- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Oct. 14

The Knoxville News Sentinel on the Powell River:

Scientists proved long ago that all of life is related, a fact re-emphasized in the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Recent work to populate the Powell River with freshwater mussels illustrated that point.

The Powell River in upper East Tennessee is considered one of the most diverse aquatic systems in the nation. Conservation partners in Tennessee and Virginia last week released 750 freshwater mussels into the river as part of a restoration effort.

The project was made possible through the Tennessee Valley Authority, which put $100,000 into the work carried out by biologists from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and students from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.

Why mussels? Google “mussels” and you will find not the environment and ecological relationships but recipes - how mussels go with garlic, parsley and butter or with wine.

In contrast, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website says mussels have little value as food for humans, although they are part of the food chain for a number of aquatic animals. However, as the website noted, their ecological value is immense.

The little creatures that can be held in one’s hand provide a natural source of filtering, and they improve the water quality by screening out sediments and pollutants from rivers and streams. A single mussel can filter several gallons of water each day, thereby making the waters safer for humans.

Last week’s activity in the Powell River in Claiborne County drove home that realistic context. Braven Beaty, one of the collaborators on the project, said, “From an ecological perspective, mussels are sort of that foundation layer that makes a river function like it should.”

Beaty is an ecologist with the Nature Conservancy’s Clinch Valley program. Freshwater mussels perform their filtering function when they burrow into the sand and gravel at the river bottom. The young mussels - 1 to 2 years old - were raised at Virginia Tech’s Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center and the Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center in Marion, Va. The LMU students carefully released four different types into the river, and the mussels can live for 30 years or longer.

The Powell River was an important site for the project. Jess Jones, a restoration biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Virginia Tech, said the Powell River “is one of the last places that has the right ecological conditions for these endangered species to exist.”

Jones said the health of the mussels will help determine the health of the river. “If the mussels are dying,” he said, “then we know the river is not in good condition.”

And, while the Powell River is not dying, Beaty said there has been a steady decline in the mussel population, due largely to human causes: the aftermath of mining, higher levels of silt and metals, runoffs from roads, and untreated sewage. Beaty and others want to increase the mussel population by about 10 times the current level, with the ultimate goal to remove mussels from the endangered species list.

The health of the mussels goes beyond an indicator of the health of the river. Their survival eventually affects the entire food chain, including humans. That is a part of ecology all of us should watch.

Online: https://www.knoxnews.com/

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Oct. 17

The Kingsport Times News on the gas tax:

At long last, it appears that legislation will be introduced in the next session of the Tennessee Legislature to raise the state’s deficient gasoline tax. The last time that happened, George Bush Sr. had just succeeded Ronald Reagan as president.

Because lawmakers have failed to increase the tax in nearly 30 years, the state is sitting on $11 billion in road projects including $846 million in work for this region. Because lawmakers haven’t kept the tax current, Tennessee now ranks 40th in fatality rates, 10th in deficient bridges, 16th in rural interstate pavement condition, 19th in urban interstate pavement condition, and 27th in urbanized area congestion.

Unless lawmakers take action next year, tourism and Tennessee’s ability to attract new industry could be affected.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer recently noted the state’s transportation system is integral to growing industry. Last year, 161 companies were recruited to Tennessee, totaling $5.5 billion in investment capital and 25,000 in new jobs.

Schroer said Tennessee is one of only a handful of states that have done nothing to change transportation funding.

Raising the gasoline tax in Tennessee has been fully justified. The case has been made. It falls to the legislature to act.

But some lawmakers are already complaining. Some won’t raise a tax - any tax - regardless of need.

When that need is clearly demonstrated yet lawmakers refuse to support it, they are putting personal interests ahead of those of the constituents who elected them. When a lawmaker at any level of government refuses to increase any tax, despite the clear need, he or she is pandering to that segment of the electorate that cares not one whit about their fellow man. In this case, they don’t care whether bridges fall down or potholes destroy your vehicle.

Lawmakers who put their re-election ahead of the best interests of all of the people do not deserve your support.

No one wants to pay more taxes. And we all complain about the condition of streets and highways but cringe when someone suggests taxes be raised to fix them. The need to increase the gas tax is apparent. The question remains, by how much?

That case, too, will be made next year. And when it is, we trust that our representatives will give it due consideration.

Tennessee is sitting on some 200 unfunded state transportation projects and a “needs list” of some 800 projects in all 95 counties. The longer these projects sit, the more they will cost. And further delays could leave the state in a situation where even if it were flush with cash, it would not be possible to catch up with demand. If Tennessee is to continue to succeed in the marketplace of job creation, it must have good roads.

