Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


March 20

Cookeville Herald-Citizen on the sale of a Tennessee fairgrounds property:

When Putnam County officials first began talking seriously about selling the county fairgrounds property, we — like others in the community — had some concerns.

Not that we oppose the sale. On the contrary, we have believed for many years that the location of the fairgrounds in a heavily-traveled, mostly commercial corridor right in the middle of Cookeville was less than ideal, and we fully support the decision to relocate to a more rural setting.

But that didn’t mean we could support just anyone with deep pockets swooping in to purchase the property, regardless of what plan — or lack of plan — they had for its future development.

Offering the property for sale to the highest bidder could have potentially led to someone purchasing and holding the property as an investment, without any concrete idea of what could or should be put in that location.

We believe the private sale that commissioners approved this week allows the county to negotiate the highest possible sale price, while also working to ensure that the proposed usage is in line with what this community needs.

We are encouraged that our county attorney consulted with the state comptroller’s office to ensure that such a deal is not only viable, but legal and ethical.

Certainly it’s not hard to envision how ethics could be subverted in a situation like this. To recall the storied “smoke-filled rooms” of old where unsavory deals were struck to the benefit of “good old boys” and their family and friends.

We have no such worries with this sale.

We implicitly trust County Mayor Randy Porter, who will be the county’s chief negotiator and who has said the public is welcome to look at all of the offers that come to the table.

Even if we didn’t, Porter will not be the person making the final decision. That will be up to the 24 men and women who represent us as county commissioners, and if we’ve learned anything through the years, it’s that those commissioners are pretty good at asking questions.

The question this week was whether a private sale was best for the county, and the commissioners came up with the right answer.



March 8

The Crossville Chronicle on ending childhood poverty in Tennessee:

One in five children in Tennessee live in poverty. In Cumberland County, it’s one child in every four children.

For 2021, that means a family of four lives on less than $26,500 a year.

These statistics come from 2018, the most recent data available for the annual Kids Count report on child well-being.

About half of those children fall into what is called “extreme poverty,” with family incomes at 50% of that federal poverty line.

And almost half — 47% — of Tennessee children are considered economically disadvantaged, with family incomes under 200% of the federal poverty level.

One in five children also lived in “food insecure” household, and one in four of those households did not qualify for food assistance programs.

Tennessee’s economy was thriving in 2018. We were on the cusp of historically low unemployment. We saw improvements from years before, with fewer children living in poverty or with food insecurity.

Then, the global pandemic hit.

We don’t yet know the impact of the pandemic on poverty in our state, or how many people have left the workforce due to job loss or childcare issues, but we know many people have been impacted.

The state has a resource specifically for families who are struggling economically, a resource that has gone unused. In late 2019, we learned the state had amassed a $740 million surplus in federal funds in its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

This isn’t like the state’s rainy day fund, which is made up of revenue surpluses and budget savings. This is federal funding awarded to the state to help address issues of childhood poverty and help provide these families a hand up when they need it.

For more than a year, legislators have studied the issue and how to use these funds. With every day that passes, another family goes without the help that they need.

Gov. Bill Lee is set to release a plan in the coming weeks. Though few details are known, Lee has said he would propose a 25% increase in monthly TANF payments — currently about $245 — to eligible families.

The funds could also be used to provide grants to organizations working with families to help lift them out of poverty.

Gov. Bill Lee has proposed legislation that would create a two-year pilot program offered enhanced educational support services or enhanced cash assistance for families seeking a degree, certification or educational advancement. That program would be capped at the state’s annual federal grant amount, about $191 million. The legislation would also establish fines for individuals who obtain food assistance through fraud. If approved, it would not take effect until July 1.

An alternate plan would provide $300 million in community projects that fight poverty and would cap the state’s reserves at one year’s worth of funding — about $191 million. Allocations would not start until mid-2022.

Regardless of which plan the state chooses — of if lawmakers choose a combination of the two, time is of the essence. This money has accumulated for years without being used for its intended purpose — to help struggling families.

We need solutions to housing, childcare, food insecurity and education and job training to provide these families with not just the necessities of today, but hope for a better tomorrow.



March 3

The Johnson City Press on gun safety:

A loaded gun can present a dangerous temptation to a curious child.

However, there are a number of things adults can do to keep guns out of the hands of children. Parents should begin by talking to their children about not touching or playing with guns.

It’s important for children to know they should never handle a gun without proper adult supervision.

Gun owners always should keep their weapons locked in cabinets and/or use trigger locks. Many local law enforcement agencies have these trigger locks on hand, often free for the asking.

Parents should encourage their children to immediately inform adults if they see or hear of a gun, emphasizing the point that they would not be tattling, but preserving safety. Parents also should make sure parents in the homes their children visit are responsible with any guns they own.

Guns are not toys and shouldn’t be treated as such by either children or adults.

Statistics indicate 40% of households in the United States with children under 18 have at least one firearm in the house, with 25% of those guns being stored either loaded or unlocked.

Approximately 75% of all gun-related accidents and suicides involving children and teenagers are committed with a gun found at home or in the home of a relative or friend.

Simply put, guns don’t belong in the hands of children. That’s why so many school districts across the country have a zero tolerance policy for any student found toting a gun — loaded or not — on school grounds.

Responsible gun ownership begins in the home with parents who take the necessary precautions to see to it that their child does not become a tragic statistic.