Tennessee editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
Johnson City Press on a mountain with potential to attract tourism and economic development:
Buffalo Mountain has seen its fair share of troubles over the years, including a 2008 forest fire that temporarily shut down Johnson City’s 723-acre park and a 2012 flood that destroyed the mountain’s historic Methodist camp.
(...) Our staff reported about some much-needed attention for the mountain on two fronts.
Nearly five years after it was destroyed by storms that swept through Northeast Tennessee, though, the camp is back to life. The August 2012 rains brought floods and a landslide, washing out the road to the campsite and damaging cabins and bathhouses. After operating the retreat for six decades, the Holston Conference of United Methodist Church left the site three years after the storms for a new camp on Kingsport’s Bays Mountain.
Despite the damage, though, Roxanne and Billy Cox and family bought the property and went to work improving the grounds and buildings, including the 17-bedroom retreat center, into an events and getaway venue. As Staff Writer Jessica Fuller reported (...) the Coxes plan to host special events to raise funds toward renovating the camp’s focal point, Allison Lodge, and eventually plan to restore the cabins.
The results so far are beautiful, and the community owes the Coxes a word of thanks for investing in the mountain.
Between the camp, the city’s park, the Pinnacle fire tower trail and other ATV and hiking trails, the Buffalo Mountain area is our largest natural recreational asset, and it’s ripe with even more opportunities. Johnson City and Unicoi are nestled against the rolling landscape, which offers spectacular views from above and below.
(...) Staff Writer Zach Vance reports about the U.S. Forest Service’s thoughts of converting roughly 5 miles of logging trails atop Buffalo Mountain to hiking and mountain biking use. The Forest Service plans to seek public comment on the proposal before reaching a decision. We can’t imagine a better use, as long as the mountain’s environment is preserved.
In the long run, Buffalo Mountain is a linchpin in Johnson City’s hopes of becoming an outdoor recreational mecca. Such amenities are drivers for both tourism and economic development.
We’re happy to see Buffalo Mountain getting the attention and hope to see the love keep coming.
Commercial Appeal on the shooting of a man who had no criminal record by an officer whom a grand jury declined to indict:
This is what the public knows about the July 2017 death of 41-year-old Ismael Lopez at his home in Southaven.
Lopez, a native of Mexico and an auto mechanic, was shot and killed in his mobile home by one of two Southaven police officers.
The police officers had a warrant for another man, a white man, who lived at another address nearby.
Lopez had no arrest warrants and no criminal record.
Lopez is dead.
No charges were filed against the officers. A Southaven grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot Lopez.
This is what the public doesn’t know about what happened that fateful night a year ago.
Did Lopez have a gun? Was he holding it? Was he pointing it at the officers through an open door?
Did the officers identify themselves? Did they tell Lopez to put the gun down? Did they fire at Lopez through a closed door?
Did the officers know they had the wrong person? Why were the officers at the wrong address? What precautions did they take to make sure they had the right address and the right person?
What did the autopsy show and why did it take authorities more than 10 months to complete the autopsy report? John Champion, the Mississippi prosecutor in the case, said the autopsy report was “in my opinion very poorly written.”
What evidence was presented to the grand jury?
The public doesn’t know the answer to any of those questions because Champion has refused to release the investigative file.
No state law requires him to do so, but no state law prevents him from doing so. The grand jury process is secret and court records associated with it are sealed, but he has the authority to release the file.
Other prosecutors in suspicious and high-profile police shootings have done so.
In 2014, for example, Missouri prosecutor Robert P. McCullough released thousands of pages of documents and evidence he presented to a grand jury that declined to indict officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
McCulloch said he wanted transparency and believed “everyone will be able to examine that same evidence and come to their own conclusion.”
In 2015, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich got a judge’s permission to release and post online the 918-page investigative file of the shooting death of 19-year-old Darrius Stewart by Memphis police officer Connor Schilling. A grand jury had declined to indict Schilling.
Weirich wrote that “promptly releasing the investigative file and giving the public timely access to information about such an emotionally charged situation will function to boost transparency and promote accountability in the government.”
That’s exactly what the public needs in the death of Ismael Lopez.
Did police abuse their power? Did they shoot and kill an innocent man? Or were their actions justified?
Champion should release the investigative file. As a public official, and as an officer of the court, he has an ethical duty to promote justice and effective operation of the judicial system.
The judicial system cannot operate in secrecy or darkness. Justice is not served when the public is denied critical information, especially about fatal shootings by men and women who are sworn to uphold the law.
What really happened at the Lopez home in Southaven on the evening of July 27, 2017?
The public has a right to know.
Kingsport Times-News on the founders of a medical clinic that services southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee:
It was the unmet medical needs of Southwest Virginia residents that brought together an Englishman who once managed the world’s largest cattle ranch in British Guiana and a nun who for 20 years had been driving around the area dispensing health care from a Volkswagen Beetle.
The result of that collaboration is the largest annual medical forum in the nation, which continues because the need is still there.
But without Stan Brock, actor, author and philanthropist, and Sister Bernadette Kinney of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, it would never have happened, and thousands of needy residents of Lee, Wise, Scott and other Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee counties would never have received millions of dollars of free medical help for nearly two decades.
Brock, who in 1968 began co-hosting NBC’s Emmy-winning series “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” with Marlin Perkins, founded the nonprofit organization Remote Area Medical (RAM) in 1985, vowing to bring medical care closer to the people who needed it and at a price they could afford: free. Thanks to RAM’s 120,000 volunteers, it has served some 1 million men, women and children around the world with about $120 million in free medical care.
Brock lives in Rockford, Tenn., near the Old Knoxville Highway where the 55,000-square-foot campus of RAM is located. He was instrumental in the passage of the Tennessee Volunteer Medical Services Act of 1995, which allows health professionals with out-of-state licenses to cross state lines and provide free care.
In 1978, at the request of the Richmond Catholic Diocese, the Medical Missionaries established a service in Appalachia based at Clinchco and dispatched Sister Bernie Kinney to staff it. Two years later, Sister Bernie founded The Health Wagon to meet the unique challenges of providing health care to underserved and indigent residents of poverty-stricken areas of rural Appalachia.
In 1998, Brock and Sister Bernie met in Mountain City and planned to bring RAM to Southwest Virginia the next year. Later, the Virginia Dental Association’s Missions of Mercy joined the effort and forged a partnership that has built Wise County RAM into a nationally, even internationally, known event.
As in previous years, this year’s recent event provided a dental clinic to deliver free dental care to all comers on the campus of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, while Wise County RAM offered a broad range of medical and vision health services at the Wise County fairgrounds. They served thousands of needy residents as they have for two decades, folks who simply could not afford to have a physical checkup or to have a cavity filled.
But it all began with two people, who are heroes to this region, who continue to set an example for giving back and for helping those in need.
At some point, their immense contributions to this area should be recognized in a more lasting way.