Thursday, March 12, 2009

Notre Dame Glee Club Sings in Germantown Thursday

Posted By on Thu, Mar 12, 2009 at 4:00 AM

The Notre Dame Club of Memphis is presenting a concert by the Notre Dame Glee Club in Memphis tonight at 7:00 PM. The concert is at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Germantown at 2300 Hickory Crest Drive.

For more information about the concert, please contact Dave McManus at The concert is free and the public is welcome.

City Considering Options Other than Overton Park Detention Basin

Posted on Thu, Mar 12, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Last night, city engineer Wain Gaskins told VECA members and citizens concerned about a detention basin in Overton Park that the city was evaluating other alternatives. The proposed basin is to alleviate flooding in nearby Midtown neighborhoods.

However, Gaskins also said that people had several misconceptions about the detention basin. For instance, it "doesn't collect debris the way some people think it does." And that the Overton Park greensward already has an 18-foot elevation difference.

He also noted that Second Presbyterian Church's soccer field is a detention basin and they haven't had any problems with it.

Residents at the meeting were not convinced by his assurances.

One asked about the depth of the Second Pres. basin. Gaskins replied it was three to four feet. Another detention basin at CBU is going to be six to eight feet deep.

To read more, visit Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff blog.

Rails to Trails

Posted on Thu, Mar 12, 2009 at 4:00 AM

A few years ago, the new "beachfront" property in Atlanta was along 22 miles of railway corridors that circled the city.

"Property values increased almost overnight," said Jim Langford, principal creator of Atlanta's Beltline initiative and president of MillionMile Greenway. "As soon as the Trust for Public Land announced where the new park were going to be, developers immediately began scouring locations around those parks.

"A market was created for property that previously had been old warehouses and abandoned lots. A lot of them were eyesores and had been on the market for 15 years," he said.

Langford was the featured speaker at ULI Memphis' Transformative Roles of Greenways event last night at CBU. Other panelists included Shelby Farms Conservancy's Laura Adams, the RDC's Benny Lendermon, and Kathleen Williams with Tennessee Parks and Greenways.

The Beltline project, which took abandoned railway corridors and transformed them into greenways and touches 47 neighborhoods, proves that green space adds economic value to a community. But that's not all.

"No matter what lens you look through," Langford said, "people see this as a success."

To read more, visit Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff blog.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Woman Goes to Heaven; Returns 5 Hours Later

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 4:00 AM

The Reverend Paul Grubb was laid to rest in Memorial Park on Monday afternoon. Brother Grubb, as his many followers and friends called him, had been the pastor of Faith Temple on North Trezevant for more than half a century. He was also married to the Rev. Lula Grubb, and the obituary in The Commercial Appeal made no mention of his wife's remarkable adventure -- one that made her a national sensation in the late 1940s.

Lura Grubb died and visited heaven for five hours. More on the fascinating Mrs. Grubb at Vance Lauderdale's blog.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Federal Judge Throws Out Latest "Obama's Not A Citizen" Lawsuit

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2009 at 4:00 AM

From the AP: "A federal judge on Thursday threw out a lawsuit questioning President Barack Obama's citizenship, lambasting the case as a waste of the court's time and suggesting the plaintiff's attorney may have to compensate the president's lawyer.

"In an argument popular on the Internet and taken seriously practically nowhere else, Obama's critics argue he is ineligible to be president because he is not a 'natural-born citizen' as the Constitution requires."

Obviously, the far-right nutjobs will argue he's just another judge on the take, covering up the massive evidence that Obama was born in Kenya. Oh wait, there is no such evidence.

Read the rest of the AP story here.

Controversial Plan for Overton Park?

Posted on Fri, Mar 6, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Longtime activist and Vollintine-Evergreen resident Mary Wilder calls her neighborhood "the kink in the hose."

"We get a lot of flooding. [Lick Creek] makes a 90 degree angle at Auburndale and the water comes flying through there," she says. "Back in August, we had trucks and cars on the street and the water was up to their steering wheels."

"It was a phenomenal amount of rain, I'll give you that, but you're supposed to plan for that."

To mitigate Midtown's storm water problem, the city of Memphis is considering installing a detention basin ... in the middle of Overton Park's greensward.

And that has eyebrows raised with community groups and involved parties.

To read more, visit Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff blog.

Two Memphis Singers Make American Idol Finals

Posted on Fri, Mar 6, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Alexis Grace and Lil Rounds, two soulful mamas from Memphis, will be bringing it to American Idol ‘s whopping huge national TV audience as the chart-topping contest for aspiring singers heads into the countdown for its eighth season on Fox (Channel 13, locally). After the auditions and initial elimination rounds, both are to be counted in the Top 13 finalists, and both are favorites of both fans and judges already.

