Senate approves Lake City’s name change to Rocky Top

Lake City Council Approves Rocky Top Name Change

The Lake City Council votes 4-0 in November to change the town’s name to Rocky Top, and Rep. John Ragan said he had draft legislation to approve the name change to introduce in the Tennessee General Assembly. (File photo)

WYSH Radio/Oak Ridge Today

A bill that will allow Lake City to officially change its name to Rocky Top was unanimously approved in the Tennessee Senate on Thursday, three days after the state House of Representatives also unanimously voted to support the measure.

Lake City Council members approved the name change, seen as a vital first step toward developing a Rocky Top theme park in the former coal mining town, in November. The bill will now go to Gov. Bill Halslam’s desk for his signature, then the Lake City Council must ratify it by a two-thirds majority.

The name change is seen as a necessary first step toward turning the former coal mining town into a tourist destination, taking advantage of its two exits off of I-75. Plans call for an interactive 3-D theater, a restaurant, a water park and a hotel, as well as other attractions. [Read more...]

Nolan, a state House candidate, has meet-and-greet on Thursday

Caitlin Nolan, a candidate for the Tennessee House of Representatives, has a meet-and-greet on Thursday in Clinton.

It’s scheduled from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday at 364 Market St. in Clinton.

Nolan is challenging the incumbent, Rep. John Ragan of Oak Ridge, in the Aug. 7 Republican primary in the state’s 33rd District. The 33rd District includes Oak Ridge, Clinton, and most of Anderson County.

Visit www.caitlinnolan.com for more information.

Nolan, a state House candidate, has meet-and-greet on Thursday

Caitlin Nolan

Caitlin Nolan

Caitlin Nolan, a candidate for the Tennessee House of Representatives, has a meet-and-greet on Thursday in Clinton.

It’s scheduled from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday at 364 Market St. in Clinton.

Nolan is challenging the incumbent, Rep. John Ragan of Oak Ridge, in the Aug. 7 Republican primary in the state’s 33rd District. The 33rd District includes Oak Ridge, Clinton, and most of Anderson County.

Visit www.caitlinnolan.com for more information.

Tennessee House gives Rocky Top go-ahead

WYSH Radio/Oak Ridge Today

On Monday, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted unanimously to allow Lake City to change its name to Rocky Top. The House bill sponsored by Rep. John Ragan of Oak Ridge passed 89-0.

The name change is seen as a necessary first step toward turning the former coal mining town into a tourist destination, taking advantage of its two exits off of I-75. Plans currently call for an interactive 3-D theater, a restaurant, a water park and a hotel, as well as other attractions.

The state Senate has yet to schedule a vote on the companion bill to the House version, which is being sponsored by Sen. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge. If the Senate approves the measure as expected, the Lake City Council will have to vote again on the name change to ratify the private act that was endorsed Monday by the state House. [Read more...]

Rocky Top name change advances

Lake City Council Approves Rocky Top Name Change

The Lake City Council votes 4-0 in November to change the town’s name to Rocky Top, and Rep. John Ragan said he has draft legislation to approve the name change to introduce in the state legislature.

Information from WYSH Radio

A legislative proposal that would allow Lake City to officially change its name to Rocky Top will soon be debated by the Tennessee House of Representatives.

On Thursday, the House Calendar and Rules Committee voted to put the plan, also known as HB 1469, on the House’s agenda for Monday, March 31.

This comes after The House of Bryant Publications filed a lawsuit against the city to stop the name change. The House of Bryant owns the trademark to the song “Rocky Top.” [Read more...]

Lake City to Rocky Top: Bill clears first hurdle

Lake City Rocky Top Meeting

A standing-room-only crowd assembles to watch the Lake City Council vote 4-0 in November to recommend the town’s name be changed to Rocky Top.

Legislation that could clear the way for Lake City to be rechristened Rocky Top cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday as it was approved by the Tennessee House of Representatives’ Local Government Committee in Nashville.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Ragan of Oak Ridge, is a private act requested by Lake City officials as the first step toward developing Lake City and its two exits off I-75 into a tourist destination.

Developers say that without the name change, the project—which could include a theater, a restaurant, and other amenities—cannot move forward. [Read more...]

Sen. McNally part of effort to drug test judges

Randy McNally

Randy McNally

Information from WYSH Radio

Tennessee Sen. Randy McNally and Rep. Ryan Haynes will introduce legislation that calls for drug testing all Tennessee judges, the two legislators announced Friday.

McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, made the announcement after meeting Thursday with Knox County Prosecutor Leland Price and the families of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom. Christian and Newsom were raped, tortured, and murdered by Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas, and Vanessa Coleman seven years ago.

