Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Greenprint Summit Highlights Potential Impact of Ambitious Project

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 6:04 PM

John Michels, Greenprint Coordinator - JOSHUA CANNON
  • Joshua Cannon
  • John Michels, Greenprint Coordinator
Livability, sustainability, and interconnectivity.

That was the theme of the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability's third bi-annual Greenprint Summit. Centered around the Mid-South Greenprint plan, the summit hosted national speakers and local organizers who championed investments and federal grants being used to enhance longterm sustainability and create climate and disaster resilience across the region.

"Memphis, Shelby county, and this region have become a lab for experimentation, innovation, and creativity," said Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

Following three year’s worth of work from 82 organizations from Shelby, Crittenden, DeSoto, and Fayette counties, the plan aspires to create 500 miles of greenway trails and 200 miles of bike paths by 2040. Over a 25 year implementation, organizers hope the Greenprint will reduce overall housing and transportation costs per household, attract residents and visitors, reduce flooding and pollution and create cleaner water and air, and reduce poverty for disadvantaged neighborhoods by increasings goods and services in those areas.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development kickstarted that work in 2011 when it awarded a $2.6 million grant to Shelby County to develop a long-term vision for the area's green spaces, including parks, greenways, community gardens, storm water management, waterways, and more. This year, HUD handed an additional $60 million to Shelby County to combat future disasters brought forth by flooding and climate change.

Charles Flink, a senior advisor with Alta Planning and Design, emphasized the importance of placemaking — creating special environments from a community's assets — and the longterm economical impact from the Greenprint plan. A prosperous greenway would attract new businesses as well as bolster residential spending, Flink said.

"For every dollar invested in a Greenway, you get $3 in economic return," Flink said. "And that's being conservative."

Flink said the Greenway initiative was a catalytic project that would influence economic interests for years to come. About 25 percent of the project's construction dollars has been directed to minority business, according to Flink. And by design, Greenways would increase activity, reduce obesity, and reimagine the way people travel.

"It can be part of the way people move throughout Memphis on a daily basis," Flink said. "Greenways are more than a trail through the woods."

Greenways, as they are completed, will likely be maintained by their cities and local non-profits, said John Michels, a Greenprint coordinator. A parks advocacy organization, a separate initiative led by Innovate Memphis with help from Hyde Family Foundations and the City of Memphis Division of Parks and Neighborhoods, will assist local neighborhood advocacy groups by providing them with resources and contacts to the city parks division. Both efforts, Michels said, will address recommendations to the Greenprint plan.

To conceptualize a parks advocacy organization, Innovate Memphis created a pilot advocacy program that ran for 10 weeks and focused on Kennedy, Chandler, and Gooch park. Megan Higgins, a project manager with Innovate Memphis, said the program reshaped their business plan.

"The pilot was really about testing neighborhood's ambition for civic engagement," Higgins said. "Our pilot was more about helping [people] organize more than planning and executing. Residents do not recognize themselves as park advocates, but that's exactly what they are."

Also associated with the Greenway Project is the city's Fourth Bluff Project, an effort to revitalize four blocks of downtown property that include the longstanding Cossit Library, Memphis Park, and Mississippi Park, and the promenade. Made possible by a $5 million revitalization grant, Higgins said the days of "one size fits all" parks should be left in the past.

"Neighborhoods should have the freedom to abandon the default positions of two basketball courts, a set of swings, a jungle gym, and an attached slide," Higgins said. Higgins cited Spain's Gulliver park as a 21st century example.

The $60 million grant awarded to Shelby County by HUD's National Disaster Resilience Competition will go toward creating double-duty solutions, said Jason Hellendrung, a representative with Sasaki Architecture. As climate change continues to pose a threat to communities, Hellendrung said cities have to design for resilience while also creating plans that can be phased and integrated over time with future projects.

The grant will focus on three initial areas: Big Creek, where wetlands will be reestablished, flood storage will be created to accommodate water flow, and multi-purpose trails and green space will be produced for food production. Wolf River, where better protection for downstream homes will be built, new amenities to Rodney Barber Park and Kennedy Park will be added, and a green street and bike lanes near Highland Street will be formed. Lastly, South Cypress Creek, where existing homes will be bought out and replaced with green space, wetlands, and flood storage, as well as the development of nearby vacant lots.

"What made Shelby County eligible was unmet need," Hellendrung said.

