Thursday, July 27, 2017

Passengers, Flights Up at Airport

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 2:46 PM

MEMPHIS AND SHELBY COUNTY AIRPORT AUTHORITY - FACEBOOK
  • Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority - Facebook

Over the last 12 months, passenger counts through Memphis International Airport reached levels not seen since 2012 and the airport also saw gains in air service, according to figures recently released.

These facts point to improvements at the airport, which saw major declines in both the number of people flying through the airport and the number of flight available to them after Delta axed Memphis as a hub in 2013.

Since then, airport officials have been recruiting airlines to fly through Memphis and to entice existing airlines to off more flights to the city.

In the last 12 months, the airpot saw more than 2 million enplanements. That’s 3.3 percent more people getting on or off airplanes at the Memphis airport than the previous year. Enplanements this past June were 5.6 percent higher than they were in June 2016.

The airport also offered an average of 7,650 seats on various flights in June, which has increased even just since May. Airport officials pointed to new flights like Air Canada’s nonstop flight to Toronto, and summer seasonal flights offered by sOuthwest and Allegiant.

“It’s encouraging to see our passengers filling planes and outpacing our projected growth,” said Pace Cooper, board chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. We’re continuing to build on this momentum by meeting with airlines to find additional routes for our passengers.”

Planned Parenthood Memphis Joins Federal Abortion Lawsuit

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 2:11 PM

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Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region (PPGMR) joined a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging the Tennessee state law that requires a woman seeking an abortion to wait 48 hours and see a doctor before the procedure.

The new requirements became law in the state on July 1. The state legislature passed it this year and Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill in May, even though Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slattery called the move “constiutionally suspect.”

PPGMR joined the lawsuit with Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLUT), representing the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health.

The delay serves no medical purpose, according to Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLUT, and she called it “invasive political interference in private healthcare decisions.”
“This has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low- income women, who already face systemic barriers in accessing quality health care,” said Ashley Coffield, chief executive officer of PPGMR. “We are in court to fight for every person’s right to access medical care that’s based on their doctor’s expertise and best interest – and not based on political interference.”

The suit was first filed in 2015 and is still pending in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennesse. The lawsuit, Adams & Boyle, P.C. et al. v. Slatery, et al., asks the court to strike down the 48-hour delay requirement as an unconstitutional.

Latino Memphis Mobilizes in Response to ICE Surge

Posted By on Thu, Jul 27, 2017 at 10:38 AM

LATINO MEMPHIS
  • Latino Memphis

After a "surge" by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), seeking arrests of undocumented immigrants in Shelby County commenced Sunday, local activist group Latino Memphis began to mobilize a counter surge.

The group's goal, according to a Facebook post is to empower the immigrant community and inform them of their rights.

Attempting to ease some of the fear growing in the community since the arrests began, the group has been knocking on doors of undocumented immigrants, distributing "Know Your Rights" flyers, warning them of the surge, and informing them of what to do if an ICE agents shows up at their home.

Additionally, while Latino Memphis is providing free legal consultations for anyone that has been detained, beginning Friday, local church, Victory Life Iglesia Hispana is accepting donations ranging from clothes to groceries for the families affected by the recent surge.

The surge has been targeting "family units, adults who entered the U.S. as unaccompanied alien children (UAC), and UACs who are at least 16 years old and have criminal histories and/or suspected gang ties." according to a statement released by regional ICE spokesperson.

The exact number of arrests, taking place in several East Memphis apartment complexes is unclear at this time, and ICE officials say more information won't be released until the surge concludes.

The Memphis Police Department released a statement Sunday, iterating they had no involvement with the ICE operations. It went on to say, "ICE is an independent agency and is not affiliated or linked to MPD. MPD has not conducted any research related to migration laws or will do so in the future."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Memphis Pets of the Week (July 27-August 2)

Posted By on Wed, Jul 26, 2017 at 10:25 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.
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

High Ozone Levels Forecasted for Wednesday

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 3:46 PM

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The ozone levels in the Memphis and surrounding areas are expected to reach code orange classification on Wednesday, making the air "unhealthy for sensitive groups," according to a release by the Shelby County Health Department.  

As a result, SCHD recommends that individuals drive less, by combining errands, carpooling, or taking public transit.

The Health Department also suggests refueling cars after 7:00 p.m., while avoiding spills and topping off tanks.

The release advises individuals, especially those who are active or have respiratory difficulties to limit outdoor activities, as high ozone levels can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and lungs.

Due to the code orange forecast, the Memphis Area Transit Authority will offer 25 cent rides on all modes of public transit for Wednesday only.