“For a family to have to go through one trial where it involves the torturous murder of their loved one is far too painful for anyone to endure,” McNally said. “But, to have to go through two trials is inconceivable and inexcusable. This legislation addresses this so that no one will have to endure this kind of lengthy and excruciatingly painful court process again due to drug abuse by a judge.” [Read more...]

Nolan announces Republican candidacy for Tennessee House

Caitlin Nolan

Caitlin Nolan

She lobbied the state legislature for anti-bullying legislation as a high school freshman eight years ago, and now Republican Caitlin Nolan is seeking a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Nolan would challenge incumbent John Ragan of Oak Ridge in the Republican primary in the state’s 33rd District, presuming Ragan seeks re-election to a third two-year term. The 33rd District includes Oak Ridge, Clinton, and most of Anderson County.

The Republican primary is Aug. 7, 2014. [Read more...]

State Democratic Party chair to speak at chili supper Thursday

Roy Herron, chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, will be guest speaker at a Thursday meeting of the Anderson County Democratic Party.

It’s the party’s annual chili supper and potluck, and it starts at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Claxton Elementary School Cafeteria. [Read more...]

Except for Smith, incumbents re-elected in Oak Ridge, state House

John and Liz Ragan

Tennessee Rep. John Ragan, an Oak Ridge Republican, pictured at right, and Liz Ragan, his wife, celebrate the legislator’s re-election to the Tennessee House at the Buffalo Mountain Grille on Tuesday night.

It was a good night for incumbents in five local races in Oak Ridge and the Tennessee House and Senate. With one exception, they were all re-elected.

Chuck Hope and Charlie Hensley had hundreds of votes to spare as they easily won re-election to Oak Ridge City Council. Keys Fillauer and Angi Agle, the two incumbents on the Oak Ridge Board of Education, also coasted to victory.

Tennessee Rep. John Ragan, an Oak Ridge Republican, won a narrower victory over former Rep. Jim Hackworth, a Clinton Democrat. Ragan received 699 more votes than Hackworth, according to unofficial results. He finished ahead by 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent.

The one newcomer elected Tuesday was Trina Baughn. She will join Hope and Hensley to serve on Council.

Gone will be incumbent Ellen Smith, who was soundly defeated. Hope and Baughn each finished ahead of Smith by more than 2,000 votes, according to unofficial results in Anderson and Roane counties.

Baughn first campaigned for a City Council seat in an August special election, when she lost to Hope. Hope was appointed to Council last summer after former member Tom Hayes resigned.

Baughn and Hope both said the August special election helped prepare them for Tuesday’s municipal election.

Midtown Polling Station

Andrew McCulloch, right, signs in at the Midtown Community Center polling station on Tuesday. Also pictured are poll workers Margaret Terrell, left, and Jim Young.

The training paid off. Hope finished first Tuesday with 6,887 votes, and Baughn was second with 6,739, according to the unofficial results.

Baughn, a communications professional, credited hard work and the efforts of some 20 to 50 volunteers making phone calls and visiting voters.

“We knocked on doors, and we went to the voters,” said Baughn, who is perhaps best known for her newspaper columns and work challenging city and school system spending. “The supporters that I have are elated that I won.”

Top priorities for the new council member are controlling spending, lowering the property tax rate, and reducing the city’s debt.

Hope, owner of Chuck’s Car Care, was not available for comment late Tuesday night.

It was a disappointing night for Smith, who served one term on City Council. She collected 4,624 votes.

“The results are surprising, and I don’t understand them,” said Smith, a research staff member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “I was pretty roundly defeated.”

A fifth candidate, business executive and Oak Ridge planning commissioner Kelly Callison, finished fourth in the City Council race, with 5,450 votes.

Campaign Signs at Midtown Community Center

David Hughes, left, supports presidential candidate Gary Johnson and Sherry Bath supports Oak Ridge Board of Education candidate Keys Fillauer at Midtown Community Center on Tuesday.

In the school board race, Agle and Fillauer both trounced Leonard Abbatiello, a former Oak Ridge City Council member, by more than 2,000 votes.

“I’m thankful that the people of Oak Ridge put the priority on students because that was the focus of my campaign and the focus of Keys’ campaign,” said Agle, who was battling for a third term.

Like Baughn, Agle credited door-to-door campaigning for her win, as well as her daily work during early voting and the newspaper articles she’s written during the past few years.

Now, she said, the first priority of the school board is to select a new superintendent, possibly on Dec. 8. Tom Bailey, the current superintendent, is retiring at the end of the year.

Agle said she also wants to continue making improvements in school curricula and student performance.

