Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Investor Buys Royal Furniture Building

Posted By on Tue, Jan 8, 2019 at 11:57 AM

The Royal Furniture building at 122 South Main. - DCA
  • DCA
  • The Royal Furniture building at 122 South Main.
A New York investor has purchased the Downtown Royal Furniture building, but the store owners have no immediate plans to move.

The building at 122 South Main was purchased recently by Tom Intrator. He recently purchased the 18 South Main building, the vacant, former home of Murray’s Clothing. Intrator owns seven apartment properties here for a total of 1,630 units.

“This Royal Furniture space is particularly compelling for ground-floor retail and either hospitality, residential, or office space above,” Intrator said in a statement. “We aim to use discretion in verticality — building up, not out.”

He said the building was attractive as it sits on the trolley line and is close to the Orpheum Theater and Beale Street. For the building’s future, “we’re exploring all options,” Intrator said.

“With the momentum that is currently growing in Memphis, Downtown is increasingly attractive to investors,” said Jennifer Oswalt, president and CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission. “We welcome the opportunity to work with developers like Tom who have real vision, not just in property acquisition but in supporting and enhancing the local culture of Downtown through thoughtful tenant-mix and experiences.”

The building was constructed in 1948 and has long been the retail showroom for Royal Furniture.

Council Will Again Try to Reach Consensus, Fill Vacancies

Posted By on Tue, Jan 8, 2019 at 11:26 AM

  • Maya Smith

The 10-member Memphis City Council will convene for the first time in 2019 this afternoon, January 8th, and attempt to fill its three vacant seats.

The District 1 seat has been vacant since the resignation of Bill Morrison on November 1st. Since then, the council has been at an impasse, unable to award any one candidate the seven votes needed to win.

Council members spent hours debating, cast more than 100 votes, and four council members staged a walkout over the course of the two months spent trying to fill the seat.

Lonnie Treadaway, Rhonda Logan
  • Lonnie Treadaway, Rhonda Logan

Both of the top two contenders for District 1 — Lonnie Treadaway of Flinn Broadcasting Company and Rhonda Logan, director of the Raleigh Community Development Corp. — are no longer in the running. Logan was eliminated by the council at its December 18th meeting, and Treadaway pulled his bid for the seat earlier last month.

Now, only Tierra Holloway, Paul Boyd, Mauricio Calvo, and Danielle Schonbaum remain as candidates for the District 1 seat.

Councilman Worth Morgan said Monday he is unsure how the votes will go Tuesday afternoon, but his main goals are finding a resolution to fill the empty seats and reconciliation among his colleagues.

The council will also look to fill the the vacant District 6 and Super District 8-2 seats vacated by now-Shelby County Commissioner Edmund Ford. Jr. and Janis Fullilove, who was elected to be the Shelby County Juvenile Court Clerk in August.

The six candidates for the District 6 seat include Edmund Ford Sr., father of Ford Jr.; Arveal Turner, a youth tennis coach; and Memphis Police Department officer Davin Clemons, who is the LGBTQ liason for the police department.

The others are Perry Bond, Lynette Williams, and Vera Holmes.

Among the 11 vying for the Super District 8-2 seat are Austin Crowder, teacher at Soulsville Charter School; Steve Lockwood, executive director of the Frayser Community Development Corp.; and Mark Jones, a local filmmaker seeking to be the first openly gay person to serve on the council.

Isaac Wright, Pearl Walker, Yvonne Nelson, Tonya Cooper, Gerre Currie, Anita Drake, Edward Douglas, and Cheyenne Johnson are also in the running.

The appointments are slated for the end of the council’s meeting, which will begin at 3:30 p.m. at Memphis City Hall. Following the filling of the three seats, the council is also set to vote on a chair and vice chairperson for 2019. However, if tonight's meeting follows suit of the previous attempts to fill the vacancies, it could extend late into the evening. 

If the council is unable to reach a consensus and fill the three seats, a special election could be held.

More Than 100K Stayed in Airbnbs Here Last Year

Posted By on Tue, Jan 8, 2019 at 10:34 AM

  • Airbnb/Facebook

About 106,000 people stayed in Shelby County Airbnbs last year, earning hosts here about $10.9 million, the company reported Tuesday.

The digital, home-sharing platform made a tax agreement with city leaders here in 2017. It was the first of its kind in Tennessee. This move paved the way for a tax-collection deal with cities across the state through the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

Airbnb hosts pay a 3.5 percent short-term room occupancy tax and a $2-per-night assessment. In its first year, the agreement here added $647,000 in tax revenues to Memphis tax coffers. From May 2016 to May 2017, 87,000 stayed in Memphis Airbnbs. Information on taxes collected during the 2017-2018 term of the agreement were not immediately available.

