August 21 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

Gov. Haslam pens foreword for book (Tennessean/Sisk)

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen may have been a champion of early childhood literacy, but it looks like Gov. Bill Haslam has done him one better. Haslam is the author of the foreword to a brand-new children’s book.

Local students participate in new virtual school (Leaf Chronicle)

Children play in the background as four local moms talk in the kitchen about Tennessee’s new public school option: the Tennessee Virtual Academy. It is a Friday night, and three families participating in the new program are holding a potluck at the home of Dede Casteel, who took her 11-year-old daughter, Caroline, out of a brick-and-mortar school this year to study through the Tennessee Virtual Academy.

Claude Thomas Ramsey: Haslam’s deputy has skill, knowledge (NS/Humphrey)

Claude Thomas Ramsey won his first state government position almost 40 years ago as a third-generation strawberry farmer running against an incumbent state representative who “didn’t have the best reputation in the world.” “People were probably voting more against him than they were for me,” he acknowledges.

Will Cromer: ‘Young, but bright’ policy director (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

Will Cromer impressed Bill Haslam as “young but bright” on first encounter, the governor says, and soon decided the bright outweighed the young. Cromer was working at the time on policy development for State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Leslie Hafner: New to the governor, not to government (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

Leslie Hafner is the newest member of Gov. Bill Haslam’s inner circle of advisers, but she is not new to state government. She started in 1995 with Gov. Don Sundquist’s press office. “We had one fax (machine) for the whole state Capitol.

Alexia Poe: Mother of two, spokesperson for five politicians (N-S/Humphrey)

Alexia Poe had just settled into her fourth job of working for a politician when she got a call offering an opportunity to work for a fifth and, at the same time, return to a previous position. The call came in February from Tom Griscom, a former newspaper editor who was serving as interim communications director for Gov. Bill Haslam and leading the search for his permanent replacement.

Herb Slatery: Governor’s lawyer and friend (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

While Bill Haslam talks of the professional and personal skills of those he has chosen to lead state government, there’s an element of long-term friendship as well in the case of Herbert H. Slatery. “I’ve known Herb all of my life,” says Haslam, recalling a relationship that dates back to childhood and includes a five-member, church-based men’s group that met weekly in Knoxville for years.

Mark Cate: ‘Utility Man’ who makes ‘trains run on time’ (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

When Bill Haslam asked Mark Cate to become his gubernatorial campaign manager in May of 2010, the real estate development executive’s initial reaction was, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Haslam was serious.

Tennessee comptroller visits Dyersburg (State Gazette)

In a well-attended visit at the Lannom Center, Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson visited with local officials as well as interested residents on Friday morning. Wilson was visiting the region at the invitation of State Rep. Bill Sanderson who thanked the audience for their attendance and their interest in government.

New details emerge in second death at New Life Lodge (Tennessean/Rau)

Former patients say poor care sent them to hospital Two days after Patrick Bryant checked into Tennessee’s largest drug treatment center last year for help overcoming his long battle with substance abuse, he was found collapsed and not breathing on the floor of his room. Emergency responders were unable to resuscitate Bryant, who ultimately died on July 16, his 20th birthday.

How clean is your grocery? (Tennessean/Toone)

The odors of sewage and rancid beef envelop the farthest back room of a neighborhood market. Part of the stench stems from raw meat sitting in the grocery store’s meat grinder.

UM wins funds for students who want to break family ed. patterns (CA/Morgan)

The University of Memphis has just beaten dozens of other colleges in a grab for cash to help support first-generation students. U of M is one of only two of 47 colleges, along with Washington State University, to land a $860,000 grant from The Suder Foundation.

TN high court to set limits for paternity fraud suits (Tennessean/Gee)

Five years ago, Chad Craig learned a painful truth. The 14-year-old boy living under his roof was, in fact, another man’s son. Having grown suspicious of his son’s evolving appearance, Craig swabbed the boy’s cheek as he slept and sent the sample off for a DNA analysis.

Cost for concern (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Satterfield)

Knox County spends most in state on indigent legal services Knox County outpaced every other major metropolitan area in the state last fiscal year in the cost of providing legal services to poor people. The numbers — no matter how one parses them — make that clear.

Fincher calls Israel trip ‘very moving’ (Tennessean/Bewley)

Tennessee Rep. Stephen Fincher has returned from a week-long trip to Israel with 54 other House Republicans. “It’s been a very educational, informative, and as a Christian, a very moving week to be in the Holy Land and at the old city of Jerusalem,” Fincher, from Frog Jump, said Friday.

Corker No. 14 on wealthiest Congress list (TFP/Haman, Hardy, Hightower, South)

Roll Call magazine listed Sen. Bob Corker in the No. 14 spot of the top 50 wealthiest people in Congress. The Capitol Hill newspaper adds the minimum value of total assets on each member of Congress and then subtracts their reported liabilities.

White House lauds local program (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Just a year after a local program opened its doors to help women leaving the prison system transition back into society, the group was recognized by the White House as “Champions of Change.” “We were absolutely honored and grateful to be considered for this national honor,” said Linda Leathers, chief executive officer for The Next Door Inc., a faith-based organization.

