Thursday, April 18, 2019

Lawmakers Hit, Missed, Delayed Bills on Open Government This Year

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 2:19 PM


Several bills before the Tennessee General Assembly were aimed at government transparency this year. Some hit. Some missed. One was sent out for some of that famous “summer study.”

All of this information comes from the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG), a group that (you guessed it) advocates for government transparency here. A recent roundup of bills found moves on “harassing” records requesters, economic development deals, and 911 calls.


A bill was delayed this year that would have stopped records requesters from making further requests if a judge found the requests made a records custodian “be seriously abused, intimidated, threatened, or harassed.”

The bills' sponsors, Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) said the bill was filed at the request of city of Gallatin. Officials there said they’d been overwhelmed by requests from one requester.

An amendment to the bill gave a pass to journalists as requests for the purposes of broadcasting, publishing, or distributing information to others could not constitute harassment.

The sponsors delayed the bill until 2020.

No Deal (Information)

Economic development trumps transparency in Tennessee, according to a report in MuckRock.

Lawmakers shot down a bill that would have made public more information about government-led economic development deals.

From the story written by Kent Hoover:

“Under current law, economic development officials disclose information about grants awarded to companies who open corporate headquarters, manufacturing plants, data centers, or select other facilities in the state.

But they don’t disclose who gets the millions of dollars in tax credits the state offers these companies, nor what the state gets in return for these investments in terms of new jobs and capital expenditures. Tax information about specific companies is confidential under state law.”

A bill would have made public what companies got tax breaks, where they are located, how many jobs they create, and how much money they spend on machinery and other capital investments.

The bill was spurred by Gov. Bill Lee’s call for more transparency in government, according to the story. But it met push back from economic development officials who said the bills would make Tennessee less competitive for deals.


Lawmakers wanted to make 911 calls and transmission confidential, but the bill was pulled as the sponsor wanted more time to study the issue over the issue.

The bill would have made calls open only to law enforcement, courts, and other governmental agencies.

The Tennessee Press Association and Tennessee Association of Broadcasters lobbied against the bill, pointing out that access to 911 calls have led to numerous news stories uncovering problems within the 911 system.

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Memphis Doctors, Nurses Charged With Illegally Distributing Opioids

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 12:36 PM


Five Memphis medical professionals were indicted Thursday for illegally distributing opioid prescriptions to patients — in one case in return for sexual favors.

The five Memphis professionals were indicted along with 11 others from Jackson, Tennessee, who were arrested in a Wednesday sweep coordinated by U.S. Attorneys and the Department of Justice’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force (ARPO).

D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, said the 16 defendants together allegedly distributed more than 350,000 prescriptions for controlled substances, equalling about 32 million pills.

“Opioid misuse and abuse is an insidious epidemic, created in large part by the over-prescribing of potent opioids nationwide, and unfortunately, Tennessee is at the center,” Dunavant said. “ We will not stand by and allow the harmful and oftentimes deadly practice of over-prescribing highly addictive drugs to continue unchecked.

“Along with our partners, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will pursue medical personnel who misuse their positions of trust to blatantly disregard and endanger others’ very lives for their own financial gain.”

Through “good old-fashioned police work,” undercover efforts, and data analytics, Dunavant said the ARPO Strike Force was able to identify medical professionals in West Tennessee prescribing excessive amounts of narcotics.

Defendant Richard Farmer, a Memphis psychiatrist, allegedly issued controlled substances at his clinic here without a medical diagnosis and sometimes in return for sexual favors. Farmer is also accused of providing these substances to pregnant women.

Two more local doctors, Michael Hellman and Thomas Hughes, were also taken into custody and indicted Wednesday. Hellman is accused of prescribing large amounts of promethazine with codeine, a Schedule V controlled substance, without doing medical examinations.

Hellman gave these substances to confidential informants on multiple occasions, according to court documents.

Hughes, an endocrinologist, is accused of fraudulently dispensing a Schedule III substance for testosterone to himself.

James Litton, a former nurse practitioner, is charged with conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances, as well as healthcare fraud.

Finally, Kathryn Russell, a registered nurse here, allegedly prescribed opioids and other drug cocktails to drug-seekers with no legitimate medical purposes. Court documents also indicate that Russell might have been under the influence of drugs while working.

