Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Wiseacre Says Employee Is Out After Offensive Statements

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 3:37 PM

  • Wiseacre/Instagram
Wiseacre Brewing Co. said Tuesday afternoon that the company’s social media manager who made transphobic comments on her personal Twitter account Monday night is no longer with the company.

Liz Dean, the former social media and merchandise manager at Wiseacre, took shots on Twitter at a user called @imp_kid.

“This is why drag queens confuse me,” Dean wrote on Twitter. “They are not only a drag queen but they are also transitioning to be a woman yet their nips are allow to be out??

“They get to be a woman with more rights than woman [sic] get. Frankly, as a woman this pisses me off.”

Dean went on to tell @imp_kid that “no one is forcing you to wear that to prove a point. That should be common knowledge. You are using your previous body to have more rights than your new body to help women when you know nothing of what it’s like to be a woman.”

The user, @imp_kid, found that Dean identified herself as a Wiseacre employee and went straight to the company.

“Ummm @wiseacrebrew, why is your social media manager in my DMs saying dumb, hateful TERF bullshit?”

TERF stands for ”trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” The term refers to a group of feminists that claim trans women aren't really women and the term is considered a slur by the people with those views.

Many Memphians watched the outrage flow on Wiseacre’s Instagram page from the early-morning hours.

At around 3 p.m., Wiseacre co-founders Davin Bartosch and Kellan Bartosch issued a statement on Instagram, apologizing to @imp_kid and for the “pain and hurt these comments caused.”

Here’s the statement in full:

“We were shocked and saddened to hear that last night one of our employees made some insensitive and inappropriate comments on their personal social media. Their comments do not reflect Wiseacre, and they are no longer with our company.

“Still, we are very sorry for the pain and hurt that these comments caused. No one deserves to feel judged. No one deserves to feel hurt. This is not what Wiseacre is about.

We believe not just in inclusion, but in celebrating diversity. We believe in love. We believe in bringing people, all people, together. We can't undo what's been done, but we're going to do our best to make it right moving forward.

“We want to apologize to the person to whom these offensive comments were made. We are deeply sorry. We also want to apologize to our community and to everyone who has supported us.

We are sorry if these comments made you feel like you are not welcome in our community. You are welcome here. Our community is very important to us, so if you have any thoughts about what happened or ideas about how we can grow through this, we would really like to hear them.

Again, we are so sorry for the hurt that was caused. We love y’all.

- Very sincerely - Davin, Kellan and the Wiseacre family”

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City Council to Take Final Vote on Pre-k Fund

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 11:06 AM

  • bbbskw.org

The Memphis City Council is scheduled to take its final vote Tuesday on an ordinance solidifying funding for county-wide, universal-needs pre-Kindergarten here.

The joint ordinance between the council and the Shelby County Commission would call for the appointment of a fiscal agent to manage and raise additional dollars for the pre-k fund. The fiscal agent will also be tasked with creating high-quality pre-k classrooms.

The move comes as a 2014 grant totaling $8 million which funds 1,000 county pre-k seats in 50 classrooms is set to expire at the end of June.

Now, city and county officials want to invest $16.6 million in pre-k by 2022, which will sustain the existing 1,000 seats and create 1,000 new seats. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the funding will have an “enormous” impact on the community.

“Nearly a year ago, we worked with city council, previous Shelby County administration, and county commission to find a way to provide funds for pre-k, and I’m proud to say we did it,” Strickland said in a Monday statement. “This vote solidifies future funding that will have an enormous impact on our community. Thanks to Mayor Harris and his administration for helping continue this progress.

“Pre-k means literacy in 3rd grade. If every 3rd grader can read at grade level, they have a 90 percent chance of graduating, even if they grew up in poverty.”

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said the funding will allow every child who qualifies for pre-k to have access to it for free, which city council chairman Kemp Conrad said is one of the most important things we can do for the future of children.

“There are academic, physical, and social-emotional advantages when a student arrives in Kindergarten ready to learn,” Conrad said. “Pre-k provides that foundation.”

Officials said pre-k funding will increase by $5 million in 2020, $6 million in 2021, and then $5.6 million in 2022, totaling $16.6 million. This will fund a total of 8,500 ongoing seats beginning in 2022.

