memphis

The Tennessee legislature in 1879: Secret meetings, prison outsourcing, political rivalries

Taking a page from sports broadcasters showing archived games to make up for the lack of live programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, the TNJ: On the Hill blog is engaging in our own throwback legislative coverage. Today’s offering, a report by the editor of the old Daily Memphis Avalanche, a precursor of today’s Commercial Appeal, about legislative happenings on Feb. 9, 1879.

The author touches on some familiar themes at the General Assembly: legislative secrecy, the need for the Shelby County delegation to stick together, efforts to reduce incarceration costs through outsourcing, rivalries between local officials, and “the doings of lobbyists.”

Here’s the dispatch:

Our Legislative Solons : A Good Word from Them by an Occasional Correspondent

Retrenchment and Reform – A Desire to Do Something

NASHVILLE, February 9, 1879 – Notwithstanding the terrible legislative abortions and the rip-pell-mell style of action of the present General Assembly, it may well be characterized as one of economy, retrenchment and reform. Men of observation concede the fact that more business has been consummated so far during the present session than in some entire sessions of General Assemblies.

The bills passed with special reference to Memphis seem to be necessities and will probably be followed with good results. It is said that additional legislation will be required in order to perfect, if possible, the changed conditions of affairs. The necessary legislation will be enacted without trouble, if the Shelby delegation remains united on the various propositions in the future as in the past.

Committees during recess are working earnestly and sedulously, and if credit and be accorded rumor their labors will produce desirable and satisfactory results. Two committees are at work investigation all the alleged frauds subsequent to the war – by the issuance of bonds, the funding scheme, the Torbett or new issue of the Bank of Tennessee, the leasing of the penitentiary, the doings of the lobbyists, the trading of offices; in fact, their investigation apparently has no limit. But as they sit with closed doors and their proceedings secret nothing will be known until they report.

The State debt will be thoroughly examined, so that holders of the State bonds are likely to learn what class of bonds the State will good and what fraudulent. If any are classed as fraudulent, the people will be warned. The funding scheme and the practice resorted to impair the created of the State, will receive attention. […]

Happily for the State Government there is enough money to in the treasury to pay the current expenses for nearly a year to come; therefore the frauds, if any, in leasing the penitentiary will be thoroughly sifted and the guilty, if any, exposed. Continue reading

State approves $69M in water infrastructure loans for Memphis, Johnson City, and Lebanon

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters following on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee and  Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers announced three cities will received $69 million loans for water improvements through the Tennessee Local Development Authority.

Memphis will receive $48 million under the program, $15 million goes to Johnson City, and $5.7 million heads to Lebanon.

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan will address wastewater treatment plant improvements in Memphis and rehabilitation of sewer interceptors in Johnson City and Lebanon.

The state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program has awarded more than $2 billion in low-interest loans since 1987.

Former lawmaker, lobbyist Rufus Jones dies at 79

Rufus Jones, a former chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee, has died. He was 79.

Jones, a Memphis Democrat, was elected to the state House in 1981 and served in the chamber until 1996. He then embarked on a lobbying career until beginning treatment for lymphoma in 2006.

Jones’ lobbying clients included Tennessee Bankers Association, Memphis Light, Gas & Water, and Memphis Basketball Partners, a group pushing for funding for a new arena when the Vancouver Grizzlies were first mulling their move to Tennessee.

Jones challenged Riley Darnell for the secretary of state position in 2004, but lost a House Democratic Caucus nomination vote to the incumbent. Democrats at the time held a narrow 69-63 advantage over Republicans in the joint convention to elect constitutional officers and Darnell went on to win his fourth and final term.

Jones was succeeded in the House by Rep. Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis).

“Rep. Jones was a tireless public servant who always gave back and worked hard to open doors for the people of South Memphis,” she said in a statement. “He was a kind, easy-going person who loved his constituents and his community.”

Strickland re-elected mayor of Memphis, voters OK sales tax hike

Incumbent Jim Strickland was re-elected mayor Memphis and voters in the city approved a proposal to hike the city’s local option sales tax from 2.25% to 2.75% to restore benefits that had been cut for for police and firefighters in 2015.

“Politics can be pretty toxic… Today’s vote shows that it doesn’t have to be,” the Commercial Appeal quoted Strickland as telling supporters after the vote. “We can disagree without being divisive. That is the campaign I have run. That is the way that I lead. I have been and will continue to be everybody’s mayor.”

