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GOP Chief to Speak in Memphis (Update: Rove also coming in 2010)

michael

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, will be the keynote speaker at the Shelby County Republican Party Lincoln Day Gala in March. The gathering will be held March 6 at the Holiday Inn on the campus of the University of Memphis.

The local party also is planning to “upgrade and reinvent the Lincoln Day Gala and make this year one to remember.” For more information about the event, go here.

By chance, Steele’s visit to Memphis follows an unrelated private get-together here that was attended by his Democratic counterpart. Virginia Gov. and Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine was in Memphis last month for a fundraiser at which he rubbed shoulders with local party bigwigs, Memphis Mayor AC Wharton Jr. and 9th Dist. Congressman Steve Cohen.

(Update: Karl Rove, the former senior advisor to George W. Bush who was so close to him he was referred to in some circles as “Bush’s Brain,” is coming to Rhodes in January. Rove will speak to the university’s student body January 20 on American politics. For more information, go here.)

The Small Company with Memphis ties Behind “The Blind Side”

A story in Friday’s Wall Street Journal notes that small movie production companies like Alcon Entertainment – which FedEx founder Fred Smith helped to bankroll – are in an increasingly enviable position amid the economic downturn. Money to finance projects by bigger studios is drying up, leaving only a few options.

The big players can swing for the fences by churning out a few – hopefully – blockbuster pictures, although only so many projects with an eight-figure price tag can be undertaken. But that also provides an opening for smaller well-financed companies like Alcon, which produced and marketed the recent film “The Blind Side,” starring Sandra Bullock, to “fill out their release schedules and to keep their distribution pipelines fresh,” according to the WSJ.

One of Alcon’s co-CEOs told the paper the studio was looking at 20 scripts a week two years ago, a number that’s now grown to 50 scripts.

Alcon’s other films include “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and “My Dog Skip.” Smith, FedEx’s chairman, president and CEO, told The Los Angeles Times earlier this year his favorite of the Alcon bunch is “My Dog Skip,” a movie Smith told the paper he defied anyone to watch “without a tear in their eye.”

One of Smith’s daughters, Molly Smith, is credited as “executive producer” of “The Blind Side,” based on the true story of a black teenager adopted by a white Memphis couple who becomes a college football player and later a star in the NFL.

Molly Smith also was the producer on “P.S. I Love You,” a 2007 film starring Gerard Butler and Hillary Swank with which she had a deep emotional connection.

She told The Daily News that a few weeks after her sister Sandra Windland Smith Rice – the oldest child of Fred Smith – died in 2005, she bought a copy of Cecelia Ahern’s debut novel “P.S. I Love You.” It’s the story of a grieving young widow coping with her husband’s death, and Smith re-read it several times.

Smith’s sister was a renowned nature photographer and wildlife champion. Molly pitched the idea for making a movie based on Ahern’s novel to Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson, Alcon’s partners.

“This is my first one as the main producer,” Smith told The Daily News in 2007. “I got to make a very special film about something that’s very special and personal to me.”

At the end there is a dedication to her sister “Wendy.”

Read more here: http://www.memphisdailynews.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=34598

Wharton Draws 200 At First Town Hall

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. just held his first townhall meeting at Breath of Life Christian Center at about the point where Frayser meets Raleigh.

Wharton picked the area because of four recent homicides in the area, several involving teenagers.

The meeting drew a crowd of around 200 and after two hours, there were still numerous hands in the crowd who wanted to speak, mainly on the topic of crime.

Wharton had his team of division directors on hand to answer some specific questions. Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom fielded several complaints about garbage pick up from residents who say the new system that debuted in July is still not working well.

But Wharton heard a lot about abandoned houses in the area and the role they might play in fostering gang activity and violent crime such as street robberies.

Wharton gave a few clues about a future direction for crime programs that go beyond the round up and board up nature of Blue CRUSH. That will continue, he said. But he also signaled he plans to lobby for a raft of bills in the upcoming session of the state legislature that will speed the process of finding owners of neglected property and holding them more accountable.

Community Enhancement Director Ernest Dobbins told the group that out of town landlords are too often able to “manipulate” the current system that requires the city to take property owners to court.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin also said he and Wharton have been working on strategies that will attempt to reach juvenile offenders to “change their thought process”.

According to Shelby County Sheriff Mark Luttrell, the jail he runs has seen a 50 percent increase in juvenile offenders there over last year.

