Guest column: Celebrate safely during proms, graduations

Paul White

Paul White

It’s that time of year again. Proms, graduations, and other events mark the end of the school year. Memories of these wonderful occasions will be with our youth for the rest of their lives.

Our young students headed to the prom and from graduations are reminded not to drink and drive. Deputies with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department will be out in force on prom nights and after graduations. DUI, illegal drugs, and underage drinking will get you a stay at the county jail.

The Sheriff Department also reminds teens that getting caught drinking while under the age of 21 can result in losing a driver’s license, getting suspended from school, ejected from sports teams, and even banned from graduation ceremonies. [Read more...]

Faith column: National Day of Prayer event on May 1


You are invited to be a part of the Oak Ridge National Day of Prayer Community Event as we gather together to fervently pray for our nation and our community. This year’s event theme is “One Voice United in Prayer,” taken from Romans 15:6. 

The service will be at Glenwood Baptist Church on May 1 at 6 p.m., located at 200 N. Alabama Road. Each year, this event brings believers together from congregations all over the Oak Ridge community to demonstrate the power of unity to pray for those in authority and various vocations.

We encourage all believers to come and join as we gather in one accord lift our hearts and voice declaring the plan and purposes of God. [Read more...]

Guest column: Open primaries mean voters can choose which primary to vote in

Myron Iwanski

Myron Iwanski

Comments I have heard regarding the upcoming election indicate some confusion about who can vote in this primary.

The election is a primary to determine who the Democratic and Republican candidates will be for countywide offices in Anderson County. This is an “open primary,” which means a voter does not register as a Democratic or Republican and can choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary.

While most seeking countywide offices in Anderson County run as a party candidate, most residents I have talked to vote for who they believe are the best candidates for Anderson County—no matter the party.

It is puzzling how in national elections the percentage of registered voters voting in Anderson County is much higher than in local elections like those coming up in May and August. In the last presidential election, 60 percent of registered voters in Anderson County (29,283 of 49,169 eligible) voted. However in the last local county primary election, only 17 percent of registered voters (7,765 of 46,186) voted. [Read more...]

Guest column—Happy 75th anniversary, Batman: I owe you

Legends of the Knight

A movie poster for “Legends of the Knight,” which will be screened at the Historic Grove Theater on April 27 to benefit ADFAC.

On March 30, Batman turned 75. That same day, our church celebrated a 24th birthday and a 10-year anniversary of having moved into the Grove Theater. The irony of it hit me like a ton of bricks because many of the seeds that led me to become a minister were, strangely enough, planted throughout the pages of my childhood comic books.

Batman has had his share of ups and downs over the years. From the most campy television programming imaginable in the 60s, to witnessing Robin bludgeoned to death by the Joker in the 80s, to actually dying and being resurrected a few short years ago…I’ve managed to stay with the Dark Knight through his many twists and turns. At age 45, perhaps I should have outgrown it all, but I haven’t.

The truth is I owe my childhood heroes a pretty huge debt. They instilled in me at a very early age the belief that truth and justice were not just abstract forces in the world, but that they could be shared and experienced with enough effort and courage. At a time when it felt like the world was growing more cynical and afraid, I came to believe that honest people could really make a difference—that good really could win out in the end. The stories of my childhood were saturated with hope.

Moving through ministry for about two decades now, I almost always find that I arrive back where I started. I find that, fundamentally, hope is a life-blood running through the veins of healthy people. I find that fear, doubt, and cynicism are toxins that course through the bodies of the most unhealthy. I also discover that I am not immune to any of it. I experience these poisons too, times when I wonder if I shouldn’t just hang my hat and choose another profession in despair over our human condition. [Read more...]

Guest column: We all have a role to play in ending child abuse

CASA Child Abuse Prevention Month

By Naomi Asher 

By the time you finish reading this article, more than 30 cases of child abuse will have been reported to authorities nationwide. By the end of today, that number will swell past 9,000. And four of those children will die at the hands of their abuser. All in a single day.