If found guilty, all of the defendants, with exclusion of Hughes, face up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million. Hughes, faces up to four years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 for dispensing substances to himself. Law enforcement will look to link each of the 16 individuals to specific cases of opioid overdoses, Dunavant said.

“It is clear that these defendants charged in this ARPO Strike Force initiative has contributed to and caused much harm, addiction, pain, injury, and perhaps even death here in West Tennessee,” Dunavant said. “These physicians are nothing more than white-coated drug dealers with prescription pads. And if these licensed medical professionals are going to act like drug dealers, we’re going to treat them like drugs dealers.”

Dunavant added that he “had no problem signing the 16 indictments,” and that there “will be more to come.”

The ARPO Strike Force, formed in October, is a joint law-enforcement effort by the FBI, DEA, several U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and others. The mission of the strike force is to identify and investigate health care fraud involving the illegal distribution of opioids

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 130 Americans die every day from opioid overdose.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Kayak, Paddle Board Rentals Coming to River Garden Park

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 3:31 PM


Kayaks and stand-up paddle boards will be available to rent at the River Garden Park beginning Saturday, May 4th.

The Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP), in partnership with Kayak Memphis, is launching the rental program as a way to help Memphians connect with the river.

“Our job is to give as many Memphians as possible the opportunity to reconnect with their river,” George Abbott, director of external affairs for the MRPP. “Kayaking in the harbor or enjoying Mud Island Park is one of many ways that all can come to the river, celebrate 200 years of Memphis and look forward to what’s to come. Grab a friend and come to the river today!”

The equipment will be available to rent every day at the Fourth Cup coffee kiosk in the River Garden from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Kayak and paddle board rentals will be available at the River Garden Park near Mud Island. - MRPP
  • MRPP
  • Kayak and paddle board rentals will be available at the River Garden Park near Mud Island.

Kayaks and paddle boards will cost $20 for the first hour. A two-person kayak will cost $30 an hour. For each option, every additional hour would be $10.

On opening day, rentals will be discounted at $20 per two hours. 

To help those unfamiliar with kayaking, MRPP and Kayak Memphis staff will offer a free kayaking orientation each Saturday in May at 2 p.m. The orientation will demonstrate the best practices for first-time kayakers.

Kayakers can paddle across the harbor to dock at Mud Island Park or travel north on the harbor for about three miles.

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Gannett: MNG Trying to "Derail Our Progress"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 1:04 PM


Gannett Co., owner of The Commercial Appeal, urged its shareholders Wednesday to vote for its slate of board candidates to stave off a hostile takeover from rival media company, MNG Enterprises.

MNG is backed by the Alden Global Capital hedge fund and is also known as Digital First Media. MNG recently sent Gannett an unsolicited offer to buy the company for more than $1 billion. Gannett board members rejected the offer.

MNG later offered up a slate of candidates to run for Gannett’s board, a move to take control of the company and, apparently, force the sale of the company to MNG.

The final vote on those candidates is slated for Gannett’s annual shareholder meeting on May 16th. On Wednesday, Gannett sent a letter to shareholders touting the experience and expertise of its nominees.

Gannett criticized MNG’s slate. It said MNG is “attempting to derail our progress and take control of Gannett.”

“In contrast to Gannett’s eight independent nominees, all of MNG’s nominees have irreconcilable conflicts of interest given their close affiliations with MNG and/or Alden – and in some cases their fiduciary duties to MNG and Alden,” reads the letter.

Touting its own slate, Gannett pointed to its board's actions to build a “best-in-class digital marketing solutions organization and local-to-national news network that have driven growth in digital subscribers, audience engagement, and advertising and marketing services revenues.”

Here are some of the numbers Gannett listed as signs of its growth:

• Growing digital subscribers by 46 percent, bringing total paid digital-only subscribers to over 500,000.

• Growing ReachLocal revenues by 15 percent.

• Growing national digital advertising revenue by 19 percent and transforming USA Today’s advertising revenue to be 75 percent digital.

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Attorney Tied to King Assassination Conspiracy Trial Disciplined

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 12:17 PM

Garrison - WREG
  • WREG
  • Garrison

A Memphis attorney who once represented a man who claimed a role in a conspiracy to assasniate Martin Luther King Jr., was disciplined recently for giving financial assistance to clients.

Lewis K. Garrison received a formal censure Wednesday by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility. That public rebuke came after Garrison gave a client money to rent a car and pay for rent.

