Tag Archives: down

Niota Loses Insurance, Shuts Down Most Operations

NIOTA, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Niota is again without insurance and has shut down most city services.
According to The Daily Post-Athenian, only a skeleton staff remains in the city of about 800 residents.
Coverage through the Tennessee Municipal League lapsed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Athens Insurance owner Allen Carter said he received a letter from TML stating that the city did not meet the “long term results needed” for coverage to continue.
Carter had negotiated 60-day temporary coverage for the city through TML.
“Niota just needs to handle their affairs and their business correctly,” said Carter. “But right now, there’s just not that option.”
Carter said a lawsuit against the police department was a factor in TML’s decision, but noted the major issue was errors and omissions by public officials.
The insurance pool indicated in April that it wouldn’t renew the city’s insurance because Commissioners Richard Rutledge and Leesa Corum refused to participate in an investigation. A former city worker had accused both of harassment.
Rutledge said on Tuesday that the loss of insurance is not only because of the actions of him and Corum.
“If I felt in any way that it was my problem, I would step down,” Rutledge said.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported six employees were laid off Tuesday. The police department is closed, the volunteer fire department is shut down as are the library and the parks.
Mayor Lois Preece said the sewer department had been contracted out to avoid steep environmental fines from the state if it ceased working. Preece said garbage collection might go to a contractor as well.
Preece said the layoffs were not a surprise to those now without jobs.
“They knew it was coming,” she said. “I try to be very upfront with my employees.”

TBI Reports Crime Decline in TN Schools

News release from TBI:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today released its annual study dedicated to crime in Tennessee’s schools. Produced by TBI’s Crime Statistics Unit, the study spans a three-year period between 2010 and 2012 and is based on crime data submitted by Tennessee law enforcement agencies to the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System (TIBRS).
The reported number of crimes that occurred at schools decreased by 12 percent from 2011 to 2012 with 12,477 offenses reported in 2011 to 10,980 offenses reported in 2012. Examination of 2010 through 2012 data revealed a 16.5 percent drop in crime reported at schools over a three year period. This report is based on incidents submitted by law enforcement agencies and excludes offenses reported by colleges and universities. Those statistics are compiled in TBI’s “Crime on Campus” report that was released earlier this year.
“School Crimes Report” Quick Facts
•Simple assault was the most frequently reported crime at 3,956 or 36 percent of offenses.
•Of the 3,930 weapons reported at schools, 82 were firearms.
•Crimes against persons made up the largest majority, nearly 50 percent, of reported school crimes.
•More crimes occurred on Thursday than any other day of the week and the month of February had the highest frequency of school crime.
•47% of the time, the relationship between the offender and victim was acquaintance.
•Marijuana greatly outnumbered all other seized drugs at school in 2012 accounting for nearly 75 percent of drug seizures.
It is important to understand the characteristics surrounding school crime and its offenders and victims. This understanding will help schools, policy makers, law enforcement and the public learn how to better combat crime that occurs at these institutions. To view the “School Crimes Report” for 2011 in its entirety, click here.

House Approves Whittled-down Knife Bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state House has passed a watered down version of a bill that originally would have lifted a ban on switchblades and knives with blades longer than 4 inches.
As amended under a bill passed 77-18 on Tuesday, the measure does away with those two provisions, but it still removes the power of local governments to make their own knife regulations.
Currently, local governments can pass their own ordinances restricting knives, although the maximum penalty they can impose is a fine of up to $50. The bill gives the state legislators the sole power to decide rules for the possession, transfer and transportation of knives.
Some representatives on Tuesday expressed concern that the bill removes local control of the issue.
“We need to just put this to bed about local control,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin. “We argue for it on one and then against it on the next one. Let’s get a little consistency.”
Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, said he is usually “all for local control,” but this case is an exception.
“Any law that allows you to travel from one county to the next without breaking the law is good,” he said.
Rep. Vance Dennis is the House sponsor. The Savannah Republican said he expects the Senate to conform to the House version.
Speaking in favor of the original bill in March, sponsoring Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said that citizens should have a right to carry switchblades and long knives.