An online interactive map has also been launched that showcases all aspects of the projected Greenprint plan. Users can see how many miles are complete and how many have been funded.

Mid-South's First Virtual Reality Lab Coming to U of M

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 4:50 PM

Memphis will soon be home to the first virtual and augmented reality lab in the Mid-South, thanks to a multi-pronged partnership between the The FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis and local technology development groups.

The lab will be open to students, researchers, and members of the local technology community who are working to further advance development in VR technologies, or simply experience them.

The president of Memphis Game Developer, Ernest McCracken, has said that with the lab, "we can address a number of problem spaces in game development, media and art, interactive training and
medical visualization, just to name a few."

In addition to partnering with Memphis Game Developer, the U of M has recruited the Institute for Intelligent Systems, and the MemphisTechnology Foundation.

"This is also the first collaboration between academia and the greater Memphis IT community of technology enthusiasts and makers," said McCracken.

The grand opening will include demonstration and will be held on the fourth floor of the FIT building at the U of M, starting at 5:00p.m.. Those interested in attending may RSVP to

Arguments Begin on TVA Wells

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 1:37 PM


Arguments began Wednesday on two permits for wells that the Tennessee Valley Authority wants to drill, tapping Memphis drinking water to cool its proposed energy plant.

The Shelby County Groundwater Quality Control Board (SCGCB) heard testimony from the Sierra Club, Shelby County officials, and from the TVA Wednesday but had not rendered a decision in the matter as of early Wednesday afternoon.

The board has 30 days from the end of the hearing that began Wednesday morning to render a decision in the matter.

The TVA plans to pull 3.5 million gallons of Memphis drinking water per day from the Memphis Sands aquifer to cool its proposed Allen Combined Cycle Plant, a natural gas plant to replace the former coal-burning power plant in Memphis. TVA’s original plan was to use waste water to cool new the plant but officials said that plan added cost to the overall project and would not provide a reliable source of water for the plant.

The Shelby County Health Department issued the TVA permits for five wells, all it would need for the project. But permits for two of them were appealed in September by the local chapter of the Sierra Club. Wednesday’s hearing before the groundwater board were on the appeals.

Ground rules
Wednesday’s hearing was a judicial proceeding, meaning it played like a court case with attorneys, evidence, and more with the SCGQCB acting as the jury. Dozens packed the crowded hearing room at the county's Construction Code Enforcement building close to Shelby Farms. Many of the attendees wore blue t-shirts that read: "Save Our Aquifer." 

Robert McLean, an attorney with Farris Bobango, acted as the proceeding’s moderator and reminded the large crowd that they were not allowed to participate and “you must treat this as if you were sitting in federal court listening to testimony.”

Further, McLean said, as a judicial proceeding, members of the board were not to be lobbied by members of the public. However, many board members said they had been contacted, mainly through email, from many members of the Sierra Club and “from the public at large.”

McLean asked board member Odell Johnson to recuse himself from the vote, as Johnson works with Memphis Light Gas & Water, which, of course, does business with TVA. Scott Morgan, an employee with the city of Memphis, recused himself from the vote as the city does business with TVA.

Board chairman David McCray noted that his company does business with the TVA. However, he did not recuse himself as he said his company’s TVA work was a very small portion of his overall business.

TVA attorney Edward Meade noted that board member Nancy Brannon is a past president of the local chapter of the Sierra Club. However, Brannon did not recuse herself immediately from the vote, noting that she hasn’t worked with the organization for many years. She did, recuse herself later, after she was seen during the hearings on a videotape from a Sierra Club forum on the wells.


Webb Brewer, the attorney for the Sierra Club, said the club objected to using fresh water to cool the plant because doing so would have adverse effects on the area’s drinking water supply. Quality and quantity of water could be affected, he said, as the TVA wanted to pull so much from the aquifer and that drilling wells could draw contaminated water into the Memphis Sands aquifer from other aquifers.

He said the permits issued for the wells broke local well rules because other adequate water sources exist for TVA’s needs, there was no justifiable need for them, that the wells could contaminate local drinking water, and that cooling the plant did not amount to a “reasonable use” of the water.

“We have a plentiful water supply,” Brewer said. “However, we have no guarantee that plentiful supply will continue. It is the position of the Sierra Club that if there are other alternatives for not using clear, drinking water, that should be done.”

