Guest column: IRS warns of continuing scam phone calls

NASHVILLE—The IRS continues to warn the public to be alert for telephone scams. The callers often claim to be with the IRS and usually demand money.

Based on the most recent figures released, there have been at least 90,000 complaints about these phone scams and about 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million.

“Be suspicious of anyone who calls demanding your money or your private information,” said IRS spokesman Dan Boone. “These con artists can sound very convincing and will probably try to intimidate you into giving them what they want.”

Boone said the callers may know a lot about you and usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request. [Read more...]

Guest column: Council looks to future in policy, planning meetings

Note: This is a brief report to the town on Oak Ridge City Council meetings on policy and planning.

Following a vote in June to do so, City Council has been having two policy and planning meetings each month.

At our first meeting, we agreed to follow the general outline of the Comprehensive Plan in order to give ourselves focus. We added a section for the U.S. Department of Energy. Council members Chuck Hope, Trina Baughn, David Mosby, Charlie Hensley, and Anne Garcia Garland have been attending. City attorney Ken Krushenski, a couple of interested citizens, and the press have attended also.

The most encouraging outcome so far has been that the five have begun to operate as a team. We are looking at ways to improve the council’s effectiveness.

Those who follow the Council agenda online will have noticed that Monday’s agenda included a resolution from Council to have four things occur: [Read more...]

Letter: CONTACT Care Line helps those in need by phone, chat, text

To the Editor:

Many articles in recent weeks have been reflecting on the suicide of Robin Williams and providing national help lines.

For over 40 years, right here in our community, CONTACT Care Line has provided a listening ear to those who are lonely, in crisis, having a bad day, or just need someone to talk to. CONTACT Care Line, serving the 865 area code and beyond, is a local nonprofit staffed by trained volunteers who are available to listen seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The number to call to reach a listening ear is (865) 584-4424. All calls are confidential.

CONTACT recently added a local chat service (CONTACTCareLineTN.org/chat) and a text service ((865) 407-2TXT) available Monday-Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Chat/text specialists also take Suicide Prevention Line crisis chats from across Tennessee between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays. [Read more...]

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...]