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October 12 TN News Digest

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

Gov. Bill Haslam says VW wants to expand in Chattanooga (Times Free-Press/Pare)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said today that Volkswagen wants to eventually add more production at its Chattanooga assembly plant. “At some point in time, they’d like it to be in Chattanooga,” he said at the Southern Automotive Conference. “They love the product being produced.” Haslam, who addressed about 500 people at the two-day auto conference, said VW “loves the product being produced at the plant.”

Evolution of the Southern auto industry (Nooga)

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that many governors, including himself, came into office two years ago wanting to be a jobs governor. “If you’re going to be the jobs governor, before you do that you’d better be the education governor,” he said at the Southern Automotive Conference. Over the past two decades, the auto industry brought countless jobs and suppliers to Tennessee, starting with then governor Lamar Alexander, who helped bring Nissan to the state in the early 80s, Haslam said.

Southern auto industry wary of Mexican competition (Associated Press)

Southern states accustomed to luring investments away from the Midwest are casting a wary eye to competition from Mexico. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was asked at the Southern Automotive Conference in Chattanooga about what steps can be taken to keep investments from moving abroad, especially in light of a recent decision by German automaker Audi to build its first North American plant in Mexico. Haslam said Southern governors need to work toward a more regional approach to attracting investment, rather than playing off of each other.

Attracting research jobs to South stressed at Chattanooga conference (TFP/Pare)

While the South has succeeded in wooing auto assembly plants, the region needs to get better at attracting well-paying industry research jobs, experts said in Chattanooga on Thursday. “I’d like for the Southeast to have the high-paying jobs that stay in other countries or go to Detroit,” said Clark Midkiff of the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Vehicle Technologies. The effort to bolster research and development activities in the region came up often at the Southern Automotive Conference, which includes auto manufacturers from Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

Reval on the Road (Tennessean/Travis)

It’s not very often that such a hoopla meets the finishing of a road. Well, this is a big road. Finishing a 14-mile Williamson County stretch completes the 78-mile State Route 840, which connects Wilson, Rutherford, Williamson, Hickman and Dickson counties. To celebrate, bike riders and runners get to hit the road before cars do as Gov. Bill Haslam, TDOT Commissioner John Schroer and other officials open the road for the day.There are three separate events going on with different times and locations.E

Commissioner: Abuse Numbers are Wrong (Associated Press)

Tennessee Children’s Services Commissioner Kate O’Day says her department can account for every child reported to it in a severely abusive situation. That said, O’Day told the Second Look Commission the 256 severe abuse cases reported to the panel for 2010 was an undercount. The Tennessean reported the commissioner also told the panel Wednesday that the 675 such cases reported for 2011 were skewed high and included 2010 cases, making year-to-year comparison impossible. ”

Compounding pharmacies have advantages, pain dr.s say (TN/Brown, Marsteller)

Some pain management doctors in Tennessee plan to continue using compounded drugs despite the national fungal meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated batches of a popular steroid injection. The lower cost and greater availability of the drug from compounding pharmacies are among the biggest advantages to using the medicine over the brand-name versions, the doctors said. Dr. Tim Smyth, an anesthesiologist in Johnson City, said his practice started buying a compounded version of methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid used for decades to treat back pain, a few years ago after his office had a hard time finding a brand-name version of it.

Meningitis Deaths Increase (Wall Street Journal)

Federal health officials on Thursday called for greater authority to regulate compounding pharmacies like the one tied to the continuing meningitis outbreak and said a wider population of patients may be at risk from contaminated shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said about 14,000 people may have been exposed to tainted steroid injections made by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., up from the previous estimate of 13,000 people. The shots appear to be linked to 169 cases of fungal meningitis and 14 deaths—an increase of two—in 11 states, health authorities said.