Alligator Decoys to Curb Geese at Botanic Garden

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 3:06 PM

One of two alligator decoys now in Memphis Botanic Garden's Koi Pond. - MEMPHIS BOTANIC GARDENS
  • Memphis Botanic Gardens
  • One of two alligator decoys now in Memphis Botanic Garden's Koi Pond.

Two plastic alligators will help curb the Canada geese population and their droppings at the Memphis Botanic Gardens, according to Garden leaders who called the move “the most humane and natural solution to this situation.”

Garden officials announced Tuesday that they introduced two “garden variety” alligators into the Koi Pond there. The plastic alligators “similar to what might be found on a typical Florida golf course are actually of the species polystyreneaus (plastic).”

“We have been dealing with a growing (Canada) Geese population at the Garden and they are – how do I say this delicately – ‘messy’ as well as sometimes aggressive toward our members and guests,” said Mike Allen, Executive Director of the Garden. “The introduction of (the alligator decoys) seemed like the most humane and natural solution to this situation and we are hopeful that it works as planned.”

DNA, Name On Dentures Yield Guilty Plea in Rape Case

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 2:19 PM

Maupin - SHELBY COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Shelby County Sheriff's Office
  • Maupin
A man pleaded guilty to rape here Monday after investigators found DNA and a less scientific bit of evidence left on a set of dentures in another case from the city’s backlog of untested rape kits.

Thomas Maupin, 67, entered his plea before Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee, according to Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich’s office. The victim, who was 31 when the rape occurred, did not testify.

Maupin came to Memphis after serving 12 years in Washington state for the 1988 killing of a young girl in Spokane. He was convicted twice and sentenced to 40 years in prison. But the convictions were overturned on appeal.

Maupin approached his rape victim here in August 2001 as she was walking in the 1200 block of Thomas north of Frayser Boulevard.

“After a few moments, the man forced her into an alley and stabbed her with a metal object under her chin with such force that it struck the roof of her mouth,” said a news release from Weirich’s office. “He also used the object to sexually assault her after forcing her to perform oral sex.”

Police officers collected evidence in the case, including a set of dentures, and put it all in a storage locker. That evidence, including an untested rape kit, became part of the city’s backlog of about 12,000 untested rape kits.

The evidence in the Maupin rape case was never examined again until Assistant District Attorney Abby Wallace, with the DA’s Special Victims Unit, sent it off to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Upon examination, the TBI found DNA, which was partial match for Maupin.

But the dentures gave up another crucial bit of evidence against Maupin — his name.

TBI investigators found Maupin’s name on the dentures during their examination. According to Weirich’s office, the dentures were made for Maupin during his 12-year term in the Washington prison.

EPA Could Make University-Area Lot a Superfund Site

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 11:05 AM

Site of the former Custom Cleaners close to the University of Memphis. - GOOGLE MAPS
  • Google Maps
  • Site of the former Custom Cleaners close to the University of Memphis.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that while a contaminated site close to the University of Memphis has not yet impacted surrounding sites, it could pose a threat to the city’s drinking water.

In 2013, the EPA found that perchloroethylene (PCE), a harmful chemical, was used at Custom Cleaners, a dry cleaner that operated at 3517 Southern from 1945 to the mid-1990s. Extensive testing found the toxin in soil and groundwater samples on the site.

Last year, the EPA removed the Custom Cleaners building, the slab it sat upon, and the highest concentrations of the toxin, which were about 18 feet below the the land’s surface.

The EPA also proposed the site be listed on the National Priorities List, hazardous waste sites in the United States eligible for long-term clean up paid for by the federal Superfund program. The EPA expects the site to be listed this month.

The EPA expects the initial field work around the contaminated site to be finished in September and will host information sessions on that work next week.

“While there has been no impact to date, there is potential for the PCE contaminated groundwater to impact the municipal drinking wells within the Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) Sheahan Well Field, due to the site’s close proximity,” reads an EPA statement.

That statement notes that “significant development” is now underway around the site and points specifically to “a popular fast food chain” — a McDonald’s — that sits on the site’s northern border.

Next week, the EPA will host two public information sessions on there its work and the Superfund process. The first session will be on Thursday, August 3 at the Old Highland Branch Library at 9 a.m. The second session will start at 5 p.m.

Friday, July 21, 2017

MLGW Offers Special Program to Help Keep Customers' Utilities On

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 10:45 AM

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Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (MLGW) is putting a program in place today to help its customers keep their utilities connected as heat waves move through Shelby County.

The Hazardous Weather Condition Impact Management Program allows residential customers whose utilities have been disconnected to pay $250 toward their outstanding balance plus a standard reconnection fee in order to have their utility services reconnected.

Customers currently without service, who opt to participate in the program must agree to a deferred payment plan for the remainder of their balance, which is to be paid within nine months.

