Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Pets of the Week

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 at 3:34 PM

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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80 Percent of Tennesseans Want Drug-Free School Zone Law Reform

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 at 12:56 PM

A bi-partisan majority of Tennessee residents support reforming the state's drug-free school zone law — one that's been criticized as being out of line with the legislation's intent. 

"Although drug-free school zones may sound good on the surface, they seem to create some troubling inequities," said Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris. "As a consequence, today many states are in the process of making modifications to their drug-free school zone laws. It's time for Tennessee lawmakers to join them, and as this poll shows, Tennesseans are ready for change."

icitizen, in collaboration with Sen. Harris, conducted the poll. The organization surveyed 531 registered Tennessee voters and found that more than eight in 10 Tennesseans support a reform to The Tennessee Drug-Free School Zone Act, which was enacted in 1995. The law enhances penalties for drug crimes that occur within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare, library, recreational center, or park.
A defendant in a school zone currently faces 15 years in prison for a first-time, nonviolent offense before the possibility of being released. If the offense took place outside of a school zone, the same defendant would be eligible for release after 29 months. The law applies even when the offense occurs outside of school hours, when school is closed during summer, and regardless if children are present. 

About 84 percent of those polled support major or minor reforms to the law. Tennessee residents — 62 percent — say policy that clarifies the law's intent should enhance penalties when children are present. Support for reform garnered interest from both parties, with 90 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans supporting a reform to the law.

“It’s refreshing to see D’s and R’s come together in the name of criminal justice reform," Sen. Harris said. "I believe that they recognize, like I do, that this law disproportionately affects urban areas such as Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. In these urban areas, due to their density and the sheer number of schools, most places are a drug-free school zone.”  

Nashville's District Attorney Glenn Funk has previously said in op-eds published in the Commercial Appeal and Chattanooga Times Free Press that the law is applied inconsistently with the legislation's intent. 

"[The intent] was to keep drugs away from schoolchildren," Funk wrote. "This enhancement puts street level drug-free school zone act violations on par with second degree murder. The idea that this law keeps school kids safe is a myth, all it accomplishes is the destruction of communities.”

Infographic: Memphis in May 2016 Economic Impact

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 at 12:11 PM

Memphis in May (MIM) bought more than $88 million to the area’s economy this year, according to a new study.

More than 265,000 attended the month-long festival this year and they spent $38.3 million while they were there. Spending outside the festival gates (restaurants, parking, shopping, and more) was more than $72 million, according to MIM.

“Our mission directs that we foster economic growth for our city, so we are pleased to have once again produced such a major positive impact for the Memphis area,” said James L. Holt, president and CEO of MIM.

The economic impact of the 2016 festival was 15 percent higher than in 2011 when a similar study was conducted by the University of Memphis Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research, according to MIM.

The 2016 festival brought more than $2.8 million to city and county tax coffers. The MIM organization pays to rent Tom Lee Park form the city and pays for all utilities on the site during the festival.

While the festival does get support from city and county public safety organizations, it does not receive any direct funding from local taxpayers.  


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

State Tourism Breaks Spending Record

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 9:54 AM

Tennessee tourism shattered records in 2015 with visitors here spending more than $18 billion, up 3.7 percent over 2014. 

State government officials announced the record in a news conference Tuesday morning at the Sevier County Courthouse near the iconic Dolly Parton statue.

Tourism has topped $1 billion in state and local sales taxes for the last 10 years, officials said. Revenue last year was $1.6 billion, up $1.6 billion. Tourism jobs increased 2.9 percent for a total of 157,400.

Beale Street is Tennessee's top tourist destination.
  • Beale Street is Tennessee's top tourist destination.

Friday, August 26, 2016

MATA Security Guard Placed on Diversion in Passenger Death

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 at 1:44 PM

Adicus Mitchell
  • Adicus Mitchell
A private security guard responsible for pushing a Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) passenger, which resulted in that passenger's death, has been placed on diversion for three years. 