Before a Wave of Meningitis, Shots Were Tied to Risks (New York Times)

Perry D. Clark says that a steroid injected near his spine to relieve persistent back pain instead left him “way, way worse.” Twelve years later, he still suffers from continuous stinging in his legs and feet and occasional bursts of excruciating pain. “It’s like somebody took a hot poker out of a fire and jammed it into my foot for two or three seconds,” said Mr. Clark, a retired media professional from Petoskey, Mich. The outbreak of fungal meningitis that has killed 14 people and sickened 156 more has focused attention on the risk of infection from spinal injections. But the same injections have also long been linked to other rare but devastating complications, including nerve damage, paralysis and strokes.

TN court to hear challenge of voter ID law (Tennessean/Sisk)

Court of Appeals to hear arguments in suit filed by city of Memphis, two voters Opponents of the state’s new voter identification law will get another chance to see it overturned, as a Nashville court set a date for a hearing on their legal challenge. The Court of Appeals agreed Thursday to hear oral arguments in a suit filed by the city of Memphis and two voters, which argues that requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls violates the state and federal constitutions. The hearing will take place Oct. 18, one day after early voting begins in Tennessee.

House District 50 race turns negative (Tennessean/Cass)

The House District 50 seat is open for the first time in at least 28 years, but the two men competing for it are no rookies when it comes to campaigning. Democrat Tim Garrett represented the district in the General Assembly for 20 years until Gary Moore unseated him in a primary fight and went on to win the seat in 2004, starting an eight-year run that will end soon with Moore’s retirement. Now Democrat Bo Mitchell, who has served with Garrett in the Metro Council since 2007, and Republican Charles Williamson, who unsuccessfully sought a different legislative seat two years ago, are vying to represent the area stretching from Goodlettsville to Bellevue.

Green outpaces Barnes 2-1 in 3rd quarter fundraising (Leaf Chronicle)

Republican Caucus gives $70,000 to Green Mark Green outraised his opponent, Sen. Tim Barnes, by nearly 2-1 in the third quarter, with $172,685 to Barnes’ $92,550. The campaign donations tell the story of District 22’s statewide appeal. The majority of donations for both sides came from out of the district, and Green received $70,000 from the Senate Republican Caucus. Nashville donors have given $148,650 to the District 22 race while Clarksville donors have given only $38,895.

No surprise: Knox. Pension Board hears city’s fund is $5.6 million short (NS/Witt)

Actuary fills officials in on fund’s shortfall The city must find more than $5 million in its upcoming budget to meet the demands on an underfunded Knoxville employees pension, according to figures from the fund’s actuary. A shortfall didn’t surprise members on the Knoxville Pension Board, who heard a presentation Thursday from Alan Pennington, consulting actuary from Bryan, Pendleton, Swats & McAllister. His state-of-the-pension summary was a tune board members have heard in heavy rotation: underfunded, but could be worse.

Republican leaders reluctant to criticize DesJarlais (Times Free-Press/Flessner)

Tennessee’s top Republicans declined today to either support or criticize U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., after allegations that he told a former mistress to have an abortion in 2000. I don’t go around telling people what to do about issues like that,” U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said today. “That’s between the congressman and the voters of his district. I know the voters of his district very well and they are fully capable of making their own minds up about this.”

DesJarlais: Mistress was not pregnant (Associated Press/Johnson)

GOP stands behindTN congressman A Tennessee congressman, in his first public comments since reports that he once urged a mistress to get an abortion, said the woman did not turn out to be pregnant. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who represents the state’s 4th District of which Rutherford County will be included in next year, did not further dispute a transcript of a recorded phone conversation in which he suggests to the woman they travel to Atlanta “to get this solved.”

Scott DesJarlais lashes out at Eric Stewart (Times Free-Press/Flessner, Sher)

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais charged Thursday that his Democratic opponent in Tennessee’s 4th District race “has resorted to false, personal attacks” as the Jasper, Tenn., physician seeks to counter fallout from a leaked transcript that depicts him pressuring a woman with whom he had an affair to get an abortion. In an email sent to supporters, DesJarlais says, “Eric Stewart knows that he cannot attack me on my independent, conservative and pro-life record in Congress, so he has resorted to false, personal attacks straight out of the Lincoln Davis playbook all in an attempt to steal this election away from the real issues: YOUR JOBS, YOUR HOMES and YOUR VALUES.”

