This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s “having a little fun” at the Republican National Convention this week between finding ways to brag about Tennessee in his various party duties and cheering on the GOP. But he’s also finding himself in a handful of videos and interviews, including one with a Cleveland TV station curious what he thinks of his brother, Jimmy, buying the Browns football team.
TAMPA, FLA. — Tampa, Fla. – Republicans reached out to supporters of President Barack Obama with a message that played to disappointment with the president and presented their party as open to diversity. GOP nominee Mitt Romney presented himself as an economic fixer in the culminating speech of the Republican National Convention. His address came after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio recounted his family’s immigration from Cuba, framing it as a universal story about Americans’ search for freedom.
TAMPA, FLA. — Mitt Romney launched his fall campaign for the White House in a rousing Republican National Convention finale Thursday night, proclaiming America needs “jobs, lots of jobs” and promising to create 12 million of them in perilous economic times. “Now is the time to restore the promise of America,” Romney said in prime-time speech to a nation struggling with 8.3 percent unemployment and the slowest economic recovery in decades. Often viewed as a distant politician, Romney made a press-the-flesh entrance into the hall, walking slowly down one of the convention hall aisles and shaking hands with dozens of delegates.
TAMPA, Fla. — Tennessee Republicans leave their party’s national political convention feeling the presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney remains close but that momentum is on their side. “I don’t want to count the chickens before they hatch,” said Jennifer Little, a delegate from Bean Station, “but I just feel that Gov. Romney is going to run away with this.” While most polls show the contest dead even as it enters the final stretch, delegate Randy Boyd of Knoxville said the Romney team has effectively used a campaign strategy that calls to mind the rope-a-dope boxing tactic often associated with Muhammad Ali.
The eyes of Republicans turned toward Tampa, Fla., this week, with the Republican National Convention taking place, and Jackson residents were in attendance. Madison County attorney Steve Maroney is an alternate delegate for Mitt Romney. “It’s a great honor for me to come down here and support his campaign,” Maroney said by phone from Tampa on Thursday. This is Maroney’s third time attending the Republican National Convention, after going to the 2004 and 2008 conventions.
One of Tennessee’s top Republican officials is flying home from Tampa with a changed mind. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey had been a vocal supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry for President and was slow to shift his support to Romney. After studying the record of the former Massachusetts governor, Ramsey says he’s now a fan. In an open letter, Ramsey calls the Republican nominee “a turnaround artist.” He writes that Mitt Romney’s business skills will be needed to lead the country out of what he calls “the Obama recession.”
The committee created by Gov. Bill Haslam to brainstorm ideas for increasing tourism in Tennessee will present a report of its recommendations by the end of the year, the committee’s chairman said Thursday. The report will seek to coordinate the efforts of various tourism marketing groups across the state and to develop a funding mechanism that will provide more money to support their work, said Gaylord Entertainment CEO Colin Reed, whom Haslam tapped last year to chair the Tennessee Tourism Committee.
NASHVILLE — Sen. Andy Berke is calling on lawmakers to conduct a “thorough review” of a for-profit virtual school operating in a Northeast Tennessee school district, citing state student testing results he charges show “dismal” results. Berke, D-Chattanooga, is a frequent critic of K12 Inc.’s Tennessee Virtual Academy, which in the 2011-12 school year opened its online school under contract with the Union County Public Schools system. According to best estimates from K12, about 1,800 K-8 students from across the state signed up last school year to sit at their home computers and take courses online with support from K12 teachers.
Sue Culpepper has replaced Lauren Templeton as director of UTC’s Galtere Institute: Finance for the Future Initiative, according to university officials. Templeton left UTC in December “to more fully devote herself to her hedge fund,” Cindy Carroll, assistant director of the Office of University Relations, wrote in an email.
The Tennessee Valley Authority’s fuel cost adjustment is going up by almost 6 percent in September, but that doesn’t mean customers will be paying more for power. The fuel cost adjustment is kind of like a pressure valve that makes sure the utility has enough money for fuel as prices fluctuate. Increased demand for electricity during the summer means TVA had to spend more on natural gas, coal and uranium. TVA Chief Financial Officer John Thomas says even with the increase, the utility’s rates are seven percent less than September of 2011.
Metro Councilwoman Megan Barry is calling for an audit of the processes used in the Aug. 2 primary before the city doles out $400,000 for the electronic poll books, the subject of recent criticism. Democratic leaders in the state legislature claimed this week that election results showed a disproportionate number of Davidson County voters chose Republican ballots in the August primary. According to election results, 19,714 voters chose a GOP ballot, which was a dramatic increase over the average of about 5,800 Republican voters in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 August primaries.
Metro Council members are proposing to withhold $400,000 that the Davidson County Election Commission hoped to use to purchase additional electronic poll books until an audit examines the most recent election process. The move, which requires an amendment to a council resolution at Tuesday’s council meeting, is the latest in the fallout over the Aug. 2 election, in which multiple Davidson County elected officials say they were never asked which primary they wished to vote in, but were given a Republican ballot nonetheless.
Labor Day travelers began trickling through Chattanooga’s Interstate 75 rest stop Thursday morning, the first of what will likely be more than 1,000 visitors making a pit stop over the three-day weekend. Cheryl Gongora, her husband and 2-year-old daughter were three of those travelers, headed north from Atlanta to visit family for the weekend. “We chose today because we think [Friday] might be a little more busy,” she said as her husband lifted their laughing daughter over his shoulder. “We’re potty training, so we’ll be making all the stops.”
