Behind the Headlines – December 1, 2017

Behind the Headlines – December 1, 2017


– (female narrator)
Production funding for Behind the Headlines
is made possible in part by: the WKNO Production Fund, the WKNO Endowment Fund,
and by viewers like you. Thank you. – The Memphis City Council,
the statues, Beale Street and much more tonight,
on Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes, Publisher
of the Memphis Daily News. Thanks for joining us. I’m joined tonight
by Berlin Boyd, Chairman, Memphis City Council. Thanks for being here.
– Thank you for having me. – Kemp Conrad, also from
the Memphis City Council. Thanks for being here again.
– Thanks for having me, Eric. – Martavius Jones, also
Memphis City Council. Thanks for being here again.
– Thanks for having me. – Along with Bill
Dries, Senior Reporter with the Memphis Daily News. We’ll try to get to, all
kinds of things going on at council right now,
in the city generally, but we’ll start with statues. It’s made a lot of headlines,
it’s on people’s minds, on social media. I’ll start with
you, the Chairman. One thing I hear
critics of the attention that’s being paid by the
city, by the mayor’s office, by the council, the state’s
involved, the mediation that started, is why
is this the priority? People who don’t
like the statues, don’t like what they represent, why is so much time, energy,
and even arguably money being spent on this
issue right now? – Well Eric, as you know,
we’re coming up on MLK 50, the 50th anniversary of
Dr. King’s assassination, which happened here
in Memphis, April 4th, and it’s the one thing
that we don’t want to do in a national light
is to look bad, that we are some backwards city, with martyrs of
Civil Rights issues or with individuals that
represented the Ku Klux Klan still basically sitting,
standing point and center in the heart of the
city of Memphis. Therefore, the city,
the administration, and the council, we
have been in lockstep doing the right thing,
trying to abide by the law and to have those
statues removed. I think it’s an important issue. It’s an issue that many
cities across America have actually taken a
stance and removed them, and we don’t want
to be that last city to have those
monuments standing. – I’ll stick with
you for a second. Are you worried
that the logistics, there’s mediation right
now between the city, the Sons of the Confederacy,
but are you worried about how long
this could drag out and are you worried, and
I’ve heard people express, and I’ve mentioned
on the show before that once the legislature
goes in session in January, February,
they could make this even harder than it is
now for the city to get rid of these statues? – Well, as you know Eric,
Nathan Bedford Forrest falls under the 2003 piece of legislation,
2006, sorry, legislation for the
Historic Commission, but we’re not really
worried about it. We will go before the judge
on the 21st of December. So we feel pretty
optimistic that once we go before the judge, he
will see things our way. We have great attorneys
working on it. Nathan Bedford Forrest
is not a war monument. So that’s established. So therefore, I think we
have the leeway we need to have those statues removed. – Did I remember right, and I should’ve looked this up, I think the
council was unanimous in wanting them removed.
Is that right? and what do you hear Kemp? Do you hear people say, why
are you focused on this, why is this the
priority right now? – Well, you’re correct,
it was unanimous. This kind of reminds
me of the song, “I Was Country Before
Country Was Cool”. The council didn’t just
take this up this year. It was several years ago
when we first voted on this, and it has been tied
in a legal process. So the City Council
or the City of Memphis or the Mayor, we didn’t
just start to focus on it this year with Charlottesville. It has been in process
for several years, you do hear one of
those arguments. That’s one of the ones you hear. Well, there’s so
much crime going on, so why are you doing this? Well, the City
Council, the Mayor, we can walk and chew
gum at the same time. We can fight a lot
of different battles. We can move the City
of Memphis forward on a lot of different fronts, but this is symbolic, it’s
important to a lot of people in Memphis, and it is
something that needs to happen as soon as possible, and I
would agree with the Chairman. We’ve got a lot of
people working on it that are really smart
and we wanna do it, but we also wanna do it legally, and that’s important as well. I agree with the Chairman. I’m confident that we will
get it done very soon. – Martavius, then
we’ll go to Bill. Are you confident
this will get done? Some people are very
frustrated by how slow it seems to be taking? Mayor Strickland, he was
on the show a month ago, talking about, look,
there is a process. I can’t just order city
workers to do something that is illegal. We’ve got to move
through the process. Your thoughts? – I’m frustrated by the
time that it is taking, and as my colleague,
Kemp alluded to, we can have other priorities. So if I had to say the
one pressing priority, it would not be
Nathan Bedford Forrest that the city is
having right now. If anything, I would
say it’s dealing with our ongoing
budgetary challenges, trying to fund all
of the things that the City of Memphis has to fund, but to say that
Nathan Bedford Forrest is a priority, I don’t
think that it is, but we can walk and chew
gum at the same time. – This is just another
reason why it’s so important to really have a
Nashville strategy and a governmental strategy, something that Councilman Jones, the Chairman and I
know we’re aligned on. That’s why we have
made that a priority for the council this year. We have a committee now. What happens in
Nashville affects us. – And you mean the legislature,
just so people know. – No, the
administration as well. I think that’s one of the
things the mayor’s done a good job of is building
those relationships, something the council’s
working very hard on, but frankly, this is an issue, this should be an issue that
Memphis-elected officials should be able to decide. The fact that we really
have to go to Nashville and deal with it and
spend the time on it, does not make any sense, but that’s one thing, again,
that we are working on proactively in the
future to make sure that on issues of local control, things we can focus on our own destiny that
we have that ability without interference
from Nashville. That’s something
we’re working hard on. – Bill.