Alexander Sees Potential for Vice Presidential Debate to Boost GOPTicket (M. Flyer)

Just hours before Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate for vice president, was to take on Vice President Joe Biden, the incumbent Democrat, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander said Ryan, his fellow Republican, had an unusual opportunity to boost the chances of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Vice presidential debates are usually entertaining, but not important.” Alexander said in Memphis on Thursday.

Corker prepares for leadership role on foreign policy (Gannett)

Tennessee, which once provided the nation with a legendary secretary of state in Cordell Hull, may soon call itself home to the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or at least its highest-ranking Republican. Sen. Bob Corker will likely claim one of those titles in the 113th Congress, which begins next year. And he would don it just as Iran continues to race toward development of nuclear weapons; China flexes its military muscle ever more frequently; Syria remains engulfed in civil war; and questions persist about the slaying of four American diplomatic personnel in Libya last month on the anniversary of 9/11.

Could a Recount of Prisoners Affect Elections? (Stateline)

Nearly 20 percent of all the people in Maryland’s House of Delegates District 2B, which is about an hour and a half from Washington, D.C., are incarcerated in a state prison. In California’s 30th Assembly District in the Central Valley, 8.6 percent of the population is locked up. New York’s Senate District 45, in the northeastern corner of the state, is home to 13 prisons and more than 14,000 prisoners, or nearly 5 percent of the total population of the district. The U.S. Census Bureau counts prisoners at their incarceration addresses rather than at their last known home addresses.

‘Nashville’ producers seeking more local, state incentives to stay (NBJ)

As the national network TV drama “Nashville” debuted last night, the show was gearing up for another act: a high-stakes bid for millions of dollars in long-term state and local incentives to keep filming in Music City for years to come. The show, which is looking to capitalize on trends in prime-time television and the music industry, also is an economic development watershed. Producers say they want to inject Nashville’s DNA into the series. That effort could bring an estimated $75 million in economic impact to the region through the show’s own spending and ancillary business that goes to restaurants, bars, shops, car dealers and more.

ABC’s ‘Nashville’: A project with infrastructure needs all its own (N. Biz Journal)

A critical part of any economic development project is infrastructure. ABC’s “Nashville,” which premiered this week, gives that word a whole new — and more colorful — meaning. Most times, infrastructure means bridges, or on-and-off ramps for highways, or other types of site preparation needed to make a spot welcoming, and more affordable, to a major company looking to create jobs. When it’s a TV show, it’s a whole different story. We’re talking about both the physical set — the mock Bluebird Cafe and Nashville homes viewers saw last night — as well as the professionals and businesses that make pulling off such a production possible.

New O’Charley’s parent plans to add 50 jobs here (Nashville Post)

The holding company that bought O’Charley’s this spring and will soon wrap up its purchase of J. Alexander’s today said it plans to hire up to 50 people to support its store network in 43 states. American Blue Ribbon Holdings, which also owns Max & Erma’s and Village Inn chains among others, has annual revenues of about $1.5 billion and employs 35,000 employees. At an event Thursday in 100 Oaks to formally announce the relocation of its headquarters from Denver — the move was made more than three months ago — President and CEO Hazem Ouf said the new hires will help fill gaps in operations, human resources, technology, construction and other divisions.

O’Charley’s buyer to add 40 positions (Tennessean/Ward)

The food services company that acquired O’Charley’s Inc., and soon will acquire J. Alexander’s Corp., plans to add 40 positions at its Nashville headquarters by the end of this year. American Blue Ribbon Holdings, a subsidiary of Jacksonville, Fla.-based title insurer Fidelity National Financial, relocated its corporate offices from Denver to O’Charley’s headquarters here after buying that casual dining restaurants chain over the summer. That initial move brought 20 executives and other employees here, boosting head count at American Blue Ribbon’s new national support headquarters in Nashville to 151, including O’Charley’s employees.

