Thursday, September 13, 2018

Purple Haze Closes Indefinitely

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 2:39 PM

  • Purple Haze/Facebook

Purple Haze will close indefinitely until its owners can "evaluate best practices for providing a quality nightclub experience in Memphis," though they said that might not be possible now Downtown.

The move comes after four were shot inside the club Monday and after club owners won a recent court case that allowed them to keep the bar open until 5 a.m., just like other Beale Street bars.

"We understand that what happened Monday morning was a terrible event," club owners said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "As we have stated we are closing to evaluate how to move forward to provide a quality nightclub experience, however we are unsure if that is possible in the current environment in Downtown Memphis."

The statement says the club's security plan has been approved by the Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Committee and it partially outlines that plan. Also, club owners say the bar has been unfairly portrayed by media and police as a hub of violence.

Here is the blue owner's statement in full:

"Purple Haze announced today that they are ceasing operations for the time being as management continues to evaluate best practices for providing a quality nightclub experience in Memphis.

As we stated earlier in the week, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the shooting incident that happened early Monday morning at Purple Haze. As the safety and security of our guests and employees are the most important priority, we are not announcing a re-opening date as we continue to evaluate best practices in order to provide a quality nightclub experience in Memphis, Tennessee.

Our current security plan on file with the Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission has been approved and details the security efforts that we have instituted for over seven and a half years.

Depending on crowd size, we employ five to seven strategically placed security guards paid at a minimum of $20 an hour and an armed off-duty police officer paid at $40 an hour that has the authority to uphold the law as needed. Our front door security officers use metal-detecting wands to check patrons as they enter the door. As our capacity is only 200 people, we believe we provide more security coverage per person than other venues in the area.

We understand that what happened Monday morning was a terrible event. As we have stated we are closing to evaluate how to move forward to provide a quality nightclub experience, however we are unsure if that is possible in the current environment in Downtown Memphis.

Many times, we have been portrayed in the news media as having been the location for violent events, when in fact the violent events happened on the street outside of Purple Haze and neighboring parking garages that we do not own or operate.

Police reports and media use Purple Haze as a landmark in the reporting of the events casting a negative light on our operations. Through our own research of on-file police incident reports, we have learned that there are clubs in the Historic District that have had significantly more incidents requiring police involvement than Purple Haze, yet seemingly less media attention.

Given the regularity of violent events that occur Downtown, we are concerned for the citizens and tourists of Memphis. We applaud Director [Michael] Rallings and the Memphis Police Department for their efforts for doing all they can to mitigate the violence, but violent events are going to happen despite everyone’s best efforts.

We urge the citizens of Memphis to take note and work with their representatives and city leaders to try to find a solution to decrease the violence in the city."

TBI, Google Allowed to Keep Files Secret

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 12:37 PM

  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigation/Facebook

Should the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation be able to keep its case files forever secret from the public?

Should Google be able to keep secret how much money it will get from a local government?

Those were but two questions reviewed Thursday morning during the second meeting of a group of state lawmakers trying to get their hands around the 563 current exemptions to Tennessee’s Open Record Act.

Jack McElroy, executive editor of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, told the group public records are vital to a newspaper’s watchdog function.
  • Knoxville News-Sentinel
  • Jack McElroy

“Records are critical for us to fulfill our responsibilities set out in the First Amendment, for being the eyes and the ears of the citizens, and holding government accountable,” said McElroy, who is also co-chairman of the Tennessee Press Association’s (TPA) government affairs committee.

McElroy pointed to two real-world examples of how open records exemptions affect public knowledge.

In 2015, Google scored a 23-year financial agreement with the city of Clarksville’s Industrial Development Board. They also scored, through a three-page nondisclosure agreement, the rights to hide just how much the deal would cost taxpayers and the number of employees the project would create.

Google got the dodge by calling the information “trade secret,” said McElroy. Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) asked the editor if he could define ”trade secrets.”
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Senator Todd Gardenhire

“No, sir,” McElroy said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "It took Google...pages to define it. I can’t do it. But I'll leave this document with you.”

Gardenhire retorted, “I guess it’s like the definition of pornography. You’ll know it when you see it, right?”

McElroy also took on the TBI’s “forever exemption.” He said it was one of the two original exemptions to the open records law when it when it was first passed in 1957.
Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) asked if anyone in the room knew why TBI got such an exemption and said, “it seems like a strange exception to me.” McElroy said he wasn’t really sure why but he had been told that perhaps it was because TBI investigates government corruption.

