phone voice calls on flights. One of those Senators was Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander who worried that voice calls on flights could lead to “fist fights.”

“Keeping phone conversations private on commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but it is certainly enshrined in common sense,” Alexander said in a Thursday statement. “This legislation is about avoiding something nobody wants: nearly 2 million passengers a day, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts.”

The legislation has bi-partisan support. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein is an original co-sponsor of the bill who said flying on a commercial flight is “not conducive to numerous passengers talking on cell phones.”

The legislation would, however, allow passengers to send text messages.

But U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said his agency may step in to block in-flight in before the FCC and before the legislation is considered.

“We believe USDOT’s role, as part of our Aviation Consumer Protection Authority, is to determine if allowing these calls is fair to consumers,” Foxx said. “USDOT will now begin a process that will look at the possibility of banning these in-flight calls.”

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Court Papers Outline Former Alexander Aide's Child Porn Arrest

Posted By on Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 4:44 PM

Loskarns Facebook profile picture
  • Loskarn's Facebook profile picture
The federal complaint filed Thursday against U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander‘s former chief of staff Ryan Loskarn outlines years of the ousted aide’s child pornography consumption and his brazen attempt to hide it from investigators Wednesday.

The complaint was filed by U.S. Postal Inspector Brian Bone in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In it, Bone said Loskarn’s capture came after the USPS and the Toronto Police Service began an investigation into a movie production company in 2010 that featured films of young nude boys.

That investigation led them to one customer, Jesse Ryan Loskarn, with a Washington address. Invoices showed that Loskarn had made several purchases from the company between November 2010 and March 2011.

In 2013, law enforcement officials matched files identified on Loskarn’s home IP address to those on a peer-to-peer network offering child porn. One file matched to Loskarn’s computer showed young girls being raped, the complaint said.

Law enforcement officials “utilized the ram to force entry” on Loskarn’s home Monday after they knocked to execute their search warrant but got no response. While officers rammed the front door, an officer stationed on the perimeter of the scene watched Loskarn lean out a window and place an object on his roof. Once inside, officers went to the location and discovered he had placed a portable hard drive there, the complaint said.

“There was snow on the ledge and roof where the drive was found due to the snow storm the day before,” the complaint said. “This device was free of snow.”

Computer forensic examiners from the U. S Department of Justice reviewed the hard drive and found child porn videos.

Loskarn was arrested Wednesday. Alexander responded to the initial search of Loskarn’s home that morning by placing him on unpaid administrative leave. Later that day, the Tennessee Republican had “removed (Loskarn) from the payroll” and named David Cleary, another top aide, to the chief of staff post.

“The courts will judge Mr. Loskarn’s guilt or innocence, but under these circumstances, he cannot continue to fulfill his duties as chief of staff of this office,” Alexander said in a statement.

Loskarn will be held until his detention hearing on Monday.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

MPD Investigation Results In Indictment Of 30 People

Posted By on Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 12:55 PM

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich and Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong announced that a recent drug and gang investigation brought forth 30 indictments for drug-related offenses.

DA Amy Weirich - JB
  • JB
  • DA Amy Weirich

The lengthy investigation was conducted over several months and resulted in arrests within South Memphis' Riverside neighborhood, an area that's been plagued with gang activity and drug distribution for years.

MPD’s Organized Crime Unit seized more than 700 grams of cocaine, $400,000 in cash, and various automobiles and other items. Two primary targets of the investigation were brothers Kenneth and Keith Bohanon. The brothers were one-time major customers of the notorious Craig Petties organization.

Ten of the 30 defendants are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to sell cocaine in an amount over 300 grams. This is a class A felony that normally carries a punishment of 15 to 25 years in prison. Twenty other defendants are charged with purchasing cocaine for resale. Three of the individuals charged are gang members: one with the Riverside Rollin’ 90s Crips and two with the Gangster Disciples.

Prior to the indictment, the Riverside community had been on the MPD's radar. In September, the MPD's Multi-Agency Gang Unit issued the first-ever injunction against a criminal gang. The injunction declared the Rollin 90s a public nuisance and banned its members from indulging in illegal activity, such as drug dealing, weapon possession, trespassing, and public drinking.

The 30-person indictment is not directly linked to the September gang injunction. However, it's another step for law enforcement on its journey to restore the city's Riverside neighborhood.

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Sen. Lamar Alexander Suspends Chief of Staff On News of Child Porn Allegations

Posted By on Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Loskarns Facebook profile picture
  • Loskarn's Facebook profile picture
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) suspended the chief of staff of his Washington office Wednesday as law enforcement official searched the staffer's home on allegations of child pornography.

Alexander said he learned about the search and the allegations against his chief of staff, Ryan Loskarn, Wednesday morning, according to a statement on Alexander's official Senate website.

"I am stunned, surprised and disappointed by what I have learned," Alexander said. "Based on this information, I immediately placed Mr. Loskarn on administrative leave without pay. The office is fully cooperating with the investigation.”

  • Alexander

A National Journal profile of Loskarn in 2011 said he is a native of Sykesville, Md. and a graduate of Tulane University. He started working on Capitol Hill in 2000 and worked for a time as communications director for Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn. He told the Journal at the time that his hobbies included home improvement projects, reading and "trying to force myself to go to the gym."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Four Places to Donate Toys This Holiday Season

Posted By on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 2:16 PM


Businesses across Memphis have different ways of giving back during the holiday season, but these four organizations will accept toy donations. All four locations require that donations are new and unwrapped.