City Housing and Community Development Director Robert Lipscomb also said the city is working on a new overall development plan for the Raleigh Springs Mall area. He told those at the town hall that the area has “too much retail” now to give all of the businesses a chance at success.

Wharton and Godwin also said a federal Safeways grant is being talked about for the Frayser area. The grant funded a successful crime fighting effort that targeted apartment complexes in the Hickory Hill area based on crime statistics showing the complexes were the crime hot spots in the area.

Godwin talks about all of this more at the City Council Tuesday.

Look for a full report in Thursday’s edition of The Daily News.

Who Wants To Be Shelby County Mayor

Three Shelby County commissioners and a former suburban mayor are vying for the appointment to serve as the next Shelby County Mayor.

The Shelby County Commission is to vote Monday on the appointment to fill out the ten months left in the term of AC Wharton Jr. who became Memphis Mayor after the Oct. 15 special election.

Commission chairwoman Joyce Avery is serving as county mayor for up to 45 days. She is not among the four contenders who filed an application and underwent a background check before today’s interviews during committee sessions.

The four contenders are:
County Commissioner J.W. Gibson
County Commissioner Joe Ford
County Commissioner George Flinn
And former Collierville Mayor Linda Kerley.

Each identified the financial crisis at The Regional Medical Center as a top priority if they are selected. All said they would not be a candidate in the 2010 county elections. Flinn qualified that slightly by saying he would not run in 2010 if he wins the appointment.

There are a few parliamentary wrinkles and considerations going into Monday’s decision.

It will take seven votes to select the interim county mayor. But the three commissioners seeking the job won’t be able to vote even if they are eliminated over several rounds of voting. The ruling by Assistant County Attorney and parliamentarian Christy Kinard means the winner will have to get seven of nine available votes on the commission if all three commissioners stay in the running.

Picking one of the three commissioners would also mean the commission would then have to fill a vacant seat on the body as well.

Look for a preview of the County Commission’s decision in Monday’s edition of The Daily News. We will tweet the commission choice and provide a full account on www.memphisdailynews.com, later in the day Monday.

Wharton – Avery Take Offices

A C Wharton Jr. is now mayor of Memphis, taking the oath before a packed Hall of Mayors at noon.

Wharton said a new city ethics policy and an open door policy will be his first priorities. And he said he intends to approach his goals in increments of 30 days – 45 days and 90 days.

He also called for an end to rancor and divisiveness “too often found in our politics.”

Wharton Jr. resigned as Shelby County mayor at nine this morning. That’s when Wharton signed his resignation letter. Joyce Avery, the County Commission chairwoman, then took the oath of office as acting county mayor at 10:30am.

This afternoon, the County Commission declared the office of county mayor vacant which is a first step toward filling the vacancy by appointment. The commission is scheduled to interview candidates for the appointment during committee sessions on Nov. 4 and vote at its regular Nov. 9 meeting. However, some commissioners are already talking about a special meeting a week later if no one can get the seven votes to claim the mayoral appointment.

The two leading contenders for the mayoral appointment are County Commissioners Joe Ford and J.W. Gibson. Gibson was absent today, but sent word that he won’t be able to attend the Nov. 9 meeting.

Under terms of the Shelby County charter, Avery serves for up to 45 days as the commission decides who it wants to appoint. During that time, vice chairman Sidney Chism becomes leader of the 13 member body which will be functioning with 12 members.

Avery is the first woman to serve as Shelby County mayor. She told supporters and well wishers today that her priority is “continuity” and that she will not offer “grand projects” or other major changes in county government.

During the ceremony, County Commissioner Steve Mulroy gave Wharton a broom for his use at City Hall. He gave Avery a large bottle of aspirin.

“It’s my hope that you won’t need it. But it’s my fear that you might,” he told Avery.

Once the mayoral appointment is made, Avery will go back to being chairman which is different than the procedure used at City Hall when Council chairman Myron Lowery became Mayor Pro Tempore. Lowery handed off the chairmanship to vice chairman Harold Collins and Collins remains chairman for the rest of this year even though Lowery returned to his superdistrict council position today.

Shelby County attorney Brian Kuhn told The Daily News the County Charter doesn’t specifically address such a change in power and that his legal opinion is that Avery returns to her post as chairman.

Dansette

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