- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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July 29

The Bristol Herald Courier on animal shelter issues:

Let’s skip the clichés and cut right to the point: Citizens in the region need to do more to address our animal shelter issues, possibly with a foster care system.

In the past week, Bristol, Virginia and Sullivan County both faced stray-related challenges. Bristol Virginia City Council must find an alternative for an animal shelter in light of Jones Animal Hospital abating services soon. In Sullivan County, a petition calling for Petworks-operated animal shelters to implement a “no-kill equation” garnered quite a few signatures last weekend.

While we sympathize with Bristol Virginia City Council and commend the petition’s supporters, one item these occurrences have in common also puts them at a disadvantage: They both exclude more active responsibility below authority.

While the need for an animal shelter to service Bristol, Virginia, is indeed a city government problem, it’s not solely theirs to solve. If they proceed with a proposal to build a new shelter for the estimated 25 animals Jones currently houses for the city, it both strains an already-inflexible fiscal budget and introduces a deluge of questions regarding design, operation and costs.

But the offer from Councilman Doug Fleenor to house animals if necessary represents the kind of initiative others need to exercise: We need more volunteers to step up and help.

A likewise sentiment can be attributed to the petition, which its organizer would present to Bristol, Kingsport and Sullivan County mayors once 10,000 signatures are obtained. The petition asserts that city and Petworks officials should institute a list of programs and services - all of which is worth further consideration but is insufficient because of the short commitment associated with its form. To be clear, we don’t discourage petitions; they create awareness and rally support. But the impact of a petition is limited: Signing one is a fleeting moment of participation, and it doesn’t go far enough to create change.

One solution: Let’s collaborate to devise a foster care system.

This is an idea proposed among the list in the petition. The necessary steps preceding implementation suggest it’s won’t happen overnight. Leaders of the project need to be elected. A mission statement needs drafting. Further down the line, interested foster parents need education.

Other questions also need to be answered: Will the organization register for nonprofit status? Will volunteer foster homes be allowed to have more than one foster pet? Will the organization provide any supplies for foster homes, or will foster parents be expected to provide their own?

While perhaps overwhelming, our community can tackle this. As of July 28, the petition mentioned here had almost 1,500 signatures. If just a third of those supporters offered their time, care and home to foster an animal, this problem would be visibly eradicated.

Unlike business ventures, getting this idea off the ground won’t take bundles of money but a large commitment and an equally large number of volunteers. We might look to the Humane Society of Washington County, Tennessee, which currently accepts foster service, for guidance on this start-up.

If we really want to make a change, we shouldn’t leave it to our leaders to solve while we sit back and judge any efforts - let’s take command and execute the changes we want to see.

Online: https://www.heraldcourier.com/

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July 31

The Johnson City Press on a judge’s birth control program for jail inmates:

A Middle Tennessee judge has rescinded a standing order to reduce a jail inmate’s time behind bars if he or she voluntarily agrees to undergo a birth control procedure. White County General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield dropped the program after facing criticism from the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In May, Benningfield signed an order that provides 30 days’ credit toward jail time for men who agree to free vasectomies. The same would have applied to women who receive free Nexplanon implants, which is a contraception that prevents pregnancies for up to four years.

County officials said 32 women and 38 men had signed up for the procedures.

Benningfield told reporters he decided to make the offer “to encourage them (inmates) to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, to not to be burdened with children.”

Meanwhile, an official with the ACLU of Tennessee argued the offer is unconstitutional and a form of coercion.

“We are pleased that Judge Benningfield rescinded his unconstitutional standing order that offered a 30-day jail credit to inmates in exchange for getting vasectomies or birth control implants,” Hedy Weinberg, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement released last week. “The Constitution protects people’s right to choose whether and when to procreate. The judge’s initial order undermined this constitutional protection because it amounted to the government coercing people not to procreate.”

We want to hear what you think. Did the White County birth control program for jail inmates cross a constitutional line?

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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Aug. 1

The Marysville Daily Times on fire safety:

How about this for scary: a shrill cry of “fire” in a crowded school.

It has happened, with tragic results. A prime example happened one cold Monday afternoon on the first day of December. One student, 7 years old at the time, recalled years later hearing the fire alarm go off in his classroom. He hoped it was a signal that students were getting ice cream. He thought it was too late in the day for a fire drill and too cold to send the kids outside, The Associated Press reported.

Another student, remembered how her teacher thought the alarm was a mistake and ignored it. The girl, who grew up to be a principal, was happy at the time because she was taking a test and knew she was doing well on it.

But the alarm was real. Fire and toxic smoke engulfed the elementary and middle school with terrifying swiftness. The year was 1958. The place was Our Lady of the Angels School on Chicago’s West Side.

In seconds the school’s 1,200 students with staff were struggling for their lives as some leapt from windows to escape the two-and-a-half story brick-and-wood building. It took three minutes for the first emergency equipment to arrive.

Eighty-seven children and three nuns died that Dec. 1. Five more children died from injuries as months passed. The city of Chicago responded by requiring sprinkler systems be installed in every school and by linking fire department alarm systems to school alarms.

With all of the tragic statistics that fire generated, it left us with one wonderful gift today. No kid in the United States has died in a school fire since that day.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t school fires. According to state data, fire departments in Tennessee respond to an estimated 58 structure fires in educational facilities each year.

As schools across the state resume classes, the State Fire Marshal’s Office reminds residents that the fire-safe behavior and habits children learn in school help keep them from harm while inside a school’s walls, setting the stage for a lifetime of fire safety awareness.

An important part of the fire safety program is SFMO fire inspections to ensure fire codes are enforced. Most medium-to-large municipalities are authorized to do their own inspections - the four major metropolitan areas and, for example, the Tri-Cities. Include Maryville and Alcoa on the list.

As another school year starts, let’s commit to keeping that 59-year-old record right where it is - zero kids dying in school fires.

Online: https://www.thedailytimes.com/


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