Guest column: Burying the facts

In his guest column on July 4, Tennessee Representative John Ragan requests us to cast our ballots to hold government accountable. This is an excellent idea!

Hidden in Mr. Ragan’s rhetoric about IRS tyranny is the underlying economic policy he espouses: the notion that cutting taxes will lead us to prosperity in all circumstances. Our nation’s experiment with that fanciful notion has been a miserable failure for the last 30 years, causing incredible hardship on our people. It is now overwhelmingly discredited by economists from both sides of the aisle.

Mr. Ragan would likely be good enough with mathematics to have studied economics, but he seems to not have done so. In fact, it appears he learned his economics, not from the best in the field, but from politicians and the media. This has been greatly to the detriment of Tennessee.

In his 400-word column about government, Mr. Ragan mentions God four times—lest anyone be in doubt about his theory of governance. Despite the fact he lives in Oak Ridge and must surely know that this region is blessed by the diverse people drawn here from around the world by the scientific facilities, he chooses to represent only those who share his exact beliefs. [Read more...]

Guest column: Adapting to change

I can’t function without my…(fill in the blank)!

Cell phone? I survived into my early 30s without one, and never even realized it was a problem. I admit that now, having carried one for a number of years, it’s terribly disconcerting to be without. My parents can easily recall a time when most families had only one car—a concept that is unthinkable to most of us today. But faced with challenges, we adapt. We can, we must, and we will.

Families living in most communities outside Oak Ridge are accustomed to not having school bus service within a mile or mile-and-a-half of the school, so our current turmoil seems like no big deal to them. To us though, having to suddenly live without something we’ve always had (except for a brief period several years ago) feels like the end of life as we know it.

With the advent of social media, the volume of discontent and velocity of misinformation has grown exponentially. It is most unfortunate that a member of City Council chose to announce in Monday’s meeting that the School Board intended to cut transportation no matter how much money the city provided; that is incorrect, as evidenced by the fact that there was no reduction in transportation services in our budget passed on May 27 (first reading) and May 29 (second reading). [Read more...]

Guest column: PSI offers reading program

PSI Reading Program

From left to right are General Sessions Judge Don Layton, Tammy Garner, Daniel Hamby, and Chad McNabb. (Submitted photos)

The greatest challenge people can face is themselves. Two people, Tammy Garner and Daniel Hamby, have accepted and conquered that challenge. These two individuals under the voluntary instruction of Betty McCarty and Peggy Tiner have been learning to read.

PSI and General Sessions Judge Don Layton have partnered to provide an opportunity to instruct basic reading skills to probationers.

“The ability to read is essential to acquiring a better job and quality of life,” Layton said. “It is our hope that courageous example of Tammy and Daniel will cause others to seek the ability to read, notwithstanding their age or life conditions.” [Read more...]

Guest column: Anderson County election ballot explained


The August 7 ballot for the state primary and local general election will be an important and complex ballot. You will find three main sections to the ballot.

First will be the state and federal primary, second will be the county general election, and third will be the retention questions for Tennessee Supreme Court judges and appellate court judges.

The first eight offices on the ballot are the contests for the state and federal primary election. They are governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Tennessee Senate, Tennessee House of Representatives, and state executive committeeman and committeewoman. These eight offices are the ones a person must declare whether they are voting in the Democratic or Republican primary.

After these eight offices come the candidates for the Anderson County general election. It does not matter which party primary you selected to vote in, Democrat or Republican, you are now free to vote for the candidate of your choice no matter to which party you belong. The county general election offices are: [Read more...]

Guest column: Amnesty Week a great success at Oak Ridge Library

Oak Ridge Public Library

The Oak Ridge Public Library is pictured above.

Amnesty Week was a great success at Oak Ridge Public Library. To celebrate the Library’s 70th birthday from May 27 to May 31, library patrons were invited to return any overdue materials and have the fines forgiven. A total of 145 overdue items were returned for a sum of $421.80 in cancelled fines.

The largest fine forgiven to one patron was $109.50. The most overdue items returned for one patron was 27 items. Four lost items that were due back in December 2011 were returned.

