Read in browser
The Daily Memphian | The Early Word
The Early Word: Graduating from the pandemic, state Health Dept. could be grounded

Happy Thursday, everybody, and welcome to The Early Word. Today is June 17, and Shelby County Register of Deeds Shelandra Ford is hosting an online town hall meeting this morning.

We’ve also got the final three episodes of “Promiseland,” the Ja Morant documentary, out today on streaming service Crackle. Singer-songwriter Tre Burt will be performing in the Central Atrium of Crosstown Concourse. And, it may seem like it’s already been open for a minute — and it has been — but Wiseacre is holding the official ribbon-cutting for its new Downtown location this afternoon. (The City of Memphis will be there with vaccines and if you get your free shot, you can get a free beer, too.)



Family and friends take pictures as graduates walk in at the start of the Watkins Overton High School Commencement at the Renasant Convention Center on June 16. (Brad Vest/Special to The Daily Memphian)

Walking the walk: This year’s Overton High seniors celebrated an emotional graduation last night at the Renasant Convention Center, walking on the last day of school for Shelby County Schools. “The scene was one that would have seemed unthinkable just months ago,” writes Daja E. Henry. “Mostly masked parents, friends and family members sat in evenly spaced rows of four that stretched to the back of the room.” Teachers and students reflected on all the challenges of the past year, from the loss of in-person classes and after-school sports, and how they persevered. 

West brings the receipts: Executives for West Cancer Center, now cooperating in a fraud lawsuit against Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, say the cancer clinic and its physicians got kickbacks and millions of dollars for oncology services never performed. The scheme seemed to rest upon the 340B Drug Discount Program and, as Jane Roberts writes, “West executives provided receipts showing how much the firm’s salary pool increased in the years of the partnership [with Methodist]. As part of the cooperation, they also confirmed that West physicians made a business deal to guarantee their incomes.”


Participants in front of the Collierville Town Hall during a recent National Day of Prayer. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

Suburbs shortchanged? Bartlett and Collierville are getting substantially fewer American Rescue Plan dollars than leaders of the suburbs expected. Collierville thought it would get $14 million, broken into two payments, but its first installment was $2.2 million. Its second is expected to be about $4.3 million. Bartlett was looking for $16 million but instead got $2.8 million this year and will receive the same amount next year. Germantown hasn’t received its first allotment yet, but it’s still expecting $10 million.

Penny for your thoughts: To paraphrase a local elected official, it would be bad if the Shelby County Commission got sued over one cent. You may remember that when the Commission voted on a small tax increase earlier this month, Commissioner Reginald Milton — the so-called seventh vote — initially missed the roll call. By commission rules, his “yes” vote shouldn’t have counted but, in a complicated anomaly of procedure, it was allowed to. Now the Commission is looking for a legal opinion from its attorneys. 



We have no idea what’s going to happen in the future with libraries. We assume libraries are going to be rapidly evolving, so every single piece of furniture is pretty much on casters. Everything is reconfigurable. Whatever it is you need, we want it to last.

— Memphis Public Libraries Director Keenon McCloy
The library branch in Frayser is expected to go from being the smallest in Memphis’ public library system to one of the largest, with a new $12 million facility




Marcella and Her Lovers play at DKDC in Midtown, in the pre-pandemic days. (Daily Memphian file)

Do know, definitely care: As a venue for live music, Cooper-Young’s Bar DKDC is downright cozy. It’s so small it doesn’t even have a stage. Which can be great for bands and fans in normal times, but it also made it difficult to bring shows back, even with the pandemic winding down. “All the music clubs started opening and we held back,” said owner Karen Carrier. That officially ends Friday, when the Lucky 7 Brass Band and Marcella and Her Lovers will participate in a New Orleans-style second line that culminates in both bands performing. And DKDC has plenty of upcoming shows and bands waiting in the wings — that is, if it had wings. 

State Health Department could be grounded: The Tennessee Department of Health’s efforts to encourage teenagers to get vaccinated has … sorry, I just want to make sure I’m reading this right … well, it has leaders in Nashville talking about dissolving the state health department or withholding funding. Members of the General Assembly say they are taking angry phone calls from parents and are “very skeptical” of the Health Department after a doctor with the governmental agency sent a memo to vaccine providers about the age of consent. Now, says department director Lisa Piercey, “I think there is a perception that we’re hiding in dark alleys and whispering to kids, ‘Hey, come get vaccinated.’”


A different former Sears store in East Memphis ended up demolished to make room for new retail. (The Daily Memphian file)

The softer side of self-storage? As malls around the country struggle, it’s interesting to see a former retail anchor take on second life. Star Memphis LLC is converting what was once a Sears, in Hickory Ridge Mall, into an indoor self-storage facility. Star’s chief executive says they’ve done a couple dozen similar projects now — they also wanted to buy a former Target in Cordova — and they begin by converting just half of the building, then monitoring it to see what size storage is most in demand. 



As Jeff Bezos’ former wife, MacKenzie Scott, gives away billions to higher education, arts organizations, and those trying to alleviate poverty, Memphis organizations are in the mix. 


Pretty cool. 

Have a great rest of your Thursday!