Guest column: Serving the city helps achieve community goals

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

By Mark S. Watson, Oak Ridge City Manager

The City of Oak Ridge is one that prides itself on the interest, knowledge, and involvement of its citizens in local government. Oak Ridgers are always willing to add a different perspective, technical information, and just darn good opinions on topics that affect them.

On January 12, 2015, the Oak Ridge City Council will appoint citizen volunteers to fill vacancies on boards and commissions that have occurred due to term expiration and attrition from the board membership.

Applications must be received in the City Clerk’s office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, December 31.

Over the past years, the City Council has found it sometimes challenging to fill the vacancies of its various boards. People are busy, and getting busier! Some feel that many governmental matters require special knowledge. Others have not thought of providing their talents to shape their community. [Read more…]

Letter: Former Council member remains committed to helping city prosper

Anne Garcia Garland

Anne Garcia Garland

To the Editor:

There is no way to fully thank the people who have supported and inspired me during my service on Council and the run for re-election. For all of you who voted for me and helped in the campaign, I am very grateful. The past five-and-a-half years have been challenging and fun and fulfilling.

I am proud to have served during an economically difficult period and to have participated in many positive efforts that have begun to reinvigorate both the commercial and the residential interests of our city.

To any and all citizens who have questions or issues, I remain committed to helping the city prosper. Please feel welcome to email me at [email protected] or write to me at 120 Outer.

And thank you again for allowing me to serve.

Anne Garcia Garland

Oak Ridge

Letter: Supports schools’ proposal for Preschool, Administration building

To the Editor:

Kudos to Dr. Bruce Borchers and the school staff for the creative and practical fresh look and proposal for resolving the dilemma of our 71-year-old pre-K and Administration building. I believe this solution is fiscally far more attractive and feasible than any alternatives that were suggested in the past. At this point, I am soundly behind it.

Kudos too, to Parker Hardy and the Chamber for being willing to discuss the possibility of letting their building be part of the plan. [Read more…]

Letter: Asks Council, BOE to work together to approve, fund Preschool plan

To the Editor:

We have a unique opportunity for this community to come together, not just for the good of the schools, but for the good of the people.

The Oak Ridge school system is a big draw for newcomers to the area. When our family chose to relocate to East Tennessee, the Oak Ridge school’s reputation was a large factor in purchasing a home here and joining this community. As our oldest moves through elementary school, I can say this was the best decision for our family.

Oak Ridge is filled with teachers who truly care for their students. And, the Preschool is no different.

The Oak Ridge Preschool is an essential, irreplaceable entity that serves so many families. Two of my children have had the privilege of attending the Preschool and growing through the care of the teachers and staff. [Read more…]

Guest column: Small gifts can have big impact

Lydia Birk

Lydia Birk

By Lydia Birk

United Way of Anderson County 2014 Campaign Chair

You might recognize them, four special days that have grown up around Thanksgiving.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, “Cyber” Monday, and Giving Tuesday all start with Thanksgiving, a day when all Americans reflect on family and give thanks for their many blessings.

On Black Friday, Americans turn their attention to shop for great deals to stretch out those blessings; Small Business Saturday, we are all asked to support our locally owned small business; and Cyber Monday, Americans are all clicking away online for that Christmas bargain.

#Giving Tuesday is new, only three years old now. Americans everywhere are asked to consider sharing a little of their blessings with organizations that can turn their small gift into large rewards. [Read more…]

Guest column: A simple gift

Kaylain Tolbert and Naomi Asher

Clinton High School student Kaylain Tolbert, right, and Naomi Asher of CASA of the Tennessee Heartland are pictured above. (Submitted photo)

By Naomi Asher

A simple envelope can hold a heartwarming gift.

At the beginning of October, CASA of the Tennessee Heartland got one of those simple envelopes. It contained a check and a note from a teacher at Clinton High School.

One of their students, Kaylain Tolbert, had raised money for CASA as a candidate for Homecoming Court. Kaylain chose to give her donation to CASA.

While many of the other students chose organizations that others had chosen in years past, Kaylain chose CASA. She babysits for a CASA volunteer’s children, and this volunteer encouraged her to look into the cause. [Read more…]

Letter from Oak Ridge clergy: Public statement on Ferguson

Yesterday’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson—who shot and killed 18-year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August—serves as the latest flashpoint for heated racial tensions involving our criminal justice system. Whether one feels Officer Wilson’s action constituted “a crime” or not, the reality is that young black males are at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts. Consequently, a tremendous amount of our nation’s racial history and tension gets exposed in reactions to such shootings because, regardless of the reason, the rate that blacks are killed by police is startling when set against the rest of the American population.  During these times of heightened racial frustration, it is critically important for the faith community to lift up a unified voice.

