- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


Jan. 27

The Crossville-Chronicle on long wait times at the DMV:

We can all empathize with the frustration state Sen. Paul Bailey felt last fall when addressing the long wait times residents often find at their driver’s license service centers.

“In a rural area, people taking off from their job to come there and then to wait five and six hours to get their driver’s (license),” said Bailey. The Sparta resident said he’s visited the Cookeville driver’s license center to evaluate wait times and customer service, and he didn’t like what he found.

Though the department has said the average wait time when visiting a center is 24 minutes, Bailey contends that’s not the case. A reporter from the Tennessean visited a Nashville driver’s license office and found people waited in line for several hours before they were given a ticket showing a wait time.

Tennessee has only 44 centers to serve the 130,000 to 160,000 residents who visit these centers each month.

And though federal legislation requiring the Real ID - an enhanced identification program requiring individuals to provide documentation of citizenship, residence and any name changes - was passed in 2005, Tennessee only started offering the new ID this past July. Yet, you’ll need a Real ID to fly or enter a federal building beginning in October 2020.

That’s stretched the resources of a state agency that was already struggling with staffing issues and technology glitches.

It’s a perfect storm.

To date, the state has hired 30 more part-time employees and they’re asking for another 80 people.

We can point fingers at the state for waiting until the last minute to unveil its Real ID process, or people who arrive at centers without the proper documents, or technology that doesn’t work like it should.

None of that helps the person trying to take care of their business during their lunch hour.

The state is exploring options to reduce those long wait times and better serve the residents. They’ve hired 30 part-time people statewide and are asking for 80 more positions. The state also proposes four express service centers in Middle and West Tennessee and two mobile units.

And, they’re considering expanding the hours of service.

They’re also working with county clerks to process Real ID applications or handle other driver’s license services like renewals and duplicate licenses. Those services are currently available in 40 counties, with more clerks considering the ability of their office to provide the needed service.

Cumberland County is not currently providing any driver’s license services, though the county does have a full-service driver’s license center, unlike Fentress, Bledsoe, or Morgan counties. The Morgan County Clerk does offer driver’s license services, but residents of Fentress and Bledsoe counties must travel here or to other communities to get a license.

More people, additional hours and more convenient locations are all necessary to properly serve the citizens of this state.

Readers, do your part, too. Make sure you arrive with the documents you need: a certified copy of your birth certificate, Permanent Resident Card or a passport; Social Security card, payroll stub or tax document; and proof of Tennessee residency. If you’ve had a name change since birth, bring your marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order.

Online: https://www.crossville-chronicle.com/


Jan. 25

The Kingsport TimesNews on a man receiving a court summons for housing the homeless on a cold night in his place of business:

Who would punish a good deed? No one in a Kingsport courtroom recently. Not the city, which had cited a well-known humanitarian, and not the judge.

As Michael Gillis explained, it was rather cold on New Year’s Eve, and some folks “had nowhere to go and would have had to go back to the street.” So Gillis gave them a place to sleep. And was summoned to court for it.

Gillis is executive director of Hunger First, which came into being in the ’90s through the efforts of Cindy Risk, who hunted down food donations and distributed them to the hungry, no questions asked. When her life was taken in an auto accident, son Michael Gillis picked up and over the years developed a larger vision, “something that Mom always talked about, always dreamed about and desired, but never got a chance to do.”

Under Gillis’ direction, Hunger First expanded. In 2015 it took over an old store at Myrtle and East Center streets in downtown Kingsport to help the homeless with more than food, passing out clothing to both individuals and other ministries. He envisioned a large grocery store where individuals who are struggling with food insecurity could go shopping. He said some people are so ashamed by their current economic situations they do not want to ask for help. A grocery store where they could shop without judgment would be beneficial to those Kingsport citizens who fall through the cracks.

Hunger First would also like to have some type of recreational center for Kingsport teenagers. Gillis said he would like to help those teens who may be struggling but are not taken care of through other means. These are visions that, if realized, would satisfy community needs.

But on New Year’s Eve, Gillis wasn’t thinking about those things. Some folks had arrived who were cold and needed a warm place to sleep, and Gillis was quick to provide it. Problem is the property is zoned for business, not residential, and that’s a perceived safety issue because the business does not have a sprinkler system.

During the hearing, Kingsport Planning Director Ken Weems testified that he had spoken with Gillis twice about the process of changing the zoning of the location from business to residential, a process that would take about three to four months. Gillis, who appeared without legal counsel, told Judge Curt Rose his intent was not to break any laws. “I’m trying to serve a purpose,” he said. Gillis further explained that the people he serves are special cases, with drug and mental issues, that other nonprofits simply aren’t equipped to deal with.

And since temperatures were below 30 degrees on New Year’s Eve, Gillis said he felt the need to let those folks spend the night. Rose admitted Gillis was in a tough spot, weighing his good intentions against the laws of the city. In the end, Rose ruled for Gillis to return on March 9 for an update on the situation. “If you keep the building as a warming place … there will be no fine since you’re trying to come into compliance,” Rose said. “I appreciate you trying to do the right thing.”

Gillis has a quote to have sprinklers installed but needs help raising the money, as well as for Hunger First’s other good works. If that’s something you’d like to be part of, stop by 829 Myrtle St., or call (423) 765-1144.

Online: https://www.timesnews.net/


Jan. 23

The Johnson City Press on the future of Milligan College:

If you thought a 154-year-old Christian college would be staid in its approach to education, think again.

Milligan College - soon to be Milligan University - is proving to be anything but conventional while maintaining its mission as a religious liberal arts institution. Hardly a week has gone by of late that the college has not announced a new initiative, often leading the way with innovation and key research.

This week, it was the creation of the region’s first collegiate robotics team. Members will build remote-controlled robots that perform underwater maneuvers. The team will vie in Marine Advanced Technology Education competitions, which require teams to tackle problems - Milligan will focus on plastic waste in rivers, lakes, waterways and oceans. So not only will students be involved in high-tech endeavors, they also will be contributing to society. That’s what college should be about.

Last week, the college announced key research about the importance of physical education to learning, specifically how it pertains to standardized test scores. As the nation’s schools continue to rely on test data for accountability purposes and focus on test preparation, Associate Professor Leslie Hanneken’s findings are key to understanding what drives achievement. Our guess that good teachers have known this all along, and Hanneken’s work backs that up.

Earlier this month, Milligan announced it was fielding a competitive fly-fishing team, which is in perfect synch with the region’s focus on outdoor recreation as an economic development tool.

Milligan beat East Tennessee State University to the punch last year when it developed the region’s first “e-sports” team for competitive multiplayer video gaming.

In December, the college graduated its first set of students from its Master of Science in Information Systems program.

In 2018, the college launched a master’s program to educate physician’s assistants, an important contribution toward the region’s demand for primary health care providers. And two years earlier, Milligan launched its engineering program with degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering. That initiative has crucial support from industry, including Eastman, TPI Corporation, Nuclear Fuel Services, Bell Helicopter and Siemens.

Six years ago, Milligan reorganized its programs into five schools - an important step toward university status. The institution now offers more than 100 undergraduate programs and 13 graduate programs. Milligan consistently lands high on lists of “best” schools among its peer institutions.

Although the name won’t change until June, Milligan has been behaving like a university quite awhile, and its students and Northeast Tennessee are better for it.

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

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