Garrison represented the client in a personal injury claim after an auto accident. The money he gave the client was an advance from a settlement, according to the board. A petition was filed against Garrison in June 2017.

“Mr. Garrison had been disciplined on four prior occasions for improperly providing financial assistance to clients,” reads a statement from the board.

The censure is a public rebuke of the actions and a warning to Tennessee’s attorneys. But it does not affect attorneys’ ability to practice law in the state.

For a time, Garrison represented a Memphis man, Loyd Jowers, who said in interviews and in court that he hired a man to assassinate King. Garrison represented Jowers through a trial in which Jowers was declared liable in King’s death.

Later, Garrison represented Jamal Woods, a University of Mississippi freshman whose truck was vandalized in a crime considered to be racially motivated. Garrison represented the Woods and his family at the request of the Memphis Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Garrison said at the time.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Strickland Says New Budget Will Accelerate Momentum

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 5:21 PM


Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland presented the 2020 budget to the Memphis City Council Tuesday.

The $709 million operating budget doesn’t include a tax increase. Strickland said this is possible because his administration has been “disciplined and efficient with city government operates.”

Strickland also highlighted that for the first time since 2006, the pension fund will be fully funded.

The key focus areas of the budget are public safety, paving, opportunities for youth, reducing recidivism, and improving neighborhoods.

“Today I am presenting a budget that will help city government do its part to accelerate that momentum,” Strickland said.

One way the budget will do that is through a 3-percent raise for all commissioned Memphis Police Department officers and Memphis Fire Department personnel, which the mayor first announced last month.

Public safety has been a top priority, the mayor said.

When Strickland took office in 2016 policing recruiting was basically “nonexistent,” he said. Since then the number of commissioned officers has risen from 1,900 to over 2,000. The goal is have 2,100 officers later this year and 2,300 by 2020, Strickland said.

Strickland said that all city employees will receive a 1 percent pay increase: “It’s not revolutionary, but it is absolutely necessary to recruit and retain quality employees and further demonstrate that the city of Memphis government is truly a great place to work.”

The pay increases will be funded by $10 million in revenue growth. Due to less expenditures there’s an additional $4 million in revenue that will go toward the increasing cost of insurance premiums for city employees.

Another area of focus is paving. Strickland said for the fourth year in a row, he is proposing increased funding for paving, which he said is an “expensive but very necessary budget item.”

Strickland is also proposing to invest in neighborhoods through two funds. The first is the Community Catalyst fund, which the mayor first announced at the State of the City address in January. Starting at $2 million a year, the fund will be dedicated to renewing the source of money used to make infrastructure improvements to key neighborhood areas. Under the initiative, the city will work with neighborhoods to identify areas that need improvement to infrastructure hoping to spark private development.

The second fund, the Memphis Affordable Housing Trust Fund, will be used for new construction and rehab of multi-family homes, as well as minor home repairs for low income families. The fund will get $700,000 in its first year. 

“For far too many families in Memphis, housing takes way too much of their income,” Strickland said. “It’s a problem that’s gotten worse.”

Finally, the mayor is looking to reduce recidivism through expanding Manhood University, a six-week program that teaches young men skills such as, time management, communication, financial literacy, job readiness, and conflict resolution.

Other highlights of the budget include increased jobs for youth, a new library in Frayser, a new fire station in Whitehaven, and an additional $2.5 million for the Memphis Area Transit Authority.

The council has until the end of June to discuss, amend, and vote on a final budget.

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Advisory Team to Consider TVA Switch Named

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 12:30 PM

A solar panel array at Agricenter International. - MLGW
  • MLGW
  • A solar panel array at Agricenter International.

The head of Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) has named the 20 members of a new advisory team tasked with exploring alternative power supply options.

J.T. Young, president and CEO of MGLW returned to the Memphis City Council Tuesday to lay out the details of the Power Supply Advisory Team (PSAT) that he first proposed to the council two weeks ago.

Young said then that he and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland had been working on forming the team to consider switching from the Tennessee Valley Authority as a power supplier — a move that has been at the center of conversations between MLGW and the city council for months.

The PSAT so far consists of local executives, elected officials, and MLGW officials, including Young, who will serve as the facilitator.

Executives on the committee include Richard Kelley, vice president for facilities at Methodist Hospital; Mark Halperin, executive vice president of Boyle Investment Company; Beverly Robertson, CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber; and Josh Tulino, vice president and general manager at Valero.