The Michael Brown case presents a unique challenge for racial harmony because the “no indictment” announcement was carried out in a way that highly frustrated many in the black community and went to great lengths to communicate that no crime was committed. As a result, many African Americans believe this case to be an attempt to “turn back the clock on race relations,” while many others see it as a successful demonstration of the effectiveness of the American justice system. So the question becomes, “How does the community of faith move forward in unity?”

First, we must draw inspiration from this situation. We must inspire our congregations to believe that God is still sovereign in spite of human brokenness. We must also inspire our people to believe that God, in His sovereignty, will ensure justice always prevails. Psalm 9:7-8 says, “But the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.” [Read more…]

Guest column: ‘A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer’

John Ragan

John D. Ragan

In October of 1789, George Washington issued a proclamation “recommending” to the people of the United States a day of “Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer.” He urged Americans to remember “with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.” He published this proclamation, less than a month after the Constitution was signed, at the request of Congress.

Seventy-four years later, in the midst of a bloody and bitter civil war, a different president issued another Thanksgiving Day proclamation. In his proclamation, Lincoln called for “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” He urged Americans to acknowledge “the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

School children of my generation were assigned to read and study such Thanksgiving proclamations from our presidents. But today, it seems school children are seldom required to become familiar with such historic proclamations. Why is this? Are our schools, and popular culture in our nation, conspiring to obscure the meaning of Thanksgiving? [Read more…]

Letter: Chinn wants to be mayor, help attract new families, industries

Rick Chinn

Rick Chinn

City Manager Mark Watson and honorable members of Oak Ridge City Council,

First, I would like to congratulate the new members elected to Council and express my enthusiasm in working with the three sitting members of Council for the coming years. I feel we have a great group of leaders and know that if we work together, we can accomplish some great things for the City of Oak Ridge.

In my opinion, a key to making these great things happen is working together in electing and supporting our new mayor. That said, I would like to officially announce my interest in becoming the new mayor.

I believe the mayor’s position is much more than cutting ribbons and running the monthly meetings. The mayor, in my opinion, is the chief lobbyist of the city.

We are unique from most cities in the fact that our health as a city is tied closely to the choices that are made by both state and federal lawmakers. [Read more…]

Letter: Smith seeks mayor, mayor pro tem spot; cites experience, knowledge

Ellen Smith

Ellen Smith

Fellow members of the Oak Ridge City Council:

I respectfully request that you consider me as a candidate for the positions of mayor and mayor pro tem when the new Council convenes on Monday, November 24.

This is in many respects a brand new Council, with several new members who are eager to move the city forward in a positive direction. I share that eagerness, but I also believe that we need experienced leadership to achieve our goals.

Leadership with experience and in-depth knowledge of our city government will be vitally important in ensuring the progress we seek—by ensuring that Council works effectively and efficiently. I can supply that necessary experience and knowledge in a leadership role. What I bring to the job includes over five years of experience as a Council member, in-depth knowledge of city business and the background of the issues and decisions Council will need to deal with, and personal acquaintance with the other members of the city leadership team (both Council members and staff) and their goals and priorities for Oak Ridge. [Read more…]

Letter: Gooch wants to be mayor, make city efficient, business-friendly

Warren L. Gooch

Warren L. Gooch

Dear City Council colleagues,

I am submitting this letter to express my interest in being elected mayor. I believe our next mayor must provide bold leadership, vision, energy, and a commitment to excellence in our schools, city services, and quality of life.

During the recent campaign, I spoke about my vision and goals for Oak Ridge and my expectations for city government to become more efficient, responsive, and business friendly. The voters, across our city, clearly embraced my message.

As mayor, I pledge to be a consensus builder and to work with each of you, the Board of Education, and city staff to help move Oak Ridge forward. For over 70 years, city leaders have dared to undertake initiatives that have made Oak Ridge a great place to live, work, and raise a family. I am confident that working together our best days are still ahead.

I respectfully ask for your support.

Warren Gooch

Oak Ridge City Council member-elect

Letter: Hope wants to be mayor, focus on schools, jobs, housing

Chuck Hope

Chuck Hope

To my fellow City Council members,

I am asking you to consider me as a possible candidate for mayor, when we meet next Monday night. It would be a honor to become the next mayor of the City of Oak Ridge, I believe I have shown my ability to lead and find common ground on issues over the last three-plus years I have been on City Council.

Why do I want to be considered for mayor of our city? Oak Ridge is my home. I have grown up here, went through the school system here, started and maintained my business here, married my high school sweetheart, and raised my family all right here in Oak Ridge. I love my home town and care about what happens here. I care about my neighbors and the neighborhoods. I have watched multiple generations of families live their lives here, and look forward to seeing many more to come.

I want to see our city prosper and grow, and for us do that, we have to have good leadership from our civic leaders. As our civic leaders have done before us, I want to help our city continue to move forward. Over the last 55 years, our city has seen some remarkable things and has contributed many great things to the world. I want us to continue to build on these things and look forward to what we do next. [Read more…]