Monday, October 21, 2019

MLGW: Power Restoration Will be Multi-Day Process

Posted By on Mon, Oct 21, 2019 at 12:36 PM

  • MLGW

After Monday morning’s storm that brought winds of up to 65 miles per hour, Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (MLGW) officials say they are working to restore power to some 30,000 customers “as quickly and as safely as possible.”

J.T. Young, MLGW CEO and president said that the storm caused significant damage, initially leaving close to 43,000 customers without power.

Because of the large number of substations down, as well as multiple downed poles, wires, and trees, Young said that full restoration could take multiple days.

However, the goal is to restore 80 percent of lost power by midnight. Additional crews are expected to join the 42 MLGW crews already working later today to assist with the restoration process.

“There’s a lot of damage, as you might imagine, from this storm around Shelby County, really spread out across the county” Young said.

The utility still does not know the full impact of the storm and will continue to assess the damage, Young added.

“We understand it’s not convenient when we have these challenges,” Young said. “Just make sure you’re taking your time as you travel and get around the community. We’re doing the best we can to get everyone restored as quickly and as safely as possible.”

See MLGW’s video below to find out more about the restoration process.

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Greyhound Racing to End in West Memphis

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 at 1:12 PM

  • Southland Casino Racing

Live greyhound racing will end at Southland Casino Racing by December 2022, casino officials announced Thursday afternoon, in an agreement with the Arkansas Greyhound Kennel Association.

That agreement will phase out dog racing at the West Memphis race track over the next three years, beginning next year and ending no later than December 31, 2022, officials said Thursday.

The agreement was contingent on the Arkansas Racing Commission’s approval of a Southland petition that the facility was not required to continue conducting live greyhound racing in order to retain its casino license. The commission approved the petition early Thursday.

  • Southland Casino Racing

Contract talks with the kennel association were stirred as its contract with Southland was set to expire at the end of the year. Those discussions included the “the current national climate for live greyhounds racing and what that might mean to racing’s future in Arkansas.”

Southland said in a statement Thursday that greyhound racing in the United States has seen a ”marked and steady decline and now exists in only six states.” In November 2018, Florida voters passed an amendment to end greyhound racing in the state by 2021. Also, “independent polling has indicated that such an initiative would pass if placed before Arkansas voters,” according to Southland officials.
  • Southland Casino Racing
“The kennel association and Southland agreed that given these factors we needed an agreement that would provide certainty and clarity for the future by ending live racing via an orderly process and on our own terms,” said David Wolf, president and general manager of Southland Casino Racing.

Robert Thorne, president of the Arkansas Greyhound Kennel Association, said, “we want to avoid a disruptive and abrupt end to live racing to the benefit of all parties, including everyone who has a job at stake.”

The phased-out ending of greyhound racing at Southland will reduce 2019’s 6,656 races to 4,992 in 2020. In 2021, 3,994 races will be held, and that number will be reduced to 2,662 races in 2022.
  • Southland Casino Racing

Wolf said the gradual phase-out is also needed to provide a long enough period of time to accommodate the adoption of about 1,200 greyhounds that now race at Southland. Both Southland and the kennel association are strong supporters of the Mid-South Greyhound Adoption Option, which works to place retired Southland racing greyhounds in homes, the groups said.

  • Southland Casino Racing
“We know it’s going to take time to adopt out the greyhounds, and our commitment is to make sure every greyhound that has raced at Southland finds its forever home,” Wolf said.

Animal Wellness Action, a national organization promoting legal standards against cruelty, applauded the announcement Thursday.

“We applaud Southland and its parent company Delaware North for getting this deal over the finish line,” said Wayne Pacelle, founder of Animal Wellness Action (AWA). "AWA and the Center for a Humane Economy, working with GREY2K USA Worldwide, have been urging the Buffalo-based gambling and food service company that owns Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis, Arkansas to develop a plan to end racing. This is a short phase-out, and it’s good for dogs and for Southland and its reputation.”

Southland began racing greyhounds in West Memphis when it opened in 1956.

  • Southland Casino Racing

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Memphis Ghost Group Helps the Living...and the Dead

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 at 12:34 PM

  • Memphis Ghost Investigations and Spirit Rescue

A ghost at the Memphis Zoo? Yes, and there’s evidence. Mary, The Orpheum’s most famous spirit? She’s passed over. And The Woodruff-Fontaine House? It’s "filled with spirits."

All of this is according to Stephen Williams. He is a “veteran, clairsentient, paranormal investigator” and leader of the Memphis Ghost Investigations and Spirit Rescue (MGISR). The group does identify as “ghost hunters,” but they do much more than that.

“We don’t just investigate,” reads the group’s website. “We help them move on.”

  • Memphis Ghost Investigations and Spirit Rescue

In this case, “them” means spirits — ghosts — and Williams tries to help them cross over. MGISR’s motto is “investigate, educate, and rescue.” They investigate the haunting and educate the home or building owner about what it is going on. But they also educate the spirit in hopes to rescue them from whatever keeps them glued to this side of existence.

If any of this has you skeptical or scintillated, check out the evidence section of the group’s website. There, you’ll find photos and a collection of electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) of, what MGISR says, are voices of spirits either barely audible to humans or not at all.

Listen for the Halloween-perfect “oooohhh” of a ghost caught on a recorder during a late-night investigation of the Memphis Zoo, where ”paranormal activity had been witnessed multiple times by different people,” according to the group.

But this work is not just some Halloween-time spookfest for Williams and his group. They continue their work year round and never take a dime for it. For them, it’s service work, Williams said.

We talked with Williams about his work, how he educates spirits, and the scariest thing he’s witnessed in his 17 years as a paranormal investigator. — Toby Sells

Memphis Flyer: How did you get started in ghost investigations?

Stephen Williams:
I got involved in 2002. I was working here with these two ladies. This is before everything became really popular on TV, like on Ghost Hunters.
In 2002, I was in St. Augustine, Florida on a family vacation and took some photos on our ghost tour. I didn't know anything about it, and sent those photos to a couple of ladies who had a website here. At the time it was called Ghost Stalkers of West Tennessee.

We exchanged emails and eventually they asked me to start accompanying them. About that time is when we we got invited into people's homes. 
  • Memphis Ghost Investigations and Spirit Rescue
  • Williams

About 2006, those two ladies retired from it.

I changed the name to Memphis-Midsouth Ghost Hunters I was in charge of that organization. It ran continuously until earlier last year. I took a little break because of some personal things.

Then, I started this new organization. I just renamed it to the current name and found some really gifted mediums to work with. That’s what sets us apart from everybody else.

MF: Did you see something on those St. Augustine photos? What made you send them in to the two original ladies?

SW: It was what looked like an orb, a streaking orb. I didn't know anything about any of that at that time. So, I got back to the ladies that were running that website.
They said, go in your backyard and find where a spider has spun a little strand from the tree down to the ground. Take a picture. Sure enough, there was that same effect. But it left me intrigued.