Local officials — including the city’s chief operating officer Doug McGowen, who is the mayor’s designee, and Bo Mills, public works director for Germantown — will also take part.

City Councilman Martavious Jones, Shelby County Commissioner Eddie Jones, as well as Deidre Malone, president of the NAACP Memphis Branch; Dennis Lynch of the Sierra Club; and Sandra Upchurch of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, are also slated to join the team.

Councilman Jones told Young that he would like to see three to five “regular citizens” serving on the advisory team as well: “That would really speak to the integrity of the process.”

Young said he would take that into consideration, adding that all meetings will already be open to the public.

The first of seven meetings planned for this year is Tuesday, April 30th. One meeting — each with a different topic — is slated for each month through November. Topics include the state of TVA, power supply studies, and MLGW’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).

The IRP, which Young said will be spearheaded by an outside consultant, will consist of data, such as a 20-year hourly energy demand forecast, evaluations of the costs and risks for different supply options, as well as assessments of MLGW’s current staff, technology, and facilities.

The utility has issued a request for qualifications in order to find a consultant for the job. Young anticipates selecting a consultant by May.

The IRP process will be “deliberate” and “objective,” Young said, potentially taking up to a year to complete.

“We will not stop this process until it’s finished,” Young said. “In order to maintain the integrity of the IRP process, it’s important that we go through the process and let the process tell us what’s optimal.”

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Q&A: Trey Moore, Explore Bike Share Executive Director

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 1:23 PM

Explore Bike Share executive director, Trey Moore - EXPLORE BIKE SHARE
  • Explore Bike Share
  • Explore Bike Share executive director, Trey Moore

Explore Bike Share (EBS) announced the launch of a new pricing system last week. The Flyer talked with EBS executive director Trey Moore this week to find out more about the new prices, barriers to using bike share, expansion plans, and more.

Memphis Flyer: How did Explore Bike Share come up with the new prices?

Trey Moore: We launched based on some best guesses and assumptions based on examples of the industry in other cities. So with pricing, we were really following industry best practices at that point.

Since our launch, we’ve really been wanting to evaluate all aspects of the system to make sure it’s meeting the needs of the city. The combination of both surveys, hard data, and community engagement with many of our partners led us to the new prices.

MF: How does the new pricing system better serve Memphis?

TM: Pricing can be the biggest barrier for someone wanting to use EBS. The new prices lower the initial cost barriers. We’ve introduced the entry level price of $1.25 per 15 minutes for the many trips that can be taken very quickly. This is one of the more significant changes we’ve made to our pricing. We’re also excited about the 24-hour pass. Before $5 would get you just one hour, now it gives you a whole day. These prices are easy ways to introduce someone to EBS.

MF: Is there still an option to purchase a membership for yourself and someone in need of one?

TM: Yes, that’s the Pay-it-Forward option. It’s not one that we heavily promoted and we haven’t seen much traction on. It is still an option. But as far as providing those who need bike share memberships, what we have found is a better option is simply working with our community partners who know the needs of their neighborhood. So we make passes available to those partners so that they can share those within their community and network.

MF: How do EBS’s prices compare to other cities?

TM: In general, Explore Bike Share prices compare extremely favorable to other cities. I think all bike share systems are going through an evolution of evaluating their programs. Most sustainable bike share programs want to be equitable in the community.

When we look at nearby locations such as Nashville or St. Louis, our prices are equal if not lower. Many factors drive different prices in different cities. Within our market, our prices really aren’t driven by revenue, but driven by increasing access to bikes in a way that encourages more ridership.

MF: What kind of data does EBS collect?

TM: The data we collect is fairly robust because we can collect data based on the GPS system in the bikes. GPS gives us the bike location. So we know how many bikes are in each station within each neighborhood. So it helps from an inventory standpoint. It also gives us the number of check-outs, which helps us determine which stations are getting a lot of use.

It also tells us the very opposite. It tells us where bikes aren’t being checked out and where we need to do a better job of engaging the community. Then it makes us evaluate the barriers that are keeping the bikes from being used. We try to identify those barriers and what we can do as an organization to overcome those.

MF: What happens if a station isn’t getting much use?

TM: We would work with our community partners to do things to activate the community and get them aware of bike share. One way we do that is working with our community partners to do community rides. Those help communities overcome that initial barrier of just trying a bike share and [getting] them on the bike for the first time. Those have been very successful and popular so far.