Plans Canceled for Nashville Medical Trade Center (Associated Press)

A Texas-based development company has canceled plans to convert the existing Nashville Convention Center into a new medical trade center.cThe Tennessean reported Thursday that Bill Winsor, CEO of the Dallas Market Center, said in an email that they would be announcing the formal suspension of the project. With a new convention center opening in downtown, the plan was to convert the old facility into an eight-story center for distributors of medical products and technology.

Nashville medical mart scrubbed after attracting few takers (Tennessean/Ward)

The Dallas-based developer that planned a medical mart to replace Nashville Convention Center has ended its efforts amid difficulty signing tenants, opening up opportunities for redevelopment of the building that will be replaced next spring by the new Music City Center. Market Center Management had hoped to take over the old convention hall under a master lease with Metro and add eight floors for year-round showrooms for medical products and technology, trade shows and conferences.

Medical Mart development spiked (Nashville Post)

Market Center Management Co. announced today it has cancelled plans to retrofit the existing Nashville Convention Center to accommodate a medical trade mart. The move to cancel comes almost three years after the Dallas-based company first announced its intentions to undertake the massive project, which included plans to build more than a dozen stories of exhibit, meeting and office space. A number of companies and organizations had signed on since then — Lipscomb University and large industry group Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society among them — but persistent questions about the pace of deal signings had dogged the project’s public image.

Nashville Medical Trade Center canceled by developers (Nashville Biz Journal)

Developers have officially pulled the plug on the Nashville Medical Trade Center. Dallas-based Market Center Management Co. had planned to build a massive center on top of the existing Nashville Convention Center. The $250 million project, first announced in late 2009, was expected to attract 150,000 visitors and create 2,700 jobs. In a statement, Market Center Management Co. CEO Bill Winsor said they were unable to meet their leasing targets.

Canceled medical mart disappoints downtown Nashville businesses (N Biz Journal)

Downtown business owners reacted with disappointment to the collapsed plans for the Nashville Medical Trade Center, which would have replaced the Nashville Convention Center. “I really felt like that was going to be a great and strong plan for the city of Nashville,” said Ray Waters, a regional director of Turnberry Associates, which runs both the Union Station Hotel and the Hilton Hotel downtown, adding that he is concerned about what will go in the space. “That is great meeting space. I’m concerned about the Renaissance losing meeting space.”

Medical Trade Center developer Bill Winsor on the decision to pull the plug (NBJ)

Bill Winsor, the Texas developer behind the now defunct Nashville Medical Trade Center, isn’t giving up on his decades-old plan. In a phone interview with the Nashville Business Journal, Winsor tipped his hat to Nashville, saying that while the city’s timing and his project weren’t in sync, he isn’t ready to ditch the project he’s dreamed of for the past 30 years. In May, Winsor announced that his Dallas company, Market Center Management Co., had launched efforts to secure financing for the project, thanks in part to commitments from six new tenants.

Cleveland med mart touts progress hours after Nashville project dies (NBJ)

Jim Bennett, senior vice president of the company behind Cleveland’s medical mart project, released a statement Thursday afternoon touting Cleveland’s success just hours after its only remaining competitor bit the dust. Initially, Nashville’s project was in competition with similar projects in Cleveland and New York City, but that race is over. A New York City medical mart tower never got out of the ground. Like Nashville, the Cleveland Medical Mart has been marred by delays.

Med Mart Scuttled, But Dean Not Overly Worried (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

The would-be developer of a Nashville “med mart” says it’s giving up on the project. The Nashville Medical Trade Center had been slated to take over the city’s 25-year-old downtown convention center, but it struggled to sign on enough companies. The plan was to create a one-stop shop for hospitals, with venders like suppliers and device-makers. Analysts warned such a unique project wouldn’t work if there were more than one. Cleveland is more than half-done with its Medical Mart and Convention Center set to open next July, and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean hinted last week the plan might not work out.

UC Memorial Hospital board to make choice in closed session (J. City Press)

The Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Board of Control has received proposals from two health care entities — Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System — interested in acquiring UCMH. But the UCMH board will not be ready to vote on a proposal from one of these organizations this Thursday as originally intended. Instead, the board is slated to choose the better of the two proposals in a closed strategic planning session at its regular meeting this Monday.