– Mr. Chairman, is mediation possible on this issue or when the administration talks about mediation,
is this like, well, the states asked us to do this, so we’re gonna do it or
is this mediation about the terms of how the
statue comes down? – Let me say this Bill,
I don’t want to go into too much details,
but I will say both parties are mediating
and we feel very optimistic that a positive outcome
will come out of this. So I don’t wanna say too much, but I think based on the ruling from the Tennessee
Historic Commission to say that Nathan
Bedford Forrest, based on Allan Wade’s opinion and the Tennessee
Historic Commission agreed that Nathan Bedford
Forrest is not a war hero or it’s not a war monument. So therefore, it does not
fall under the auspices of the Tennessee
Historic Commission. So that’s why now
we’re in the process of having a mediation with
the Sons of the Confederates. So I think right
now, it’s going well. No one wants to
give up the fight. The Sons of Confederate don’t
want to lose the statue. They want it to remain,
but I think they know that we might have a
great chance of succeeding once we go to court. – Are you aware of any
offers from other parts of the state to take
the Forrest Monument? – Right now, no, but we
are working on some things, and there are some people
that’s definitely interested in the monument. I mean, there’s a lot
of interest in it, but it comes down to
logistics and expenditures, who will fund to have it
removed at that point in time. – We’ll move on a little bit. I mean, we could talk
through all of this, but as we said at
the top of the show, there’s so much going on. An ordinance put forward, and I’m gonna botch
this a little bit, it came out of things
like runs, 5Ks, the marathon which is
coming up just a day from when this show will air, to put some more
restrictions or limits or at least some
more rules in place, maybe, I don’t know
who wants to take this, I’ll turn to you
again Mr. Chairman, what is this proposal about, and it gets into even parades, then the protesters, do they
have the right to assemble? It got real complicated,
an issue that started with constituents who complained
that a 5K was going on in my neighborhood and I
got locked in my driveway. What is the proposal? – Let me just say this, Eric. I think it was really
taken out of context, as as a council person, when
you propose an ordinance or an amendment or making
a change to an ordinance, it’s not clean on the
first initial draft when you take it
before your colleagues. That’s why we go
through three readings, that’s the process,
and once we get to the third process, then you
will have a clean document. It was said by my colleague,
Councilman Hedgepeth, that this had nothing to do
with the right of assembly. It was strictly for
parades and 5Ks. So therefore, it was
a separate issue. The parades and
protesters is bifurcated from that actual ordinance. So they have no similarities
into his changes to that particular ordinance. The one thing that is
doing it actually gives protesters a little
bit more strength in the changes that
Councilman Hedgepeth basically proposing to make. – Yeah, in the Commercial
Appeal Ryan Poe… been on the show before, talks about how Richard
Smith, son of Fred Smith, FedEx Executive, it
started with Richard Smith. That’s was kind of the premise
in part of Ryan’s article. We talked a little
bit before the show. Have you, I’ll turn to you Kemp, do you have constituents say, “I got locked in my driveway”? Is this just about
one person’s complaint or is it something you hear
about from constituents? – Oh, it’s something I’ve
definitely heard before and I’ll say a lot of
times things that we are working on in the council
that all the great and good ideas, they don’t
reside with 13 of us, I promise you. They reside with the people, and a lot of the
things that we work on are ideas that come
from Memphians. One that just comes to
mind is the food trucks, that Mayor Strickland, when
he was on the council passed, that came from folks
in that industry. So a lot of the
things that we propose are things that we hear,
good ideas from Memphians and we start putting it through
the legislative process. – Yeah, Martavius,
thoughts on this? One, do you hear from
constituents who say, look, this is disrupting
my neighborhood or my business or
whatever and two, do you feel like the
ordinance is going in a direction
that’s appropriate? – I haven’t heard, personally
I haven’t heard much from my constituents about this
being that much of an issue. I take a little exception to it, they way that it’s
originally drafted. I’m thinking about the expense. When we talk about
the small 5Ks, there’s one that just
started in Orange Mound. Its inaugural
year was this year. I’m thinking about the
expense and the burden of having to inform everybody
on that particular route. We start with the 5K, there’s
some 10Ks that take place. What’s gonna be the
