Friday, September 29, 2017

New Push Seeks to Lower HIV Rates

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 2:51 PM

  • Facebook - Get PrEP Tennessee

State officials launched a program in Shelby County recently to more widely spread an anti-HIV drug here to help curb the area’s high rate of virus and to, ultimately, “bring and end to AIDs.”

The Memphis metro area ranked eighth in the country last year for the diagnosis of HIV and the number of people living with the disease. Diagnoses are highest in the South, disproportionately affecting black men.

The campaign aims to get more people taking a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV prevention drug. Taking one pill per day, the drug block the virus from taking hold and spreading through the body.

The campaign was launched by the Tennessee Department of Health and the Memphis Ryan White Part A Program in collaboration with Project PrIDE through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If you’re HIV-negative, PrEP is a simple addition to your daily routine that can help you protect yourself without having to drastically change your lifestyle,” said Jessie Claudio, a PrEP Navigator with OutMemphis. “Anyone considering PrEP should contact a local Navigator.”

Navigators work through the program to screen potential PrEP users and then “navigate” them to the drug, which is only available by prescription. Claudio said Navigators can help candidates find local health care providers, and help them buy the drug even if they don’t have insurance.

In Shelby County, there are five Navigator organizations funded through Project PrIDE as part of the Get PrEP TN campaign: Friends for Life, Le Bonheur Community Health and Well-Being, OutMemphis, Partnership To End AIDS Status, and The Haven.

To learn more about PrEP and find a Navigator, visit

City's Community Centers Have Longer Hours, More Opportunities for Youth

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 12:33 PM

A Memphis community center - CITY OF MEMPHIS
  • City of Memphis
  • A Memphis community center

In an effort to increase opportunities for youth in the city, Memphis' community centers will have extended hours, the city announced Thursday.

The city's Division of Parks and Neighborhoods' 24 community centers will be open for a combined additional 280 hours each week.

Director of Parks and Neighborhoods Maria Munoz-Blanco said the additional operating hours are cost neutral and in line with the mayor's priorities for the city's youth.

"Identifying efficiencies in our operations has enabled the increase in community centers' operating hours without additional funds, improving the services that the Parks Division provides to our community," Munoz-Blanco said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said two of his highest priorities are expanding opportunities for Memphis' youth population and enriching neighborhoods.

"Whether it be with extended library hours, more programming in our communities centers, and now these longer community center hours, our administration continues to show we're reinvesting in our young people and our neighborhoods," Strickland said. "I'm proud of the work Maria and her staff have done not only to provide these opportunities, but to do it in a way that's responsible to taxpayers."

On weekdays, the centers will be now be open until 8:00 p.m. and until 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays, enabling the launch of a youth flag football league.

State's Historical Commission Pushes Back Vote on Forrest Statue

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 10:09 AM

Crowds gathering in Health Sciences Park to support the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.
  • Crowds gathering in Health Sciences Park to support the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.

The Tennessee Historical Commission's chairman sent a letter to city officials Thursday saying that it will not vote on the waiver to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue from Health Sciences Park in Memphis at its October meeting.

Addressed to the city's attorney Bruce McMullen, the letter, from chairman Reavis Mitchell Jr. announced that the commission cannot vote on the waiver until it approves a new rule-making process.

Mitchell said the proposed rules will be voted on at the commission's Oct. 13 meeting. Because of legal provisions, the commission must pass the new set of rules before voting on any waiver requests.

This means that the earliest the commission will vote on the city's request might be at its next meeting in February 2018.

Mayor Jim Strickland issued a response to the chairman's announcement, saying that the decision was unilateral and made without a vote of the commission. 

"We are hopeful that a majority of the commission members themselves support our petition and are equally hopeful that this bureaucratic maneuver is not being used to blunt the momentum we're seeing in our city in support of our petition," Strickland said. "Memphis is as unified on this as anything we've seen...Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative ― we're all behind this."

Strickland said he will personally attend the Oct. 13 meeting to request that the 29 commissioners hear the waiver petition.

The decision to delay the vote on the city’s waiver petition comes as good news to the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV).

SCV spokesperson Lee Millar released this statement Friday:

"The Sons of Confederate Veterans is pleased with this latest ruling from the Tennessee Historical Commission concerning the proper procedure to examine Memphis’ petition to remove the Forrest Equestrian Statue.

This ruling confirms that there are laws in place regarding these procedures and that the legal process will be followed, as expected.