I started going out to a local cemetery and just sitting there with a recorder and I got a voice. That just kept me going. It was up around Millington.

MF: Any idea what the voice said?

SW: It sounded like a child. I don't remember exactly. I have recorded so many (electronic voice phenomena — EVP) over the years. I don't remember exactly what it was. It was like a word or two. But it was definitely there. There was no one there with me. It was totally quiet. There was a voice.

What pushed you into getting more involved in that work?

SW: The people that contacted us were really terrified. They were perplexed. They didn't understand what was going on. It was affecting their lives.

In the beginning, I didn't know a whole lot about how to help any spirits that were at a locale that we visited. But I became more acquainted with people, and discovered methods of my own, and learned from others.

When we go into a place, we're going to communicate with whoever [spirit] is there. We're going to find out why they're there, who they are. Then we try to get them moving on to the next phase of their existence.

It helps everybody. It helps those lost souls and helps the people that are having disturbances. All that stops. Their lives go back to normal. So, everybody wins.

MF: So, that's one of the payoffs. You really do get to help people on both sides of the plane?

SW: Absolutely. We don't do like the guys on TV. They go in and collect a bunch of evidence and then leave with all the same things going on.
Evidence is not a huge part of (the work) for me anymore. Within the first year, I got definitive proof that this is not the end of existence. There is something beyond, OK?

Our focus is on connecting with whoever's there. I am an intuitive. I can sense their energy. I can tell if it’s male or female. I can tell if they’re what we call earthbound or if they’ve crossed over.

Sometimes it's the people's loved ones on the other side that are around. They'll do things. They'll leave coins, things like that, to try to get their loved ones' attention. Usually when that occurs, there's maybe a family crisis, or the person is having some a crossroads. So, these on the other side that have already transitioned, come in to let them know that they're supported, to try to get them in touch with people like us.

MF: In your time in doing this work, what was something that either scared you or what was just so unexplainable?

SW: At one point, the group had dwindled down to me and one other person, a guy who is very intuitive. We got called to an apartment Downtown where a person had been murdered.

A guy who moved into the apartment had a really terrifying experience where he looked in the mirror and the spirit was standing behind him and actually was choking him. So, we went down there.
The spirit actually spoke out loud, which is called ”direct voice” when you can actually hear it. She was very troubled. At the time, I didn't have a lot of knowledge about how to help spirits cross over.

But during that couple of hours that we were there, the guy who had moved into the apartment became overshadowed, I guess you'd say, by the spirit. He actually passed out. That was quite dramatic.

He passed out. Fell backwards and hit his head on a wooden floor. The only way we could get him back to himself was to get him out of the apartment and down the hallway. He finally started regaining his senses. The (female spirit) basically short circuited; she was so enraged.
MF: What are some of the techniques you use now to help spirits cross over?

SW: I work with very gifted mediums. I've been blessed to have those people come into my life. They are Jennifer and Kayla. They've been able to sense this energy since they were children. They’ve been able to communicate with spirits from a very early age. So, it's very normal for them. 
  • Memphis Ghost Investigations and Spirit Rescue
  • Kayla

We’re going into a house in a small town in Mississippi tomorrow and then going to another in Jackson, Tennessee on Sunday.

What we do is go in and visit for a little while. I will take a piece of equipment and sometimes they will interact with it. But usually, in my experience, when there are mediums on the location, they they don't waste their energy with equipment.

The mediums are clairvoyant and clairaudient, meaning they can see the energy and they can hear the thoughts of the spirits. So, they will connect with them and we'll get an idea of who's there. Then, we'll give them an opportunity to tell their story.

If they're in some traumatic loop, or something like that, we have methods of dealing with that. We also have connections to where we can call on their loved ones on the other side to come in and help them get across.

You see these people on TV, they go in at 7 p.m. or 9 p.m. and they're there overnight. Gosh, thats’ crazy. We can usually go in within two hours and take care of what needs to be done sometimes a lot less time.
  • Memphis Ghost Investigations and Spirit Rescue
  • Jennifer
So, the intuitive aspect of it is what really sets us apart from most of the groups. I think there's a few other groups around here. I'm very complimentary of what they're doing. They just may not have the firepower to really go and be effective and make a change, a positive change. That’s our goal is to help those spirits cross and to help the people get their lives back to normal.

MF: So, that’s the “spirit rescue” part of what you do, right?

SW: Right.

MF: In all of your years of doing this, about how many cases have you worked on?

SW: I would say over 1,000 or maybe more. I never kept up with it. I have been in hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of homes and public places.

I have been in a lot of the well-known, allegedly haunted places here in town. You have the Orpheum, Earnestine & Hazel’s, and Fontaine House. The Fonataine House is filled with spirits.

I have been in that house with two different mediums who both connected with Elliot. It was one of the family members. He said he stays up on the second floor, a reclusive-type energy. He's not interested in leaving the place.

You can talk to them. You can counsel them. You can explain that they don't have to be here, but they have free will. So, they can make the choice.

The most famous Memphis spirit, I guess, is Mary at The Orpheum. What do you make of that one?

SW: I got invited down there one time and I had a very gifted medium with me. We feel like she crossed over because we talked to her. We were able to communicate with her and we feel like she did cross over.

We have not been back there since then to actually do a check. But when we called on her loved ones, some did come. I felt like she did release at that time.

She may come back. In my experience, what happens is when they cross over — even in people's homes — they're in a different vibration. They're at a higher vibration. Sometimes, they’ll just come around as protectors or to just to say thank you or that type of thing. 
  • Memphis Ghost Investigations and Spirit Rescue

They don't usually stay long. So, (Mary) may pop up here and there. But she's not in that vibration of what we call earthbound.

MF: Finally, I know this is kind of a Halloween topic. But your group does this year round. It’s not just a Halloween thing for you.

SW: Oh, yes. This is year round.

You can go into somewhere — and you don't have to go during “dead hour” or whatever they say on TV, which is such baloney. Spirits are there 24/7. People have experiences at all times of the day and night.

So, we can go into the home (and have gone into homes) at like at eight or nine o'clock in the morning, because it was the only time we could schedule. And we were able to connect and to do the work that we needed to do.

MF: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
SW: Just to emphasize to people that we do not charge. This is service work for us.
In my 17 years, I've had people offer me money. I always tell them that I support (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital). If you want to say thank you, make a donation. People normally do that.

Our motto is investigate, educate, and rescue. We’re going to investigate to see what's going on. Then, we educate not only the homeowner about what is going on and what we can do, but also the spirits.