On May 6th of last year, a bus driver at the North Main terminal alerted security guard Adicus Mitchell that he had an unruly passenger on board, and Mitchell responded by forcefully pushing the passenger off the bus. The passenger, 69-year-old Robert Gray, landed face-first and lay motionless on the concrete. Mitchell wasn't a MATA employee but was hired to as a security guard at the terminal.

Gray was hospitalized in critical condition and later transferred to a long-term care facility. He died there from complications from his fall on August 3rd, 2014. Gray had been allegedly been making obscene remarks to a female passenger when the driver alerted Mitchell.

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee granted Mitchell's request for diversion, a type of probation that will erase the conviction from his record after three years of good behavior.

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Top Guns: Shelby Tops Tennessee in Handgun Permits

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 at 1:42 PM


President Jimmy Carter Discusses His Work with Habitat

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 at 12:20 PM

  • Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis
  • Jimmy Carter
A year ago this month, former President Jimmy Carter announced that he had a form of skin cancer that had spread to his brain. Just a year later, 91-year-old Carter and his wife Rosalynn are out in the Memphis heat building houses for the 33rd Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project for Habitat for Humanity.

"A year ago in August, I thought I had two or three weeks to live. It'd already moved to part of my liver, and I've had four different cancers in my brain," said Carter in an exclusive interview with the Flyer during a break from installing siding on a Habitat house near Uptown. "I was prescribed some new medicine, and it worked on me, thank goodness."

The Carters announced that they'd be working on this project to build 19 new homes in Bearwater Park, just north of Uptown, last November. Their planned 32nd Habitat project in Nepal last year was canceled due to civil unrest in that country, so the presidential pair came to Memphis instead. They built one home then and made the announcement that the 33rd project would come to Memphis in 2016. But he had cancer then, and he said he wasn't sure he'd make it back. 

"I told the news reporters I'd be back [this] year. But I didn't know if I was going to come back or not," Carter said.

Now cancer-free, Carter is back to work — working from about 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily this week alongside his wife (she's 89) and country stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, who are also in Memphis helping with the Habitat project. The four are working on a house together, one of 18 new homes along a residential street called Unity Lane. The Carters started their annual Habitat project in 1984, and each year, they travel to a different location around the world. 

"We've been to 14 foreign countries, some of them several times. The largest we had was 14,000 volunteers, and we built 293 houses in five days. That was in the Philippines," Carter said.

In Memphis, 1,500 volunteers are working on the project, and they've traveled from all over. The recipients for the 19 homes have already been selected by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis, and most have been out working on their own homes on the site.

Damonic Davis has been working on her home all week. She and her two young kids have been living with her mom and sharing one room since Davis divorced a couple years ago. She and the others must put in 350 to 500 hours of sweat equity to qualify for the program.

"I've been divorced for about two years, and Habitat is helping me and my family get our very first house. It's giving me the ability to provide stability, financially and shelter-wise, for my children," Davis said.

Carter said, earlier in the week, he met another Memphis Habitat house recipient who had been homeless and addicted to drugs just a few years back.

"He told me that seven years ago, he was living under a bridge. He was addicted to drugs, and he decided to turn his life around," Carter said. "He got a job at a fast food place, and now he's in charge of Chick-fil-A's kitchen. He told me about all the different sandwiches Chick-fil-A makes."

The Carter project is helping Memphis Habitat complete their five-year commitment to build 50 homes and do 100 critical repairs in Uptown.

"We've already done 32, so this will put us over 50," said Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis President and CEO Dwayne Spencer.

In addition to building 19 new homes, the Carter project is also working on 10 neighborhood beautification projects, like planting shrubs and grass and doing touch-up painting.

"We did a windshield survey of the community and identified houses that we thought needed some love and care. We knocked on doors and asked if they'd be receiving of it," Spencer said.

They're also doing six "aging in place" projects, which means building ramps for seniors. That work is funded through the Plough Foundation.