The new figures from Airbnb show that the typical host in Shelby County earned $8,400 last year in supplemental income from sharing their home through the platform.

Airbnb said Tuesday that data shows that the platform is playing well with the Tennessee hotel industry, rather than competing with it. The company said hotels continue to report strong growth, “even as local hosts welcomed tens of thousands of guests.”

“This suggests that Airbnb is opening up the state to a new slice of prospective tourists by catering to travelers less able to afford hotels, those who desire to stay in neighborhoods or cities that lack hotels, and families who prefer to be together under one roof,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Haslam Grants Clemency to Cyntoia Brown

Posted By on Mon, Jan 7, 2019 at 11:41 AM

  • Raumesh Akbari/Facebook

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam granted executive clemency to Cyntoia Brown, the sex trafficking victim convicted for killing a john at 16, Monday morning.

“This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” Haslam said in a statement. “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16.

Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.

“Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”

Brown will be released to parole supervision on August 7, 2019, after serving 15 years in prison. Parole conditions will require that she not violate any state or federal laws, be subject to a release plan approved by the Tennessee Department of Correction, and special supervision conditions, including employment, education, counseling, and community engagement.

Parole supervision will continue for Brown until August 7, 2029. She will complete re-entry programming prior to her release from custody in August in order to facilitate a successful transition to the community, according to Haslam’s office.

In 2006, Brown was convicted by a Davidson County jury of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery for the 2004 murder of 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen, which occurred when then-16-year-old Brown was picked up by Allen and taken to his home.

She received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after serving a minimum of 51 years in prison, which means she would not have been eligible for parole consideration until 2055, at the earliest, without the governor’s action.

Here's what state Senator Raumesh Akbari posted on the move Monday morning:

INFOGRAPHIC: Top 10 Property Code Violators

Posted By on Mon, Jan 7, 2019 at 9:46 AM

  • Neighborhood Preservation Inc./University of Memphis

Friday, January 4, 2019

State GOP Challenge Shelby County’s Response to New Immigration Law

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 3:03 PM


After a law that prohibits state and local governments from interfering with the enforcement of federal immigration laws went into effect on January 1st, the Shelby County attorney said that the law doesn’t apply to Shelby County or the county's sheriff’s department.

In a Wednesday tweet the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) said that Marlinee Clark Iverson, the county attorney, advised that HB2315, the “new Tennessee laws governing sanctuary cities don’t apply to Shelby County or SCSO.”

“Therefore, the SCSO will not detain anyone being released from the jail unless there is a warrant or probable cause to do so,” the agency said.

SCSO will, however, continue to honor requests for notifications from the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE).

Now, the notion that Shelby County is exempt from the law and that detaining individuals without probable cause or a warrant would be in violation for the Fourth Amendment is being challenged by Tennessee Lieutenant Governor and Speaker Randy McNally and Speaker Glen Casada, the Associated Press reported Friday.

  • Associated Press

Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, policy director at the Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), who has called the law “one of the most extreme, anti-immigration laws in the country” said Friday that the group warned legislators that the measure puts local governments in “impossible positions.”

“Tennessee's new 'anti-sanctuary city' law forces local governments to choose: violate the U.S. Constitution or violate the new state law,” Sherman-Nikolaus said. “If the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House are going to threaten Shelby County, the state should have to foot the bill when counties are inevitably sued for violating their residents' fourth amendment rights.”

Sherman-Nikolaus adds that the TIRRC applauds SCSO and the county attorney for defending all residents’ constitutional rights.

“Local governments across the state should join together and urge the legislature to reconsider this blatantly unconstitutional law,” Sherman-Nikolaus said.

In county attorney Iverson's legal opinion, she agreed that the law could violate constitutional rights: “The language in the statute is unclear to the extent that it can be interpreted as requiring absurd and/or potentially unconstitutional conduct by any law enforcement agency.”

Union to See Major Reconstruction, Public Input Wanted

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 2:22 PM


Union Avenue could be vastly different in the years ahead, as the city is planning to revamp the street through the Union Avenue Complete Streets Project.

The street will undergo a multi-phase “major reconstruction,” according to the city’s Bikeway and Pedestrian program’s Facebook.

Beginning with the segment of Union from Marshall Avenue to Manassas Street in the Medical District, the street will get improvements like street beautification, enhanced transit stops, heightened safety for pedestrians and cyclists, modernized traffic signals, and eco-friendly solutions to stormwater runoff.

The first segment of the project is highlighted in yellow. - GOOGLE MAPS
  • Google Maps
  • The first segment of the project is highlighted in yellow.