We're going to counsel any spirits we find there and explain to them that they don't have to stay here. It's really a roadblock for them to stay. That’s the rescue, of course. Our goal is to rescue anyone who's there and help them move on to better to better existence.
  • Memphis Ghost Investigations and Spirit Rescue

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'Never to Return': Greenspace Wants Confederate Statues Out of Shelby County

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 at 12:27 PM

Former site of the Forrest statue
  • Former site of the Forrest statue

The group that removed Confederate statues from city parks here in 2017, said Thursday it is looking to permanently relocate them outside of Shelby County.

The move comes after the Supreme Court of Tennessee denied a petition from the Sons of Confederate Veterans on Wednesday. The group hoped to get a review of its case against the city of Memphis for the removal of the city’s Confederate monuments.

The statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, along with a bust of Confederate Capt. Harvey Mathes, were all removed in 2017 and have been stored in an undisclosed location since.

Now, Van Turner, president of Memphis Greensapce, Inc, the non-profit that bought the two city parks where the monuments stood, said the organization is looking to get the statues out of Shelby County, “never to return.”

This week’s decision by the state Supreme Court effectively ends the litigation surrounding the statues, Turner said. Now, the Geenspace will “entertain conversations with a number of entities” to transfer the monuments in an “appropriate way.”

Turner said whatever entity the monuments are transferred to will be asked to sign an agreement that prohibits the monuments from returning to the county.

“That’s our main focus right now,” Turner said.

The group’s next focus will be the gravesites of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife, which still remain in Health Sciences Park near the former site of the Forrest equestrian statue, Turner said.

Litigation surrounding the graves had been stayed pending a ruling by the state Supreme Court.

Now, the Shelby County Chancery Court will determine the fate of the graves, but for now it’s “up in the air,” Turner said.

Renovations are underway at Memphis Park
  • Renovations are underway at Memphis Park

In the meantime, Turner said Greenspace, in partnership with the Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP) and the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC), is looking to give the parks a refreshed look.

Enhancements to Memphis Park, which will be funded by Reimagining Civic Commons and were approved by the DMC’s Design Review Board in July, are already underway.

Improvements to the park include tree removal and replanting of trees, adding more benches and tables to create dining areas, and paving new trails. Lawn games and activities will also be added to the space.

The idea is to create a “greener, leafier, and more natural space that does a better job connecting the Bluff Walk with the River Garden,” according to the proposal submitted to the Design Review Board.

Turner said all of the enhancements are meant to make the park more “user-friendly.”

“The parks are symbols,” Turner said. “Do we have challenges? Yes. Is there a painful history there? Yes. Can we overcome those challenges? Yes. Can we return something that was negative in many respects into a positive that shows Memphis and Shelby County can move forward in a unified way? The proof is in the pudding looking at what were already able to do with the parks. It’s a win for every citizen in Shelby County and city of Memphis.”

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Tennessee Health Department Reports First Death Related to Vaping

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 at 10:45 AM

  • Cherie Moncada |

A Tennessean has died from a vape-related lung illness, the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) reported Thursday.

This is the first reported fatality related to the use of vaping or e-cigarettes in the state.

The patient suffered from a “serious respiratory disease,” according to the TDH, which did not provide any additional information about the deceased patient.

In a Thursday statement, Dr. Lisa Piercy, Tennessee Health Commissioner, offered condolences to the family and urged Tennneseans to avoid using vapes or e-cigarettes.

“We are extremely saddened by this loss of life and extend our sincere condolences to the patient’s family,” Piercy said. “We are working with partners across the country to investigate these cases of vaping-associated illnesses in Tennessee, and recommend Tenneseans consider refraining from using e-cigarettes or vaping while this investigation is underway.”

To date there have been 53 reported cases of lung illnesses related to vaping in Tennessee, according to the TDH. Most of the patients are adolescents and young adults. There have been 1,299 cases across the country, leading to a total of 26 deaths, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating a cluster of pulmonary disease among people who use vapes or e-cigarettes.

Symptoms related to the illness include cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Other symptoms may include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

At this time officials have not linked a single product, substance, or chemical to all of the cases. However in many cases, patients have admitted to using a vape containing THC or tetrahydrocannabinol.

TDH is continuing to provide details about its ongoing investigation into these cases and the number of affected patients here. The numbers are updated every Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

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Station-Based Scooters to Launch in Memphis Next Week

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2019 at 9:17 AM

  • OjO

A new type of scooter is coming to Memphis next week. In partnership with Explore Bike Share, OjO is bringing 250 station-based scooters to the city.

Unlike the city’s current fleet of scooters, OjO scooters, which reach up to 18 miles per hour, give riders the option to stand or sit. Riders pay $1.25 to begin riding and an additional $.20 per minute.

The scooters will initially be docked at the following EBS stations:

• AutoZone Park

• Beale Street Landing

• Bellevue and McLemore

• Cooper and Oliver

• Crosstown Concourse

• Downtown YMCA

• Edge Triangle

• FedExForum Plaza

• Front and Court

• Front and Vance

• Hudson Transit Center

• Loflin Yard

• Madison and Avalon

• Madison and Cleveland

• Madison and Manassas

• Madison and Marshall

• Main and Adams

• Main and Talbot

• Main and Union

• Marshall and Monroe

• McLean and Poplar

• Memphis Convention Center

• Memphis Zoo

• Mississippi and Walker

• Overton Square

• Peabody and McLean

• Second and Beale

• Southern College of Optometry

• Tennessee and G.E. Patterson

EBS will assume the daily maintenance and operations of the scooters.

“They’re disciplined, thoughtful, and safety-focused like us,” EBS executive director Trey Moore said of OjO. “We’re partnering with OjO to provide on-the-ground management while missionally growing shared mobility for all of Memphis. We’ll be able to create shared mobility hubs throughout our service area.”

The scooters will launch Wednesday, October 23rd at the Cleveland Street Flea Market. Volunteers are needed to ride the scooters to stations around the city. Participants will get free breakfast from Curb Market, a free annual EBS pass, one $5 OjO pass, and a free helmet. The event begins at 10 a.m.

Memphis is the third city — after Austin and Dallas — to receive OjO scooters.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

State Supreme Court Denies Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Petition to Review Lower Courts’ Decision

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 3:56 PM

Minutes before Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue was removed from Health Sciences Park
  • Minutes before Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue was removed from Health Sciences Park

The Supreme Court of Tennessee denied the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ (SCV) petition to review the dismissal of its case against the city of Memphis for the removal of three confederate monuments from former city-owned parks.

The SCV sought a temporary injunction in 2018 to preserve the monuments that were removed in 2017 by Memphis Greenspace, the nonprofit that purchased the two Memphis parks and subsequently removed the statues.

Last year, the Davidson County Chancery Court determined that the monuments were no longer on public property and therefore were not covered under the Tennessee Historical Protection Act (THPA) of 2013.

The court also determined that the city acted legally in its efforts to remove the monuments.

