OLIVER SPRINGS, Tenn. (AP) — A huge Norwegian spruce that was once part of a study on the needle shed of Christmas trees will grace the Tennessee state capitol this holiday season.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/1uF1Y80) a crew of eight men on Thursday cut the top off the 75-foot-tall giant growing in the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Morgan County research forest.
State officials visited the Cumberland Forest last week and looked at several trees before selecting the spruce as this year’s state capitol Christmas tree. Forest manager Martin Schubert told the paper this tree made the cut because of its symmetry.
This marks the second time that UT has donated a tree for the capitol.
The Senate Education Committee has given unanimous approval to Sen. Stacey Campfield’s so-called “Merry Christmas bill.”
Campfield, R-Knoxville, said SB1429 simply says that school officials and students can offer one another “seasons greetings without fear of a lawsuit” and put up displays commemorating seasonal celebrations so long as they do not encourage “adherence to a particular religious belief.” The senator said Texas and Indiana have passed similar laws.
The measure specifically declares that students and school staff are permitted to say “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukka,h” and “Happy holidays.”
The bill drew very little discussion before being approved 9-0 by the committee and sent on to the Senate floor.
The only question came from Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, who asked Campfield, “Would the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ be a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief?”
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam today opened the Tennessee Residence for the third annual “Tennessee’s Home for the Holidays” open house, an event inviting all Tennesseans to tour the holiday decorations at the executive residence during the first two weeks in December.
This year’s holiday décor theme, “Tennessee Legends,” showcases influential people throughout our state’s history, including a tree for Tennessee Governors, Andrew Jackson, David Crockett, Sequoyah, and living legends Pat Summitt and Dolly Parton. Through partnerships with museums across the state, unique historical treasures, including David Crockett’s hunting rifle “Old Betsy” and a Cherokee hunting jacket exemplifying the type of clothing worn by Cherokees during Sequoyah’s time, are featured as part of the decorations.
The museum pieces are supplemented with complimenting ornaments and decoration from Jim Marvin Collection, based in Dickson, Tennessee. Marvin is known internationally for his holiday design and has assisted in decorating the White House for the holidays since 1997. Continue reading →
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Governor Bill Haslam and first lady Crissy Haslam are inviting Tennesseans to tour the executive residence during the first two weeks of December.
This year’s holiday decor theme is Tennessee Music, and it incorporates pieces from the collections of the Museum of Appalachia, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Stax Museum.
Tennessee students also contributed to the holiday decorations by creating ornaments representing holiday songs, gospel music, patriotic music and Elvis Presley.
And there is a tree with ornaments by local artists from all 95 Tennessee counties.
Open home tours will be held Monday through Friday, December 3-14 and on Saturday, December 8.
More information is available at www.tn.gov/firstlady.
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.
Happy Protesting Holidays?
While Occupy camps elsewhere in the nation are being shut down, Jeff Woods notes that Occupy Nashville’s protesters are “hunkering down for the holidays.” When the governor and first lady switched on the lights on the Capitol’s Christmas tree this week, there they were like Santa’s merry elves milling about on the Legislative Plaza in the seventh week of their occupation.
….Occupy Nashville now is drawing national attention as a man-bites-dog oddity.
“I feel like in a lot of ways … Nashville is starting to become maybe a bit of a tender spot or a hearthstone for other occupiers,” one demonstrator, Samantha Blanchard, told MSNBC. “We’re like the little heartbeat, the little southern hospitality of the movement.”
To paraphrase our favorite aide to the governor, Thaddeus E. Watkins III: Fun times!
For this, Occupy Nashville can thank Gov. Bill Haslam. His ham-handed attempt to clear the plaza boomeranged. At the start, Occupy Nashville was a few crust punks and old hippies. Now, protesters claim a core group of nearly 100, with maybe 400 part-time supporters, and there’s a federal court injunction protecting the encampment–at least until sometime next year.
If Haslam had only waited and thought things through a bit, the public response might have been more to his liking. Since his blunder, police in other cities have shocked the nation by wantonly pepper-spraying protesters. By comparison, Tennessee’s troopers were teddy bears. Legislators Not Impressed
State Sen. Jim Tracy tells the Shelbyville Times-Gazette that the normal paths for state legislators into and out of Legislative Plaza don’t really take them past the “Occupy Nashville” protestors who have camped out on the plaza since October.
And state Rep. Pat Marsh said he’s had no contact with the protestors but that their camp is “a mess, and it looks terrible.” “Early on, I walked through there,” said Tracy, saying he asked some of the protestors about their specific views and demands and got vague responses.
Just as in the case of Tea Party protests two years ago, there’s no guarantee that any particular organization or website represents the views of any specific protestor. But the website at OccupyNashville.org states its goals as being “1) End Corporate Personhood 2) Remove Money & Financial Influence From Politics 3) Support & Solidarity With Occupy Wall Street.”
Tracy said there have been concerns expressed by some legislative staffers about public urination and use of electric power without permission. Nashville a National Occupy Base?
Occupy Nashville will likely hold its ground for the next couple months, even as police around the country break up similar encampments, according to WPLN. A court injunction says protesters can keep camping near the state capitol. Some Nashville occupiers see that as a chance to expand while efforts elsewhere dwindle. There are more than fifty tents in the plaza at the state legislature, mostly around the edges. Now occupiers are adding a new row straight down the middle.
A federal court order says occupiers can’t be arrested just for being there, though they can still be cited if they do anything illegal.
Simon Dillon has been traveling and staying with various Occupy groups, and he says Nashville’s relative safety drew him here.
“The potential this camp has with the injunction protecting it, this can be actually used as a national base and still be in compliance with the law, and basically not have to worry about getting the infrastructure set up.”
Dillon says one advantage Nashville has is it’s relatively organized. He points to a code of conduct meant to separate occupiers who’ve agreed to behave from outsiders taking advantage of free food and a place to crash.