This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Warby Parker to open in Nashville, create 250 jobs (Tennessean/Ward)
Eyewear retailer Warby Parker will open a corporate office in Nashville, creating around 250 jobs over the next five years. The Tennessean first reported in July that the company was considering establishing another corporate office in the Nashville area. It will be Warby Parker’s first office outside New York City, where the company’s headquarters is located. The company has about 300 employees in New York. “Nashville is such a vibrant city — we’re thrilled to put down roots there,” said Neil Blumenthal, company co-founder and co-CEO, in a statement. “We will continue to expand our New York headquarters, but this is an exciting next step that will allow us to fuel future company and customer growth.”
NYC eyewear company to hire 250 here (Nashville Post)
Eyewear retailer Warby Parker plans to create 250 customer service jobs in Nashville over the next five years as it expands its corporate operations beyond New York City for the first time. Four-year-old Warby Parker sells glasses starting at $95 and donates a pair for each it sells. Company executives on Wednesday said they plan to set up shop in a temporary location by mid-October — the company does not yet have site secured — before looking to build out a permanent space. Warby Parker Co-CEO Dave Gilboa tells Fast Company his team chose Nashville over Salt Lake City, Denver and Louisville and will initially hire 15 people before ramping up. “Nashville is such a vibrant city — we’re thrilled to put down roots there,” said Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, which employs more than 300 people in the Big Apple.
Haslam: Warby Parker to Open Davidson County Office (TN Report)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Warby Parker (warbyparker.com) co-founders Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa announced today the transformative lifestyle brand will open a Nashville office, its first outside of New York. The brand will initially open in a temporary location, with plans to build out a permanent space in the near future. As part of the expansion, Warby Parker will create more than 250 new jobs in Davidson County over the next five years. “We want to thank Warby Parker for investing in Tennessee and creating these high quality jobs in Nashville,” Haslam said.
Trendy eyewear company Warby Parker announces Nashville office, 250 jobs (NBJ)
Warby Parker, the popular maker of trendy eyewear, has announced a new corporate office in Nashville. The new office, the company’s first outside of New York City, will create more than 250 jobs in Nashville over the next five years, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Warby Parker, which currently employs more than 300 people in New York City, will initially open in a temporary location, “with plans to build out a permanent space in the near future,” according to the news release. “Nashville is such a vibrant city — we’re thrilled to put down roots there,” Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, said in the release.
Warby Parker Lured To Nashville By Subsidies, Cheaper Real Estate (WPLN-Radio)
Warby Parker, the New York-based eyewear company, is planning to open a call center in Nashville, promising to create 250 jobs over the next five years. Although the announcement points to Nashville’s “vibrant city” status as part of the reason for the expansion, a generous state subsidy package was also a major consideration. “We did have a very warm welcome from a number of different government officials,” said co-founder Dave Gilboa. “They put together a pretty compelling package for us to establish a presence.” Economic and Community Development Spokesman Clint Brewer said the offer, likely in the form of a state grant for job training, has not been finalized.
Magna to expand in Maury County (Columbia Daily Herald)
After months of waiting and speculation, the identity of Project Angus, an auto parts company developing a site in Spring Hill, has been revealed. Auto parts manufacturer Magna International will be moving to Spring Hill, bringing more than 350 jobs to Maury County. Company officials, along with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, announced Tuesday Magna will expand its Maury County manufacturing operations. Currently located in Columbia, Magna will create 357 new jobs in Maury County over the next two years. The company will invest $16 million to construct a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at 701 Beechcroft Road in Spring Hill, a parcel of property that directly backs up to the General Motors plan.
New industry moving forward on construction (WBBJ-TV Jackson)
Construction is underway as officials have now broken ground on a new manufacturing facility that will bring almost 200 new jobs to Jackson and Madison County. Japanese auto parts maker Pacific Industries is building a 60 acre plant on farmland donated by the county. The plant’s original plan was unveiled back in June. Governor Bill Haslam was at the groundbreaking and said it was possible because of teamwork within the state. Pacific Industries expects to be fully operational next spring.
Demo days showcase Tennessee startups (Times Free-Press/Brock)
August is a big month in Tennessee’s thriving community of entrepreneurs: it’s when many of Tennessee’s startup accelerators host “demo days” to mark the graduation of their summer cohorts. Graduating companies have gone through a rigorous mentorship-driven program that has prepared them for the next step in their entrepreneurship journey — and the results have been very strong, with every accelerator producing new companies that have generated strong investor interest and/or the customers they need to build a sustaining enterprise. Anyone who attended one or more of the accelerator demo days this month had to come away with a deep appreciation for the thriving entrepreneurial spirit that encompasses our state.