And we expect the City of Memphis and all its citizens to abide by the laws and the legal process.

The SCV and the Forrest family members continue to strive for the retention of all monuments and statues and the preservation of our American history."

#takeemdown901 founder Tami Sawyer and fellow activist Earle Fisher - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • #takeemdown901 founder Tami Sawyer and fellow activist Earle Fisher

However, local activist and creator of the #takeemdown901 effort, Tami Sawyer said in a Facebook 

post Thursday that there’s no surprise in the commission’s decision. “They are who we thought they were.”

"The question is," Sawyer continued, “Mayor Strickland, are you ready to unleash the dogs? Are you ready to take this statue down?”

Sawyer adds that if the Confederate statues still stand in Memphis when the city commemorates the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, then “we are the most hypocritical, unjust city in this nation.”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

DMC Looks for New CEO

Posted By on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 at 1:35 PM

  • Facebook - Downtown Memphis Commission

The Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) kicked off its search for a new president and CEO Thursday issuing a long list of personal and professional qualifications.

Jennifer Oswalt, the DMC’s chief financial officer, was asked to fill the president/CEO role on an interim basis after Terrence Patterson quickly vacated the position in July.

When a permanent replacement is found at the DMC, Oswalt will begin a new job as CEO of Contemporary Media, Inc., parent company of the Memphis Flyer.

The DMC’s application for the role bullet-points dozens of expectations for the potential hire. The DMC wants the right person to have skills and expertise in management, urban real estate, urban planning and design, government, public relations, and marketing.

As for personal traits, the DMC listed nearly two dozen traits that seem, in one way or another, to be a blend of Patterson and his predecessor, Paul Morris, who left the DMC in 2015 to join his family’s business.

The new DMC CEO should keep the bigger picture in mind at all time, reads the application. The right person will be an innovative thinker, and “treat others as they would expect to be treated.” They should be carefully spontaneous and flexible enough to to react to emerging situations and be flexible in their personal style.

As for the nitty-gritty: the new DMC chief will have at least a bachelor’s degree in urban planning, urban design, real estate development, finance, business administration, public administration, government, legal, or other professional expertise.

Also, the DMC asks applicants to have at least 10 years of experience in a position related to urban real estate development, public/private partnerships, civic or non-profit development, and have at least five years experience in a management position.

The position’s salary will be matched with their experience and qualifications.

DMC officials expect to have a new CEO by January.

City Calls for Public Feedback on its New Open Data Policy

Posted By on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 at 1:07 PM

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is asking citizens for feedback on a new open data policy, the city announced Thursday.

The new policy is in step with the mayor's stated goal of running a more accountable and transparent administration.

"When I ran for mayor, I promised to measure results, hold city government accountable, and share those results with you," Strickland said in a Facebook post. "We've been doing the by that by sharing our monthly data reviews, but with a new open data policy, we can do more."

In collaboration with What Works Cities and the Sunlight Foundation, the mayor's Office of Performance Management drafted the new policy aimed at driving a more open city government and improving the public's ability to track the city's goals and progress.

According to the draft, the purpose of the new policy is to increase the amount of data available to the public, while providing more tools to understand and interpret the data.

The draft version of the new data policy can be viewed here. Comments will be accepted through the end of October.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

House Committee Wants More Services, More TBI Agents to Fight Opioids

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 3:13 PM

  • Justin Fox Burks
A Tennessee House committee wants more money for opioid addiction treatment, recovery schools in each Grand Division, 25 more Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) agents, and more to help combat the state’s growing opioid crisis.

Close to 2,000 Tennesseans died of opioid overdoses last year, well over the national average, according to state documents.

Last year, Tennessee had 9.7 deaths per capita associated with the use of natural opioids, like morphine and codeine, and synthetic opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone. The national average of these kinds of drug deaths was 3.9 per capita last year.

In January, House Speaker Beth Harwell created the House Ad Hoc Task Force on Opioid Abuse to meet this summer, hear from experts and stakeholders, and devise strategies to lower opioid use here.

“Substance use disorder is a complex issue, and the challenge in Tennessee is immense,” said Rep. Curtis Johnson, the committee’s chairman and House Speaker Pro Tempore. “All three branches must work together to advance a comprehensive approach.”

Opioid use, crime, arrests, drug seizures, and overdoses are highest in East Tennessee, according to a new study by the Tennessee Department of Health. Those are all small, though existent, in West Tennessee.

