Behind the Headlines – October 28, 2016

Behind the Headlines – October 28, 2016


(female announcer)
Production funding
for Behind the Headlines is made possible in part by.. – Early voting begins, the feds
are investigating the Memphis Police Department,
and much more tonight on
Behind the Headlines. [theme music] I’m Eric Barnes, publisher of
The Memphis Daily News. Thanks for joining us. I’m joined tonight by a
roundtable of journalists to talk about some of the
biggest stories of recent days. Toby Sells, reporter
with The Memphis Flyer. Thanks for being here again. – Thank you, Eric. (Eric)
Bill Dries, senior reporter with
The Memphis Daily News. Thanks for being here. And Bernal Smith, publisher
of The New Tri-State Defender. Thanks for being here again. – Glad to be here. – So, let’s start with the
investigation and a review of the Memphis Police
Department by the federal government
justice department. I’ll turn to you, Bill. It as requested by
Mayor Strickland, Rallings. I mean, this was not.. Ed Stanton was there,
the U.S. Attorney. So, it was not a specific, hey,
there’s a bunch of corruption and a bunch of
terrible things going on. But it’s a review that the feds
have done in other cities about police practices and so on. – Right. When most people hear justice
department review of a police department, they think the
civil rights division of it, which usually does
involve a pattern of contact, of conduct, or of a
specific incident. In this case,
it’s a different division of the justice department. It’s a division called COPS,
which is involved in community policing efforts. And it’s a review that cities
usually request because it’s called a
collaborative reform process. That being said, the chief in
that section of the justice department said yesterday that
usually these reports come to some pretty harsh conclusions
about operations of police departments and that it’s pretty
much a no holds barred look at two areas in particular,
community policing and the use of deadly force by a
police department. So, both of those
areas will be examined. The first of three
reports will come out in about six to eight months. So, about next spring, we’ll
get our first idea of what the justice department is seeing in
terms of how the Memphis Police Department operates
on those two fronts and probably other fronts. And then we’ll have a report
in about a year’s time from the start and then at the end of
it after another year passes in what is essentially
about a two-year process. – And I’m reading from
the Flyer story on this. I don’t think you did it. I think someone else
at the Flyer did it. The program is reviewed with
14 other police departments across the country. In San Francisco, they
released 94 findings and 272 recommendations after
finding discriminatory policing practices against
people of color. So, again, it’s not so much that
they’re investigating to indict. They’re investigating to
review best practices, things gone wrong. Your thought on it, Bernal. – It was interesting that
Attorney Ed Stanton actually held a meeting later that
day with a group of community leaders, probably about 40
people there in his office, to sort of begin a
deeper conversation about, you know, what this really
means and what it doesn’t mean. And, of course, they
were very clear about, you know, this being
requested and it’s not one of those sort of things. But at some very, very normally
serious kinds of things come out of this. One of the key things that was
mentioned though was these two listening meetings that
will be held on the 29th and 30th of November. And that’s where they first
engaged the community and one of the things that I think was
admitted by everyone is that the grassroots community has to have
buy-in in this thing very early on and know that
there’s some transparency as the results come out. Because we’re used to studies,
whether it be a disparity study. And then the thing is, whether
the recommendations that come out of it are actually
implemented and funded. – Accountability,
and implementation, all that. I mean, I’ve already heard
from some critics of the police department and Mayor
Strickland saying, look, yeah, it’s good. They should be doing this
but it feels political. You know, it
feels like it’s free. It doesn’t cost them any money. It looks good. I mean, it was kind of, very,
sort of negative response to this that this is just
political window dressing. Your thoughts, Toby? – The interesting thing to me
yesterday when the news came out was that they had requested
this well before the Black Lives Matter protest on the bridge. They said they did
it well before that. They were talking to the
Department of Justice before that. And it almost couldn’t come at
a better time I think after all that to get some outside
folks in here to look at it. I think it’s really interesting. But then the other thing, the
ways that the news came out. We were saying that it
kind of seems a little scary. When we got the news advisory
yesterday in our news room, you know, it was just like,
the federal government’s been reviewing and, you know, we’re
going to announce something. And everybody was like,
what could this possibly be, you know. So, we call the Mayor’s