Sunday Column: Ramifications of Mitt’s TN Margin

While there may be no doubt about the outcome of the presidential election in Tennessee, the size of Mitt Romney’s Volunteer State victory is a matter of some speculation and dispute. There seems some general agreement, however, on the ramifications of the margin of Mitt on down-the-ballot races.
State Republican Chairman Chris Devaney says that, given increasing voter unhappiness with President Barack Obama, there’s a good chance that Romney will better the Tennessee performance of George W. Bush in 2004 or John McCain in 2008. Bush carried Tennessee by 14 percentage points, McCain by 15.
State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester says, given voter unhappiness with Romney and increasing acceptance of Obama, there’s not any such chance.
But both party chairs agreed — albeit with some difference in details and considerable contrast in rhetorical remarks while relating them in recent interviews — that a presidential candidate with a big, double-digit margin has coattails.

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TN Political News Notes, 9/16/12

GOP Legislators Collect $475K
Republican House and Senate members had a hugely successful joint fundraiser Thursday in Nashville, hauling in an estimated $475,000, reports Andy Sher.
Tickets for the Nashville event ranged from $2,500 for a courtyard reception outside the War Memorial Building to a $10,000-per-ticket event inside the War Memorial’s auditorium and $25,000 for a dinner at the Hermitage Hotel with top legislative leadership and special guests.
…Proceeds are split between the House and Senate Republican caucuses
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Koch Tennessee Touch
The Koch brothers, the Kansas billionaire industrialists known for financing the tea party movement and countless conservative groups, extend their generosity to the Tennessee congressional delegation as well, reports The Tennessean.
So far for the 2012 elections, the Koch Industries political action committee, Koch PAC, has spread $42,500 among five Republican members of the delegation.
Getting the most has been Rep. Marsha Blackburn ($17,500), followed by Reps. Diane Black of Gallatin ($10,000); Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump ($7,500); Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah ($5,000); and Scott DesJarlais of Jasper ($2,500).And the Tennessee Republican Party has received $5,000 from the PAC.

On Changing Nashville Election Dates
A proposal to save money by having Nashville’s mayoral, vice mayoral and Metro Council elections at the same time as other elections is raising concerns among council members who might not support it enough to give voters a say in the matter, says the Tennessean.
And columnist Gail Kerr is not too keen on the idea, either.
Matalin & Carville Do Memphis
There were moments in the “Political Perspectives” Centennial luncheon Friday at the University of Memphis, featuring political consultants Mary Matalin and James Carville, when a more complete picture of the long-running, right wing-left wing, made-for-TV act emerged. The CA’s rundown HERE.

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City Shuts Down Traffic Cameras

After six years, Red Bank has given its traffic cameras the red light, says the Chattanooga TFP.
Minutes after a handful of residents spoke out Tuesday against how the cameras have hurt the city’s image and businesses, Red Bank commissioners voted 4-1 to ax the city’s four traffic cameras, which cite motorists who speed and run red lights at the city’s busiest intersections along the city’s main artery, Dayton Boulevard.
The lone holdout for keeping the cameras was Commissioner Ruth Jeno, who said that the cameras’ effect on safety was more important than their impact on business or city coffers.
“I don’t feel like that we can afford to hire more police officers to patrol Dayton Boulevard,” she said. “The majority of citizens in Red Bank have asked me to vote to keep the cameras and keep the police officers off Dayton Boulevard and in our neighborhoods, because crime is rising.”
The vote allowed Mayor Monty Millard to make good on a campaign promise that he had so far been unable to fulfill because of the contract the city had with American Traffic Services, the Arizona-based company that runs the program.

Early Voting Down 40% From 2008 Levels

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennesseans have cast 40 percent fewer ballots going into the last day of early voting Tuesday compared with the last presidential primary in 2008.
Nearly 153,000 people had voted through Monday, with 79 percent of ballots cast in the hotly contested Republican presidential primary. But without a contested Democratic primary, voting totals are far off the state record set in 2008.
Early voting has been heaviest in Knox County, where more than 11,000 people have voted in the Republican primary, compared with only 878 Democrats. The next highest Republican turnout has occurred in Shelby, Rutherford, Hamilton and Williamson counties.
Four counties — Perry, Clay, Van Buren and Lake — have registered fewer than 125 in the Republican primary. In Hancock County, only four Democratic ballots have been cast.

