Letter: We should be in this together

Note: This is a copy of an August 20 letter sent to city officials.

Dear Mayor Beehan, Mr. Mark Watson, respected Council Members,

I’ve written to you several times in the past regarding the implementation of community gardens in, or rather starting in, the Highland View neighborhood, where I currently reside. Because of my desire to help eliminate hunger in my community, you appointed me to the Anderson County Community Action Commission, which I’ve accepted as a great honor.

My sole focus was on getting food, easy sustainable food, into this area so that families, despite their circumstances, could build something together which, in turn, would increase the sense of community and bonding that comes with dirt under the fingernails and a cold beer after for those old enough.

It is with regret that I inform you that the grant we’d hoped so fervently for from the Lowe’s Community program did not go through. We are, instead, sitting on an acre-and-a-half of land that could have been centrally located, cleared for the sole purpose of raised gardens being built and established, educating anyone that wanted to learn about gardening food, the installation of fruit trees to add better variety to the tables more commonly filled with processed foods, and the naive ideal of success. [Read more...]

Guest column: League works to educate voters, protect voting rights

League Matters: Making Democracy Work

The League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge is beginning its 2014-2015 year, and we would like to use this opportunity to talk about the League—who we are and what we do.

The League is a nonpartisan political organization for women and men, but we neither support nor oppose any candidate, party, or political appointee. Our mission is to encourage informed and active participation in the democratic process, increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influence policy making through education and advocacy.

Voting is the most powerful way to make our citizens’ voices heard. And educated and informed voters are the key to making our democracy work. The League works all year, every year, to empower all eligible voters to participate in our political system. We have many voter registration drives each year, and will be joining other local leagues and like-minded organizations in the National Voter Registration Day on September 23. We especially seek to aid those from traditionally underrepresented or underserved communities.

We work to educate voters about candidates in federal, state, and local races each year through our candidate and voter forums. The forums provide straightforward information on candidates and ballot issues, free of any partisan import. We distribute many types of educational materials such as voter guides, elected official directories, information on polling places, and state and local election rules. A voter forum about the constitutional amendments on the November election ballot will be held at Pollard Auditorium on October 7. A series of pre-election candidate forums are planned for September. [Read more...]

Guest column: Explosive interest in ‘Manhattan’

Cynthia C. Kelly

Cynthia C. Kelly

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The WGN America television show “Manhattan” has galvanized the interest of millions of viewers. Shown on Sunday nights, national audiences are riveted by the dramatic tension between rival groups of scientists and the omnipresent security police in Los Alamos in 1943. “Manhattan” follows the scientists as they confront the challenges of making a workable atomic bomb while dealing with an intrusive military force, intense rivalries, and strained marital relations where couples can no longer confide in each other.

The show is a blend of fact and fiction. The primary characters are entirely fictional including the main scientist, Frank Winter; Chinese-American physicist, Sidney Liao; and wunderkind Charlie Isaacs and his most attractive wife, Abby. But “Manhattan” has preserved at least two real persona, J. Robert Oppenheimer as the director of Los Alamos, and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr who visits the laboratory to offer his advice.

The central tension is the race to develop two different approaches to a plutonium-based bomb. Winter believes an implosion bomb offers the best option but most of the scientists—including Oppenheimer—are more confident in a gun-type plutonium bomb similar to the design used for the uranium-based bomb. While the enmity between the two groups is exaggerated for television, “Manhattan” does a good job showing the challenges the scientists and engineers faced knowing little about the newly discovered and quite bizarre element plutonium.

In a 1965 interview with journalist Stephane Groueff, J. Robert Oppenheimer recalled: “I think the set of problems connected with implosion was the most difficult, and it required very new experimental techniques. It was not a branch of physics anyone was very familiar with. It was, from a theoretical, an observational, and a practical point of view, quite an adventure. Plutonium was a terrible test from beginning to end and never stayed quiet: it gets hot, it is radioactive, you cannot touch it, you have to coat it, and the coating always peels. It is just a terrible substance.” [Read more...]