McElroy said that it was only because a judge ordered a small piece of a TBI investigation to be opened that the public found out that a Criminal Court judge in Knoxville had been high on opioids on the bench and had bought drugs from the people in his court.
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Senator Mike Bell

The judge pled guilty to criminal misconduct and was placed on diversion. But Knoxville News-Sentinel repeaters could not find out more, in order to be able to hold other public officials accountable for what McElroy described as a years-long situation.

“We would have liked to see how the TBI talked to and how far into the question of, ‘Who knew what, when?’ but it was unavailable because of the forever exception,” McElroy said. “It is something that Tennesseans and those in Knox County will never know, in this particular case.”

No TBI official was present during Thursday’s hearing. Though, committee members were told that someone from the agency would be at the next hearing.

Janet Kleinfelter, senior counsel with the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, urged the group to be cautious when examining and especially in ending some of the exceptions.

“We would strongly suggest before you begin and during this process that you talk with the agency, the commissioner, the department, the board, and the local government affected by the exception,” Kleinfelter said. “The exceptions enacted since I’ve been doing this — 20 plus years — come, usually, with a very good reason adopted by legislature.”

On Wednesday, McElroy published an opinion piece on the topic for the News-Sentinel.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Veazey Takes New Role in Mayor's Office

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 3:18 PM

Kyle Veazy moderates a political debate. - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • Kyle Veazy moderates a political debate.
A shake-up at Memphis City Hall finds a familiar name moving up the ranks in Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's adminstration.

Kyle Veazey joined Strickland's office in 2016. It was a high-profile move from The Commercial Appeal where he'd covered candidate Strickland during the election. Veazey left The CA in 2015 and later joined as the deputy director of communications, working under former WMC anchor Ursula Madden.

Veazey will now serve Strickland as one of two Deputy Chief Operating Officers. A Wednesday statement says Veazey will work with Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen "to deliver longer-term priority projects, coordinate the city’s role in economic development initiatives, and oversee performance improvement opportunities, among other duties." Veazey is a 2004 graduate of the University of Mississippi.

City-government veteran Chandell Carr will work with McGowen "for day-to-day service delivery, resource allocation, budgeting, and policy development for all of the city’s divisions, among other duties." Carr has a law degree from the University of Memphis and has most recently served as the city's Equity, Diversion & Inclusivity Officer for the Division of Human Resources.

"Chandell and Kyle have been a big part of our work these two-and-a-half years," Strickland said in a statement. "We recognize and reward talent at the city of Memphis, and I'm proud to watch these two leaders grow as they play even greater roles in continuing our progress."

Carr and Veazey will transition into their new roles next week.

The jobs became available as current Deputy COO Patrice Thomas left to become the new Chief Administrative Officer of Shelby County government. Thanks to this and an already vacant position in the COO's office, the moves will not increase the city budget, Strickland said.

Renovated Pink Palace Mansion to Open in December

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 12:53 PM

Rending of proposed exhibits - PINK PALACE
  • Pink Palace
  • Rending of proposed exhibits

After close to two years of construction, the Pink Palace Mansion is set to re-open December 8th, the museum's officials announced Wednesday.

Relocated and refurbished exhibits in the mansion will include a Piggly Wiggly store replica, a rural early 20th century country store, and a restored Clyde Parke Miniature Circus, which will be displayed on the second floor of the mansion — a section that has been closed to the public for 40 years.

Bill Walsh, marketing manager for the Pink Palace said opening up the second story of the mansion will “will be a great opportunity for many visitors to see a side of the mansion they’ve never seen.”

Rending of proposed Clyde Parke Miniature Circus exhibit. - PINK PALACE
  • Pink Palace
  • Rending of proposed Clyde Parke Miniature Circus exhibit.

The revamped Piggly Wiggly exhibit will be recreated based on patent drawings and photographs of the original store. There will also be space dedicated to Clarence Saunders, the founder of Piggly Wiggly, who first began building the mansion in the 1920s, but had to turn the house over to the city for a museum after declaring bankruptcy. 

The renovated mansion will also house new exhibits like the Cossitt Gallery, featuring more than 600 artifacts from the city’s first culture and history museum. The museum was set up in a room in the Cossitt Library in the early 19th century. The new gallery will aim to recreate the look of that first museum.