City officials spearheading the project, as well as a team of design consultants will present the plans for the first segment in detail and seek feedback at a public meeting on Tuesday, January 8th. The meeting is slated for 6 p.m. at High Cotton Brewing Co.

A social hour sponsored by the Memphis Medical District Collaborative will follow. Attendees of the meeting will receive a complimentary drink ticket.

Wiseacre's Downtown Brewery In GIFs

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 10:14 AM


If you don't know yet, Wiseacre Brewing wants to build a brand new, 40,000-square-foot brewery and tasting room Downtown close to South Main. Check our previous story here.

The company sent renderings (really fancy concept drawings) of the proposed facility to the Downtown Memphis Commission's (DMC) Design Review Board.

In Wiseacre's application, they included shots of the site now and what it could look like in the future, if the brewery is approved.

The GIF above shows what it would look like looking east down Butler right by Central BBQ's Downtown location.

The one below looks from the same direction but closer up on the corner of Butler and B.B. King.


Wiseacre's proposal will be heard by the review board on Wednesday, January 9th, at the DMC headquarters at 114 N. Main.

That board will also have a look at One Beale's Hyatt Centric hotel, the expansion of the Arcade restaurant, and the renovation of a Beale Street law firm.

Tags: , ,

Cohen's New Agenda: Marijuana, Trump, Cops, Voting

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 9:58 AM


Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen outlined his legislative agenda for the new Congress Thursday in a torrent of proposals that take aim at everything from infant mortality rates, medical marijuana, and criminal justice reform, to abolishing the Electoral College and curtailing presidential pardon power.

Constitutional Amendments

• Cohen first proffered an amendment to cut the Electoral College in 2016.

He brought it back Thursday, seeking the direct election of the President and Vice President of the United States.

“In two presidential elections since 2000, including the most recent one in which Hillary Clinton won 2.8 million more votes than her opponent, the winner of the popular vote did not win the election because of the distorting effect of the outdated Electoral College,” Cohen said in a statement. “Americans expect and deserve the winner of the popular vote to win office. More than a century ago, we amended our Constitution to provide for the direct election of U.S. Senators. It is past time to directly elect our President and Vice President.”
  • Palinchak | Dreamstime
  • Donald Trump

• Cohen’s second proposal would limit presidential pardon power, prohibiting presidents from pardoning themselves, members of their families, members of their administrations, and their campaign staff. The proposal seems aimed at President Donald Trump.

“Presidents should not pardon themselves, their families, their administration or campaign staff,” he said. “This constitutional amendment would expressly prohibit this and any future president, from abusing the pardon power.”


Criminal Justice Reform

• Cohen and congress member Lacy Clay (D-Missouri), whose district includes Ferguson, Mo., introduced the Police Training and Independent Review Act Thursday.

The law would give federal funding as an incentive for states to require sensitivity training on ethnic and racial bias, cultural diversity, and interactions with the disabled, mentally ill, and new immigrants. The bill would offer the same federal funding incentive for independent investigations and prosecution of incidents in which police use of deadly force results in a death or injury.

• Cohen also introduced the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act. It would require recipients of federal law-enforcement funding to gather data — including race — on all instances the use of deadly force by law enforcement and report it to the Department of Justice.

• Another bill, the Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (CAMERA) Act, would establish a grant program to assist state and local law enforcement with the purchase and operation of body-worn police cameras.

• The Fresh Start Act would give some nonviolent former federal offenders a chance to have their nonviolent offenses expunged. It would also use federal funds to encourage states to pass similar expungement laws.

“These bills will help bring much needed reform to our criminal justice system, and help restore trust between police and the citizens they serve and protect,” said Cohen. “Asking the local prosecutors to investigate the same local police with whom they need to work so closely on a day-to-day basis creates a conflict of interest which we should be working to end.

“Better training, statistics, and video evidence will also help, as will an orderly process or enabling appropriate ex-offenders, who have completed their sentences, to re-enter society.”

  • Shelby County Health Department

Infant Mortality Rates

• The Nationally Enhancing the Wellbeing of Babies through Outreach and Research Now (NEWBORN) Act would create pilot programs to reduce infant mortality rates in the highest-risk areas of the country. Cohen noted that Memphis ”continues to have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country.”

  • usatoday.com

Voter Protection

The Streamlined and Improved Methods at Polling Locations and Early Voting (SIMPLE) Act would require states to:

• allow early voting for federal elections for at least two weeks prior to election day

• ensure that polling locations are within walking distance of a stop on a public transportation route

• have sufficient voting systems, poll workers, and other election resources

• ensure wait times are fair and equitable for all voters across a state with no one required to wait longer than one hour to cast a ballot at a polling place.