However, customers' bills must be more than $250 and 25 percent of the money owed should be paid upfront.

The program is open to any customers who are currently without service or have high bills and want to avoid future disconnection.

Customers who wish to benefit from the program must register at one of MLGW's five community centers, which will have special weekend hours— 8:30 to 5:00 this Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tennessee Breaks Record for Student Aid Requests

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 2:02 PM

STATE OF TENNESSEE
  • State of Tennessee

A record-high number of high school seniors in Tennessee filed for federal student aid this year, leading the nation in filings for the third year in a row.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said Thursday that 73.5 percent of Tennessee high school seniors filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2017-2018 academic year. Filling out the FAFSA is a requirement to get federal and state aid for post-secondary education, including Tennessee Promise and the HOPE Lottery Scholarship.

The figure is important as it shows the number of students planning additional education after high school. Haslam said it is a key indicator as the state pursues his Drive to 55 initiative, which aims to have 55 percent of Tennesseans with a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2025.

“First-time freshman enrollment in Tennessee has grown 13 percent in the past two years and more students than ever are going to college,” Haslams said in a statement. “As a state, we have invested in making college accessible and open to everyone and students are hearing the message.”

According to state figures, Tennessee leads the nation in FAFSA filings. The District of Columbia comes in second with a 64.8 percent, followed by Delaware (61.6%), New Jersey (61.0%), and Massachusetts (60.4%).

MLGW's Water Test Comes Back Clean

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 1:03 PM

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Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) found no detectable traces of arsenic or lead in drinking-water wells that are within two miles of wells where the Tennessee Valley Authority TVA recently found high levels of both toxins.

In May, the TVA discovered arsenic levels in some wells around its Allen Fossil Plant were more than 300 times higher than federal drinking water standards. Lead levels there were also higher than federal safety standards.

The contaminated water is a quarter mile from the TVA’s five new wells drilled into the Memphis Sand Aquifer, the source of Memphis’ drinking water. Those wells were approved by the Shelby County Groundwater Quality Control Board late last year and will pump water from the aquifer to cool a new natural gas energy plant that will soon replace the coal-burning Allen plant.

Last week, MLGW said it would test water from wells in the Davis well field, where it pumps drinking water, which is two miles from the contaminated TVA site. MLGW tested 10 wells there and also tested treated drinking water, which goes into MLGW’s distribution system.

“All wells and drinking water leaving the station tested below detected limits for arsenic,” reads and MLGW news released issued Thursday. Lead levels, too, were below detected limits, the utility said.

Leaders of local environmental groups said they “relieved” to find no contamination in the tests. However, they warn that “it could take decades” for those contaminants to seep into the Memphis Sand Aquifer, the source of Memphis drinking water.

That process, too, could be quickened when TVA begins pumping water from its five wells, said Ward Archer, president of Protect Our Aquifer.

“Common sense would suggest that operating five high-performance wells across the street from a leaking coal ash pond is not a good idea,” Archer said. “Again, we ask TVA to respect our drinking water aquifer and cool with grey water or with water supplied by MLGW.”

Scott Banbury, conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club in Tennessee, said TVA should buy its water for the plant from MLGW until groundwater experts can conduct an “exhaustive study” of the geology under the TVA site and prove “without doubt, that there are no breaches in the Memphis Sand’s protective clay.”

“It’s time that the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Shelby County Groundwater Quality Control Board step in and ensure the protection of our drinking water by staying the well permits that have been issued to TVA until proven safe,” Banbury said. “We call on local leaders to do everything in their power to protect our aquifer.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

EDGE Says Yes to a 108-unit Residence at Madison and McLean

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 4:13 PM

FLEMING ARCHITECTS
  • Fleming Architects

The Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County (EDGE) board approved a 14-year residential pay-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) incentive for a 108-unit multifamily residence to be built near Madison and McLean.

Fourteen million dollars will be invested into the 132,477 square-foot development, which is planned to occupy the block between McLean and Idlewild to the south of Madison.

The four-story building will be constructed on a podium, slightly raised with a 127-space parking lot below and an additional parking spots along Madison.

Per the terms of the PILOT, a little over $3 million has to be spent contracting City and county certified minority and women business enterprises.  

The group behind the project, Makowsky Ringel Greenberg, LLC, also the group proposing to construct the controversial Overton Gateway near Sam Cooper and East Parkway, says the new residence at McLean and Madison will target a diverse population of residents.

Approximately 22 of the 108 units will be available for low or moderate income occupants.

The group expects residents to be able to move in about 9 months after construction begins, which is set to commence late this year or early next.