office and they’re like, put the brakes on. But there for a minute,
it looked pretty scary. – Interesting thing,
they mentioned the six to eight months goal. They started this process
to determine if the review, if the more extensive
review should happen. So, they’ve essentially been
here since Mayor Strickland’s administration came
into office, which is sort of an interesting thing. So, he’s sort of been
proactive from day one. – I think that what is
interesting here is that the police department is
cooperating with it. And because the police
department is cooperating in it, if there are critical findings,
if there are criticisms, then the police department is
pretty much going to be on the hook to do something about that. It’s like, we didn’t come in
here and go behind your back or not consult with you to
come up with these findings. We talked with you. You cooperated in this and
these are the conclusions we’ve come to. So, it’ll be interesting. Also, I think that this is
interesting because this administration and a lot of
other leaders in the criminal justice system that we’ve talked
to around this table have been pretty adamant that what they’re
hearing from the public is that they want law and order. The public wants a crackdown on
violent crime and wants to stop the rise in that, which the rise
in it has slowed to some degree. This is really the first
time that you’ve heard our city leaders emphasize and say in a
sustained way that we want to look at policies and procedures. – And it’s interesting, too. We should move on
but it’s interesting. We’ve had Bill Gibbons
and Harold Collins on the show recently. Bill Gibbons now, what? New president of the Memphis and
Shelby County Crime Commission. You know, they’ve got Raymond
Kelly who is known for the stop and frisk policies in New York. He’s now a consultant
to the crime commission. You’ve got this sort of law
and order campaign that Strickland ran on. And all of this is against the
backdrop of a police department that lost hundreds of
officers over a number of years. They’re trying very
hard to get back there. They’re right under 2,000
officers I think right now, 1,950 or so. They want to get back to 2,400. They’re recruiting hard. They’ve introduced these new
programs with Southwest and so on and so forth. Getting the high
schools kids and so on. So, I don’t have an answer. I just wonder what
it’s like to be, you know, a cop in the Memphis
Police Department right now. Not necessarily the leadership
but just somebody saying, look, one more
review, one more change, that much more pressure. Again, we’ll segue
to the election. It’s an interesting time
for policing nationally. And, as I said,
the election is on., Early voting began, what? Last week in Tennessee. We don’t do a lot of national
politics but it is a big and really strange
presidential election. So, you know, Donald Trump,
the Republican candidate, has talked a lot about
inner-city violence and inner-city, you know, problems. And, you know, the Democrats
haven’t done anything for them so why don’t they.. You know, it’s time
for African-Americans to give him a chance. There’s a lot of things he’s
said but since we were just talking about
police and violence, your thoughts, Bernal,
on this national election and how it plays out. Tennessee is going to go
Republican almost certainly. It usually does. Memphis, not necessarily. But your sense. – Well, one, I think,
you know, Trump’s just, you know, broad generalizations
about the African-American community are at very
best stereotypical. But, you know, certainly
he’s focused on soundbites. And very little relative to true
policy and plans that have any real sense of being effective. But one thing he’s been a master
manipulator in some cases, a user of media,
which has been really, really interesting. I think it will change the
way presidential elections and national elections
are run going forward. But I think
ultimately, most pragmatic, you know, smart
people understand that, you know.. I think Clinton will win. And I think she will win because
she really brings to the table real, you know, policies
and plans that will take the country forward. And many things that Trump has
put on the table and has brought out not only about our country
but the way the rest of the world perceives us, I think,
have been very interesting. – Haslam, who
never endorsed him, was always pretty
skeptical of Trump, came out in the
last week or two. I’ve lost my sense of time. And said he’s going to write-in
for the first time ever and that he will not vote for Trump. And so, you’ve got
this interesting.. I don’t know, Bill, if
you want to take this. But it is
interesting how Trump.. You know, if you look
at Tennessee politics, the Republican
party in Tennessee, and I’ve said
this analogy before. There’s a great
difference between Bill Haslam, lifetime Republican, kind
of traditional conservative, Christian, limited
government, you know, pro-business, Fred Smith,
that kind of crowd with a very radical.. I shouldn’t say radical. A very East Tennessee Tea Party
person who wants to burn the house down, burn
the government down, has no role. There’s a major
difference in that party. So, your thoughts on how this
