- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Oct. 13

The Daily Times of Maryville on burn permits:

The recent reopening of the Chimney Tops Trail was a red letter day for visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Make that a red, yellow and orange day.

As one of the most popular trails in the Park, the Oct. 6 removal of barrier signs means thousands of visitors can again enjoy the fall colors as the leaves turn, stunningly visible from a pathway open for the first time in 10 months.

The entire trail had been closed to the public since the Chimney Tops 2 Fire occurred in late November. Now beautiful views of Mount LeConte and the Chimney Tops are again visible - but not from the very end of the trail.

During the closure, Park crews designed and developed a section where hikers can still enjoy the views. But the topmost 0.25 mile section of trail to the Chimney Tops pinnacles themselves was heavily damaged by the fire. That section will remain closed until further notice for safety reasons.

Due to the fire, gray and black are colors added to the palate of this autumn. Those somber colors serve as a reminder that the story on Page A3 about Tennessee entering the wildfire season is deadly serious.

Want to burn outdoors from Oct. 15 to May 15? Get an outdoor burning permit. It’s common sense, and it’s the law.

Due to prolonged drought conditions, by this time last year fire was already challenging Blount County and other firefighters - and far worse was yet to come. Pause for a memory refresher:

- Sept. 14 - The Happy Valley Ridge fire north of the Abrams Creek Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park burned about 125 acres before it was reported 90 percent contained on Sept. 29.

- Oct. 29 - A brush fire burned about 5 acres on Sam Houston School Road.

- Oct. 31 - A fire that began as a controlled burn on Triple Oak Street in Blount County eventually claimed a house and a mobile home.

- Nov. 5 - Smoke from 20 active fires in East Tennessee was affecting air quality in Blount County.

- Nov. 8 - Smoke was coming from a 500+ acre fire in Chattanooga, three 600+ acre fires in Campbell County, two 3,000+ acre fires in Anderson County and three small fires in Monroe County.

- Nov. 15 - Fire near Chimney Tops Trail summit closed Chimney Tops Trail, Road Prong Trail, Sugarland Mountain Trail and Huskey Gap Trail.

- Nov. 16 - A wildfire was burning on about 40 acres of land containing a section of the Trail of Tears in Tellico Plains.

- Nov. 17 - A fire began near Walland Elementary School and eventually burned more than 1,500 acres.

- Nov. 18 - Fire off Carrs Creek Road near Foothills Parkway burned about 10 acres.

Just some reminders of the way it was before the worst.

Around 5:20 p.m. on Nov. 23 another fire at Chimney Tops was reported. Smoke was rising again from an area of the Park in steep terrain with vertical cliffs and narrow rocky ridges. The name: Chimney Tops 2.

On Nov. 28, extreme winds caused this latest wildfire to spread rapidly, carrying embers for miles and downing fire lines. The blaze that escaped Park boundaries will forever be remembered by many as the Gatlinburg Fire.

It actually was a combination of fires. By the time the flames were gone, at least 14 people had died, 134 had been injured and more than 2,000 buildings damaged or destroyed.

Fall is a glorious season in these mountains. Fire season is like an evil twin, always hovering with the wicked potential of destruction, even death.

Want to burn outdoors? Get a permit. Make sure a “controlled” burn stays exactly that.

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

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Oct. 13

The Tennessean on the tension between Sen. Bob Corker and President Donald Trump:

Let’s get one thing straight about this Twitter-fueled squabble between President Donald Trump and Senator Bob Corker.

Members of Congress do not work for the president of the United States.

They do not pledge an oath of loyalty to the president of United States.

The only oath they take is to the U.S. Constitution, which means they serve the people.

The role of Congress is to keep checks and balances on the executive branch, not to curry favor with the president, regardless of how much he demands obeisance.

The people elect members of Congress to be independent, to represent their interests and to make tough decisions that may not always be popular - for the good of the country.

The Trump-Corker scrap has been a terrible distraction. It started as a series of tweets last Sunday by the president, who showed once again how he has no control over his impulses.

In seeking to humiliate Corker, a fellow Republican who is choosing to retire rather than run for re-election in 2018, Trump may not have expected a response back because Corker is typically above the fray.