To its credit, Tennessee does not hold any highway debt. But new road development is essentially dead as a result. Tennessee must raise its gas tax and at the same time ensure that all who use the highways contribute to paying for their upkeep.

Online: https://www.timesnews.net/

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Oct. 19

The Leaf-Chronicle of Clarksville on why the editorial board doesn’t support Trump or Clinton:

This election season has shown us the very worst in America, yet we still see the promise and potential in our great land.

Many times has The Leaf-Chronicle weighed in on the election of a president and offered an opinion on the candidates and who would best serve the interests of its readership and community. The Leaf-Chronicle Editorial Board, comprised of the news director, general manager and regional content strategist, have discussed more than once who would best suit the interests of the readership and the community in the upcoming presidential election.

We cannot agree that Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would do that effectively. Both come with far too many questions and far too few answers for us to confidently say that either is a superior candidate.

We cannot endorse Donald Trump. Trump’s disgusting behavior, pompous attitude and nonexistent clarity in direction and policy cannot be ignored. There is so little substance to his positions of domestic and foreign policy that we have little confidence he could achieve anything positive. He also knows nothing of what blue-collar individuals experience on a daily basis having come from a billionaire background in the high-rises of New York City.

We cannot endorse Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s scandals with her email history, handling of classified information and the questionable operation of the Clinton Foundation make us question her trustworthiness. Her experience makes her a more attractive option than Trump’s firebrand, no-holds-barred rhetoric, but we question if she’s able to represent the common people and not the interests of only a few.

So who does that leave us with? Gary Johnson? He’s not ready or prepared enough. Jill Stein? She’s not a realistic option.

What we are left with is the only option for leadership: The American people.

In this election, and at this critical juncture in American history, we can only endorse the will of the people to change the direction of this country and to put it on the path toward a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.

What must happen, though, is that every American must recognize and move away from the fringe arguments that dominate air time and headlines and instead make certain they are open to positive discussion and common ground with individuals of different backgrounds and ideologies. And as Americans, they must be prepared to work together with people who are very different to achieve the common good.

We endorse the evangelical voter. While we believe religion has no place in laws established in this country, which is as the forefathers intended, we recognize the faiths of Americans as driving forces in decisions that are made. To those who vote based on their religious principles, we support you, though we hope all denominations can coalesce and not fall victim to the dangerous rhetoric that all members of any faith are bad people because of actions of a few.

We endorse the African-American voter. These individuals have faced hardships and inequality that no one should be forced to endure. We hope individuals of all races can unite and establish community-based dialogue to better understand one another and the intricacies that make each ethnicity in this country special.

We endorse the service member and veteran. Their bravery and selfless sacrifice have provided an unbreakable safety net that allows us all to proudly fly stars and stripes on our homes, cars and anywhere else we see fit. We hope they become accustomed to proper care and support from across the country.

We endorse the immigrant. Most Americans trace their lineage to places that are not here, and allowing individuals to explore and experience the American way is, at its core, an American ideal. Our leaders should remember that and embrace the melting pot that is our culture.

We endorse the teacher. Fundamentally, education is a vital element to any successful nation. Without teachers and cutting-edge education, our nation would crumble, and investing in the elevation of educational initiatives should be a top priority for any elected leader.

We endorse the millennial. It’s cliché but true that they are the future of our nation. We must respect their wishes and hear their voice. But indeed they have a responsibility to raise that voice above the current volume by turning out in droves in federal, state and local elections.

We endorse women, and anyone else whose rights have been subject to debate. Women are as valuable as men in the workplace and in society, and deserve fair pay for fair work and equal treatment and consideration. No government should involve itself in the personal decisions of any individual, no matter their gender.

This country was founded on the principle that anyone of any religion or race can find success. We implore the people to come together, choose leaders who have enough courage to stand in the middle and put forward ideas to benefit the greatest good.

No longer is that happening. The country is divided more than any of us have ever seen, and it’s no longer pursuing the best way forward. The fringes dominate the conversation, and there appears to be little ground in the middle for common-sense thought.

History has proven that America is greatest when it works together for a common cause, and not standing divided, pointing fingers and laying blame on people of different ideologies and beliefs.

We must work together to shift the direction and end the rhetoric that has driven a wedge in our great nation.

We endorse you, the voter, to bring America together for the good of all people.

Online: https://www.theleafchronicle.com/

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