- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


July 19

The Daily Times of Maryville on Tennessee congressmen testifying against newsprint tariffs before the U.S. International Trade Commission:

Freedom of the press, including our ability to convey to you Little League scores, church socials and how your local governments are performing, is under siege - by a single Washington state newsprint manufacturer owned by a New York hedge fund.

The North Pacific Paper Company (NORPAC), which hedge fund One Rock Capital Partners bought in 2016, petitioned the U.S. Department of Commerce earlier this year for newsprint tariffs that have reached about 30 percent. The firm, which employs fewer than 300, argues that Canadian newsprint companies that supply most U.S. newspapers have an unfair advantage by using Canadian government subsidies to undercut American prices.

The problem is that if you include NORPAC, the United States is down to five newsprint manufacturers, one of which is partially owned by Canadian interests and two others - in Georgia and Mississippi - are owned outright by Canada. There isn’t enough U.S.-produced newsprint to supply the nation’s newspapers. Not even close. And Canada didn’t drive U.S. manufacturers out of business. A 75 percent drop in newsprint consumption over the past two decades is responsible, fueled by the rise of the Internet and the resulting drastic reductions in revenues. (U.S. newspapers employed 426,000 two decades ago; it now has 150,000 workers, The Associated Press reported recently.)

To show you how devastating these tariffs are on newspapers large and small, consider that newsprint is a newspaper’s second-largest expense, behind employee salaries.

There might be some relief on the horizon. Three dozen federal lawmakers, including three Tennessee congressmen, testified against the tariffs Tuesday before the U.S. International Trade Commission.

“The damage this tariff will do to the newspaper and printing industries will be catastrophic,” testified Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. “Less news will lead to an increasingly distant and ill-informed American citizen.”

He noted that the International Trade Commission singlehandedly could stop the tariffs and said he hoped his testimony would help. “This administration’s approach to trade is cavalier and ill-informed,” he said. “I cannot sit by and watch this country’s news industry be destroyed by federal overreach.”

Also testifying against the tariffs were Reps. Phil Roe and Chuch Fleischmann, two Tennessee Republicans.

“At a time when the print industry is already facing significant market challenges, I would urge you to consider the inevitable loss of domestic jobs that would be caused by increased tariffs on paper imports,” Roe testified.

Added Fleischmann: “Many newspapers will not be able to absorb a 30 percent price increase on newsprint … . Even small per unit costs add up quickly, particularly if operating under razor thin margins.” He questioned NORPAC’s business model, saying the Longview, Wash., firm had managed to “anger their customers,” throw newspapers and commercial printing and book-publishing sectors into “turmoil,” and “risk cannibalizing future demand for their product.”

We applaud Cooper, Roe and Fleischmann for standing up against newsprint tariffs, which have been lost in the public outcry about U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.

We urge our readers to click on https://www.stopnewsprinttariffs.org/join-the-fight-to-protect-u-s-jobs/ and sign the petition to end these unnecessary and catastrophic tariffs, which threaten the role of a free press - a hallmark of our representative democracy. And we urge you to call your lawmakers and speak out forcefully on behalf of the First Amendment.

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


July 21

Johnson City Press on littering:

Those of us old enough to have seen the “Tennessee Trash” television campaign will always remember that image of a slovenly guy in a sleeveless undershirt joyfully tossing garbage from his beat-up convertible down the highway.

Theme song’s refrain, “Lord, there ain’t no lower class than Tennessee trash,” was just as memorable.

Hillbilly stereotype aside, the 1976 PSA was a pretty effective anti-littering message, and it’s still relevant 42 years later.

We’ve reported in recent months just how often volunteers have had to clean up Tennessee trash in our area. From the plastic bottles and fast food bags left behind in city parks to the tires and televisions dragged every year out of Boone Lake, we still just don’t care enough about our environment and the appearance of our region to pick up after ourselves.

Staff Writer Zach Vance found the latest example Thursday in Founders Park, where he photographed eight junior-high youths from First United Methodist Church picking up trash around the park, in Brush Creek and at the neighboring pavilion. The kids represented the church’s “RAGS” - Random Acts of Grace and Service - group.

There’s one thing positive about what Vance spotted in Founders: The youths were learning to serve their community while making an impact on the planet. Even if the lesson inspired just one of those eight kids to be a lifelong steward of the environment, the church will have made a huge difference. We could all learn that lesson.

Our staff also has reported on other environmentally friendly initiatives taking place both nationally and here at home, such as the commitment from several restaurants and coffee shops to stop offering plastic straws. Now a plastic straw might not seem like much, but when you consider the fast-food and coffee-drinking habits of the average American, you can bet those non-biodegradable straws quickly build into haystacks and then into mountains.

But the bigger, stranger trend we’ve seen in American habits is the obsessive use of bottled water. Americans spend billions each year on something most could get from their own faucets while sending a gargantuan amount of plastic into landfills. Although some of it gets recycled, not all communities offer such a service, and some residents just can’t bothered with collecting their recyclables each week.

