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August 27 TN News Digest

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

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam: Bumps, but no double dip (Memphis Biz Journal)

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tennessee’s economy will “bump along” for awhile, but he does not expect a double-dip recession that has been the subject of renewed national speculation for weeks. The Republican governor told a crowd of roughly 1,000 leaders in business, government, education and other sectors that July brought a distinct slow down on a state level.

Haslam: COMPASS partnerships battle state’s education challenges (Sumner AM)

COMPASS’ efforts to improve opportunities for Sumner students help battle Tennessee’s key challenges in K-12 and higher education, Gov. Bill Haslam said in Hendersonville Thursday. “Fingers will be pointed toward teachers, parents, etc., but the other way is to say, ‘I’ll do what I can to help education,’ which is what COMPASS does,” Haslam said.

Haslam: Business incentives are here to stay (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

An executive of Electrolux told Gov. Bill Haslam that the state should provide more “capital investment” for business if it wants to create more jobs like the $97 million in state money that’s helping build Electrolux’s Memphis plant. John Terzo, a manager at Electrolux’s Springfield, Tenn., plant, was among dozens of Middle Tennessee business executives who participated in an economic-development “roundtable” Thursday hosted by the governor at a country club in Hendersonville, near Nashville.

Haslam handed off decision on Memphis fuel waiver (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Gov. Bill Haslam’s request for a federal waiver on gasoline standards is a first major test of his campaign pledge to recuse himself from issues that could affect the family-owned chain of Pilot Flying J truck stops. An explosion at the Valero refinery in Memphis earlier this month led to concerns about gas shortages in the city, one of the country’s largest freight distribution hubs.

It’s a toss-up for Haslam at Tigers game (Commercial Appeal)

Gov. Bill Haslam plans to be in Memphis on Thursday to do the coin toss for the University of Memphis’ opening football game against Mississippi State at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, the governor’s office said Friday. The televised game is set for 7 p.m.

Ride for Reading makes a BIG delivery to a south Nashville school (Examiner)

Ride for Reading, a local non-profit that promotes literacy and healthy living to school students, delivered big today. Not only did they bring hundreds of books to the students at Cole Elementary, they also brought Tennessee’s First Lady Crissy Haslam along for the ride. “We’re riding to keep our bodies strong, but reading can keep our brains strong,” Haslam told the crowd of students before challenging them to read at least 20 minutes every day.

University of Memphis researchers monitor earthquake aftershocks (M. Biz Journal)

A research scientist and technical staff from the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information (CERI) are helping other scientists record aftershocks from the Aug. 23 earthquake near Mineral, Va. The U of M team is collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey, The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, Virginia Tech University and Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.

Former Chief Justice Birch dead at 78 (NS, AP/Dickerson, Johnson, Edwards)

Adolpho A. Birch, the first black chief justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court and consistent challenger of death sentences in Tennessee, has died. He was 78. Birch, chief justice in 1996 and 1997, died Thursday, Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark confirmed Friday.

Justice A.A. Birch Jr. dead at 78 (City Paper)

Justice Adolpho A. Birch Jr. — the first African-American elected to serve as chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court and a towering figure in the state — has died at 78. Birch, the man for whom downtown Nashville’s handsome A.A. Birch Building is named, died Thursday after a lengthy bout of poor health. Birch grew up in Washington, D.C., and would later serve as a reservist in the U.S. Navy.

Justice A.A. Birch Jr. left imprint on state judiciary (Tennessean/Gee)

Quietly motivated by the injustices of racism and segregation, Adolpho A. Birch Jr. toppled barriers as a Nashville prosecutor, as Tennessee’s highest-ranking judge and in several positions in between. A tall and lanky man with a distinctive white beard, Tennessee’s first and only black chief justice was known for his private nature and for downplaying the significance of his own accomplishments — even as others counted Birch as a priceless mentor, a beloved friend and one of the most important figures in state history.

Former Chief of State High Court Dies (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Former chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, Adolpho A. Birch, has died. Friends confirm he passed away Thursday at age 78. The new Metro Courthouse was named the A.A. Birch building, and at its ribbon cutting, then-Chief Justice William Barker praised his colleague, noting Birch once sold hotdogs and newspapers and even drove a taxi to put himself through law school.

Unemployment rate drops slightly to 11.1 percent (Times-Gazette)

Bedford County’s jobless rate dropped almost one percent in the month of July to 11.1 percent, according to preliminary numbers released by Tennessee’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The rate fell last month by 0.8 percentage points, with a preliminary estimate of 23,360 in the county’s labor force, 20,770 employed and 2,590 without a job.

New law will allow judges to hold suspects after subsequent arrest (TFP/Burger)

A new law soon will allow judges to incarcerate a suspect if the person picks up new charges while out on bail and awaiting trial. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, says that, in these cases, a judge can put the accused in jail without bond.