New Vision Unveiled for Riverfront

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 11:30 AM




An elevated trail through the treetops, a boathouse on the Wolf River harbor, festival grounds, open air markets, a pedestrian bridge to Mud Island, and more are suggestions for the Memphis riverfront from Chicago-based Studio Gang.

The group was hired earlier this year by the Riverfront Development Corp. to survey the riverfront and devise a vision for what it could be. Studio Gang unveiled that vision in a Tuesday news conference.

To get there, the group took stock of the existing assets on the river, surveyed locals, talked with stakeholders close to the river, and reviewed the 11 riverfront plans that have been drawn up since 1987. Studio Gang looked at current planning projects like Memphis 3.0 and looked to the future of the riverfront for changes that could come from climate change and shifts in socioeconomics.

Overall, the plan seeks to connect five major existing assets on six miles of the riverfront — MLK Park, Tom Lee Park, Mud Island, the Fourth Bluff, and Greenbelt Park. The report said it hopes to foster civic pride, restore some of the natural conditions around the river, and connect the those pre-existing assets.

Here are some of the big suggestions Studio Gang has for those five major places along the river:

MLK Park
• Close the nine-hole goal course
• Build a dedicated festival grounds
• Connect South Parkway to McKellar Lake

Tom Lee Park
• Build an adventure park with a rock climbing wall
• Build a boardwalk that goes over the Mississippi River
• Build a Civil Rights History Loop, an interpretive walking trail from the park to the National civil Rights Museum
• Build pavilions for performance and pop-up markets
• Make Riverside Drive two lanes with spaces for parking, bikes, and pedestrians

Mud Island
• Set up areas for camping
• Partner with the University of Memphis to establish Eco Hub, a center for freshwater biology education
• Build pavilions and astronomy cones

Greenbelt Park
• Build a tall lookout at north end of Mud Island
* Build a canopy walk in the treetops in the park

Fourth Bluff
• Replace parking garage at Front and Monroe with a cultural amenity
• Establish Bluff Walk for people to shop, eat, and play
• Activate the Wolf River Harbor with shade, lookouts, and better walkability, including a bridge to Mud Island

But Alan Crone, special counsel to Mayor Jim Strickland, cautioned that the concept presented Tuesday was in no way set in stone. The plan is a set of options offered by Studio Gang. So, he warned against any Memphian looking at the pictures and arguing about their details.

“Studio Gang did not give us a plan but a starting point for community conversations to make the riverfront as great as the river is great,” Crone said.

He repeated Strickland’s pledge not to use any general fund money for the project. Instead, he said the city would be a partner in riverfront development along with philanthropy, business, and individuals.

Riverfront Development Corp. President Benny Lendermon said he and his board have worked constantly with Studio Gang over numerous visits. He said there exists now in Memphis a swell of support to agree on a plan for the riverfront and execute that plan.

The next step in the process will be for Mayor Jim Strickland’s Riverfront Task Force to closely review the concept and to choose what, if any, portion of the plan it wants to build.

Memphis Pets of the Week (July 20-26)

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 10:31 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.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Rape Kit Lawsuit Against City Moves Forward

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 1:21 PM

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A hearing for a lawsuit seeking answers about the amount of rape kits the City has left untested, Jane Doe v. the City of Memphis was held Tuesday in Judge Gina Higgins' circuit courtroom.

Plaintiff lawyer Daniel Lofton says his goal for the hearing was to get the City to tell the rest of the story.

He told Judge Higgins that he feels the City's attorneys have not been cooperating, neglecting to produce requested documents and other pieces of evidence necessary to move forward with the case.

Lofton asked the court to require the City to hand over internal audits, remedial plans in response to the audits, and rape kit statistics.

The attorney representing the City, Robert Meyers disagreed with Lofton's claims, arguing that the City has been doing its best to be cooperative.

However, Meyers says that because no class action has been certified yet and likely won't be, certain evidence that Lofton is seeking is outside the scope of the protective order previously made.

Furthermore, Meyers says the information that the plaintiff attorney is asking for is too broad and "unduly burdensome."

Lofton explained that there are over 12,000 untested rape kits, with only about a dozen convictions from those 12,000 cases. "That number speaks for itself," he said.

He reminded the judge, as well as the defense that the lawsuit is not about the circumstances of each individual rape, but rather about "adding insult to injury."

He said that he plans to prove through evidence that the City's standard of care in handling rape kits has not been up to par.

Tuesday was a win in court for the plaintiff side, according to Lofton, as Judge Higgins said the City cannot be immune to this case and that the plaintiff has the right to go forth.

Judge Higgins ruled that a special judge is to decide what evidence will be included in the case before the lawsuit proceeds.

The judge also told the attorneys that they should consider moving toward setting a date for trial.

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