Rounds was selected by call-in voters as one of three finalists from the 12 members in Idol’s Group III, who were televised in competition this week. Grace was one of the here contestants selected from Group I, who competed two weeks ago. From this point on, if the show observes its usual format, one singer — the person polling the fewest call-in votes — will be voted out each week.

Both Grace, who did a bluesy version of “I Never Loved a Man” in her competition round, and Rounds, who belted out “Be Without You,” won rave reviews from the show’s four judges – the carry-over trio of Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul, plus a new arbiter, Tara DioGuardi.

Both Memphis entries are parents and will be juggling child-rearing duties with their weekly televised appearances.

Other finalists in this year’s American Idol competition are: Michael Sarver, Danny Gokey,
Allison Iraheta,
Kris Allen,
Adam Lambert, Scott MacIntyre, Jorge Nunez,
Jasmine Murray,
Megan Corkery, 
Matt Giraud, and 
Anoop Desai.

Murray was added by the judges from Thursday night’s “Wildcard” round, composed of eight singers who hadn’t been selected in Rounds I, II, and II, is from Columbus, Mississippi, originally.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Walk Down Foreclosure Lane

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Last weekend, realtor Jason Gaia took a handful of prospective buyers on a bus tour of foreclosed properties.

To read Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff column on the subject, pick up a copy of today's paper.

MEMPHIS (the musical) to Open on Broadway

Posted By on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 4:00 AM

From It was announced today that MEMPHIS, a new musical about the birth of rock 'n' roll in the turbulent 50s which recently played a critically acclaimed and sold-out engagement at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, is aiming to open on Broadway in the fall of 2009.

Based on a concept by George W. George (producer of the Tony nominated Bedroom Farce and film: My Dinner With Andre), MEMPHIS features a book & lyrics by Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change), and music & lyrics by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan, in his Broadway debut. The new musical is directed by Tony nominee Christopher Ashley (Xanadu) and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys).

"Our audience went crazy for Memphis. Not since Hairspray had we seen this kind of response to a brand new musical. Memphis's combination of dynamic music, exciting staging, and moving story really got Seattle buzzing about the show -- and they haven't stopped yet," said David Armstrong, Producing Artistic Director of Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre.

More here.

Big Bucks for Bankers and Brokers

Posted on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Bankers and brokers at Memphis banks should be able to make ends meet for another year of the recession, thanks to compensation packages disclosed this week.

Birmingham-based Regions Financial, which got $3.5 billion in the U.S. Treasury bank bailout, was especially generous, even though its stock price has fallen from $35 in 2006 to $3.20 this week.

According to the proxy statement made public Tuesday, Regions President and CEO C. Dowd Ritter received total compensation of $9,261,865 in 2008. In 2007, he earned $7,713,138. In 2006 he earned $18,433,987. His three-year haul: $35,408,990.

Ritter is eligible for retirement. For better or worse, he didn’t. Had he retired at the end of 2008, his annual benefit would be $2,311,118, according to the proxy.

The highest-paid Regions employee for 2008 was Memphian Douglas Edwards, former CEO of Morgan Keegan, a division of Regions since being acquired several years ago. Edwards left Regions in 2008. His total 2008 compensation, some of which was dictated by prior agreements with Morgan Keegan, was $10,085,834.

Over at Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank, CEO James M. Wells III earned total compensation of $5,450,214 in 2008. His three-year haul: $15,026,578. SunTrust got $4.9 billion in the bailout. Its stock price has fallen from $84 in 2006 to $11 this week.

The full proxy statements can be viewed on the companies' websites. Compensation is approved by a committee of outside board members who are paid $80,000 to $100,000 a year for their wisdom and trouble.

The bailout -- technically the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 -- is supposed to impose limits on executive compensation, so for banks it's a matter of getting it while the getting is good. From the Regions proxy: "At this time, the compensation standards under AARA have not yet been developed. However, we expect the standards will require a substantial alteration to our compensation program."

Translation: The jig is almost up. Meanwhile, there’s more to come in 2009.

This note from the Regions compensation committee:

"As a result of the reduction in 2008 annual bonus and the operation of long-term plans, the compensation committee determined to award additional equity opportunities in 2009 to our senior management to provide them with the opportunity to benefit appropriately from our long-term performance."

