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The Daily Memphian | The Early Word
The Early Word: City poised for $200M upgrade; Memphians and the Bernie meme

Hey, Memphis. Good morning! Today is Friday, Jan. 22, and tonight’s Grizz game has been postponed (more on that in a minute).

The Downtown Memphis Commission board will hold its first meeting of the year, and testing begins today for ABC’s “Women of the Movement” casting call.



An attendant holds new signs during a December tour of coronavirus safety measures at the FedExForum. The forum could get improvements under a new capital plan from the city. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian file)

Citywide upgrades? Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is ready to “Accelerate Memphis.” He revealed a $200 million slate of capital projects yesterday that includes $50 million toward “citywide assets” such as FedExForum and Mud Island, $4 million to redevelop the old Southwest Twin Drive-In movie theater and $60 million for neighborhood streetscape and infrastructure improvements. Another portion of the plan is converting 84,000 street lights to LEDs.

We’re on the case: Maybe the Health Department is ready to dance. On Thursday, deputy director David Sweat announced that the area’s coronavirus reproductive rate was down to .84 — the lowest it’s been since the pandemic began. We’re also down to a daily case average of 429, down from 844 in the middle of December. We still don’t know where the second dose of the vaccine will be administered, but the suburbs are getting their own vaccination site. Starting in February, the shots will be administered from a church in Germantown. Now, we just need to get more vaccines, say local leaders; If we wanted to inoculate 600,000 people countywide over the next six months, we’d need to be doing 40,000 to 50,000 immunizations a week (compared to the 10,000 a week we’re doing now). 


A man wearing a University of Memphis mask walks across campus last year. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian file)

Fight for $15 bears fruit: More than two years ago, faculty, staff and the United Campus Workers called on the University of Memphis to pay at least $15 an hour to all of its workers. This week, despite cost-cutting due to the pandemic — or maybe because of it — the university announced it could commit to the minimum wage beginning in June.

The quarantine bears: We made mention of this yesterday but, after the Grizzlies’ game Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers was delayed, the team is now in COVID limbo. The Grizzlies’ next three games will be postponed, including one that was supposed to be today. Games against the Sacramento Kings early next week are also postponed.




In less than five months, Teresa Landrum Caswell has served more than 90 students offering classes through Caswell Driving School in Frayser. (Ziggy Mack/Special to Daily Memphian)

Four years ago, Xzavia Wilson learned how to drive with lessons from her mother and father in a local Kmart parking lot. But, that’s not exactly what her mother wanted for her. In fact, Teresa Landrum Caswell, Xzavia’s mom, spent a lot of time researching driving schools and couldn’t find one in their Frayser neighborhood. And, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Last August, Caswell opened Caswell Driving School — virtually, of course — serving more than 90 students and offering various defensive driving, driver improvement and court-ordered courses. Finding a balance between Caswell’s day job at the University of Memphis and her business is challenging but worth it: “I’m building something for our community. Something that we really need,” she says. 




Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., seen here in D.C. on Jan. 13, wants to remove the name of the late segregationist congressman Clifford Davis from Memphis’ Downtown federal building. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Name dropping? Rep. Steve Cohen has introduced legislation at the federal level to strip the name of a Ku Klux Klan member from a Downtown building. Memphis’ 11-story federal building and courthouse bears the name of Clifford Davis (as well as African-American judge Odell Horton, but that’s another story). Cohen was the one who introduced the 2007 legislation to add Horton’s name to the building and “now, in 2021, it is well past time to rename the building solely for the barrier-breaking jurist and remove the name of Clifford Davis,” he says.

Area’s evictions take center stage: A nonprofit established by Congress is doing a year-long study of evictions in the United States, and a new brief puts Shelby County in the spotlight. Legal Services Corp. is looking to our area because it is representative of much of the nation. In 2019, there were 26,000 eviction cases filed in Shelby County General Sessions Court. And, at least one veteran community advocate says that “it’s not a fair fight,” as he’s never seen a renter have legal representation in court.


University of Memphis forward Deandre Williams (12) flexes after a put-back layup yesterday against the Wichita State Shockers. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

Tigers win! The Memphis Tigers played some of their best basketball of the season yesterday in front of a limited crowd at FedExForum, defeating Wichita State. And, as Geoff Calkins writes, that wasn’t even the best part. I mean, the win was definitely part of it. But, it was that there “was happiness at FedExForum. Undeniable, unadulterated happiness” for a team whose frustration has been palpable. 

Down, then UPP: At least two of the area’s four Universal Parenting Places, slated to shut down after March 31, have been granted a reprieve. Two new, unidentified donors have stepped in, allowing the ACE Awareness Foundation’s centers to continue even if they are not called UPPs anymore. 



People have had a lot of fun with Bernie Sanders’ outfit and overall general demeanor at this week’s presidential inauguration in D.C. I, myself, may be a little obsessed, especially after one post compared his pose to “waiting for my wife at Loehmann’s.”

Lots of locals have created their own versions of the meme, including this one from Memphis Made Brewing Co. 


Seriously, I love these so much I wanted to share them all with you. But there are just too many good ones, so I had to make a separate story

I hope you enjoy your weekend, and we’ll see you back here Monday.