But Corker, R-Chattanooga, chose to respond with a snarky comeback. Boy, did that start a firestorm.

Former White House senior adviser Stephen Bannon on Monday called on Corker to resign.

That is just ludicrous. Criticizing an elected official is not a fireable offense, otherwise Trump should have resigned long ago.

Congressman Diane Black, R-Gallatin, who is running for Tennessee governor, used Corker’s description of the White House as an “adult day care center” to describe the Senate.

No, the Senate is not an adult daycare center, it is a constitutionally deliberative body, which should take its time to pass legislation and not hastily pass bills without the opportunity for the public to understand what is going on.

On Tuesday Trump insulted Tennessee’s junior senator again, calling him “Liddle’ (sic) Corker,” to continue an immature game that is beneath the presidency of United States.

That was cute, but Corker, who stands 5-foot-7-inches, has far more stature then Donald Trump will ever have at 6-foot-2.

Meanwhile, Corker’s spokeswoman said any notion that the senator would resign was “ridiculous.”

Corker should resist any efforts to oust him before the end of his term in January 2019.

If he needs inspiration, he (and his colleagues) should re-read John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book “Profiles in Courage” about eight courageous senators who chose to act out of principle in spite of the damage to their political futures.

The immortal words of 19th Century Sen. Daniel Webster, one of the men profiled, rings true today:

“I shall stand by the Union …with absolute disregard of personal consequences … Let the consequences be what they they will, I am careless. No man can suffer too much, and no man can fall too soon, if he suffer or if he fall in defense of the liberties and Constitution of his country.”

Online: https://www.tennessean.com/

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Oct. 18

Johnson City Press on juvenile justice reform:

Tennessee lawmakers are finally grappling with an issue they have put off for too long - reforming this state’s juvenile justice system. State House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally created a joint legislative task force earlier this year to develop an evidence-based policy to reform the juvenile justice system.

Press staff writer Zach Vance reported in September that Harwell, who co-chairs the task force, says balancing juvenile justice system reforms with judges’ discretion in sentencing will be a particular challenge for the panel. Given the problems with the current juvenile justice system, the House speaker says she is doubtful the group will have policy recommendations ready for the state General Assembly in January.

When former Gov. Don Sundquist was re-elected in 1998, he promised that reform of Tennessee’s juvenile justice system would be one of the top priorities of his second term, saying it was necessary because the bad behavior of today’s children and teenagers bears little resemblance to the good-hearted pranks of the kids from Hal Roach’s popular “Our Gang” movie shorts of the early 1940s.

Months later, however, Sundquist’s efforts to address juvenile crime were sidetracked by a budget crisis that preoccupied his administration until he left office in January 2003. Like a lot of other important matters Tennessee faced at the time (and still does), juvenile crime was pushed aside as the governor and lawmakers struggled to balance the state’s budget.

In the years since, things haven’t gotten any better when it comes to the way the state handles offenders younger than 18. In fact, many think it has gotten much worse, particularly in terms of funding for key juvenile programs.

Meanwhile, there are critics of the current juvenile justice system who believe the state is violating recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for offenders under 18. That’s because juries and judges in Tennessee now have a choice of sentencing a juvenile defendant to life in prison or to life with the possibility of parole after serving 51 years.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed mandatory life without parole for juveniles convicted of murder. The court later said the ruling applied to the 2,000 inmates nationwide who are already serving such sentences, and that all but the most irredeemable juvenile offender should have a chance for parole.

While offenders in many other states have been re-sentenced, Tennessee has failed to offer re-sentencing to its 13 juvenile life-without-parole inmates. The youngest at the time of his crime was Jason Bryant, who was 14 when he and five others kidnapped the Lillelid family from a rest stop in Greeneville and killed the mother, father and their 6-year-old daughter and wounded the couple’s 2-year-old son.

Tennessee lawmakers must address this life without parole quandary, as well as the other prickly issues that have trapped this state’s juvenile justice system in the 19th century. Putting it off - again - is not the answer. Justice can never truly be served until the system is fixed.

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

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