What this means in plain English is that the top dogs are getting fresh stock options that, in contrast to the ones they earned previously, could actually be worth something in a year or two because the "strike price" or price at which the option can be exercised will be around $4 or $5 instead of $30 or more. When a stock is priced at $3, it is worth 33 percent more if the price rises $1 to $4 per share. Such price moves are not uncommon when stock prices fall below $5 a share.

Bottom line: Dowd Ritter and the gang could be sitting pretty by the end of the year, while ordinary shareholders wait for Regions to climb back to $25 or $35 a share.

--by John Branston

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

City Looks at Boot, Fees for Unpaid Parking Tickets

Posted on Tue, Mar 3, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Memphis drivers may be getting the boot.

City Court Clerk Thomas Long brought the City Council's economic development committee several recommendations this morning, among them electronic pay stations, doubled fines, and the dreaded "boot," which renders a car immobile.

Long told the council the city loses $1.5 to $2 million annually in unpaid parking tickets. Under state law, the statute of limitations for parking tickets is only one year. Because many residents know that fact, they choose not to pay.

"If I park my car downtown and get a ticket, then after that I'll take my car and hide it or do whatever I need to do," Long said. "After one year, why pay?"

Long asked the council to add changing the statute of limitations to its legislative agenda bound for Nashville.

"We need more than one year to collect non-moving violations. The city of New Orleans has 10 years," Long said.

For more, visit Mary Cashiola's In The Bluff blog.

City Council Committee Approves Outlawing Roadside Animal Sales

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2009 at 4:00 AM

It's not uncommon to see roadside stands along Winchester Road peddling puppies, but a move by the Memphis City Council today went a step further in stopping the already-illegal practice.

The Parks and Neighborhood Services committee approved an ordinance banning the sale of live animals in parking lots. There's already a county ordinance in place outlawing the sale of anything in a parking lot without a permit, but the new city ordinance would prevent potential animal sellers from even obtaining a permit.

Strickland reasoned that parking lot animal sales prevent people from adopting from Memphis Animal Services.

"We want to stop [live animal sales] because we euthanize 13,000 animals every year in the city," said Strickland.

He also said that many people who buy from parking lot vendors are making "spur-of-the-moment purchases" and are thus more likely to let their animals roam the neighborhood or surrender them to the city shelter.

If the full council passes the ordinance, Memphis Police officers will be responsible for enforcement. First-time offenders will be asked to leave the property; repeat offenders could be fined up to $50 per animal for sale.

-- Bianca Phillips

AutoZone: Good Economic News For Memphis

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2009 at 4:00 AM

In this dreary economic climate, any good news is, well, great news. Memphis-based AutoZone surprised analysts by announcing better-than-expected second-quarter profits today. The stock moved to an all-time high on the news.

From Net income rose to $115.9 million, or $2.03 a share, from $106.7 million, or $1.67, a year earlier, the Memphis, Tennessee- based company said today in a statement. Sales rose 8.1 percent to $1.45 billion in the 12 weeks ended Feb. 14.

"Consumers are trying to keep their current vehicles running longer, until their confidence improves," Dave Goebel, a consultant at R.L. Polk, said. More at


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Commercial Appeal to Lay Off 23 More Guild Employees

Posted By on Sun, Mar 1, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Mark Watson, president of the Tri-Council, an association of The Commercial Appeal's three struggling unions, is trying to remain calm and realistic in the face of some very bad news. Of the 23 Guild-covered employees the CA is laying off on Monday, 18 will come from the editorial department. That's the side of the building where Watson, a past president of the Newspaper Guild, is employed.

"That could be 20 percent," [of the editorial department] he estimates roughly, not entirely trusting his numbers. "I don't know exactly ... 18 [people] is a big cut."

According to Watson, there has still been no discussion of reducing the number of days a week the CA publishes. "That's been done in Detroit," he says, noting that in December the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit Morning News cut back to three days for full publication and home delivery. Both papers announced a shift to online-first reporting and continue to offer a smaller newsstand-only issue on days when there is no home delivery.

The bad news keeps piling up for Scripps. The company froze dividend payments to its stockholders last fall. Then the CA cut 9 percent of its total staff. Two weeks ago Scripps announced the suspension of matching funds for 401-k plans and revealed in a memo to all employees that Senior executives had begun 2009 with 5 to 15 percent salary cuts.

News of more layoffs at the CA comes in conjunction with Friday's shuttering of Scripps' Pulitzer-prize winning Denver property, The Rocky Mountain News, a 150-year old daily paper.

"We understand that things are grim," Watson says.

The Newspaper Guild is planning a March workshop to help the newly unemployed find work.

-- Chris Davis

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