Guest column: City manager urges citizen engagement in key decisions

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

Many projects are happening in Oak Ridge at the present time. Our city does not slow down and is affected by issues at the state, federal, and local levels.

As your city manager, I am concentrating on matters such as the implementation of EPA sewer requirements on a tight timeframe, creation of a national park, development of a new mall, and installation of a new dispatch center.

Among its many other decisions, Oak Ridge will be facing a pair of major initiatives which particularly important for our community. The American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE), owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory contractor UT-Battelle, is under new leadership as veteran museum director David Moore takes the helm. With this change, the DOE knows that the long-term viability of a museum is dependent upon local and regional involvement.

Recently, the AMSE Foundation and the City of Oak Ridge have been co-hosting a series of community meetings about AMSE to discuss options for developing a new operating model for the museum. Two of four public discussions have been held about this topic.

Last week, we heard from the directors of the MUSE in Knoxville, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, and the new Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol to hear how today’s museums remain current and relevant to their visitors. Turnout for the first two meetings has been very encouraging; the next public meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 25, from 6-8 p.m., when heritage tourism will be discussed. [Read more...]

Letter: Commissioner-elect says ‘thanks,’ offers tips to November candidates

Theresa Scott Thank You Sign

Submitted photo

To the Editor:

Since May, I have knocked on doors and visited with residents, homeowners, and voters of District 7 while campaigning for a seat on County Commission. I heard from many about their frustrations at several candidates in various races who chose to gain attention by means of mail, recorded phone messages, and numerous yard signs throughout their neighborhoods and on the main roads.

When the signs were allowed to be posted at the Wildcat Den for early voting, it was as if there was a corrugated plastic explosion overnight. Some were so disgusted that they chose not to vote during that period. It is very unfortunate that such a distraction would cause someone to choose not to make their voice heard.

With another election coming up in just a few months, I would like any future candidates to take note of the following tips that could possibly help them reach more voters. When canvassing a neighborhood, keep in mind there may be a dog or child on the other side of a gated fence. Respect a resident’s privacy and do not solicit or trespass onto their property if signs are posted not to enter. You should not cross through the yard when going to the neighboring property but use the sidewalks. [Read more...]

Letter: Write-in House candidate says coal is obsolete

Leslie Agron EPA Clean Power Plan Hearing

Oak Ridge resident Leslie Agron testifies at an EPA clean power plan hearing in Atlanta on July 29. (Submitted photo)

Note: This is a copy of testimony given July 29 in Atlanta by Oak Ridge resident Leslie Agron, a write-in candidate in the Democratic primary for Tennessee House of Representatives on Thursday.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the EPA. Thank you for taking my testimony.

My name is Leslie Agron. I am from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. As the son of a Manhattan Project scientist, I was born and raised there. I grew up within walking distance of Appalachia.

I am currently a candidate for the Tennessee state legislature. I have previously served on Oak Ridge’s Environmental Quality Advisory Board. I hold an Executive MBA from The Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. Given that credential, the thrust of my remarks will be about business and business climate.

I hold that, contrary to industry remarks that coal makes jobs, coal is not good business. To be clear, in a historical sense, coal was very important to the development of America in the 19th and 20th centuries. During those historical times, coal very much enhanced the business climate of our country by supplying affordable energy when no other source of energy was available. [Read more...]

Letter: Prefer humanitarian aid to Gaza, rather than ammunition

To the Editor:

I see on television that our country is providing more ammunition for the Israeli government to slaughter residents of Gaza.

In spite of attempts by humanitarians from various countries, Israel has kept the citizens of Gaza malnourished and miserable by its blockade. It is now slaughtering men, women, and children like shooting fish in a barrel.

I would much prefer our country to provide humanitarian aid with my tax dollars, rather than providing more ammunition.

Paul Spray, MD

Oak Ridge

Letter: NRA endorses Ragan

To the Editor:

The National Rifle Association recently posted their candidate ratings for the Tennessee House of Representatives.

