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Tennessee editorial roundup

April 10, 2019

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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April 9

Chattanooga Times Free Press on voter registration bill:

You have to hand it to Tennessee’s GOP: If Republicans in the General Assembly could turn back time to when women still couldn’t vote and people of color were counted only as three-fifths of a person, the hands of our clocks would be turning counterclockwise at the speed of helicopter blades.

Last week, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office pushed a new bill that would require groups leading voter registration efforts, such as the League of Women Voters and others, to potentially face criminal misdemeanor charges and fines up to $10,000 for submitting too many — 100 or more — incomplete forms. Incomplete as in when a new registrant is reluctant to put his or her Social Security number on a form handed to a stranger.

Wait. Isn’t policing the validity of all of our voter registrations the job of election commissions around the state and Hargett’s secretary of state office? So Hargett now wants to delegate that policing job to the League or to a church group or to a university or to any other group that helps sign up voters?

No. Pardon us for being cynical. We don’t believe that’s the real intention.

The real intention is to keep fewer people voting — especially women and people of color, who tend to vote Democratic.

It’s voter suppression, but this time that suppression would be ratcheted up from would-be voters themselves to the churches, universities, nonprofits, political parties and others signing up those voters. It is suppression by wrongly putting those organizations at risk of criminal misdemeanor charges or fines or both.

Tequila Johnson, who helped manage the Tennessee Black Voter Project last year, told The Associated Press that the state hadn’t seen a bill like this one advance “until we dared to register 86,000 black and brown people to vote (in Tennessee). That screams racism.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, of Nashville, agreed and suggested that rather than the proposed restrictions, state leaders might actually try to make it easier to register in the state that ranked second to last in the nation last year for voter turnout and nearly as badly in voter registration.

″(I)f paper forms are too difficult, we should offer more digital options, such as same-day registration and automatic voter registration. Or we should fix our confusing forms,” Cooper said. “It’s like a new poll tax. How many jelly beans are in the jar? We have seen this movie before. This is a blatant attempt to suppress the vote further in Tennessee.”

In a Friday op-ed in the Tennessean, Charlane Oliver, co-founder and board president of The Equity Alliance, noted that civic groups have been conducting voter registration drives for decades in Tennessee, and no one seemed to have a problem. “Yet, three months after black-led groups mobilized to register thousands of black voters, Hargett has conjured up legislation to carve out people that he does not want to vote,” she wrote.

Hargett defends the bill, saying that in Shelby County, one organization turned in 10,000 forms on the final day of registration. In a recent op-ed published by the USA Today Network-Tennessee, Hargett said election administrators in Shelby and Davidson counties spent upwards of $200,000 and $35,000, respectively, to process the registration forms.

So? What if 10,000 people showed up to their election commission offices on the final day? Would he just decide to close the doors so there wouldn’t be any last-day registrations or more money expended?

League of Women Voters of Tennessee President Marian Ott said in a statement Monday that her group “strongly opposes” the legislation, noting that though the bills appear to exempt volunteers, many voter registration drives — especially large ones — depend on a blend of paid staff and volunteers.

“This legislation would have a very negative and chilling impact on efforts to register citizens of color, youth and those living in poverty,” she said. Submitting fraudulent voter registration forms already is against the law, she noted.

Contact your Tennessee lawmakers first thing this morning about this travesty — because there is no time to waste.

Do nothing about this today and watch that clock hand spin backward.

Online: https://www.timesfreepress.com

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March 28

Kingsport Times News on school safety:

Technology has made our children much safer in all 22 Sullivan County schools, including Kingsport, via the Raptor Visitor Management System.

Where previous visitors had only to sign in, the new system requires formal identification such as a driver’s license, which is scanned. The system then checks local and remote databases before issuing a printed visitor pass containing the visitor’s photo and location within the school that’s being visited.

The remote databases that are checked include a national sex offender registry, and others may be added. Locally, the system checks to see if there are any issues with the individual, including whether he or she has been banned from the campus and whether a parent is prohibited from having contact with a child due to a custody battle or other issue.

That’s important because children have been abducted from schools by a non-custodial parent.

The system records visitor details and sign-in history for every visitor who enters each school and creates reports for entire districts or individual schools. Information is displayed throughout the entire platform, and emergency panic buttons allow front desk personnel to easily and discreetly communicate to school leaders or law enforcement if they feel threatened, distressed or need assistance.