Bottled water becomes a necessity in times of crisis, but why have we made it an everyday staple? Don’t like the taste of tap water? Get a home filter. They’re made for your fridge, your tap and even your whole house.

Plastic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but we certainly can cut down on frivolous consumption and littering - one straw, one bottle, one volunteer, one youth at a time. Don’t be Tennessee trash.

Online: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/


July 21

Cleveland Daily Banner on the state Health Services and Development Agency rejecting two hospitals’ certificate of need requests:

In the wake of a state agency’s denial of certificate of need requests by two hospitals - Tennova-Cleveland and Erlanger Health System - for new freestanding emergency rooms in Bradley County, it is critical that Cleveland’s hometown medical center now hears the voices of our residents.

In the three weeks since the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency rejected both proposals, the issue has resurfaced . and it wasn’t unexpected.

Last Monday, a Bradley County resident - Rodney West of McDonald - addressed the county commission to complain about wait times in the Tennova-Cleveland Emergency Room that he said exceed four hours or more.

But Tennova wasn’t his only target. Indeed, the state agency itself took a lashing for what West claims to be an attitude that seemingly favors healthcare monopolies.

Dubbing his campaign as “Enjoy the Wait Cleveland” - in reference to reported wait times by Tennova ER patients - West took state agency leaders to task because of their vote against both hospital CONs.

“The state has decided all our emergency medical services will be at Tennova Healthcare,” West charged. He later added, “They have declared there’s no need (for competition).”

Part of West’s complaints originate from ER comparisons within the Tennova family. He presented photographs of Tennova billboards in Knoxville. One promoted Tennova’s Turkey Creek Medical Center as having a “30-Minute-Or-Less E.R. Service Pledge.” Another Turkey Creek billboard advertised having a “current average E.R. wait” of 14 minutes.

West found willing allies on the other side of the commission dais.

Commissioner Dan Rawls, whose citizen advocacy is well-known, lauded West’s approach.

“That’s great!” Rawls stressed. “I’ve received multiple complaints (concerning the wait time for Tennova’s emergency services).”

Commissioner Terry Caywood agreed, and added, “I’ve also experienced three- and four-hour waits.”

Personal experience often dictates views regarding the local hospital’s performance. Bad experiences - which include long ER wait times - will create negative reviews. Good experiences will do just the opposite.

Whether THSDA members made the right decision, or the wrong decision, in rejecting both certificates of need appears now to be a moot point. But it doesn’t mean issues of perceived insufficiencies in healthcare in our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown will go away.

Frankly, the state agency’s decision to deny both CONs surprised many, including our newspaper. Our guess was that both would be approved because of Cleveland’s surge in growth, or that just the Tennova proposal would be given the nod because of a home-field advantage.

We did not anticipate two rejections. Nor did most officials with whom we’ve talked.

The issue is not - and should not be - who’s better, Tennova or Erlanger. The issue should be providing this community with the best possible healthcare: If one hospital can do it, that’s good; if it takes two, that’s even better . because it fuels healthy competition.

True, Tennova proponents argue that Erlanger’s presence could dilute the Cleveland-based medical community. And yes, Erlanger supporters believe the community can support two hospitals.

But here’s today’s reality thanks to the state vote: Erlanger won’t be coming to Bradley County in the near future, and Tennova won’t be expanding its emergency services to a second site any time soon.

So the next best option lies with Tennova: Find a way to improve existing ER services, and communicate those plans to the residents of Cleveland and Bradley County.

Develop a strategy and commit to it. Look ahead to future needs and dedicate the resources to meet them within a reasonable timetable using logical steps. Partner with Cleveland-based medical professionals to assure their buy-in.

It won’t be easy. And it won’t be cheap. But improvement will require change, both in process and in mindset.

Most importantly, present your case to the public. Ask for time on Monday’s agenda of the Bradley County Commission, as West suggested; seek an audience with the full Cleveland City Council; and host community forums to inform, and to educate, our local residents who feel ignored by the healthcare establishment.

Here’s another short-term idea: Appeal the THSDA decision, but arm yourselves with a new proposal. Negotiate a price with the landowner for the same plot on Interstate 75’s Exit 20 that Erlanger was going to use. If you’re serious about a new freestanding ER, put it there, or close by, and not on Stuart Road. You’ll be serving both ends of the county, and you’ll pick up some regional business from those who are intimidated by the metro hospitals in Chattanooga.

In future debate, state officials should remember: It’s not about which hospital is better; it’s about those who deserve the best in healthcare, and they are the residents of this community, or any community.

THSDA’s decision to say “no” twice was not the answer. But what’s done is done. And now, those in the position to do so must commit to finding a new direction.

As we see it, that path should be forged by Tennova-Cleveland.

Online: http://clevelandbanner.com/

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