Deportations on hold? Not in Tennessee (Tennessean/Haas)

Despite policy shift, area deportations continue unabated The federal government says it will better prioritize immigration cases to deport only the worst of the worst criminals, sparing children and young adults who have been in the country for years. But Tennessee’s immigration authorities may have not gotten the memo.

Mass transit, don’t pass us by, East Nashville residents say (Tennessean/Cass)

Neighbors worry cost cuts could target area Once again, East Nashville residents are making a plea they’ve often made over the years: Don’t leave us out. As Metro studies the various expensive options for expanding mass transit along the Broadway-West End corridor and across the Cumberland River to the Five Points area, residents want to make sure the city doesn’t cut their neighborhoods out of the loop if funding gets tight.

Memphis launches $23.5 million project to synchronize traffic lights (CA/Charlier)

Straining to be heard over the very type of stop-and-go traffic he was lamenting, Memphis Mayor AC Wharton formally launched a project Friday that should help whisk motorists down the city’s major thoroughfares with fewer delays, reducing congestion and air pollution along the way. Funded entirely with federal money, the $23.5 million project will link 334 existing traffic signals into a coordinated network designed to allow drivers — especially rush-hour commuters — to proceed through successive intersections without hitting red lights.

Health Dept.: prepare now for flu season (State Gazette)

Influenza, or flu, season is right around the corner and the Dyer County Health Department is ready to offer flu vaccine to area residents. A mass flu vaccine clinic will be held at Dyer County Health Department from 8 a.m. until on 4:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Sen. Bob Corker, Rep. Diane Black campaigns are money magnets (TN/Bewley)

Elections are more than a year away, but two Tennessee lawmakers already rank among the top fundraisers in Congress, according to rankings released by the Federal Election Commission. Republican Sen. Bob Corker ranked second in the Senate for money raised in the first half of this year, bringing in $4.4 million between Jan. 1 and June 30.

TN National Guard preps for hurricane rescues (Tennessean/Young)

The Tennessee National Guard is on standby, awaiting possible activation orders to assist the East Coast as Hurricane Irene approaches land. Tennessee’s Assistant Adjutant General-Army Robert Harris said he received a call from the National Guard Bureau on Wednesday to determine what resources could be sent.

Army Corps in Memphis sends workers to East Coast (Associated Press)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Memphis is sending 19 workers to Massachusetts and New York to help with efforts to restore power after Hurricane Irene hits the East Coast. Jim Pogue, a Corps spokesman in Memphis, said Friday that the workers will help provide emergency power to police and fire stations, shelters and emergency medical facilities. Eighteen workers from the Temporary Emergency Power Team will set up headquarters at Westover Air Force Base near Chicopee, Mass., for deployment to areas affected by Irene.

Tenn. air bases sheltering military aircraft (Associated Press)

The military is flying planes to Tennessee bases to ride out Hurricane Irene. Capt. Joseph Keith at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard base told The Associated Press on Friday that, for security reasons, he couldn’t specify how many planes had been brought to the base.

Military moves dozens of aircraft to ET ahead of hurricane (News-Sentinel/Wilson)

A whole new flock of birds is temporarily roosting at McGhee Tyson Airbase. Dozens of military aircraft have been flown to the Blount County base to get them out of the path of Hurricane Irene. All day Friday a steady stream of both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters landed at the base and lined up on the tarmac.

ET rescue agencies head to the coast in wake of Hurricane Irene (NS/McCloskey)

While most people flee natural disasters, Knoxville resident Marty Gensheimer heads straight toward them. Gensheimer, a Red Cross volunteer for the last eight years, left Knoxville for Rhode Island Friday night to help deal with Hurricane Irene’s destruction. “I’ve been everywhere from hurricanes in Florida to fires in California and all places in between,” Gensheimer said, noting that Hurricane Irene marks his 15th national disaster as a volunteer.

Middle TN charities feel pain of lost FEMA funding (Tennessean/Tamburin)

Agencies scramble to maintain food, shelter programs Funding for emergency food and shelter was slashed at the national level this year, and Middle Tennessee is feeling the pinch. Last year, Davidson County received $381,838 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program.

Oak Ridge national lab budget squeeze lays off 29 (Associated Press)

Twenty-nine Oak Ridge National Laboratory employees are being laid off this week due to funding cuts. Lab director Thom Mason first told The Knoxville News Sentinel that the layoffs stem from funding shortages in multiple program areas including scientific staff, administrative personnel, and technicians (http://bit.ly/qKutLY ).

Schulman plant closing in Nashville will cut 60 jobs (Tennessean/Marsteller)

Plastics company A. Schulman Inc. said it will close its compounding plant in Nashville next year, cutting about 60 jobs. The plant at 481 Allied Drive will close by March 1 as part of a broader consolidation in response to the weak economy, the Akron, Ohio-based company said.