That decision was upheld first in June by the Tennessee Court of Appeals and then again this week by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Here is what the city’s chief legal officer, Bruce McMullen said about the court’s decision:

“We’re pleased with the Supreme Court’s denial of the application of the Sons of Confederate Veterans petition to review the dismissal of this case in the lower Courts. This decision effectively ends this litigation and allows Memphis Greenspace to relocate the statues to an appropriate venue outside of Shelby County. Every decision the city of Memphis has made throughout this process has been thoughtful and most importantly, legal.”

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Raymond James Wins Tax Break to Move From Downtown

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 3:36 PM

  • Raymond James

A company that saw record-setting, multi-billion-dollar revenues and record-setting, multi-million profits in 2018, won’t have to pay full taxes for its new operations in Memphis over the next eight years.

Raymond James Financial won a $3.2 million payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) deal from the Memphis and Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) Wednesday for a project to move its Memphis operation from Downtown to East Memphis.

The vote was unanimously approved by EDGE board members, with two members recusing themselves from the vote. The vote came after zero debate on the deal and only a few questions from one board member.

The broker-dealer firm will have its full tax bill partially forgiven here over the next eight years for a $23.6 million project in East Memphis. That project would add 100 employees here and yield more than $5.8 million in local taxes over the term of the agreement, according to the company.

EDGE president Reid Dulberger said the properties Raymond James will move into now yield about $670,000 each year in real and personal property taxes for the city. During the eight-year course of the PILOT, the properties will yield $805,000, which Dulberger characterized as a "tidy increase for the city and county." Once the PILOT term is finished, the property will yield $1.1 million in taxes annually, Dulberber said in his short remarks to introduce the project to the EDGE board Wednesday.

With the PILOT in hand, the Memphis facility will expand, providing service for the Private Capital Group, Equity Capital Markets, Fixed Income Markets, and maintaining a portion of the company’s back office operations.

The company said it needs to leave the iconic, step-roofed building in Downtown Memphis for a new location in East Memphis. Raymond James officials would not give any timeline as to when the 705 employees in the tower now will leave for the space in East Memphis.

Worth Morgan, the recently re-elected Memphis City Council member, hold the council's non-voting seat on the EDGE board. He said while it's hard to see companies leave Downtown Memphis, he doesn't lose sleep over the future of the Raymond James tower the way he does over properties like 100 N Main.

“Because of the deterioration of its Downtown facility, Raymond James has signed two leases to relocate its operations into a 250,000 square feet in two buildings located in East Memphis,” reads the firm’s application to EDGE. “The leases are contingent on EDGE’s approval of our PILOT application. If approved, Raymond James will add at 100 jobs at these East Memphis locations.”
Those jobs would come with a an average salary of nearly $64,000, far north of the $40,400 salaries targeted by EDGE. More than half of those new jobs would be operations clerks with annual salaries of $50,000 and a benefits and incentive package worth $20,000. Thirty-five asset management clerks would earn the same package.

An operations manager could earn a package worth $152,000 annually. An asset manager supervisor could earn $154,000.

Each year, the company would pay nearly $8 million in wages and benefits to all of its employees here, according to its application.

Raymond James is based in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 2012, Raymond James and Memphis-based Morgan Keegan merged to form “one of the country’s largest independent full-service wealth management and investment banking firms not headquartered on Wall Street,” according to the Raymond James website.
The company posted “record annual net revenues of $7.27 billion” in its 2018 fiscal year, according financial reports. In 2018, the company also posted “record annual net income [or profits] of $856.7 million.” It’s total return on equity during the year was 14.4 percent.

“Our focus on attracting and retaining client-centric financial advisors and providing them with industry-leading tools and resources continues to produce record results,” Raymond James Financial chairman and CEO Paul Reilly, said in a statement at the time. “It is especially gratifying to deliver shareholders an attractive return on equity in fiscal 2018, particularly given our strong capital position and the significant investments we made during the year.”

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Changing Police, Fire Residency Rules Raises Concern Among City Council Members

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2019 at 1:01 PM

  • Facebook/MPD

A few members of the Memphis City Council voiced reservations Tuesday about lifting the residency requirements for the city’s police and fire personnel.

The ordinance up for discussion would allow voters to choose whether or not Memphis Police Department (MPD) and Memphis Fire Department (MFD) personnel should have to reside in the city or county, or if they should be allowed to live up to two hours away. If approved by the council, voters will make the ultimate decision on the ballot next fall.

Chief operating officer for the city, Doug McGowen, said this is an effort to do “everything in our power to lower the barrier to those who want to serve the citizens of Memphis.”

Currently, 12 percent of MPD officers live outside the city and county, MPD director Michael Rallings said. Forty-two percent live in the city.

Rallings said that removing the residency requirements would aid the department with recruitment and help it reach its goal of having 2,300 commissioned officers. To date, there are 2,062 officers and another 85 in the training academy.

“As we continue to try and hire more officers and firefighters, I would hope we would remove any barrier to that,” Rallings said. “I just ask that you consider placing the issue back on the ballot and let the voters decide.”

Councilman Martavious Jones questioned whether lifting the residency requirements would assist recruiting efforts, as he said police hiring is a problem across the country — not one that is unique to Memphis: “Opening this up does not alleviate are recruitment and hiring problems.”

“Looking at the big picture,” Jones also said that allowing officers to live outside of the city could further exacerbate Memphis’ poverty rate. “Why should we let these high-paying, middle-class jobs leave our city?” he said. “We would open up the floodgates. We would not be doing ourselves any favors by doing anything that drives high-paying jobs out of here.”

Finally, Jones questioned whether it makes sense for first responders to live up to two hours outside of the city, especially in the case of a major emergency.

“First responders living two hours out?” Jones said. “What are they responding to? They can't respond. I don’t see how this makes the recruiting effort easier or the city safer.”

Councilwoman Cheyenne Johnson also expressed reservations about the ordinance.

“Part of being a part of Memphis administration is believing in Memphis,” Johnson said. “And if you believe in Memphis, you can find a home in Memphis. If citizens can’t believe officers are living next door or in community, it hurts the image the police and fire departments are trying to promote throughout city.”

Councilwoman Gerre Currie, one of the sponsors of the ordinance, disagreed saying that “whether they are two hours out or not I’m not going to second-guess personnel on their efforts.”

The council will return to this discussion in three weeks. MPD officials are slated to give a presentation on the department's recruiting efforts to date then.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Vaping: Insights From the State, a Store Owner, a Street Dealer, and a Doctor

Posted By on Mon, Oct 14, 2019 at 12:54 PM

  • Pexels/Ruslan Alekso

As the number of vaping-related lung illnesses continues to rise around the country, the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) is recommending that Tennesseans avoid using e-cigarettes and other vaping products.

In Tennessee, there’s been 49 reported cases of vaping-related illnesses, according to the latest data from the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH). The department is updating this number here every Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Four of the 49 reported cases are in West Tennessee.