Medical Marijuana

The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act would:

• allow states to set their own medical-marijuana policies

• allow doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans

• would not legalize medical marijuana in all 50 states but would respect the states’ decisions to legalize medical marijuana

• would prevent federal law enforcement from prosecuting patients, doctors, and caregivers in those states.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

UPDATED: TBI Investigating Fatal Officer Shooting in Whitehaven

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2019 at 10:36 PM


A man who police say was armed with a knife was fatally shot by Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers Wednesday night shortly after 8 in Whitehaven.

Special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) are investigating the shooting, according to a tweet by the agency. MPD’s Violent Crime Response Team is also responding to the incident. TBI identified the deceased man as 20-year-old Abdoulaye Thiam Thursday morning. 

The shooting took place in the 1300th block of Timothy near Hermitage after MPD responded to a domestic disturbance call at 1317 Timothy. Once on the scene, Thiam allegedly confronted the officers with a knife, prompting the officers to fire shots fatally injuring the man, according to MPD. None of the officers were injured.   

The three MPD officers involved have been relieved of duty pending the ongoing investigation. TBI nor MPD have released any additional information about the incident, including the names of the officers involved in the shooting. TBI said it does not "identify officers involved in these types of incidents," but instead "refers questions of that nature to the respective agency."

TBI was able to recover all three officers' body cam footage during the time of the shooting, MPD said Thursday. As the investigation is still ongoing, the footage has not been released to the public. 

Memphis Animal Services Hits Record Save Rate in 2018

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2019 at 10:33 AM

  • Facebook- MAS

With the adoption of brother kittens, Rudy and Ricco, last week Memphis Animal Services (MAS) reached its goal of processing more than 7,000 adoptions and rescue transfers in 2018.

The agency also ended the year with an all-time high save rate of 88 percent, officials announced Wednesday.

“7,000 was a stretch goal, and we honestly weren’t sure if we would hit it this year, but we wanted to try anyway and see if we could save more lives than we thought possible,” MAS director, Alexis Pugh, said in a statement. “But thanks to so much wonderful support from our community, we hit the goal on December 28th and still had several days to add to it.”

The 7,000th and 7,001st adoptions of 2018 were brother kittens who were adopted by the Miles family. - MAS
  • MAS
  • The 7,000th and 7,001st adoptions of 2018 were brother kittens who were adopted by the Miles family.

During December, the shelter offered adoption specials “in order to place as many pets as possible in homes for the holidays.” Adoptions of all cats and dogs were $18 compared to the regular fee that ranges from $40 to $80. MAS officials said the promotion led to 16 percent more public adoptions than during same time period last year.

Though intakes increased by 8 percent over 2018, the agency’s year-end save rate was 88.2 percent — compared to 84.8 percent in 2017.

MAS saved 7,712 pets in 2018, as it processed 3,911 public adoptions, 3,172 rescue transfers, and reunited 629 lost pets. Euthanasia was down 21 percent as a result.

Offering a wide range of programs and services, including sheltering lost or homeless animals, pet adoption and placement, handling animal control reports, dog licensing, cruelty investigations, and humane education, MAS is working toward saving every healthy, adoptable pet.

Interested in adopting from MAS? Visit their website for more info.

Coalition Hopes for 2019 Events 'Under the Dome'

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2019 at 9:38 AM

The main floor of the MidSouth Coliseum. - BRANDON DILL
  • Brandon Dill
  • The main floor of the MidSouth Coliseum.

The group advocating for a re-opened MidSouth Coliseum hopes to host events inside the now-shuttered building sometime this year.

The grassroots Coliseum Coalition began work to save the building in 2015. Last year, they proclaimed the Coliseum to be officially saved after state officials approved a city plan for the Fairgrounds, which included the building’s preservation. In between, the group led tours through the building to show that the building is in “excellent shape,” they said.

“Our VIP tours have been packed and are drawing people who’ve shied away in the past,” said Coliseum Coalition spokesman Marvin Stockwell. “A lot of people are realizing that the building's issues are solvable, and that the opportunities that the Coliseum presents are too good to be held back by old narratives.”

This year, the Coliseum Coalition plans to continue the tours and is planning another Roundhouse Revival event. So far, the group has hosted three of the Revival events, all of them outside the Coliseum.

Coalition president Roy Barnes said that with the city’s Fairgrounds plan approved, he hopes this fall’s Revival event will be inside the building. Further he said that this year’s bicentennial celebration’s for Memphis and Shelby County “represent a great opportunity to celebrate a place that has brought so many Mid-Southerners together for decades.”

