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Wharton Responds to Animal Shelter Photos

A controversial photo from Memphis’ high-kill animal shelter that’s been circulating online has sparked outrage from animal lovers in Memphis and beyond.

The image, a still taken from the Memphis Animal Shelter’s webcam, shows puppies being transported in a garbage can by a shelter employee.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. Wednesday afternoon issued a statement addressing the disturbing photo.

“While this may be an isolated instance of poor judgment, we apologize for the perception this photo has created,” Wharton said. “Our webcam captures approximately 63,000 images each day or 2 million images per month. While we are not ignoring this single image, we can assure you our employees are well trained and compassionate.”

“Further, we are looking into this matter,” he continued. “Should we conclude that disciplinary action is needed, we will take the appropriate action. The city of Memphis has made great improvements to the facility and will continue to do so.”

The statement went on to say Memphis Animal Shelter’s euthanasia rate has decreased slightly from 77.4 percent in 2010 to its current rate of 73.1 percent, and that adoption numbers have risen from 674 at this time last year to 950 so far in 2011.

The release said more information about policies will be posted on the city’s website at www.memphistn.gov and that the city plans to respond to each email it receives.

The city shelter has a history steeped in controversy. In late 2009, MAS was raided by Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies and former shelter director Ernest Alexander and two administrators were indicted on multiple charges of aggravated animal cruelty.

In early 2010, Wharton named current shelter director Matthew Pepper as Alexander’s replacement.

Despite having passed a spay-and-neuter ordinance in late 2010, the city continues to struggle with pet overpopulation and with controversy surrounding the treatment of animals brought to the shelter.

Red Cross Distributes Clean-Up Items

The Mid-South Chapter of the American Red Cross is distributing clean-up items through mobile distribution for flood victims who remain evacuated from their homes.

The organization asks individuals affected by the floods to call (800) RED-CROSS or contact the Mid-South chapter directly at (901) 726-1690 to have items delivered or to obtain additional information.

(800) 257-7575 has been set up for Spanish-speaking individuals, while hearing-impaired callers should contact the Red Cross at (800) 526-1417.

Shelters remain open at White Station Church of Christ, 1106 Colonial Road in East Memphis, and G. W. Henderson, 1165 Abbay in Tunica, Miss.

The American Queen

 

We have more on the Great American Steamboat Company and its plan for opening a home port in Memphis in Thursday’s edition which hits the website at 4 this afternoon.

This isn’t the city’s first try at getting not only a stop but a port for overnight and multi night riverboat cruises on the riverfront.

In the 1980s, then-Memphis Mayor Dick Hackett pursued the same goal for Mud Island at a time when the city was beginning to build its tourism industry.

Memphis was a stop but not a port. And a stumbling block was the lack of a docking facility. The cruise boats often used the old John B. Edgar Point on Riverside Drive. When the point vanished in the expansion of Tom Lee Park in the late 1980s, the boats would sometimes tie up to the trees near the bank in Tom Lee Park.

The cruises had a set schedule in Memphis that included events at The Peabody hotel and stops at various attractions and time for eating out at restaurants in town. So, it’s easy to see that there will probably be an economic impact beyond the immediate steamboat business.

The business plan is to keep the American Queen constantly traveling on the Mississippi River with six weeks in the winter off season on the Memphis riverfront.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. put it bluntly when he told the council Tuesday, “This is a hotel. The only difference is it floats.”

In the case of The American Queen, it is a hotel with 222 state rooms and 436 guests when it is full. And in its prime, the boat was quite a site to behold. I know because I went aboard when it came to Memphis in the mid 1990s.

John Waggoner, the president and CEO of GASC, puts the date of the Memphis visit in 1997 and I’ll have to trust his memory over mine on that point. The boat was built in 1995.

What I remember most about the American Queen was all of the wood veneer on a steel frame interior and how ornate it was, especially the theater, which had a balcony. Reporters got a tour of a boat that seemed to skew the perspective of everything else around it. That’s how large it is.

The theme was to recall the golden age of passenger travel on the river with some modern conveniences. At that time, it didn’t include wi-fi or any of the other digital accessories that we now associate with convenience.

It also had a nod to the adult past in a penny machine that showed turn of the century optical viewing cards of nude women from the period. Quite a surprise after you had just gotten your press packet and were being pitched the dimensions of the state rooms.

The boat has been out of service for several years and is now in Beaumont, Texas – property of the U.S. Maritime Administration. Refurbishing it would come at a cost of $9 million and assuming the work gets anywhere near the look of the queen in its prime, it will be quite an attraction. It will also be the only overnight riverboat cruise on the river.

In the last three to four years there have been repeated attempts to revive an industry that first struggled and then shut down completely.

 

2011: the year that Tiger Lane topped Tom Lee

In talking to various Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest attendees, the general feedback was that Tiger Lane may have actually been a better venue than Tom Lee Park. No stairs, ample space, more pathways. The only catch was no river.

For Monday’s mixed-use story, Scott Barton said besides Downtown, an area to watch will be the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

“That area is underserved, given that it is owned by the city,” Barton said. “I think it is safe to say that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Memphis to have this converted to much needed retail services and at the same time proved much needed sales tax revenue.”

It’ll be interesting to see if this year’s successful barbecue fest at Tiger Lane will spur the area as a destination for other events, which the area so desperately needs.

While barbecue fest will likely return to its normal home in Tom Lee Park next spring, 2011 will be remembered as the year it came to Tiger Lane. And it worked.

Hospitals to Moms: No Social Deliveries

As featured in Wednesday’s edition of the Memphis Daily News, Baptist Memorial Women’s Hospital in Memphis this month celebrates 10 years of delivering babies — more than 50,000 since 2001.

And administrator and CEO Anita Vaughn said one of the hospital’s recent successes has involved reducing the number of elective deliveries performed before babies reach full term, as reported through the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, which compares hospitals’ performances based on national standards of safety, quality and efficiency.

According to the Memphis Business Group on Health, despite research showing that early delivery increases risks for newborns and contributes to higher health care costs, the overall number of elective deliveries continues to rise.

Reasons range from end-of-pregnancy discomfort to scheduling deliveries around other events.

But the last three weeks in the womb represent a significant period in a baby’s development, as organs continue to develop, and medical professionals say it’s best to stay pregnant for a minimum of 39 weeks, if possible.

“This region of the country had gotten fairly comfortable, for a number of reasons, with delivering babies early,” Vaughn said. “This required a culture change and taking a hard-stand to say babies would not be delivered between 37 and 39 weeks unless there’s a medical reason. No social deliveries.”

Leapfrog set the standard for deliveries made early at less than 12 percent in 2010 and will reduce it to less than 5 percent this year.

Baptist Memorial Women’s Hospital has already met the new bar; the hospital reports that less than 5 percent of its infants are electively delivered before reaching 40 weeks gestation.

Saint Francis Hospital-Memphis has also reported that less than 5 percent of infants delivered at its facility are electively delivered before reaching full term.

Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown, Methodist South Hospital and The MED have each reported that less than 12 percent of babies born at their respective facilities are electively delivered before reaching full term.

Dansette

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