MF: Who are some of your community partners?

TM: We’ve partnered with several organizations, like JUICE Orange Mound, the Collective also in Orange Mound, The Works CDC in South Memphis, Knowledge Quest, and soon Carpenter Art Garden. Carpenter has done an early community survey about bike culture and bike acceptance in Binghampton as we look to expand EBS there.

MF: Where all do you plan to expand this year?

TM: Binghampton will be our first full neighborhood expansion since our launch. This will be a totally new neighborhood we’re moving into that we’re really excited about. We are following the development of the Hampline pretty closely because we know the Hampline is going to be an important artery for those using bike share to move safely and access the Greenline.

We’re not sure of the timing when all the stations will go into Binghampton, but we are going to try to follow the completion of the Hampline, which should be finished some time this fall.

MF: Any other expansions planned?

TM: The other neighborhood we hope to move into is the University of Memphis Campus and the area around it. We’re hoping that’s going to materialize this fall. The university area and Binghampton are the main two, but we’ll also do the infill that will be necessary to fully connect the neighborhoods.

MF: How will these two expansions impact the overall system?

TM: What this will help us do is fill in additional opportunities between these neighborhoods. So between Binghampton and the university we’ll be able to add more stations and increase the density of the system. We’ll provide more access to the bike lanes on Park and Getwell in Orange Mound, as well as to the Fairgrounds. Each new neighborhood expansion gives us opportunities to have a greater impact on the areas we are already in through better connectivity.

MF: What is the target market for EBS?

TM: We think EBS is for everyone we see in Memphis. Bike share can literally meet a need for everyone here. Yesterday on the riverfront, where there’s a lot of recreational use, I saw pretty much all of Memphis represented on bikes.

I think riding a bike in Tom Lee Park or Overton Park will eventually translate into using bike share to meet everyday personal needs. That could mean to get to work or to run errands. But, I think there is an educational and adoption process of bike share that for many will be kind of a slow process.

  • Explore Bike Share

MF: How do you think Memphians have accepted the concept of bike sharing?

TM: There are certain demographics, certainly from an age perspective, that gravitate toward this type of mobility quickly. Millenials have gravitated not only toward the bikes, but also scooters. But there’s a bigger opportunity for impact for all of Memphis, which will take continued efforts on our part and other organizations with similar goals.

MF: How does EBS plan to increase its use by other demographics?

TM: We know we have a long way to go before we have the kind of impact a bike share system can have on any community. It’s hard for individuals — not to mention a whole neighborhood — to change their habits. It has to happen over a period of time. I think we have to be more consistent with our availability and engagements with communities.

We’re not by any means where we want the adoption of this system to be. This is particularly true for those neighborhoods beyond the Downtown core. So we’re going to continue to work with our partners to identify those barriers.

MF: What are some of those barriers?

TM: In addition to pricing, other barriers include station accessibility. We realized the unbanked population is still an opportunity. We need to come up with a really good solution for them and we are clearly not there yet. There’s room to improve cash payments options, as the one we have now is not as convenient as it could be.

MF: How can someone pay with cash now?

TM: It’s a fairly cumbersome process. You have to go to our warehouse on Keel to exchange cash for a bike pass. We want to allow cash payments in each of our neighborhoods, but to do that we have to have partners in the community who will accept cash on our behalf. There’s a whole transactional aspect of that that we haven’t hashed out. We’re continuing to look for unique opportunities with some of our corporate and community partners to make cash payments more accessible.

MF: Are there any other barriers that keep people from using EBS?

TM: Other barriers are beyond the control of EBS like the bike infrastructure in our city. We’re getting more of that and we’re excited about it. But we need to do a better job of advocating for quality bike infrastructure so that people in all neighborhoods have someplace safe to ride their bikes.

MF: What do you hope the future of EBS looks like here?

TM: What we hope to do is change the acceptance of biking as a legitimate alternative mode of transportation for any Memphis resident or visitor. But to do that, there’s obviously a lot of work to be done. I see momentum in the city with improved infrastructure for biking and acceptance of shared mobility options.

But infrastructure has to continue to improve so organizations like EBS can continue to expand and provide a service that is meeting the need within the community and increases access. We hope to have a robust system that is well-connected and accessible to all. We’re here for the long haul because bike share, frankly, just makes a community feel good.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

$40 Million Revamp Headed for Elvis Presley Boulevard

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2019 at 1:18 PM

The Guest House at Graceland sits on the stretch of Elvis Presley Boulevard that will be redone.
  • The Guest House at Graceland sits on the stretch of Elvis Presley Boulevard that will be redone.

