Tennessee editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
Johnson City Press on the development of a better prepared workforce:
As we’ve heard from several candidates on this year’s campaign trail, a key ingredient in Tennessee’s economic development is a better prepared workforce.
If our state expects to attract more industry and other businesses offering better employment opportunities, it must provide a pool of workers with the necessary education and skills. No employer wants to locate where it has to bring in outside labor or train its staff from the ground up.
“We can’t improve the opportunity and desirability of this region without quality jobs. And we can’t attract quality jobs without a quality workforce,” exiting Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge told Staff Writer Zach Vance earlier this year.
We were pleased to hear the candidates pushing for a renewed emphasis on career-technical education, including suggestions for public-private partnerships. Sharing the burden with the private sector, where the means and expertise exist, makes perfect sense.
But that does not excuse the state and local governments from stepping up to the plate politically, financially and creatively.
As industrial technology has changed, more and more jobs have required at least some post-secondary training. Tennessee’s high schools have done their best to keep up by adapting traditional shop, auto and other trade programs to prepare students, but keeping pace with rapidly evolving technology is an expensive endeavor.
At the post-secondary level, the First Tennessee Development District is working to see all eight counties in Northeast Tennessee certified as ACT Work Ready Communities, a credential job seekers can use to prove their skills and companies can leverage to know they’re hiring qualified employees, while Northeast State Community College and the regional Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology continue to provide opportunities for education and certification.
But more has to be done to make complete career-technical education more accessible to more high school students before they graduate, and both state and local governments will have to be creative in that effort. Eldridge already has mentioned the need to mirror Chattanooga’s efforts in aligning career-technical curricula to allow high school students to earn dual credits with acceptance at a TCAT, a community college or university.
Another idea we’ve heard floating around Washington County is to follow Greene County’s lead with a jointly operated career-technical program between the county’s two public school systems.
The Greene Technology Center in Greeneville serves high school students from both the Greeneville City and Greene County School Systems, as well as adult learners. As a satellite campus of the TCAT in Morristown, the center offers more than a dozen different career and technical education programs, including automotive repair, cosmetology, criminal justice, health science, early childhood education and welding.
Here in Washington County/Johnson City, Northeast State already has a strong presence, and a TCAT sits just a few miles away in Elizabethton.
While salary structures and other administrative concerns about a program serving two school systems and adult learners would have to be resolved, Johnson City, Washington County and state officials would do well to continue exploring various options for a common career-technical program and to cultivate more of those public-private partnerships along the way.
The Mountain Press says state and local officials show that a clean campaign can be successful:
By about 9 p.m. Thursday night, it became apparent that Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee’s strategy was paying off.
The Nashville businessman, who was attacked by some opponents as a “moderate,” stayed above the political fray, didn’t resort to mudslinging, and walked away from a four-way race to represent his party in the November general election.
It’s a quantum leap from the methods applied by candidates Randy Boyd and Diane Black, whose campaigns spent the previous month or so slamming each other repeatedly, 30 seconds at a time, on a television near you.
It appears Tennessee voters simply got tired of it.
Lee won going away — with 13 percentage points more than his closest competitor, Boyd, who garnered 24 percent of the vote. In Sevier County, too, it seemed that civility prevailed — not in specific head-to-head races, but in the overall election.
Gatlinburg City Commission opponents were seen shaking hands over campaign signs and didn’t fall into the easy political trap of trash-talking opponents.
Newly-elected Commissioner Ryan DeSear and opponent Jeff Ownby spoke well of each other throughout the days leading up to the election, and it continued on Election Day, as the pair remained friendly, even as they campaigned for votes outside a local precinct.
In the contested county commission races — which were partisan contests — opponents also remained civil.
At the Seymour election forum, where each of the candidates spoke to a small crowd of attendees, no negative posturing was taken, as the issues — not the candidates themselves — remained clearly in focus.
Todd Humble and JoAnn Finchum’s campaigns even remained friendly at polling locations, as they attempted to solicit votes from the community, as witnessed by a photo submitted to The Mountain Press.
While we doubt it’s a trend that will grow nationwide, it was nice to see some common decency for a change.
After all, almost all of those running in Thursday’s elections — especially locally — have one thing in mind, the betterment of their communities.
Hopefully they’ll all continue that quest, whether they won or lost.
The Tennessean on issues that Tennessee’s new leaders can address:
The August primary election is behind us now and Tennesseans have narrowed their choices for senator, governor, and federal and state legislators.
The general election candidates may be tempted to pick wedge issues to drive their turnout.
However, if they are really committed to public service and the greater good, they should address those things that affect Tennesseans’ daily lives.
They should also be able to explain to voters how they can and will do something about it.
Issues like immigration have dominated news coverage, and a June Gallup poll showed Americans consider immigration the No. 1 problem facing America.
However, remember, the U.S.-Mexico border is 1,000 miles from Nashville.
That is why the people running to lead Tennesseans ought to focus on the critical issues closest to home.
Here are a few topics for candidates to consider:
Our leaders need to ensure that Tennessee’s economy stays strong.
That means ensuring access to jobs, a climate that will be inviting to business relocations and opportunities to benefit from a global economy.
Bipartisan groups of elected officials agree President Trump’s tariff policy is detrimental to segments of our economy, like Tennessee farmers or auto manufacturers.
Agricultural production generates more than $3 billion annually, per the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Eighty-seven of Tennessee’s 95 counties have auto operations.
Another important factor for leaders to consider is Tennessee’s environment, its rivers, mountains and green spaces, which make it such an attractive tourism destination.
Nashville is the private hospital capital of the United States, but Tennessee has some of the worst health outcomes in the nation.
Tennessee also has the second highest level of opioid prescriptions per capita in the nation, and the fatalities from overdoses grow every year.
Earlier this year, the Tennessee General Assembly passed Gov. Bill Haslam’s $30 million investment in opioid regulation, law enforcement and treatment.
It is a good step, but that only starts to address the scope of the problem.
In 2017, President Trump declared an opioid emergency, and our members of Congress need to make sure Tennessee is getting the money and assistance to address this crisis.
Another emergency is that Tennessee now has the highest per capita rate of rural hospital closures in the country.
Tennessee legislators have refused to expand Medicaid in the state, but they have pursued no other alternatives to this problem, and our vulnerable residents need access to quality health care.
Despite excellent schools across the state like University of Tennessee Knoxville, Vanderbilt University and University of Memphis, too few Tennesseans have a degree to place them in the jobs of today and tomorrow, which require more skills and training.
College graduation and participation rates are rising, but there is still a long way to go.
However, the disparities between low-income and higher income students create barriers to access.
While Haslam has increased teacher pay and investments in public schools, local districts say it is not enough, which is why Metro Nashville Public Schools joined a lawsuit with Shelby County schools to sue for more money.
A landmark success for the Haslam administration was getting the bipartisan IMPROVE Act passed, which raised the gas tax and is building needed road projects in the state.
That will help address the backlog, but there are future needs.
As Tennessee as a whole continues to grow in population — at a rate of about 0.86 percent a year — residents and businesses need to build infrastructure to deal with that growth.
Investments in roadways, transit, sidewalks and communities will go a long way.
While immigration was identified as the top concern for Americans in the Gallup poll, it is worth reminding candidates that foreign-born residents make up 5 percent of the state population.
They are not our enemies. They are neighbors in our urban centers and our rural towns.
Our leaders will do a great service if they model behavior that unites residents and encourages them to respect each other.