The Commercial Appeal names new VP of advertising (Commercial Appeal)

Stephanie Boggins is the new vice president of advertising of The Commercial Appeal. Her appointment was announced Thursday by publisher George Cogswell, and she will begin work in early November. Boggins, 38, comes to Memphis from the Ventura County Star, where she served as vice president of advertising and played a critical role in transforming the California newspaper’s advertising department, Cogswell said. The CA and Ventura County Star are both E.W. Scripps Company newspapers.

Parents to Knox Schools: Make rezoning as smooth as possible (N-S/McCoy)

Maria Hartsell’s biggest concern with a proposed rezoning is making sure that her two children — currently fourth-and first-graders at A.L. Lotts Elementary — will remain in the same Knox County school together next year. She said if the new school opens without a fourth and fifth grade, her daughter would have to remain at Lotts, while her younger child goes to the new school. “Then I have a child who’s going to the school he’s zoned for and a child had to stay because there wasn’t a fifth grade offered to her,” she said.

 

OPINION

 

Guest columnist: Poll watching is a civic duty (Tennessean)

The voters of Nashville need you. Yes, you. Put down that cereal bowl or bagel or whatever and reflect on civic responsibility. Free, fair and accessible elections are the foundation of our democracy. No matter what your age, income, skin color, or party affiliation, it’s the one time in the political process when we are all equal. It’s the one time when we all have the same say. As such, the Davidson County Election Commission has a responsibility to make the voting process as fair and equal as possible. In order for the integrity of our election system to be maintained, every vote must count. But the responsibility does not only lie with the commission.

Editorial: AG opinion should not be used to curb competition (News-Sentinel)

State Attorney General Bob Cooper said this week in an opinion that local governments can dictate where employees live and in some cases give preferential treatment in contracts to companies within their jurisdictions. Local governments, however, should resist the temptation to make politically motivated but economically shortsighted decisions. Cooper issued his opinion in response to questions from state Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, who said he sought the answers for “clarity” after a June opinion in which Cooper said the state can’t ban out-of-state ownership of liquor stores. Though not binding the same way as court opinions, attorney general opinions are used by state and local lawmakers as guidance in crafting legislation.

Pam Strickland: Information from state exit polls will be missed (News-Sentinel)

Being a political junkie, one of my favorite parts of Election Night is hearing the television jockeys talk about who voted for whom according to the election exit polls. Unfortunately, for Tennesseans and those in 18 other states, there won’t be nearly as much rich detail to ponder following the upcoming election because we will be interviewed only as part of the national exit poll, but state-level estimates of the partisan, age or racial makeups of electorates won’t be available as they have been since 1992. The National Election Pool — a joint venture of the major television networks and The Associated Press —said the reduction was because of cost concerns.

Guest columnist: Access to health care vital (Tennessean)

We all know someone — a family member, friend or neighbor — without health insurance. Perhaps they’ve lost their job or cannot afford to purchase insurance when their job does not provide this benefit. Without health insurance, many people delay seeking medical attention fearing they cannot afford the cost of care. Many Tennessee families are just one medical crisis away from bankruptcy Access to health insurance is important to ensure that accessible, quality health care is available to those who need it. Furthermore, delays in seeking routine care can result in even higher medical costs. The flu can become pneumonia, a treatable heart condition can become an emergency room visit, and a cancer that could have been treated with minimal risk becomes an expensive surgery.

Editorial: Connecting rural areas to the world (Commercial Appeal)

Most of us take high-speed Internet access for granted. It is something that comes along with cable television — the soup and sandwich of our digital connections. But high-speed Internet access also is an important tool for economic development and education — just as important as good roads, adequate sewers and quality public schools. Communities that have deficits in these elements are the ones that need access to high-speed Internet the most, but they also are the ones least likely to have it. How to get these rural areas connected is the focus of a public Broadband Summit Oct. 22-23 in Memphis, sponsored by the state-federal Delta Regional Authority, comprised of eight states, and broadband advocacy groups.

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