Shelley Walker, director of TDH’s office of communications and media relations, said the department is working with healthcare providers around the state to gather information about the cases. The goal is to collect information on specific components or brands of vaping products to find common factors which may reveal the source of the illness.

“We continue to urge caution to Tennesseans who are using or considering the use of Juuls or other e-cigs,” Walker said. “For those trying to stop smoking, we recommend talking with a health care provider, using only FDA-approved smoking cessation products, and calling the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine.”

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites 1,299 reported cases of lung injuries related to vape or e-cig use across the country as of October 8th.

There have been 26 related deaths. The CDC reports that most of the affected patients report using a vape containing THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

However, the CDC does not yet know which specific chemical or chemicals are causing the lung damage, as no single product has been linked to all of the cases.

The Industry

A local vape store worries what all of this will mean for the industry — and ultimately its customers.

Clarissa Warren, director of operations for VaporWize, Memphis’ first vape store, believes that the products sold in the store’s locations (more than a dozen of them) are safe. Warren said everything VaporWize sells is USDA-regulated: “We’re not selling anything that’s harmful to people.”

Warren maintains that it’s been scientifically proven that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking. VaporWize sells over 400 different flavors of e-liquid and Warren said it’s these flavored liquids that has helped many adults quit smoking cigarettes.

“People don’t want to taste tobacco when they quit smoking cigs,” Warren said.

  • VaporWize

She said President Donald Trump’s recent push to ban all flavored e-cigarettes is a “mistake.” The Trump administration announced last month that the FDA is in the process of creating a plan to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market.

As a result, Warren said customers here have been buying more e-liquid than usual because they are concerned that “the thing that keeps them off cigarettes will be taken away.”

“People who are switching to vaping have been helped by this,” Warren said. “I have thousands of success stories. I’ve been a vaper for six years and I’ve been to the doctor less in those six years than I ever did when I smoked cigs for 20 years.”

A group of Tennessee healthcare organizations, led by the Tennessee Medical Association recently sent a letter to Gov. Bill Lee, urging him and the Tennessee General Assembly to “take a firm stance on this important public health issue by implementing an emergency temporary measure to restrict Tennessee youth from obtaining vaping products and encouraging the General Assembly to take more permanent legislative action when it convenes in 2020.”

Read the full letter below.

Warren agrees that e-cigs should be out of the hands of youth. This can be done by eliminating internet sales of the products, she said, and only offering the products in “reputable stores,” where customers must provide an ID and be 18 or older.

Although the CDC has not found a single common cause of the reported illnesses, Warren believes it’s the illegal cartridges that people are buying off the street that are dangerous.

“The biggest problem is that people are labeling these deaths saying they were caused by vaping,” Warren said. “It’s not vaping. It’s not a legal product these people are dying from. It’s the illegal cartridges from someone who made it in their house. That’s the problem and it’s hurting our industry.”

For those who wish to continue smoking e-cigs, Warren said it’s important to only use products from legitimate vape shops in order to “make sure you’re getting the correct product that won’t do you harm.”

Street Vapes

  • Dank Vapes

The Flyer spoke to a local man who sells what Warren would call illicit vapes. The vape dealer spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Among other THC products, he sells vape cartridges containing THC that he believes come from California. He’s sold about 100 this year, he said. They sell for about $50 a piece. The most common brand he sells is Dank Vapes, an unregulated brand whose products were recently found to contain contaminants in some cases.

Investigators in Illinois and Wisconsin found last month that 66 percent of patients with vape-related lung injuries in the two states reported using Dank Vape products. The investigators’s findings were published by the CDC.

They concluded that “Dank Vapes appears to be the most prominent in a class of largely counterfeit brands, with common packaging that is easily available online and that is used by distributors to market THC-containing cartridges.”

The local dealer said he can’t be 100 percent sure that the cartridges he’s selling are pure and without additives: “It’s just trust.” But, if one of his customers does get sick, he said he’d close up shop.

“They could come back and get their money and I’d stop selling cartridges — point blank, period,” he said. “I don’t sell poison to my community. That’s why I sell what I sell and it’s some stuff I don’t mess with.”

Effects of Vaping

Dr. Catherine Sanders, a pulmonology physician at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, said smoking anything, especially something you don’t know the ingredients of, can have long term effects on the lungs.

“If you inhale anything into your lungs, you’re changing the cells of your lungs and your airways,” Sanders said. “So there’s always potentially adverse effects from that.”

Because vaping is relatively new, Sanders said there isn’t a lot of research that shows its long-term effects.

“We know that vaping can cause acute illnesses like we’ve seen, but what we don’t know much about the long-term effects of vaping yet because it’s so new,” Sanders said. “It’s important for the public to know that it’s so much the medical and science community don’t yet know about it. That’s scary. You really take a gamble if you continue to vape.”

At this point, Sanders said it’s hard to definitively say if vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking regular cigarettes.

“It’s important to know that vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking, which it has been considered before,” Sanders said. “It’s not this great way to quit smoking or a better way to start. It could just be as harmful and young people especially need to know that.”

Sanders said there hasn’t been much research on vaping until the last couple of years is “just starting to pop up now.” Sanders said there is currently no research in Memphis that she aware of.

“There’s a big need for research now,” Sanders said. “I think we need to learn more about these products so we can educate the public on the potential consequences.”

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Group Calls on U.S. Senate to Pass Gun Safety Laws

Posted By on Fri, Oct 11, 2019 at 10:34 AM


A group, joined by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis), gathered Thursday near Memphis City Hall to demand “common sense” gun laws.

The Tennessee Chapter of Moms Demand Action’s volunteer leader Kat McRitchie said gun violence in the country is an ”epidemic.”

“Within one generation, gun violence had shifted from an abstract possibility to a daily reality for children in America, and I decided enough was enough,” McRitchie said. ”I had to be a part of the solution.”

Gun violence is a public health crisis that requires “urgent action to stop it,” McRitchie said, calling for Congress to take action by passing background check and red flag laws.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would “utilize the current background checks process in the United States to ensure individuals prohibited from gun possession are not able to obtain firearms.”

However, the U.S. Senate, McRitchie said, continues to do “absolutely nothing to address gun violence.”

“That’s why we are here today, to call on the U.S. Senate to do its job to reduce gun violence, beginning with passing legislation to require background checks on all gun sales and also to enact a strong red flag law,” McRitchie said. “It is unacceptable to make public statements after high-profile shootings while refusing to pass legislation that could prevent them.”

McRitchie believes that requiring background checks for all gun sales is “one of the most efficient tools to keep guns out of the wrong hands.” She said there are currently loopholes in the system that allow “people who shouldn’t acquire guns.”

The red flag law that the group is calling for would allow law enforcement to ask the court to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns if there is evidence showing that person poses a threat to themselves or others.

“These are proven policies that help save lives,” McRitchie said.