Historic cabin keeps its home (Associated Press)

With more land needed for coal ash storage, the Tennessee Valley Authority has been scouting real estate in the East Tennessee city of Clinton. There’s one piece of land TVA likely won’t be buying: The property that is home to Anderson County’s oldest known building, a small cabin.

ACT scores chart progress (Knoxville News-Sentinel/McCoy)

School officials, locally and nationally, agree that while ACT scores are important, they tell only part of a student’s academic story. Still, the scores remain an important measure of how students stack up on a national level.

Teacher workshop instills positivity as evaluations loom (C. Appeal/Patterson)

During a workshop inside Greater Community Temple church Saturday, several Memphis teachers were asked how they would implement a new “teacher of the year award” at a fictitious school where morale had sunk to an all-time low. This “imaginary” school was reeling from major administrative changes, while teachers’ pay had been cut and many positions eliminated.

Nashville charter school met goals, but some say it didn’t deliver (Tenn./Hubbard)

New Vision Academy’s charter application promised students smaller classes, mandatory summer school and a place to become “more active, creative and self-motivated” learners. But a year after it opened, one of the school’s co-founders and a majority of its original teachers are gone, complaining that New Vision didn’t deliver.

Sumner County schools may cut 100 jobs (Tennessean/Easton)

Sumner County Director of Schools Del Phillips needs to cut more than $5 million from the school system’s operating budget for this year, and that may include 100 jobs. School board members admitted the school system is underfunded but expressed little confidence county commissioners will provide additional money this year after the county budget committee turned down the school board’s $194.5 million request.

Suspected meth lab discovered at Kingsport motel (Times News)

Four suspects are in custody following the discovery of a meth lab Saturday afternoon at the West Side Inn on Stone Drive. Personnel with the Kingsport Police Department, Sullivan County EMS and the Kingsport Fire Department’s HazMat unit responded to a suspicious odor complaint at the inn around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Texas: Conservatives Eye Senate and Anticipate a Battle (New York Times)

The restricted club that is the Texas Senate will be invaded by noisy conservative voters and activists next year if senators have to choose a new leader from their own ranks. If Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst wins a United States Senate seat or moves into the governor’s office after the 2012 elections, state senators will elect one of their own to take his place.

OPINION

Editorial: Tennesseans need to consider consequences of federal budget cuts (JS)

The reality of federal spending cuts, should they become reality, is beginning to hit home in Tennessee. It is one thing to be in favor of cutting federal spending, but another to follow the money — or lack thereof — into our daily lives.

Jack McElroy: Governors’ handshakes shouldn’t bend tax laws (News-Sentinel)

Gov. Bill Haslam says he is bound to honor a deal his predecessor, Phil Bredesen, struck with Amazon to persuade the Internet giant to locate operations in the state. So what exactly was the deal? The question generates hemming, hawing and mincing of terms.

Guest columnist: Nashville sets new national model for volunteerism (Tennessean)

When Middle Tennessee’s rivers began to rise in the spring of 2010, Nashville benefited from an established partnership between Metro government and the service community that is emerging as a national model. When the city urgently needed sandbags laid, Mayor Karl Dean was able to call upon service organization Hands On Nashville.

Editorial: Plunging ACT scores pose challenge (Commercial Appeal)

The numbers are not particularly dramatic, but scores are going down on tests designed to measure college readiness among high school students in Tennessee. Nationally, there were small gains among students demonstrating their college readiness with ACT scores.

Otis L. Sanford: Our public schools need a champion (Commercial Appeal)

If all the hubbub over school consolidation has taught us one thing, it’s that public education in Shelby County desperately needs a champion. Someone who’s not just willing, but eager, to take on the job of melding the best that Memphis City Schools has to offer with the best from Shelby County Schools to create one system that works.

Steve Barrett: State should halt discrimination against home-schoolers (TFP)

I wrote in February that the supposed loosening of the ban on home-schooled students’ participation in public school sports was cynical. The rule change by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association seemed to be mainly about heading off real action by a more conservative General Assembly to bar districts from discriminating.

Tom Humphrey: On Telling Tales of Tennessee Politics (News-Sentinel)

Reading former state Rep. Bob Patton’s recently-published book is akin to sitting down with a bunch of Tennessee political junkies and listening to them reminisce. Some of the stories are funny, some are philosophical, some are really dull or seemingly pointless and some, well, leave you wondering if the truth hasn’t been stretched somewhat.

Editorial: Panel needs time, study on number of districts (Daily News Journal)

A lot can happen in 10 years’ time.In Rutherford County, for instance, new schools have opened, shopping plazas have been built, hospitals have moved across town and old buildings have been demolished. The shifting landscape is all part and parcel of a vibrant, diverse community that has grown by 44 percent in that time.

Times Editorial: UTC: Challenging new year (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

When classes at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga begin Monday, students, faculty and staff will find a campus undergoing significant transformation. It seems safe to say that in many ways UTC is entering a new era.

Wendi C. Thomas: Let’s just hide our Bass Pro boredom (Commercial Appeal)

Until I’ve had a chance to see The Pyramid-turned-Bass-Pro superstore, I will suppress my “meh.” After all, I’ve been suppressing it for more than five years, ever since we learned that the city was courting the sporting goods star to occupy the long-abandoned “Tomb of Doom.” Try as I might, I just can’t get excited about this Outdoors-apalooza, even though I know it’ll be more than a fancy bait-and-tackle shop.