The Memphis Police Association holds its toy drive every year in early December, but they will be accepting toys and monetary donations for special needs children of any age at its office location until December 12th. Toys most needed are for children ages 11 to 14.
628 Jefferson

Oasis of Hope, a faith-based organization in North Memphis, has a pop-up store that sells discounted toys to families in the neighborhood, who may not be able to afford full prices during Christmas. The community store, a part of Oasis Appliance, Bike Shop, and SweeT-Shirt, will accept toy donations for children of all ages from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until December 14th.
1294 N. Thomas

Stop the Hurt, Start the Healing Foundation, an organization that aims to continue Michael Jackson’s mission of healing the world, is having its fifth annual toy drive at Walmart in Raleigh from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. The drive will benefit Hope House, an organization that provides help for children who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. Toys for children of all ages are needed.
3950 Austin Peay

Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is not doing a holiday toy drive, but accepts toys throughout the year for patients. Toys for children ages 13 to 15 are especially needed. Donations can be dropped off during business hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
850 Poplar, Building 2

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Monday, December 9, 2013

AutoZone Park Purchase Deal Delayed Again

Posted By on Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 9:58 PM

The Memphis City Council again delayed a final vote on purchasing AutoZone Park but not before substantially changing the deal on the table.

The original deal would have the city paying about $20 million for the baseball park and about $5 million for improvements to the park. The council approved a counter offer to the stakeholders on the deal, which includes the St. Louis Cardinals, that reduced the stadium purchase price to $15 million and the funds for park improvements to $2.5 million. Also, any excess city funds generated at the park would go exclusively to stadium improvements, up to $2.5 million.

The terms of the new deal came from council member Jim Strickland who said his plan saves $600,000 per year in debt payments. And doing that, he said, would fully protect Memphis taxpayers form ever paying for the park directly out of the city coffers.

"This will guarantee that the city's operating budget won't be touched and that's the real goal," Strickland said.

But council members won’t vote on that deal again until the council’s last 2013 meeting on Tuesday, December 17. The motion for the delay came from council member Janis Fullilove who said she wanted to give the parties in the sale time to digest the details of the new deal. Council members took a recess just before the delay vote to take a closer look at Strickland’s deal.

“Their offer is $20 million and we just lowered to $15 million,” said city council member Joe Brown. “Common sense tells me this will not fly. They can auction off (the park) and get more revenue.”

Council members, again, expressed much frustration over the way the deal was presented to them. Some said the details of the deal were kept from them, that some crucial numbers of the deal kept changing and that the final deal was "shoved down our throats," Fullilove said.

The terms of the new deal will go back to the stakeholders in the deal, which includes the Cardinals, Fundamental Advisors (the private equity firm that now owns the bonds on AutoZone Park), members of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton's administration and others. It is expected that the group will bring their opinion of the new terms back to the council and, perhaps, another offer on the deal.

Olive Oil Shop Set To Open in Overton Square

Posted By on Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 11:37 AM


A specialty olive oil tasting shop will be opening soon at 2094 Trimble in Overton Square, in one of the bays facing the new Tower Courtyard and parking garage.

Memphian Kenny Ford, a practicing veterinarian for 32 years, signed the first long-term lease for a shop on the Trimble side of the redeveloped square.

The Square Olive will initially sell 24 olive oils from Argentina, and new varieties will be added each month. Patrons will be able to sample oils with breads in the store, and Ford will also hold olive oil/wine pairing tasting events.

Additionally, he will sell balsamic vinegars, olive oil-based soaps, hand lotions, and pet shampoos from his sister's company MS Soaps.

“My sister Janet has made high quality olive oil-based beauty products for several years now for her company MS Soaps,” Ford said. “Her products are carried in a lot of specialty stores in Mississippi, and I’m excited to be able to introduce them to Memphis."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Commercial Appeal Layoffs Show Lack of Creative Vision, Newspaper Guild President Says; May Represent a Shift in Editorial Focus

Posted By on Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 6:07 PM

The Commercial Appeal sent 17 employees home this week including community editor Emily Keplinger, reporter Matt Woo, and two additional contributors to the My Life community news section. Although reports suggest that My Life will continue in a truncated form, these cuts represent a shift away from former editor Chris Peck's brand of community journalism, and may reflect a new direction under the leadership of current editor Louis Graham.

CA editor Louis Graham
  • CA editor Louis Graham

Additional cuts include a clerk and a cashier in accounting, a clerk in operations, a forklift operator and a rack repairman. Advertising lost two employees. There were five additional cuts in operations and one in information technology.

In an article posted at the website for the Newspaper Guild of Memphis, guild president Wayne Risher describes the cuts to editorial staff as a failure of creative vision.

"Time will tell if management’s new strategy succeeds in preserving and strengthening quality journalism in Memphis and maintaining the CA as a viable newspaper," he writes. "For the moment, people are hurting, in our opinion needlessly, because management didn’t have the creativity, vision and boldness to find a way to effectively harness their talents."

An excerpt of Risher's post is excerpted below the fold. You can check out the whole thing here.

Continue reading »

Humane Society Seeking "Hottest Hounds" For Coffee Table Book

Posted By on Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 10:40 AM

The cover of the recently released New Orleans edition of Hottest Hounds
  • The cover of the recently released New Orleans edition of Hottest Hounds

Think your dog is hot? Fido may get his big modeling break from a new fund-raising project for the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County.

The Humane Society is asking local dog owners to donate $100 to $200 to have their pooch's picture included in Hottest Hounds, a coffee table book of dogs that originally started in Birmingham, Alabama.

The hardcover keepsake book is expected to be released around the middle of next year. Dog parents can have their pup included on one page for $100 or a two-page spread for $200. The Humane Society will receive 30 percent of the proceeds.

Sixteen photos will also be featured on the front and back cover, and locals can bid on those spots. The winning bids are donated to the Humane Society.

To secure a spot in Hottest Hounds: Memphis, call or email Cassie Moore at 205-335-8298 or


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