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Views from elsewhere in Tennessee

Views from elsewhere in Tennessee
The following is a roundup of recent editorials from Tennessee members of The Associated Press. In some cases, the editorials have been edited for length. They do not reflect an editorial position of the AP but represent the opinions of the newspapers from which they are taken.
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The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, Oct. 8
Thank goodness common sense carried the day last week when student leaders at Middle Tennessee State University quashed an effort to allow people with gun permits to go armed on campus.
The Student Government Association voted 24-3 against the resolution. The Student Defense Resolution called for the university to petition the state Legislature in favor of allowing faculty, students and staff who have gun permits to carry guns on the Murfreesboro campus.
We can understand the safety concerns that spawned the resolution: A female student from Cordova critically beaten in an MTSU campus apartment; the fatal shooting of University of Memphis football player Taylor Bradford at a U of M student housing development and, of course, the April 16 killing rampage at Virginia Tech.
But, having a bunch of armed people wandering around the campus and sitting in classrooms is not the way to combat campus crime. For one thing, having a gun permit is no guarantee the gun owner will wield the weapon responsibly, creating a bigger safety hazard for students and staff. More guns are not the answer. More security patrols, improved campus lighting, more surveillance cameras and increased safety education for students and staff are more efficient measures — and a lot safer.
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The (Nashville) Tennessean, Oct. 7
Members of the Legislature looking at open government laws in Tennessee should bolster those laws, and a jury verdict in Knoxville last week is an example of why the issue is so important.
A Knox County jury of 12 people found that members of the Knox County Commission repeatedly violated the state’s open meetings law when those members decided in secret on replacements for 12 term-limited officeholders. The commission made appointments without public debate, the jury found, in violation of state’s “sunshine law.”
The jury found, in part, that members deliberated in private on whether to hold the meeting for new appointments, voted in secrecy in setting the meeting and in determining rules for the meeting. The secrecy continued with deliberations during recesses at that meeting. With the appointments, Knox County commissioners engaged in a pattern that clearly went against the principles of the state’s open meetings law.
While the Knoxville case demonstrates all too well the importance of open meetings, there is hope that the state’s new office of an ombudsman will prove valuable in assisting citizens with obtaining records.
The ombudsman does not deal with open-meeting issues, although there has been discussion recently to expand that role. Access to records has been a challenge to citizens, who often lack the financial means to wage a fight for public records.
Local government representatives have tried to make the case that there should be more opportunity to have closed-door meetings, often called “executive sessions.” Government decisions in private settings tend to lean on cronyism and become back-room deals, when the public should hear every point made.
The battle for open government should continue. Laws may be outdated, but recent events show that problems are very much alive.
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The Daily Post-Athenian, Oct. 5
Even the most ardent gamblers aren’t going to take a chance when they feel they can’t trust the house to run an honest game and that’s exactly how many people are beginning to view the Tennessee Lottery.
It seems the lottery just keeps on making mistakes, the worst one being the switch from pop-up white-ball drawings to computer-generated numbers in the “pick” games. A programming error in the changeover prevented some numbers from being drawn. A couple of weeks after that occurred, there was a misprint on some tickets that claimed the payout for the Powerball game was at $29 million, when in fact, it was only $15 million.
Then a lottery employee accidentally pushed a button while testing the computer system that actually sent the wrong numbers to television stations. The actual winning numbers were drawn live later in the day. The state once again had to pay out extra money, as they paid both sets of numbers that were released.
Obviously, something needs to be done to correct these ongoing errors and restore faith in the honesty and integrity of the lottery. And, we believe, there is a simple and inexpensive fix. All that needs to be done is scrap the computer-generated drawings and go back to pulling the numbered balls from the swirling globe. That way there won’t be any computer glitches and lottery players can actually see the numbers drawn.
Let’s hope if lottery officials can’t decide this for themselves that our state legislators will do it for them. There’s no need to spend countless hours and thousands of dollars studying what should be done. The problems didn’t exist before the change and will go away just by switching back to a proven and effective method of selecting winning numbers.

Published in The Messenger on 10.12.07

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