Bird in the Hand

We didn't need this. Or maybe we did.

As was first reported in the Flyer's online edition last week, principals of the NBA Grizzlies are now threatening a full court press against the management of The Pyramid for daring to engage the show Sesame Street Live for some mid-September dates. That constitutes a "violation" of the operating agreement made in 2001 by the Grizzlies and local governments, responded Mike Golub, vice president for business operations of HOOPS, the ad hoc entity which represents the Grizzlies in contractual matters. That agreement, which has engendered renewed local controversy of late, gives HOOPS and the soon-to-be FedExForum first right of refusal for major attractions seeking a Memphis venue.

Pyramid officials countered that the arrangements were made in good faith for the Sesame Street production, which has been something of an annual attraction at The Pyramid, and that no starting date has yet been announced for the FedExForum. Unofficial word has been that the facility may not open its doors until October, the month the Grizzlies begin their exhibition season.

Even so, the booking "cannot be tolerated," insisted Golub, who went on to demand that the matter be submitted to a dispute-resolution procedure provided for under the agreement. The existence of that procedure was largely unknown until recently, and news of it came as something of a ray of light amid the general gloom engendered in governmental circles by other disclosures from the agreement -- notably, the revelation that The Pyramid must be preserved as a backup facility for the Grizzlies for a period of 15 years. Unless negotiated out of existence, that fact virtually precludes the possibility of finding productive new uses for a facility that is still being paid for by local taxpayers.

"Unbelievably arrogant" is how county commissioner Walter Bailey characterized the attitude of Grizzlies' management toward the prospect of Big Bird at The Pyramid this September. We have difficulty disagreeing, especially since such problems are unlikely to occur when the FedExForum formally opens a month later.

However the Sesame Street affair ends up being adjudicated -- whether by the dispute-resolution committee or by the courts -- the issue does need to be joined, if only to clarify the prerogatives of the respective parties and facilities.

In the meantime, though, we can't help thinking that Big Bird and company deserved better than to be given the bird in this manner.

Telling Us So

In remarks delivered to the downtown Memphis Rotary Club this week, state Senator Mark Norris made the case that he and other critics of state spending practices had been right in the alarms they have sounded over issues ranging from TennCare to medical malpractice reforms. And he cited the proposals made last month by Governor Phil Bredesen to limit TennCare benefits as a step in the right direction.

Besides a malpractice bill which he has introduced in the current session of the General Assembly, Norris is also pushing a measure -- sure to be controversial -- that would transform the state's workers' compensation laws to hold down costs. Otherwise, says Norris, Tennessee will find itself unable to compete with adjacent states for new industrial starts.

Maybe so, maybe no. (Though it should be noted that Governor Bredesen has already espoused, in principle, some form of action on the workers' compensation issue.)

We're not prepared yet to say that Norris "told us so," but we'll grant the justice of his complant that he and others may have encountered the kill-the-messenger syndrome in previous years. He -- and his legislation -- deserve a fair hearing.



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