The city began looking at funding county-wide pre-k last year, putting $3 million of excess city revenue as seed money into a dedicated fund. Additionally, a portion of city property tax revenue and taxes paid by companies whose PILOT (pay-in-lieu-of-taxes) incentive has expired began going to the fund.

The council will take its third and final vote on the ordinance during its meeting Tuesday (today), which begins at 3:30 p.m. at city hall. The county commission is scheduled to vote on a similar ordinance on March 25th.

The fiscal agent will be selected by Harris and Strickland pending the final approval from both bodies.

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Monday, March 4, 2019

Cohen Wants Hearings on Coal Ash

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2019 at 3:11 PM

A coal ash pond at TVA's Allen Fossil Plant.
  • A coal ash pond at TVA's Allen Fossil Plant.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen has asked for a congressional hearing on the impacts of coal-burning energy plants and coal ash dumps on health, groundwater, and aquatic life.

Cohen wants the matter heard before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, putting the request in a Monday letter to its ranking members and to members of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. 
Ninth District congressman Steve Cohen
  • Ninth District congressman Steve Cohen

The move comes after a recent report that found “groundwater beneath virtually all coal plants is contaminated.” That report, called “ Coal’s Poisonous Legacy” was from the Environmental Integrity Project in collaboration with Earthjuctice, the Sierra Club, and the Prairie Rivers Network.

Cohen said if the study’s main fact were “true, this is obviously alarming.” He pointed to a list in the study of the 10 most-contaminated sites across the country. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s now-idled Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis ranked sixth on the list.

“In the case of the Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis, Tennessee,” Cohen wrote, “the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has acknowledged that there is a breach in the protective clay barrier that separates the high levels of contaminants in the groundwater in the shallow aquifer from the deeper sand aquifer from which the city of Memphis draws its drinking water.

“Other communities could be at risk as well.”

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Friday, March 1, 2019

Mayor on Tom Lee Park: Don’t Worry About It

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 3:42 PM

  • Studio Gang

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in his end-of-week update email that disagreements over Tom Lee Park will be worked out.

Memphis In May (MIM) voiced concerns last week over the Memphis River Parks Partnership’s (MRPP) proposed redesign of Tom Lee Park. The groups met Tuesday with Studio Gang, the park’s designer, and Architect Inc., the local firm MIM used to vet MRPP’s design with its needs. 
Mayor Strickland - JB
  • JB
  • Mayor Strickland

“We had a very productive meeting,” reads a joint statement issued Tuesday by MIM and MRPP. “Our teams will continue to work together over the next couple of weeks to address the remaining issues with the goal of producing these two big Memphis in May weekends in a new signature riverfront park.

“We will meet again the week of March 18th and feel confident we’ll reach a solution together that works for the community.”

With that (and likely some behind-the-scenes insight) Strickland said this of the past friction: “My advice: Don’t worry about it too much.” “This week, our office asked leaders of the Memphis River Parks Partnership and Memphis in May to get together to work through specific issues,” Strickland said in a Friday statement. “They made meaningful progress. Like I’ve been saying for three years now, we can do so much in Memphis when we work together and build consensus behind the scenes.

”My goal remains the same: I want a Tom Lee Park that is an asset all 365 days a year, and I want a Memphis in May that continues to thrive. We will accomplish both.”

Mississippi River Rising, But Officials Say Not to Worry

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 3:25 PM

The Mississippi River at 38 feet on February 24th. - FACEBOOK- MIKE LAWHEAD
  • Facebook- Mike Lawhead
  • The Mississippi River at 38 feet on February 24th.

The Mississippi River is set to crest here at its fourth-highest recorded level next week, but the city said Friday via Twitter that “it shouldn’t be cause for concern.”

The National Weather Service has projected the river, now at 40.5 feet, to crest here at about 41.5 feet on Wednesday, March 6th. This would be the highest the river has been since 2011, when the river reached an historic 48 feet, partially submerging Mud Island and leaving Riverside Drive completely underwater.

Forecast of the Mississippi River flood stages - NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Forecast of the Mississippi River flood stages

Robert Knecht, director of the city’s Public Works division, said in a video Friday that the water will stay at that level for a few days before it begins to drop. Over the next 30 days, “hopefully we’ll see a significant drop,” Knecht said.