Wonton Foods to employ 75 in LaVergne (Associated Press)

Wonton Foods has purchased a building in LaVergne, Tenn., for a manufacturing and distribution center that will employ 75 workers. Wonton bills itself as the country’s largest manufacturer of noodles and fortune cookies.

Wonton Foods to hire 75 in La Vergne (Gannett)

Wonton Foods, which bills itself as the nation’s largest manufacturer of noodles and fortune cookies, plans to start making and distributing its products in Rutherford County. The company has purchased a 184,434-square-foot building in La Vergne and is expected to hire about 75 people, according to spokesman Peggy Hickman.

Logistics experts travel to see how a distribution center works (CA/Risher)

Georgia was on George Doborjginidze’s mind Friday as a tour bus slowly cruised a southeast Memphis depot crammed with ocean shipping containers, truck chassis and tractors. Not the Peach State, but the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where Doborjginidze is helping develop an intermodal freight yard similar to three that dot the Memphis landscape.

Incubator green (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Higgins)

By the end of September a $600,000 building devoted to green-business entrepreneurs will be ready for clients here. While the building is being offered to new companies with environmentally friendly ideas, that doesn’t mean tenants have to be working on something cutting-edge or new, said Hurley Buff, executive director of the Cleveland/Bradley Business Incubator.

US tobacco crop rises; Tennessee production up 18 percent (Associated Press)

Gene Witt’s 46th tobacco crop might be his last in a part of the country where the “golden leaf” was once an economic mainstay. The crop that helped build much of the South and was once celebrated at festivals now seems more a vestige of the past.

Area Tennessee schools report enrollment rise (Times Free-Press/Benton)

Enrollment numbers across Southeast Tennessee reveal mixed results the first week or so into the school year. Most Southeast Tennessee school systems’ enrollment grew between 1 and 3 percent, four slipped backward a little while two systems had increases of more than 5 percent, figures show.

Schools Consolidation Saga Turns Corner (Memphis Daily News)

Where does a 23-member countywide school board meet? “FedExForum is open,” replied Shelby County Schools board chairman David Pickler last week to the question from fellow board member David Reaves.

County Commission To Vote Monday On Schools Settlement (M. Daily News)

The Shelby County Commission meets in special session Monday, Aug. 29, to vote on the schools consolidation lawsuit settlement approved Thursday by the Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools boards. And the commission will set the ground rules for its selection of seven new members for the 23 member countywide school board that takes office Oct. 1.

Oak Ridge parents to be surveyed on year-round school option (N-S/Fowler)

Surveys will go out soon to parents of Oak Ridge School System students, asking their opinions about possibly converting to more of a year-round school calendar. School board members authorized the survey and discussed other possible changes to the existing calendar, including expanded summer school offerings, during a special session Wednesday, board chairman Keys Fillauer said. Reworking the summer school program to offer programs other than just makeup classes “has a lot of possibilities, I think,” Fillauer said.

School breakfast recipe: sugar, and lots of it (Tennessean/Anderson)

In the 1980s, there was a flap over whether federal school lunch guidelines should consider ketchup a vegetable. That idea didn’t past muster. But don’t worry, kids: Have a funnel cake instead.

Texas: Strip Club ‘Pole Tax’ Is Upheld in Texas (New York Times)

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state’s “pole tax” — a $5-per-customer fee that strip clubs that serve alcohol are required to pay the state — did not violate the clubs’ free-speech rights, overturning a lower court decision that declared the fee unconstitutional. In 2007, state legislators passed the Sexually Oriented Business Fee Act, which imposed the fee on nearly 200 establishments that feature live nude performances and allow the consumption of alcohol.

OPINION

Editorial: Adolpho A. Birch (Commercial Appeal)

The first elected black Tennessee Supreme Court chief justice would have a secure place in state history solely on the basis of his pioneering career. But Adolpho A. Birch, who died Thursday at the age of 78, was just as well known for the political independence and integrity with which he approached the grave responsibilities of the bench.

Editorial: University moves to higher level with Army (Daily News Journal)

MTSU rolled out a first-of-its-kind partnership last week with the U.S. Army that will not only help the troops, but also increase the university’s national profile. MTSU will partner with the Army on research and development into technology that applies to unmanned aerial systems or “drones.”

Times Editorial: Time for talk and questions (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

An elected official owes his or her constituents a great deal. There is the obligation to represent the expressed interests of those whose votes propelled the official into office, but also to remember that an officeholder serves those in opposition, too. There is a duty, as well, to communicate directly with constituents.

Editorial: Relief for Student Debtors (New York Times)

Since the start of the recession, record numbers of Americans have enrolled in college in search of new skills that would improve their employment prospects. Unfortunately, far too many students enrolled in expensive for-profit schools end up dogged by ruinous debts, with little in the way of skills or credentials to show for their efforts.

 

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