Tennessee editorial roundup
The Associated Press
Jul. 12, 2018
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Memphis News on the Shelby County Election Commission choosing to add five new early-voting sites before Election Day in August:
From the outset of early voting in Shelby County 24 years ago, there was never an expectation that going to the polls for two weeks before Election Day would increase the overall turnout.
If that happened it was considered to be an added benefit. But the goal of early voting was convenience and maybe a step or two down the road to a time when we would vote at fewer polling places once this became a habit.
It has become a habit for some voters. Some people only vote early, just as some wait until Election Day.
We pay so much attention to habits in our politics that when something changes that requires citizens to adjust their routine it becomes a cause for concern.
So when the Shelby County Election Commission decided to add five new early-voting sites in advance of the Aug. 2 Election Day and make Agricenter International the only site open for the first four days of the voting period, the reaction was swift.
Local Democratic Party leaders complained that Agricenter's opening first amounts to four days when more Republicans will vote and fewer Democrats will vote. Different party leaders made the same allegation four years ago about the Downtown site being open before the satellite sites kicked in.
Republicans point out Agricenter is in a state House district represented by a Democrat with a split in primary voters that is almost even between Democrats and Republicans.
Local Republican Party chairman Lee Mills said the first four days of early voting are "inconsequential."
Local Democratic Party chairman Corey Strong disagreed, saying the Agricenter's opening first is an attempt to suppress the Democratic vote in a blue county. He doubled down the next day calling for Democrats to turn out against "the demonstrably racist, homophobic, unethical and unqualified Republican nominees."
Our politics reflect the divided nation we are a part of. Within Shelby County lies the biggest base of Democratic voters in the state and the biggest base of Republican voters in the state.
It's always been a potentially volatile coexistence stabilized by the boundaries between city and suburbs - although both sides are increasingly challenging those borders. Sometimes it is an appeal for crossover votes. Other times it is a campaign aimed at producing an upset.
State and federal primaries are on the August ballot as well as the county general election. Most, but not all, are races between the Democratic and Republican nominees from the May primaries.
The time to make these changes probably wasn't between two elections that are linked.
No time will ever be perfect, but the time has come for a comprehensive review of how and where we conduct early voting in Shelby County with an open map of the county that puts these places where the voters are and accessible to all of the voters.
That includes places where Republicans and Democrats live side by side and where those with no party allegiance can make their choice as well.
Johnson City Press on following the law:
There's a lot of talk nationally these days about respecting the rule of law. In most cases, though, that axiom applies to "the other guy," not the one in the mirror.
Many of us are guilty of violating what we consider "suggestions" rather than hard and fast rules.
Take speed limits for example. From purely anecdotal observation, we'd guess that the average driver on Interstate 26 runs between 5 and 10 mph over the speed limit through Johnson City at all times. Unless law enforcement is within sight, the interstate is a free-for-all akin to Bristol Motor Speedway. Heaven forbid you actually obey the speed limit — you'll be dangerously tailgated in either lane.
The would-be Dale Earnhardts of the world don't just run on I-26. They love to speed, dodge and tailgate their way through city streets. It's always amazing to see coffee-slurping morning commuters pass and weave down East Unaka Avenue or West Market Street, only to land at a red light, sitting right alongside the cars they just passed. Then, they'll do it all over again — logic be darned. The prospects of injuring a pedestrian or plowing into the back of another vehicle have absolutely no effect.
Speaking of no effect, Johnson City's parks have signs clearly outlining what's allowed on the grounds, yet many visitors just walk right by and break the rules anyway. Try walking around Civitan Park without encountering dog excrement. The track is a minefield. The city even provides small plastic bags and animal waste receptacles around the perimeter, but dog walkers can't be bothered to use them.
Many dog walkers also allow their pets to run off leash in the parks. It doesn't matter how well you think your dog obeys your voice commands, an unrestrained animal is a problem waiting to happen. Encounters with park visitors, other dogs and especially children could result in injuries and your own liability. The leash and animal waste rules don't just cover Johnson City's parks, by the way. The ordinances apply to all public areas in the city.
