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Tennessee editorial roundup

May 22, 2019

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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May 16

Johnson City Press on regulations for kennels, trainers

If laws were enough to deter crime, we wouldn’t have crime at all.

The logic Tennessee State Sen. Jon Lundberg applies to dog kennels and training facilities is particularly odd in that sense.

As Press Staff Writer Jonathan Roberts reported in Saturday’s edition, Tennessee has zero regulatory watch over such facilities and their employees. That lack of oversight became abundantly clear last week when animal charges were levied against a Johnson City training facility owner and a trainer. Authorities alleged the pair allowed a pit bull terrier puppy to starve to death in their care.

Lundberg told Roberts the charges meant different laws would not have prevented such a case.

“They were charged with animal cruelty for a reason, and I think that shows that our laws are effective,” Lundberg said.

The opposite is true. If Tennessee’s laws had been effective, the puppy might still be alive.

Tennessee appropriately regulates all sorts of things — funeral homes, architectural firms, nail salons, nursing homes, hospitals, restaurants to name a few. You need a license to cut hair, to sell a house, to survey land, to auction an estate, to manage debt — the lists go on and on.

You don’t need a license, though, to manage a kennel or train a dog.

Tennessee does not set rules for or inspect facilities that board animals. Our neighbors in North Carolina, Georgia and Missouri do. The only laws referencing animal care says counties have the ability to establish and operate animal shelters and commercial breeders must be licensed to buy, sell and transport animals.

To his credit, Lundberg told Roberts legislators would look into regulating animal boarding and training facilities. They should do more than just consider it. They must act.

Tennessee must set standards for conditions, housing, bedding, feeding, veterinary care, length of stays, employee training and other aspects of operating pet stores, kennels and training facilities. Trainers must be licensed. Trainers must never be allowed to keep animals in unlicensed locations, including private residences.

People entrust their pets — often treated as members of the family — to such facilities and their caregivers. The state must protect the interests of families and the welfare of the animals.

Preventing cruelty requires more than punishment. It requires a watchdog.

Online: www.johnsoncitypress.com

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May 18

Cleveland Daily Banner on taking responsibility:

Weathering the public humiliation of an arrest for domestic assault, Bradley County Commissioner Erica Davis has taken an important step in regaining credibility that might, or might not, have been lost in the wake of the alleged incident.

She did it with a bold action: She apologized. And she didn’t do it in a vague, one-paragraph statement delivered to a select few. Commissioner Davis, a newcomer to politics who has held the county seat for only nine months, issued the comments during her District 6 report made during last Monday’s work session of the County Commission.

She apologized to her family, friends, constituents, commissioners, colleagues and to the people of Bradley County.

And most importantly, she took “full responsibility” for her decisions and actions that led to the reported scuffle with her husband who filed the domestic assault charges, as detailed in a Bradley County Sheriff’s Department arrest document.

In spite of the awkwardness of the moment, and the embarrassment of her detainment — actions for which she has shown personal remorse — Davis taught us all a lesson in humility by going public with her statement.

As an employee of Bradley County Schools and as one of 14 members of the Bradley County Commission, she understands the importance of accepting responsibility and for admitting mistakes when they are made.

Not everyone clings to this value. Not everyone steps up to admit fault when it is theirs to share.

The final five paragraphs to the commissioner’s statement should be clipped from this editorial and used by all as reminders of the fragility of today, and how one reckless decision or one misguided action can turn it upside down in a heartbeat tomorrow.

Her words come as testament to the meaning of accountability:

“The events surrounding me and my family that have been made public are embarrassing, and ones I am certainly not proud of.

“As an educator and public official, I am rightly held to a higher standard. However, I am still human and capable of making mistakes.

“I deeply regret my recent decisions and actions, and take full responsibility for them.

“I am sorry.

“My family and I ask for your prayers, support and privacy as we work to put this behind us.”