Cohen said the House of Representatives has “done its job and continues to do its job.” He also called on the Senate to pass background check and red flag laws. Cohen said the country needs “reasonable and responsible gun bills to protect people.”

“The Republican party is a hostage of the NRA,” Cohen said. “President [Donald] Trump is a hostage of the NRA. The NRA does not care about people's safety. It cares about making money and selling guns and selling bullets. They care about raising money and spending it in ways that we’ve seen are not appropriate.”

Cohen said it’s important to keep pressure on the Senate so that the lawmakers will set a date to hear the legislation and “put the voice of the American people into action and save lives.”

Specifically, Cohen called on Tennesseans to reach out to Sen. Lamar Alexander who he said is a “prime person who might be receptive to this message.”

The Numbers

Every day in the United States 100 people die by gun fire, according to the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety.

There were 27 active shooting events, resulting in 18 deaths, in the country last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) reports. The FBI defines an active shooter event as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.”

There were 337 mass shootings in 2018 and have been 326 so far in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The research and data collection organization, which gathers data from news reports, police records, and other sources, defines a mass shooting as a single incident in which four or more people, excluding the shooter, are injured or killed.

The archive reports that so far this year there have been 30,313 total deaths related to gun violence. This includes unintentional shootings, homicides, and suicides.

  • Gun Violence Archive

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TVA Outlines Next Moves to Possibly Remove Coal Ash

Posted By on Fri, Oct 11, 2019 at 7:00 AM

  • Toby Sells

Water whooshes through two black pipes — both as big around a small pizza and long enough to hide their ends — with the gentle sound of a dishwasher humming out of sight.

The pipes snake nearly across the entire campus of the Allen Fossil Plant. For nearly 60 years, nearly all of Memphis’ electricity flowed from the massive plant close to Presidents Island.

That plant burned coal to make that electricity. That coal was reduced to mainly to ash when it was all burned up. That ash — containing toxins like arsenic and lead — was slurried with water and flowed into great ponds sitting just west and just east of the Allen plant.

Those ponds sit right on the bank of McKellar Lake, a broad inlet from the Mississippi River that cradles the south side of Presidents Island and fronts Martin Luther King Jr. Riverside Park and T.O. Fuller State Park.

An aerial view of the Allen Fossil Plant. - GOOGLE MAPS
  • Google Maps
  • An aerial view of the Allen Fossil Plant.

In 2017, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) found high levels of arsenic and other toxins in ground water close to the ponds. Arsenic levels were more than 300 times higher than federal drinking water standards.

The discovery kicked off a years-long, sometimes-contentious series of events that TVA officials hope will end in 10 years. That’s how long they say it will take to finally remove the ash now sitting on nearly 120 acres.

Environmental and drinking-water advocates here hope that move will finally remove the threat the has poses to the Memphis Sand Aquifer, the source of the city’s pristine drinking water.

The process to remove the ash is already underway. On Wednesday, those two black pipes — both as big around as a small pizza — whooshed treated water from those ponds straight into the Mississippi.
TVA president and CEO Jeffrey Lyash spoke to reporters here Wednesday. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • TVA president and CEO Jeffrey Lyash spoke to reporters here Wednesday.

“There’s a deferred cost associated with the nearly 60 years benefit we all derived from places like the Allen Plant,” Jeffrey Lyash, president and CEO of TVA, said to reporters here Wednesday. “That deferred cost is coal combustion residuals [ash] and the decommissioning and dismantling of the plant and the restoration of the site so that it can be repurposed for economic development.”

Two ash storage ponds now hold ash buried at the Allen plant from as far back as 1959, when it was built and brought online by Memphis Light, Gas & Water.

The west ash pond was the site’s first. It was retired in 1978 and closed by the TVA in 2016. The ash in that ponds — some from 1959 — remains. Though, the broad pond is now covered in grass and a few trees. It looks inviting enough, as one TVA official put it, for a family reunion.

The east ash pond replaced the original west ash pond. The east pond was built in 1967, expanded in 1978, and is now 70 acres, according to the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. Water in the pond looked dark, standing about 50 yards from it. The area around it looks swampy, grown over by some tough, reedy weed — not inviting at all.
Reporters gather before pumps and filters on the bank of the Allen plant's east ash pond. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Reporters gather before pumps and filters on the bank of the Allen plant's east ash pond.

Crews began sucking the water from the east pond about two weeks ago, according to Angela Austin, TVA’s construction manager at Allen site. Lyash, the CEO, called Austin the “boots on the ground” for the project to remove the coal ash and decommission and dismantle the old plant.

In those two weeks, nearly 3 million gallons of free water — the water on top of the ash — has been removed from the pond. The water is filtered to remove any particles in it and treated to adjust its pH to clear federal standards that allows TVA to dump the water in the river. Austin said she hopes to have all of that water removed in the next two or three months. When it’s gone, nearly 17 million gallons will be filtered, treated, snaked through those black pipes, and flowed into the Mississippi.

Once that water is gone, crews will begin removing water that’s still in the ash. Once that water is gone, the ash will be stabilized enough to be removed.

Coal ash ponds near TVA’s Allen Fossil power plant
  • Coal ash ponds near TVA’s Allen Fossil power plant

TVA wants to remove it, Lyash said, all of it — from the east and west ash ponds. But part of that decision lies with federal environmental officials and with Memphians. A process is now underway to decide exactly how the TVA will deal with the ash.

As a part of that, TVA held a public hearing on the matter here Wednesday. Lyash said Wednesday TVA is also going to create a citizens advisory group to watch and review the process on an ongoing basis.

The process underway now will determine many of the next steps TVA will take to remove the ash. Can the agency remove it? If so, how? If so, how can they transport it? Truck? Rail? If they can transport it, where can they take it? If they can take it some place, what kind of container can they store it in?

An aerial shot shows the massive east ash pond at the Allen Fossil Plant. - SOUTHERN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTER
  • Southern Environmental Law Center
  • An aerial shot shows the massive east ash pond at the Allen Fossil Plant.

One interesting question is whether or not TVA will be able to use the ash, instead of just storing it some place. The American Coal Ash Association (ACAA) said in 2012 that about half of coal ash that is reused is made into concrete, grout, or gypsum wallboard.

But the biggest question for Memphians is how TVA plans will protect the environment and, more specifically, the drinking water here.

Contaminants from the coal ash ponds leeched into groundwater here. It made it 40 feet into the ground into a shallower alluvial aquifer, not into the drinking-water source, TVA said. Around the time of the discovery, TVA said it wanted to drill five wells into the Memphis Sand (the drinking water source) to pump water from it to cool it’s brand new Allen Combined Cycle Plant, the one that replaced the fossil plant.

TVA's new natural-gas-fueled Combined Cycle Plant. - TVA
  • TVA
  • TVA's new natural-gas-fueled Combined Cycle Plant.

