Tennessee editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Tennessean on Governor Bill Haslam granting Cyntoia Brown clemency:
Cyntoia Brown was granted clemency because Gov. Bill Haslam used his power and showed her mercy.
He also meted out justice and a second chance to a young woman who has worked hard to rehabilitate her life in the 12 years since her sentencing for murder.
Brown killed local real estate agent Johnny Mitchell Allen in his bed in 2004.
She said he paid her for sex. She was 16. He was 43.
She was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for release after 51 years.
Brown said she had been trafficked as a sex slave and her past, filled with trauma and abuse, colored her view of her world.
Since her sentencing, she has pursued her education, earning an associate degree from Lipscomb University. She is on track to finish her bachelor’s degree in May.
Some of Allen’s family and friends opposed clemency for her, and they have a right to continue to feel hurt and angry.
But the circumstances of her abuse, her age and the severity of her sentence as a minor merited being taken into account by Haslam.
Studying negative societal issues and how they affect children and teens was a key initiative for the governor.
His administration created a major statewide effort to establish Tennessee as a national model to prevent and mitigate adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, which create barriers to normal brain development.
ACEs are not an excuse for committing a violent act, but they offer a reason why someone would be prone to act in such an anti-social behavior.
Haslam’s understanding and compassion in this case show strength of resolve and character.
Brown has become a cause célèbre for celebrities and some politicians.
The case sparked a debate on criminal justice reform, which is expected to be a big issue in the 2019 Tennessee General Assembly session.
Haslam promised to consider the case on its merits and his deliberative and conservative approach to clemency shows he is being true to his word.
In freeing Cyntoia Brown, he did the right thing and deserves to be commended for it.
Thank you, Governor Haslam.
The Daily Times of Maryville on the distinction between local and national news stories:
There’s the national news and there’s the local news. Seems simple enough, but reality is not so clear-cut. Start with the assumption that “all politics is local.” Now apply its derivative, “all news is local.”
Take the annual top 10 stories of the year. The list as selected by Associated Press editors and news directors has an obvious national bent. Conversely, the top stories of 2018 as picked by The Daily Times’ readers and news staff are community oriented.
But are the local selections really so far removed from national interest — and vice versa? Take a closer look, sticking to the top three stories in each survey for brevity’s sake.
AP’s top three: The mass shootings at a Parkland, Fla., high school that left 17 students and staff dead; the investigation by a special counsel into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign contacts with Russia; and ranking third, the #MeToo sexual misconduct allegations that toppled men in powerful positions.
By comparison, The Daily Times’ top three stories of 2018: Foothills Parkway “Missing Link” opens; DENSO holds grand opening for advanced manufacturing facility; and Sen. Lamar Alexander will not seek re-election.
Totally unrelated? Maybe not. Look deeper and distinctions of geography begin to blur. For example, mass shootings at schools might be distant in miles, but not in mind. Capital improvements for local schools routinely prioritize security.
The Russia collusion investigation and the tweet storm it inspired might seem far from the foothills and riverbanks of Blount County, but what about the emotions? How many hosts of Thanksgiving get-togethers didn’t keep fingers crossed, hoping guests kept politics off the dining table?
As the holiday season rolled on, it’s almost like the opening lyrics to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” could have been: “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, no politics near the Christmas tree.”
Continuing on a parallel track, consider the No. 3 story from AP — the one about women determined to not take it anymore — and a local variant emerges. It’s not hard to make a connection between national midterm election news, with record numbers of women entering Congress, and local voters for the first time selecting black women to fill Blount County and city of Alcoa commission seats.
Could it also be that what happens here has national ramifications?
Take that opening of 16 new miles of the Foothills Parkway from Walland to Wears Valley, thanks to the completion of the “The Missing Link” at long last. How many travelers to America’s most-visited national park will drive across this civil engineering marvel to view new sights in the Great Smokies? In time, millions.
As for DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee’s grand opening, never mind that an international company is investing $1 billion more in Blount County. Never mind that it’s creating work for 1,000 new employees. Think bigger, think about the commitment to cutting-edge transportation. Imagine when motorists travel in a new generation of electric-powered, self-driving vehicles with parts engineered and made in Maryville.
Finally, it’s no stretch to conclude the decision by Lamar Alexander to not seek re-election was a national as well as a local story. Check out this lead from The New York Times: “Sen. Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and one of the last bridges to bipartisanship in the Senate, announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election ...”
Kingsport Times News on babies who are addicted to drugs when they are born:
One of the little-known costs to society of drug addiction was revealed in a recent meeting of the Kingsport Board of Education where officials cited increased spending to provide special education services to children affected by neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS.
Tennessee is among the worst states for NAS and opioid addiction, and as more of these victims of their mothers’ abuse enter the school system, more specialized instruction is required.
Board member Todd Golden said the general public needs to realize the effects of NAS are not just health impairments and developmental delays, but also the financial cost to local taxpayers to serve that growing population, which he said is increasing in part due to transfers into the city system by parents moving to Kingsport specifically for special education services.
NAS is a group of conditions caused when a baby withdraws from drugs he or she was exposed to in the womb. It’s most often caused by opioids and, after birth, the baby can suffer short-term effects for up to six months. Those effects can include tremors, seizures, overactive reflexes, excessive crying, breathing problems, fever, trouble sleeping and diarrhea.
As they get older, there are other potential challenges caused by NAS, including physical struggles and issues involving educational development and other mental aspects.
And it isn’t just drug abuse that injures developing embryos. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, studies have identified various effects of prenatal tobacco exposure, “for example, impulsivity and attention problems.” These issues may continue through adolescence and into adulthood in the form of higher rates of delinquency, criminal behavior and substance abuse, the academy reported.
As well, prenatal alcohol exposure can lead to behavior problems spanning early childhood to adulthood such as disrupted school experiences, delinquent and criminal behavior, and substance abuse. And inattention and impulsivity at 10 years of age have been associated with prenatal marijuana exposure. Hyperactivity and short attention span have been noted in toddlers prenatally exposed to opiates, and older exposed children have demonstrated memory and perceptual problems.
The cost to taxpayers for pregnant women who so injure their babies pales when considering what these children will suffer, some for their entire lives. It does those children no good to prosecute their mothers after the fact. Where society needs improvement is in educating women as soon as possible after pregnancy.
There should be a greater focus on protecting babies in the womb particularly for women identified as being at risk for drug, tobacco and alcohol use during pregnancy.
Babies are as deserving of that protection in the womb as after they are born.