Opinion: Rev. Morrill addresses ‘Black Lives Matter’

Jake Morrill

Jake Morrill

By the Rev. Jake Morrill

This past July, a church committee requested a new message on the electronic sign, which faces the Oak Ridge Turnpike. The message they requested was “Black Lives Matter.” The board of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, or ORUUC, voted to approve it, and the message was added to the sign’s series of scrolling messages.

Since then, we’ve received feedback from different members of the community. Some has been to praise the sign; some, to criticize.

The Police Lives Matter Rally

Saturday night, I attended a rally called Police Lives Matter in A.K. Bissell Park. My colleague at ORUUC, the Rev. Tandy Scheffler, attended as well.  She’s a recent graduate of the Citizen’s Police Academy.

She told me she saw the rally as a chance to demonstrate that support of police officers and support of black lives is not an “either/or,” but a “both/and” for her. Yes, she said, police lives matter, and yes, black lives matter, and yes, all lives matter. I agree. Along with my gratitude for police officers and first responders, I also attended because the rally’s organizers have been critical of the church’s “Black Lives Matter” sign.

When people have an opinion, I believe it’s important to listen. In fact, responding to online criticism of the sign in recent weeks, I’ve extended at least 15 invitations to people to sit down together so we could talk. I’m sorry to say that no one, as yet, has accepted my invitation. [Read more…]

Corker column: Americans deserve to know where elected leaders stand on Iran deal

U.S. Senator Bob Corker

Bob Corker

By Bob Corker

As I traveled across the Volunteer State during August, I spoke with many Tennesseans about the nuclear agreement between Iran, the United States, and other world powers. While opinions of the agreement vary, there is perhaps no greater geopolitical issue facing the world today than preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.

A strong agreement that would stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and stand the test of time was always the goal of these negotiations. That’s why when President Obama declared in 2012 that he would only accept a deal requiring Iran to “end their nuclear program,” there was hope that an agreement could win bipartisan support.

Since the administration reached an agreement in July, Congress has scrutinized it thoroughly to determine whether or not it achieves that goal.

In the coming days, the House of Representatives and Senate will debate and consider a resolution to disapprove of the administration’s Iran deal. And while we have known from the beginning that stopping a potential bad deal with Iran would be a heavy lift, many felt it was important for members of Congress—on behalf of those they represent—to carefully review and vote on any final agreement. [Read more…]

Opinion: Let’s keep the Secret City Festival, could still honor vets in November

To the Editor:

Hopefully, the City Council will think long and hard before ending the Secret City Festival as we know it and move “something” to the fall. The Festival now has many activities for children, music by community and aspiring groups, community booths, and much more that might not be possible outside in November. Not to mention the plethora of festivals, football, and other events in the fall already, making October an impossible time to schedule things.

One thing that will definitely be gone is the TN CREATES fine art and craft show, which the city asked the Oak Ridge Art Center to develop nine years ago. It has gown in scope and interest over the years and is one reason many people come to the festival. The Art Center has had its own show in November for 30 years (November 9 this year), plus there are already numerous other shows in the fall, including Museum of Appalachia and Southern Highlands and Foothills in November, plus the non-juried Pilot Club show here in November, two weeks after the Art Center Gallery of Holiday Shops.

Has this small group, which did not ask for input from many who had led the Secret City Festival for ages, thought about a seven- to 14-day festival in late June, culminating with July 4, which is already a time of family visits home to Oak Ridge (I met dozens of my kids’ friends at Secret City last year)? What the task force seems to be envisioning as a time to honor veterans could still be held in November. We keep saying we want activities to attract younger families—let’s keep the great one we have now, which had its biggest attendance ever this past June and is a great summer family time.

Judy Kidd

Oak Ridge


Note: The submitted letters and columns published in the Opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of Oak Ridge Today or its staff.


Opinion: A thought about promoting war at a time of solemn remembrance

To Members of City Council:

The idea of emphasizing weapons of war in the fall around November 11 is highly ironic since Armistice Day originated in the desire for peace and the hope that the First World War was fought to end all wars.

November 11 originally was to remember an entire generation which was wiped out by war. Poppies were worn in hopes there would be no more war.