When we take stock of these sobering statistics during April—National Child Abuse Prevention Month—it’s easy to be overwhelmed and to ask yourself, “What can I possibly do to make a difference?”

The answer is, you can do a lot. Everybody can play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect by becoming advocates for children.

For some of us, that advocacy comes in a formal role. Teachers, child care workers, health care providers and others who come into daily contact with children can be vigilant for signs of abuse and neglect. Their actions to report suspected abuse or to offer extra time and attention to fragile children can do more than make a difference. It can save lives. [Read more...]

Guest column: Arts Council kicks off fund drive, asks for your help

Arts Council of Oak Ridge Logo

Dear Arts Supporter,

The Arts Council of Oak Ridge is kicking off the United Arts Fund Drive this March and April. We are so grateful for the past support from the citizens in our city and county and know that you realize the arts are essential to the health and vitality of our community. The arts enhance community development, spur urban renewal, attract new businesses, draw tourism dollars, and create an environment that attracts skilled, educated workers. Oak Ridge has a long history of a strong arts community, which contributes significantly to an enriched place to live, work, worship, and play.

We are asking you, as a member of our community, to help us continue these vital endeavors by making a tax-exempt donation to this year’s United Arts Fund Drive. As a supporter of the arts, you or your business will receive additional benefits. At the $150 or above donation level, your name or business’ name will be listed in every printed program of every event presented by the eight member organizations as well as in regional newspapers, magazines, our website, and the new Arts Council app for smartphones and tablets reaching more than 50,000 residents. At the $500 or above donation level, links from our website to donor websites will also be provided. Pledges must be received by July 31 to be included in programs and publications. [Read more...]

Guest column: Y-12, Pantex transition update

Jim Haynes

Jim Haynes

Note: This is a copy of a March 20 transition update for employees at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas. It’s posted on the Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC transition website.

By Jim Haynes

It has been a very busy two weeks for the Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) transition team. We are proceeding full speed ahead. Among other activities last week, we had a very informative series of 36 briefings over three days with the incumbent Pantex and Y-12 management teams designed to help us better understand the current site organizations. Also, dozens of other meetings have been held at Pantex and Y-12.

I spent time at both sites last week, including a visit with Pantex Plant management at their Integrated Plan of the Day meeting. As I visit the sites, I more fully appreciate your professionalism and support—you truly are making a difference for our nation. I look forward to interacting with more of you over the coming weeks.

Over the last two weeks, I have also met with a significant number of community stakeholders in Amarillo and Oak Ridge, and will continue to do so as we introduce additional members of our leadership team and announce our plans. Our host communities are proud of your service, and proud to host the national assets that are Pantex and Y-12. We will continue to make them proud.

During my visits, I have been asked about our name, Consolidated Nuclear Security. I am happy to answer that question because we were very thoughtful in developing a name for our enterprise that accurately describes who we are and what we will do. [Read more...]

Guest column: School safety update

Trina Baughn

Trina Baughn

Since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Oak Ridge Schools and the Oak Ridge Police Department (ORPD) last August, a number of significant safety improvements have occurred within our schools including physical security upgrades, leadership adjustments, and increased police presence.

As you may know, this time last year, we had only one School Resource Officer (SRO) covering our entire school district. Now we have two full time SROs, two Support Services Unit (SSU) officers manning satellite offices, and the Adopt-a-Cop program, which provides officer time in all of our schools via daily check-ins. A third satellite office is in the works as ORPD Chief Jim Akagi and Superintendent Bruce Borchers are presently working on stationing an SSU officer at Robertsville Middle School.

Chief Akagi recently invited me to join our SROs on a walk-along at the high school to personally observe the impact of these changes. He also encouraged me to tag along with our S.W.A.T. team during a threat assessment exercise. I took him up on both offers and, as a result, am sharing what I learned. [Read more...]