A multi-year makeover of an approximately 3-mile stretch of Elvis Presley Boulevard in Whitehaven is slated to begin soon, city officials announced Thursday.

The $40 million project will impact the stretch of road from Brooks to Shelby Drive, where Elvis Presley Enterprises’ Graceland attractions sit. The road will be repaved, widened, and made more “aesthetically pleasing,” Robert Knecht, director of the city’s Public Works said. “Overall, the enhancements will make the street more usable and more walkable."

Construction will “start any day now,” and wrap up in 2022, Knecht said. When work is completed, it will be a “brand-new street,” he said.

The corridor will get bike lanes, sidewalks, LED lighting, and other amenities that Knecht said will be up to the residents in the community to decide upon. Knecht said this is the first time a community has been really engaged throughout the entire process.

The director adds this will also be one of the few projects in the city to use full LED lighting.

Construction will take place in three phases to minimize the impact on traffic, officials said. Funding for the endeavor comes largely from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which is providing 80 percent of the funds. The remaining 20 percent comes from a local match.

The project has been in the works for a while, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.

Strickland said the Memphis City Council approved the project in 2012, when he sat on the council. When Strickland took office in 2016, he said he realized “the process had not gone very far.”

“We dug in and dealt with a lot of red tape,” Strickland said. “We negotiated deals with the property owners and put the contract out for bid last fall. And here we are today, ready to launch a much-needed and much-deserved work to bring new life to Elvis Presley Boulevard.

"These improvements are going to make great enhancements to this street, not only functionally, but also in appearance.”

Kevin Kern, vice president of public relations for Memphis Tourism, said “it’s an exciting day” for the Whitehaven community, as well as the tourism industry.

“We’re sitting here in one of the three visitors centers that welcome visitors from all over the world to Memphis,” Kern said. “This one sits here in a vital part of our city. This is a major artery, a welcome mat.

"Much like an airport, Elvis Presley is a handshake to the 11.8 million visitors who came to Memphis last year, who deposited $3.5 billion in economy and $98 in local sales taxes.”

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Memphis Pets of the Week (April 11-17)

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 3:39 PM

Each week, the Flyer will feature adoptable dogs and cats from Memphis Animal Services. All photos are credited to Memphis Pets Alive. More pictures can be found on the Memphis Pets Alive Facebook page.


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MATA Head:Trolleys Have Set Stage For Success in First Year

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 3:06 PM


In three weeks, it will have been one year since the Main Street trolley line has been revived, and the head of the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) said it's met nearly all expectations so far.

President and CEO of MATA, Gary Rosenfeld said since the steel-wheel trolleys returned to the tracks after a four-year absence, there have been no real issues with the line. The five-car system has been running “smoothly” — other than one trolley car that hasn’t been able to be revived and put into service yet, he said.

“All and all the system is running pretty well for what we’ve been through,” he said. “It’s setting the stage for future successful years of service.”

The main issue is keeping those using the trolleys and those around it safe, Rosenfeld said. One precaution he advises pedestrians on the Main Street Mall to take is to avoid wearing headphones while walking near the trolley tracks: “We want everybody to be safe.”

There are red and white signs on the Mall instructing pedestrians to yield for the trolleys.

Ridership has been as expected, Rosenfeld said.There have been approximately 372,000 boardings since the service was reinstated on April 30th of last year.

Rosenfeld said that number is in the “range of expectation,” and that he anticipates it rising in the summer months.

“We’ve certainly had respectable ridership,” Rosenfeld said. “It’s demonstration that the Main Street line is viable and that more lines will be viable in the future. The community has accepted the trolleys.”

As for the future, Rosenfeld said the goal is to bring back the Madison and Riverfront lines at some point. However, he said MATA has had trouble securing a vendor for trolley parts. That’s a “critical point in the flow chart,” Rosenfeld said.

“Until we get passed that critical point in flow chart, we’re not going to go one way or another,” Rosenfeld said. “The cars have to be refurbished or we’ll find some other method.The critical issue with the trolleys since the beginning of the recertification process has been safety.

“We’re not willing to compromise safety and we’re not going to sign a contract for the sake of signing a contract.”

