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.
Amid questions brewing for months over bias and accuracy in student textbooks in Williamson County, state lawmakers are beginning to mull whether they should tweak how a state panel reviews textbooks, reports the City Paper. The Tennessee Textbook Commission is now overwhelmed with the volume of the task at hand, and lawmakers are hoping to hold hearings in the fall to consider how to address the problem.
“Am I concerned about what I think is bias in the textbooks and factual errors in the textbooks? Yes,” said Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), the chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. “My biggest concern is that we get somebody in this process who is specifically looking for factual errors and bias, but there are many more problems besides that.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed the Textbook Commission is overwhelmed during a joint Government Operations subcommittee hearing Wednesday. Bell said he plans for lawmakers to come back in the fall to consider methods of alleviating that stress.
“It’s not just this textbook,” said Laurie Cardoza-Moore, a Williamson County parent has been vocal calling that question and others like it “blatant anti-Semitic rhetoric.” She provided the legislative committee with 17 additional titles of textbooks used in Tennessee with what she described showed similar biases.
— Note: See also the News Sentinel story, which ran a day later, HERE.
A legislative committee Wednesday approved Tennessee’s first regulations for the use of “fracking” to extract oil and natural gas from wells after hearing several environmentalist complain the rules don’t go far enough.
The vote effectively marks the last hurdle for putting the rules promulgated by the Department of Environment and Conservation into effect next month.
It came after the Republican majority on the Joint Government Operations Committee rejected a Democratic effort to also ask TDEC to consider adding provisions to the rules in the future.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, who made the motion, said the idea was to at least require consideration of some suggestions from the environmentalists. Under his motion, TDEC would have considered requiring companies to publicly disclose all chemicals they use, to conduct periodic testing of water wells within a mile of fracking sites and to mandate that companies file plans for dealing with leftover waste water.
On an initial vote, two Senate Republicans sided with Democrats. The ensuing convoluted parliamentary situation was resolved when one of the Republicans, Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin, changed to vote with GOP colleagues.
After much grumbling, state legislators on two government oversight committees have reluctantly acquiesced to fee increases that will extract millions of dollars from the Tennessee Valley Authority, dentists, veterinarians and an array of Tennessee businesses.
“We had a choice between bad and worse,” declared Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, after his committee and its House counterpart, meeting jointly, more or less signed off Wednesday on the fee increases.
He and other members of the panels also said they are looking for ways to give the committees more teeth and to hold government departments, boards and commissions more accountable.
“This is a place to fuss,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, speaking of last week’s special meeting for consideration of rules proposed by various state entities.
News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner has sent a letter to Governor Haslam, Speaker Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ramsey requesting they convene a joint government operations committee meeting to investigate the Department of Children’s Services refusal to release records relating to the abuse and death of children under their care and reports that they have returned children to homes where there is evidence of abuse.
“The mission of the Department of Children’s Services is too important for them to operate in secrecy,” said Chairman Turner. “It is well past time that we have a full accounting of problems within the agency, so we can determine how best to move forward and fix them.”
Multiple Tennessee media outlets have recently been denied an open records request that sought to shed some light into the tragic deaths of children under the agency’s supervision. This follows news that the agency failed to disclose these deaths as required by law. The desire for more information stems from reports that the Department of Children’s Services has failed to protect children from abuse by allowing victims of child abuse to remain in the custody of their abusers.
“If Governor Haslam is unwilling to take the appropriate steps to protect the lives of children, then we must force him,” said Rep. Sherry Jones, who has been a leading advocate in the effort to protect children in DCS custody. “Over the past two years the leadership of DCS has moved our state backward in respect to disclosure of records and in protecting children from child abuse. I hope that my Republican colleagues will join me in pushing for more transparency and accountability that will move DCS forward.
Leading in a number of national polls, Rick Santorum is moving quickly to put in place a formal campaign operation in Tennessee as the state prepares to take its turn in the fight for the GOP presidential nomination, reports Michael Collins. In just the past couple of weeks, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania has opened campaign offices in Knoxville and Johnson City and has tapped Knoxville native Jon Parker as his state field director.
