Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel on state's automotive and clean-energy manufacturing:
A few years ago economists and business analysts warned that American manufacturing jobs were headed overseas, never to return.
They were wrong.
According to Forbes magazine, industrial employment has expanded by 7.5 percent, with about 855,000 jobs created in the past five years. Rising wages in China, the booming energy sector and logistics are among the reasons for the renaissance.
Tennessee is in the forefront of the advance and recently gained kudos in two particular sectors — automotive and clean-energy manufacturing.
Business Facilities magazine named Tennessee the No. 1 state in the nation in automotive manufacturing strength for the fifth time in the past six years.
One of the big reasons is the $900 million expansion at Chattanooga's Volkswagen assembly plant. While the Volkswagen, Nissan and General Motors plants get the most attention, suppliers are spreading throughout the state. According to the Department of Economic and Community Development, Tennessee is home to more than 900 automotive manufacturers and suppliers statewide.
Twenty automotive projects launched this year represent nearly $1.1 billion in capital investment and should produce 4,565 new jobs. The Knoxville area has 120 automotive component manufacturers employing 13,152 people. According to Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, the average pay for automotive manufacturing jobs in and around Knoxville is $66,646 per year.
Tennessee's automotive sector benefits from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where research into advanced composites manufacturing and other new technologies holds promise for applications in the auto industry.
Business Facilities magazine recognized more of Tennessee's attributes. The state ranks No. 1 in education, No. 2 in business climate, No. 2 in infrastructure, No. 4 in workforce training and No. 7 in automotive employment.
Others are taking note, too. The automotive industry is one reason Forbes has ranked the Nashville-Murfreesboro area as the No. 4 manufacturing hotspot in the country.
Manufacturing accounted for nearly half of new clean-energy jobs here over the past year, according to a recent report from national business group Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2.
Clean-energy jobs are growing at triple the state's overall growth. About 2,600 jobs were created last year by employers operating in the energy-efficiency, renewable-energy, clean-transportation, and greenhouse-gas management and accounting sectors — an increase of 6.3 percent, according to the Clean Jobs Tennessee report. Businesses told the report's authors they expect to roughly double that number by 2016. The clean-energy manufacturing sector grew by nearly 10 percent, adding 1,200 jobs.
The recognition is nice, but Tennessee cannot rest on its laurels. Building on these successes through better education and workforce development is imperative for a prosperous future for the Volunteer State.
Chattanooga (Tennessee) Times Free Press on police body cameras:
Body cameras, dash cams, cellphone video and surveillance footage are changing the way Americans see police.
We've all seen it happen, serially, in recent years — and especially this year. We've even seen it in Chattanooga following the brutal beating of a federal offender in Salvation Army halfway house custody. What began as normal interactions between the police and the public suddenly morphed into violent and sometimes fatal encounters. The most recent and notable incidents started with relatively pointless traffic stops in places like Cincinnati; North Charleston, South Carolina; and Waller County, Texas.
All were recorded. And now we've all seen them. One expert, Paul Butler, a professor at Georgetown University Law School and a former prosecutor, calls the videoed encounters "the C-Span of the streets," offering "corroboration of what African-Americans have been saying for years."
These videos of police actions with Samuel DuBose, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Chattanooga's Adam Tatum, to name a few, may show but a tiny slice of police behavior, but they are changing public perceptions of both police use of force and race relations. As the New York Times notes, "those that show respectful, peaceful interactions do not make the 24-hour cable news."
The sickening Chattanooga video, captured on Salvation Army surveillance cameras, shows two Chattanooga officers slamming down dozens of baton blows on Adam Tatum, who is writhing in a fetal position and begging them to stop hitting him. The baton blows came so regularly Tatum had no time to follow the officer's repeated commands to roll over on his stomach. Later the video shows an officer kicking the then-handcuffed Tatum — now with two broken legs — from a sitting position onto his back.
But an important and favorable aspect of these videos may be that we likely will learn there are fewer rogue officers on our streets than we imagine.
We must not forget that.
The (Tennessee) Commercial Appeal on funding for Tennessee's road construction:
Gov. Bill Haslam will launch a statewide tour here this week to discuss Tennessee's highway and bridge needs and its inadequate funding to pay for them.
Lawmakers have not coalesced around a plan, The Commercial Appeal's Richard Locker reports, and may consider going into debt as an alternative to raising taxes — a really bad idea; the pay-as-you-pump system serves the state well.
Which is a lot like the point Tennessee's junior senator in Washington has been making in his current effort to defeat the federal highway bill that was passed Thursday by the Senate. If approved by the House, the legislation would commit "generational theft," Bob Corker argues, by "stealing" money from the general fund to prop up the highway trust fund that eventually would have to be replaced through hidden mortgage fees.
But that's not the only problem with the "solutions" to the deteriorating infrastructure dilemma that are getting serious attention among some Tennessee lawmakers.
Also on the table is raising taxes and fees on electric vehicles, hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles — an even worse idea unless one wants Tennessee to be known as the state where people are punished for buying clean-running, fuel-efficient cars.
No. As painful as the medicine might be, lasting and responsible remedies are needed on the state and federal levels for the problem of highway infrastructure deterioration. We can't keep kicking this can down the road.
Haslam's tour is widely viewed as the opening campaign for a state gasoline and diesel fuel tax increase, Locker reports. If that's the case, strong arguments can be made. The levy hasn't been raised since 1989; Tennessee's fuel tax rates are the nation's 12th-lowest among the states for gasoline (21.4 cents per gallon) and sixth-lowest for diesel (18.4). It should not be difficult for the governor and state Transportation Commissioner John Schroer, as they embark on their tour, to demonstrate the need.
At each stop along the way, the two plan to highlight major local highway and bridge projects that are on hold for lack of funding. You might already know more than a few.
This won't be an easy sell, though, as the governor has acknowledged. But the correct path is clear: Keep highway transportation in the state safe for citizens and visitors alike; keep the state competitive with its peers for economic development prospects; and do it without burdening future generations with the cost, as some in Washington and Nashville are proposing.
Fixing the problems will only become more expensive as needed repairs are delayed. This is a basic function of the government both on the state and national level. Meeting this responsibility in any other way than pay-as-you-go will only feed citizens' suspicion that government is incapable, without deception, of doing its job.