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Tennessee editorial roundup

May 8, 2019

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

May 8

USA Today Network-Tennessee on House Speaker Glen Casada:

We expect more of our leaders. That is why they are leaders.

But there is a problem on Capitol Hill.

It is a problem where a few Tennessee lawmakers and staffers feel empowered to act in boorish, bad and bigoted ways.

The resignation of Speaker of the House Glen Casada’s Chief of Staff Cade Cothren on Monday — after it was revealed that he had in the past sent racist, misogynistic and homophobic texts, sometimes to the speaker himself — shows that debauchery reigns in the Capitol.

After the resignation, Casada said Cothren, who once described in a text their relationship as akin to father and son, had become a distraction.

It is Casada’s job to establish a respectful tone in the House for all members, staffers and guests.

Moreover, it is his job to ensure the Capitol is safe.

There is a hint of deja vu.

Casada’s former mentee, ex-Rep. Jeremy Durham, was expelled from the House in 2016 after a state attorney general’s report described roughly two dozen incidents of sexual harassment.

This followed a Tennessean investigation that relied on text messages from three women whom Durham harassed.

Until the AG report, the accusations against Durham were thought to be fictitious by his defenders — including Casada and other legislators.

When NewsChannel 5 broke the story of the text messages and the alleged framing of activist Justin Jones — whom Casada banned from the Capitol for allegedly throwing a cup into an elevator — that too was initially decried as being false.

Sadly, none of this is fake.

As the elder and more experienced man, citizens should ask, how could Casada not know?

What kind of example is he setting?

Did he actively approve or simply laugh it off?

Earlier this year, The Tennessean reported that legislators took very little interest in their sexual harassment training.

Citizens who protested against Rep. David Byrd — accused of sexually molesting three girls when he was a basketball coach three decades ago — were dismissed, discredited and disrespected by Casada.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally had to send out a tweet to urge the House to approve a change in the law to remove statutes of limitations from sex crimes committed against children.

And it’s not just a Republican issue. Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, is accused of sexual harassment and Democratic leaders yawned.

Meanwhile, the speaker has not denounced texts by Cothren. Instead, he labels it “locker room talk,” as he did in a radio interview on Tuesday.

In what locker rooms are such things spoken?

As a first measure, Casada must ensure that no one else on the legislative payroll is breaking the law on the job. Cothren admitted to doing cocaine in recent years in his office building.

That could include requiring an immediate drug test for all employees like he and other lawmakers require of welfare recipients.

He must engage African American citizens to assure them that he is true to the resolution the House passed in January denouncing racism and honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

However, this is unlikely to happen.

That is because Casada, who describes himself as a “proud Christian family man,” is smug.

He absolved Cothren because the 31-year-old found religion.

But just like with Durham, when his young protege Cothren became inconvenient, the speaker released him without a safety net.

That is not leadership — that is cynical gamesmanship.

A call for Casada’s resignation would likely fall on deaf ears, but, make no mistake, he no longer deserves the job.

We call on all legislative leaders to stand up for what’s right and move in a better direction.

The Tennessee House of Representative would be better served by another person as Speaker of the House.


May 8

Johnson City Press on tourism in the Tri-Cities:

The folks at the state’s Department of Tourism think it’s a great idea to invite people from across the country to spend vacation time in the Volunteer State. Specifically, they hope visitors will head to a number of local music festivals around the state this spring and summer.

Well, that’s almost around the state.

An email promotion directing potential visitors to the department’s website — www.tnvacation.com — suggests such major festivals as Beale Street in Memphis, Rhythm and Blooms in Knoxville, Riverbend in Chattanooga and Bonnaroo in Manchester. The site also promotes some lesser-known festivals as Muddy Roots in Cookeville, Cooper-Young in Memphis and Pilgrimage in Franklin.

Locally, Bristol’s big Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival is on the list.

So the map doesn’t exactly end at Knoxville, but it sure ignores everything else in the Tri-Cities.

Here in Johnson City, Blue Plum and Umoja have brought thousands to our streets for music, arts and culture for decades. When Little Chicago joined the mix in 2016 sandwiched between the older two festivals, it meant a full season of musical fun. Kingsport’s annual FunFest is no small fish, either. Last year, it brought legendary rocker Pat Benatar and her husband, Neil Girardo, to the J. Fred Johnson Stadium stage along with current folk rock stars The Avett Brothers. You can find Fun Fest deep in the state’s site by navigating through an events calendar. You won’t find Johnson City’s music festivals at all.

And while it’s not musical in nature, Jonesborough’s annual Storytelling Festival, an event drawing visitors from around the country and the world, isn’t on the events list, either.

To make matters worse, the state seems to think Bristol is the only city in Northeast Tennessee. The tourism site’s navigation includes a listing of cities divided by regions — West, Middle, East and the Smokies. Bristol is highlighted in the East with Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Last time we checked, Bristol was by far the smallest of the three larger cities in Northeast Tennessee at around 27,000 people. Kingsport has twice that at nearly 54,000, and Johnson City lands in first place with about 67,000.