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Memphis Zoo Names New President and CEO

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 10:28 AM

Jim Dean
  • Jim Dean

The Memphis Zoo will be under new leadership later this month.

The Memphis Zoological Society Board of Directors voted Tuesday evening to select Memphis native and University of Memphis graduate Jim Dean as the new president and CEO of the zoo.

Dean will begin his tenure at the zoo on April 29th, replacing Chuck Brady, who served as president and CEO for 15 years.

“I am excited to be returning to Memphis after more than 30 years away, and especially excited to be joining a world-renowned tourist attraction like our Memphis Zoo,” Dean said. “It is an honor to be entrusted with the leadership of this outstanding attraction.”

Dean has worked in the tourism and attraction industry for more than 30 years. He’s recognized for his work in conservation, animal welfare and education, and managing world-class attractions, the zoo said.

He’s held leadership positions at attractions such as Busch Gardens, Sea World, Discovery Cove, and Visit St. Pete Clearwater.

Thomas Farnsworth III, chairman of the Memphis Zoological Society board, said Dean is the “ideal candidate” for the position.

“If ever there were an ideal candidate with the right mix of business experience and background to take the Memphis Zoo to the next level, it’s Jim,” Farnsworth said. “The zoo is already Memphis’ highest attended attraction and has been ranked the top zoo in the country by two independent surveys.

“With Jim’s background and vision, and building upon the work done by Chuck Brady in building the quality of animal experience and habitat during his years with the organization, the future of the zoo is very bright.”

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

911 Text Service Officially Launches

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2019 at 11:52 AM


You can now text 911 in an emergency, as city officials announced the official launch of the new system on Tuesday.

The Text to 9-1-1 system here is the first in the state, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said. The option is meant for times when calling isn’t possible or safe, as the system’s slogan — “Call if you can, text if you can’t” — suggests.

Michael Spencer, emergency communications administrator, said the main drivers of the new system were the deaf, hard of hearing, and speech impaired communities. Spencer said the new system will give them equal access to 911.

Strickland said the service is vital for those communities who “really could not take part in the other system we had. It’s really important to serve all Memphians and I’m proud of that fact.”

The system has been live for a couple of weeks as it underwent testing and operators were trained, Spencer said. It’s currently only available in English, but Spencer said the department is working to expand to other languages.

“The system is already paying dividends,” Spencer said citing a 911 text made last night by someone in a domestic dispute. “We were able to get the information we needed and get first responders there.”

The new text system is “another step in our improved service to Memphis,” Strickland said.

Other efforts to improve the system have included decreasing the 911 wait time from just under a minute to fewer than six seconds. Strickland said the next step is to fill the 23 job vacancies at the emergency communications center.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

City Looks to Expand Scooter, Bike Fleet

Posted By on Mon, Apr 8, 2019 at 3:17 PM

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More shareable bikes and scooters could hit the streets here soon, as the city looks to increase shared-mobility options. 

As a part of its new permanent shared mobility program, the city said Monday that it plans to add to the current shared-mobility fleet here and is issuing a call for applications from shared mobility companies that want to operate here.

After conducting a shared mobility pilot phase over the past year with Bird, Lime, and Explore Bike Share (EBS), the city will form a permanent Shared Mobility Program here. The program will instate long term operating regulations that “reflect national best practices within this emerging and rapidly growing field,” the city said. This will replace the interim operating agreement each of the three operators have had since they launched here.

Together Bird, Lime, and EBS maintain around 1,750 scooters and bikes here. The city wants to bring that number up to 3,000 during the first year of the shared mobility program by allowing a total of three to five companies to operate in the city.

Companies will be chosen based on their “demonstrated experience, organizational and technological capacities, and alignment with the goals of the city’s shared mobility program.”

Operators have until the end of April to apply. The city hopes to add the new selected companies by June.

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Friday, April 5, 2019

VIDEO: Pipe Dream Road Trip

Posted By on Fri, Apr 5, 2019 at 12:27 PM

Memphis Flyer reporter Toby Sells and photographer Justin Fox Burks road-tripped to Ed Duvall Landing last week, working on this week's cover story: Pipe Dream.

The landing is close to where state officials hope to run a wastewater line across Tipton County and into the Mississippi River with the potential to pour 3.5 million gallons of waste every day. State officials say they need that line to lure a potential tenant to the Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County. 

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