Knecht said the city is “fortunate,” as major flooding should not be an issue. Historically, Memphis has had challenges with flooding, but Knecht said the city has since “invested significantly” to improve the city’s flood control system. The system protects most of Downtown and many residential areas.

“We’re nowhere near what happened several years ago,” Knecht said, citing the 2011 flood. “And it [flood control] worked flawlessly then.”

Knecht said the city will continue to monitor the river, but that right now he doesn’t foresee any challenges.

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Crosstown Gym Opens; Pool, Community Garden to Come

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 12:51 PM

Crosstown High's new gym - CROSSTOWN CONCOURSE
  • Crosstown Concourse
  • Crosstown High's new gym

A gym at Crosstown Concourse is set to open Friday (today), ahead of the opening of a pool and community garden slated to debut in the coming months.

As the end of Crosstown High School’s inaugural school year nears, its gymnasium opened Friday, Crosstown Concourse announced via Twitter.

The gym, located next to the Crosstown Theater, houses a college-level basketball court that will also be used for volleyball, physical education classes, and practice space for other sports.

Named the Ice Box after the school’s Yeti mascot, the gym is able to hold up to 750 people.

The gym shares locker rooms with the Church Health YMCA pool which is slated to open mid- to late-summer. The new outdoor pool will be accessible to Crosstown students, as well as YMCA members.

Rendering five-lane swimming pool - LRK
  • LRK
  • Rendering five-lane swimming pool

Equipped with five lap lanes and a splash area, the pool is designed to be “as multi-functional as possible,” Shauna Bateman, Church Health YMCA’s district executive director, said.

It will be open during the YMCA outdoor pool season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Both the pool and gym were constructed by Grinder Taber Grinder and designed by the firm Looney Ricks Kiss, which worked with Crosstown Arts to develop the concept for the entire Crosstown Concourse project.

Also slated to open this spring is the Crosstown Concourse community garden, a project led by Church Health in partnership with Crosstown High, Memphis Garden Club, and Big Green, a national nonprofit that builds learning gardens in low-income schools.

Designed by landscape architect Ritchie Smith, the garden will be located near Crosstown Brewing Co., housing raised beds for Crosstown students to maintain through the school’s partnership with Big Green.

Community garden located near Crosstown Brewing Co. - CROSSTOWN CONCOURSE
  • Crosstown Concourse
  • Community garden located near Crosstown Brewing Co.

In addition to being a learning space, Ann Langston, senior director of strategic partnerships and opportunities at Church Health, said the garden will provide “a place of tranquility” on the campus.

A fountain designed by artist Betsy Damon, as well as six sculptures created by artist Brian Russell which were previously located at Church Health’s former space will also be added to the garden. Langston said each sculpture represents one of the virtues that Church Health tries to builds its culture around.

Langston adds that the garden will serve as a place where Church Health rehab patients can practice walking on different levels and types of ground, as well as a space for yoga and other meditation classes.

Anyone in the community who is interested in gardening is invited to help with planting and maintenance of the garden, Langston said.

This story has been updated from a previous version stating the pool would open on Memorial Day weekend. Church Health officials have since informed the Flyer the pool will open mid- to late- summer due to weather delays.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

MLGW Will Now Let Customers Pay Same Amount Each Month

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 3:01 PM


Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) now has a way for customers to pay the same amount for utilities each month, rather than paying varying amounts from month to month.

Through MLGW’s program, Budget Billing, customers’ bills will stay the same amount each month, by spreading out your annual energy expense over a 12-month period.

MLGW said the program doesn’t reduce customers’ overall energy expense. Rather, it allows residents to know the exact amount they will pay each month, which the utility anticipates will help customers manage their household budgets better.

After enrolling in the program, the utility will analyze residents’ previous year’s total utility usage to predict monthly payments, adjusting for rate changes and weather conditions. Total usage is then divided between 12 months.

The utility will do monthly reviews to compare how much customers’ utility usage is versus how much their monthly installments are.

After a periodic review, monthly payments might be adjusted to match actual usage. At the end of the year, any under- or over-payment will be factored into the next year’s payment installments.

