From today’s edition of The City Paper: After 13 years, The City Paper will cease operations with the publication of its Friday, Aug. 9 issue.
Chris Ferrell, CEO of SouthComm, made the announcement to employees this morning.
“In the last few days, we made the difficult decision to stop publishing The City Paper,” he said. “After years of being subsidized by our investors and other Southcomm publications, we finally determined that there was not enough advertiser support for the free newsweekly model we were trying to sustain. The model proved very popular with readers, but in publishing the revenue doesn’t necessarily follow the readership.”
Ferrell said that the tough climate for advertising dollars made having multiple news properties extremely difficult, particularly a general interest publication like The City Paper. A portion of the staff will be laid off while others will be redeployed to other SouthComm publications.
“Going forward we will be merging some of our editorial resources into our profitable publications in Nashville in an effort to make them even stronger,” Ferrell said. “You will see some of the names you have grown familiar with in The City Paper in the masthead of the Nashville Scene and Nashville Post. Both publications will expand their news coverage to fill the gap left by the closing of The City Paper. David Boclair will continue his coverage of Nashville sports, for example.”
Full story HERE.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell acknowledged Thursday that some Tennessee hospitals may face closure as fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam delays a decision on whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the federal health care overhaul, according to the Chattanooga TFP But the leaders, who back Haslam’s decision to continue negotiating with the Obama administration, say that’s life in the free market.
Ramsey, R-Blountville, said he’s heard the warnings from the Tennessee Hospital Association, but he still thinks “there’s a little bit of ‘the sky is falling’ out there with them when it really wasn’t.”
Still, he acknowledged, “obviously this is going to hurt. In some cases there may be hospitals that have to close — but look, if you want to operate in a free market, things like that happen. But I think overall they will figure out a way to cut this.”
Harwell, R-Nashville, told reporters earlier that some of her rural members have already been concerned about the fate of hospitals.
“There are some rural hospitals that will be hurt; there’s no doubt about that. But the health care industry is a changing industry and those that can’t keep up, they just simply can’t,” she said. “I’m sorry that that might happen, but again, if it was a little exaggerated, we’ll find out in the next six months.”
Hospitals have been counting on the expansion of people in the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare, through the federal Affordable Care Act to help offset special federal payments for people with no coverage at all.
Both the Democratic and Republican caucuses routinely bar media and the public from attending their meetings — a contrast from a few years ago. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey tells Andrea Zelinski that as a “general rule” he thinks the meeting should be open. House Speaker Beth Harwell, well, not so much. “We don’t want to look like we’re hiding things behind closed doors,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, speaker of the Senate, telling The City Paper his chamber’s Republican Caucus meetings will be open “as a general rule.”
“I just think nine times out of 10, in life in general, most problems are caused by misunderstandings and from lack of information. When you see the sunlight shine on us, you say, ‘I see why you do that now,’ ” he said.
Those meetings should only be closed when the caucus elects its leadership next month or when “the family has fights within the family,” he said. “But if we’re discussing state policy, it’s open and always has been as far as I know.”
In the House, lawmakers aren’t so sure how wide they will extend their doors.
“One of the advantages of having a caucus meeting is to let people voice their opinions freely,” said Harwell who said she’d leave decisions to open normally closed-door meetings to the caucus.
Such closed-door meetings on the Hill fly in the face of the intent of the state’s open meetings law, which requires every other government entity to ensure even meetings between two voting members qualify as an appointment worthy of public announcement and scrutiny.
The issue is problematic particularly when Republicans in both chambers have enough members to conduct business without a single Democrat present, say open government advocates.
Republicans will have a 70-28 majority in the House of Representatives and a 26-7 majority in the Senate. In both chambers, the GOP holds a supermajority, or two-thirds of the chamber, and has the potential to hash out public policy debate in closed meetings instead of in public.
“Since the Republican-dominated legislature can pass any legislation at will, it will be more difficult for anyone to successfully challenge bills presented by the majority, but that makes it all the more important that objections to legislation be heard in committee and honestly debated,” said Kent Flanagan, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government..
From Georgiana Vines:
The Knox County Election Commission voted 3-2 along partisan lines today not to reopen Belle Morris Elementary School as a voting precinct in the Nov. 6 presidential election but agreed to meet with community leaders early in 2013 to determine what to do in the future.