When asked why they chose Memphis this year, Carter took a moment to praise the Memphis Habitat organization.

"They offer a wide range of services that other Habitats don't provide. For example, if you're over 75 years old, and you have a broken window or a door that won't shut, [they'll fix it]. For instance, last year [when we were in Memphis], we worked on a house where one side of the living room was six inches lower than the other side because the foundation had rotted out."

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Report: Alcohol Crashes Down, Distracted Driving Accidents Up

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 at 10:19 AM

  • Gatti, Kellner, Beinvenu & Montesi

Most car accidents in Shelby County happen on Thursday between 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Drivers between 16-25 get in more accidents here.

Alcohol related crashes continue to decrease, a trend beginning around 2012. Though, distracted driving crashes are going steadily up.

These are just some of the findings from new research by Memphis law firm Gatti, Keltner, Bienvenu & Montesi.

Check out a huge infographic from the firm below. Read its findings here.

Auto Accidents

Brought to you by Gatti, Keltner, Bienvenu & Montesi

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pets of the Week

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 4:46 PM

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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Greensward Plaintiffs: Boyd's Statement 'Not True,' 'Completely False'

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 3:40 PM

  • Boyd
Both plaintiffs in the now-dismissed lawsuit against the Memphis City Council regarding the Greensward said Wednesday that they did not tell council member Berlin Boyd that the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC) played any role in their filing of the suit as he claimed Tuesday.

Residents Dr. Susan Lacy and Stephen Humbert filed a suit against the city council earlier this year claiming the council broke state open meetings laws ahead of the March 1 vote that gave the Memphis Zoo a majority control of the 12-acre Greensward for overflow parking.

The suit was recently dismissed after the council approved a plan to improve parking in Overton Park and end he zoo’s use of the Greensward for overflow parking.

However, Boyd threatened to pull OPC’s current-year city funding if the plaintiffs in the case did not close a legal loop that might allow them to bring the case back to court. A resolution Boyd presented before the council’s Parks Committee read that “one of the plaintiffs” in the suit “has admitted to council members” that OPC provided them with the language and information for their lawsuit.

Lacy and Humbert say that “is not true” and was a “completely false statement.”

“I came to this as a private citizen who is concerned about the process and the way that that March 1 resolution was passed,” Lacy said Wednesday. “I had no conversation with anyone with the Overton Park Conservancy (about the suit) and have not had any conversations with the Overton Park Conservancy.”

Humbert said, “From where I stand, it was a completely false statement that Berlin Boyd made. It does upset me that that was printed as being a fact that he knew and, indeed, it was not a fact.”

“I can speak for myself and I’ve talked with Dr. Lacy and I can tell you that I did not speak of that — say that — to any person, human being because it’s not true.”

Boyd ultimately dropped his resolution at the request of other council members. 

Boyd did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

New Trail to Connect Greenline, Agricenter Farmer's Market

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 2:35 PM

An bike and pedestrian trail will soon be paved and finished to more easily connect the Shelby Farms Greenline with the Agricenter Farmer’s Market thanks some new funds from the Shelby County Commission. 

Agricenter Trail runs along the south side of Walnut Grove and from Farm Road to the Farmer’s Market, taking bikers, walkers, and runners along rows of crops, research plots, and the Agricenter’s solar array. The trail exists now but it’s an unpaved dirt path. 


A timeline for the trail’s completion was not available. The funds for the  project were only allocated recently.

Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer dedicated her full $100,000 allotment of the Shelby County Commission Enhancement Grant to the project.

“Connecting the Agricenter Farmer's Market to the Greenline makes good sense, giving walkers and bike riders reliable access to fresh foods right here in District 5,” Shafer said in a statement.

Another upgrade to the trail will be to replace an old gate at the Farm Road end of the trail with four or five bollards to allow easier access for bikes and keeping vehicles out.


That part of the project was funded by a recently completed ioby campaign.