Other new exhibits will include a Memphis streetscape meant to depict the symbolic intersection of black and white culture and history from 1900 to 1925.

The mansion will also have “plush new event rental facilities, state-of-the art lighting and a refurbished grand staircase,” Walsh said.

Walsh said construction is slated to wrap up soon and then the process of installing the exhibits will begin. “The exhibits are going to be spectacular. We’re excited that it’s re-opening during the holidays too. It’s sort of a holiday gift for Memphians,” Walsh said.

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Cool Thing: Viewfinders for the Color Blind

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 11:49 AM

Color blind visitors to 13 Tennessee state parks will be able to see the changing fall foliage in a whole new way this year.

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development installed 13 special viewfinders with EnChroma lenses designed to alleviate red-green color blindness.

“One of the main pillars we promote in Tennessee is our scenic beauty,” said Kevin Triplett, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “The reds, oranges and yellows in the fall and the incredible colors in the spring are a staple of what comes to mind when people think about Tennessee or visit here.

A still from a state video shows a color blind man seeing fall colors for the first time through a special viewfinder. - TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF TOURIST DEVELOPMENT
  • Tennessee Department of Tourist Development
  • A still from a state video shows a color blind man seeing fall colors for the first time through a special viewfinder.

"But to realize, through red/green deficiencies and other forms of color blindness, there potentially are more than 13 million people in our country alone who cannot fully appreciate the beauty our state has to offer, we wanted to do something about that. We wanted to provide opportunities for more people to see what those of us who can may take for granted.”

But, as with many things to do with state government, West Tennessee got shorted.

Two of the 13 special viewfinders have been installed here. East Tennessee got seven. Middle Tennessee got three. Yes, mountains and all that...but still.

The closest viewfinder to Memphis is at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park's Poplar Lake, near the the nature center. The other in West Tennessee is at Chickasaw State Park, near Henderson. 

For more information, check here

City Council Brings Back Beale Street Entrance Fee

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 9:47 AM

Beale Street
  • Beale Street

The Memphis City Council voted Tuesday to reinstate the fee to enter Beale Street based on “needs-based determination.”

Bringing back the entrance fee was one of the 24 recommendations made by the group, Event Risk Management Solutions (ERMS), which was hired by the Beale Street Task Force earlier this year to assess crowd control and safety on Beale.

After a long debate between the council Tuesday evening, they approved the fee 7-4, but on a temporary, needs-based basis that is to be determined by the Downtown Memphis Commission and the Memphis Police Department.

The original resolution, sponsored by Councilman Kemp Conrad, called for implementing an attendance-based entrance fee when the crowd is expected to exceed 10,000.

But, Council Chairman Berlin Boyd, who chaired the Beale Street Task Force said even an attendance-based charge could “look discriminatory.”

“Hypothetically, what if we have 10,000 African-American male and females on the street and you put Beale Street Bucks in place, what does that look like?” Boyd asked. “ What if we have 10,000 African Americans on Saturday and 10,000 African Americans on Sunday night and we put Beale Street Bucks in place? If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.”

Boyd said public safety is important, but “we cannot have something that looks sketchy. I’m not voting for anything that’s going to looks like it’s discriminatory toward any person in the city of Memphis or any tourist.”

Councilman Worth Morgan told Boyd and colleagues that public safety shouldn’t be compromised for optics. Morgan also emphasized the importance of taking action, after an early morning shooting at the Purple Haze night club Monday.

To that, Boyd, joined by Councilman Martavius Jones, said an entrance fee would not have prevented that situation, as the night club is outside of the Beale Street Entertainment district. 

Continuing, Boyd reiterated that the program “has to be fair and equitable” for those who patronize and visit Beale Street. He said he wants to make sure that the city isn’t putting itself in the position to get sued.

Council attorney Allan Wade agreed, saying that there may be some risks with setting the number at 10,000, as the study found there was no correlation between crowd size and incidents on Beale. In the case of ligation, he said the court could see the number as “arbitrary.” He suggests adopting some “further objective criteria” for determining the number.

“I do believe that a court would look at MPD’s determination as being needs-based on safety and could be more defensible in court,” Wade said. “That’s just my humble opinion.”

So, Councilman Bill Morrison proposed the idea of allowing MPD and the DMC decide what elements call for implementing a fee or other security measures like wanding patrons.