Not littering, too, is clearly an optional law in many a mind. The plastic bottles, bags, wrappers and other garbage left behind after soccer matches and other events in our parks show just how little people care. Trash cans are just a few feet away, but the parks often are covered in litter, and no, it's not someone else's responsibility to clean up your mess.
As expected, local lawbreakers celebrated our country's birthday in their usual fashion last Wednesday. They kept the cops busy — and their neighbors awake — across the Tri-Cities area by firing off rockets left and right despite ordinances banning them. Police are trying to crack down on the offenders in the wake of the aerial assaults, but you can count on restless nights every July 4th and New Year's Eve.
What's so hard about doing the right thing on occasion? Is a safe drive to work, a feces-free stroll through the park or a good night's sleep too much to ask?
Just be good citizens, people.
Cleveland Daily Banner on the deadly shooting at The Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland:
Before the next mass shooting — yes, sadly there will be more — displaces all accounts of the newsroom murders at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., from front pages across America, it is a moral mandate to remember the deceased.
It is just as important to see their faces and to read their names, not just because they died for a cause, but because — like most — they had families.
They had people who loved them.
They were husbands. They were wives. They were brothers. They were sisters. They were grandparents. They were somebody's son. They were somebody's daughter.
They graduated high school with classmates who shared a common dream. They envisioned being a part of the future. They wanted to make a difference. They knew the world could be a better place; all it needed was someone to show the way.
They reflected on their college days, how they riled the university president with investigative stories in the student newspaper on why the college was clamping down on freedom of speech and how the student body would not allow it.
They believed in the good though their work often surrounded them by the bad. They went to church. They loved family reunions. They talked about the latest movies over a morning cup of coffee. They groaned over their team's latest loss.
They attended their kids' ballgames. They gloated over their little girl's performance at the recital.
They cooked. They cleaned. They washed the car. They paid bills at the kitchen table. They mowed the grass. They had friends. They made new friends. They missed old friends.
They adored pretty flowers though they had little time to smell the roses. They gardened. They loved a tomato sandwich smothered in mayonnaise. They ate popcorn at midnight. They tossed and turned long after bedtime, unable to calm their thoughts and quiet their minds from stresses of the coming morn.
They grew fatigued from long hours in the newsroom. They wondered what their abnormal life could be like if they were normal people who worked normal jobs in a normal lifestyle that included dreaded Monday mornings, beloved Friday afternoons and two-day weekends.
They flicked on the office lights in the wee hours of holiday mornings long before most people rolled over in bed for the first time. They were the first to the coffee pot and the last to empty its grounds.
They didn't make a lot of money, but they were thankful for what they had. They rented apartments and sometimes a duplex. The lucky ones bought a house, married a high school sweetheart or a college study partner, and raised two kids; at least one who wanted to be a writer.
They didn't take fancy vacations, but they loved the beach. They traveled when the job demanded it and stayed home when time allowed. They watched CNN by night, rushed to make appointments by day, and never really knew when one ended and the other began.
They laughed. They cried. They talked on the phone. They drove distracted. They talked to themselves because they were often alone. They pounded keyboards, cursed computers and mumbled threats to walk out the door and to never return.
They were people. They were like you and me. They thought like us. They reasoned like us. They wanted what we wanted. They liked what we liked. They loved what we loved. They grew angry at what angered us. They smiled at what made us smile.
Their beliefs were not unlike the beliefs of parishioners at an historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C.
Their need for downtime was not so different from a group of moviegoers in Aurora, Colo.
Their love of music and their delight in outdoor entertainment was not far removed from a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas.
Their vision for the future ran parallel to eager students on a college campus in Blacksburg, Va., who wanted nothing more than what a new day could bring.
Their memories of childhood stirred the waters of time just like the imaginations of little 6- and 7-year-olds at a school in Newtown, Conn.
Their commitment to the future and their hope for tomorrow's promise came as no stranger to a watchful world, just like the teens who walked the hallways of schools in Littleton, Colo., Red Lake, Minn., and Parkland, Fla.
Their stories were our stories. Their lives were our lives. Their past is our present.
They are us.
We are them.
Godspeed in your race to new deadlines: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.