Tennessee editorial roundup
Posted January 11
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Commercial Appeal on the Memphis Zoo:
We'll just come out and say it: The bickering needs to stop in the Memphis Zoo-greensward parking dispute, and both sides need to act like the responsible adults they are and finally get this settled.
The two sides reached a compromise last summer during mediation arranged by Mayor Jim Strickland. The Memphis City Council in July modified the agreement and unanimously adopted a plan that directed the zoo, the Overton Park Conservancy and city engineers to come up with a zoo parking expansion plan that would end greensward parking by 2019 and save as many of the greensward's treasured magnolias as possible.
The plan's critics said the council didn't restrict how far the parking lot expansion could encroach onto the greensward.
The greensward is the grassy field in Overton Park near the zoo's main parking lot. Park advocates were extremely angry over the zoo using the area for extra parking space on peak attendance days.
After years of acrimony over the issue, a deal finally was reached to add at least 415 parking spaces for the zoo through revamping its main lot and Prentiss Place lot and constructing permanent spaces on a swath of the greensward just southeast of the main lot. Other measures include designating an additional 200 spaces along North Parkway, with a waiting area for buses, and steps to improve traffic flow.
So, what happens last week during the initial public meeting of the panel named to translate the parking plan adopted by the council? The two sides sparred over the dimensions of new parking spaces.
Come on, folks, this has got to stop. In a compromise, no one gets everything he or she wants. The plan formed during mediation, along with the council's tweaks, are a reasonable solution to a matter that holds importance for both the zoo, park advocates, and by extension, the city's residents.
The zoo and the park are significant city amenities, and it is important that they both continue to thrive.
Because of that fact, institutionally, we avoided taking sides in the issue — except for criticizing zoo President and Chief Executive Officer Chuck Brady for his initial intransigence in finding a solution.
We consistently urged all sides to reach a compromise that everyone could live with. That happened, so now they are bickering over the size of parking spaces.
We fully realize why the zoo is concerned about anything that threatens to chase away visitors, and that park advocates are serious about protecting public green space.
Forgive us for using a cliched phrase, though: While the parking dispute continues, this city is dealing with other issues that impact far more Memphians than the size of a parking space — violent crime, budget issues and poverty top the list.
Please stop the bickering, act like reasonable adults and make the compromise work.
The Knoxville News Sentinel on the Tennessee Valley Authority and Donald Trump:
President-elect Donald Trump could appoint more than half the seats on the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors during his first few months in office.
Though he has the opportunity to reshape the government-owned utility, Trump should heed the voices of those in government who know TVA best and opt for continuity over controversy.
TVA Chairman Joe Ritch and board members Peter Mahurin and Mike McWherter rotated off the board last week. Two other seats will open up this spring.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he expects to work with the incoming Trump administration to ensure continuity in funding and leadership.
Lynn Evans will act as temporary chairwoman of the board. She becomes the first African-American to serve as TVA chair in the agency's 84-year history.
Evans and the other five remaining directors will select a new chair within the next 30 days. Trump is to appoint three replacements for the departed board members and the U.S. Senate must confirm the nominations.
TVA is headed in the right direction, and Trump should appoint board members who will work to propel the utility into a future that will emphasize cleaner energy.
TVA CEO Bill Johnson has shown leadership on converting to cleaner energy while reducing the utility's onerous debt.
Under his direction, TVA has either shut down or announced plans to mothball nearly half its coal-fired units. Coal accounts for only about one-third of TVA's power generation, down from two-thirds in the 1980s. The utility is turning to natural gas, nuclear and renewable sources of energy instead. Johnson has said TVA's long-term goal is to get no more than 20 percent of its power from coal.
Trump has said he wants to resuscitate the coal industry, but market forces are working against a revival.
Alexander anticipates Trump will appoint board members who will keep TVA on a greener course.
"In my opinion, TVA is on a good track and, as a result, our region should for the next couple of decades have a steady supply of reasonably low cost and increasingly clean electricity," Alexander told the Times Free Press. "I would expect the President-elect's TVA appointees to continue these policies and to be men and women who understand the region, corporate governance and TVA customers."
The Obama administration floated the idea of selling off TVA to the private sector. In his public statements, Trump has expressed a fondness for privatization of many government activities.
TVA still plays an important economic development role for the region, however, so privatization should not be put on the table. With its relatively high debt and underfunded pensions, TVA likely would not be attractive to investors anyway.
Alexander, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and other members of the Tennessee congressional delegation must engage the Trump administration to make sure TVA remains strong as it moves through its ninth decade. Though born during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal, TVA continues to be a force for progress in the Tennessee Valley.
The Johnson City Press on animal abuse in Tennessee:
Thursday's front-page story about a Johnson City man being cited for aggravated animal abuse after an animal control officer discovered a sick 12-year-old dog wasting away in a filthy outbuilding is just another sad reminder that some people shouldn't have pets.
Officials say Tanny, a chow-shepherd mix, was too far gone to be saved by the time they found her and she had to be euthanized by veterinarians.
"Just feeding your dog doesn't make you a good owner," Washington County Animal Control Officer Wayne Thomas told Senior Press Reporter Becky Campbell. "When it comes time to put them down, you don't let them lay there and waste away."
Animal abuse continues to be a problem in Tennessee. Every week, this newspaper carries stories about local dogs and cats that have been harmed. Some of it is from neglect. Other times it is a result of deliberate abuse.
It's the latter that we find particularly disconcerting. Cruelty to animals is not only sick and inhumane, it's a felony if committed against a household pet.
Animal abuse is often part of a pattern of other violent acts within families and society. Experts say those who abuse animals are also likely to do the same to spouses, children and other family members.
Tennessee legislators passed a law in 2015 to post the names of convicted animal abusers on an online registry, similar to the state's existing registry of sexual offenders. One of the sponsors of the measure, state Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, said the registry will help make sure animals find good and loving homes.
The registry includes the names and addresses of those convicted of aggravated animal cruelty or felony animal fighting. First-time offenders spend two years on the registry. A second conviction lands an offender on the registry for five years.
Dogs and cats can't speak for themselves. That's why it is up to us to be their voices. If you suspect an animal is a victim of neglect or abuse, please report it to your nearest animal control or law enforcement agency.