This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
A yearlong, $2.3 million construction project to bring state-of-the-art industrial training to Cleveland State Community College is a few machines away from completion. This week, when the Tennessee Board of Regents meets on the Cleveland State campus, the center is expected to be ready except for industrial machinery to be added in a few months. “The building has to meet the requirements for automated, computerized technology,” project manager Dan Miller of J&J Contractors said.
Effective today, Bill Hagerty is taking a leave of absence from his job as commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development to serve on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign staff. According to a statement from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office, the unpaid leave will continue through Election Day, Nov. 6, though Hagerty will be on hand to oversee the governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development, Oct. 18-19. He will serve on Romney’s “presidential readiness team,” according to the governor’s office.
First-graders at Idlewild Elementary routinely floss their brains with imaginary thread to clear the gunk before art class starts. Leading the show last week was art teacher David Mah, one of 500 teachers of the arts in Memphis City Schools whose work is getting national attention. In a pilot last year, the teachers proved you don’t need tests to prove students are learning art techniques. Instead the work is judged by a blind faculty peer review. “We definitely like this idea more,” said Mah. “This is fairer. They were trying to make it relevant to what we do.”
Tennessee’s seven-story Chattanooga State Office Building weighs thousands of tons, but its future appears up in the air as officials weigh findings in a study of state office space. The state’s consulting firm, Jones Lang LaSalle, says the 58-year-old structure at 400 McCallie Ave. is one of four “old and obsolete” buildings owned by the state. Two others are in Nashville, and one is in Memphis. John Fetz, senior managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle, told State Building Commission members this summer they should start looking to move offices in all four buildings into other space.
Loudon County is processing more waste per capita than any county in the state and is facing a shortfall in revenue required to eventually close the Matlock Bend Landfill, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The county has also failed to meet a state-mandated 25 percent reduction in waste processing and faces a review that could result in penalties, according to a July 27 letter from TDEC to the Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission. “It is my understanding that Loudon County has had the highest disposal rate at a little over 3 tons per capita disposal for several years for the state,” said Meg Lockhart, TDEC spokeswoman.
No matter the outcome of the race for Senate District 20 this fall, Tennessee Republicans may well achieve the two-thirds majorities they’re seeking in both chambers of the state legislature. But putting a Republican in the seat held by Democratic Sen. Joe Haynes for 28 years — in a traditionally Democratic district that now includes areas once represented by the Senate’s longest-serving member, Democratic Sen. Douglas Henry — would be a symbolic blow to the reeling state Democratic Party. Not surprisingly, both parties have identified the race as a critical target.
Several others have opened with friendly support The two-year struggle between the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and a group of residents who have fought a losing battle to keep it from being built paints a distorted picture of Muslim life in Tennessee, where several other mosques have opened in recent years with little or no controversy. Although there’s likely no single cause for the conflict in Murfreesboro, the reaction of local leaders — both opponents of the mosque and those who stayed silent — may have helped extend and exacerbate it.
The Metro Council could give final approval Tuesday to one of Nashville’s most ambitious plans to transform how a key part of the city grows and develops in the years ahead. The plan would rezone 455 acres in midtown, allowing development higher and closer to streets as a way to boost density and make the area more pedestrian- and mass-transit friendly. The move is designed to create a more urban-like setting. The midtown zoning changes cover an area bounded by Interstate 40 in the east; Broadway, West End Avenue and 21st Avenue to the south; Interstate 440 in the west; and Charlotte Avenue on the north.
The plan for Jasper to annex about 35 parcels of land between U.S. Highway 41 and Interstate 24’s exit 158 and to build a sewer line through the area is bothering some business owners. The Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the annexation starting on Jan. 1. Officials said local business owners have expressed worries over the route of the sewer line and some new rules that will apply to businesses that sell alcohol. Gary Cosby of CTI Engineers Inc. said the sewer line extension will be mostly on the northern, or “airport side,” of U.S. 41.
Knox County Commissioner Mike Brown wants to give some of the surplus revenues the county collected this past fiscal year to county employees. Brown, who recently has met with County Mayor Tim Burchett’s administration about the matter, said he’d like to give 2,000 general county and Sheriff’s Office workers a 2 percent raise, beginning in January. The increase, including benefits, would create a $1.8 million recurring expense for the county. “Our employees went five years without a raise until they got that little bump in January, so I propose giving them anther one — they’re due,” Brown said.