In the race for House District 33, State Representative John Ragan (R–Oak Ridge) received an A rating and the endorsement of the pro-Second Amendment organization.

According to a release from the NRA, Representative Ragan is their choice in the upcoming August 7 Republican primary. Since being elected to office in 2010, Ragan has supported various bill centered around protecting the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans. [Read more...]

Letter: Anderson County Commission needs wake-up call

Anderson County is a wonderful place to live and work. Our economy should easily out-perform Knox County’s. Yet, we consistently fail to do so—and our County Commission seems to be asleep. Between 2000 and 2010, Anderson County grew at only 41 percent of Knox County’s growth rate. That’s unacceptable.

Over the next decade, Anderson County taxpayers will pay close to $2 million in salary and medical/dental/retirement benefits for its county commissioners. The commission needs to get focused and get busy. Our economy was dealt a significant blow when the commission opted for an expensive jail expansion. Commissioners could have sought support from a newly-elected Republican governor for more time to resolve jail overcrowding through less-costly administrative means—but did not. Instead, they chose the jail expansion, ignoring its impact on our taxes and our economy.

The commissioners made a second error when they passed the jail expansion without dealing with the new jail’s increased operating costs. This mistake drove jail costs even higher and raised the real possibility of a second tax increase. Thankfully, a second increase was prevented by the efforts of Mayor Frank. [Read more...]

Guest column: ORS made gains on most of Seven Keys to College, Career Readiness

Bruce Borchers

Bruce Borchers

In any transition year in which the state’s standards and/or tests change, it is difficult to make meaningful comparisons with the results on those tests from previous years. Comparisons within the year can be meaningful, such as the fact that the percentage of students in Oak Ridge Schools that were at or above proficiency is higher than the state average on nearly every test administered; or that the state said that “strong gains” were made on the high school tests, and our data shows that ORS continues to far outperform the state on every high school End of Course examination.

That being said, ORS did find areas for growth and also celebration within our results. Our overall student population did not achieve as highly as we had hoped. However, we did see significant increases in some of our subgroups. In fact, ORS closed the achievement gap in 10 of the 16 areas monitored by the state. For instance, our English Language Learners had a nearly 8 percent increase in the number of students who were proficient on the state’s mathematics examination.

So what do we do when the state changes the standards and tests? Is there a way that we can continue to monitor our progress to ensure the success of our students? Yes! We can look to the measures that we know indicate the success of our students—ORS Seven Keys to College and Career Readiness. These Keys were developed collaboratively with the community and focus on the steps needed to prepare students for the rigors of life after high school. In our Keys, we see positive gains on the majority of measures. [Read more...]

Guest column: Tennessee retention elections explained by LWVTN

By League Issues: Making Democracy Work

On August 7, Tennesseans will vote in a statewide retention election for appellate judges. Included are three of the five Tennessee Supreme Court justices as well as judges currently sitting on the Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals.

The August 7 retention election represents the last such election under the much-respected Tennessee Plan—the 40-plus year plan for merit selection and retention of appellate judges. The plan was designed to reduce partisanship and outside influences in electing and retaining our appellate judges. The final phase of the plan—merit retention—expired June 30, 2014.

This year’s retention election is particularly important. Fair and impartial court supporters in our state—including Governor Haslam—are concerned about media reports that the three Supreme Court justices seeking retention in Tennessee might become the targets of heavily financed campaigns organized by groups outside the state. There have been reports of such campaigns targeting high court justices in several other states across our nation.

What does merit retention mean? [Read more...]

Letter: Democrat supports Gallaher for Register of Deeds

To the Editor:

This letter writer supports Bill Gallaher, Republican, for Anderson County Register of Deeds.

I am a senior citizen on fixed income. I was born and raised on a farm at Andersonville and have lived in Anderson County my entire life. I retired after a life-long career as a librarian in Anderson County.

I am also a life-long Democrat, supporting Bill Gallaher. [Read more...]