Carter Gray, assistant Shelby County attorney, said he was prepared to prove to board members that the Shelby County Health Department did due research on the wells before issuing the permits and that it followed all rules and regulations in issuing them. He said TVA’s plan would have no adverse effect on the quality or quantity of the area’s drinking water.

Meade said he was present only to give the board backup information. He noted the new energy plant will cost $1 billion, produce 1,000 megawatts of power, enough to serve 650,00 homes or about 1.7 million people in the Memphis area.

Meade said TVA considered many options to cool the plant before deciding to use fresh water for the aquifer. He said TVA considered purchasing water from MLGW, though, he said that option wouldn’t work because of demand issues and reliability concerns. TVA also considered using water from the Mississippi River and from other local aquifers.

However, tapping the Memphis Sands aquifer “was the most reliable, most cost-effective option” to cool the new energy plant.

He said TVA has a sampling program in place for the wells so that it could focus on problems “based on data, not based on fear and speculation.”

“This [hearing] is about rules being complied with, versus emotion,” Meade said. “What you board members got [from the public] was emotional and there’s concern and somewhat of a risk-fear, risk-type issue that’s been put out there as to why this is a bad idea.

“The TVA withdrawal of water from the Memphis Sand at the proposed rates of 3.5 million gallons per day does not pose a risk to the quality of water in the Memphis Sand aquifer. It does not pose a risk to Shelby County drinking water.”

Memphis Pets of the Week (Dec. 1-7)

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 12:33 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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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Department of Justice Seeks Community Input for "COPS" Partnership

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 8:39 PM

Karen Spencer Mcgee was one of the first to line up and offer feedback to the Department of Justice. - MICAELA WATTS
  • Micaela Watts
  • Karen Spencer Mcgee was one of the first to line up and offer feedback to the Department of Justice.

Less than 50 people showed up tonight for the first community forum held by the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The forum, held at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, is the first of two forums officiated by the COPS office. 

The partnership between COPS and the Memphis Police Department was announced last month. The sole purpose of the review is to evaluate relationships between the citizens of Memphis and the police force charged with their safety; especially when it comes to policies pertaining to community policing and the use of deadly force.

For most that came up to the microphone, a general consensus was expressed; The MPD has good officers, but some had left an otherwise foul impression, or what Karen Spencer-Mcgee called "a bad cloud" over the MPD.

Spencer, who says an unjust firearms charge is still hanging over the head of her 16-year-old after he was stopped by police for walking "an expensive dog", is wondering what the DOJ plans to do about unfounded charges.

"Will he go to college? Can he get a grant of any sort? In my age, we grew up with 'Officer Friendly'. Now, my son only knows, 'Eff the police.'"

The next forum is on November 30, at the Hickory Hill Community Center from 5:00-8:00p.m..

Shipt Shoppers Get Groceries Thursday

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 3:40 PM


For anyone who doesn’t love fighting the crowds at the new Union Kroger, Shipt is coming.

Starting Thursday, Birmingham-based Shipt will begin its grocery-getting service at Memphis-area Kroger stores. So, for a $49 annual membership or a $14-per-month membership, Shipt’s green-shirted shoppers will get your groceries and deliver them to your front door.

For members, delivery is free on all orders that are over $35. Below that, there is a $7 delivery fee. Deliveries come “as soon as one hour after you order,” according to the company website.

Customers shop from the Shipt app. Shipt honors all Kroger sales and has sale items of its own. Shipt shoppers hit the aisles for you, collecting your groceries, and they drive them to your place.

Shipt is also hiring shoppers in Memphis. Shoppers make $15-$25 per hour, according to the website, and set their own hours.

Sign up for the Shipt service by Wednesday and get $25 off your first order.

For more information, check the company's website, or check out this fact sheet:

New Plant to Bring 75 Jobs to Presidents Island

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 9:53 AM

  • Calysta

A new, animal food ingredient factory will bring 75 jobs to a brand new plant on Presidents Island.

Cargill, Calysta Inc., and a group of investors plan to build and operate the world’s largest gas fermentation facility on Cargill’s 69-acre property on the industrial peninsula, according to a news release.

The plant will produce Calysta’s FeedKind protein, which is an ingredient used in food for fish, livestock, and pets, according to the company. The product can be shipped in either a powder or pellet form.

Here’s how Calysta describes the product on its website:

“FeedKind protein is a natural, traceable and safe non-animal source of protein produced using the world’s only commercially validated gas fermentation process.