“Let’s let the experts have this conversation,” Morrison said. “Let’s let the folks that get paid to protect and manage decide.”

The council concurred that the Beale Street Merchants Association should have an input on determining safety precautions as well.

The $5 fee to enter the street on Saturday nights during peak seasons was eliminated by the council last November. Looking for an alternative to the fee, the Beale Street Task Force hired the crowd control consultant, ERMS earlier this year to study ways to keep the crowds on Beale orderly.

The group produced 24 recommendations in all. Some of which include setting the maximum capacity on the street to 20,000 people, restricting Beale Street to pedestrian traffic only, and redesigning the street’s entry points.

The study also concluded that there wasn’t enough regulation and monitoring of those entering the street.

Two weeks ago, the council made the first move toward new safety precautions, voting to spend a little under $800,000 for bollards — barriers keeping cars from driving onto the street. The bollards will be placed alongside Second protecting people lining up to enter the street, as well as at the ends of the entertainment portion of the street at Beale and Second and at Beale and Fourth.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Transportation Fee Could Yield $60M a Year

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 2:59 PM


A new transportation utility fee could generate up to $60 million a year, an expert told Memphis City Council members Tuesday.

Council member Edmund Ford Jr. introduced the idea of such a fee during a meeting two weeks ago. The fees could generate revenue to be used to fund the underfunded Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) and road infrastructure projects, Ford said.

The transportation fee would be tacked on to utility bills and would be based on the number of trips on Memphis roads generated by individual properties. The rate would differ for commercial and residential properties.

When council members returned to the discussion Tuesday, they heard from Wayne Gaskin, a former city of Memphis engineer. He said there are many different ways to structure the rates, and said different options could produce revenues ranging from $30 to $60 million a year.

Based on the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ national standards, Gaskin said each month a large church could generate up to $6,300 in additional revenue, a sit-down restaurant up to $500, and a fast food restaurant anywhere from $125 to $1,000.

The council could opt to base the rates on types of commercial properties, as well as allow some residents to only pay a portion of the fee based on factors like income.

“There will be a lot of give and take when it comes to setting the rates,” Gaskin said. “I can’t emphasize that enough.”

Gaskin said the council, with community input, will have to hash out the specific details and amounts of the fees implemented in Memphis.

“It has to be something that is developed jointly,” he said.

Councilman Worth Morgan said he still has some "major questions" about the fee, such as how the funds will be dispersed. 

Ford said the council will continue the conversation at its meeting in two weeks.

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Memphis Airport Modernization Kicks Off Tomorrow

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 2:45 PM

Renderings show an updated B Concourse. - MEMPHIS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
  • Memphis International Airport
  • Renderings show an updated B Concourse.

On Wednesday, officials will kick off the three-year construction journey to modernize the Memphis International Airport (MEM).

The massive project will consolidate all airline, retail, and food and beverage businesses into the airport’s concourse B. It will bring wider corridors, moving walkways, larger boarding areas, higher ceilings, increased natural lighting, more concessions, and seismic upgrades.
Renderings show an updated B Concourse. - MEMPHIS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
  • Memphis International Airport
  • Renderings show an updated B Concourse.

All of that comes with a price tag of $245 million, according to August numbers from the Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority (MSCAA).

Just last month, the airport board announced it had picked Flintco as the project’s primary contractor in a deal worth more than $122.5 million. The board also approved a $32-million contract with Aero Bridgeworks for new jet bridges, also part of the modernization project. (Flyers walk through jet bridges to get from the airport to the airplane. Thanks, Google Images.)

None of the funding for the project comes from any local tax coffers.


The re-design was necessary, airport officials say, because air service at MEM has shrunk. Three concourses and 80-plus gates made sense when Memphis was a Delta hub.

Now that it’s not, a single concourse will house enough gates for flights, and put passengers in close proximity to gates, food, shops, and bathrooms. It will also allow airplanes to move more easily in and out of gates, allowing for more-efficient air service.

Renderings show an updated B Concourse. - MEMPHIS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
  • Memphis International Airport
  • Renderings show an updated B Concourse.

When it opens, Concourse B will have 23 gates. Those gates can handle about 3 million emplacements (people getting on or off airplanes), which is about 50 percent more traffic than MEM has now.

If authority officials land more flights to and from MEM (as they do on the regular), B Concourse can handle 15 more gates that’ll be able to handle 5.5 million additional enplanements.