Last weekend, volunteers manning a phone bank in Johnson City called thousands of voters across the state to firm up support for the candidate and spread his message of conservatism and family values. Supporters also are planning door-to-door campaigns in several parts of the state this weekend.
Santorum himself will return to the state Saturday when he headlines a tea party event in Chattanooga.
“We’re hard at work,” said Parker, who is coordinating the grassroots, volunteer network already working on Santorum’s behalf. “I would imagine you will start seeing an awful lot of signs going up out there very shortly as you drive around.”
(Note: Updates, expands and replaces earlier post)
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s call for providing the most efficient services at the lowest cost ran into a wall of criticism Wednesday from members of his own party over his plans to shut down Taft Youth Development Center. Andy Sher reports: A bipartisan group of Government Operations Committee members focused their ire on Children’s Services Commissioner Kathryn O’Day, forcing her to defend her recommendations to Haslam for an hour.
Watching was an overflow crowd of Taft employees and top officials from Bledsoe County, where Taft is located, and Cumberland County.
O’Day maintained Taft deserves closure because it is the most costly of the five state prisons for young criminals.
She said closing Taft will result in an $8.5 million annual reduction in “unnecessary overhead we’re carrying.” That translates into about $4.4 million in actual savings because the money will be spent elsewhere within the department.
“The system on its best day today operates at 69 percent occupancy,” O’Day said. “In my previous career I was a private provider and residential services, and I can tell you that with a 69 percent occupancy rate I would have been out of business in very short order.”
Overall occupancy rates would improve by closing the 96-bed Taft to 87 percent, she said. She said she still couldn’t have operated on such an occupancy rate. O’Day also pointed out Taft is the oldest center.
Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, in whose district Taft sits, disputed cost savings. Taft and its estimated 169 employees guard over some of the oldest, most dangerous teen criminals, including gang members, Sexton said.
“With the closing of Taft there is concerns about putting these 17 1/2-year-old kids in with kids in another facility who are 14 and 15, and what’s going to happen to them?” Sexton said. “And what’s going to have to happen is the department is going to have to be held accountable.”
O’Day said the younger offenders would be separated in the three other male centers.
News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office:
(December 14, 2011, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey has announced the appointment of Sen. Mike Bell (R – Riceville) as the new Chairman of the Senate Government Operations Committee. He replaces Sen. Bo Watson who serves as Senate Speaker Pro Tempore.
“As Republicans, one of our highest callings is to increase accountability and efficiency in government,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. “Government Operations is where the real work of shrinking the size and scope of government gets done and Senator Mike Bell is the perfect choice to lead that effort.”
“Speaker Pro Tem Watson and Chairman Johnson have done great work transforming this committee into an active and industrious engine of reform,” Ramsey continued. “I am confident that Mike Bell will continue in that mold and excel in this new position.”
“I appreciate Lt. Governor Ramsey giving me the honor and opportunity to serve as Chairman of this committee,” said Senator Bell. “I look forward to working with the Lt. Governor to reduce the size of government and make Tennessee’s system more efficient and effective.”
The Government Operations Committee is responsible for legislation concerning the creation or reauthorization of new departments, commissions, boards, agencies or councils of state government. It also oversees licensing and certification of occupational and professional groups and reviews regulations promulgated by Tennessee departments, commissions, boards or agencies.
From Metro Pulse: The Government Operations committee of the state House and Senate used to be sort of a thankless job; the chair was awarded to someone who had the seniority to be a chair, when the cool committees were already taken.
But with the Republican takeover of the House and Senate, suddenly the Government Ops committee is a cool place to be. Most state agencies or commissions are subjected to a “sunset” provision. This was a routine affair under the Democrats, but it has set up the possibility of a major shakeup in state government next session.
The item goes on to note that troubles afflicting the Judicial Evaluation Commission and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission will be resolved, at least initially, by the GovOps committees. And that’s cool.
The chairman of the cool House committee, btw, is Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City. In the Senate, former cool Chair Bo Watson has become Senate speaker pro tempore and is to be replaced by Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey. He’s widely expected to elevate Sen. Mike Bell, now vice chair, to the cool spot, but hasn’t done so just yet.