“FeedKind protein is non-GMO, and approved for sale and use in fish and livestock feeds in the EU and has been extensively tested on multiple fish species, including Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout. It is also approved for use in multiple livestock species.”

The new plant on Presidents Island will house the company’s gas fermentation system. That system uses “naturally occurring microbes found in soils worldwide” in a process “similar to making yeast” to make “a nutritious, high protein feed that is a sustainable alternative to fishmeal.”

Local leaders lauded the move by the companies to build the new plant here.

The company will begin hiring workers for the facility in mid-2017.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Board Set to Hear Appeals on TVA Wells

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 12:00 PM


The Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) plans for a new Memphis power plant faces a major hurdle, one that will get a vote by local officials here next week.

Last month, the local chapter of the Sierra Club appealed two permits issued to the TVA for wells that would swallow 3.5 million gallons of fresh water every day from the Memphis Sands Aquifer, which contains much of the area's drinking water.

TVA was already granted permits to dig three wells into the aquifer by the Shelby County Health Department. However, blocking the other two may be enough to change TVA's plans on tapping the aquifer at all, according to local environmental advocates.

The Sierra Club will plead its case against the wells before the Shelby County Groundwater Control Board during its meeting on Wednesday, November 30 at 9 a.m. The meeting will be held at the Office of Construction Code Enforcement at 6465 Mullins Station (at the corner of Farm and Mullins Station).

SURJ Plans Protest, Boycott of Trump-Related Businesses on Black Friday

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 9:00 AM


A local group was slated to protest on Friday at a major commercial intersection in Memphis to raise awareness of a national boycott of businesses affiliated with Donald Trump.

The local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) scheduled the protest from 10 a.m. to noon at the corner of Germantown Parkway and Giacosa Place (close to Wolfchase Mall), during the Black Friday shopping event.

The local SURJ group was formed here after this summer's Black Lives Matter protest that shut down the Hernando DeSoto Bridge. The national SURJ group says it aims to mobilize white people who want to contribute to national issues that disproportionately affect people of color.  

Here's what the local SURJ group said of its planned, Black Friday protest:

"Join us on Black Friday as we join a national boycott of Trump-affiliated businesses and a re-direction of those funds to black-owned businesses in our community. Every dollar is a vote.

Join us as we call for an end to white supremacy and the destruction of black and brown lives. We are showing up to end white silence on racism. No justice, no profit."

SURJ has assembled a list of businesses to boycott. That list includes Macy's, Marshalls, Sears, Zappos, Hobby Lobby, MillerCoors, NASCAR, and the National Enquirer.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Memorials to Remember Crime Victims

Posted By on Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 3:00 PM

A pair of memorial services will remember the lives lost to criminal activity this year in Memphis and Shelby County.
  • Shelby County District Attorney General Office
  • An image form last year's event.
Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich will host the sixth-annual “Season of Remembrance" event on Monday, Nov. 28 at Memphis City Hall.

"Far too many victim's stories are overshadowed by those of their attackers," Weirich said. “The ‘Season of Remembrance’ is a moment we may give voice to our victims."

Here are the details of the event from Weirich’s office:

A reception and check-in for families will begin at 5 p.m. in the Hall of Mayors, followed by the memorial ceremony at 5:30 p.m.

Families of homicide victims are asked to bring an ornament in honor of their loved one, regardless of the year in which their life was taken. These ornaments will be placed on wreaths and will be displayed inside the Hall of Mayors throughout the holiday season.

The featured speaker will be Rev. Msgr. John McArthur, pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church. The program will include a performance by female vocalists Angel Street. Fox13 TV news anchor Mearl Purvis will emcee the special event.

For more information, contact the director of the Victim/Witness Unit, Amy McCullough, at (901) 222-1561 or by email at

The nonprofit Victims to Victory organization will host its 20th annual Hope and Remembrance Candlelight Services on Monday, Dec. 5 at Second Presbyterian Church.

“Sadly, this has been a record year with more than 200 homicides in Memphis, and 16 in Shelby County, leaving many families and children to deal with the painful effects of grief and violent death,” reads a statement from Victims to Victory. “The family-oriented holidays can be especially difficult for those suffering through the emotional and spiritual challenges of homicide loss.”

Here are the details of the event from Victims to Victory:

Families will gather at 6:00 pm for dinner. The Candlelight Service will begin at 7:00 pm.