Ketron Elementary School in Bloomingdale got its Raptor installation in November, and secretaries Gail Bedford and Melissa Nash said the system works well and parents and others are accustomed to it and like the system. “We really like it,” Bedford said. “The parents are getting to where when they come in the door they have their licenses in their hand.”

Kingsport Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True said the system, in place in Kingsport city schools for three years, is popular with employees and parents in that system, too.

The first time someone uses a license or other identification card to enter a school, Bedford, Nash or their colleagues across the school system must key in the ID. However, after that the ID is entered in that school’s database and folks check in by letting a scanner look at their ID’s bar code.

At Ketron, most visitors except parents picking up children and a few others use a scanner that automatically prints out a sticker that shows the person’s photo from the ID. Parents picking up students and some other visitors can use a separate scanner that does not automatically print out the sticker since the parents leave the office with the children and don’t go farther into the school.

Nash said that aside from U.S. driver’s licenses, the system also will use Mexican driver’s licenses, a passport and a photo ID issued to those who do not have a U.S. driver’s license.

Sullivan County schools now join Kingsport schools and more than 22,000 others that use this technology, which has flagged more than 40 sex offenders per day attempting to enter schools. Every school should have similar technology.

Online: http://www.timesnews.net

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April 6

Cleveland Daily Banner on Habitat for Humanity:

Whether it’s the first shovel of dirt during a groundbreaking, the inaugural nail driven during an opening day of construction or the snip of a brightly colored ribbon at the close of a dedication, there’s always something extraordinary about a Habitat for Humanity observance.

Always.

Conditions don’t matter: rain, sun, hot, cold or the nip of a frosty October morn, it’s a sight to behold for all . from volunteers to organizational staff to program advocates - and especially to recipient families who give “sweat equity” and a personal commitment to homeownership. Truly, it’s an emotional turn in the lives of all whose hands have touched this heartfelt moment.

For program staff, it is the continuation of a personal mission, one that whispers ”. I am my brother’s keeper,” and for this reason they choose to work for a nonprofit whose efforts sometimes go unnoticed but whose impact is forever seen.

For donors, it is the knowledge that dollars contributed don’t disappear into the unknown with never another word to be heard; on the contrary, these gifts swell hearts by building hope.

For volunteers, it is the chance to make a difference in the lives of others . strangers on day one, best friends at project’s close; theirs is the sweat, the drive and the fatigue of working in the sun, theirs is the compassion of mentoring others whose lives are not so different from their own, theirs is a need to do good, to be good and to feel good in the doing.

For recipient families, it is the hand up for which many pray; it is not the handout that lends to a thirst for more, but an opportunity that should be afforded to any man or any woman or any family, with child or without, of any color and all cultures who are willing to work to help themselves while accepting the responsibilities of their decision.

This is the world of Habitat for Humanity. These are the people who give it voice. Theirs are the knowing smiles, the perspiring brows and the tired sighs that give it face.

As most know, Habitat for Humanity is an international initiative, one that erects houses and builds cities in all pockets of the globe. It is also a national front, one given life by community affiliates from Bangor, Maine, to Brownsville, Texas, from Spokane, Washington, to Miami, Florida. Its outreach is immense. Its vision spans coast to coast.

Closer to home, we have a league of miracle workers in our midst. Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland has been bringing the American Dream to local families since 1990 . nail by nail, board by board, shingle to shingle, time-scarred paint brush to drip-stained bucket, shovel to landscaped earth, and heart to heart.

By the close of 2019, Habitat for Humanity volunteers spanning 29 years will have built 136 homes in the Cleveland and Bradley County community.

Habitat volunteers recently broke ground on three new houses in the Victory Grove subdivision. Groundbreaking will be held later for a fourth in the South Gate Hills subdivision.

One of the strengths in the fabric of Victory Grove and South Gate Hills is their commonality. Both are exclusive Habitat for Humanity neighborhoods.

They are not alone. Habitat also boasts its own communities in Fitzgerald Village, Sain Village and Century Village.

There is wisdom in building Habitat homes on the same soil. Their families get to share a sense of pride, one that breathes success, embraces a celebration of life and resonates a pledge . to themselves, to each other, to their hometown.

Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, they are building strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter, and they’re doing it right here in our hometown community.

Online: http://clevelandbanner.com/