plays out and how this reflects Tennessee and Memphis politics. – First of all, Tennessee
is not anywhere near a battleground state. There are some states that
weren’t battleground states that are now in play as a result of
the conduct of this election on both sides. Tennessee is now anywhere near a
battleground state and Tennessee will go for Trump and
Shelby County will be carried by Hillary Clinton. That said, I think that you have
had this difference within the Republican party for several
elections now with events like Mike Huckabee taking the
Tennessee primary and Rick Santorum carrying the Tennessee
Republican presidential primary after that, 2008 and 2012,
while the Republican party establishment in this state
was behind John McCain and Mitt Romney in that order. So, that’s existed for some time
before Donald Trump came along. Donald Trump I think has
certainly accentuated that. So, for me, the interesting
moment for the Tennessee Republican party will be after
all the votes are counted and we see what kind of senate we have,
whether there’s a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate
and how congress operates. – Let’s try to get more local. We are trying to have Haslam
on sometime before the session starts in January. So, it would be interesting
to get his post-election thoughts on this. Local stuff, let’s get
a little more local. – As Bill has reported
very well over the weeks, just record breaking local turn
out for early voting out there. And Bill, the early voters have
predicted the election in Shelby County for many
presidential elections. Is that right? – Yeah, in
presidential elections, unlike other elections,
presidential general elections, the majority of the votes cast
combined elections and early voting, most of those votes come
during the early voting period. – And, you know, the sense from
my editor anyway over at The Flyer, Bruce VanWyngarden,
his column this week is that, you know, the turnout has
been really big because a lot of Democrats really
want to go out there and humiliate Donald Trump. Go down like the
Hindenburg, as he said. But that’s, you know.. I was traveling across
the state last week and, you know, from
Memphis to Chattanooga, and we were counting election
stickers on the back of cars. It’s not anyway scientific but
we counted two Trump stickers the entire five hour
ride and that was it, you know. It’s an interesting
election that way too. You’re not really
seeing outward signs. – So, on the ballot. So, I did early vote and this
year I was almost prepared. I always joke
about this inevitably. You know, we cover this
stuff pretty closely. There’s always something on
there that I didn’t know was going to be on there. There’s always a judge’s race
or something really important that isn’t on there. Some of the ones that were on
but actually I was prepared for this time, city of
Memphis home charter amendment, which is really complicated. I’m looking at the language. I’m not going to read it. But it basically
would redirect… You want to take this, Bill? Redirect MLG money to the city. It wouldn’t increase
anyone’s MLGW bill. But it would change the formula
in which money is calculated and distributed to the city. – Memphis Light Gas and Water
pays what amount to property taxes to the city
of Memphis government and to Shelby County government. They’re called “In
Lieu of Tax Payments”. And they’ve been the subject of
some pretty involved political disputes between the two
governments about how much each of them are entitled to it. This is a charter amendment to
the city of Memphis charter that would essentially benefit the
city of Memphis in terms of “In Lieu of Taxes” that Light
Gas and Water pays by about five million dollars. That’s $5 million in the balance
toward Memphis that does not go to Shelby County government. – But it’s only city
of Memphis voters? How does that work? The county residents
don’t get a say in this? – They do not. It’s a charter amendment. And it has. There’s been actually
some litigation over this, which led to this
particular charter. – Brian Collins, and
it’s within the amendment.. Brian Collins, director
of finance for the city, says he estimates it will
be about a $5 million gain to the city of Memphis. Shelby County home
rule charter amendment. Shelby County will charter the
amendment to require both the county mayor and county
commission’s approval to dismiss the county attorney from office. This sounds, you
know, a little confusing. You’ve got to be really
inside baseball on this. Does anyone want to take it or
I go to my friend Bill here? – I think what’s
interesting is recently, that study came out that
basically said that Memphians pay more or at least poor
Memphians pay more as a percentage of their annual
income than any other place in the country. And I think, so when you look
at some of the sentiments that people have about MLG&W, there’s
not very good understanding about that particular ordinance. People could literally go in
there and vote against it. – People assume
it’s going to come out of further increasing theirs. – I think that’s a danger and
to your point about people not necessarily understanding what
these ordinances are and having a lot of information
about it, perception says, oh, MLG&W,