Strickland took 62% of the vote. Willie Herenton, a former 18-year mayor, received 29%. County Commissioner Tami Sawyer got 7%. None of the other eight candidates (including the eternal Prince Mongo) received more than 0.5%.

The sales tax referendum passed on a 52%-48% vote. Officials were quick to point out that voters can’t dictate how sales tax money is spent, but that they will follow the will of the electorate in dedicating the money toward police and firefighters.

New FedEx Logistics HQ to add 689 jobs in downtown Memphis

Gov. Bill Lee has announced that FedEx Logistics will consolidate its headquarters in downtown Memphis. The move will involve a $44 million investment in the former Gibson Guitar factory and the creation of 689 jobs.

Here’s the full release from the Lee administration:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and FedEx Logistics announced today that the company will move its headquarters to downtown Memphis, where it will invest $44 million and create 689 jobs.

“With FedEx Logistics creating more than 680 jobs, and investing more than $44 million in Shelby County, they are once again showing that Tennessee is a great place to do business,” Lee said. “FedEx and its subsidiaries have been a true Tennessee success story, and we as a state are proud to see this company continue to grow and call Tennessee home.”

“I congratulate FedEx Logistics on its decision to move its headquarters to downtown Memphis,” Rolfe said. “FedEx Logistics has been located in Memphis since its creation in 2000, and it means a great deal that this company continues to call Memphis home. I appreciate FedEx and FedEx Logistics for choosing to create nearly 700 high quality jobs in downtown Memphis and for its continued commitment to Tennessee.”

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Lee to make first economic development announcement in Memphis?

UPDATE: An updated public schedule  has the governor attending an “economic development announcement” in Memphis at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. The location for the announcement is outside the old Gibson Guitar building on South B.B. King Boulevard.

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The Daily Memphian reports Gov. Bill Lee is expected to make his first economic development announcement in Memphis on Tuesday.

Speculation surrounds whether the announcement will have to do with FedEx Logistics and a potential move into the Gibson Guitar building downtown.

Shelby County lawmakers were told Monday by Lee’s office there will be an announcement in Memphis on Tuesday morning, the news site learned.

FedEx’s possible plans for the Gibson building came into discussion after the sold it in 2017. But the company issued a statement in November to say “FedEx Trade Networks can confirm it is no longer considering the Gibson Guitar Factory building as a potential option for relocation of its headquarters.”

FedEx Logistics currently has corporate offices in East Memphis and around the  area.

 

Ag tech company Indigo bringing 700 jobs to Memphis

A release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Indigo Ag, Inc. President and CEO David Perry announced today that the agricultural technology company will establish the headquarters for its North American commercial operations in Memphis.

Indigo will invest nearly $6.6 million and create over 700 jobs in Memphis over the next three years.

“I’m extremely pleased to see Indigo create hundreds of corporate office jobs in Memphis with this expansion,” Haslam said. “Indigo is one of the fastest growing startups in the country, and the decision to make Memphis such a vital part of its future growth is a testament to Tennessee’s vibrant economy and skilled workforce.”

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Memphis Sen. Reginald Tate: ‘I am the message’

State Sen. Reginald Tate, who is locked in a competitive Democratic primary in Memphis, opened his campaign headquarters over the weekend, touting his independence as a lawmakers.

“I’ve never sided with anybody. I don’t side. I was taught better,” the Memphis Daily News quoted Tate as saying. “I don’t approve the message. I am the message.”

Tate faces Katrina Robinson, a business owner and nurse in the Aug. 2 primary. A hot mic incident in which Tate vented to a Republican colleague about his frustration with Democrats questioning his party loyalty has been a major flashpoint of the campaign.

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Judge rules Memphis maneuver to remove Confederate statues was legal

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle ruled Wednesday that the City of Memphis had a legal right to sell two city parks to a nonprofit organization that then removed Confederate monuments from the premises, reports the Commercial Appeal.

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Haslam leaves open possibility of vetoing bill to protect Confederate monuments

Gov. Bill Haslam is leaving open the possibility of vetoing a bill inspired by City of Memphis’ moves to remove Confederate monuments from local parks and aimed at preventing any such actions in the future, reports the Times Free Press.

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