Tag Archives: memphis

No charges in Memphis police shooting black man

By Adrian Sainz, Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A white Memphis police officer won’t face federal civil rights charges in the shooting death of a 19-year-old black man, the federal government announced Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton told reporters that a federal review found insufficient evidence to file charges in the 2015 shooting of Darrius Stewart by Officer Connor Schilling.

Stanton added that the review by the Justice Department found that Schilling did not willfully or with a “bad purpose” deprive Stewart of his rights.

The Justice Department announced in December that it was reviewing the shooting, which had sparked peaceful protests in Memphis. Stewart’s shooting occurred in the months after the deaths of black men at the hands of police in Missouri, New York and elsewhere aggravated racial tensions in the country. Continue reading

AP story on Nashville, Memphis marijuana ordinances

By Adrian Sainz, Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Political leaders in Tennessee’s two largest cities are taking steps toward marijuana decriminalization with ordinances that would allow police to reduce the penalty for people who possess small amounts of it.

Nashville’s Metropolitan Council is set to take a final vote on its ordinance on Tuesday, while the Memphis City Council is scheduled to make its decision Oct. 4.

Both cities have similar proposals on the table: Police who encounter people in possession of a half-ounce or less of marijuana have the discretion of giving them a civil citation for a $50 fine or community service.

Such a penalty is in stark contrast to Tennessee law, which calls for people caught with a half-ounce of marijuana or less to face a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Continue reading

Memphis, Nashville could pay penalty for pot decriminalization

If the Nashville and Memphis city councils move ahead with plans for modified marijuana decriminalization, state Rep. William Lamberth says he may move to stop sending state highway funding to the cities.

From The Tennessean:

Lamberth, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said his potential bill would seek to halt state highway funds from cities that do not enforce criminal penalties outlined in state law. Funding would continue again if a violating city overturns their policy. This past year, the state set aside $129.1 million in highway funds for Shelby County and $119.5 million for Davidson County.

“That’s not a bill that I would want to file, but it’s a bill that I’m certainly willing to file if Nashville and Memphis continue down this extraordinarily reckless and unjust path,” he said. Continue reading

On education PAC money in Memphis legislative races

Start of a Chalkbeat Tennessee report on campaign financing in Memphis area legislative races:

In Memphis, where efforts to improve schools are helping to reshape the city, at least six candidates running in contested races for the Tennessee House of Representatives are attracting money from groups and individuals with education policy goals.

The candidates, all of whom are running in the Democratic primary election on Thursday, received tens of thousands of dollars from political action committees attached to advocacy organizations including Tennessee Federation for Children and the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, according to campaign finance disclosure reports released late last week by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.

And one candidate, Tami Sawyer, has attracted the financial support of high-profile individuals including Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

Keith Williams, a pastor who testified this year at the state Capitol in favor of school vouchers, is running for the District 85 seat against incumbent Johnnie Turner, a former Memphis teacher who has voted against vouchers.

In District 90, which stretches from Frayser and North Memphis to South Memphis, Teach For America community organizer Tami Sawyer is running against incumbent John DeBerry, perhaps the legislature’s most vocal proponent of vouchers. Sawyer, who has called for “comprehensive public education reform,” said she does not have a position on vouchers at this time.

And in District 98, Johnnie Hatten, a leader with the parent group called Memphis Lift, which is tied to the Achievement School District, is facing off against Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a vocal critic of the state-run school turnaround district who has advocated for stemming its expansion. The district includes Raleigh and parts of Bartlett and North Memphis.

Williams, Hatten and DeBerry all have the backing of political action committees attached to advocacy groups including the Tennessee Federation for Children and StudentsFirst Tennessee, which aim to increase school choice options across the state, particularly in the form of vouchers. Williams also has received $5,000 from his employer, Campaign for School Equity, formerly known as the Black Alliance for Educational Options. Those candidates also have benefitted from thousands of dollars worth of mailers and advertisements paid for by those group. Tennessee Federation for Children, for example, has spent about $27,000 on materials supporting DeBerry, $15,000 on materials supporting Williams, $17,000 on materials opposing Turner, Williams’ opponent.

