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Editorial Roundup: Tennessee

December 18, 2019 GMT

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Dec. 15

The Johnson City Press on a child asking Santa for friends:

Santa stopped by our offices last week with some of the many letters he received from the recent Johnson City Christmas Parade. Most letter writers asked him to deliver what you might expect — hoverboards, action figures, bicycles, toy dump trucks and such.

Bradyn, for example, wanted a train that blows smoke. By his own account, he’s been a good boy this year. A handful of letters, though, reminded us of just how difficult life can be for all too many children — children searching for someone, not something, of meaning in their lives.

Two children asked for their dads to come home. Another wrote, “All I want for Christmas is a great father,” before scratching through the word “great.” Still another wrote, “I would like one thing for Christmas. That is for my mom and dad to get along.”

One letter in particular struck an immediate, heart-tugging chord throughout our offices:

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is friends so I won’t be a loner no more.

“Virginia”

We’ve opted not to include the writer’s real name here, as its uncommon nature would make it too easy to identify her. Drawing attention to her feelings of isolation could make things worse, especially if her loneliness results from being bullied.

For these purposes, we will call her “Virginia” in homage to 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, whose legendary 1897 letter to the editor of New York’s Sun about the existence of Santa Claus inspired a poignant response from veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church. The words “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” are ingrained in American culture.

Dear Virginia,

We understand how hard it must be at times to feel like a loner. All of us do at times. Childhood is hard for girls — and boys too — who do not fit in with the popular kids, but believe us when we say, it will get better.

You may not know them now, but your life will be filled with friends. As you grow up, you will meet people who understand and appreciate you for who you are.

They might like to play the same games you do. They might like the same movies, TV shows and songs. Most importantly, they will like you.

You will have fun times and sad times together. You will share laughs and tears. You will count on them when times are tough, and they will expect the same in return. Together you will build lasting memories.

Friends will come and go. You will feel really close to some friends at times in your life. You won’t be able to imagine life without them. As time goes by, though, you may drift apart. New friends will show up, and they will introduce you to even more friends.

A precious few will be your lifelong friends. They will be there for all the important moments in your life — through thick and through thin.

So for now, be patient. Ignore the bullies as best you can. Talk with a teacher, a school counselor or your parents about feeling like a loner. There might be another little girl out there feeling exactly the same way. She might be the friend you need.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Your friends at the Johnson City Press

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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Dec. 11

The Johnson City Press on stormwater fees increasing:

Last year, it was raising Johnson City’s garbage fee. This year, Public Works Director Phil Pindzola is back before the City Commission asking for another increase, this time on the stormwater fee.

Johnson City initiated the stormwater fee instead of a tax increase in 2007 to fund stormwater projects.

Nobody likes paying extra fees, but few would argue with the results in this case. A city once plagued by frequent flash flooding because of inadequate stormwater capacity has been transformed. Downtown’s revitalization has in no small part resulted from projects funded by the fee.

As Staff Writer David Floyd reported, Pindzola wants commissioners to add $1 to the existing monthly fee, which varies depending on the size of a home or property. The “average” home — about 3,315 square feet — is assessed at $3.

Why does the city need more cash in the stormwater fund? City Manager Pete Peterson told commissioners a $1 increase would support about $10 million worth of debt service over 20 years. That would fund drainage improvement along West Walnut Street with estimated costs at $3 million to $6 million, as well as about $2 million to prevent Cobb Creek from flooding Oakland Avenue and about $1 million to handle flooding along Knob Creek Road.

All of the above are sorely needed. In particular, Cobb Creek flooding has plagued residents in northeast Johnson City for decades. Better drainage in the West Walnut area would mitigate flash floods on neighboring State of Franklin Road, the city’s busiest artery. And as the city sets out to improve the West Walnut corridor, the project would make development easier.

In general, we are not a fan of fees. They amount to what one might call fine-print taxes disproportionately applied to a citizen’s ability to pay. Both the garbage and stormwater fees are tacked onto your monthly water bill rather than being based on the value of your property or what you spend or consume. Such fees are much easier than taxes to get past popularity-minded politicians.

In this case, though, Johnson City has proven the value of the stormwater program. Given the unlikely prospect of a property tax hike, the $1 increase is a reasonable request. But as fees mount on water bills, the city should review its tax structure to adequately fund infrastructure down the road without fine print.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/