This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Warby Parker appears headed to L&C Tower for now (Tennessean/Ward)
Online eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker is negotiating for one floor of temporary space in downtown Nashville’s L&C Tower. If a deal is reached, the New York-based company would occupy nearly 6,000 square feet in the tower for the next 18 months. The signing would come as L&C Tower is about to undergo a $6 million facelift, thanks to New York-based Shelbourne Global Solutions LLC, which became co-owner of the city’s first skyscraper last month. Warby Parker’s first office outside New York is expected to create 250 jobs over five years. The local operation is expected to open around the middle of next month, with roughly 15 employees augmenting the company’s 80-person customer service center in New York. It eventually would expand to include employees from other departments.
Gallatin woos Beretta with tax breaks, free land (Tennessean/Cross)
As a result of Beretta USA Corp.’s decision to build a manufacturing and research and development facility in Gallatin, the company will receive nearly $4 million in local incentives over a 10-year span. The firearms manufacturer will forgo $2.1 million in real and personal property taxes during the 10-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) program, according to a January economic impact analysis of the deal by Jackson, Tenn.-based Younger Associates. The company also received 100 acres in the city’s industrial park, valued at $1.75 million, free of charge. Before it was finalized, the incentive package went through “several permutations,” which at one point included a longer PILOT length, said Gallatin Economic Development Agency Executive Director James Fenton.
Funding for state expansion back in political spotlight (Memphis Daily News)
It isn’t an application for federal pre-kindergarten funding the state filed earlier this month in Washington, the office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam emphasizes. “It’s a note of intent to apply,” said Dave Smith, Haslam’s communications chief, last week. But the notice of intent filed by Haslam’s administration this month brought new life to a recurring local discussion about pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds in Shelby County. “We are literally just getting an application in to hold our place,” Haslam said Friday, Sept. 19, during a visit to Memphis. “Nothing has changed.” The notice is for a federal grant that would expand pre-kindergarten in the state of Tennessee.
Martineau to lead Environmental Counsel of States (Associated Press)
The Environmental Council of the States has elected Tennessee’s Bob Martineau as its new president. Martineau, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said he wants use his term as head of the national group to give the states a stronger voice on regulatory matters with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In Martineau’s words, “state primacy and autonomy must be respected.” Founded in 1993, the Environmental Council of the States is a nonpartisan association of state and territorial environmental agency leaders. Its mission is to improve human health and the environment through advocacy, exchange of ideas and coordination between the states.
State officials discuss juvenile detention issues, truancy (Jackson Sun)
Judges, state legislators and members of Tennessee’s Department of Children Services held their West Tennessee Regional Three Branches Institute quarterly meeting on Monday at the West Tennessee Research and Development Center in Jackson. The branches come together to ask questions, share information and address issues they are facing in their particular line of work. DCS Commissioner Jim Henry represents the executive branch. State lawmakers such as Sen. Reginald Tate, who serves District 33 in Memphis, represent the state legislators, and judges such as Juvenile Court Judge and Institute Chairwoman Christy Little of Jackson represent the judicial branch.
Career center relocates to downtown Jackson (Jackson Sun)
For patrons at the Tennessee Career Center in Jackson, change is not always welcomed. The career center, formerly located on Carriage House Drive, has moved downtown to the Lowell Thomas State Office Building on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The center opened at the new location Monday. According to Mark Chandler, West Tennessee regional director with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the move came as a result of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Project T3, which requires state offices to be in state-owned facilities. The space where the career center previously was located was leased. Some patrons have concerns about the new location. Erica Robinson, a center patron, said the state office building can make patrons feel “under scrutiny.”
State forestry officials: Fire season just around the corner (TFP/Benton)
As summer drifts into fall and homeowners start raking up leaves to burn, state forestry officials in Chattanooga’s tri-state region are reminding people that they’ll need a burn permit starting in October and continuing through next spring Frank Westwood, a Tennessee Forestry Division forestry technician who works from the fire tower on Montlake Mountain in Hamilton County, said open burning rules aim to prevent forest fires and air pollution by regulating when burning can take place and what materials can be burned. “The permit is $5 and it’s good for Oct. 1 to April 30 in Hamilton County,” Westwood said.