method of disseminating this information? What about the time period? So there’ still, as
Chairman Boyd indicated, there’s still some modifications
that have to take place, but I think to say that we
have a final draft right now, me for one, I wouldn’t be
one to advocate for anything that’s going to restrict
anybody’s right to assemble. I think that the 5K
or the marathon issues are a little bit different
than the public assemblies. We’re talking about,
and I think part of it is extending the
notification process. During this time, we come
up with some balances of what’s best for
the public interest, as well as the City
of Memphis’ interest. – Is there some irony
in this too though, stay with me, there
was a time in Memphis when people always talked
about people fleeing the city, people fleeing the urban core,
and that is this sort of, this is one of these things
of unintended consequences of the popularity of
people in Orange Mound? Who would’ve thought
10 years ago that there would be a 5K in Orange Mound? A lot of people
would’ve thought, well, that would never happen, and Memphis was the city
where everyone’s overweight and no one exercises and
now there’s so many 5Ks that you have to
adjust the regulation. Is there some amount of
unintended consequences of things like this
that people wanted for so many years
actually occur? – I think it’s great. This is kind of what I
call a high-class problem that we like to deal with. The whole Greensward issue,
that was a high-class problem. You’ve got two things
that are so popular? How do we deal with it? The thing that’s so
sometimes disconcerting is how so quickly
it evolves into just a negative war,
when there is no, I think in this,
it’s not like Reid’s in a black helicopter
trying to figure out some way to quash free speech. It was a good first attempt to try to make 5Ks better ’cause if
you’ve got to get out of our house to go, you
should be able to do that. So I’m sure also, any
time you do anything legislatively, man, it’s hard. it takes a lot of time. There are a lot of people
you got to talk to. Councilman Jones is proposing
open carry on Main Street. He’s gonna work
really hard on that to try to make the city better, but there are a lot
of stakeholders. Everything is really hard, and if people would
just kind of trust and let the process
work without kind of going to their guns
from the first get-go, I think it’d be a
healthier process, but it is great we
have 5Ks going on all across the city
and this is probably one of those things too where there’s a way to do it. I mean, you should
be able to get out and also run safely
on certain streets. – Yeah, Bill.
– It is interesting that since the committee
discussion on this last week that some of the
folks who were concerned that maybe this was
going to affect protests have started to say, well, why don’t we review
the protest part of the original
ordinance anyway. Is it possible that
you all could take a longer look at that? – Those are amendments,
Bill, that will come at the third and final reading, and I think that with, like
my colleague Councilman Jones just mentioned, no one, I
know for myself personally, was trying to take away
anyone’s First Amendment right, and I think that everyone
has a right to assemble, but I think what
people fail to realize, people have a tendency
of dispersing information and changing the dynamics
into the direction they want them to go. We’re just trying to
make government better. We’re trying to
make Memphis better. We’re trying to make Memphis
attractive and succeed. So therefore, when you
have antiquated legislation and laws in place, it’s
time to look at things and say, hey, how can we
move the city forward? So I agree. I think there are ways
now to bring those conversations to
Councilman Hedgepeth and type of guy
Councilman Hedgepeth is, I’m sure he will accept
those amendments, and I have a few amendments
that I wanna make to his proposed legislation. – Did the number
of people required for a permit for
a demonstration, was that part of the original or at what point did that
get interjected into this? – Okay, so let me just explain. What happened was
originally, Reid pulled the original ordinance. In the original ordinance,
it states everything in which everyone read. Only thing Councilman
Hedgepeth was doing was inserting and
modifying about parades and races, that’s it. He didn’t really touch the
rest of that ordinance. So when people
started reading it, they said, oh, this is so messy, it was botched, it was this, well simply because, when
you’re drafting legislation, you have to pull
the main ordinance. You have to say ordinance
number whatever, and so, hopefully, this
will kind of educate the public to know that
we’re pulling an ordinance. All of this language is existing
in the existing ordinance. You’re not addressing, you’re
addressing that one part. So we can clean it up as we go. – Can I say something?