Memphis among “Paychecks for Patriots” job fair sites for veterans (CA/McKenzie)
A statewide job fair for veterans will be held Oct. 9 in 10 cities, including Memphis, the third year for the event organized by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Employers with full-time jobs available will be on hand for the “Paychecks for Patriots” job fair, according to state officials. In Memphis, it is scheduled at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Veterans can register and find details online at bit.ly/paychecksforpatriots. The department’s outreach plans include Twitter, Facebook and a YouTube video featuring Gov. Bill Haslam.
Another newborn surrendered under Safe Haven law (Tennessean/Wilson)
A second newborn was surrendered to Department of Children’s Services officials in as many weeks under the state’s Safe Haven law. The baby girl was released from Vanderbilt University Medical Center to foster parents on Tuesday afternoon, said DCS spokeswoman Carrie Weir. The girl and her mother were taken to the hospital after the mother went into labor Saturday. The mother, who is granted anonymity under state law, surrendered her daughter into DCS care when they reached Vanderbilt. The incident took place days after another baby girl was left at the doorsteps of an East Nashville fire station, Weir said.
Police arrest DCS escapee, 6 still at large (Tennessean/Tamburin)
Police on Wednesday arrested another teenager who escaped from Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has joined in the search for six other escapees who remain at large Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services reported Tuesday that 32 teens escaped the Woodland Hills compound. On Wednesday, they changed the number of escapees to 33. DCS said the teenager broke out of a dorm, but had not left the grounds. On Wednesday evening, 26 were back in custody. DCS released some new information about the escape on Wednesday, but the agency did not reveal much about possible changes to security protocol in its detention facilities.
DCS official: Guards were injured during teens’ escape (WSMV-TV Nashville)
An official has confirmed that two guards were injured when 32 teens broke out of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center on Monday night. Six teens remain on the run after police said 17-year-old Jasper Potter-Monroe, was caught in Madison Wednesday afternoon driving a stolen car. The car was reported missing from Murfreesboro. The six teens who remain on the loose have been convicted of multiple crimes before, including aggravated battery, gun possession, burglary, escape, animal cruelty and drug charges. Click here to see photos of the escapees. Rob Johnson, communications director for the Department of Children’s Services, said that one officer was hit with an object and got a knot on the side of his head.
Teens in custody after disturbance at detention (Associated Press)
Authorities have regained control after a disturbance at a Nashville juvenile detention center where more than 30 teens escaped earlier this week. Tennessee Department of Children’s Services spokesman Rob Johnson says about 28 teens were involved in the incident that began Wednesday night and 10 of the ringleaders have been taken to another detention center. The others were brought back to their dorms early Thursday. Johnson says two staff members at the detention center suffered minor injuries. Thirty-two teens escaped from the detention center Monday night. Officials say they had kicked out metal panels under the windows in common areas of their dorms to reach the courtyard and slipped out under a weak spot in the perimeter fence.
Juveniles at Woodland Hills taken into custody after disturbance (TN/Wilson)
Several teenagers who were part of a riot at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center overnight appeared to have been taken into custody early Thursday morning. Law enforcement officials in riot gear were seen taking at least six juveniles into custody shortly after 2:30 a.m., hours after some of them fled from their dorms at the Bordeaux complex. No one appeared to have breached the fence around the facility. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services originally said six teenagers were out around 1 a.m., though more were seen running around the facility afterward. DCS officials worked in the early hours Thursday to contain six juveniles who fled from their dorms overnight. Police said there have been no reports of a fence breach at the facility.
20 teens back in custody after escaping youth detention center (WKRN-TV)
Some of the 20 teens that escaped the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center have been taken back into custody. The juveniles escaped via doors that were damaged from the initial escape Monday night Police were called to the facility on Stewart’s Lane Wednesday night around 11:30 p.m. Ten teens originally began the revolt and more joined in after it started. Buses were routed in to transport ten of the juveniles to other facilities. Several of the 20 are part of the group that escaped the center late Monday night. Facility officials say that the unruly juveniles will face small charges.
Teens riot, attack guards at youth correctional facility (WSMV-TV Nashville)
A group of teenagers started a violent riot and broke out of the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Bordeaux late Wednesday night. Officials said approximately 24 teens got out of the building, but none were able to get outside of the facility’s gates. Department of Children’s Services officials said it all started just before midnight during a shift change when 10 teens were able to kick out doors and get outside of the building. They then allegedly started throwing sticks and rocks at guards. The teenagers were reportedly using fire extinguishers to smash windows, helping others escape their rooms.