I have to say that trying to co-opt this solemn time of remembrance in order to show off expensive war toys is highly offensive.

Virginia M. Jones

Oak Ridge


Note: The submitted letters and columns published in the Opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of Oak Ridge Today or its staff.

Opinion: Alarmed by proposal to privatize library, calls for feasibility study

Dear Council Members:

I am both alarmed and dismayed at the current proposal to privatize the Oak Ridge Public Library beginning January 2016. I understand the City Council’s need to create a workable budget for the upcoming year, but we must beware of making sudden major changes to a valuable city resource on the vague promise of saving money. It is unconscionable that the city would make such a change without a full feasibility study of particulars, both positive and negative, along with full documentation of public comment and thoughtful analysis and response to those comments. Such a study is crucial because it would reveal the extent to which privatization would affect the city’s long-term ability to meet its citizens’ needs as well as its finances. More importantly, the study is necessary in order for our Council and citizens to exercise informed consent or dissent on the matter. [Read more…]

Letter: Rich Construction, city ‘should be ashamed’ over Jackson Square work

To the Editor:

The Rich Construction Company leadership and some officials of the City of Oak Ridge should be ashamed of themselves for the total disaster that is the reconstruction allegedly going on at Jackson Square.

My family and I have been steady customers of Dean’s Restaurant and Bakery as well as some of the other businesses there for over a year. We have seen the “progress” on the project at least weekly since its beginning. The rate of progress has been abysmal at best. There have many, many clear weather days throughout last winter and spring where work could have been going on, but there was no one in sight. In fact, the only time there seemed to be ANY sign of urgency was the two days before the Lavender Festival in June. The work then was only to minimally accommodate that event. And as soon as it was over, work stopped again.

The initial completion date the business owners were promised was in June. By that time they had suffered through over five months of loss of business and disappointed customers. When it wasn’t completed by then, the owners were promised a completion date of mid-August. Well, that didn’t happen either! Now the latest promised completion date is in mid-September. Almost 10 months after the project started. Unbelievable! [Read more…]

Opinion: Responding to Baughn, Hardy says Chamber a voice for business concerns

Parker Hardy

Parker Hardy

By Parker Hardy

Note: This is a response to a July 9 column by Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn.

Let me begin by expressing my dismay at the continued war of words fueled by “guest columns” such as Ms. Baughn’s. The practice can be divisive, driving wedges of conflict into community unity that is crucial to Oak Ridge’s future. At worst, it can be destructive, damaging the morale and reputations of  volunteers, elected and appointed officials, professional staff, local organizations, and community institutions engaged in moving our city in positive directions. I am concerned that it also may discourage residential and business prospects that are considering locating in our city.

The Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce is a voice for business concerns, and it is sad that a public official thinks there’s something wrong with such a traditional role and such a fundamental right. In our almost 70 years of existence, we have built a broad membership base, most of which are small businesses. We are proud that our diverse membership ranges from local “mom-and-pop” companies, to respected professionals, to major corporations in the community and the region. In fact, if your readers will visit our online membership directory, perhaps they will recognize and support the hundreds of companies, individuals, and organizations that are investing in Oak Ridge through support for chamber initiatives. Yes, we count not-for-profits, government contractors, and out-of-town companies among our members. I believe they deserve praise, not punishment, for supporting our mission to enhance Oak Ridge’s economic vitality and business climate, and to provide business, leadership, and advocacy opportunities for our members. [Read more…]

Guest column: All AC communities decreased in assessed value, which is unprecedented

Note: This is a copy of a letter from Leonard A. Abbatiello, Anderson County/Oak Ridge Equalization Board representative, to Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch and City Council regarding the 2015 Board of Equalization results.

Dear Honorable Mayor Gooch and Members of City Council:

I currently serve as the Oak Ridge representative on the Anderson County Board of Equalization.

The Anderson County Board of Equalization has completed its task of appraisal hearings for 2015. Attached is our report which has been sent to the Tennessee State Appraisal Office. It is the first year ever when there has been a decrease in the total appraisal base, Anderson County’s first in history.