Less than a half-dozen black ministers attended a Sunday afternoon rally in support of an upcoming City Council measure that could extend gay rights, a meager number that had Rosalyn Nichols shaking her head at her fellow clergy. “It saddens me as people who know what it feels like to be marginalized, for us to then in turn marginalize others,” said Nichols, pastor of Freedom’s Chapel Christian Church. She was also a speaker at the rally in the courtyard of the National Civil Rights Museum. “It feels no different to me than those who didn’t want to go to school with us because of issues with race.”
It might as well be Harry Potter’s invisible Knight Bus, because no one can prove it exists. The bus has been repeatedly cited by True the Vote, a national group focused on voter fraud. Catherine Engelbrecht, the group’s leader, told a gathering in July about buses carrying dozens of voters showing up at polling places during the recent Wisconsin recall election. “Magically, all of them needed to register and vote at the same time,” Ms. Engelbrecht said. “Do you think maybe they registered falsely under false pretenses? Probably so.”
The 12 candidates running for Lakeland’s yet-to-be created municipal school board will battle among themselves for five at-large positions. Instead of running against one or two opponents like candidates in the other suburban races, the school board candidates have thrown themselves in together, and the five with the most votes will rise to the top. “Our race is going to be very different,” said candidate Karen Woodward. “I think it’s going to come down to reaching as many voters as you possibly can now and during early voting, plus on election day. We’re going to have to work triple as hard.”
As part of its annual fall retreat, members of the Knox County school board took some time to talk about some lessons learned from last year’s budget process in which the district asked for an additional $35 million over natural growth. In the end, the Knox County Commission approved an additional $7 million that will be used for a number of educational initiatives. The retreat, which was held Sunday at the Sarah Simpson Professional Development and Technology Center in South Knoxville, is an opportunity for the board to step back from its day to day, month to month operations to reflect on the previous year and moving forward, said Karen Carson, the board’s chairwoman.
The Chicago Teachers Union will continue its week-old strike in the nation’s third-largest city, extending an acrimonious standoff with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over teacher evaluations and job security provisions. Emanuel said he would seek a court order to end the strike, which he said is illegal under state law. Karen Lewis, president of the 25,500-member union, said teachers want the opportunity to continue to discuss the offer that is on the table. “Our members are not happy,” Lewis said. “They want to know if there is anything more they can get.”
Wisconsin’s attorney general said Saturday he would seek court permission to keep enforcing a state law that effectively ended collective bargaining for public employees while his office appeals a judge’s ruling striking it down. A Dane County judge issued a ruling Friday overturning almost all of the law that has been a hallmark of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure and helped turn him into a national conservative hero. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, also a Republican, said in a statement that he believes the law “is constitutional in all respects” and should remain in effect while he appeals the judge’s decision.
If you give a child a book, she gets more than a colorful story. She has a gift that can inspire a lifelong love of reading. She will bond with the adults who read to her. She will make important connections between images, words and sounds, building her vocabulary during the crucial period of early brain development. She will learn to read, so that she’ll start reading to learn by third grade. She will enter a world of imagination that will nurture her own natural creativity. Sept. 17-23 is Imagination Library Week, when we celebrate the statewide success of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library programs all across our state. The Imagination Library mails new, age-appropriate books monthly to enrolled preschoolers from birth to age 5 — at no cost to families, regardless of income.
Kudos to the Rutherford County Election Commission for its decision to extend and expand hours for early voting in advance of the Nov. 6 election. On the recommendation of Elections Administrator Nicole Lester, the commission went even further than was requested by Rutherford County Democratic Party Chairman Judy Whitehill to give Nashville commuters a better opportunity to get to the polls before Election Day. The commission voted to set early voting hours during the week from 11 a.m. to 7 at five locations across the county and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Election Commission Office on the Public Square. Early voting also will be held on two Saturdays during the period between Oct. 17 and Nov. 1. This was truly a non-partisan decision that is assured of making it easier for people who work in Nashville to get to early voting sites before they close.