Tennessee editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Crossville Chronicle on commemorating the U.S. Constitution this week:
“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
With those words, the Founding Fathers opened the document that has guided our nation since 1787. The delegates attending the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia completed their work Sept. 17, 1787, and sent the new Constitution to the states for ratification.
Everything from the role of a central government to how to count population was hammered out in great detail and 4,000 words.
It wasn’t an easy process, but additional compromises — including the promise of 10 amendments to this document, the Bill of Rights — eventually led to nine of the 13 states ratifying the Constitution and establishing a new government.
The Constitution ensured the new government would provide representation to the people. The authors designed three branches of government that would check and balance each other.
The Constitution wasn’t a perfect document. It didn’t recognize the rights of people of color or women to hold property or vote. It counted enslaved people as three-fifths of a person. Framers made compromises in an effort to form a union.
But the authors ensured the Constitution would be a living document. The amendment process, though arduous, has allowed our nation to address some of those early imperfections. The 13th Amendment ended slavery. The 15th Amendment gave citizens the right to vote regardless of their race. The 19th Amendment ensured women could vote in this country. The 24th Amendment removed poll taxes used to stifle the right of citizens to vote for their representatives.
Today, we celebrate our Constitution.
There will be no parades. No one is getting the day off work. Your wall calendar may not even recognize this occasion.
But it’s the Constitution our elected officials swear to uphold and defend. It’s the foundation for everything we enjoy. When government goes beyond their limits, its our Constitution that provides a recourse.
And at the heart of it all is “We, the people.”
We are responsible for the people who serve our government. We must take that responsibility seriously, today and every day.
Start now and study the issues facing our nation — there are many. Then register to vote and show up on election day. Do your part to make this a more perfect union.
Johnson City Press on discussions about promoting tourism in the Appalachian Highlands region:
“You can’t go out and purchase a river.”
Those words from Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mains make a fine mantra for the newly dubbed “Appalachian Highlands” region — still known to most as the greater Tri-Cities.
We have what many communities in this country simply never will — a diverse landscape offering a quality of life like no other.
Our natural resources have not exactly gone untapped over the years, but in a bit of an “aha” moment, local leaders finally have seen what a treasure our mountains, lakes and streams are for economic development — both for tourism and in marketing the region to potential employers.
Mains’ comment came Sept. 12 as the Elizabethton City Council created the “Surf Betsy Advisory Board,” a panel charged with exploring how to make the city a destination for whitewater recreation. Because the Doe and Watauga rivers flow right through the city, the assets already are in place.
Elizabethton’s move came the same day as Erwin and Unicoi leaders saw preliminary plans for linking the neighboring towns via trails. A pedestrian and bike trail would join the Pinnacle Fire Tower Trail in Unicoi with the Erwin Linear Trail. The towns hope to secure grants to complete the project in phases.
“It’s a really big deal to have a trail connecting two communities,” Knoxville-based designer Chris Kirby told town leaders. “You can think of this eventually going on to Johnson City and the economic potential.”
It’s safe to say the regional outdoors push has traction. For three of our communities to see advances on the same day is a sign that serious focus is afoot throughout the region.
This comes on the heels of talk of adding bike trails to Johnson City’s Buffalo Mountain Park at the same time the U.S. Forest Service considers converting about 5 miles of logging trails near the park into multi-use trails for mountain biking and hiking.
It all follows such developments as Johnson City’s Tannery Knobs Mountain Bike Park, which opened earlier this summer, and the city’s nearby rails-to-trails pedestrian and bike path, the Tweetsie Trail. The latter already links Johnson City and Elizabethton on the 10-swath of what was the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad.
What we have is the beginnings of a recreational corridor through these ridges, foothills and valleys. That would truly make this place a destination.
While the momentum is encouraging, we take note of a wise bit of caution from Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley. She urged the leaders to seek those grant funds and not let the towns’ connector trail designs die on the vine.
The energy around this regionalized recreational focus is palpable. Let’s keep fueling it.
The Cookeville Herald-Citizen on the results of a Tennessee city’s bicycle and pedestrian plan:
Connectivity, safety and accessibility for all ages are the top three requests to update Cookeville’s bicycle and pedestrian plan, according to the results of a public survey.
It’s no secret that our city is growing, and combined with the influx of about 10,000 Tennessee Tech students over the past week, getting from where we are to where we want to go isn’t going to get easier if our bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure remains the same.
Cookeville officials wrote the city’s first bike and pedestrian plan more than 15 years ago.
It contained approximately 195 miles of pedestrian and bicycle pathways divided into three components: a 34-mile outer ring along the perimeter of the city, a 4.3-mile inner ring to connect Tennessee Tech with the hospital and the downtown area of Cookeville, and 157 miles of “spoke routes” to connect the inner and outer rings.
Cookeville Planning Director Jon Ward said that the city has made tremendous progress in implementing that plan.
“In 2002, when the new codes were adopted, it required sidewalk construction for anything multi-family or commercial that was built,” Ward said. “That’s a big way to accomplish it.”
More sidewalk projects are planned in the coming months and years, likely beginning with East Spring Street from Old Kentucky Road to the split at Broad Street.
“We’re working to connect people with the places they want to go,” Ward said. “The plan is to take into consideration, people of all ages and abilities, not just experienced cyclists.”
Based on statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, infrastructure for our citizens who don’t have access to vehicles is badly needed.
More than 900 households in Cookeville don’t have access to a vehicle, and in Putnam County, nearly double — 1,671 — don’t either.
That’s nearly 1,700 households in our area who rely on their feet to get access to food, work and medical care.
When Cookeville planners begin soliciting additional public comments online next week about the needs for sidewalks and bike paths, we hope you’ll add your voice about what else needs to be done.