five million dollars, my bill is going up, no. You know, so, I think we’ve
got to be careful about that. – To the county mayor and the
issue of the county attorney, thoughts on that? I’m going to go back to Bill
because he’s covered this stuff for so long. – The Shelby County Commission
and the Shelby County Mayor have a dispute going over the county
attorney’s office and whether that office is objective or
whether because the attorney is appointed by the mayor that the
attorney has some kind of bias no matter who holds
that particular position. So, this ballot question
is a result of that ongoing discussion and
that ongoing dispute. Right now, the county mayor
appoints the county attorney and the county commission
confirms that appointment. This would say if for some
reason the county mayor says I want a new county attorney,
this county attorney is fired, then under the terms of this,
the county commission would have to agree to that
firing, to that termination. – Does the county
commission have.. I should know this. Do they have their own attorney? – They do not. – Because Memphis City
Council has its own attorney and Strickland has his. The city mayor has
his own attorney. The county does not. – The county does not because
the county charter is different according to the interpretation
of past county attorneys in saying that the county attorney
is the only source of formal legal advice and representation
for the Shelby County Commission and for county government. – Well, and then
unincorporated Shelby County, wine at retail
stores referendum. This was, you know, can in
the unincorporated areas, can those grocery
stores sell wine. It was basically something that
sort of fell through the cracks of the wine in grocery store law
that was passed some years ago or the last year or two. Then in terms of ballots, we
won’t go through all of them but the state reps are up. The state senators or a portion
of the state senators are up. It’s amazing to
look at the ballot. You can go to ShelbyVote.org
or ShelbyVote.com or go to our site, maybe your sites, too. Yeah. So, the ballot is out
there and people should go. The number of
unopposed candidates. I mean, it really has gotten to
where it’s the primaries are for so many of these positions.. Mark Norris runs unopposed. Sara Kyle runs unopposed. I mean, just so many people. It’s really
determined in the primary. But people should still vote. They should look
at the candidates. They should look at the ballot. Let’s move on to Beale Street
and the Beale Street Authority. I get confused by the different
entities here every single time. But they have decided
not to go to hire an outside management company. They’re going to continue
to have the Downtown Memphis Commission, formerly the
Center City Commission, run the Beale Street Authority. What’s behind that and
then I’ll turn to you, Bernal. – Of course, we
are on Beale Street. We are a tenant of Beale Street. And so, you know, there’s
some sensitivity there. But we’re there. And so, one of the
things that the merchants, Beale Street merchants have
said is that they’ve been, you know, pleased with the
current situation with the Downtown Memphis Commission. Essentially though, the primary
people that sort of manage and operate the street and sort of
has really been the same group, at least for the seven
years that we’ve been there, which has been the same team
of Beale Street management, and that includes John
Shivers, and Diane Glasper, and Al, and that same team. And so, nothing has principally
changed at least in the past seven years that
we’ve been there. – Some of the resistance to
hiring this outside firm goes back to the kind of fraught
relationship that people had with John Elkington. I think people in some ways
don’t give him enough credit for taking Beale Street from what
was nothing to really something as a world destination
and a thriving district. But there were always
questions about transparency, right? There were questions about
where is the money going. And it seemed like some of that
was behind the decision that we, the Beale Street Authority,
aren’t comfortable with any of these management companies
who applied to be managers. – Yeah, that’s certainly one
of the major factors in this. For quite some time, there has
kind of been this balance of power between Performa
Entertainment and John Elkington and the merchants association. And it’s no surprise and I don’t
think it’s unique to this kind of setting that you have that
kind of tension and those issues that come up and get worked out. But the merchants for the most
part were looking for someone who didn’t rule with quite
that much of an iron hand. And Elkington’s standpoint
was that he came in when the renovated district opened so he
needed to have that leeway to do that in order for the
district to still be here all these years later. But the tourism development
authority got to the point where it had been
talking with 21 Beale, a group of investors and leaders
who have done entertainment, commercial real estate in
Memphis as well as in Chicago. And so, what happened was the
merchants were uneasy with that. The authority, which was
negotiating with 21 Beale didn’t feel like they were getting