What to expect

When it opens, B Concourse its expected to look like modern airport concourses in other cities. High ceilings, glass, and wide corridors will create a modern, airy space for passengers. There will be new and better food and retail options.

Ticketing and check-in will continue in the A, B, and C terminals. Baggage claim for all airlines will be consolidated into the B baggage claim. Though, A,B, and C baggage claim will be open for entry and exit.

Security screening will be largely consolidated to the B concourse but the checkpoint at C will remain open for heavy traffic.

How it'll evolve

Concourse B closed earlier this year. And, after tomorrow's groundbreaking ceremony, Flintco workers will get to work (maybe they already are).

While that work is underway, everything — gates, food, shops, and all — will operate out of A and C Concourse. When the work is done, everything — gates, food, shops, and all — will move into the new and modern B Concourse.

Once that's done, the south end of Concourse C will be demolished to make it easier for planes to move in and out of the airport.

Would it help to see this? Check out these graphics from the MSCAA:

  • Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority
  • Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority
  • Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority

Got more questions? Go here.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Carvana to Bring Vending Machine to Memphis

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 10:56 AM

  • Carvana
Carvana plans to build one of its signature car vending machines to Memphis.

A building permit pulled Friday shows the Phoenix company will build a $5 million facility at 7201 Appling Farms Parkway, close to the Great American Home Store. The facility includes an "18-tier vehicle storage/display structure," which appears to be one of the company's vending machines.

The machines are tall glass structures that store customers' cars. Here's the one in Charlotte:

Carvana is an online dealership. It opened a location in Nashville in 2016.
Carvana in Nashville. - CARVANA
  • Carvana
  • Carvana in Nashville.

"By removing the traditional dealership infrastructure and replacing it with technology and exceptional customer service, Carvana offers consumers an intuitive and convenient online car buying and financing platform," according to the company. " enables consumers to quickly and easily shop more than 10,000 vehicles, finance, trade-in or sell their current vehicle to Carvana, sign contracts, and schedule as-soon-as-next-day delivery or pickup at one of Carvana’s proprietary automated Car Vending Machines."

Or, as the company says, "car buying shouldn't suck."

Wonder how it works? Check out this day-in-the-life video from Nashville:

Wonder how they build them? Check out this time-lapse video:

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Early Morning Shooting Comes After Club Allowed to Extend Hours

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 9:23 AM

  • Purple Haze/Facebook

Four people were shot early Monday morning at the Purple Haze nightclub close to Beale Street, according to WREG, and the incident comes about two weeks after the club was legally allowed to stay open until 5 a.m.

The club and the area around it has been the site of numerous shootings, fights, and more, mostly in the early-morning hours. Monday's shooters were able to sneak their guns through what Purple Haze owners called "strict security procedures."

City officials and the Downtown Memphis Commission argued in court against the club being allowed to stay open until 5 a.m., like Beale Street clubs. They argued Purple Haze was not inside the Beale Street Historic District.

Club owners said they are "cooperating fully in the ongoing investigation into this unfortunate incident."

"We offer our deepest sympathies and prayers for quick healing to those that were injured, including one of our very own security officers, in the altercation that happened at Purple Haze Nightclub early this morning.

"While measures were in place to detect the possession of firearms as patrons enter the club we are unsure at this time how those that discharged firearms were able to do so despite our strict security procedures.

"As the safety and security of our guests and employees are our utmost concern we are temporarily closing for two weeks to review operations."

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Mud Island Dog Park Opens Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 2:57 PM

  • City of Memphis

Mud Island’s first dog park is set to open Saturday, September 8th at 9:30 a.m.

The near-$500,000 park sits in the Mississippi River Greenbelt Park directly south of the A.W. Willis bridge.

The new dog park spans 1.3 acres, housing separate fenced off sections for large and small dogs, water fountains, and benches. The space will be open every day from sunrise to sunset.

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Local Warehouse Workers File Complaint for Extreme Heat at Work

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2018 at 3:33 PM


Employers working in a metal warehouse here with no air conditioning filed a complaint last week against their employer with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for what they say are extremely hot working conditions.

At XPO Logistics’ Verizon warehouse here, workers claim to have experienced “instances of extreme heat leading to dizziness, dehydration, and fainting,” according to the complaint. During a recent three-day period, the heat index near the warehouse exceeded OSHA’s “extreme caution” threshold during the majority of working hours, workers said.