However, some worried that running the wells would pull toxins from the east ash pond into the Memphis Sand aquifer. TVA launched an investigation run by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Memphis. The groups found that the Memphis Sand was hydraulically linked to that contaminated, alluvial aquifer above it. By this time, though, TVA had decided not to use the wells.

“All the evidence says not only isn't there any drinking-water contamination or environmental contamination beyond what we've characterized, but there really isn't any migration that would suggest it would be an issue in the future,” said Lyash.

Two of 57 wells monitor the ground water around an ash pond at the Allen plant. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Two of 57 wells monitor the ground water around an ash pond at the Allen plant.

TVA is watching the situation closely. It has now expanded its of monitoring wells around the east ash pond to 57.

But Memphis will have a second opinion. In November, to the U of M’s Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research (CAESER) wont a $5 million grant to study the aquifer over the next five years.

A U of M news release at the time said MLGW "has grown increasingly concerned over water quality impacts to our sole source of drinking water, the Memphis aquifer. Above the Memphis Aquifer is a protective clay layer which shields our drinking water from pollution, but gaps, or 'breaches' in the clay have been discovered."

Lyash said TVA will return the Allen site to a “best-of-industry standard” using the “best-in-industry practices in science.”

“We're going to protect the environment,” Lyash said. “We have the interests of the citizens of Shelby County in Memphis right at the heart of that. So, you shouldn't be concerned that TV is going to do anything other than the right thing here at our Allen.”

TVA's Angela Austin speaks to reporters at the Allen plant. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • TVA's Angela Austin speaks to reporters at the Allen plant.

For Austin, TVA’s mission at Allen is personal. She’s the “boots-on-the-ground” Allen construction manager. Austin said she has been a Memphian for 24 years and lives now in Hickory Hill.

“It’s very important that we get it right, because I'm the one who drinks this water every day, Austin said. “It has to be successful. This is where my family has been born and raised.”

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Harris Amends County Plan to Fund MATA

Posted By on Thu, Oct 10, 2019 at 3:37 PM

  • Justin Fox Burks

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced today that he is amending the previously announced plan to invest $10 million in transit here.

Harris presented a plan to the Shelby County Commission last month that would generate $10 million in funding each year for the Memphis Area Transit Authority.

The original plan would have implemented an annual $145 registration fee for households’ third vehicle and beyond. Harris said at the time this would only affect about 17 percent of residents here.

But, after meeting with the public and receiving feedback on the plan, Harris said Thursday that instead of requiring households to pay $145 for each another vehicle over the second, households would only have to pay one yearly $145 fee.

“We have been pleased by the willingness of residents to engage in a conversation about how public transit could help lift thousands out of poverty and preserve our shared environment,” Harris said. “We have had many great suggestions from the residents, including tailoring the plan to have an even more narrow impact.”

Alternative vehicles, such as motorcycles, trailers, antique cars, and boats will not require fees.

Under the amended plan, Harris said the county will still provide $10 million a year to MATA.

“The investment would still have zero impact in most families,” Harris said. “This plan does not call for a broad tax or fee on all citizens…. Furthermore, the idea is to try as best we can to tie the solution the problem. We know that traffic congestion and car emissions are problems that will only get worse. We believe that households or business with thee cars are using that infrastructure more and producing more wear and tear. Our proposal focuses on that problem or cars on the road while supporting a solution to congestion and emissions, public transit.”

This is the county’s first effort to provide dedicated funding for MATA. The plan is slated to go before the county commission by February 2020.

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Bike Shop Hopes to Put Customers on E-bikes With Demo Program

Posted By on Thu, Oct 10, 2019 at 9:58 AM

A Scott e-bike available for demo at Victory
  • A Scott e-bike available for demo at Victory

Victory Bicycle Studio wants to help Memphians get around the city in a new way with electric-assist bikes.

The store introduced the Electric Bike Demo Program this month. The program allows customers to demo e-bikes for three days for $200 to decide if it’s right for them. If an e-bike is purchased within 30 days of the demo period, that $200 will go toward the overall cost of the bike.

Clark Butcher, owner of Victory said the demo program is a way for customers to try e-bikes “with no obligations” in the “real world, not cruising around the parking lot.”

“Full disclosure, I don’t consider myself a pioneer,” Butcher said. “I consider myself as one who listens to what folks want. Everyone comes in and they go ‘Do you have e-bikes?’ Everybody has the same response — ‘No, but we can order them.’ Well, here it’s different. You can actually leave with an e-bike today.”

In the last four years, Butcher said Victory has sold about four e-bikes, but in the past four months, Butcher said the shop has sold about four each month. Butcher said requests for e-bikes “keep coming,” so “obviously there is a demand there.”

For the past nine years, Victory has only been ordering one e-bike at a time based on individual customer requests. But now, it’s something they intend to permanently keep in stock, Butcher said.

Offering customers a chance to demo the bikes is meant to address people’s hesitations with buying an e-bike, such as the price and feasibility.

“It’s so new,” Butcher said. “I mean it’s alternative transportation so this is a way to have it for a couple of days. It’s not a rental. It’s a demo. You get to see if it fits up and down your apartment stairs, you need to make sure you’ve got a safe place to keep it, that you have a route dialed in. We understand that buying an e-bike is a significant investment.”

Typically, e-bikes cost $2,000 and up. To help with the cost, Victory offers six-month and one-year payment deferment plans with no interest.

Butcher said Victory’s demo program will “hopefully run indefinitely.”

Butcher shows the Flyer's Maya Smith how e-bikes work
  • Butcher shows the Flyer's Maya Smith how e-bikes work

How Do E-bikes Work?

E-bikes work very similar to traditional bikes. Just as one would do riding a push bike, e-bikes riders pedal to get going and keep going. Each time the rider pedals, the e-bike motor is activated, augmenting the rider’s efforts. Victory’s e-bikes can go as fast as 28 miles per hour, Butcher said.

The less efficient the mode, the more work the rider has to do. Turn it up to turbo mode, and the rider only does 20 percent of the work. However, even in turbo, Butcher said riders get a workout: “You’ve got to turn those pedals in order for it to keep going.”

Because the motor can do up to 80 percent of the work, Butcher said e-bikes are good for Memphis summers and an alternative to traditional bikes for new riders, riders who are not as physically fit, and those with longer commutes.

The bikes are charged using standard wall outlets and can reach full charge in about four hours. With a full battery, they can run for 20 to 65 miles depending on the mode.

E-Bike Sharing

Explore Bike Share (EBS) is also exploring e-bikes. The non-profit plans to introduce 300 electric-assist bikes to its system by April 2020. EBS is working with its vendor to provide e-bikes that will meet the needs of the city and be compatible to its current system.

Trey Moore, executive director of EBS, said adding e-bikes is a part of the non-profit’s efforts to reduce barriers that keep people from using bike share. Those barriers could include the Memphis heat, long commutes, or a rider’s physical condition.