“What a tremendous opportunity to welcome Memphians back into their building,” Barnes said. “We look forward to putting on another great community event that celebrates the authentic talent, creativity, and athleticism that put Memphis on the map. But this time, wouldn’t it be cool if we were under the dome!”

Monday, December 31, 2018

Police Plan "Aggressive" Safety Plan for New Year's Eve

Posted By on Mon, Dec 31, 2018 at 11:55 AM


Stepping out for New Year's Eve tonight? Think before you drink.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) is planning an "aggressive traffic safety enforcement plan" for Monday evening. The plan will blanket all 95 Tennessee counties with "bar/tavern checks" sobriety checkpoints and more.

Here's what THP said on Twitter Monday morning:

Yes, you can expect surge pricing for an Uber or Lyft. Yes, the price will still be lower than getting a DUI.

Also, AAA and Budweiser will offer free rides (and a tow) in Tennessee with its now-20-year-old Tow to Go program.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

New Study Looks at Link Between Smoking, HIV Treatments

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2018 at 8:00 AM

  • University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Kumar

Smoking makes it harder for HIV-1 therapies to work, and a professor here won a $1.71 million grant this year to figure out why.

Santosh Kumar, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), won the five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health in November. Kumar’s team will review the role of certain enzymes that enhance HIV-1 replication in smokers.

“Despite the success of antiretroviral therapy, effective treatment outcomes for people living with HIV-1 occur in only a third of the total population who receive treatment,” reads a statement from UTHSC. “While reduced adherence to antiretroviral therapy is an increasing concern, substance abuse, in particular smoking tobacco, is one of the major contributing factors for ineffective treatment outcomes.”

Kumar said his team’s studies suggest that the enzymes are induced by smoking tobacco and that it interrupts the metabolization of HIV therapies.

“Our ultimate goal is that once we know the target, what is causing this progression, we can develop a drug that inhibits the enzymes, either in the exosomes, the brain, or primary sources like the liver and lungs,” Kumar said.

The project would impact the treatment of HIV-1 patients who smoke by providing a new target for therapeutic interventions, and potential application of exosomes as therapeutic carriers in effectively treating these patients, UTHSC said.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

State's First Water Plan Now Up for Review, Comment

Posted By on Wed, Dec 26, 2018 at 8:00 AM

  • Justin Fox Burks
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam wants to hear your comments on a new statewide water plan that came thanks, in part, to the ongoing concerns of the Memphis Sand Aquifer.

In January, Haslam organized a committee to study Tennessee’s water assets here, a group comprised of leaders from federal, state, and local governments, industry, academia, environmental advocacy groups, and public utilities.

“Tennessee is blessed with great sources of water today, but we should never take that for granted,” Haslam said in a statement. “As our state grows, we must maintain our capacity to meet our water needs. That takes a plan, and I am grateful for the amount of work that has gone into this issue.”

The group studied surface water, groundwater, and natural aquatic systems. They reviewed the state’s water and wastewater infrastructure, water law, and recreation areas. The group then made recommendations to maintain water availability here in the future. That plan — called TN H2O — was made public in early December and will be open to public comment through the end of February.

Here are some recommendations from the plan:

• Address current and impending infrastructure needs. A mechanism should be established to address unserved areas, infrastructure repair/replacement issues, and funding shortfalls faced by rural systems.

• Develop a comprehensive water resources planning process and planning cycle based on good science and information (consistent monitoring, data collection, modeling, trending, and reporting) that includes all major users and stakeholders.

• Develop a campaign to help the public and decision makers understand the value of water and natural resources and complexity in managing them.

• Encourage greater collaboration and communication concerning Tennessee’s water resources.

• Evaluate existing laws to assess their implementation (e.g., Water Resources Act, Watershed District Act, and Water Resources Information Act) and determine and enable proper jurisdictions for regional water planning and programs.

• Use the state water-resources task force or advisory committee and regional water-resources jurisdictions to facilitate intrastate and interstate regional cooperation.

• Identify sustainable funding for all TN H2O recommendations.

“This plan will help inform our future leaders — inside and outside of government — on important steps they can take to ensure our abundance of water,” said Deputy Governor Jim Henry, who served as chairman of the committee. “This plan will need continuous and close attention to keep our economy and quality of life thriving for future generations.”

The need for such a plan came as the state’s population is set to double over the next 50 years, according to the news release form Haslam’s office. But it also came “along with recent concerns over the utilization of the Memphis Sand Aquifer, droughts that have impacted numerous Tennessee communities, failures of aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and interstate battles over water rights."

The plan is available for viewing here. The comment period ends February 28th, 2019.

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