AAA East Tennessee is predicting a bump in holiday travel for the Labor Day weekend, but those numbers could be tempered because of Hurricane Isaac. According to AAA, the survey was made prior to Isaac making landfall, but it still anticipates 33 million Americans to roam around for the last break of summer — 3 percent higher than last year.
As the remnants of Hurricane Isaac creep north, the Red Cross has launched a large disaster response effort that could last for weeks, and it’s asking for help from local residents. About 2,700 Red Cross disaster workers have deployed to the Gulf region to help those affected by Isaac, and a staging area, containing supplies such as cots, blankets, coolers and more, has been set up in Memphis. Thirteen Tennesseans are assisting at the staging area, and 25 have been deployed to the coast, officials said.
The political road to a Shelby Farms Parkway that extends Kirby Parkway through the northwestern edge of Shelby Farms Park to link up with Whitten Road has a few turns and lots of mileage left in it. And it has a legal link to the 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision that stopped Interstate 40 from going through Overton Park in Midtown. That link is what is called a “de minimus determination.” The city of Memphis, Shelby County government and the Tennessee Department of Transportation want the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy to agree that the plans for the parkway would minimize harm to the park under the “de minimus” standards.
Nearly one in six Tennesseans under the age of 65 lacks health insurance, an increase of more than 14 percent since the start of the recession in 2008, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Every county in Tennessee saw larger numbers of people without insurance from 2008 to 2010. But in Davidson County, there was a significant jump, with 25,000 more people added to the rolls of the uninsured in two years.
County Commission Chairman Sidney Chism says he did not overstep his authority by requesting — on commission letterhead — that the Election Commission block Nov. 6 suburban school board races, even though the position was not based on a County Commission vote. “It was representing me,” Chism said Thursday. “That’s what I did on my own. The commission didn’t ask me to do that.”
Late at night, when the quiet became deafening and the still became maddening, fear, worry and doubt could come creeping into the jail cell. And so they would sing. “The only way we could come together was through song, to keep everybody strong and to remind everyone that we were here to make a difference,” said Ernest Patton. “It was a way of saying ‘We’re OK, we’re strong and we’re going to stay and work through all of this.’” The influence of music on the civil rights movement will be the topic of a free symposium today at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.
BLOUNTVILLE — Federal dollars are coming to do a $15 million resurfacing of Tri-Cities Regional Airport’s main runway, TCRA Executive Director Patrick Wilson told airport commissioners Thursday. Wilson said a series of runway closures will be needed this fall and next year to lay a new slab of pavement on the 8,000-foot, 150-foot-wide aircraft landing and takeoff space.
In his official response to allegations of First Amendment violations, Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing but does hint at a possible change of course in the future. Raines officially responded to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which accused Ridgeland High School football coach Mark Mariakis of taking athletes to church for meals where a Christian message was preached, of leading team prayers and pressuring players to attend a Christian football camp.
SMYRNA — A Rutherford County grand jury will have to decide whether it was an accident or a crime when a 25-year-old Smyrna mother left her two children in a hot vehicle where they died. Samantha Harper waived her right to a preliminary hearing on Thursday in General Sessions court, sending the case to the grand jury.
ROGERSVILLE — A Surgoinsville woman and her boyfriend were indicted by a Hawkins County grand jury Monday in connection with exposing a child to meth manufacturing in a camper earlier this year. Christy Lee Kilgore, 38, 313 Bray Road, Surgoinsville, was indicted on one count of attempted aggravated child neglect, a Class B felony with a punishment range of eight to 12 years.
Mike Walden came by his love of horses honestly, taking easy steps behind his father, who founded Chattanooga Police Department’s horse patrol decades ago with donated Tennessee walking horses. Now most Chattanoogans know Mike, also a former police officer, by his company name: Walden Security. But Saturday night they may know him as the owner of the 2012 world champion Tennessee walking horse.
National political conventions ain’t what they used to be. Once upon a time, they were events where deals were cut that made or broke careers, fights broke out and factions struggled for control of the party’s soul. The switch to a reliance on primaries and caucuses to select delegates pledged to particular candidates pretty much precludes suspense. Conventions have become coronations. Mitt Romney sewed up the Republican nomination long before tropical storm Isaac was named, much less threatened to swamp Tampa before turning toward Louisiana and growing into a hurricane. And there was never any doubt President Barack Obama would be the Democrats’ nominee.
It’s hard to ignore the lengthy parade of Republican luminaries in the crowd and on the stage at this week’s Republican National Convention that would make better candidates and, yes, better presidents than Mitt Romney. By now, the same question has begun to creep in the dark recesses of the mind of many Republicans: “Would we be better off if Romney loses in November?” After all, you have to get pretty far down the list of potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates before you find someone who is less conservative, less exciting or less authentic than Romney.
It seems almost comical to recommend careful deliberation and a cautious approach to Mid-South Fairgrounds redevelopment. After all, the process has been dragging on for more than eight years. But the latest plan, which envisions a youth sports complex with “tournament-level” baseball fields and a multipurpose indoor facility, plus an “urban village” with shops, restaurants and possibly a hotel or convention space, begs such an approach.