Libraries link people to the world of knowledge. Oak Ridge Public Library now has two databases online, making it easier for everyone to find local information. The Local Organization Index and the Obituary Index are searchable at the Library’s website at Library patrons can also get individual assistance with research, résumés, or online job applications. [Read more...]

Guest column: Burying mistakes

John Ragan

John Ragan

Our founders boldly asserted in the Declaration of Independence that our nation should exist because the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” entitle it to exist. They further held the God who authored these natural laws endowed everyone with certain, self-evident rights.

By these concepts, every individual has the same God-given equality before the law. There can be none with special, legal “privileges” such as royalty or aristocracy. Likewise, there can be no serfs inherently lacking certain rights.

An even more radical concept in that document is that government exists to protect these God-given rights. Furthermore, our nation’s founding document maintains that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, thus are accountable to them.

In other words, our founders insisted that government must answer to its citizens, not the other way around. However, events recently in the popular press have called this concept into question. [Read more...]

Guest column: ECA highlights local government’s role with Energy Secretary Moniz

ECA Board and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz

From left to right are Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson, Los Alamos County Councilor Fran Berting, Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan, ECA Executive Director Seth Kirshenberg, Secretary Ernest Moniz, Aiken County Council Member Chuck Smith, Kennewick Mayor Steve Young, SRSCRO Executive Director Rick McLeod, Los Alamos County Administrator Brian Bosshardt, and ECA Deputy Executive Director Allison Finelli. (Submitted photo)


On June 23, the Energy Communities Alliance Executive Board met with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz to highlight the importance of the Department of Energy’s environmental cleanup, national security, nuclear energy, and waste management missions. The ECA Executive Board, including Chair and Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan, and other elected local government officials also stressed the importance of regular communication and partnership between DOE and the local governments that are adjacent to DOE facilities. Secretary Moniz agreed that working with local governments is important to the success of DOE.

Earlier in the day, the ECA Executive Board also met with National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Frank Klotz, Acting Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management Dave Huizenga, and other DOE and administration officials, as well as congressional staff.

Mayor Beehan stated that local governments can be DOE’s asset for gaining support for missions and for infrastructure development at the sites, but in order for that to occur, local governments must be involved in decision-making. Mayor Beehan also stressed the importance of land transfer to local communities. [Read more...]

Guest column: B&W Y-12 improved Y-12, made a big difference in the community

David Bradshaw

David Bradshaw

By David Bradshaw

It has been almost 14 years since B&W Y-12 LLC took over operation of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

Soon a new contractor will be in charge. Thanks to the work of the B&W Y-12 team and many others, they will inherit a very different and much improved facility.

One only needs to approach Y-12 to see the changes. The first thing you will see is the New Hope Center, built as a public-private partnership and located just outside the secure gates of Y-12 to make sure public access is easy. It has conference space, an outstanding auditorium, and a museum that highlights everything from Y-12’s critical role in the Manhattan Project, to the NASA “moon box” built by Y-12, to Y-12’s role in winning the Cold War. Y-12 had always been a secret place and this space built with the public in mind was a major change.

The modernization process is even more obvious inside the gate. Y-12 completed and opened the new Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. It’s a state of the art building. The new Uranium Processing Facility will be just as impressive with design work well underway. Both facilities allow the U.S. Department of Energy to close down old buildings that date back to the Manhattan Project. With the HEUMF and UPF in place, Y-12 will be far more efficient with operations not only more secure, but centralized in one place instead of being spread out over several locations. [Read more...]

Guest column: Oak Ridge—a city teetering—which way will it go?

Bob Eby

Bob Eby

By Bob Eby

Friday, June 20

This week, I experienced great joy and significant sadness. The joy was being with my daughter and son-in-law as she birthed our first grandchild and we brought her home from the hospital in California. It was because I was with them during this joyous time that I missed last Monday night’s City Council meeting, but I did watch it live through Internet streaming (technology is great!). It was during that time that I felt sadness and disappointment. I realized that this wonderful community I have known for 50 years now balances on a tipping point, to fall on a downward spiral or gradually move forward with a great and dedicated effort toward prosperity. Why do I say this?

