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.
The Jackson Sun, May 9
Gov. Phil Bredesen is staying true to his pledge to run the state with the money he is given. His move to cut $468 million from state expenditures, rather than ask for a tax increase, makes sense, especially given the precarious nature of the economy.
Bredesen will cut more than 2,000 state jobs. But he will do it mostly with buyouts to lessen the negative financial impact on those affected. He has cut $55 million from higher education. He also will scale back plans to expand eligibility for TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor and the uninsurable.
Critics of the cutbacks say the governor should tap into the state’s $750 million “rainy day” fund. That sounds attractive. But Bredesen is looking at more than just next year’s budget. He is preparing the state for what he called “lean times ahead” and the prospect that the economy might continue to falter. Making the cuts now and preserving the “rainy day” fund is prudent.
A new economic report from the University of Tennessee points to an economy lingering on the edge of recession into 2009. High energy and gasoline prices, a depressed housing market and pressure from the sub-prime mortgage debacle will keep financial pressure on Tennesseans. Clearly, this is not a time to raise taxes. Bredesen is right to cut the state budget to match projected income. It is what the rest of Tennesseans are having to do.
Bredesen has established himself as a good steward of the taxpayers’ money. He has run the state budget as a good business owner would. He does well and funds new projects when the money is there. But he does even better when the state faces a shortfall. He makes the cuts, spreads the burden and does it with concern for everyone affected. You can’t ask for much more than that.
The (Maryville) Daily Times, May 13
At long last we may be nearing some positive action on achieving cleaner energy and beginning a reduction in our dependence on foreign oil.
Sen. Lamar Alexander has proposed a massive national commitment to clean energy and reducing dependence on foreign oil.
He referred to his proposal as a launch of a new Manhattan Project for clean energy. He was comparing the sense of urgency with that which developed the first atomic bomb as achieved by the Manhattan Project.
The importance of this effort leans heavily on Sen. Alexander’s efforts to gain bipartisan support to solving some of the nation’s issues. He is the newly named chairman of the Senate Republican Conference where he will be in a better position to step across the aisle and help gain a consensus for efforts.
Sen. Alexander has proposed focusing on the following:
• Supporting plug-in electric vehicle development, including “smart metering” by utilities that would allow cheaper rates for overnight battery charging.
• Making solar power cost competitive with fossil fuels, with the promise of solar thermal power plants.
• Making biofuels cost competitive with gasoline, particularly ethanol from cellulosic materials.
• Making more new buildings energy efficient.
• Developing systems to capture and store carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
• Developing ways to safely reprocess and store nuclear waste — the “most important breakthrough” needed to support more nuclear plants.
• Continuing research on nuclear fusion.
With patience, effort and cooperation this and other major national problems can and will be solved.
The (Sevierville) Mountain Press, May 9
When state law banned smoking in state office buildings, its meaning was unmistakable. The law didn’t say, “Aww, we didn’t mean legislators or their staff.” It didn’t read, “This doesn’t apply to anybody who works for the state and already smokes.” It didn’t say, “Any state worker with a real bad smoking habit can go right ahead and light up in the state offices.”
State Rep. Joe McCord of Maryville, whose district includes Gatlinburg, just couldn’t bring himself to do what virtually everybody else in the building had done: stopped smoking inside because the law said so. He allowed employees and others to use one of the offices in his suite as a smoking room. It apparently had gone on for months, maybe years. When the activity was exposed by a Nashville TV station, McCord magnanimously said he’d stop allowing it. In other words, he agreed that maybe he should follow the law like everybody else.
Let’s keep this in perspective. We don’t have an updated Tennessee Waltz sting here. Allowing smoking where smoking isn’t permitted is not on the level with accepting bribes to support bills. The troubling part of this is that Rep. McCord purposefully ignored a state law, and he did it while the legislator who shares the suite was away fighting cancer.
There is a reason we ban smoking in public places — it’s dangerous, it’s unhealthy and it’s annoying to the nonsmokers, who far outnumber the smokers. By allowing people to smoke in the office, McCord missed a chance to encourage the cigarette users to quit because it had become so inconvenient to go outside to light up.
If McCord doesn’t like the nonsmoking ban in state office buildings, he is in a position to try to change it or get rid of it. In the meantime he would be wise to obey it and every other law on the books in Tennessee. The people who write the laws are expected to follow them, too.
Bristol Herald Courier, May 11
A federal judge ordered Paul Gregory House freed from Tennessee’s death row last week.
With the most damning evidence against him refuted by modern science, there is little justification for a retrial. Yet, prosecutor William Paul Phillips won’t let go; he’s bound and determined to take the case before another jury.
To what end? House has already served 22 years in prison for the 1985 killing of his neighbor, Carolyn Muncey, in rural Union County near Knoxville — a crime that he might not have committed. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court expressed grave doubts about House’s guilt two years ago but stopped just short of ruling he was actually innocent.
Union County prosecutors and the state Attorney General’s office have spent the last two years trying every legal trick in the book to make the tainted conviction stick. The courts finally said enough and ordered House released pending a retrial, which must take place within 180 days.
The House case reads like a capital punishment cautionary tale. Courts have pointed to a number of significant errors. Inadequate science, shoddy evidence handling and prosecutorial misconduct all played a role in his conviction.
Time hasn’t been kind to House, now 46. He is confined to a wheelchair — his body ravaged by advanced multiple sclerosis. Published reports indicate he needs assistance with daily activities, like bathing and shaving, and has trouble speaking. If he posed a threat to society in the past, his physical condition has removed much of that threat.
A retrial serves no purpose except, perhaps, to vindicate a prosecutor unwilling to admit a 22-year-old mistake. Let House go free and die at home.
Published in The Messenger 5.16.08