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Tennessee editorial roundup

October 24, 2018

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Oct. 23

The Tennessean of Nashville on candidates for governor and U.S. senator:

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The Tennessean Editorial Board wants to help readers understand how the candidates reflect the positions we have taken over the years as a means of transparency and to honor our commitment to civil discourse...

Our board members met for an hour with each candidate — Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen in the Senate race, and Democrat Karl Dean and Republican Bill Lee in the governor’s race — between Sept. 17 and Oct. 8.

Marsha Blackburn has spent the last 16 years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

She was previously a state senator and chair of the Williamson County Republican Party.

She is an outspoken opponent of a state income tax. She helped defeat an effort to impose an income tax under Republican Gov. Don Sundquist in the early 2000s, and she supported a constitutional amendment to ban any state income tax in the future.

Blackburn is an outspoken supporter of President Donald J. Trump. ...

During the two Senate debates she was disrespectful and dismissive of her opponent and used straw-man arguments like invoking unsuccessful 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as a means to discredit Bredesen.

She also insinuated that Bredesen was complicit in the sexual harassment of a state employee — an unfounded and ugly claim after the equally ugly spectacle of the Senate hearings on new U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The next senator should be above inflaming and polarizing the community.

If she is victorious, Blackburn must rise above her divisive rhetoric.

Editor’s note: The events surrounding sexual harassment claims during Bredesen’s term as governor were investigated by The Tennessean, which found the administration’s approach was inconsistent and detailed incidents of shredding documents. The sentence in the editorial is intended to convey that the attempt to paint Bredesen as an enabler of such behavior is “ugly.”

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has made it a point to distance himself from Democrats even though he is their standard bearer in the U.S. Senate race.

That is because Bredesen — a former Nashville mayor who brought the Predators and Titans to Music City — is running as a Democrat in an overwhelmingly red state that voted for Trump 2-to-1 over Clinton.

He is making a yeoman’s effort to prove he is independent, by reminding voters he often clashed with his party during his two terms as governor (2003-2011)...

This strategy has pros and cons.

On the one hand, it shows he is not a partisan and is willing to make decisions based on reason.

On the other hand, it could leave him iced out in a hyper-partisan political environment if the Democrats do win the Senate.

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Bredesen is a pragmatic problem solver, who reduced the state budget, helped put in place the framework for an economic boom and education reform, and wants to minimize partisan bickering.

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Where he is differentiating himself most from Blackburn is that she is a Washington insider and she backed the quintessential outsider, Trump, which is a benefit to the president’s hardcore base.

If elected, Bredesen must work to build consensus and help citizens regain trust in government.

Both Karl Dean and Bill Lee are nice guys who avoid shocking pronouncements or uncivil behavior, while touting their abilities to find consensus and lead others.

Beyond their similarities in style, however, there are stark differences in experience, vision and policy positions.

This is especially true when it comes to education and health care, which make up 69 percent of the state budget.

On education, Dean supports an approach to review and update the amount of money the state gives to local K-12 schools through the Basic Education Program.

Lee says he would like to emulate local solutions like the success Innovation Zone schools in Memphis have seen.

Dean opposes vouchers, where public money supports tuition for private or religious schools.

Lee supports them.

Dean is opposed to arming teachers to keeping schools safe from danger.

Lee supports arming teachers who are willing to provide security.

Both men are supportive of continuing Gov. Bill Haslam’s higher education policies including Tennessee Promise, which provides free community college to high school students, and Tennessee Reconnect, which allows adults to seek a technical or community college degree for free.

They both see the need for a better trained workforce across the state of Tennessee to continue the state’s economic momentum.

On health care, they agree that affordability and access are critical, but they severely differ on their approaches.

Dean supports expanding Medicaid — allowed under the Affordable Care Act — to provide affordable health insurance to about 400,000 working poor Tennesseans.

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Lee sees the expansion idea as an old and unsustainable approach with too much uncertainty about future funding.