Grizz 'Conductor' Mike Conley Celebrated as Mid-South Maze 'Corn-ductor'

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Pathways etched into a field of corn have transformed Grizzlies' own Mike Conley from "conductor" to  "corn-ductor." The sprawling ten-acre Mid-South Maze will celebrate the point guard's return to the team.

The Maze, located at Agricenter International, will operate September 15 through October 31. It will open in September on Thursday and Friday from 4-10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. The Mid-South Maze will become haunted on Friday and Saturday nights in October. Wednesday nights in October will be family night. 

This year's Maze not only boasts a new design but also live music and a local beer garden hosted by TapBox. Free hayrides and bonfire's will be provided on Family Nights with the purchase of admission. Children ages 13 and older pay $7 for admission, those ages 6-12 pay $5, and The Maze is free for those under the age of 5. Adults pay $12 for admission. 

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Greenprint Plan Gets Unanimous Support

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 11:45 AM


The Mid-South Regional Greenprint plan now has buy-in from every jurisdiction touched by the massive project to build greenways, parks, bike trails, and more across the tri-state region.

The Greenprint plan was published last year after three year’s worth of work from 82 organizations from Shelby, Crittenden, DeSoto, and Fayette counties. Among many other things, the plan proposes nearly 500 miles of greenways to be built or connected in the Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missisippi counties.

Greenprint leaders have been garnering support for the plan from every legislative body the plan would touch. Leaders in Marion, Ark. approved the plan recently, giving Greenprint unanimous support in what leaders called a “an unprecedented demonstration of regional unity.”

"Regional leadership has taken a strong first step towards implementation of the plan through their adoptions,” Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said in a statement. “We should promote the adopted vision by encouraging prioritization of Greenprint objectives and investment in our green space network.

“Residents of Shelby County want to live in vibrant and prosperous communities and our Greenprint is the plan that can make this a reality."

Work on the Greenprint began with a $2.6 million grant won by Shelby County in 2011 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop a long-term vision for the area's green spaces, including parks, greenways, community gardens, storm water management, waterways, and more.

Greenprint served as the foundation of a new project to help protect communities here from flood damage in the future. That new project was supported with a second grant from HUD earlier this year, totaling $60.4 million.

“Just a year after its publication, the Greenprint has already proven its ability to dramatically impact our region for the better, by helping us attract resources needed to protect our citizens from future disasters, while providing the guidance to help us conserve important natural areas and improve public spaces,” said John Zeanah, Deputy Director of Planning in Memphis-Shelby County Division of Planning and Development. “Because the Greenprint is so comprehensive, all 22 jurisdictions will be able to use the plan to advance our region on a variety of fronts – everything from transportation to community development.”

Check out all the details about the plan here

Wiseacre Bid for Coliseum Moves Forward

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 8:33 AM


Wiseacre Brewing officials have 180 days (or about six months) to inspect the MidSouth Coliseum and decide if they want to expand their business into the former arena.

Wiseacre co-founder Frank Smith pitched an idea to council members two weeks ago to convert the long-vacant Coliseum into a brewery, a tasting room, event space, and a retail location.

The Memphis City Council approved lease terms for the Memphis craft brewery Tuesday evening. 
The lease agreement passed a full council vote by a count of 11-0. The resolution for the deal was sponsored by council chairman Kemp Conrad and council member Jamita Swearengen.

 "The terms required by the council’s resolution include no city funds, a 30 year lease with renewal options, and an estimated $12 million dollar investment by Wiseacre," Conrad said in his post-meeting council round-up. "This council believes this to be a truly transformative possibility for the Coliseum, for the Fairgrounds, and for the city. We hope to see it move forward."

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the deal was, basically, a win-win.

"It was great to work as a team with the city council on a proposal that could further economic development – and at the same time repurpose a long-vacant building using no city money," Strickland said in a statement. 