It was the second time Ragan and Hackworth ran against each other in the state’s 33rd District, which includes most of Anderson County. Ragan beat Hackworth in the 2010 election.

Midtown Community Center

Jake Phillips supports Tennessee Rep. John Ragan at the Midtown Community Center polling station on Tuesday.

This year’s contest between the two men was one of a half-dozen key races in the Tennessee House of Representatives, and it was expected to help Republicans gain a supermajority.

“I knew it was a close race,” Ragan said in a Tuesday night celebration at Buffalo Mountain Grille in Oak Ridge. “It was a hard-fought race.”

Ragan, a retired Air Force pilot, said Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly have cut spending and taxes, and created a more job-friendly environment. Jobs and education will remain top priorities for him in the upcoming legislative session, Ragan said.

Another local incumbent who was re-elected was Oak Ridge City Judge Robert A. McNees III. He had no opposition.

Neither did Tennessee Sen. Ken Yager, who was re-elected in the 12th Senatorial District. Yager’s district includes Roane, Morgan, Rhea, Scott, Campbell, and Fentress counties.

In other elections, the vote on a liquor referendum to allow package stores to sell alcoholic beverages in Oliver Springs appeared to have been rejected, with 486 voting yes and 519 voting “no” in Anderson and Roane counties.

Three-quarters of Clinton voters agreed to move the city’s general elections from December of odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years, when they will coincide with state and federal elections.

Republican Kent Calfee defeated Democrat Jack W. McNew by a 68.6 percent to 26.7 margin in Roane County for a chance to represent the 32nd District in the Tennessee House, according to unofficial Roane County results. The district includes Roane County and part of Loudon County.

Unofficial results showed Calfee, who beat the incumbent, Julia Hurley, in the August primary, had an even higher victory margin in Loudon County: 72.4 percent to 20.8.

Here are highlights of Tuesday’s unofficial results in Anderson and Roane counties:

 

Oak Ridge City Council

Hope—6,887

Baughn—6,739

Hensley—6,301

Callison—5,450

Smith—4,624

 

Oak Ridge Board of Education

Agle—7,738

Fillauer—7,495

Abbatiello—4,988

 

Tennessee House of Representatives, 33rd District:

Ragan, Oak Ridge Republican—12,825 (51.4 percent)

Hackworth, Clinton Democrat—12,126 (48.6 percent)

 

Oliver Springs liquor referendum (To allow retail package stores to sell alcoholic beverages in the city of Oliver Springs):

Yes—486

No—519

 

Clinton charter question (To move Clinton general elections from December of odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years):

For—2,556 (75.7 percent)

Against—819 (24.3 percent)

 

Note: This story has been corrected to show new vote totals for Ragan and Hackworth.

Live election results posted, early totals available

Midtown Community Center Voting

Rex Sanders, left, picks up his voting machine code before casting a ballot at the Midtown Community Center on Tuesday afternoon. Also pictured is poll worker Dave Anderson.

Note: This story was last updated at 9:37 p.m.

Voting results are being posted on the Anderson County Election Commission website.

The results below, which include early voting and absentee ballots, will be updated, and we’ll post the new numbers here as we can.

The following results include 26 of 28 precincts in Anderson County. We’ll add Roane County election results as we can. The early voting and absentee ballot results in Roane County don’t contradict the current Anderson County results in the Oak Ridge City Council or Board of Education elections, or the Oliver Springs liquor referendum.

 

Oak Ridge City Council (five seats):

Trina Baughn—5,842 (23 percent)

Kelly Callison—4,641 (18.3 percent)

L.C. “Charlie” Hensley—5,298 (20.9 percent)

Charles J. “Chuck” Hope Jr.—5,718 (22.5 percent)

Ellen Smith—3,909 (15.4 percent)

 

Oak Ridge Board of Education (two seats):

Leonard Abbatiello—4,287 (24.9 percent)

Angi Agle—6,603 (38.4 percent)

Keys Filauer—6,319 (36.7 percent)

 

Tennessee House of Representatives, 33rd District:

John Ragan, Oak Ridge Republican—12,810 (51.4 percent)

Jim Hackworth, Clinton Democrat—12,114 (48.6 percent)

 

Oliver Springs liquor referendum (To allow retail package stores to sell alcoholic beverages in the city of Oliver Springs):

Yes—360 (50.2 percent)

No—357 (49.8 percent)

 

Clinton charter question (To move Clinton general elections from December of odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years):

For—2,556 (75.7 percent)

Against—819 (24.3 percent)

Hackworth, Ragan spar over jobs, schools, voter ID

Jim Hackworth

Jim Hackworth

John Ragan

John Ragan

John Ragan and Jim Hackworth agree that jobs and education should be top priorities in the next legislative session in the Tennessee General Assembly.

