Open Records, Immigrants, & Arts 

Bills push for (some) open records, ArtsMemphis gets political, money flows to North Memphis.

SPARCC sparks North Memphis

Memphis was selected as one of six cities to receive a $1 million grant from the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC), with additional access to an estimated $90 million in foundation-backed capital.

The grant, awarded to the Memphis Partners for Resilient Communities, will specifically target the greater area of North Memphis. The group formed to apply for the grant, which is hoped to incorporate diverse racial perspectives into community planning and development projects, promote investment that results in equitable development outcomes, improve health outcomes for residents, and improve climate resilience of neighborhoods through targeted home weatherization, repair, and improvement efforts

"In the past, policy and programmatic decisions about how to invest in the places we live, work, and play have all too often led to a deeper poverty and risk for people of color and low-income communities," said Melinda Pollack, a national partner with SPARCC.

click to enlarge TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells

ArtsMemphis fights back

ArtsMemphis combatted President Donald Trump's threats to federal arts funding with postcards, information, fun, and beer.

Trump has targeted the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) for funding cuts. ArtsMemphis hoped its Presidents' Day event would facilitate communication between Congress — which holds the strings of the federal purse — and art-loving Mid-Southerners.

"Receiving a swarm of constituent mail can greatly impact the way a legislator votes on a particular issue," said ArtsMemphis executive director Elizabeth Rouse.


Some Memphis businesses closed their doors last week in solidarity with others across the United States as a part of the #daywithoutimmigrants protest. That action was against President Donald Trump, who blames economic woes on undocumented immigrants residing in the United States.

Multiple establishments, including La Michoacana and La Guadalupana, were closed outside of posted hours last week. Though there was no clear explanation on any of the Summer Avenue businesses, the implication was clear to many Memphians across social media.

El Mercadito de Memphis' Facebook page said, "Today we will be closed and united!"

Latino Memphis said they kept their doors open that day, but only for the sake of those they serve.

"At this time, we need to be pulling together, not only from a humane perspective, but from an economic perspective," said Mauricio Calvo, the executive director of Latino Memphis.

Open to (almost) anything

State lawmakers filed a raft of bills for this legislative session aimed at changing public access to public records, everything from the details of economic development projects to footage captured from police-worn body cameras.

Officials with the nonpartisan Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG) listed a couple of dozen bills last week that they will be watching this session.

Here's a selection of those bills from TCOG:

Economic development records

HB 947/SB 1179 – Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin), Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald)

Makes confidential county and municipal records related to economic development. Part of this bill would make confidential any county or city economic development contracts, agreements, and related records until after a contract is entered into.

Officer-involved shootings

HB 277/SB 1039 — Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis), Sen. Lee Harris (D-Memphis)

Requires Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's (TBI) "investigative record" to become public after completion of an investigation by the TBI into an officer-involved shooting death.

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