Last year, the Board of Education hired a new superintendent who brought with him much energy and a vision to re-establish the Oak Ridge Schools to its premier status as not only the number one school district in the State of Tennessee but also the premier district in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the country. The Board fully supported the vision, though we were recommending a three-year roll-out, which we felt was more realistic and would allow opportunity to adjust the implementation as we and the staff worked together to achieve our goals.

With their recent action, the City Council not only chose not to support this vision, but they very likely have failed to provide our teachers and associated staff the recognition they so deserve with any funding for their first raise (2 percent) in four years. City Council does plan to provide city-employeed staff with a raise. I think it is only right that all employees of our community receive a raise. All school staff and city employees are equally deserving of this recognition of their value to Oak Ridge. [Read more...]

Guest column: Emory Valley Center ‘Dances the Night Away’ at Prom

2014 EVC Couples Dancing

Emory Valley Center couples dancing at the May 31 prom at the Elks Lodge. (Submitted photos)

The Elks Lodge in Oak Ridge hosted a prom for more than 100 Emory Valley Center clients and their staff on Saturday evening, May 31. The theme for the prom was “Dance the Night Away,” with the Elks Lodge transformed into a disco decorated in silver, black, and white for the evening.

The Oak Ridge Boat Club donated to secure Viki Ward as the DJ for the evening. Ward and her dancers kept the music going and added to the fun of the evening. Those attending also had a wide variety of food and drinks available donated by volunteers with the Elks, Food City, Food Lion, Kroger, and Walmart in Oak Ridge. The Arc of Anderson County also made a donation in support of the prom.

The ladies attending each received a wrist corsage and the men a special lapel pin, and everyone had a bag of “goodies” to take home with them. Photos were taken of attendees and put into special prom frames for everyone to have a memento of their special evening. One of the highlights of the evening was when the Prom Prince and Princess and Prom King and Queen were crowned. After they were crowned, they were spotlighted in a special dance and then invited the rest of the crowd to join them. [Read more...]

Guest column: Yes to one device per child, no to property tax increase

Aditya "Doc" Savara

Aditya “Doc” Savara

By Aditya “Doc” Savara

On June 2, Dr. Bruce Borchers, the superintendent overseeing Oak Ridge Schools, presented a 2015 school budget plan to City Council, which included a request for a property tax increase of about 15 percent. Landlords would presumably pass this increase onto renters as well.

The justification for this tax increase is to pay for thousands of touchscreen tablet computers and notebook computers: one for each child in our school system for most age ranges. The idea is bold and expensive. The revolutionary change is based on the following three premises:

  1. Our children need to be “technology-ready” for the future with sufficient experience to make such technology feel “ordinary” to them.
  2. These devices may have educational benefits in our schools.
  3. When parents are trying to decide where they will live, parents might choose a city that follows a one-device-per-child policy.

I taught at Northwestern University, where I won department-wide and college-wide teaching awards. Based on my teaching experience, I was initially against one device per child, because I did not think such devices would improve learning, certainly not enough to justify such an expense (my experience is that better teachers and better students result in better learning). [Read more...]

Guest column: Anderson communications center very busy during Tuesday storm

Anderson County Commission and Mark Lucas

Anderson County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Mark Lucas is pictured above at right during a special County Commission meeting in November. Also pictured are Anderson County Commissioners Rick Meredith, center, and Jerry White.

To All:

(Tuesday) evening was very, very busy. From 3 p.m. until 11 p.m., our communications center received 589 telephone calls, of which 143 were on 911. The overwhelming number of calls were between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., when 365 calls came to our dispatch center. Of these 365 calls, 109 were on 911.

Comparing to last Tuesday from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m., we received 156 total telephone calls, of which 20 were on 911. The two-hour period from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. last week was only 41 total calls, of which five were on 911.

For the entire shift from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m., that was a 288 percent increase. For the two hours from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m., the increase was 790 percent.

We had four communications officers working (Tuesday) when the storm hit. A fifth came into work on her own to help out. Many of these 911 and non-emergency calls required dispatching of emergency personnel from law enforcement, fire, or EMS. Others required notifications to the state and county highway departments and the utility companies. It was non-stop for hours. [Read more...]