In separate statements, Tennessee Federation for Children and StudentsFirst said they chose to support candidates based on their qualifications in education, deep ties to the community, and openness to school choice policies, including vouchers, that the organizations believe will improve educational opportunities in Memphis. A proposal to offer private school tuition vouchers to low-income students has divided the legislature for almost a decade and this year advanced the farthest it’s ever come before fizzling on the House floor.

On the other hand, Turner and Parkinson have received relatively small amounts from the state teacher union’s political action committee in recognition of their stances against vouchers and their cautious approach to expanding the ASD.

Sawyer hasn’t garnered support from education advocacy organizations, but she has received small donations from individuals involved in Memphis education such as Hopson.

Note: Commercial Appeal columnist David Waters lives in state Rep. Antonio Parkinson’s district and is not impressed with the direct mail pieces he’s been getting from special interest PACs. An interesting read, HERE.

Memphis man charged with throwing bricks at City Hall

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A prosecutor says a 48-year-old Memphis man has been charged in an indictment with throwing bricks through windows at City Hall and riding away on a bicycle on three different occasions.

Investigators said a man walked up to the front of City Hall on March 20 and began throwing bricks and breaking numerous windows before pedaling away. Investigators said the same person did more damage when he returned the next day and again on March 25, then rode off on a bike.

District Attorney General Amy Weirich’s office says in a news release that after surveillance video was released to the public, the man was identified as Bernard Gillard.

He was charged Thursday with vandalism over $10,000, a felony. He’s being held in the Shelby County Jail. Online jail records did not indicate whether he is represented by a lawyer.

Memphis refunds $2.38M in ‘jock tax’ collections

As the clock runs out this week on Tennessee’s infamous “jock tax,” the city of Memphis is about to turn over $2.38 million to more than 900 professional basketball players as part of a 2015 settlement, according to the Commercial Appeal.

The city will return its portion of the money — a third of the $7.27 million it’s collected since Tennessee’s professional privilege tax was approved in 2009 — within the next three or four weeks, said Brian Collins, the city’s chief financial officer.

“(The money) was reserved a long time ago, and it won’t have an impact on the city’s budget this year or any year,” Collins said. The city set the funds aside in fiscal year 2015.

The flat tax of $2,500 per game up to $7,500 for NBA and NHL players was widely criticized for eating up most — and in some cases all — of the income lower-paid athletes received from basketball games in Memphis and hockey games in Nashville.

Gary Kohlman, general counsel for the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), which sued the state over the tax, said “dozens” of players earning the legal minimum paid more in the tax than they earned from the games.

“That was not an isolated event,” he said.

A spokesman for the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA), which also sued the state, said its players lost money playing against the Nashville Predators too.

Kohlman said some NBA players were also charged the tax just because they were on the team’s roster — even if they didn’t play.

The Tennessee General Assembly voted in 2014 to repeal the tax, effective immediately for hockey players and June 1, 2016, for basketball players.

Name confusion in House District 85 campaign?

Name confusion may be a problem for Rep. Johnnie Turner in the upcoming Democratic primary for House House District 85, reports Jackson Baker. Turner has two primary opponents, one of whom bears a name long familiar within the councils of local public education in Memphis.

This would be Keith Williams, whose candidacy is indeed focused on education. Sort of. This Keith Williams — identified as a pastor, Memphis parent, and senior adviser for the “Tennessee Black Alliance for Educational Options” — testified to the General Assembly this past year in favor of state vouchers for use in private school.

That’s something that is pure anathema to another and much better known Keith Williams (Keith O. Williams, more fully) who has served as both chairman and executive director of the Memphis/Shelby County Education Association and who is a vehement and vocal opponent of school vouchers.

To compound the potential confusion, Keith Williams of the MSCEA ran unsuccessfully last year for the Memphis City Council, and the presence on this year’s election ballot of someone with the same name could be a real voter snag.

