- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 14, 2017

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


June 14

Elizabethton Star on the benefit of county tax increases:

The Carter County Commission has proposed a four-cent increase in the property tax for the fiscal year 2017-18. The new tax rate if approved by the Commission would raise the tax rate to $2.49 per $100 of assessed property value.

In addition to the property tax increase, some members of the Carter County Commission are open to a $25 wheel tax to fund the county’s allocated expenditures.

It appears from Commission discussions and bookkeeping figures that the county faces some serious fiscal challenges ahead in order to address the long-neglected needs of infrastructure as well as increases in the cost of employee health insurance. When is the last time your heard a local official anywhere, say: “We’ve got all the money we need, and then some?”

There are some folks, who are against all taxes, and there are some, who are not necessarily opposed to increased taxes, but to how the tax money is spent. Taxes are a tricky topic. Nobody is enthusiastic about paying more of them.

Counties are responsible for providing education dollars, which go to the upkeep of schools, salaries, and for educating our students. Some of those dollars go to school bus transportation, getting our children to and from school.

Counties are also responsible for public safety and operating the criminal justice system, from jails to courts to deputies.

Tax money also maintains our roads and bridges, keeps them cleared of ice and snow in the winter.

And since the county depends primarily on property taxes for their revenue source, it oftentimes means they don’t have enough money to keep up with the increasing expenditures. Counties, essentially, are being asked to do more, for more people, without the resources they need.

A property tax increase may be bad news for your pocketbook, because an increase in the tax rate will mean higher taxes.

Local elected officials have too few options in raising revenue. Revenue comes mainly in the form of property taxes and sales taxes. But, if we want quality services and schools, we’re going to have to pay for them.

We understand that no one wants to pay more taxes, but every now and then, increasing taxes is the right thing to do.

County leaders have been frugal, managing the county’s finances well through tough times. They have been reluctant to raise taxes, instead borrowing from department surpluses and reserves to pay the bills. But that has led to a major problem. Many valuable employees, who haven’t had a raise in years, are leaving for better-paying jobs. It’s getting harder for the county to keep good law officers and paramedics, and that means public safety suffers. The increase in taxes will give county employees a one percent salary increase. Also, county school employees will get a one percent pay raise, which will help to bring their salaries more in line with what other districts are paying.

The four-cent tax increase is not that much money. And, as long as leaders continue to spend wisely and try to avoid another increase soon, that’s a small price to pay to help keep quality county employees on the payroll.

Online: https://www.elizabethton.com/


June 11

Bristol Herald Courier on Confederate memorials:

Have we gone too far? It’s a question that can apply to many instances, but it’s especially acute to ask in the debate over Confederate memorials, especially considering today’s story on the same topic.

The controversy around honoring Confederate history was reignited after the 2015 shootings of nine African-American parishioners in South Carolina and by additional events since then. In New Orleans, the removal of four Confederate monuments, including a Robert E. Lee statue, was met with cheers and applause from residents, 60 percent of whom were African American. In Charlottesville, two parks bearing Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s names will be given less inciting names. Even in places as far as Arizona, public displays of Confederate symbols along highways are coming under intense scrutiny.

How should we solve the dispute over Confederate memorials? Before finding any satisfactory answer, we need to ask other questions and approach them with emotional reactions in check and an open mind.

Do Confederate memorials perpetuate hate or heritage?

Many in the South would easily defend the latter, noting that it’s a part of who we are and it simply can’t be changed. Rather than hiding that ugly part of our history, we could choose to recognize it. In doing so, we become stronger and more united in our acknowledgment of the mistakes of the past while taking lessons away from it.

Even if we claim to celebrate Confederate history for its cultural inherence and education, though, the relation of the Civil War to racism is so deeply intertwined, it’s unclear how we can separate the two. The frequent display of Confederate flags by hate groups in the 1950s only compounded the symbolism of Confederate memorabilia. We can’t simply embrace the history we want and ignore the rest. That sort of arbitrary selectivity neglects and oversimplifies the context.

Another question comes out of that short retrospection: Can we honor that history without highlighting the injustice?

We’ve previously contemplated redefining the reality around Lee-Jackson Day, arguing that keeping the holiday in the commonwealth means reframing it in a way that shows us - and the world - that Confederate celebration sans racism is possible.

It would take mass agreement and a cognizant, consistent dedication to that goal. But even if it’s possible to celebrate one without the other, there’s still a more significant, pressing question to ask:

Is it right? Is it right to celebrate that history? And is it right to stop others from doing so? The immediate reaction to this for many readers is likely an emotive one. But let’s stop and think about this.

It’s unfair to deduce these as a ploy to protect or promote racist tendencies. This ignores those sincere attempts to just honor history. Likewise, these questions shouldn’t be dismissed as a left-wing strategy for political correctness. This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a moral one.

If we choose to remove or rename Confederate memorials, we also choose to negate the ancestry of some citizens. But if we choose to preserve those, we then negate the suffering of others’ predecessors.

Then we have a larger implication of the extent of the First Amendment. Free speech employs free thought, and the decision for or against Confederate memorials can infringe on both, regardless of how you side.

Answers to these will not be found easily, and undoubtedly more questions exist. However, we can set ground rules for fairness and civility in search of some solutions. Solutions focusing on more inclusion, void of self-righteous arguments and appeals of an emotional nature, might yield the most productivity. We can even explore memorials for those individuals from that era with less recognition, such as nurses.

We can’t erase what’s happened, and we indeed should remember it. But we should also remember that we, collectively, share that history and must work toward establishing framework that provides the most advantageous result for all groups.

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


June 14

Johnson City Press on the American flag:

Today is Flag Day, which was established by Congress in 1949 to commemorate the date that the Second Constitutional Congress in 1777 officially adopted a flag that would become one of this nation’s most cherished symbols.

Flag Day is not a federal holiday, so it doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. In fact, some calendars don’t even mark Flag Day for observance.

That may be the reason so many Americans forget to display their flags on this date. You will undoubtedly see more flags unfurled on Independence Day.

In fact, the Fourth of July may be the only time of the year when many Americans raise a flag at their homes.

If you are going to hoist a flag, then you should follow proper etiquette in doing so. Some tips from the U.S. Flag Code include:

. When displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from a window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should be seen at the peak of the staff.

. The American flag must be flown above all other flags on the same pole.

. The flag should only be flown in a respectable condition. Torn or tattered flags should not be displayed.

. Only all-weather flags should be flown during inclement weather.

. A flag may only be displayed for 24 hours if it is properly illuminated at night.

Finally, there are also some very specific rules for disposing of a tattered or torn flag. The U.S. Flag Code instructs: “The flag, when it is in such a condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Afterwards, the ashes should be buried in a ceremony.

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

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