This is also the lightest Board workload in recent history. This year, we evaluated 208 cases totaling $125,886,000 of appraised value, reducing their total to $95,781,000. Commercial appeals are now dominating Anderson County appeals, with the requests for changes in commercial exceeding residential values by 5.6 times. Some commercial cases are expected to also appeal to the state for additional relief. [Read more…]

Guest column: Won’t support tax increase, urges residents to prevent further waste

Trina Baughn

Trina Baughn

Sixteen years ago, Partners for Progress successfully lobbied the city to spend over $15 million of your (the taxpayer) money to launch a major development on the West End of Oak Ridge. The promises were enough to make people starry eyed. There was to be a picturesque subdivision of nearly 4,000 homes along with an industrial complex that, when all was said and done, would produce 17,000 jobs, $1 billion in payroll, and nearly $13 million in additional annual property taxes.

Three years ago, many of the same folks behind Partners for Progress began a similar PR campaign touting the sale and redevelopment of the mall. “More shopping choices are coming!” they proclaimed. To date, the city has approved the use of $1.5 million of your money for infrastructure costs and a $13 million TIF (tax increment financing), which will  suppress property tax revenue at current levels for the next 30 years. In other words, no matter what happens, the 64 acres will continue, as it has for the last decade, to produce only 10 percent of its original value because any increases will be used to repay the TIF loan. Developers and city officials claim that the project will produce $1 million (or 20 percent) in additional sales tax revenue to the city, though, historically, the national retail sales growth rate range is between -11.51 percent to +11.18 percent. Even if we find a way around the notoriously stringent Wal-Mart non-compete covenants and actually bring in real retail, it is absolutely impossible to expect these projections to materialize, since, even in the best of times, we’ve not seen half that level of growth. [Read more…]

Letter: Chamber board lists spending priorities

Note: This is a copy of a June 8 letter from the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce and its Board of Directors to Mayor Warren Gooch and members of City Council, and Chairman Keys Fillauer and the Board of Education.

Mayor Gooch and Chairman Fillauer:

The Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted, following the recommendation of our Advocacy Committee, to request the following be given serious consideration as discussions and voting occurs for your respective Fiscal Year 2016 budgets.

Spending Priorities:

  • Development and funding of a prioritized capital improvement plan for infrastructure improvements such as city/school buildings, streets, utilities, etc.
  • Pay increase for Oak Ridge Schools teachers and staff and City of Oak Ridge staff.
  • Waterfront improvements.

While we understand that the city is faced with adjusting the tax rate to reconcile with lower property appraisals, we do feel strongly that the city needs to prioritize spending around these three areas in order to position Oak Ridge as a community of choice for new and expanding businesses and residents.


Melinda Hillman

Chairman of the Board


Parker Hardy


Letter: Expansion of DOE waste storage highlights environmental justice problem

To the Editor:

For years, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 have steered their workers to live in surrounding counties. This has boosted those economies—while lowering our home values, financially burdening our schools, and limiting our retail growth.

Now, the U.S. Department of Energy wants to store more of its nuclear waste here.

In the last four years, our two counties (Anderson and Roane) lost 20 percent of their resident DOE workers, costing us an estimated $93 million in annual DOE payroll.

DOE’s economic favoritism is environmentally unfair and politically dumb. It works against the long-term interests of DOE’s important nuclear programs—which need a strong local political base of support to successfully operate. [Read more…]

Letter: Free Medical Clinic acknowledges volunteer nurses, more nurses needed

To the Editor:

During National Nurses Week and throughout the year, the Free Medical Clinic (FMC) is proud to celebrate the role nurses play in delivering the highest level of quality care to our patients.

The strong commitment, compassion, and care FMC nurses display in their practice and profession contribute significantly to the good health of the residents of Anderson, Morgan, and Roane counties who can’t afford to pay for health care and have no other access to the medical services they need.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of FMC. We would like to acknowledge the nurses who volunteer. They include Kari Bowling, Meghan Cadmus, Valerie Cheatham, Jay Cole, Dot Dare, Maury Dickson, Sara Gilmartin, Carole Holbrook, Ellen Kennel, Michelle Kirchenstiner, Karen Kirkland, Linda Quinley, Karen Reardon, Pat Redmon, Luther Rogers, Katie Salzano, Peggy Smith, Tracey Viau, and Karen Wilken. [Read more…]