This graphic shows the amount of the population that uses high doses of opioids on a daily basis. - TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
  • Tennessee Department of Health
  • This graphic shows the amount of the population that uses high doses of opioids on a daily basis.

Opioid deaths are higher in rural areas. Heroin overdose deaths are highest in urban areas, according to the study.

The eight-member committee devised 24 recommendations to Harwell. The recommendation came under three broad categories of treatment, prevention, and policy.

The top recommendation was to ask Gov. Bill Haslam for more money in next year’s budget for substance abuse services from non-profits, faith-based organizations, or local governments. The members want to increase drug screenings, detox programs, family interventions, and more.

The members would also like to pilot a program that would put recovery schools in each Grand Divisions of the state. These are secondary schools for students with substance abuse issues. Members said vacant state properties could house the schools.

Also, the committee recommended more access to recovery courts, and to drugs that can help stop an overdose in an emergency situation.

“Addiction is a treatable disease, reduce the stigma.” That’s one of the top recommendations from the committee for preventing opioid abuse.

That’s part of a multi-faceted public awareness campaign to help educate the public on the problem. Committee members would also set up a hotline and web access for drug information. The State Board of Education would write lesson plans about opioid abuse and promoting healthy lifestyles.

New legislation could give patients the option to only partially fill prescriptions for some drugs and limit the number of days such drugs could be prescribed to 10.

A new Tennessee Commission to Combat Drug Abuse would be established and meet quarterly to review programs and trends and to make further recommendations to lawmakers.

The committee would also add 25 TBI agents “to combat the opioid epidemic.” Funds would be increased to enhance penalties and enforcement efforts on opioid offenses.

Pain clinics would not treat walk-in patients; they would have to have a referral from a physician.

Also, grants would be given to to local governments and nonprofits to start opioid treatment and prevention initiatives across the state.

MATA Board Appoints Gary Rosenfeld as Permanent CEO

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 2:01 PM

Gary Rosenfeld
  • Gary Rosenfeld

The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) board of commissioners formally appointed Gary Rosenfeld as MATA's new chief executive officer on Tuesday.

Rosenfeld has served as the interim CEO since January and according to MATA leadership, since then he's managed to begin leading a strategic vision in partnership with the board, while building relationships with stakeholder groups in the community.

Additionally, he was able to negotiate a labor agreement with unionized MATA employees who are a part of the Amalgamated Transit Union 713.

"I am thankful for the opportunity to be named to lead MATA as its permanent chief executive officer and I look forward to continuing to making improvements to our public transportation system," Rosenfeld said. "We are in the process of strategically building a successful transit future for MATA and I am honored to be given the opportunity to guide the organization at this critical time."

With over 30 years of experience in transit, Rosenfeld is responsible for nationally recognized transportation programs at Yosemite National Park. He's also served as the director of operations at Laidlaw Transit Services, which provides public transit, as well as school and charter transportation to 21 agencies, school districts, and governing boards.

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Memphis Pets of the Week (Sept. 28-Oct. 4)

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 10:16 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, September 26, 2017

Kitchen Will Train Minority Business Owners in Binghampton

Posted By on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 at 3:54 PM

Kaleidoscope Kitchen will soon train minority food entrepreneurs in Binghampton thanks to a new, $200,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation.

The kitchen will give them access to commercial kitchen facilities and small business training. The program will also offer minority entrepreneur-provided catering services and host an annual Kaleidoscope Food Festival.

The grant will be administered through the Binghampton Development Corporation (BDC). Noah Gray, BDC executive director, said the grant will improve the lives of area residents.

"We are excited to work with our neighbors to provide a relevant response to decades of urban plight and disinvestment that have kept Binghampton residents at the margins," said Gray.

Partners in the program include EPIcenter Memphis, Caritas Village, Refugee Empowerment Program, World Relief Memphis, Wiseacre Brewing Company, Broad Ave Arts District, and Community LIFT.

The BDC is one of 23 organizations from across the country that got a grant through Kresge's Fresh, Local & Equitable (FreshLo) initiative, which supports neighborhood-scale projects leveraging healthy food and creative placemaking for equitable economic development.

Memphis 3.0 Kicks off its Transit Vision Process, Seeks Public Input

Posted By on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 at 11:46 AM

Stakeholders mapping out their ideal transit network for Memphis - MEMPHIS 3.0 - FACEBOOK
  • Memphis 3.0 - Facebook
  • Stakeholders mapping out their ideal transit network for Memphis
The city, in partnership with the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) and Innovate Memphis is kicking off the Memphis 3.0 transit vision planning process.