24 Teens Back In Custody After Riot At Woodland Hills (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Two dozen teens have been taken back into custody after a riot and a second escape attempt this week at the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center. Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Jim Henry pledged Thursday morning to continue quickly working to reinforce aluminum panels beneath exterior windows at the dorms, which the teens kicked out in both incidents on Monday and Wednesday nights. Henry also added the department will explore ways to renegotiate long-standing policies that restrict their ability to lock the doors of teens held at the state’s three youth development centers.
Lawmaker not surprised teens escaped from DCS facility (WKRN-TV Nashville)
State Representative Sherry Jones told News 2 she was not surprised when she heard about the escape of 32 Woodland Hills Youth Development students Monday. “We knew when DCS told us they were closing the other secured facility that moving them here to Nashville was going to be a problem,” she said. “With kids like this you have got to be sure you have the security you need. DCS knew that going in and they did not prepare their facility for these types of kids.” Around 11 p.m. Monday a number of disturbances started inside dorms on the Woodland Hills campus. Eventually the teens overwhelmed the guards on duty and were able to escape their dorms and then the complex. DCS said 33 students broke out of their dorms, but only 32 left the property.
Assistant commissioner over data to leave Department of Education (TN/Garrison)
Erin O’Hara, assistant commissioner for data and research at the Tennessee Department of Education for the past three years, is stepping down from her position at the department. O’Hara, whose tenure working in state government goes back nine years to Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, on Tuesday notified her team about her upcoming departure, effective next month. Her role is typically a behind-the-scenes one, but she was thrust into the public spotlight during the state’s delayed release of standardized test results in May. That resulted in the department issuing waivers to exempt districts from tying TCAP test scores to report card grades.
TWRA expects quick reinstatement to surplus gun program (Tenn/Gonzalez)
An inability to keep track of surplus military rifles forced the 2013 retirement of a Tennessee Highway Patrol captain and more recently caused another state agency to be temporarily suspended from the program that provided them. A gun stolen from a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency truck prompted a mandatory suspension of the agency from the federal program. That happened in June, and the agency reported the theft immediately. TWRA officials expect to be reinstated to the program, which provides guns it uses to control wild hogs. The THP captain retired more than a year ago, after two M-14 rifles went missing, according to Dalya Qualls, spokeswoman for the highway patrol. A lieutenant also was suspended and transferred, she said, and the missing guns remain under investigation.
UT begins search for new foundation president (News-Sentinel/Boehnke)
The University of Tennessee has started its search for a new foundation leader, three months after a disagreement over the timetable for a new hire sent the organization’s board into an executive session at its annual meeting. UT announced Wednesday it has put together a search committee, led by Institute of Agriculture Chancellor Larry Arrington, to replace Johnnie Ray, the former head of the school’s fundraising arm, who stepped down abruptly in 2013. The 13-member search committee made up of alumni, donors, employees and trustees, met for the first time Tuesday. The university will not use a search firm in its hunt for a new leader, who also serves as UT’s vice president for alumni affairs, but hopes to have the position filled by spring 2015, according to officials.
TDOT closing more lanes for construction at I-40/240 interchange (CA/Charlier)
The longtime lane closures on Sam Cooper Boulevard will be only part of the problem at the Interstate 40/240 interchange starting Thursday as crews begin hoisting and setting beams for a new flyover ramp. The Tennessee Department of Transportation has scheduled a series of additional lane closures on Summer Avenue, I-40 and I-240 at the East Memphis interchange, which is undergoing a four-year, $109.3 million improvement project. Motorists already have been dealing with congestion on Sam Cooper, where traffic has been restricted since March to one lane in each direction at the interchange. With the completion of towering piers for the 75-foot-high ramp connecting the north loop and I-40 east, crews now will be setting the beams between them.
TN Chief Justice: Politics won’t have a place in AG pick (N-S/Hickman)
Partisan politics had no place in last month’s retention elections on the Tennessee Supreme Court and it won’t have a place in the justices’ selection of a state attorney general, newly named Chief Justice Sharon Lee said. Lee, and fellow Justices Connie Clark and Gary Wade, won re-election to another eight years on the state’s highest bench in the face of a contentious opposition campaign led by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. The three justices all were appointed to their first terms by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, which made them targets for Ramsey in his push for the appointment of the state’s first Republican attorney general since the Reconstruction era. “I think the voters rejected partisan politics in our judiciary with the election,” Lee said ahead of her remarks at the Knoxville Bar Association’s annual reception for the justices Wednesday night.