– Yeah. – Councilman Jones
looked at me really funny a minute ago, and I said
open carry, I think. I think I meant to
say open container. [laughs] Councilman Jones isn’t
proposing people have Desert Eagles and 44 Magnums
on the Main Street Mall. Sorry to twist your legislation. – Open container,
let’s go to that. There is a proposal that
you all have looked at. I’ll go to you, Martavius,
about expanding… right now, you can have
alcohol on Beale Street but not the rest of downtown. There is discussion of
opening up Main Street to an alcohol-available zone. I don’t know how
exactly to say that. Your thoughts on that? – This came about during
the trip that we took to New Orleans. New Orleans, firstly was about
seeing what they’re doing to keep Bourbon Street safe, bringing some of those best
practices back to Memphis. – Back to Beale
Street and security, which we’ll talk about. – Correct.
– But keep going. – But one of the things I
saw, I just saw the activity, the volume of people. I didn’t see faces. I saw dollar signs,
Eric, and I saw, this is economic activity. The revenue that’s
generated on Bourbon Street funds so many other operations, so many other city operations
of the City of New Orleans, and arguably, the
revenue that’s generated in the French Quarter
of New Orleans, that drives the entire
State of Louisiana. If you’ve ever been
to Trolley Night, it’s a great vibe downtown, but I would like to see more
robust activity downtown. In the Commercial
Appeal this past week, Mr. Evanoff talked about
we have fewer restaurants per thousand than Louisville. We have to have a
discussion about what cities do we want to compete with. Do we want to compete with
2nd or 3rd-tier cities? I say not. I want our discussions
to be centered about let’s take some of
the good things that are taking place in
Washington, Chicago, Atlanta, let’s have
those big discussions as opposed to looking
at what’s taking place and what’s in sort of
2nd or 3rd-tier cities. – Has an ordinance been
put forward to allow this or are you guys in
the exploratory phase? – I introduced it
at the last meeting. It came out of committee and
as Chairman Boyd indicated we do have a process to where we’ve received
some emails from people who are for it,
who are against it. This is not something
that we introduce it and it automatically
becomes law. I’m hoping to have, and
we will have discussions with downtown
stakeholders, residents, businesses, everybody downtown. – And to clarify, the
proposal, at least the early-stage proposal
is just Main Street, and you could walk
into a restaurant, get a drink to go and walk out onto Main Street with it?
– Correct. – Same way you can
now on Beale Street but that would be
extending the boundaries. – Right, so we would
be looking from essentially Crump
to A. W. Willis. One way to think about it, it extends a little bit
beyond the trolley line, but think about the trolley
line on Main Street. Those would be the boundaries. – Seven minutes left, Bill,
let’s go to Beale Street. – Yeah, let’s talk
about where that is. I think the last time
that I checked in on this, you all were about to
hire a security consultant to take a look. Has that firm been hired? – Well, there were some changes. So my colleague
made Councilman Ford put forth a resolution
to actually be able to expend the money from
the Beale Street Bucks so that we could hire a
crowd control consultant. While that vote was going on, Councilwoman Swearengen
made an amendment to his proposal to end
Beale Street Bucks program. So as far as I
know, the RFQ is out from Downtown Memphis
Commission to seek a Crowd Control Specialist, and I don’t think the firm
has been hired as to date. – Right, and the funding
for this comes from the Beale Street Bucks and
the $5 cover charge money that you already have from
this past spring and summer. – Yes sir.