Sure, Bristol has the speedway, a landmark tourist attraction, but there’s a lot more happening up this way than the bi-annual NASCAR races.

To the site’s credit, if you look hard enough, you can find more of Northeast Tennessee deep in the indexes. The Gray Fossil Site and Rocky Fork State Park, for example, are listed among destinations for spring trips. You’ll also find other stops in our area along the Sunnyside Trail section of the site, but even that lists Bristol as the “general area.”

Residents in this part of the state have long held belief that the state capital treats us with little respect. Navigating the tourism site would confirm that in many a mind.

As Northeast Tennessee comes together in its regionalism approach to economic development, quality of life has been considered a major draw for business to locate here. Along with our mountains, ridges, trails, streams and lakes, we bring a lot of culture to the table, including our music and arts festivals.

One aspect of the regionalism effort has been to identify a name for the area more recognizable and meaningful than “The Tri-Cities.” The state seems to think that name is Bristol. It’s not.

It’s time for an overhaul — not just of the tourism site but of the state’s overall attitude toward the Tri-Cities.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com


May 4

Cleveland Daily Banner on preparing for ‘dark manufacturing:’

In the long history of wake-up calls, Doug Berry — vice president of economic development for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce — recently delivered one of the most stunning.

Whether it can be likened to the legendary horseback ride of Paul Revere — the American Revolutionary War patriot who mounted his steed at midnight on April 7, 1775, to warn the Massachusetts Provincial Congress of the oncoming British military — is arguable.

But Berry did bring this alarming message to members of the Cleveland/Bradley Industrial Development Board: The face of blue-collar employment is changing, and the shadows of its soldiers can be seen on the distant horizon.

It is called “dark manufacturing” plants. Admittedly an ominous term that fosters an uncomfortable alarm among current, and future, Cleveland and Bradley County workers, it nonetheless does come with cause. And ironically, it is a disclosure we have heard before.

Such signals have been rumored for years. The problem is too many communities weren’t listening; or, they didn’t want to face the inevitable. Now, with a respected voice like Berry’s trumpeting the warning, government leaders and private citizens are — hopefully — paying attention. For any who aren’t, they’d better — to borrow from a familiar adage — wake up and smell the coffee.

Here’s why.

“Dark manufacturing” is not a label intended to trigger fear; however, it is a reminder that the landscape of modern factories is changing. As technology spreads its outreach, more automation is being brought to the production floor, meaning robotics will take more jobs formerly assigned to people.

Subsequently, fewer jobs will be available for unskilled American workers. This includes Cleveland and Bradley County laborers.

It’s a sobering look into the future — one now measured in years, not decades — and it serves as this reminder: We know it’s coming, so those who survive will be those who prepare; hence, the importance of initiatives like the mechatronics program offered at Cleveland State Community College and the coming PIE Center (Partnerships in Industry and Education Innovation Center) being developed by Bradley County Schools and a bevy of employer partners.

To be housed in the former American Uniform industrial site, the PIE Center will train high school students for relevant careers in areas manufacturers know there will be a need. Deep into technology, automation and computer science, among others, the PIE facility will train young minds for the jobs of the future.

It is not a pipe dream. Visionary education like the PIE Center has captured the attention of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, whose coming budget has earmarked $1 million for the facility’s timely development.

Of Berry’s prophetic address to the local IDB, some naysayers might ask, “Where’s this guy getting his information?” Frankly, straight from the source.

In a recent gathering with 51 top site consultants whose job it is to scout new factory locations for established corporations, Berry was told automation — robots — will begin taking plant floor jobs within 10 years. But, on the brighter side, human workers will still be needed to operate the technology that runs the robots; hence, the need for contemporary training programs like CSCC’s mechatronics and the PIE Center.

Obviously, those who master the training will be the first in line for jobs on tomorrow’s production floors.

Consider these comments by Berry:

. “They (site consultants) said, ’Oh, by the way, don’t be surprised if there are dark manufacturing plants in 10 years.”

. “The adoption of artificial intelligence and smart systems will automate work. The people who can operate that equipment will be the most important.”

. “It’s a changing world. Low-skilled, assembly line-type jobs will be taken over by machines.”

Berry’s candid remarks should not be dismissed. If anything, they should be digested by the blue-collar workers of today, next year and beyond; and they should be remembered in deliberations by government, education and corporate leaders everywhere.

Seemingly, technology is here to stay. Its reach will get wider, broader and deeper. We in the newspaper profession have already felt its pinch in recent years, so we understand the impact, both direct and indirect. The same is true in other careers where a keypad, a screen and the click of a button have altered the ways of our past.

In spite of its collateral damage, technology should not be dreaded. But those in its path should prepare for change.

That’s the message Berry was sounding. It is one of which we should all take heed.

Online: www.clevelandbanner.com

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