Appeals Courts affirms ruling voiding Norris annexation vote (N-S/Fowler)
A yearslong battle over the city of Norris’ annexation of property along state Highway 61 has resulted in a victory for those who say their opposition played a role in a recent state law that bans forced annexation by towns and cities. The state Court of Appeals has affirmed veterinarian Dr. Mark Garrett’s challenge to the November 2011 annexation by Norris of his undeveloped one-acre parcel and an adjoining tract with an office building. Garrett said Bethel community residents banded together to form a group, Concerned Citizens of Anderson County, to oppose further annexation, lobby legislators and raise money to fund the legal expenses in the anti-annexation battle. “I was the domino,” Garrett said.
State uncovers $43,929.42 in questionable spending at Gatlinburg utility (N-S)
The state comptroller on Wednesday said investigators uncovered more than $40,000 in questionable purchases by the former management of Webb Creek Utility District in Gatlinburg. According to a news release from State Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, investigators from his office as well as Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jimmy Dunn’s office discovered $43,929.42 in questionable purchases in records they reviewed for the period of Jan. 1, 2010 through April 30, 2013. The questionable purchases included $19,320.24 in Christmas gifts by the former assistant district manager for employees and at least one board member.
California: Proposition 2: Latest Attempt to Fix Unpredictable Budget (Governing)
In California the only budget certainty is that there is no certainty. The state is notorious for its wild revenue swings from year-to-year. That’s resulted in an unstable funding for many of the state’s programs. But Gov. Jerry Brown, who in his re-election campaign is touting himself as the state’s financial steward, is pushing through a constitutional amendment that he and supporters say will institutionalize fiscal responsibility and the habit of saving. Meanwhile, the amendment’s opponents argue that the change would weaken the state’s education funding structure. This fall, voters will be asked to take a side.
Maryland: O’Malley brought casinos, but that doesn’t mean he likes them (W. Post)
Confetti was flying and fireworks were exploding, but Gov. Martin O’Malley looked decidedly unenthusiastic as he welcomed VIP guests at the launch of the Horseshoe casino in Baltimore last week. O’Malley (D), who initially planned to skip the opening of Maryland’s fifth casino, offered the briefest remarks of all the speakers at a packed reception. He opted out of a ceremonial pull of a giant slots lever. And this energetic politician, who can play the showman when working a crowd, was long gone before the casino doors swung open to the public. The episode reflected O’Malley’s ambivalence toward Maryland’s slow embrace of casino gambling. The governor, who is traveling to Democratic functions across the country as he weighs a possible White House bid, once called slot machines “a pretty morally bankrupt way” to fund education.
Editorial: DCS fails teens and, now, the public (Tennessean)
Over the past two days, we’ve heard explanations for the massive breakout of juvenile offenders at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, from which six teenagers were still at large at the time of this writing. The explanations have not been sufficient. Teens broke out of their dorms, then crawled under a weak spot in the chain-link fence around the youth center’s perimeter. Thirty-two were able to leave the grounds; at this writing, 26 of those have been rounded up by Metro police or brought back by family members. With just 16 adults to keep watch over 78 youths in 12 dormitories, the staff was “overwhelmed,” said Department of Children’s Services spokesman Rob Johnson.
Editorial: Tennessee should set qualifications for judges higher (News-Sentinel)
Newly elected Knox County Chancellor Clarence “Eddie” Pridemore was sworn into office on Friday and before the holiday weekend was out had already shown his inexperience by mishandling the judicial rule governing cameras in the courtroom. On Wednesday, his first day in court, Pridemore reversed himself and allowed media with cameras into his courtroom, but he also made identical procedural errors in two of the four cases he heard, prompting an otherwise uninvolved lawyer to approach the bench to explain how to handle default judgments.
Editorial: Need for urgency on Tenncare expansion (Jackson Sun)
We were mildly encouraged last week to hear Gov. Bill Haslam talk about submitting an alternative proposal for Medicaid expansion in Tennessee to the federal government. Haslam said he has begun talks with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell about a plan to expand Medicaid that would differ from the structure to expand the program under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. We’re only mildly encouraged because the governor has gone down this road before with Burwell’s predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, but without much fervor. He has provided few details about what Tennessee’s plan would look like. Things never got past the preliminary stage with Sebelius, leading us to doubt Haslam’s commitment to actually implementing a plan.