Good Monday morning from Memphis, where families have until the end of Friday to let Shelby County Schools know whether their kids will opt for virtual learning. But first…
As Shelby County enters its last leg of early voting this week, the runaway turnout appears to have calmed down over the weekend, leading to shorter lines at the polls.
But if early voting continues apace and if there’s a sizable turnout on Election Day, the county has a shot at breaking its modern record for total turnout, our Daniel Connolly reports. Before the weekend, the county needed fewer than 178,000 votes to top the 398,000 votes that were cast during Barack Obama’s historic 2008 presidential win:
The county’s voters have already cast a staggering number of ballots for this fall’s election: more than 18,000 by mail, and about 201,000 more through in-person early voting. That led to a total of just under 220,000 votes cast as of Thursday night, far more than normal for this point in the election.
Here’s a chart that gives the day-over-day turnout comparison through Saturday:
Over the weekend, the turnout — while still high, historically — disappointed some people, including the Rev. Jason Turner, senior pastor at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. Turner and five other ministers — together, the Black Clergy Collaborative — were at polls Saturday morning to encourage voting and to promote “criminal justice reform, civic engagement and economic empowerment,” as I reported then. He said he personally blamed the cold, rainy weather for the poor turnout over the weekend.
Early voting ahead of the Nov. 3 election ends at 8 p.m. this Thursday.
The hot debate in political wonk circles is whether the numbers show an actual increase or mere shift in turnout — and, of course, which party stands to benefit the most. Both Republicans and Democrats have been energized by President Donald Trump in different ways, although voters tend to punish the incumbents in down economies.
However, going by the latest Memphis Power Poll, it looks like turnout could be shifting more than it’s growing. Nearly 85% of local business and community leaders — which aren’t necessarily representative of voters as a whole — say they’re voting early:
72.94% – I will (or already have) voted early in person
11.76% – I am voting by mail
15.29% – I will vote in person on Election Day
There’s really no question over whether Shelby County will go to Biden, thanks mostly to the heavily Democratic city of Memphis. But down-ballot, the question of whether Democrats will be turning out in large numbers is a very important one — one that could spell another disaster for Republicans still stinging from their sweeping losses in 2018.
+ Speaking of the election: Our Sarah Macaraeg takes a deep dive into the differences — both political and ideological — between Gallatin Republican Bill Hagerty and Memphis Democrat Marquita Bradshaw, both of whom are running for U.S. Senate.
Shelby County Schools deadline nears
Families with kids in the Shelby County Schools system have until the end of Friday to change their minds about whether they want their students to learn in person next year.
But, as our Laura Testino also reports, teachers also have a choice to make.
Only 46% of teachers had previously opted to work in school buildings full-time, per Laura, and they’re also being asked to update the school if they’ve changed their minds:
The data is similar for teachers: 63% chose to work in the building to some degree, with 46% committed to working in building full time and 17% working in buildings at least part of the time, leaving 37% of teachers working from home. Teachers, though, are also being asked to update their decisions for the rest of the year.
“We have a few days to really make a life-changing decision, possibly,” said Jolie Madihalli, president of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association.
Meanwhile, Chalkbeat reported last week that some experts are gradually shifting in favor of reopening schools and seem less worried about the effects of air circulation. In another story, Laura reported that the big driver of school infections seems to be sports:
+ Speaking of schools and sports: Our Khari Thompson has a subscribers-only story (subscribe here) about whether student-athletes will get a basketball season next year.
Downtown could get ‘Mobility Center’
Downtown Memphis could get a nine-story parking garage — er, “Mobility Center” — on a surface parking lot north of the Orpheum Theatre, our Corinne Kennedy reports.
But it wouldn’t just be a publicly owned parking garage:
The building would also hold bike storage for cyclists, showers and a spot for ride-sharing pickups and drop-offs and spaces for scooters, among other amenities, Downtown Memphis Commission President Jennifer Oswalt said. Oswalt said the $40 million structure would also have a rooftop event space.
“Those features are making it more than just a garage,” she said. “There will be space for retail, likely a restaurant, facing the river.”
It will be one piece of a larger plan to connect the city’s parks and civic spaces with Beale Street, FedExForum and other downtown assets.
As Corinne goes on to say, this “more attractive” parking garage is part of a bigger plan to connect Beale Street and FedExForum with the riverfront, which — fingers crossed — will create a more vibrant (and lucrative) downtown once COVID-19 is in the past. It’s a bold (if costly) plan that could, at long last, pull more Beale Street traffic toward the river.
The debate around the plan will probably center on two questions:
- Is this the best use of this prime piece of real estate? Without having seen the plans, I’ll just say it seems like a missed opportunity not to include at least some restaurant/retail space along the street to extend the aesthetic of Main Street Mall to the Orpheum. But if the city is going to build a parking garage, this is the perfect spot, at what is effectively the center of Downtown’s hottest area.
- Should the city be committing to a $40 million project during these uncertain times? The Downtown Memphis Commission says its plan is based on projections for what could happen 15 years from now, so the DMC is playing the long game on this one. And that makes sense. Before COVID-19, Downtown was the place to be — giving Memphians the full live-work-play experience that millennials crave.
Netflix highlights Memphis ‘jookin’ icon
A new, five-part Nextflix dance documentary, “Move,” features Memphis’ own Lil Buck, who brought the city’s “jookin” style to prominence, our Bob Mehr reports. Here’s the trailer, which opens on a scene of Lil Buck walking through Downtown Memphis…
What else is happening in the 901
- For subscribers: Our Ted Evanoff compares and contrasts today’s coronavirus economy with the Great Depression. Also for subscribers: Residents near the University of Memphis are mobilizing against a new student housing complex, our Corinne Kennedy reports. (Not a subscriber? Please consider becoming one.)
- Flu or COVID? USA TODAY has a handy story on how to differentiate the two.
- Ida B. Wells, one of the nation’s greatest journalists and first chroniclers of lynchings in the South, could get a statue on Beale Street, our Katherine Burgess reports. Wells lived in Memphis until she was driven out under threat of death.
- RIP, Bishop Lee Ward: The former, longtime pastor of Greater Harvest Church of God in Christ Ministries in Memphis — who received a Congressional Gold Medal for being one of the nation’s first Black marines — died last week, our Katherine Burgess reports. He was 97.
- In its 12th straight win at home, the Memphis Tigers took down Temple 41-29 on Saturday, tying the school record for longest home-game winning streak. Our Evan Barnes gives us five takeaways and columnist Mark Giannotto puts it into context in a subscribers-only story.
- I wrote something Saturday on the latest quarterly report on crime in Memphis and Shelby County.
- The acclaimed Oxford-based chain Big Bad Breakfast is coming to East Memphis, on the stretch of Poplar east of I-240, our Jennifer Chandler reports.
- The merger with Iberiabank has been good for Memphis-based First Horizon, based on the latest quarterly financials from the company, our Ted Evanoff reports.
- After surviving breast cancer, women continue paying a price for it in the form of high mammogram costs, our Tonyaa Weathersbee writes in her latest column.
The Fadeout: Lucero’s latest song
Memphis-based rockers Lucero released a new single Friday, “Outrun the Moon,” along with a lyric video that will fade us out this morning…
Like The Fadeout? Check out The 901’s Spotify playlist. Want to submit a recommendation of your own? Reach me by email, address below.
Columnist Ryan Poe writes The 901, a running commentary on all things Memphis. Reach him at email@example.com and on Twitter @ryanpoe.
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