Among the official guests will be Police Director Mike Rallings, who will address the hundreds expected to attend. A message of hope and encouragement from Pastor Steve Young will be followed by the candlelighting ceremony and the remembrance of victims. Kevin Davidson will be the special musical guest.

This service will provide survivors an opportunity for a shared remembrance of their loved ones, while promoting fellowship and hope. Anyone wanting to show support is invited to attend this moving ceremony at 7:00 pm. The Shelby County Crime Victims Center will co-host along with Victims to Victory.

What's Up With #ThanksgivingInJail?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 10:00 AM

The Shelby County Criminal justice Center at 201 Poplar. - GOOGLE MAPS
  • Google Maps
  • The Shelby County Criminal justice Center at 201 Poplar.

So, why are some of your Facebook friends checking in at 201 Poplar on Thanksgiving?

Maybe it’s criminal activity, but it’s most likely not.

They’re checking in there to draw attention to the fact that hundreds of inmates at the Shelby County Jail won’t be home for the holiday this year. Many have been stranded in the jail as county officials attempt to install a new computer system for the jail and the court system.

Thousands checked in recently at Standing Rock Native American Reservation a few weeks ago to show solidarity with those there protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Just City, a criminal justice reform advocacy group in Memphis, started the check-in here and asked Facebook users to use the hashtag #ThanksgivingInJail. The group joined a class-action lawsuit last week to spur action on the technology update and get inmates moving more freely through the jail and the courts.

“[The social media campaign], will help remind people that while many of us are celebrating this day with loved ones and family, there are hundreds of individuals in the jail who should be free, but aren’t,” said Kerry Hayes, a consultant for Just City.

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office did not respond to a query from the Flyer Tuesday on whether or not government officials and contractors would be working through the Thanksgiving holiday to ready the new computer system.

Report: Crime Rate Up But Lower Than 2006

Posted By on Thu, Nov 24, 2016 at 9:00 AM

  • Weirich

New numbers from the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission show that the major violent crime rate continued to be slightly above those recorded during the same time last year but lower than a decade ago.

From January 2016 to October 2016, there were 1, 530.7 major violent crimes (murders, robberies, rapes, and aggravated assaults) per 100,000 people in Memphis. For Shelby County during the same time, there were 1,162.2 crimes.
The figures are up slightly form the same time period last year (4.2 percent down in the county, 3 percent down in the city). However, both figures are down from 2006 (14.4 percent down in the county, 11.1 down in the city).

The area’s murder rate (the amount of murders per 100,000 people) was up around 25 percent in both the county and the city, according to the figures the commission gathers from the Tennessee bureau of Investigation.

“The number of murders continues to be of major concern,” said Bill Gibbons, president of the Crime Commission and executive director of the University of Memphis Public Safety Institute. “And, far too often, robberies and aggravated assaults can escalate into murders.” 
  • Gibbons

Law enforcement leaders unveiled the brand new version of the OperationL Safe Community plan last week. The plan outlines new initiatives to reduce violent crime by 30 percent, property crime by 30 percent, and the overall crime rate here by 25 percent, all in the next five years.

“Our big challenge is to develop and maintain a downward trend in our major violent crime rate,” said Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich. “That is a primary focus of our new Operation: Safe Community crime plan.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

On the Scene at the Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 2:33 PM

Loads of fun at this annual con.

Memphis Pets of the Week (Nov. 24-30)

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2016 at 11:56 AM

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.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

First Community Listening Sessions With Department of Justice Announced

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 3:38 PM

  • Department of Justice
The Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has announced their first two community listening sessions, to be held Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

The community meetings are part of a lengthy DOJ review of the Memphis Police Department's community policing policies and policies regarding the use of deadly force. Citizens are encouraged to attend and voice their concerns with representatives from the COPS office.

The partnership of the MPD and the COPS program was announced last month by Chief Noble Wray with the COPS office, Memphis mayor Jim Strickland, U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III, and MPD director Michael Rallings, who all emphasized that the partnership was sought by Memphis officials.

At the time, Rallings said of the decision, "We want to improve. And, in order to improve... you have to open yourself up.

The first community meeting is at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Midtown, on November 29 from 6:00p.m.-9:00p.m.. The second meeting is on November 30, at the Hickory Hill Community Center from 5:00-8:00 p.m.

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