Letter: Now is our chance to help MMC Hospitality Houses

Dear friends and fans,

Are you in it to win it? You know I am! And this time, I’m not talking about a football game. I’m talking about the game of life.

Right here in Oak Ridge, we have a place that’s helping people in need win in the game of life—the Hospitality Houses of Methodist Medical Center. When patients are traveling long distances for medical care or when families from far away need to be close to hospitalized loved ones, the Hospitality Houses are there, free of charge. [Read more…]


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2014 in Review: Accomplishments, continued improvement, but big challenges ahead 

Chris Phillips and Terry Frank

Chris Phillips, left, director of Anderson County Accounts and Budgets, and County Mayor Terry Frank are pictured above. (Submitted photo)

 

 

By Chris Phillips, director of Anderson County Accounts and Budgets, and County Mayor Terry Frank

We recently finished our Popular Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, and we wanted to share a snapshot of Anderson County’s financial health. While there are many factors that go into evaluating our county’s overall ability to promote prosperity for the people of our county, our financial health as a county government has a direct impact on the lives of families who live here and the business and industry that operates here.

Noteworthy accomplishments from 2014: [Read more…]

Guest column: The last insult

By Joan Berry and District Attorney General Dave Clark

The law in Tennessee has recently changed in a way that insults the memory of murder victims. Not a single photo of a victim prior to their murder is allowed to be shown during their killer’s trial. This problem needs to be solved, and voters can help.

Sadly, the gruesome photos of a corpse are the only presence homicide victims are granted during a trial. The defendant is allowed to be present and to be “cleaned up” and “dressed up” for the jury; but no picture of the victim can be presented.

For decades, it was a common practice for prosecutors to introduce into evidence a reasonable likeness of the victim prior to their murder in addition to crime scene photos. However, due to recent high-court rulings, trial judges now do not allow the practice for fear of having a verdict overturned. [Read more…]

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Letter: What is a volunteer firefighter?

To the Editor:

Question: What is a volunteer firefighter?

Answer: A volunteer firefighter is no different then those who get paid to do this job. In fact, when you think about those who work in the paid fire services, they too are technically a “volunteer” because nobody held a gun to their head and told them they have to do that job.

Every firefighter must remember that the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standards do not differentiate between paid firefighters and volunteer firefighters in relation to who has to comply with what standards. Every firefighter is expected to do the job safely, quickly, and efficiently so that lives can be saved, property can be salvaged, and our communities are protected. [Read more…]

Guest column: Changing the future of our community, one child at a time

There are some exciting things on the horizon for our local Boys and Girls Clubs! The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Clinch Valley operates two campuses: the Lawrence A. Hahn Club in Oak Ridge and the Roane County Club located at Harriman Middle School.

Each club offers affordable after-school and summer programming, and the Oak Ridge Unit offers the city’s only independent athletic leagues. The clubs charge a nominal annual membership and weekly fee; however, no child is turned away for an inability to pay.

The organization’s mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. [Read more…]

Guest column: What do ‘vouchers’ mean to Tennessee taxpayers?

By Tammy Grissom

A school voucher is a publicly funded credit or certificate whereby a student may be enrolled in a private school and apply the credit to tuition.

So, why should Tennessee taxpayers care?

  1. Vouchers use your money to help pay for a student to go to a private school that answers to private administrators and not you, the taxpayer. Public schools must answer to the people and are held accountable for the use of local, state, and federal educational tax money.
  2. Article XI, Section 12 of the Tennessee Constitution specifically states, “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance, support, and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools.” Nowhere in our Constitution is the General Assembly directed to take taxpayer money and use it for a voucher system so parents can use public money to send their children to private schools.
  3. Private schools are not public institutions, and without proper oversight, the “qualifications and standards” for students may fall short of expectations and undermine the fundamental idea of equality in education.  Vouchers require the public to supplement these standards even if they are contrary to state and federal education law.
  4. Vouchers force the public to support two drastically different educational systems, one over which the public has no oversight.

[Read more…]

Letter: Transparency good, but information should be correct, properly investigated

To the Editor:

It is understandable for editorials, op-eds, letters to the editor, etc., to be emotional and one-sided. It is typically strong feelings that stimulate such a piece to be written. I think it is appropriate, however, for our leadership (paid and unpaid) to use decorum when expressing their views. And I think it reflects poorly on a community when one member of its leadership decides unilaterally what is important or develops a cause based on accusations and uninvestigated claims. It is divisive and undermining to the remainder of the group.