Working with transit consultant group, Jarrett Walker + Associates, the city will engage in conversations with the community to determine what they value in public transit and what they hope for the future of Memphis' transit system.

After an initial assessment of the city's transit system, JWA staff produced a comprehensive report of their findings. In short, the report shows that services are well spread out, but don't run nearly often enough, making it "useless" for many, says Scudder Wagg of JWA.

He says the low density of the city's dispersed population makes it harder to serve in a cost-effective way.

This is why over the next few weeks the city's first phase of community engagement aims to determine if the public values high frequency or high coverage service.

Wagg says this means people have to decide if they want buses that come every 15 minutes only on main streets or buses that come once every hour but stop on side streets as well. He says it's a matter of choosing to "walk or wait."

Interim CEO of MATA Gary Rosenfeld says it's not black and white though and that frequency and coverage may vary between different areas, depending on its needs.

"We will make sure the network is adapted to the values that are identified," he said.

After public outreach, including electronic surveys and community meetings, in November, in order to make the range of choices clearer to the public, the planning team will draft maps of three different network concepts — a high frequency one, high coverage one, as well as the current network.

Wagg says JWA should have a draft transit plan ready in the early part of 2018.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Former Chef Convicted in Child Abuse Case

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 3:18 PM

  • Shelby County Sheriff's Office
  • Doty

A former Memphis chef with a history of violent behavior was convicted Monday of breaking his then-three-month-old son’s skull in 2015, according to District Attorney General Amy Weirich.

A criminal court jury convicted Jason Doty, 45, of reckless aggravated assault. The conviction carries two to four years in prison.

Since the victim was under age eight, Doty will face sentencing guidelines for aggravated child neglect, which could be 15 to 25 years without the possibility for parole when he is sentenced in November by Judge Lee Coffee.

Here’s how Weirich’s office described the events:

“The incident occurred the morning of March 30, 2015, at the residence in the 4500 block of Amboy Road near Cherry Road and Quince Road.

Doty told officials the baby fell off a changing table onto the hardwood floor, but doctors testified that the baby’s injuries could not have been caused by a fall.
One doctor said the injuries were caused by blunt force trauma to the head not consistent with a fall, while another doctor, an ophthalmologist, said retinal hemorrhages in the child’s eyes were the result of child abuse.”

The case was handled by ADAs Dru Carpenter and Cavett Ostner of the DA’s Special Victims Unit, which prosecutes cases of child sexual abuse, severe physical abuse of child victims, rape and aggravated rape of adult victims, and the abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults.

Doty has a long history of assaulting women. He has been arrested for assault three times in Shelby County since 2004 and once in Texas.

His most notable offense was in the Cooper-Young home he shared with his girlfriend in 2013. Doty flew into a rage after the woman asked if he’d dropped a sugar container. He choked the woman, slapped her in the face, and knocked her down. She locked herself in a bathroom but Doty broke in and continued to assault her there.

Doty was once a baker at Bluff City Coffee. He attempted to open the Sweetlife Bakery in Cooper Young in 2011.

Bike Share Program Seeks Director

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 12:13 PM

  • Explore Bike Share - Facebook

As Explore Bike Share (EBS), the bike share system bringing 600 bikes to the city in the spring, is getting off of the ground, its board of directors are looking for an executive director to run the program.

The director will be responsible for strategic and operational responsibilities of planning, implementing, and operating the new network of bikes in the city.

Some of the duties include, overseeing daily operations, fund development, community engagement, managing finances, marketing, and business planning.

The aim of EBS is to provide equitable access to transit throughout Memphis' central loop. It's set to launch in spring 2018 with approximately 60 bike stations in downtown, Midtown, South Memphis, Orange Mound, and Binghamton.

The board says the executive director will "lead the charge" toward making Memphis' public spaces more accessible to a larger number of people in the city.

Applications will be accepted through Oct. 13. Interested in applying, go here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Shelby County Recruits for a Volunteer Disaster Relief Team

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 2:33 PM


In light of recent hurricanes and other natural disasters devastating parts of the country and surrounding areas, the Shelby County Office of Preparedness (SCOP) is recruiting a team of volunteers to help out in local emergency situations.

The team will serve in the Reserve Program and will be trained in all aspects of emergency preparedness to be able to provide assistance during natural disasters or other serious emergencies, as well as help with public disaster preparedness training through community outreach.