Voting against a motion to reopen the school were Chairman Chris Heagerty, who broke a tie vote, Bob Bowman and Rob McNutt, all Republicans. Voting for the motion were Democrats Dennis Francis and Cassandra McGee Stuart.
The vote followed a contentious exchange between Bowman and former Knox County Commissioner Mark Harmon over events following a March meeting where the commission voted 4-0 to merge Belle Morris with the Larry Cox Senior Recreation Center.
Harmon presented a petition with 146 signatures calling for the Belle Morris to be reopened and reiterated disagreements with Cliff Rodgers, election administrator, on the Cox Center being more handicapped accessible and having better parking arrangements.
Harmon said the unstated reason for the closing was the strong Democratic vote at Belle Morris and that “bogus” reasons had been asserted.
Bowman said Harmon had made “bald accusations against Mr. Rodgers” and worked behind the scenes by organizing a press conferences and using the Internet to stir up a controversy instead of communicating directly with Rodgers or the commission.
Bowman was successful in getting the commission to agree to meet with community leaders at the first quarterly meeting of the commission next year to discuss the closing of Belle Morris. At one point during the meeting, he suggested Fulton High School might be an alternative choice.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to close off public access to company information used to decide economic development grants was withdrawn Wednesday.
Republican Sen. Bo Watson of Hixson said that the decision followed a failure to reach a compromise.
“I just don’t think we could get the language right to satisfy everybody’s needs,” Watson said. “The administration sort of recognized that they were kind of at an impasse in trying to get the language right, and said we’ll just try this next year.”
Marion County Juvenile Court Judge Jay Blevins says a judicial delegation encompassing the entire East Tennessee region is opposing Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to close Taft Youth Development Center at Pikeville, reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Everybody in East Tennessee, both Republicans and Democrats, have stated their objections to it,” he said. Taft is the oldest facility of its kind, Blevins said, and it’s also the best. “Their recidivism rate is as good as it gets,” he said.
“It’s no Harvard or Princeton, but it is a facility where these kids can get an education. I certainly utilize Taft every week. It would be a shame to see the facility shut down.”
News release from Department of Transportation:
NASHVILLE – Holiday travelers should enjoy a smooth drive through Tennessee during the busy Christmas and New Year’s travel holidays. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is once again halting all lane closure activity on interstates and state highways in anticipation of higher traffic volumes across the state.
No temporary lane closures will be allowed for construction on Tennessee roadways beginning at noon on Friday, December 23, 2011 through 6:00 a.m. on Monday, January 2, 2012.
Gov. Bill Haslam tells the Chattanooga TFP that a controversial recommendation to close Taft Youth Center near Pikeville is “very persuasive.”
If the center is closed, its 90 or so teen inmates would be moved to four other centers scattered across the state under the proposal by Children’s Services Commissioner Kathryn O’Day, saving a projected $4.4 million. “I still have some homework to do,” Haslam said. “But I think Kate’s basic argument of does it make sense to have four facilities that are 100 percent full and five that are 80 percent full is very persuasive.” ,,, Haslam said he is “particularly inclined” to go along with the proposal sooner rather than later.
He cited O’Day’s argument that many of Taft’s 167 employees should be able to find jobs at the nearby $208 million Bledsoe Correctional Complex, a prison for adults that’s slated to open in 2013.
From the News Sentinel’s Mike Donila:
Tennessee Department of Mental Health Commissioner Douglas Varney told county leaders Wednesday if the state closes Lakeshore Mental Health Institute, it would reinvest $20 million in the region and patients would not be dumped onto the streets. In an hour-long meeting with the administration and the Knox County Commission, Varney detailed his proposal to close the Lyons View Pike Center. The idea, he said, would be to help more people with the money the state currently spends on the 2,200 who pass through Lakeshore’s doors. Under the plan, which would need the General Assembly’s approval, Lakeshore would close by the end of June.
Officials would give the facility’s 350 employees each a $3,200 severance package and two years support for college. Varney said he expects most doctors and nurses to find positions at area mental health providers, and the state would help others find jobs at local agencies and state-run facilities.
Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart and Republican state Rep. Cameron Sexton have both issued news releases criticizing the Haslam administration proposal to close Taft Youth Center.
Both are reproduced below.