– Oh, okay, alright. So, Councilman Conrad, where
would you like to see this go? Where do you think the
council’s direction of this should go in
terms of looking at what’s best for Beale Street? – Well, I certainly
think hiring a consultant is a good path, and
Beale Street is one of the most iconic
streets in America. It’s a huge attribute
to the city. I still think it’s a
bit of a breakable toy. It’s gone through a lot
of turmoil over the last couple of years in
terms of management, and I know everybody
is focused on it now, which I think is good. I’d like to see also
just more active, proactive policing of
Beale Street as well, as opposed to just
police officers being there screening people in. I don’t know y’all’s
thought on that, but that seems like something
that would be effective. – Who is the appropriate
person or entity to run Beale Street? – Right now, Eric,
that is up to question. I think that right
now, we can say that the Downtown Memphis
Commission is a safe place for Beale Street, but I
think in order to make Beale Street profitable
for the City of Memphis, in order to make
Beale Street grow, we need someone who
breathes, sleeps, eats Beale Street and Beale
Street businesses. As Kemp mentioned a minute ago, Beale Street is the 7th
most recognized street in the world, and
it’s a vital artery to the City of Memphis
and our success. So I think that we need to
have a robust conversation and the council has
nothing to do with choosing a management company. That’s solely, I
mean, I think that that’s the mayor’s discretion, and when they signed
the master lease in the 99 year
deal, that states it. It states where the
council’s boundaries. We only control
the right of ways, Beale Street, 2nd
Street, 4th Street, so on and so forth, and
the mayor’s administration controls all of the buildings and the leases on Beale Street. – We have just a few
minutes left ’cause again, there’s so much we wanna get to, but you mentioned,
Martavius budget issues. What did you mean
by budget issues? I wanna come back to that, that that’s to you
the highest priority. – That’s the highest priority. We got to constantly
think about, we have to meet what our
pension obligations are. We have a rising cost of
healthcare environment period. We’re about to
enter budget season, and it has been, with my
time on the School Board, I know that financially,
what we have, pretty much property taxes is
our main source of revenue. We haven’t raised
property taxes. It’s not a proposition
that anybody’s entertaining right now, but when
we have rising costs, but with a pretty much
fixed revenue source, going into the
next budget season, I know we’re gonna
have some challenges. I received a call
today from a reporter, who I guess through the
Freedom of Information Act has indicated to me
that our police budget is already over $20 million,
the spend right now, and we’re not even six
months into this fiscal year. – You’re saying it’s
$20 million over budget? – Whatever we’ve budgeted, and I forget what
that amount was. I forget whether it was
$28, $24, whatever the case, I’m saying at this
point in November, we are already at $20 million. – $20 of the $24, $28? – Whatever that budget is. Put it like this, I know that
budget isn’t $40 million. So an issue for me right
now is saying okay, if we’re spending all of
this money on overtime, that’s taking from
other vital services that we’re providing
to Memphians. – The issue of the
property tax base, that’s the big source of income, you were very critical,
or raised some questions, maybe I should say at a
recent Edge Board Meeting, a PILOT that was being
proposed and extended to Amazon for, this
has nothing to do with the headquarters, it’s
a distribution center essentially that
they’re putting in. You were critical,
I’ll let you speak, but critical of they
were lower-waged jobs, $12 to $14, why are
we incentivizing that versus other types of jobs? To critics of that
point of view, isn’t every job a good job? Isn’t every project a good job? Isn’t any new project
that’s paying some amount of taxes on a piece of
land that was paying very little or no taxes,
isn’t that the pushback to that point of view? – Well, but, to incentivize it,
I think that when you live… Governor Haslam a few years ago, essentially bragged about
we live in a low-wage state, bring your jobs here. So in that environment, when
you create that environment from a statewide basis,
they’re gonna come here for low-paying jobs. Do we have to incentivize them? I’m of the opinion, no. There are certain jobs
that we do incentivize, certain pay levels,
certain salary levels that we do incentivize, but
I was making the conversation yesterday, when I
came out of college, 27 years ago, my first
salary was $26,500. That’s the average
salary of these people who are gonna be working at
Amazon nearly 30 years later. That’s not anything
that we can incentivize. – Does that make it
bad to have that Amazon Distribution Center here? – No, but we just
don’t incentivize it because they were
gonna come here anyway. That’s my opinion. – So you don’t think they
would’ve gone to DeSoto County or gone to a different
location where the other incentives are different? – But do we want to
compete with warehouse jobs or do we want to
compete with the jobs that are going to Nashville? I saw we compete with the
white-collar professional jobs that are going to Nashville.
– Okay, we got to barely anything we meant to get to, but we got a lot
of important stuff. I thank you all for being here. I thank you for joining us. Join us again next
week, good night. [dramatic orchestral music]

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