Lakeisha Nelson, one of the employees, said she’s suffered from heat stress multiple times during her four years working at the warehouse. The first incident occurred in 2015 when Nelson allegedly fainted due to dehydration. Two years later, Nelson said she had to be rushed to the hospital for severe muscle cramps caused by dehydration. Most recently, Nelson said dizziness and nausea forced her to stop working.

“The working conditions at XPO are terrifying and making us sick,” Nelson said. “Think back to the hottest day this summer and what it felt like to be outside. Now crank it up 20 degrees and think of yourself doing back-breaking work with little ventilation, no fresh air, and no relief for hours and hours.

“Instead of offering electrolyte popsicles and half-hearted warnings about heat, the company should commit to providing breaks that don’t impact our production quotas, water, and medical attention so we’re not at risk of fainting during the average workday.”

On another occasion, an employee suffering from heat illness was allegedly penalized for visiting a doctor during work hours.

The claims are under investigation by OSHA, who could issue citations or financial penalties for the company's violations of standards or regulations.

This comes after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed complaints on behalf of two female employees at XPO’s Disney warehouse here in June. One of the women claimed her supervisor made sexual passes at her, and on one occasion tried to kiss her. The other woman alleges that female employees were often pushed around by a general manager, who went unpunished.

This year alone, women at XPO’s three warehouses in Memphis have had a total of 12 complaints filed on their behalf by the EEOC. Complaints include reports of supervisers groping, grabbing, and making sexual comments.

XPO Logistics, a $15 billion company, packages and distributes products for major brands, such as, Verison, Nike, Disney, and Home Depot.

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Report: State Historical Commission Lacks Legal Training for Statue Removal Laws

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2018 at 1:26 PM


A new report says Tennessee Historical Commission (THC) members lack the legal training to properly administer the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act (THPA) and were left without a way to handle the media during the Memphis statue removal process.

An August audit by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s office found that commissioners failed to “analyze its legal and administrative needs” for administering the THPA. The law bans relocation or removal of historical items on public property without a waiver from the THC.

The THC is “administratively attached” to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). While some commissioners informally asked for the assistance of TDEC lawyers through the Memphis statue-removal process, the THC failed to formally ask for the department’s help, the report says.

”Without the services provided by (TDEC’s) Office of General Counsel, the commission would not be able to fulfill its duties under the Heritage Protection Act,” according to the audit.

  • Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury

New commissioners are given an introductory handbook, the audit says, which has a section about the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act. But that’s about it.

“However, commission staff stated that they do not have the legal expertise to give commissioners training on legal aspects of the waiver process,” reads the report.

For this, the comptroller recommends formal training for all THC members.

”Members should have some training on legal aspects of their actions, as well as opportunities to ask questions about processes that are unfamiliar to them” reads the audit.

Part of the problem, according to the report, is that THC and TDEC have no formal contract to bind them. The last agreement was signed in 1987. So, THC has no standing to demand help from the department, according to the audit. This became important during the Memphis statue-removal process.

The now-gone statue of Jefferson Davis in Memphis Park. - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • The now-gone statue of Jefferson Davis in Memphis Park.
”In recent months, the commission experienced increased media attention as a result of the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act,” reads the audit. “Simultaneously, [TDEC] management decided to stop providing the commission communication services, including press releases, and media handling in 2017.

“Without a formal contract, the commission was left with no grounds to protest the department’s decision to stop the services that the commission needed.”

For all of this, the comptroller recommends a new contract for the two agencies. Apparently, that is just what they’re doing. The old agreement "no longer captures the scope of service and work provided to the commission by the department,” according to TDEC. “Conversations are currently in progress” on a new agreement, THC said.

TDEC has also now committed three attorneys to assist the THC.


The audit also found the THC lacks proper oversight of 14 historical sites across Tennessee.

THC contracts that oversight to various nonprofits organizations. The audit found none of the organizations have disaster plans for their sites. Only five of them could show proof of insurance.

Only half of them have inventory lists of historic artifacts. Some that do have such lists are out of date.

“Specifically, we found that one inventory list was dated 1986 without indication of a more current list,” reads the audit. “In another case, we could not determine whether the inventory list was current as it was missing the date altogether.“

Without such lists, ”the historic site operators do not know what they have and would not know if an item was lost.”

THC management said “the commission maintains proper oversight.” The agreements with the nonprofits are not required by law, it said, and was advised to keep them informal by TDEC attorneys. But the commission will now make the agreements formal contracts, it said.