Customers can apply for the program via mail, phone, email, or the MLGW website. Residents must have lived at their current address for at least six months to participate.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tom Lee Park Redesign Defended As Successful Festival Grounds

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 10:32 AM

Trees, hills, & more in the - Tom Lee Park redesign. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Trees, hills, & more in the Tom Lee Park redesign.

The Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP) launched its defense of a redesigned Tom Lee Park as a festival grounds Tuesday morning, touting increased capacity, better drainage “to reduce the mud pit,” and better-planned facilities and utilities for Memphis in May (MIM).

MRPP unveiled its plan for the park last month. It includes hilly contours, built facilities, trees, trails, and more. The plan sparked concerns from some, worried the plan would shrink MIM events and move it to a new location for one year — 2020 — while the new park was under construction.

  • Studio Gang

MIM officials weighed in last week, noting the plan has “issues,” “challenges,” and “problems.” They said the plan would reduce the capacity for crowds, stages, and tents at Beale Street Music Festival and the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

A new group, called SaveMIM, emerged Monday. Its website calls up similar concerns and asked for more time to negotiate a new plan.

MIM and MRPP were slated for talks Tuesday about the new design.

MRPP’s Tuesday-morning email was titled “how the new Tom Lee Park can be a great host for our major civic festivals.” In it, MRPP officials said the design is built on opinions of more than 4,000 people who shared their vision for the park during the public engagement process, “the successful programs and activities the park supports today, and the detailed specifications of Memphis in May’s annual music festival and barbecue contest.”

A view of Tom Lee Park from Studio Gang's 2017 Riverfront Concept Plan. - STUDIO GANG
  • Studio Gang
  • A view of Tom Lee Park from Studio Gang's 2017 Riverfront Concept Plan.

“Building on the Memphis Riverfront Concept, Studio Gang’s first action was to meet with Memphis in May staff and board,” reads the MRPP email. “The first coordination meeting took place in September 2017 to ensure that the specifications for the two event weekends were accommodated in the park’s new design. Once Memphis in May's specifications were known, the park was designed around them.”

Calling them “compromises in the park design to support major festivals,” MRPP said the design included “three great lawns sized for festival-sized crowds” and more.

”The three great lawns that dominate the park are sized to accommodate more than 30,000 patrons for Beale Street Music Festival,” reads the email. “Assuming six square feet per person, roughly the amount of space you’d expect at a standing cocktail party, the lawns can accommodate even more — 42,000 patrons. The lawns are located next to Riverside Drive for easier access and load-in.”

The plan also includes “hardened lawns and improve drainage to reduce the mud pit.”

"Today, Tom Lee Park has drainage issues that combined with the stress of thousands of festival-goers to produce muddy conditions almost annually,” reads the email. “The park is built on an Army Corps of Engineers dike. Beneath a couple of feet of top soil, the material below is heavily-compacted river bed that’s about as permeable as concrete.

“(Under the new plan) the lawns will be hardened with geo-engineered fiber soil, stormwater gardens added, and drainage improved so that the park is less likely to become ‘Memphis in Mud.’ This will also help BBQ teams have a solid footing upon which to build their elaborate team booths.”

A new, permeant feature called Center Court in the design would be used in Tom Lee Park for basketball games and concerts. For MIM, Center Court “is being designed to be easily adaptable as a concert venue so that is can quickly, cheaply, and easily built out as the blues tent of BBG judging court."

“Center Court will provide 21,000 square feet of usable space — much bigger than the 15,000 square feet requested by Memphis in May,” says MRPP.

The final point MRPP made Tuesday related to concerns from MIM officials that the new design would hamstring its operations, making it more difficult for tractor trailers to move in and out of the park, harder for service and emergency vehicles to move inside the park, and more difficult for music festival and barbecue tents to be erected.

Here’s how MRPP said Tuesday the new plan addresses all of those concerns:

• The new design provides 30-foot-wide sidewalks so 18-wheelers can access each stage footing without needing to drive on any grass.

• Stages can now be built on hardscape (rather than grass) and the appropriate utilities will be easily available.

