Tennessee editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Daily Times of Maryville on migration:
Aha! You thought so. Now there’s proof. Migrants are moving into Tennessee right under our collective noses as easy as they please.
But as the data is calibrated, it might not add up to what you figured.
The Tennessee State Data Center housed on the UT Knoxville campus has done the numbers and released results. The center analyzed new U.S. Census Bureau data that shows for the third straight year Tennessee is the nation’s 16th-most-populous state.
Using the latest figures, the center estimates the population at 6,770,010 residents in 2018, an increase for the year of 61,216 people.
If all those new state residents settled in one place, that new city — let’s call it Volville — would be more than twice the size of Maryville. Volville would rank just under Johnson City and above Bartlett in the state’s city population rankings, settling in at No. 10.
Just for curiosity’s sake, using the Census’s estimated data for 2017: Maryville (population 28,208) ranks No. 27, between Oak Ridge and Bristol, with Alcoa (9,343) ranking No. 61, between Brownsville and Bloomingdale. For the record: Louisville (4,141) ranks No. 123; Greenback (992) is No. 275; Friendsville (849) is No. 294; Rockford (746) is No. 305 and Townsend (400) ranks No. 355.
In our mythical city of Volville, about one in five people would be native Tennesseans. That’s because the state’s 79,474 births outpaced its 67,259 recorded deaths, and the difference — called natural change — accounted for 20 percent of the total population increase last year. Births have hovered at around 80,000 annually since 2011, while deaths have increased by 1.6 percent each year over that same period.
That naturally slowing growth rate is no surprise to Tim Kuhn, director of the center. Overall, the rate of natural change has fallen by 5 percent every year since 2010. Kuhn notes that the steady rise in the state’s death rate over the past 20 years and the declining birth rate, especially among women under age of 25, likely will continue to edge the growth rate downward.
There’s a “but” of course. That slowdown has been offset by migration made up of people who are different from us Volunteer staters. They’re a different breed entirely, you might say. Gators and Bulldogs and Wildcats and more.
Or as the State Data Center explains, in prior years, Florida, Georgia and Kentucky have been the largest sources of new residents. In the past year, nearly two-thirds of Tennessee’s population increase was driven by residents moving from other states, including almost 40,000 people who moved in from surrounding states.
The migration news out of Washington is a relentless, day-after-day, rat-a-tat-tat drumbeat that has pounded the federal government into partial shutdown. Given that, it might come as a surprise to many people living between the Smokies and the Mississippi River that Volville’s population of 61,216 is composed of 8,994 residents who are international migrants, or about 15 percent of the total increase in the entire state’s population.
According to the State Data Center analysis, Tennessee’s population in the past year grew 0.96 percent. Put in perspective, international migrants account for 15 percent of less than 1 percent.
Maybe here in the highlands, when the mist clears off the mountains and we can look westward across the Volunteer State, we’ll be able to see that this migration myopia is more than meets the eye — or that it’s really far less.
The Johnson City Press on increasing veteran’s access to higher education:
East Tennessee State University’s commitment to veterans is impressive.
Beginning this spring, ETSU is expanding scholarship opportunities and waiving out-of-state tuition for military service members, veterans or members of military service families.
The school will offer 15 $1,000 scholarships each semester to military spouses or children. An additional 10 scholarships of $1,500 each will go to veterans who no longer receive GI Bill benefits. Incoming military-affiliated students also can waive out-of-state tuition.
As we reported in a recent edition, retired Col. Tony Banchs, the school’s director of Veterans Affairs, says ETSU is the sole university in Tennessee to offer such incentives.
That’s fitting, given ETSU’s proximity to the Quillen Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, and the presence of much of the university’s health sciences division on that campus.
Offering veterans and their families more opportunities for life improvement and career skills should be a high priority in education, especially given the service they have provided to our country and the sometimes difficult transitions they have in civilian life. Too many vets struggle, and it’s especially disheartening to see so many in homeless situations.
Veterans receive significant education and develop life skills in the armed forces that should be readily applicable to civilian careers. Finding ways to connect those dots is essential for the U.S. to do right by its servicemen and women.
We’d like to see more of those connections happening before they ever leave the service — “dual enrollment” of sorts. That’s why we took note of “Army University,” a program that became fully operational in November 2017 to align many of the Army’s education programs under a unified academic structure. Along with learning the skills needed for service jobs, enlisted Army soldiers have the opportunity to obtain college education while simultaneously serving their country.
It’s a concept that’s long overdue. Together with increased access at higher education institutions like ETSU, the U.S. can better serve the people who serve it.
Kudos to ETSU for offering part of that puzzle.
The Johnson City Press on human trafficking:
Our common misconceptions about human trafficking are wrong, and we should all learn more about its deplorable practice and how to best eradicate it from our communities.
This month, Natalie Ivey, director of advocacy and outreach for the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, gave a sobering and eye-opening introductory lesson about human trafficking and its prevalence and effects in our region.
At a Human Trafficking 101 forum hosted by the Family Justice Center in Johnson City, Ivey explained that the reality of the situation is far from the common misconceptions telling us that people are only exploited for commercial sex or labor in large metropolises or near the country’s southern border. Our rural communities are at particular risk for harboring trafficking, especially for commercial sex.
Instead of the trope of being kidnapped and forced into service, Ivey said more often, the trafficker lives in the home with the person being exploited and is usually a family member — a parent, grandparent or other relative — who sells a child out to strangers for sex.
Foster children, runaways, people with a previous history of physical or sexual abuse and individuals with special needs are at heightened risk for being exploited by traffickers, who often use psychological tricks, like legal or financial threats, or access to drugs to exert control over the person being trafficked.
Learning to recognize human trafficking is essential for combating it, for residents in our area, but also for our law enforcement officers.
According to statistics from the National Survivor Network, which works with trafficking survivors to lead the anti-trafficking movement, victims of human trafficking are often charged with and convicted of serious crimes, which makes it harder for them to re-enter society after escaping the clutches of their captors and makes it easier for those exploiting them to retain control over them.
These barriers make life harder for people who have already been subjected to intolerable abuse by framing them as criminals rather than victims.
Forty-two states have laws allowing victims of human trafficking to petition the court for the expungement of their criminal records, but Tennessee is not one of them.
Until we learn to recognize human trafficking for what it is and accept that our area is not immune to its wretched reaches, the exploitation will continue.