There are always at least two sides to every story. As a leader, it is tempting to authoritatively address only one side of a story and to utilize selective input to make a case. It is also tempting to address it in a renegade fashion and for it to become a cause célèbre. But the risk is that it gives that person in leadership a false sense of power and righteousness. [Read more…]

Letter: PBA chapter president hopes for fair, thorough investigation of ORPD

Editor’s note: This is a copy of a March 3 letter to Oak Ridge City Council.

Dear Oak Ridge City Council members:

I am honored to communicate with you today regarding a very important issue affecting the members of the City of Oak Ridge Police Department. Many of them are affiliated with the Knox County Chapter of the Southern States Police Benevolent Association.

Before I discuss the issue at hand, I want to give you a very brief background regarding the PBA. We are not a union. We do not engage in union activities such as work disruptions or strikes. We are respectful when working with the administrations our officers serve. I’ve found most problems can be resolved if both parties come to the table with an open mind and a willingness to compromise.

The law enforcement officers from Anderson, Loudon, Roane, and Knox counties that make up our chapter depend on our local chapter board to monitor situations and protect their interests. Mostly those interests are confined to the following: a fair working environment and returning home safely at the end of a watch. [Read more…]

Letter: Praises Baughn, says City Council needs more like her

To the Editor:

I would like to commend the outstanding job that Trina Baughn is doing on City Council. Of all the members of City Council, she is the most knowledgeable about the city’s massive and rising $186.4 million debt. Trina Baughn understands the history of how this debt was accumulated; she also has developed a strategic plan to help the taxpayers resolve this debt.

While Oak Ridge slipped deeper into debt, past City Councils have wasted and squandered taxpayer funds on law firms in Washington, D.C., to lobby for more money for Oak Ridge’s government facilities, as if lobbying rather than the qualifications of local scientists could swing federal funding to Oak Ridge. The taxpayers derived zero benefit from those lobbyist payments or the largesse City Council has bestowed on the Chamber of Commerce over the years. [Read more…]

Guest column: Moving forward in Oak Ridge

With the recent uproar centered around the Police Department in our rear view mirrors, I think it is important to review what was accomplished and why.

The decision to perform a functional audit on the Police Department is a good step especially when taken in context. These kinds of audits focus on best practices, applied over the department’s field of responsibility that need to be reviewed periodically depending on a department’s complexity and size. Besides just by a calendar rotation, other events to trigger such reviews may include leadership turnover in the department to give incoming management a clean slate of actions and priorities.

I believe that since this door has been opened, it would be wise to broaden it city-wide. Think about whether such an audit could have raised awareness of our lack of proper sewer maintenance over the decades and prevented the rush and financial inconvenience that the mandate from the EPA imposes. [Read more…]

Letter: City willing to address questions, wishes county could say the same

To the Editor:

I can’t help but comment on the difference between our county government and the government of the City of Oak Ridge.

In Oak Ridge, questions have been asked about the city government, and most of the City Council said they had a duty to look into the issues and either address real problems or clear the names of the those being accused of wrongdoing.

Now look at our county government. I have been to too many committee meetings and full commission meetings to even count. We have meeting after meeting where the benches in the room are filled with concerned citizens. Many of us believe there is ongoing wrongdoing and abuse of our tax money in the office of the law director.

I and almost two dozen citizens put our names to paper to officially raise these issues, and there are many more who have given us support or who feel the same way. But no one on county commission seems to care. [Read more…]

League Issues—Making Democracy Work: Immigration

In April 2008, the League of Women Voters of the United States announced its League position on immigration.

The League supports immigration policies that promote reunification of immediate families; meet the economic, business, and employment needs of the United States; and are responsive to those fleeing persecution or humanitarian crisis. The League supports federal comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship. The League agrees that the deportation of unauthorized immigrants who have no history of criminal activity is inappropriate.

What does the executive action on immigration mean?

The executive action taken by President Barack Obama on November 20, 2014, is consistent with the League’s position as are the 39 similar executive orders issued by every president over the last 60 years in orders that have affected as much as 40 percent of the undocumented immigrant population.

The League supports the president’s action and believes this action is within the executive authority of the president. [Read more…]