• Vendors are able to set up on the more than 165,000 square feet of hardscape in the ‘riffle’ section of the park and will find appropriately located utility hookups in place.

• A network of 12-foot-to-19-foot-wide emergency egress paths are located throughout.
“These advantages for festival producers are built into the design and will combine to make festival production cheaper, easier, and quicker while also producing a festival environment and landscape that is unmatched nationwide,” MRPP said. “These enhancements will also open the door to more festivals and major events being held in the new Tom Lee Park. Already, multiple event producers have expressed interest in producing smaller festivals and concerts in the new park.”

MRPP invited the public to view the new plan for the park at the engagement center set up inside Beale Street Landing Wednesday 4 p.m.-7 p.m. And Saturdays noon-3 p.m.

MRPP also invited the public to “#cometotheriver 365 days a year.”


XPO Promises Jobs for Some in Closing Warehouse

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 9:24 AM

  • XPO

An official with XPO Logistics said Monday that all of the hourly employees at its warehouse here that is set to close this spring will be offered new jobs at another one of the company’s local facilities.

The approximate 400 employees at the company’s Verizon-contracted warehouse here received letters earlier this month saying that the warehouse would permanently close because of an “overall business model change initiated and completed by our customer.”

Workers expressed concern that the closing was retaliation in response to the company recently gaining national attention after allegations of pregnancy discrimination, sexual abuse, and poor working conditions were brought forth by employees. XPO denied those claims.

Now, the company guarantees that all the hourly employees working at the warehouse, which make up about 90 percent of the workforce, will be offered new jobs in one of the 11 nearby XPO-run facilities here, said Erin Kurtz, XPO’s senior vice president of communications. Kurtz said the company is also working to find jobs for the remaining salaried employees at XPO facilities here. The company will “make every effort” to accommodate employee’s location preferences.

“Getting our employees new jobs was our goal all along, but we had to take inventory to evaluate what was possible with our other sites in Memphis,” Kurtz said. “Happy to report, that we will offer all hourly employees a new role and will maintain the hourly wage rate.”

Kurtz also confirmed Monday that the independent investigation by Tina Tchen of Buckley Sandler’s, a Chicago-based firm that specializes in unique litigation, counseling, and crisis management skills, into the allegations is completed.

Tina Tchen investigated XPO's workplace culture and policies. - BUCKLEY SANDLER’S
  • Buckley Sandler’s
  • Tina Tchen investigated XPO's workplace culture and policies.

Tchen said in her report that the company did have a policy in place that requires providing reasonable accommodation for pregnant employees when medically required, but that she recommends additional procedures, education, and training of supervisors and workers.

She adds that XPO’s new Pregnancy Care Policy, which took effect in January, is “one of the most progressive in place around the country.”

“In particular the type of accomodations reportedly requested in the press accounts under the new policy can now be put into place automatically without medical documentation of need,” Tchen said. “The company has also been engaged in a robust training and education process to ensure all workers and supervisors know about this new policy and how to apply it.

“Overall, I found that XPO, as this response demonstrates, to be a company that is working to enhance workplace culture and support its employees.”

The news came the same day U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen sent a letter to the company’s CEO Bradley Jacobs to follow-up on concerns raised last year regarding allegations of mistreatment of employees in light of the warehouse closing.

“We are also concerned about allegations that the Memphis warehouse closure could be connected to the aforementioned incidents,” reads Cohen's letter. “It is our top priority to ensure that workers in XPO Logistics facilities are not put at physical risk or risk of discrimination.”

The letter asks for answers to six questions, some of which the company seemed to answer Monday:

What are the results of Tina Tchen’s internal review of the company culture and policy?

 What is XPO’s new pregnancy policy and how does it differ from the policy that was in place when the alleged incidents took place?

What policies are in place at XPO to prevent and adequately address sexual harassment and gender discrimination cases?

Who was responsible for deciding to close the XPO warehouse in Memphis?

What specific steps are being taken to assist workers being laid off in Memphis?

What steps will XPO take to ensure that workers are protected at the new facility planned to open here in May?

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Monday, February 25, 2019

New Group Seeks to "Save Memphis in May"

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2019 at 4:21 PM

  • SaveMIM.org

A new website has emerged from a group that wants “to give a voice to Memphians who are concerned about rushing into” the redesign of Tom Lee Park and to “save” Memphis in May (MIM).