With the courageous public statement, she took a giant stride toward moving ahead with her life, and reclaiming the trust of her family and friends, as well as the understanding of those around her. Overcoming such challenge takes time. It takes diligence. It takes grace. It also takes a willingness of others to withhold judgment.

In the wake of these delicate times, we offer only one suggestion ... to Bradley County Schools; and specifically to Dr. Linda Cash, school system director, and Troy Weathers, Bradley County Board of Education chairman.

Shortly after confirmation of the educator’s arrest, this newspaper reached out to both for an entire afternoon seeking clarification of school system policy, for a better understanding of Davis’ status as a Bradley County educator, and to offer each the opportunity to provide a clarity of direction as they sorted through a complicated issue.

Certainly, they were preoccupied with the handling of such a complicated personnel issue. Yet, a simple return call or email or even text would have gone a long way in helping us — and subsequently, the community — to understand what had happened and what to expect in its aftermath.

Instead, we received a vague emailed statement at 5:01 p.m. Thursday (almost a full day after the arrest), part of which read, ”. (the school system) is following all policies and procedures related to Bradley County Schools protocols.”

That’s it. That’s all we received.

As trusted public officials, the job of leaders at this level is not only to resolve conflict but to answer difficult questions.

In this community, we are blessed with two fine school systems, each of which has earned a reputation for quality, and with much of the credit going to past and current administrators.

Yet, the lack of transparency in the handling of this case concerns us. Ours were legitimate inquiries. We sought to understand school system policy, and to stem the surging flow of public rumor. In return, we were told only that the school system ”... is following all policies and procedures.”

But, what’s done is done.

At day’s end, it is the public statement by Commissioner Davis that is the most telling: ”. I am still human and capable of making mistakes.”

As are we all.

It has been suggested the most painful lessons in life are the ones best learned. If such is true, then it is our hope the experiences of recent days will make us all much the wiser.

Online: www.clevelandbanner.com

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May 21

Kingsport Times-News on finding a name for the region:

We recently asked for letters to the editor with suggestions for a new name for this region, but now you can easily post your idea and reasons for it at a website, nameourregion.com, established through a regional rebranding effort.

The governments of Johnson City, Kingsport, both Bristols, both Washington counties, and Sullivan County issued a joint press release explaining the need for a regional identity and how the process of creating one will unfold. Six quasi-governmental organizations are also involved in the endeavor — the convention and visitors bureaus of Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol, the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association and NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership.

They ask, “What do you think of when you think of home? Our mountains, our history, all our people with unique stories — all of that’s home. It’s hard to put a name to, but that’s why we’re here. We want to create a name for our region that evokes all of that pride and common experience — that sense of home — not just for the people that live here, but for people who might want to visit, start a business in or move to our region. We want a name that honors what we have and invites others to come share and help grow it.”

We went through the process nameourregion.com, which you may begin by selecting “Step 3: Take community survey here” on the home page. After some preliminary questions about a map showing the region, you’ll be asked what you think is the best name to describe it and why. We suggested Appy Gateway, because after the 1790s when Daniel Boone and his men expanded a Native American pathway from Kingsport to the Cumberland Gap to accommodate wagon traffic, between 200,000 and 300,000 migrants passed through this region, which was in fact the gateway to the West.

We think the word “Appy” further identifies it and provides a bit of snap for the brand.

As you move through the survey you’ll be asked your opinion about five other names, whether you think they are effective, ineffective or should be modified. They are: Tri-Cities, Appalachian Highlands, Mountain Empire, Mountain South, and Overmountain.

We don’t like any of them. There are dozens of communities in America using the Tri-Cities brand, and the other suggestions span multiple states and do not localize this region. We think whatever brand succeeds must geographically point to the region. But perhaps you’ve got a better approach. You can be part of this process by visiting the website and offering it. Your help is needed to help us rename ourselves. That first impression of the region is critical because it can create an emotional connection and an expectation of an experience without which there may be little desire to know more.

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