City officials returned to the council Tuesday to deliver the terms of leasing the 104,000 square-foot Coliseum to the craft brewery. Antonio Adams, director of the city’s General Services division, quoted a monthly lease rate of $25,000, or $300,000 per year, for the entire building.

The deal would give Wiseacre officials up to six months to perform due diligence on the project. In the meantime, the company would give Memphis $25,000 in good faith funding. The money would be credited to the company’s rent if they move ahead; it would be given back if the company decides against the project.

Wiseacre would be responsible for bringing the aged building up to “well-lit shell conditions,” Adams said. That means the Coliseum would be renovated with improvements to the walls, ceilings, heating and cooling, plumbing, and more. Wiseacre would spend put to $12 million, Adams, said, to make the improvements and finish the space to its needs.

But the company has said it would not use the entire building for its operations. Wiseacre would sub-lease parts of the concourse to other companies, retailers likely. The city’s deal would allow them sub-lease spaces but would take 30 percent of the rent proceeds they take in above Wiseacre’s $25,000 monthly rent payment.

Council member Martavius Jones said that while he “loves the proposal,” he wanted to delay the vote to ensure that other companies or groups could make their pitches for the space.

“I don’t think we’ve fairly opened this up to all comers and all takers like we did with the police department at Adams and Second,” Jones said. However, council attorney Allan Wade said Smith told council members that time was of the essence in the project and waiting might “blow this thing out of the water.”

Council member Worth Morgan said companies had ample opportunities to make their pitches and that it hasn’t been a “rushed process.”

“Maybe this isn’t the greatest and best thing in everybody’s mind but this is a great deal for a piece of city property that has been sitting vacant too long,” Morgan said. “What we heard two weeks ago is we may lose this deal if we do delay.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Boyd Threatens Overton Park Conservancy Funding Over Greensward Suit

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2016 at 2:34 PM

  • Brandon Dill
Legal wrangling on the Greensward parking issue re-surfaced Tuesday as Memphis City Council member Berlin Boyd accused the Overton Park Conservancy (OPC) of being behind the open meetings lawsuit filed in April and threatened to pull the organization’s city funding.

Boyd pitched a resolution during Tuesday’s Parks Committee meeting that said OPC goaded residents Susan Lacy and Stephen Humbert to file the lawsuit against the council. That suit claimed the council broke state open meetings laws ahead of the March 1 vote that gave the Memphis Zoo a majority control of the 12-acre Greensward for overflow parking.

Boyd’s resolution states that “one of the plaintiffs” in the suit “has admitted to council members” that OPC provided them with the language and information for their lawsuit.

“The council does not believe it is appropriate for for city funded organizations to to use public funding, in whole or in part, to bring lawsuits against their funding body or to promote others to do so,” reads the resolution.

Eric Barnes, publisher and CEO of The Daily News and OPC board member, told council members that the park organization was never part of any conversations about the suit nor did it support the suit.

Council attorney Allan Wade said Boyd told him OPC was involved in the suit but “if that’s true, I don’t know. We can go all day long about who is telling the truth and who is not and who’s on first and all that.”

Boyd’s proposal aimed to reduce OPC’s current-year funding by $150,000, or 100 percent of the funding allocated to OPC by the city. Boyd wanted to put those funds in a special, separate account to be unlocked only by council approval.

The lawsuit was dismissed recently. However, plaintiffs have one year after the dismissal to re-file their suits. Boyd’s plan would have freed OPC’s funding if the plaintiffs in the case agreed to never file their claim in court ever again. He said he didn’t want taxpayers picking up any legal fees that would come with a future lawsuit.

“It was just a protection measure for [the council],” Boyd said.

Council member Martavius Jones disagreed with Boyd's tactic and said OPC was not the plaintiff.

“I think even if they were, this would be a way of trying to silence any kind of opposition and I think that would be very undemocratic for us to do so,” Jones said.

Boyd ultimately pulled the resolution at the urging of some council members to “let dead dogs lie.”

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