Schools Standoff: Waiting On Opinions

A very important legal opinion could arrive from Nashville before the end of the year. And it is likely to be central to the entire standoff between Shelby County’s two public school systems.

Shelby County Election Commission chairman Bill Giannini is awaiting a legal opinion from the state election coordinator’s office on several points beyond the question of who would vote in a February referendum on an MCS charter surrender.

The other points include when does the 45-60 day period to hold the special election begin, is there a point at which the MCS board could take back its call for the special election and what is the point of no return for cranking up the machinery of holding an election.

Giannini said the opinion will probably also run through the Tennessee Attorney General’s office for review before it comes to Memphis. But he expects there might be an opinion by the end of this week.

We’ll be working through the holiday weekend on that and other points in what is already shaping up as the top political story of 2011. It’s never too soon for retrospectives in social media. Just in case, we are working on ways to purge this post or at least assign another reporter’s name to it if this all fizzles.

Mayors Wharton and Luttrell will be at Myron Lowery’s annual prayer breakfast on New Year’s day. We’ll have an ear out for any further word from that front.

Lowery’s prayer breakfast became a must cover holiday stop in the 1990s when then Mayor Willie Herenton used it as the point at which to lay out his agenda for the coming year. So far, not much evidence that Luttrell or Wharton share Herenton’s zeal for starting the new year with a heaping helping of controversy.

But our informal survey of several politicos shows that the schools standoff has remained a topic of conversation during what is normally a down time on the calendar for local politics.

Hats off to Cody and Luther

The Wall Street Journal’s rock and pop music critic thinks the Robert Plant concert he caught in Memphis in July was one of the five best concerts of 2010.

He attributed that to the opening act – Cody and Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars.

Here’s his blurb about the show:

“Duo LuCo, Memphis, TN, July 15: I traveled south to see Robert Plant kick off his “Band of Joy” tour and was delighted by the opening act, Cody and Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars. It was classic power duo muscle and finesse – a sound Dex Romweber, the White Stripes and the Black Keys rode to success – with a little sliver of Southern rock in the mix. Luther sang and played big Gibson guitars and Cody bashed the drum kit, filling the empty bottom with his kick drum while his cymbals splashed. I had no idea there was to be an opener for Mr. Plant and arrived at the venue early because I couldn’t get into the Rendezvous for barbecue. Never was I so glad to miss a meal.”

Memphis International: “A Game-Changer”

By spring 2012, Memphis International Airport will have a new front door.

Construction began in March on the $89 million, consolidated ground transportation center, located between the existing three-level parking deck and the new 336-foot air traffic control tower. The state-of-the-art center will be connected to the main terminal with a series of covered moving sidewalks (click here to read more).


“It’s a game-changer,” said Arnold Perl, chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority. “Two years from now as we speak, we’ll be talking about how it’s one of the model facilities of any airport in the United States.”

But hopefully that won’t be the only game-changer. The City of Memphis and UrbanArt are seeking exterior public art sculptures to be installed along Plough Boulevard between Winchester and Democrat Road (see previous blog post).

Maybe Memphis International making CNN’s “Five Airports with Art Worth Seeing” in upcoming years isn’t too far out of reach after all.

More on the Season of Giving

They say a new car drops in value the most after driving off the lot. Now studies show the same is true for gifts.

Spending on gifts alone was estimated to increase 2.1 percent this year from last to $518.08, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.

But recent behavioral studies are finding that when you give a gift, the recipient automatically values it lower than its actual worth – up to 18 percent less. That means the $499 iPad drops to $409 in a fraction of the time it took to wrap it.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based WePay – a group payment service – found that at least one gift per person is never opened (42 percent), returned (38 percent) or re-gifted (28 percent). The most valuable gifts are given from significant others, then grandparents, based on the study. Poor ole aunts and uncles came in last, even after the in-laws.

But that’s not all. Americans will spend $91 billion in gift cards this holiday season, and a whopping $2.5 billion will go unused.

And despite being a universally despised gift item, one in four Americans consider giving a fruitcake every year. So if you’re an aunt or uncle giving a fruitcake, you’re really out of luck.

Southwest Airlines: 2nd Best Place to Work

In case you missed my Memphis International Airport year in review story, one of the highlights of 2010 was the airport growing closer to landing Southwest Airlines Co.

In October, Dallas-based Southwest announced it was buying AirTran Airways, meaning it will take over AirTran’s Memphis-Atlanta daily routes with perhaps more coverage on the horizon.

But that’s not the only list Southwest is topping. For the second year in a row, the low-fare carrier has made’s Employees’ Choice Awards, which lists the top 50 best places to work based on surveys anonymously collected from employees throughout 2010.

Southwest received a 4.4 company rating and a 95 percent approval rating for its CEO, Gary C. Kelly. With a network of nearly 35,000 employees in 35 states, Southwest prides itself on giving its workers freedom to be creative, dress casually and have fun on the job.

In addition, employees and their spouses, eligible dependent children and parents fly for free.

“The company was founded on the principle that in order to succeed you need to treat your co-workers as well as your customers,” a Southwest flight attendant wrote in the survey. “This has led to industry-leading salaries, benefits and a fabulous place to work.”

Kelly’s approval rating is just 1 percentage point shy of Mark Zuckerberg’s 96 percent rate. Yep, Facebook earned the No. 1 spot, with employee perks such as cash paid vacation days, free food and transportation, $4,000 in cash for new parents, dry cleaning, day care reimbursement and photo processing services.