The agency said its nonprofit partners are now required to attend an annual meeting and enroll in professional museum programs. New entrance signs at all the sites all bear the THC name and logo to let guests know the sites are state-owned.

As for the lack of information in the files from the nonprofits, THC said it has only one staff member to oversee, 17 sites, 110 buildings, the allocation of maintenance funds, capital projects, and review the adminstration of the sites.

But THC said it is now gathering more information from the nonprofits.

Restaurateur Bud Chittom Has Died

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2018 at 9:49 AM

Bud Chittom (center) receiving his brass note on Beale Street in 2011.
  • Bud Chittom (center) receiving his brass note on Beale Street in 2011.

Memphis restaurateur Bud Chittom has passed away, according to numerous sources. He was 67.

Chittom opened about 50 restaurants in Memphis, including Blues City Cafe and Earnestine & Hazel's. Chittom's work earned him a brass note on Beale Street in 2011.

Downtown Memphis Commission/Beale Street Management Statement

"Bud Chittom was a legend," reads a statement from the Downtown Memphis Commission and Beale Street management. "He had a catalytic impact on Beale and was a larger than life presence in Downtown Memphis.

"Bud was not just a long-time business owner on Beale Street and a Beale Street Brass Note Walk of Fame awardee, he was also a pioneer who contributed so much of his life to making Memphis a great city.

"We believe we speak for all of Downtown when we say we will forever miss his particular brand of storytelling. RIP Bud Chittom."

Chittom's brass note on Beale Street calls him "a man you don't meet everyday."

  • Facebook

Here's what the Flyer wrote about Chittom when he got that brass note in 2011:  

Club owner Bud Chittom got a brass note on Beale Street Tuesday in recognition of his efforts over the past 16 years and in celebration of his 60th birthday.

Kevin Kane, head of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Chittom has grown his businesses at the western end of Beale Street, including Blues City Cafe, by 1200 percent.

"His philosophy is that if we're not making money then we need to create more revenue," said Kane.

Chittom, who has opened approximately 50 restaurants in Memphis, mainly on Beale Street and at Overton Square, thanked his wife and children, his longtime business partners, Beale Street promoters Mike Glenn and Preston Lamm, and former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton who was there for the party.

"They say it takes six to bury you," said Chittom in his characteristic drawl, noting that about ten times that many people came to the celebration.

Here's a video of Chittom playing on Beale Street on that 60th birthday:

Many have honored Chittom on social media as the news of his death spread Thursday:

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Tours Planned to Consider National Street Redesign

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 11:29 AM

Temporary street enhancements on National Street
  • Temporary street enhancements on National Street

Members of the Heights neighborhood are looking to redesign National Street, the two-mile road that runs through the neighborhood north of Summer.

National Street connects to the Wolf River Greenway to the north and the Hampline to the south. However, members of the community feel the street’s current design is not accommodating to the majority of users.

To address this, the plan is to create the Heights Line, a multi-use promenade, greenspace, and trail in the middle of the National Street. The goal is to make the street to safer, more attractive, and more functional.

As a part of the community’s ongoing efforts to gather feedback and suggestions for the street’s future, a walking tour of National Street is planned for Saturday, September, 8th from 2-4 p.m.

Beginning at the Heights Line Design Studio at 751 National Street, the tour will highlight locations along the street that would be impacted by the Heights Line. Participants will have the chance to offer feedback on the proposed designs and generate their own ideas.

Following the walking tour, there will be a group bike ride down the proposed Heights Line on Sunday, September 9th from 2-4 p.m. Riders will assess the bike-ability of the Heights Line route, and also have a chance to give feedback.

There’s also a survey on the proposed design available online.

The Heights Line project proposes a revamp of the street, making it more accessible to pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and motorists. Another goal of the redesign is to make the street safer by reducing the width of automobile lanes, encouraging slower speeds.The Heights Line will demonstrate that art, fun, and practicality can co-exist on National Street, according to the Heights Line website.

Last year from October to November, temporary enhancements were installed along the street to demonstrate the vision for a “people-focused” street. The four-lane street was narrowed into two lanes, and the median was widened. Planters and benches were then set up in the two center lanes.

The temporary installments were a sampling of what the community proposes for the entire street. The feedback period is slated to continue through the fall before any permanent changes are made to National Street.

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