State Government Employees Down 10% Since 2008

In a story on shrinking state government, Andy Sher reports that most state functions are operating with almost 10 percent fewer workers than they did before the economic downturn began.
Data compiled by legislative analysts shows there were 47,102 full-time positions supported by the general fund in the pre-recession 2007-08 budget. That has fallen to a projected 42,856 in the 2012 state budget that took effect July 1.
The information is based on annual figures for the last five budget years compiled by the House and Senate finance committees and the Office of Legislative Budget Analysis.
Figures exclude the Transportation Department, which is funded separately. That department lost 6.6 percent of its workers during the period and has 4,667 in the current budget.
Higher education employees also weren’t included in the analysis.
“Having fewer state employees is rough,” said Robert O’Connell, executive director of the Tennessee State Employees Association.
“Fewer employees mean fewer services,” O’Connell said. “That’s just the way the math goes. When the people of Tennessee see the potholes not being filled and see kids in the middle of the night not being rescued from bad situations [by state workers], they’re not going to like that one bit.”
The recession and the ensuing modest recovery have pounded revenues in Tennessee and other states. Tennessee legislative analysts estimated the share of the budget funded by state taxes and fees dropped some $1.5 billion between fiscal year 2008 and FY 2012.
Federal stimulus funds helped, but most of that money is now gone, and Congress is showing little appetite for providing more aid.
Tennessee revenues are improving — this year’s 4.5 percent estimates are turning out to be more like 5 percent so far in the state’s $31.6 billion budget.
But they still are expected to come in short of FY 2008 levels until next year.

TennCare ‘Spend Down’ Reopens for 1st 2,500 Callers

NASHVILLE – The TennCare Standard Spend Down program will again offer open enrollment opportunities to new applicants on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011 beginning at 6 p.m. CST.
Standard Spend Down is available through a waiver to the Medicaid program for a limited number of qualified low income individuals, or those with high, unpaid medical bills who are aged, blind, disabled, or the caretaker relative of a Medicaid eligible child. Eligible individuals must have enough unpaid medical bills to meet the “spend down” threshold to qualify for coverage.
“We are pleased to again work in this collaborative effort with several entities including TennCare, the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS), the Tennessee Hospital Association, advocacy groups and the federal government in offering Standard Spend Down,” said DHS Commissioner Raquel Hatter. “This program offers additional assistance to qualified low-income individuals or those with very high medical bills who are not already on TennCare.”
A special call-in phone line through DHS has been set up for interested applicants. The only way to request an application is by calling the toll-free number — 1-866-358-3230 — which will be open between 6:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. CST on Sept.12. The phone lines will be open from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on subsequent weekdays until 2,500 interested applicants call in.

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TN ACT Scores Down a Bit

News release from state Department of Education:
Today ACT is releasing “The Condition of College and Career Readiness,” a report which highlights statewide data on ACT scores, academic achievement and post-secondary aspirations. Tennessee’s results from the April 2011 test show the state’s public high school students’ composite ACT score dropped from 19.1 in 2010 to 19.0 out of 36 in 2011, highlighting the ongoing need for education reform to achieve the state’s Race to the Top goal of broader college readiness.
Across the state, 24 percent of students are college-ready in math, 55 percent in English, 38 percent in reading and 17 percent in science. The report also shows a wide achievement gap between white students and black students. Only 7 percent of black students are college-ready in math, according to ACT results.
In a survey administered as part of the exam, nearly 75 percent of Tennessee’s public high school students said they aspire to attain at least a four-year bachelor’s degree, but most are not prepared to take college classes in core academic subjects without remedial help.
“These results are unacceptable, and we have to do more to ensure that our high school students’ academic results align with their aspirations,” said Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “As U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan noted in his visit to Tennessee last week, we must aspire to be the fastest growing state in the country, while being honest about where we stand and how far we still need to go.”
Every year, the Tennessee Board of Regents spends $26 million for remedial and developmental courses for underprepared students, said TBR Chancellor John Morgan.
“We cannot continue to provide remediation as a stop-gap for poor high school outcomes. It is imperative that our institutions work closely with our high schools, our current teachers and our future teachers to help improve preparation.”
Tennessee officials believe that a nearly 4 percentage point gain in students scoring on grade level in reading on last year’s Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test, and 7 percentage point gain in math will translate into higher ACT scores in future years.
“College readiness is not an issue determined in 11th grade, but is the culmination of an entire system of education,” Huffman said. “I am encouraged by the progress we are making in earlier grades, and feel a sense of urgency to ensure that this translates into higher skill levels by graduation.”
Well-educated and fully prepared high school graduates are the key to a successful community and a thriving economy, said Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
“Whether our students choose to attend trade schools, community colleges or four-year universities, it is critical that they have a solid K-12 foundation, Woodson said.
The ACT is a nationally recognized measure of college readiness. If students meet benchmarks on the standardized test in English, math, reading and science, they are considered college-ready, meaning they could take a college-level course in that subject area and earn at least a “C.”
To see more data on college readiness in Tennessee and other states, visit www.act.org.