Memphis River Parks Partnership’s (MRPP) proposed redesign of the park has sparked concern among many, including MIM leadership, that the new park plan would negatively affect the month-long festival.

The new group identifies itself as SaveMIM.org. Who are they? They never really say.

“Let’s start with who we aren’t,” reads the description on the website. “We are not employed by or affiliated with the Memphis in May International Festival, the Memphis Tourism Board, or any other established civil entity.

“We are merely a few concerned Memphians who love the Memphis In May International Festival, and enjoy our waterfront.”

The site’s main function is to give its visitors an easy way to send Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Memphis City Council members a form letter that says the sender is ”someone who is deeply concerned for the future of Tom Lee Park and the Memphis in May International Festival.”

That letter claims the new plan “looks beautiful” but it also lays out a raft of concerns about it.

Here’s a few of those concerns straight from the letter:

• Lack of a true dedicated logistics/emergency personnel artery

• Insufficient “alleyways” between barbecue booths for crowds, construction crews, and load-in

• Abundant grass-only high-traffic areas that will be reduced to impassable mud

• Insufficient space allocated for barbecue awards/judging infrastructure

• Will not accommodate existing crowds for music fest, or team booths for barbecue fest.

• Lack of long-term funding for maintenance and security/safety

The site also lays out a number of claims about the MRPP and its plan.

In a section called “capacity issues,” the SaveMIM group says “MRPP's proposed MIM layout includes unrealistic numbers to hide its flaws.” On “logistical oversights,” the group claims “MRPP’s plan places a large number of booths facing narrow grass walkways that are not capable of supporting this traffic.”

In another action called "Safety Shouldn’t Be An Afterthought,” SaveMIM claims the MRPP “proposal lacks a defined security or maintenance plan.” The group further says MIM is a huge money-maker and the new design would hurt local businesses.

The group says the plan also excludes a “judging tent, festival operations, and a large stage for awards and entertainment like Ms. Piggy Idol and live concerts.” The group also says MRPP has raised only half of the money for the project and wonder if taxpayers will “be stuck with the tab for the balance.”

The site was apparently designed by a firm called Gravity Interactive Marketing and Social Media.

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City Looks to Ease Pothole Problem With Technology, Re-Paving

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2019 at 3:51 PM

  • City of Memphis

The city of Memphis says it is just as frustrated about the many potholes riddling the city’s streets as you are, and that it is “confronting the challenge head-on.”

The city explained what causes potholes, how the city is working to repair them faster, and how the public can help in a blog last week.

The number of potholes grows exponentially in the winter, according to officials. When water seeps into the road and freezes, it expands, which often causes a pothole eventually. A lot of traffic means quicker-forming potholes.

There are up to 10 city crews assigned to repairing potholes at most hours, according to the city. However, rainy weather in the winter is a “double-whammy.” Heavy rain accelerates the pothole-forming process. Also, when rain fills the holes, crews aren’t able to repair them. Still, last year the city repaired close to 63,000 potholes.

The city asks that the public report potholes by using the Memphis 311 app, submitting a report online, or calling 311 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Also, if your car has been damaged by a pothole on a city street, you can file a claim with the city.

The city wants you to know that Memphis isn’t the only city with ubiquitous potholes, citing in its blog Los Angeles, Topeka, and Seattle as other pothole-plagued places: “So, we’re not alone in our challenge, though that’s of little solace to us here in.”

In step with tracking and repairing potholes faster, the city is in the early stages of a partnership with a technology company in order to pilot a project that could allow cameras attached to city-owned vehicles to scan for potholes. The effort was announced during Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s State of the City Address last month.

As the project is still in developing phases, Dan Springer, the city’s deputy director of media affairs, said he is not able to name the company that the city is partnering with at this time.

  • City of Memphis

Still, the long-term solution for potholes is paving more streets. The city said it is working to catch up on the backlog in street paving due to the small amounts of funding allocated for re-paving in the past.

The city’s current fiscal year budget sets aside $19 million for paving, compared to $16.5 million during Strickland’s first year in office in 2016, $15 million in 2015 during the last year of A.C. Wharton’s tenure, and $5.8 million during Wharton’s first year in 2009.