Pharmacy’s compounded meds may not be safe (News-Sentinel/Nelson)
Out of “an abundance of caution,” the Tennessee Department of Health is warning customers, including some at a Knoxville vein clinic, not to use injectable medicines from a Cleveland, Tenn., compounding pharmacy. An investigation by the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy found safety issues at Wellness Store Compounding Pharmacy, 3555 Keith St. NW in Cleveland, including “use of outdated, deteriorated or otherwise unsafe ingredients; unsupervised production of sterile compounded products; intentional falsification of records; and unlawful dispensing of controlled substance prescriptions by the pharmacist in charge,” the state said. The state is cautioning people not to use drugs compounded at the pharmacy, both eyedrops and injectable medicines including steroids, vitamin B12, amino acids (such as those containing adenosine) and hormones (such as beta HCG).
Fish removed from Fountain City Lake (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Stevens)
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency personnel stunned and removed large fish Monday from Fountain City Lake, transferring them to Victor Ashe Park as part of a plan to reclaim the aging North Knoxville lake. TWRA officials worked with Knox County inmates at no cost to the city to gather the fish and ready them for relocation. TWRA used equipment that sends an electric current into the water to temporarily paralyze the fish. Workers then scanned the pond to collect and move the fish to a simulated freshwater holding tank, in preparation for their transfer to a larger body of water at Victor Ashe off Western Avenue. “The main focus today was to get the larger fish,” said Joe Walsh, city director of parks and recreation. Walsh said there likely are thousands of fish in the popular lake.
‘Border child’ tells of path from Honduras to Tennessee (Tennessean/Wadhwani)
Earlier this summer, Gov. Bill Haslam demanded answers from the Obama administration about hundreds of children and teens who crossed the U.S. border illegally, unaccompanied by adults, and came to live with sponsors in Tennessee. Gerardo Rodriguez, 17, is one of them —a polite and soft-spoken John Overton High School student now living in South Nashville. He said he wants to make his story public to illustrate the violent conditions he left in Honduras in the hope that people will have compassion and support efforts to allow him and tens of thousands of other children to stay. But he’s aware of a fierce policy debate that continues over his future — and that of more than 50,000 other children who have crossed the border illegally in recent months.
Fleischmann mulls debate with 3rd District challenger Headrick (TFP/Brogdon)
Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is “evaluating options” about a debate with Democratic challenger Mary Headrick, a campaign spokesman said. And Fleischmann will decide later this week whether he will make good on a promise to debate Headrick in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District. On Aug. 18, WTCI, the local PBS affiliate, and the Times Free Press invited Headrick and Fleischmann to debate. The two needed only to settle on a date. “We believe the voters in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District would appreciate an opportunity to hear a vigorous debate of the issues before casting their votes in the general election on Nov. 4,” read the letter signed by WTCI President Paul Grove and Times Free Press Editor Alison Gerber.
Sen. Corker among richest in Congress (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Flessner)
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker may not agree with Obamanomics, but under President Obama last year the Chattanooga Republican enjoyed a $1.3 million gain in his minimum net worth, according to his annual Senate financial disclosure forms. Corker, a 63-year-old former Chattanooga mayor who made his fortune as a commercial builder and real estate developer, reported assets in 2013 worth between $19 million and $89.7 million. In a new list of the richest members in the 535-member Congress by Roll Call magazine, Corker ranked No. 23 last year. Despite the gain in his minimum net worth, Corker still placed lower in 2013 than he did in the previous year when Roll Call ranked him as the 17th-richest member of Congress. The Chattanooga millionaire is not the richest member in Congress from Tennessee, however.
