- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Nov. 25

Cleveland Daily Banner on church security:

As long as the mentally ill and the emotionally unstable enjoy unfettered access to guns - conventional, semi-automatic or otherwise - then unparalleled security should remain uppermost in the minds of responsible leaders.

Sadly, this includes the clergy who suddenly find themselves thrust into new roles as they, and their elders, must look to safeguard our houses of worship and the congregations that call them home.

It is a new world filled with unprecedented threat and unforgiving circumstance.

It is a violent society brimming with explosive volatility and unpredictable anger.

It is a growing wave of intolerance measured by a hunger to get them before they get us.

It is an inexplicable belief that what is mine is mine, what is yours can be taken and what isn’t stolen today can wait for renewed thievery tomorrow.

As awful as it seems, all the above are now being perpetrated against the most vulnerable - and the least deserving - target. We speak of our churches, once a safe house for all and a sanctuary for any.

Consider these heartbreaking facts:

. May 21, 2006: Five parishioners die in a church shooting near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

. Oct. 25, 2012: One dead in a church shooting in College Park, Georgia.

. June 18, 2015: Nine killed in a church shooting - ironically by a gunman who was invited to share in the evening service - in Charleston, South Carolina.

. Sept. 24, 2017: One dead in a church shooting in Antioch.

. Nov. 5, 2017: Twenty-six members of the same congregation killed in a church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a tiny, rural town whose unprecedented tragedy might have finally captured the moral conscience of the American people.

The nightmare is real. The heartbreak is indescribable. But here’s the ugly truth: If ignored, such crime could slither into our own Cleveland and Bradley County community.

This is why the recent pair of church-security seminars held at the Bradley County Justice Complex - coordinated by Sheriff Eric Watson and a staff dedicated to the protection of our citizens, and our houses of worship - should be repeated as often as our church families show an interest and feel the need.

Truth is, these gatherings are not new. BCSO has conducted such training for three years. For as long as it takes our churches to be safe, for their congregations to feel safe, and for their families to worship in a safe surround, the seminars should be continued - for three more years, for three years after that, for three years after that, and for any years in our collective beyond.

In the first of two seminars, this one held before a standing-room-only crowd on Nov. 16, Watson spoke volumes when his words ran parallel to those voiced in an earlier governing body session by Bradley County Commissioner Dan Rawls.

In the BCSO session, in which throngs had to be turned away because the North Conference Room’s capacity had already been exceeded, Watson reminded his listeners, “We should all be concerned, because sometimes people get mad and you don’t know what they may do.”

This is what led to the massacre in the modest First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. There, a gunman with a proven record of mental illness and domestic abuse, is thought to have been pursuing members of the family of his estranged wife.

Texas seems a continent away from our own Southeast Tennessee homeland. But its tragedies can move eastward. Such reality is not intended to frighten, but to come as a reminder.

“Not too long ago, a place of worship was considered a safe haven - a place to pray and receive the word of the Lord,” Watson, himself a man of faith, told his listeners. “Today, however, crime and violence have become far too prevalent and continue to breach the doors of our places of worship.”

He added, “We must be prepared.”

Our community also has a friend in the Cleveland Police Department. Chief of Police Mark Gibson has already made it plain his municipal department will partner with its BCSO counterparts in the work of protecting our community - not just the faith-based communities, but all assemblies and festivals and events where the innocent congregate in the enjoyment of life and the fellowship of their neighbors.

We have said it before. Sadly, we will say it again.

Our newspaper does not have an answer for gun violence. But as long as there are guns, and as long as there are people, then communities must remain proactive in seeing to the protection, and to the well-being, of the masses.

It saddens us to accept that houses of worship, and the parishioners who pray from within, are targets of evil.

While prayer remains an integral tool of believers - and rightfully so - it is increasingly obvious that more is needed.

The “more” of which we speak is the collective willingness to work together in guarding against the unthinkable.

It is a doable task.

But more importantly, it is a task well worth the doing.