their questions answered about specific financial conditions. And 21 Beale felt like if we
agree to the budget that’s set by the authority and
remain within that budget, why do we have to answer all
these questions about what everyone is being paid
and why they’re hired. So, this past week, the
authority decided to basically say we’re going to end the
negotiations and we’re going to stick with the DMC running the
district on an interim basis, which they’ve done
for two years now. – And I think, you
know, with the 21 Beale, I think we can’t
ignore the issue of race. They’ve asserted that, you know,
they are an African-American majority firm and entity,
which would be a significant change there. And there was some uneasiness
or unreadiness about that particular issue. And that continues to be. We have a new piece that comes
out in our edition that comes out this week that really sort
of addresses some of that from both sides. And so, that’ll be interesting
as that plays out in terms of what remedy, the
steps they take. Because they
essentially became the last man, the last entity standing
amongst those that actually bid on the opportunity. And so, you know. – Let’s move on. Clayborn Temple is the church. You wrote about this this week. And you all may
have covered, too. So, we’ll go around here. But Clayborn Temple is
the church right next to, if you’ve ever been to the
FedEx Forum for Grizzlies games, concert, Tigers. It’s a beautiful but has
been boarded up church. There’s some exploration of it. You want to
briefly introduce that? – Yes, there’s a group that has
title to it that for the last year has not been renovating it
but has been getting it to the point where people
could simply go in and see. And they’re doing a different
form of pre-vitalization for this century old church that
started off as an Episcopal church and ended up as an AME
Church and was a pivotal site and backdrop during the Civil
Rights Movement in this city. – Toby, you cover
this too this week? – Just a bit, only enough that
I think it’s interesting that, as you said, the process of
redeveloping this thing is going to be interesting that they’re
going to bring people in and kind of get your thoughts, bring
artists in there rather than saying we’ve got an idea, we’re
going to overlay it on top of this, get the
community in there. I think it’s interesting. – And I just think
it’s a good thing. It’s a step forward for a
treasure in our community that, you know, had sort of
gone under disrepair. But now they sort of creatively
engaged the community to figure out how to bring this back and
bring this treasure where people in the community
can really enjoy it. – It’s in that area that is
there’s so much going on. I mean, you go,
what, half a mile, and the Harahan Bridge is open. So, the Big River Crossing. The lights are on the bridge. If you haven’t been
out on the bridge, it’s now open public. I got to do a media
tour a few weeks ago. It’s really just remarkable
to walk across the Mississippi River and have a
barge go under you. And it’s a beautiful day
and it’s an incredible view. I did not want to go fight
the crowds so I didn’t see. But I heard it was packed. And then there are all these
trails across the way that are going to open up
and all the things. Back to Downtown
Memphis Commission, you know, you give them credit
where credit is due to Paul Morris, the former head,
and the current team there. The streetscape all just to the
south of Clayborn Temple that we just talked about, amazing
stuff has happened down there. I don’t know how many hundreds
of thousands of apartments are going in. It’s pretty remarkable. Another opening. Ikea is opening. We’re all excited, right? – Ikea-pocalypse,
somebody said yesterday. December 14 is going to be
the opening day on the big blue building out there on
Germantown Parkway. It’s going to be
massive on the inside. I did a construction
tour, just walking around. They were telling me where the
showroom was going to be and where the meatballs
were going to be. And it’s going to be huge. – People are thinking that’s a
strange comment and it’s really people who are fanatical
about their meatballs. – Yes but it’s going to be just
an economic powerhouse I think for Memphis. You know, there have been some
hiccups about construction and PILOTs and all those things. But, you know, when it opens,
you won’t be able to get in there for two months. – We talked about it last
week with Joann Massey, who handles diversity
and contracting and so on. We talked a little bit about
some controversy about the use of minority and women
owned businesses by Linkous Construction. And you got an e-mail from
Rusty Linkous this week. – Who is the president
of Linkous Construction. And he disputes those points
that were made on this program and in the piece
that we wrote about it. He says that Linkous
Construction met all of the minority contracting goals it
was required to under the EDGE process and that Linkous
Construction did not bend the rules to be considered
a women owned business. – We’ll leave it there. Correction clarification. Thank y’all. Thank you for joining us. Join us again next week. [theme music]

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