Veterans detail VA hospital problems (Tennessean/Wilemon)
Veterans cried about how they were treated, worried whether they would live to see Christmas and reported identity mix-ups that had nurses mismatching drugs at the VA hospital in Nashville, which has some of the nation’s longest wait times to see doctors. These were the stories Juan Morales, director of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, heard during a town hall meeting Monday afternoon. About 90 people filled a small room, holding up their hands and waiting for a chance to speak. Their list of complaints was long, ranging from reports of administrative staff ignoring them while talking on cellphones to grievances about doctors abruptly canceling appointments or misdiagnosing illnesses.
Nashville VA Hospital Promises Change During Contentious Town Hall (WPLN)
For more than two hours Monday, veterans passed around a microphone at the Nashville VA hospital and gave director Juan Morales a litany of complaints. They talked about rude physicians, unexpected cancellations and lost paperwork. Roger Morris, a 29-year-old Army veteran, said he was put in a hospital bed with blood on it — and had the pictures to prove it, he said — and then given the wrong medication. “Wrong medications can kill somebody. Do understand this, sir?” he told Morales. “Why are we having to go through this? Simply, there’s no excuse for it.” Many people also spoke about long waits for appointments. Misty Hollars, the daughter of an Army veteran, said her father had to wait six months for a CT scan. When he finally saw a specialist, she said, he was told that other doctors had diagnosed him incorrectly.
Sweet sorrow: Company closing 108-year-old Chattanooga candy plant (TFP/Pare)
Oscar Brock recalls working a summer job at his family’s Chattanooga candy company when he was in college, a business founded by his great-grandfather in 1906. “I loved it,” he said Monday about his job at the then-Brock Candy Co. plant on Jersey Pike. “I was in quality control and got to go to all the different production places every day. The people were the kindest, gentlest people you could ever imagine.” Later this year, an era will end when the plant’s now owner, Chicago-based Ferrara Pan Candy Co., will close the factory and lay off all of the production workers. That will spell the end of a century-long story that saw the factory survive the Great Depression — though for a time it had to pay its employees in pennies — then go on to $100 million a year in sales in the 1990s.
Study: Growth in charter schools will strain Metro district (Tennessean/Garrison)
Total enrollment growth among Nashville’s charter schools is significantly outpacing the rest of Metro schools, imposing fiscal strains on the district that could deepen if this trend continues. That’s a central takeaway in a study performed by an outside consultant, MGT of America, hired by Metro Nashville Public Schools to explore the financial costs tied to opening publicly financed, privately run charters; 26 are set to operate in Davidson County by next fall. The study, released last week and quickly criticized by charter advocates for lacking in scope, supports a model to prioritize future charter applications that ease overcrowded public schools, one similar to the type of geographic priorities the board outlined last year.
Guest columnist: Executions wrong direction for Tennessee (Tennessean)
As the summer comes to a close and fall begins, I have become even more concerned about the string of executions Tennessee is planning over the next couple of years, beginning in October. Why is Tennessee, a state that has only executed six people since 1960, moving in this direction? With public support of the death penalty at a 40-year low and with more and more voices speaking out against the death penalty, it seems that Tennessee is out of step. Eighteen states no longer have the death penalty, and states including Delaware and New Hampshire are getting closer to repeal. Even Colorado’s governor recently stated that he now opposes the death penalty.
Scott DesJarlais: DesJarlais opposes arming Syrian rebels to fight ISIS (DNJ)
Last week, Congress voted to give President Obama the authority to provide training and weapons to rebel groups in Syria in order to assist in the destruction of ISIS. No one disputes ISIS is an evil organization that has committed horrific atrocities, including beheading innocent Americans and slaughtering thousands of Christians. And there is no question the group ultimately wishes to bring harm upon the United States and its citizens. But we must remember that our enemy’s enemy is not always our friend. The question of whether to arm these Syrian rebel groups is not a new one. Last year, I led an effort and sponsored legislation to prohibit the president from arming some of the same Syrian rebels against Bashar al-Assad’s regime that now make up ISIS.