But, Memphis can only pave so many of the approximate 6,800 lane-miles of road in the city, estimating it would costs “more than half a billion dollars” to re-pave every street in the city. The entire capital budget was $87 million for fiscal year 2018.

As the temperatures begin to rise, crews will begin repaving these streets.

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Friday, February 22, 2019

Memphis Cited For Two Roads With Country's Most Cell Phone Use

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 3:31 PM

  • I Drive Safely

Memphis is home to two of the country’s top ten roads where the most cell phone use by a driver was observed last year, according to the company Lytx.

Lytx, a company that uses video technology to capture data from commercial and public sector vehicles, released the list earlier this week.

A half square-mile segment of road near Compress Drive and South Lauderdale Street tops the list, having the most observed cell-phone use of all the areas recorded during 2018. Another stretch of road near East Holmes Road and Lamar Avenue also made the list at number four.

Other cities that had a street in the top ten include Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Irving, Texas.

Top ten segments of road in the country where drivers were observed using their cellphones. - LYTX
  • Lytx
  • Top ten segments of road in the country where drivers were observed using their cellphones.

Around the country, Lytx software captured more than 1.3 million instances of cell phone use in 2018

The list was compiled from data collected by Lytx’s more than 3,000 driver clients around the country, who according to the company have driven tens of billions of miles since the company’s inception in 1998.

Lytx’s fleet consists of vehicles in industries such as trucking, waste, transit, construction, and government.

Nationwide, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured daily in crashes resulting from distracted driving, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Memphis City Council is not happy with Memphis' placement on Lytx's list and reminds you not to text and drive via Twitter. 

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Officials: Memphis in May Won't Work at Other Downtown Sites

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 1:28 PM

Tom Lee Park model at Beale Street Landing. - BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN
  • Bruce VanWyngarden
  • Tom Lee Park model at Beale Street Landing.

Memphis in May (MIM) officials say the six locations explored as an alternative sites for the festival next year won’t work and are calling for a phased construction schedule for the redesigned park to allow MIM to return to Tom Lee Park in 2020.

MIM officials said Thursday they were concerned the Memphis River Parks Partnership’s (MRPP) redesign of the park would cut the festival’s capacity. That redesign adds contours, trees, built facilities, and more to the now wide-open park.

MRPP officials want to begin construction of the new design in June, after MIM wrap-up this year. The construction would take 18 months. MRPP president Carol Coletta has said she’s not sure how MIM could operate in what would be a construction site. The suggestion has been to locate MIM to an alternative location for 2020.

The Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) identified six sites that might work for MIM.

“We believe Memphis in May and Downtown Memphis are uniquely and inedibly joined,” reads the DMC document. “We believe Memphis in May belongs Downtown.”

In a DMC document shared to the press Friday, the DMC suggested Beale Street, Mud Island, Greenbelt Park, MLK Riverside Park, Georgia Avenue Elementary, and the grassy area north of Tom Lee Park at the corner of I-40 and Riverside Drive. (See our slideshow below for more details on the sites.)
“A cursory review of the sizes and infrastructure of the suggested sites reveals that these simply are not compatible to host our world-class events, and reaffirms our president and CEO Jim Holt’s assertion yesterday that — aside from Tom Lee Park — there are no other sites in Downtown Memphis that can accommodate Memphis in May,” MIM spokesman Robert Griffin said in a statement. “This is why we have requested a phased construction schedule to allow Memphis in May to remain in Tom Lee Park and downtown Memphis in 2020, as it is the only viable downtown location for our events.”

MIM and the MRPP are scheduled to have a meeting about Tom Lee Park on Monday.

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Juvenile Judge Declares "Mission Accomplished"

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2019 at 10:44 AM

Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael declared “mission accomplished” during his annual state of the court address Friday. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael declared “mission accomplished” during his annual state of the court address Friday.
Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael declared “mission accomplished” during his annual state of the court address Friday, touting last year’s ending of federal oversight.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ended its six-year review of the court in October. The oversight began in 2012, after an investigation found that the court discriminated against African-American children, violated due process laws, and that the detention center was dangerous.

