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The World Comes To Memphis

The National Civil Rights Museum continues to celebrate its 20th anniversary Saturday with a community celebration that will feature discounted admissions from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The museum had it ceremonial opening in July 1991 but there was still some work to be done on the exhibits before it opened to the public permanently in Sept. of that year.

Since then, the museum has tallied some of its achievements which include 3.2 million visitors, 434,149 visits by school children, 10,193 group visits and hosting 18 world leaders. When they say world leaders they are talking Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walesa and the Dalai Lama just to name four.

That doesn’t count the numerous cultural and political figures who were featured during the Freedom Awards conferences that were held with the awards in the early years of the museum.

The array of opinions and personalities was stunning and also probably pretty expensive to continue along with the Freedom Award winners.

I remember seeing the poet, writer and playwright Amiri Baraka, also known as LeRoi Jones, at the conference one year. There was a riveting panel discussion featuring Ice-T and Henry Rollins that held its own even though Gil Scott Herron had to cancel at the last minute.

Ice-T was in the midst of the controversy over his “Cop Killer” tune and the wife of a police officer came to the forum to disagree with him. Neither flinched during a discussion that easily could have turned ugly or personal or both but didn’t.

Among the Freedom Award winners, author Elie Weisel stands out for me as does Dr. Bernard Kouchner, the founder of Doctors Without Borders.

The series is a local undertaking that has a focus well beyond the local. It sets the highest standards for the international figures and voices that the organizers want heard in Memphis. It is one of the important ways that we emphasize our place in the world and the discussions that bring us together globally.

In so many ways, what we do here reaches the world. That’s true of our cultural contributions, the medical advances being made every day as well as our businesses.

It is important to remember this isn’t a one way trip. The world should come to us as well.

 

On Political Timing

 

The new countywide school board is sworn in Monday Oct. 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Memphis City Schools auditorium.

But one of the new board members will take his oath either before or after that ceremony.

Mike Wissman is taking the oath of office as the new mayor of Arlington at the same time in a ceremony scheduled before this week’s meeting of the new school; board and planning commission setting the time for board members to do the honors.

You can read more about what’s ahead for the two schools consolidation groups in Friday’s edition of The Daily News which goes up online at 4 p.m. this afternoon.

One of the challenges for both groups is introducing new citizens to what is essentially a political undertaking even if those involved don’t recognize it as such.

That was what was behind Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell’s remark to the groups Wednesday that they would be challenged in every way by the undertaking.

On the other hand, this is the third effort of its kind in as many years that has taken citizens never before involved and dropped them into the roiling political waters that are Memphis.

There was the Metro Charter Commission of 2009 into 2010 that included some tried political warriors but a good number of newcomers. And there was the Memphis Charter Commission that drafted a set of city charter changes approved by voters in 2008 including the requirement that a council member accused of wrongdoing is automatically suspended from all council duties.

In both of those cases, the newcomers to the political process – elected in the case of the Memphis Charter Commission, appointed in the case of the Metro Charter Commission – seemed overwhelmed at first. It was not so much the detail involved but the reaction from the public. They were better at the detail work than some of the political veterans. But those on the Metro Charter Commission in particular got a real baptism by fire when it came to how the public reacted to what they were just discussing even before they made a decision.

In both cases, those new to the process ultimately lived to tell the story and develop their own ideas about what they would keep about the process and what should change. The truth is their very presence changes the process even if incrementally.

With those precedents, for all of the talk about the same faces and names showing up to run for any and all offices, it is encouraging to see that we are growing the circle of political involvement even if those walking into the circle almost certainly wonder initially if they have been ambushed.

 

 

The Early Vote … So Far

 

Through Tuesday, nearly 7,000 Memphians have voted early in advance of the Oct. 6 election day.

To put that in perspective, the number is 1.6 percent of the city’s 423,520 voters.

We won’t know who the early voters have selected until election night. The early votes will be the first tallied. But we know just about everything else about them down to their names.

So far, 56.2 percent are black and 22 percent are white. The remaining 21.7 percent are “other” which means other racial groups or those who didn’t indicate a race on their voter registration forms. The question is optional when registering to vote.

55.8 percent are women and 44.2 percent are men.

The totals include some absentee voters. But most are those citizens showing up at the 16 early voting sites across the city.

So far, Bishop Byrne High School is the most popular early voting site with a turnout of 948 there. That is followed by Riverside Baptist Church on South Third with 621 and White Station Church of Christ with 594. Election officials have plenty of maps that show most early voters go to the site nearest their home.

But any voter from any part of the city can vote at any of the early voting sites and vote a ballot that will include the district races particular to their home address.

Early voting ends Oct. 1 and election day is Oct. 6.

 

Romney at Memphis fundraiser: Obama is clueless about the economy

Mitt Romney was in town today for a fundraiser hosted by former Saks Inc. chairman and CEO Brad Martin. And it seems the former Massachusetts governor availed himself of an opportunity to show a cadre of the city’s business elite that he’s not the wooden caricature ascribed to him by the national press.

The event was closed to the press. But one attendee, from the financial services industry, described Mitt in his Memphis appearance this week as livelier than he’s seen him up to now.

Mitt lambasted federal agencies – specifically calling out the EPA – as hamstringing businesses with regulations that he says are getting in the way of job creation.

Mitt said Obama “is clueless about the economy.”

He also said that one of his first acts as president would be to grant a waiver to every state to exempt it from “Obamacare” until such time as the president’s signature health care legislation could be repealed.

Meanwhile, that sound you hear in the distance is a Texas twang. It belongs to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who will be in town next week at the Memphis Botanic Garden for a fundraiser of his own.

AutoZone Caps a ‘Record-Breaking Year’

It’s getting to be an old story at AutoZone. The Memphis-based auto parts retailer beats Wall Street analysts expectations, it opens new stores during the quarter, and CEO Bill Rhodes tells analysts, hey, we’re just doing what we do!

But, that was the story yet again when the company reported its fiscal fourth quarter results Tuesday morning.

For reference, the stock is up more than 40 percent since Sept. 2010. For comparison, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up around 5 percent over the same period.

Dansette

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