Rep. Turner, a former teacher and a decided opponent of school vouchers herself, says that Keith Williams of the MSCEA has pledged his support to her and will do what he can to clear up such voter confusion as might be.

Memphis police liaison to gay community files lawsuit

The Memphis police officer serving as liaison to the city’s homosexual and transgender community has filed a lawsuit saying he has been the victim of discrimination based on sexual orientation, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The officer, Davin Clemons, argues in the suit that he faced discrimination, harassment and retaliation against him based on his same-sex orientation and his work as police liaison to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. He also argues he faced discrimination based on two other factors: a medical condition that stops him from achieving a clean shave, and his religion — he’s an elder in a Christian church that he helped found called Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis.

He was named in 2014 to the liaison position, which he does in addition to his other duties.

Police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said Friday that Clemons still serves on the elite TACT unit and that she believed he was still serving as LGBTQ liaison. “We are aware of the lawsuit, however, we are unable to comment on any cases pending litigation,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Clemons had complained to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but earlier this year the organization ruled it couldn’t demonstrate violations of the law, according to a court document. Clemons had the right to file a lawsuit within 90 days of receipt of the notice, and he filed on May 12.

The suit describes many incidents that Clemons says are discriminatory. For instance, he alleges that when he got engaged to another male police officer in November 2015, a group of other officers passed around a social media video of the engagement and made fun of it.

Nashville overtaking Memphis as TN’s most populous city

After nearly 120 years as Tennessee’s largest city, Memphis is on the verge of surrendering that title to fast-growing Nashville, census estimates released Thursday show.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:
As of July 1 of last year, Memphis clung to a 1,160-person edge in population — 655,770 to 654,610, according to the estimates. The gap, which had totaled almost 12,000 just a year earlier, closed as Memphis lost 712 residents and Nashville gained 9,881. As recently as the 2010 Census, Memphis had about 45,000 more residents than Nashville.

The latest census numbers, which cover municipalities and other “sub-county” areas, reaffirm a continuing lack of growth not only in Memphis but in many of its wealthy suburbs. Four of the six suburban municipalities in Shelby County sustained slight drops in population, with only Bartlett and Collierville registering modest increases.

But if the figures show Memphis is not growing, they also confirm that it’s not in rapid decline, said John Gnuschke, director of the Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Memphis.

“We can take pride in that we’ve at least been stable, which is more than a lot of cities can say,” Gnuschke said.

Memphis became the state’s largest city with the 1900 Census, when its population surged to 102,320 compared to 80,865 for Nashville. That achievement, which marked a dramatic rebound from the yellow fever epidemics that devastated the city during the 1870s, touched off wild celebrations that included parades and dancing in the streets.

“My sense is, it has always been a point of pride for Memphis that we were larger than Nashville,” said Wayne Dowdy, senior manager of the history department for the Memphis Public Library and Information Center. “It was a tangible way that we could argue that we were more significant than our sister city.”

Memphis City Council votes for more lunch money

Memphis City Council members on Tuesday amended the city budget to give themselves catered lunches, more of a travel allowance than in the past four years combined, a part-time lobbyist and a new staff analyst who will also handle the council’s communications.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

Council members voted 6-4 to increase their budget for lunches on days the council meets to $8,000 — or $615 per member — up from the $1,000 that was proposed by chairman Kemp Conrad. Members also increased their travel allowance to $65,000 from the $15,000 that was proposed; and voted to add $100,000 for the lobbyist in Nashville and the analyst.

The votes were deja vu for veteran council members, who also debated lunches and travel budgets last year as the city faced several large expenses and as retirees younger than 65 lost their city health subsidies. The council voted last year to set aside $3,500 for lunches and $15,000 for travel.

This year, the city’s budget is also tight as the city works to hire more police officers, increase its contribution to the pension fund, and roll out new police body cameras and in-car cameras.

“I just think it sends the wrong signal,” council member Frank Colvett Jr. said before the vote.