Guest column: Analysis of traffic camera information

By Dale Gedcke

The referenced documents were downloaded from the Oak Ridge City Council posting in advance of the (Feb. 24) work session. The numbers quoted below were calculated from the data supplied in the referenced report.

Accident Rates During 2013

Using the total crashes listed in the report, and the number of detected vehicles through the pertinent camera locations from both directions, the accident rates during 2013 were:

  • Oak Ridge Turnpike at Civic Center: 2.58 accidents per million vehicles
  • North Illinois Avenue at Robertsville Road: 0.90 accidents per million vehicles
  • Oak Ridge Turnpike at Lafayette Drive/New York Avenue: 1.8 accidents per million vehicles
  • Robertsville Road at Iroquois Avenue/Willow Brook School: 0.00 accidents per million vehicles
  • Total of all four locations: 1.68 accidents per million vehicles [Read more...]

Guest column: Watson responds to Abbatiello’s column on budgeting, property taxes

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

By Mark Watson

Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watston responded Thursday to a guest column by former City Council member Leonard Abbatiello on budgeting and property taxes.

I have reviewed the comments from Mr. Abbatiello for the paper. There are a couple of clarifications that need to be made in his comments, but generally “matching” our budget cycles with various Tennessee or federal cycles is good. Oak Ridge is the earliest in the state at present time. Hohenwald and Memphis has a collection period beginning July 1. Morristown, Crossville, and Norris have a period beginning Aug. 1. Alcoa, Maryville, Johnson City, Dyersburg, Newbern, and Sardis have a collection period beginning Sept. 1.

Perhaps most importantly (as Mr. Abbatiello knows), June is the month of tax appeals. At present, we have various changes that occur during that month after our June 1 collection period. This causes a number of administrative changes, which do have a cost, so a shift in the calendar would avoid some of this administration, especially during a reappraisal (next one in 2015). [Read more...]

Guest column: Budgeting and property taxes, why are we different?

By Leonard Abbatiello

As a matter of convenience to the Oak Ridge Board of Education, the city is getting ready to change the budgeting cycle and the Oak Ridge property tax due and delinquent dates. The city-proposed changes are only a partial band-aid. No one has considered the taxpayer, or the impact of what is best for everyone. 

Early in Oak Ridge’s municipal history, the city had the State of Tennessee legislature pass a private law and a local ordinance which made it possible for Oak Ridge to tax its businesses and citizens much earlier than any other government in Tennessee. It was cash-flow strapped and it then sought state relief to force earlier federal payments. This created a budget cycle that required Oak Ridgers to pre-pay property taxes rather than pay-as-you-go, which happens in the rest of Tennessee.

Today, Oak Ridge is the only Tennessee government which sets its budget and property tax rate in May, its tax bill payments due date is June 1, and the late tax payment date now is July 31 annually. This makes us pre-pay our property taxes and forces early budget decisions. [Read more...]

Guest column: Parents, staff again choose balanced school calendar

Christopher J. Marczak

Christopher J. Marczak

By Chris Marczak

The second calendar voting for the Oak Ridge 2015-16 results have been counted.

Parents and staff members were called on March 13 and asked if they preferred a balanced calendar or a traditional calendar for all schools including Willow Brook and the PreSchool for the 2015-16 school year. The first vote callout took place Feb. 10.

The traditional calendar is the calendar that most of the Oak Ridge Schools have had for quite a while. Students come to school in the middle of August, have a one-week fall break, two weeks off for winter, a one-week spring break, dismissal at the beginning of June, and an 11- to 12-week summer.

The balanced calendar is a new calendar that Oak Ridge has never had before. It is called a balanced calendar due to the balance that it gives for instructional time in the classroom—about nine weeks at a time. Students typically arrive for school the first week in August, have a two-week fall break, two weeks off for winter, two weeks off for spring break, dismissal at the beginning of June, and a seven- to eight-week summer. The balanced calendar is not like the Willow Brook Elementary or PreSchool calendar where students start school in mid-July and have three-week breaks. [Read more...]