Tennessee editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Johnson City Press on shirking jury duty:
Some Americans are willing to do almost anything to avoid serving on a jury, but finding an excuse to get out of that duty is not as easy as it used to be. A law was passed in 2009 that eliminated many of the archaic exemptions to jury duty in Tennessee that were based on age or occupation.
Today, elected state or federal office holders are no longer automatically exempt from serving on a jury. The same goes for teachers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, practicing attorneys and physicians.
Tennessee’s jury service law makes no exception for a person’s age. In fact, the law only allows exemptions for people who can prove an extreme physical or financial hardship.
People once believed they could avoid getting a jury summons by not registering to vote. They would gladly give up one important civic responsibility to avoid being called for another.
Actually, court officials in Tennessee rely on a variety of public records from which to call prospective jurors. In many counties, Circuit Court clerks comb through driver’s license information and tax rolls to find names for jury service.
Those who fail to answer a jury summons can face a contempt of court charge and a $50 fine. Those penalties are often accompanied by a stern tongue-lashing from judges who have become impatient with Tennesseans who attempt to avoid their civic duty.
Those called for jury duty can expect few frills. Selection to a panel earns a juror a stipend of $10 a day plus mileage. Jurors also have their meals paid for by the state while they are on the job.
Serving as a juror is not always appreciated in our society. That’s unfortunate because jury duty is a vital civic responsibility essential for maintaining our system of justice. It is a job that must never be shirked.
The Marysville Daily Times on plans for Alcoa Highway:
The announcement made by Gov. Bill Haslam with government leaders from Blount and Knox counties and cities last Monday might have seemed like a mere formality.
After all, just up Alcoa Highway from where the press conference was being held in the parking lot at Sevier Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville was massive evidence of earth moving that has been underway for months.
Blount Countians were there to hear construction on Alcoa Highway in Blount County from Hall Road to Hunt Road will start next summer.
The ceremony was for show, a demonstration that the IMPROVE Act signed into law in April was already having an impact. Two projects that include the half-mile from Hall to Hunt roads in Alcoa and the 2.5-mile stretch from north of Topside Road to north of Maloney Road in Knoxville will have completion times cut in half.
Hadn’t the projects been in the works for years? Wasn’t it pretty much a done deal? Yes and no. Check out this headline that appeared July 15, 1997, in The Daily Times: “Nightmare on Alcoa Highway?; Panel bids to halt stoplight plan in Knox.”
The state Department of Transportation had released two preliminary plans for Alcoa Highway. On the Blount County side, the 2.3-mile section from the McGhee Tyson Airport overpass to the Pellissippi Parkway was designed to be a six-lane highway with full-access control including one-way frontage roads and interchanges at all major cross streets. No traffic signals. Exactly what the Knoxville Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization had supported. So had city of Alcoa and Blount County officials.
Although they didn’t realize it at the time, that design was fatally flawed. Businesses got a closer look at the design that included raised portions of highway blocking views of their buildings. They looked at a timeframe that could leave customers blocked from access for months. They could be out of business by the time the new highway was finished.
That awareness came later, resulting in a redesign that would entail an Alcoa Highway bypass from Singleton Station Road to Hunt Road. The horror at the time was the plan on the Knox County end.
The Technical Committee of the MPO met and voted to ask the MPO Executive Board to request TDOT to reconsider the Knox County redesign. Words like “gridlock” and “parking lot” were used to describe what would happen if an interstate-like load of vehicles was to be stopped three times.
As the story stated: “The mystery is why TDOT is putting signals in Knoxville — three stoplights on a 1.7-mile stretch of Alcoa Highway from Maloney Road to Montlake Drive.”
The Knox County director of engineering said the plan caught him by surprise. John Lamb, Blount County planner at the time, didn’t have to read the fine print to know his analysis. “The people coming from Blount County, can they get through this mess?” The consensus answer was no. “Then I’m against it.”
City of Knoxville officials weren’t sure what happened. Knoxville City Council had backed the plan without traffic signals. It’s not like TDOT didn’t know the stoplights were problematic. Its report indicated the signals would provide a level of service in category F during the peak traffic period from 5-7 p.m. — the lowest level of service in the TDOT rating system.
The director of transportation planning for the Metropolitan Planning Commission said his body had said for the past 10-12 years that stoplights were not a smart idea. “Signals just don’t make any sense.” He compared it to putting a traffic signal on I-40/75.
When contacted by phone, a spokesman for the Knoxville mayor at the time wasn’t particularly enlightening about why the plan included the signals. Stoplights do what they’re supposed to do, that was the gist of the explanation. Which was exactly right and precisely the point.
Twenty years later, Alcoa Highway plans on both sides of the county line are drastically different. Traffic armageddon averted. Last Monday’s ceremonial announcement should have included the popping of Champagne corks.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal on why the U.S. shouldn’t hurt immigrant children:
Memphis once was known as the City of Good Abode. It wasn’t for a lot of people, especially people of color. It isn’t now.
Not for children like Allison and Jeremy Fernandez, whose Latino father was taken away from them two weeks ago by federal immigration agents.
Not for mothers like Gloria Delgado, whose daughter is a U.S. Marine, and whose Latino husband was deported recently by the U.S.
Not for any Latino who lives and works and eats and prays here without the express written consent of the U.S. government.
The recent immigration raids in Memphis, Nashville and elsewhere revealed the deceptive, racist and absurdly dysfunctional state of our nation’s immigration system.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said it was targeting specific individuals with “criminal histories and/or suspected gang ties.”
“Bad hombres,” President Donald Trump called them.
Not really. By ICE’s own accounting, 64 of the 83 immigrants arrested July 23-26 in Memphis, New Orleans and Nashville — and 520 of 630 nationwide — were what ICE calls “noncriminal.”
Most of the hombres y mujeres who were arrested, detained and slated for deportation had not committed any serious crimes. They were picked up and taken away for violating civil immigration laws.
It’s as if ICE went looking for car thieves and arrested everyone with an expired car tag — especially if they had a child in the car.
The agency openly admitted it was targeting “family units” and “UACs who are at least 16 years old.”
UAC is an acronym for unaccompanied alien children. That’s what the government calls children who risk their lives to come here without adults or the proper paperwork. Aliens.
By targeting “family units” (or what most of us call families), the feds basically decided to take fathers and mothers away from their American-born children.
We let them.
Children and families here and across the country are suffering because we can’t make up our minds about immigration.
We tell immigrants, especially those with brown skin who are poor and unskilled, that we don’t want them here.
When they come here anyway, we give them jobs and let them pay taxes and start families and go to church and send their kids to school.
After they’ve been here 5 or 10 or 20 years, we round some of them up and take them away from their families.
We call that a policy. Seems more like entrapment.
In the midst of last week’s “family unit” raids, Trump gave his support for a Senate bill that would make our policy even harder on families.
The bill, co-sponsored by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, would cut legal immigration in half by drastically reducing “family-based” immigration for low-skilled workers.
“This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families,” Trump said.
Too bad the President wasn’t here Monday in the City of Good Abode. Dozens of people lined up outside various schools across the community to welcome anxious Latino children on their first day of class.
That’s how you demonstrate compassion for struggling American families.
Our immigration system should support children and their families, not tear them apart.