Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
Cookeville Herald-Citizen on remembering Veteran’s Day:
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the neverending presidential election, we might be tempted to overlook the Wednesday holiday dedicated to our most valuable national treasure - veterans.
Unfortunately, with COVID-19 being a more deadly virus for older Americans, this Veterans Day was bound to look different. Putnam County’s annual Veterans Day Parade has been canceled, and the Cookeville High School event for veterans has been revamped into a virtual event.
The good thing is, we don’t have to have a large gathering to thank our veterans.
Putnam County Veterans Service Officer Mark Harris said there are 4,612 veterans receiving VA benefits in Putnam County and 25,415 across the Upper Cumberland.
But there are likely many more than that.
Unfortunately, one of the places veterans end up is homeless or incarcerated.
The 13th Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court created in response to veterans who struggle with mental illness and substance abuse now boasts 11 graduates and nine in the program since April 2016.
In addition to encouraging veterans who need help, you might also call long-term care facilities and ask if there’s a veteran there who’d like to receive a card or gift.
Veterans organizations like the VFW 6296, Vietnam Veterans of America 741, American Legion 46 & American Legion 135, AmVets 44, and DAV 117 at 90 East Spring Street in Cookeville may also have ideas for the best ways to say thank you to our veterans.
Rich Buford of American Legion Post 46, with the assistance of area scout troops, plans to honor veterans with photos and displays at the Putnam County Courthouse this weekend.
CHS JROTC Senior Instructor Col. Nickey Philpot suggested mailing cards to WWII veteran Ross Williams, who usually attends the CHS Veterans Day program, but is now in an assisted living facility, where he’s not allowed to have visitors. Cards can be mailed to Ross Williams, 1250 Cedar Hills Dr., #115, Cookeville, TN 38506.
COVID-19 has created loneliness for older people who are more susceptible to the virus because they can’t have contact with the people they love most.
Simply saying thank you with a card will never be enough, but it’s likely to bring some attention and a smile to those needing it most right now.
Johnson City Press on making changes to a Tennessee county’s election commission:
Since Tuesday night, we’ve all been waiting for results.
Vote counting in a handful of states where the winner of the presidential election was too close to call has dragged on for days, leaving us nervously wondering who will occupy the White House come January.
As the count continues, some Americans are raising questions about the delays in other states, where it appears a pandemic-inspired flood of absentee ballots slowed the canvassing process.
The late reporting we should be exploring is right here in Washington County. When most other counties in our region were nearly finished counting ballots and submitting results to the state for inclusion on the Secretary of State’s elections website Tuesday night, the Washington County Election Commission had barely begun.
It wasn’t until after 11:30, more than 3 1/2 hours after polls closed, that the final report was posted on the Election Commission’s website. Even then, and up to the time of this writing on Friday, those results were listed as incomplete on the commission’s summary report.
Sullivan County, which reported more than 14,000 more votes, finished its tally and posted the results by 9:53. Unicoi County posted by 8:57.
The hours it took Washington County’s officials to process ballots left candidates wondering if they’d won. They left voters wondering who would be their leaders.
Two of those candidates, Tim Hicks, who won Tennessee’s House District 6, and Rebecca Alexander, who won District 7, will have the power to make changes to the Election Commission. They, along with state Sen. Rusty Crowe, may recommend members for the local commission to the state Election Commission.
If Tuesday’s late results had been a one-time occurrence, if election officials had communicated to the public that they expected results to be late and gave us the reasons, we may have given them the benefit of the doubt.
But Washington County is regularly later than its neighboring counties with vote tallies, and the Election Commission was and has been silent.
Don’t keep us waiting any longer. It’s time for our state legislators to get to the bottom of the Washington County Election Commission’s dysfunction and make changes, if needed.
Kingsport Times-News on retesting senior drivers:
Mount Carmel owes Kenneth Light a vehicle. Light is a Mount Carmel police officer. Because dedicated police officers are on duty 24/7, he didn’t hesitate to act when he saw a vehicle traveling the wrong way on Highway 11-W. The action he took to save lives cost him his personal vehicle.
It’s an all-too-familiar story on Highway 11-W.
Two years ago, three family members were killed when their vehicle was struck by a pickup traveling on the wrong side of 11-W in Rogersville. The driver of the pickup also died, and a third vehicle was also struck by the pickup, injuring two. That brought to eight the number of people killed along 11-W within two years, prompting the Tennessee Department of Transportation to launch a comprehensive study of the highway.
On Oct. 23, Light was off duty and driving west on 11-W in Mount Carmel when he saw a vehicle approaching from the wrong direction and did the only thing he could do. He slowed in front of the vehicle as it approached and was able to get it stopped. There was no other option to prevent yet another possible tragedy on what is unfortunately still known as Bloody 11-W.
There was a time that so many people died on the highway in Hawkins County that a song was written about it.
But two vehicles stopped in a traffic lane on a four-lane divided highway with a 55 mph speed limit and everyone in a rush, also has consequences. As Light exited his vehicle with the intention of having the wrong-way driver leave the traffic lane, his vehicle was rear-ended. And that vehicle was rear-ended. And two other vehicles were sideswiped to avoid the crash.
Had Light not been where he was, it’s likely the car that rear-ended his vehicle would have hit the wrong-way driver head-on. It’s likely the death tally on Bloody 11-W would have increased.
As a result of the crash, Light lost his only vehicle. And because he only has liability insurance, he’s not expecting to receive any insurance compensation. The loss of his vehicle is an added burden for Light because his wife is pregnant, and they have no way to get their other child to school.
“He acted selflessly, put himself in danger, and probably saved a couple of lives, and now he doesn’t have a vehicle,” said Mount Carmel Police Chief Ken Lunsford. “By doing the right thing, he put himself in a bad situation.”
Anyone else may have just gotten out of the other driver’s way and then called police. Officer Light did his duty. Let’s hope Mount Carmel holds him harmless for it and replaces his vehicle.
As to the driver who started all of this, he is 86 years old. Lots of folks that age are capable of driving safely, but they are in a minority. The driver thought he was turning onto Mount Carmel’s Main Street, and instead, turned onto a dangerous highway.
Tennessee driver’s licenses are renewed every five years with no special provisions for older drivers. That needs to change. Renewal after a certain age should be done in person rather than by mail, as is the case in many states, and senior drivers should be road tested, perhaps even annually past a certain age.
That’s not age discrimination. It’s recognizing the fact that as we age many of us become less capable of making the best decisions behind the wheel. When we can’t make good decisions, we become a danger to ourselves and to others.
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