For the most part, the agreement seems to end there. In recent forums, the candidates have clashed over voter identification laws, school vouchers, virtual and charter schools, and jobs and unemployment numbers.

The Tennessee Democratic and Republican parties and other supporters have taken an active role in the high-stakes battle, sending out press releases, letters, and glossy flyers bashing their opponents and praising their candidates.

The two men are running in one of a half-dozen key races in the Nov. 6 election. Both want to represent District 33 in the Tennessee House of Representatives. The district includes most of Anderson County.

The outcome will help decide whether Republicans gain a supermajority in the Tennessee House. If they do, they would be able to conduct business even if Democrats walk out.

Ragan, an Oak Ridge Republican, is a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who beat Hackworth, a four-term legislator and former Anderson County commissioner, in the November 2010 election.

In a League of Women Voters forum this month, Hackworth, a Clinton Democrat, criticized Ragan for casting the only vote against House Bill 1329 in April 2011. That bill allows a court to prohibit anyone convicted of child abuse or aggravated child abuse from contacting a victim if the convict doesn’t have parental rights.

Ragan, who is completing his first term, said he campaigned for a smaller government, and there are already laws in place that do what HB1329 did, including the Tennessee Crime Victims Bill of Rights and the Tennessee Sex Offender Treatment Board Act.

“That law did nothing,” he said of HB1329. “I refuse to compromise my principles.”

The candidates were asked how to reduce bullying and make schools safer.

Ragan said there is no excuse for bullying, and teachers and administrators are responsible for ensuring it doesn’t happen. But courts have said educators can’t use those efforts to deprive students of their freedom of speech or religion, he said.

A child with glasses will probably be called “four eyes,” and one with braces may be nicknamed “metal mouth,” Ragan said. Schools don’t have the right to interfere beyond ensuring rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, he said.

“We have to safeguard our liberties,” Ragan said.

Hackworth criticized Ragan’s legislative actions on anti-bullying bills, suggesting he is trying to take those initiatives back in time.

“Bullying is wrong,” Hackworth said.

Ragan said he supports the use of school vouchers in failing school systems. The vouchers, which can be used for private school tuition, would likely be used in very limited circumstances, Ragan said. If a school system is failing, the money is being wasted anyway, he said.

“We need to give them a way to get out of that,” Ragan said.

Hackworth disagreed.

“Vouchers do more harm than good to a failing school system,” he said. “If the system has problems, then you fix it.”

He also said he opposed to taking away money from public schools for charter schools.

“It’s to weaken public education to weaken the current system,” Hackworth said.

The candidates were asked about the reported low performance rankings of the new Tennessee Virtual Academy, an online school run by K12 Inc. in Virginia. It’s managed in Tennessee by Union County Schools.

Ragan was less critical of the overall effort. He said Tennessee has ranked in the bottom 20 percent of student achievement nationally for decades, and some students need to take classes not available in their local systems.

“Do we want to penalize them?” he asked. “We’ve got to change the status quo.”

If the virtual academy doesn’t perform well, Ragan said, the contract could be given to someone else.

Hackworth said virtual schools have some merit. However, the current system, heavily criticized by Democrats, allots about 5 percent of the public funding to the Union County school system, and the rest of the money goes out-of-state, he said.

“It’s taking money from our school systems,” Hackworth said during an Oak Ridge Education Association forum last month.

Hackworth said the online academy should have started as a pilot program.

“The virtual school has been, so far, a total failure,” Hackworth said.

Ragan supported a new photo ID law for voters, saying photo IDs are required to board an airplane or cash a check. Republicans have said the legislation was meant to combat voter fraud.

But Hackworth said the intent of the new law is voter suppression.

“It’s all about keeping people from turning out,” Hackworth said.

The two candidates tangled over state contracts with out-of-state companies. Ragan said he would continue to allow them, while Hackworth said he believes jobs and business opportunities should first be offered to Tennessee companies.

“The best bargain for the voter is the lowest bid,” Ragan said.

“We need to take care of Tennesseans and Anderson County (residents),” Hackworth said.

Ragan said he had helped cut taxes and reduced the state budget.

Hackworth said job creation is down under Ragan, claiming last year’s numbers were the lowest in a decade in Anderson County.

“Are you better off now than you were two years ago?” Hackworth asked. “The answer is no.”

But Ragan said the unemployment rate rose while Hackworth was in office, and Tennessee students ranked near the bottom in academic achievement.

“Our state deserves better,” he said.

Last year, TCAP and ACT scores rose across the state, Ragan said.

Early voting for the Nov. 6 election ends Thursday.