With e-bikes, Moore said riders can travel farther faster and climb “virtually any hill” without “sweating the commute.”

“E-bike will be empowering in every sense of the word,” Moore said. “Now that EBS has launched its initial fleet, we believe that by embracing e-bikes, we’ll see more people on bikes more often. From older riders to those with longer commutes, ebikes will provide an important alternative.”

Ultimately, Moore said adding e-bikes to the system will help EBS deliver “on the mission of connecting our city.”

As shared mobility is continues to “evolve and mature,” Moore said e-bikes are starting to pop up in more cities. He notes that in cities where e-bikes have been added to bike share systems, there’s a significant increase in the number of daily rides.

BCycle, the company that EBS partnerships with to provide bikes here, first introduced its e-bike in November.

BCycle rolled out e-bikes last year - BCYCLE
  • BCycle
  • BCycle rolled out e-bikes last year

Since then the company has added e-bikes to bike share systems in half a dozen cities, such as Los Angeles, Fort Worth, and Madison, Wisconsin, where the entire fleet has been electric since June. It was the first U.S. city to overhaul its bikeshare system with e-bikes.

After Madison’s entire fleet was replaced with 300 e-bikes, the number of trips taken there this summer was more than double last summer’s number, BCycle head Morgan Ramaker wrote in a column for the Wisconsin State Journal late last month.

Companies like Lyft and Uber are also exploring the e-bike landscape. Lyft e-bikes are now available in San Francisco, while JUMP e-bikes, owned by Uber, are available in 15 U.S. and five European cities.

Electric Future

Butcher said he believes “it’ll take just a second” for e-bikes to become more widespread in Memphis.

“E-bikes have been in the media, the press, the tech industry for years now,” Butcher said. “It keeps getting better and better. Before the price was so extreme and they were so heavy that no one would buy them. But with mass manufacturing and more sales, things are getting faster and more efficient and the price is coming down.”

Victory’s decision to sell more e-bikes corresponds to the city’s “consistent effort in putting in bike lanes,” while improving alternative transportation and infrastructure, Butcher said.

“I think three years ago was too soon,” Butcher said. “But, right now, is the time I think a lot of smart people in bigger cities are doing it. We should too.”

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Everyday Climate Change: A Hot September for Patios

Posted By on Wed, Oct 9, 2019 at 12:47 PM

  • Slider Inn/Facebook

Everyday Climate Change is an occasional series from the Memphis Flyer about the ways climate change is already affecting our everyday lives.

Memphis sighed a collective ahhhh! over the last few days as a hot September — the hottest ever on record — closed and unofficially reopened patio season at bars and restaurants all over town.

Hottest ever? Yes. The National Weather Service (NWS) tweeted on October 1st that September’s average temperatures were 8.3 degrees above normal for the month. The month’s average temperature was 83.5 degrees, and the average maximum temperature was 93.7 degrees.

“Memphis just experienced the warmest September in its 144-year climatological record,” tweeted the NWS.

Are heatwaves caused by climate change? Yes, according to scientists. In a paper presented at last year’s European Geosciences Union Conference, scientists said that 2018’s heatwaves across North America, Europe, and Asia were maybe the first ever attributable to climate change.
“We demonstrate that it is virtually certain that a 2018-like heatwave area could not have occurred without human-induced climate change,” according to the paper. “Thus, the 2018 global-scale heatwave event possibly constitutes the first climate phenomenon that can be uniquely attributed to human-induced global warming.”

  • Climate Central

Those heatwaves killed hundreds of people, triggered wildfires and crop failure, and damaged infrastructure across the globe, according to the paper.

Memphians are used to heat, a fact they brag about (almost as much as the city’s water quality). But this year’s heat put it to the test.

For example, two dogs died from heat stroke after a visit to Shelby Farms Park. The heat this year put a big dent in the crowd size of the Cooper-Young Festival, down about 15,000-20,000 people according to Tamara Cook, executive director of the Cooper-Young Business Association.

“It was just fantastically hot,” Walker told Flyer reporter Michael Donahue last month. “That’s what got everybody. We got hit by the heat. You didn’t see a lot of people standing in the sun in front of the main stage. People were standing in the shade.”

In this context, sitting on patios for drinks and dinner may seem a small thing. But Memphians love a patio. Drive through Cooper-Young or Downtown this weekend and see for yourself. 

  • Patrick’s Neighborhood Restaurant & Bar/Facebook

While it looks fun to the consumer, it looks like big money to restaurateurs. Patios are attractive and enough, hopefully, to bring consumers through the door.

“We have the best patio in East Memphis, but if the heat scares you our air conditioning works also!” reads a July Facebook post from Patrick’s Neighborhood Restaurant & Bar.

In Midtown, a halo of mist enveloped the signature patio at Slider Inn last week before the heat broke. Those misters are central to Slider Inn’s summertime heat defense.

  • Slider Inn/Facebook
“It certainly has been a hot few months, but we really haven't seen a dip in our numbers because we've taken measures to ensure our patio is all-weather, especially in the brutal Memphis heat,” said Eric Bourgeois, marketing director at Packed House Productions, parent company of Slider Inn. “We're one of the only Midtown bars with patio misters, and that really makes a difference when folks are looking for a spot to chill outside — especially when they want to ensure the comfort of their furry, four-legged friends.”

Similar efforts will be made at the also four-legged-friendly Slider Inn Downtown, Bourgeois said.
Weather in general affects consumers’ experiences in restaurants, according to a new study published in the “Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research.” In “It’s Raining Complaints! How Weather Factors Drive Consumer Comments and Word-of-Mouth,” researchers found that restaurant-goers are more likely to leave more negative comments if “weather factors like temperature and rain become more unpleasant.”

The findings were significant enough for the researchers to suggest restaurant managers should give extra care to diners on bad-weather days and to be aware that more negative comments may be more common on those days.
Climate change won’t only affect Memphis patio time. The Union of Concerned Scientists said recently that if nothing is done to correct climate change, Memphis could have four days a year with a heat index of over 127 degrees and could have 119 days of temperatures over 90 degrees (we have only 77 of those now).

Industry experts are watching climate change closely. The hearth, barbecue, and patio industry may not yet see the effects of rising temperatures, but it will, according to James Houck, writing for trade journal “Hearth & Home” in 2017.

“Still it would be prudent for business owners, and and it would be consistent with the fiduciary duty of corporate officers, to follow developments in climate change science, public opinions, and governmental actions,” Houck wrote. “Climate change will affect the hearth, barbecue, and patio industries’ bottom line.”

Climate change will change outdoor recreation in general, according to experts who say much of those activities will be pushed to summers “shoulder months” of April and October.

Researchers with the U.S. Forest Service said snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing will be the most negatively affected activities in national parks in the future. But climate will also impact hunting, fishing, water activities (though swimming should increase), and horseback riding.

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