Monthly Archives: December 2014

Cagle becomes weekly News Sentinel columnist

Frank Cagle

Frank Cagle

In case you missed it on Christmas Eve, the News Sentinel had a special gift for readers. Frank Cagle debuted as an op-ed page columnist for the newspaper.

His column will appear every Wednesday opposite the editorial page, beside long-time columnist Ina Hughs.

As he proclaimed in his first column, Cagle is an avowed libertarian. He also is a former MetroPulse columnist, News Sentinel managing editor and aide to Victor Ashe when he was mayor of Knoxville.

Walter Pulliam, Tennessee journalism icon, dies at 101

Tennessee’s senior journalist has died.

Walter Pulliam was 101 when he passed away Sunday. A graduate of the University of Tennessee and former New Sentinel reporter, he also was a World War II correspondent for Stars and Stripes and an assistant city editor for The Washington Post.

Walter Pulliam during his 100th birthday party last year.

Walter Pulliam during his 100th birthday party last year.

During the 1950s, he returned to East Tennessee and bought the Harriman Record. He went on to be a leader in Tennessee journalism, serving as president of the Tennessee Press Association, which he led  in creating the Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame, which exists today at the University of Tennessee School of Journalism and Electronic Media.

Last year, the East Tennessee chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists held a 100th birthday party for Walter, and he regaled the gathering with his sharp memories of reporting the news in an era long before blogs, or even computers.

He will be missed.

Time running out on Freedom of Information reform

Supporters of open government are on the 1-yard line in an effort to pass reforms to the Freedom of Information Act. But the clock is about to run out.

freedom-of-informationFor the past several months, the FOIA Improvement Act has been in the works, and it cleared the Senate Monday after Sen. Jay Rockefeller dropped his objections. But now the House has to sign off. Last year the lower chamber passed even broader legislation – by unanimous vote. But House leadership has not put this year’s bill on the calendar, and the House could adjourn as early as Thursday. That would mean work would have to start all over again next year.

Key provisions in the bill would spell out the “presumption of openness” inherent in the law and would codify the “foreseeable harm” standard, which says information should be given out unless foreseeable harm would result. The bill also would make it easier to get documents of historical interest and would strengthen the FOIA ombudsman role.

Supporters of the reform should contact the House leadership, by phone if possible, or via Twitter by direct Tweets:  @SpeakerBoehner, @GOPLeader, @NancyPelosi, @WhipHoyer.

Jamie Satterfield launches legal-affairs blog

The News Sentinel’s legal affairs expert, Jamie Satterfield, has started a blog that she’s dubbed “Lady Justice Unmasked.” Here’s how she describes its mission:

Jamie Satterfield

Jamie Satterfield

“Have you ever wondered how Cain got away with offing his brother? (Murder wasn’t on the books, er, tablets ala the ten commandments, yet.) Ever read how a guy confessed but walked thanks to a judge’s ruling and wondered what the heck? Gave a politico a mental high-five for proposing one of those take that you filthy (criminal) animal laws and cussed the liberal commies on Tennessee’s high court for striking it down with nary a clue as to why? Enjoyed a dumb criminal story and went to bed assured you’d never be the dude who left his wallet behind at the crime scene?

“Well, then, you are going to love Lady Justice Unmasked because here you are going to find all the legal news, analysis, occasional rants and dumb criminal tales this country girl with a quarter century of legal and crime reporting can dish out.”

Check it out.

 

News Sentinel to appeal TVA’s denial of info on subsidy

The News Sentinel soon will be appealing TVA’s denial of a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the specifics of a subsidy the agency is giving a South Korean auto parts manufacturer expanding its operations in Clinton.

“Release of these details would cause TVA competitive harm by allowing other utilities, who are competing for the same customers, insight into TVA’s programs and strategies for attracting businesses to the Tennessee Valley,” the federally owned corporation stated in its refusal letter. “Release of the information would also impair the effectiveness of TVA’s economic development program by stifling TVA’s ability to obtain such confidential information from future prospective companies.”

Gov. Bill Haslam shakes hands with Y.K. Woo, president of South Korean auto parts maker SL America after an announcement of expansion of its Anderson County plant. TVA contributed a hidden amount  of incentives to the deal.

Gov. Bill Haslam shakes hands with Y.K. Woo, president of South Korean auto parts maker SL Americam after an announcement of expansion of its Clinton plant. TVA contributed a hidden amount of incentives to the deal.

The response ignores the fact that TVA is a public agency and the resources it is providing — to a private company — are public resources.

Incentives for economic development are a matter of public concern. Economists don’t even agree that they work, as the Federal Reserve Bulletin discussed in an article entitled: “Economic Development Incentives: Research Approaches and Current Views.” One issue the article noted was how incentives can lead to bidding wars among communities:

“In 1980, Nissan received an estimated $33 million, or $8,000 per anticipated job, for locating a new facility in Tennessee. The amount of subsequent incentive packages handed out to Mazda, Saturn, DiamondStar, and Toyota, among others, rose over the next few years, and by 1987, Toyota was receiving an estimated $150 million, or $50,000 per anticipated job, for locating a new facility in Kentucky. And the incentive packages were growing again before long.”

All of the other government agencies contributing incentives to the Clinton expansion made public what their subsidies were. But the administrators of TVA have determined that their need for managerial flexibility outweighs the citizenry’s need to evaluate how public resources are being deployed.

It’s worth keeping in mind that TVA’s CEO, Bill Johnson, is the nation’s highest paid federal official, pocketing a compensation package worth $4.6 million in fiscal 2014 and landing a raise last month that will let him earn nearly $1 million more in 2015. The agency also announced last month that it would be awarding $131 million in year-end bonuses to employees, an average of nearly $11,400 each.

In justifying its largess, TVA noted that it helped lure some $8.5 billion of new investment to the Tennessee Valley in the past year, which is supposed to add 60,300 new jobs.

“Economic development is a core component of TVA’s mission to serve and improve the quality of life of the 9 million residents in the Valley,” Johnson said. “It is a credit to the dedicated work of our employees and the strong relationships we have built with our customers and communities that together we had a banner year in 2014.”

What public resources did TVA exchange for that economic investment? That’s a secret the agency says the people have no right to know.