Director of SCOP, Dale Lane says September is always a month designated for reminding citizens to be prepared, but its proven to be even more crucial in recent weeks.

"...this September, following epic hurricanes with record breaking flooding in Texas and Louisiana and the powerful earthquakes that shook Mexico…we need no reminder that personal preparedness can save lives," Dale said.

Additionally, next month SCOP will offer free public training, instructing on what to do before, during, and after a disaster. The training includes lectures, videos, and hands-on exercises on various aspects of preparedness, such as first-aid, fire suppression, and what to do during a terrorist attack.

The next class is scheduled for Oct. 28, followed by a second session on Nov. 4. Both workshops are planned to run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

More information about the Reserve team or preparedness classes is here.

Suit Targets 'Destructive' Drivers License Policy

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 10:54 AM

Just City's executive director Josh Spickler calls the policy "failed" and "destructive." - JUST CITY
  • Just City
  • Just City's executive director Josh Spickler calls the policy "failed" and "destructive."

Just City and others filed a class action lawsuit last week to stop Tennessee’s practice of suspending drivers licenses because drivers could not pay traffic tickets.

The practice criminalizes poverty and disproportionately affects African Americans, according to Just City. In Tennessee, African-American drivers are four times more likely to lose their licenses for not paying traffic tickets than white drivers, Just City said.

The Memphis nonprofit criminal justice reform agency was joined on the suit by attorneys from Civil Rights Corps, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ), and the law firm Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz.

The groups contend the suspensions happen without basic constitutional protections, like giving drivers adequate notice of the suspension or allowing them a hearing to give reasons why they aren’t able to pay the fines.
“When applied to people like our clients – who did not pay only because they could not pay —these suspensions are fundamentally unfair,” said Claudia Wilner, senior attorney at NCLEJ.

The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville.
It names David Purkey, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner, as the primary defendant but also the court clerks in Rutherford and Wilson Counties and the clerks of Lebanon and Mt. Juliet.

The suit asks the state to end the practice and to resinstate the drivers licenses of about 250,000 who lost them because they couldn’t afford to pay traffic tickets.

Here’s what Just City executive director Josh Spickler said of the practice:

“I see the destructive nature of this failed public policy nearly every day. Already struggling against poor mass transit and limited job opportunities in their neighborhoods, people are forced to drive across town to find work.

“Getting caught means hundreds of dollars in costs and fines and potentially jail. Not driving means not working.

“This destructive public policy does nothing except erode our workforce and criminalize poverty. We look forward to challenging this law in court and bringing some much-needed relief to Tennessee’s working families.”

To read more, go here.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Supreme Court Steps In on Fayette Church Matter

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 3:53 PM

Temple Church of God in Christ - GOOGLE MAPS
  • Google Maps
  • Temple Church of God in Christ

A Tennessee Supreme Court ruling Thursday will help determine who should be the pastor of a Fayette County church.

A disagreement arose in 2011 between the members the Moscow-based Temple Church of God in Christ and its parent group, the Memphis-based Church of God in Christ (COGIC). The two organizations differed on who should be Temple’s pastor.

The disagreement boiled into a dispute over the control and ownership of the church property. Some members of Temple barred the person COGIC assigned as pastor from entering the building or administering the church, according to a statement from the court.

COGIC filed suit in 2015 hoping to declare that it owned the building and had control over it. The trial court dismissed the suit, concluding that the property despite would, ultimately, force it to determine who the church’s pastor would be.

The trial court ruled that deciding an internal, religious matter like that was prohibited by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Court of Appeals in Jackson affirmed the trial court’s decision in 2016.

However, the Tennessee Supreme Court overruled those decisions Thursday. It said courts could and should resolve church property disputes “so long as courts defer to religious organizations on disputes about church discipline, faith, ecclesiastical rule, custom, law, church polity, or the internal governance of the religious organization.”

So, the court deferred to COGIC as to who should be the rightful pastor of the church in Fayette County.

“As for the property dispute, the Supreme Court enforced the language in COGIC’s governing documents which stated that local churches, like the Fayette County church, held their property in trust for COGIC,” the court statement reads. “Because the Fayette County church had voluntarily associated with and agreed to be bound by these governing documents when it joined COGIC, the Supreme Court concluded that COGIC was the rightful owner of the Fayette County church’s real and personal property.”

The Supreme Court sent the matter back to a trial court to work out any final details of giving COGIC ownership of the church.

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