”I thank you, personally, for your all of your outstanding efforts over the past year, and declare mission accomplished,” Michael said at the Shelby County Crime Commission office Friday. “The Department of Justice has placed us in compliance with the memorandum of agreement to the point of its completion and ended federal monitoring of the juvenile court of Memphis and Shelby County.”
The move to end that oversight outraged some in Shelby County government. During a press conference in October, Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner said that while the oversight was over, “there were items that remained to be addressed.”

“So, this whole notion that it was a successful closure, I think is somewhat fabricated,” Turner said.
Michael said the court is recognized nationally as a model court by the National Council of of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, of which Michael is a board member.

”We’ve earned this not only by exhibiting care and compassion on a daily basis, but we also strive to become better by taking risks,” Michael said. “A model court doesn’t mean we’re a stand-out. It means that we experiment. If something doesn’t work, we move on and find something that does work. That’s what makes us a model court.”

Michael outlined five key components — made in collaboration with DOJ officials — that will carry the court forward.

Two of these were groups that will meet continually to improve the court. The strategic planning committee and the county-wide Juvenile Justice Consortium will have “access to the courthouse and the families we serve,” Michael said. The group will be able to “see our successes and aid us in shaping any shortfalls we may encounter.”

A community outreach program “will allow every citizens to get the answers to their questions about what we do and how we do it.” For this, the court will hold public meetings throughout the county.

Michael said the court will also continue to work with two consultants hired by Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris to help the court ”maintain best practices” and to “reduce (disproportionate minority contact.”

Michael said he fully supports Mayor Harris’ and the county commission’s project to build a new juvenile court facility.

In a line that seemed to be aimed at court employees, Michael said, “let’s use criticism and unfair judgments about us as step-in stones that ahead of this court.”

Michael ended his address with a quote from industrialist Henry Ford:

"Coming together is a beginning," Michael said. "Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Memphis In May Cites "Challenges," "Issues" in Tom Lee Park Redesign

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 4:53 PM

Tom Lee Park model at Beale Street Landing. - BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN
  • Bruce VanWyngarden
  • Tom Lee Park model at Beale Street Landing.

Memphis in May (MIM) officials said Thursday that the Memphis River Parks Partnership’s (MRPP) redesign of Tom Lee Park would cut the capacity for its events there and said the current plans have "challenges" and "issues."

The MRPP unveiled a new plan for the park last month. It adds hilly contours, built facilities, a basketball court/stage area, trails, trees, and more to the now-wide-open park below the bluff beside the Mississippi River.

MRPP officials say the current design was directly informed by attendance numbers given to them by MIM. Since the plan was unveiled, some have voiced concerns about the redesign, worried that it could cut into MIM attendance and the attendant tourism dollars. See our previous story on all this here.


Memphis in May released no public statements on the redesign. Instead, officials said they wanted to get the final plans, including ones that include topography, before reacting. They got those plans Monday, they said. MIM then gave the plans to Architecture Inc., a local firm, to determine how MIM crowds, tents, concessions, tractor trailers, etc. would fit into the new spaces.

“In the last 72 hours, the test fits have been completed and we were able to present our board today a series of issues and challenges that we found in the new design, including the level of space loss in the redesigned Tom Lee Park,” reads a statement from MIM.

Some of the numbers match up. For example, MIM is spread over 86 percent of Tom Lee Park now and it would still fit that space under the redesign. However, MIM president and CEO Jim Holt said Thursday that fitting the festival into its current footprint doesn’t allow for future growth.

The MRPP redesign cuts the useable space in Tom Lee Park for MIM from 61 percent to 57 percent of the park's area, according to the evaluation from Architecture Inc. It cuts the available grass space in the park from 52 percent to 20 percent, according to the study. The MRPP plan increases the amount of roads and parking, sidewalks, trees, hills, and a new water feature.

Holt said MIM will meet with MRPP Tuesday, starting a new dialog between the two that, he said, should result in a way forward.

“In an effort to keep Memphis in May in its riverfront home since 1980, our next steps are to share these test fits with MRPP and Studio Gang for their evaluation, so that we can together determine the best way to adjust the current design,” reads the MIM statement.

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