He is calling for a system that looks 20 years ahead and utilizes advances in technology and care to fill the gap.

However, he has not released any specifics about that approach.

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Online: https://www.tennessean.com/

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Oct. 22

Kingsport Times-News on corporal punishment in schools:

Slowly but surely, school systems in the U.S. are outlawing government-sanctioned assaults on children. Hawkins County is the latest system in the region to not just spare, but throw away the rod, joining Rogersville, Kingsport, Sullivan County and Johnson City schools, among others, which have banned corporal punishment in public schools.

But there remain too many Tennessee school districts, including Washington, Hancock and Greene counties, which continue to allow teachers and administrators to physically punish children, which is why the state legislature should enact a statewide ban.

Time was when it was a routine matter for children to be spanked in school, but society has evolved as studies have shown that corporal punishment is ineffective and harmful to students. Psychology Today sees it as a “major public health problem. Children who are hit identify with the aggressor and are more likely to become hitters themselves, i.e. bullies and future abusers of their children and spouses. They tend to learn to use violent behavior as a way to deal with disputes.”

The organization notes that “spanking is a euphemism for hitting. One is not permitted to hit one’s spouse or a stranger; these actions are considered assault and battery. Why in the world should one be permitted to hit a smaller and even more vulnerable child? If hitting a child is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.”

The U.S. is one of only three industrialized countries that still allow corporal punishment in schools, the others being Australia and South Korea. It is banned in all of Europe. But according to the U.S. Department of Education, it remains legal in public schools in 19 states and in private schools in 48 states. More than 160,000 children from preschool through 12th grade were subjected to corporal punishment in public schools in just the 2013-2014 school year.

What’s the alternative? According to the University of Texas, “Many schools have successfully implemented programs known as school-wide positive behavior supports, which have been shown to decrease misbehavior by actively teaching behavioral expectations, rewarding appropriate behavior and implementing non-punitive consequences. But despite these better methods, corporal punishment persists.”

It is opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Bar Association, American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals and National Association of State Departments of Education, among other institutions and organizations. As of 2016, 31 states have banned the practice.

It’s time to make it 50 states, and Tennessee should be state No. 32.

Online: http://www.timesnews.net/

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Oct. 24

Johnson City Press on a new rural hospital:

In an age when many rural hospitals are closing their doors, the fact that Ballad Health lived up to its promise to replace Unicoi County Memorial Hospital with a new facility speaks volumes.

Ballad opened the 40,000-square-foot facility on Tuesday, making good on the five-year pledge made when Mountain States Health Alliance purchased the old hospital in Erwin in 2013. Before merging with Wellmont Health System to form Ballad this year, Mountain States bought property for the $20 million facility off Interstate 26 at Exit 40 in 2015.

Costs have forced dozens of rural hospitals to shut down across the nation in recent years. Tennessee has been disproportionately affected with eight shuttering since 2010 — second only to Texas.

In such a climate, Unicoi County officials had tried to maintain the hospital’s solvency as an independent entity but in 2012 put UCMH on the market for a potential partner — much for the same reasons MSHA and Wellmont joined forces.

As the two health systems prepared to combine, the earlier commitment to Unicoi County was a signature element in Ballad’s application to the state of Tennessee for a Certificate of Public Advantage allowing the merger.

A visioning committee made up of community leaders and hospital administrators was involved in its planning and created of a list of guiding principles for the new hospital’s development that include patient- and family-centered care, easy access and navigability, support for advanced technology and higher education and attractiveness to medical professionals.

And 15 months after MSHA broke ground, the resulting facility is accepting patients. The new hospital includes a 24-hour emergency department with a telemedicine connection to Niswonger Children’s Hospital, 10 inpatient beds, pulmonary, cardiac and acute care services, a chest pain center, standard and advanced diagnostics including nuclear medicine, and outpatient services.

Not only does Unicoi County still have its own hospital, it has a much better, modern facility in the bargain. Residents owe both local officials and Ballad words of thanks.

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

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