Online: http://clevelandbanner.com/

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Nov. 27

Kingsport Times-News on a weekly video produced at a sheriff’s office hoping people with outstanding warrants will surrender or be turned in:

We support any effort to bring those accused of legal misbehavior to justice. But Sheriff Wayne Anderson’s “Busted Bingo” seems a bit much.

It’s a weekly video produced at the department wherein someone the department is searching for on an outstanding warrant is given attention, with the hope that person will surrender or be turned in by those who know where they are.

As touted with a tongue-in-cheek press release from the department’s public information officer, each week’s “winner” will receive “an all-inclusive stay at the Sullivan County correctional facility.”

“It’s an innovative way to capture people’s attention,” Sheriff Wayne Anderson told us. “We only have X number of deputies here, but thousands and thousands of citizens who will watch this and might know where these people are.”

The premiere video began with department employees at work, while a voice-over explained, “The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office has too many warrants, so the men in black are coming for yooouuu!” Following the intro, the show’s “host,” Anderson, stood in front of a large bingo-style display, featuring offenders’ faces in the blocks. A hopper was turned by Chief Deputy Lisa Christian, who then reached in to retrieve a bingo ball.

Anderson read the number selected, referenced the board to find the corresponding offender, and then said, “We’re going to make a star out of O-10.” The “winner” was a Bristol woman wanted for failure to appear and theft of property.

Having identified her, Anderson said to the camera, “Girl, you might as well cowgirl up, come on in, kiss your boyfriend goodbye, give your momma a big hug cause if you don’t we’re gonna come and get you and bring you to jail.”

The department didn’t have far to go. The woman was already in jail in Bristol, Virginia.

The program is corny and goofy to say the least. And who knows, maybe it will be successful and every week the person highlighted in “Busted Bingo” will be apprehended.

We get that the sheriff is trying to be innovative, and we applaud him for trying something “different.” But is this the image we truly want from our law enforcement community? If they want to have a little fun, how about giving out ice cream cones to exemplary drivers?

When hunting down those with outstanding warrants, let’s keep it professional. That’s what we want and need from those sworn to serve and protect.

Anything less tarnishes the image.

Online: http://www.timesnews.net/

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Nov. 28

The Tennessean of Nashville on politicians who release tax returns:

Voters generally do not rank what candidates pay in taxes to the federal government as the most important issue to them.

In fact, we know from USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee reporting across the state that jobs, education and health care are top of mind for residents.

However, when politicians who seek residents’ votes release their tax returns, they are showing voters that they are committed to transparency and accountability.

This is an important measure of trust in a democratic society where we expect the people’s business to be done, well, before the people.

A political election is much like a job interview. For the Tennessee gubernatorial election, where candidates are vying for the state’s chief executive job, understanding a candidate’s financial commitments, handling of finances and sources of income is valuable for voters to help them make an informed decision, especially among a crowded field of candidates.

That is why we commend Republicans Diane Black and Beth Harwell and Democrat Craig Fitzhugh - among the seven top-tier candidates running for governor - for releasing their federal income tax return and financial information upon request.

Black, R-Gallatin, represents the 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives and chairs the House Budget Committee. She is a chief promotor of the GOP tax reform measure being considered by Congress.

Harwell, R-West Nashville, is speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, is minority leader in the Tennessee House.

Their tax return information shows a wide spectrum of income, but the amounts are irrelevant. The act of transparency shows leadership.

Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., rightfully said: “Their disclosure provides insight into income, debts, investments and the candidate’s fiscal health that can be trusted more than a public assertion.”

Governors in Tennessee had a long history of releasing their tax returns - a tradition that ended with Gov. Bill Haslam, who chose instead to provide a summary of income and taxes paid.

Middle Tennessee State University professor Kent Syler wondered whether future candidates would eschew tradition because of the decision by Haslam and President Donald Trump not to release their tax returns.

“I think there’s a perception and maybe accurately . that it’s not the biggest issue with the voters,” he said.

That may be so, but it is still a big issue.

It is about trust, and it is time to revive the tradition.

Online: http://www.tennessean.com/

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