HEADLINE: Two tractor-trailers block eastbound I-24 at Ridge Cut
THE RECAP: An accident involving two tractor-trailers at the Interstate 24 Ridge Cut blocked eastbound traffic on I-24 for hours on Monday.
DREW'S VIEW: While this headline was featured on the Times Free Press website last Monday, it could've come almost any time. It's certainly nothing new. Neither is creeping along at 5 miles-per-hour driving eastbound on I-24 between Downtown and Missionary Ridge.
For Chattanooga to reach its potential as both a tourist destination and a livable city, the fact that it takes 30 minutes to go two miles on I-24 between 4-6:30 p.m. every single weekday must be addressed.
On a recent evening, while inching my way toward Missionary Ridge and trying to decide if I should keep yelling at the traffic or just go ahead and poke my eyes out with a spork from KFC, it dawned on me that all of the backup is caused by tractor-trailers going up the Ridge side-by-side at the same speed.
If all of the 18-wheelers simply entered and remained in the right lane before going up Missionary Ridge, the soul-numbing daily traffic jam would be reduced tremendously. It would also lessen the number of accidents, like the one that took place last Monday, that literally turns I-24 eastbound into a parking lot -- like R.E.M.'s music video for "Everybody Hurts" -- for hours on end a few times every month.
If an elected official can effectively keep tractor-trailers in the right lane while ascending Missionary Ridge, I promise that he or she will receive a full-page editorial singing his or her praises and will not be criticized on the Free Press editorial page for one full year, despite any dumb decision he or she makes.
HEADLINE: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says no to health insurance exchange
THE RECAP: On Monday, Haslam said he is not creating a state-run, online health insurance marketplace. More than two years after Obamacare became law, Haslam noted that the Obama administration still hasn't provided enough information to let the state understand exactly what it would be getting into by operating its own exchange.
DREW'S VIEW: Haslam, a Republican, is no stranger to being criticized by conservatives for, what many consider to be, moderate and unprincipled decisions. For his choice to reject a state exchange, however, Haslam deserves sincere compliments and gratitude from Tennesseans of all political leanings.
The state exchange, which would have been an online store where government-mandated health plans are forced on small businesses and the uninsured, would have given the state no real authority, but cost Tennesseans up to $50 million annually. Additionally, it would have empowered the federal government to levy outrageous fines on small businesses.
Haslam says his decision was based on the lack of information his administration received from Washington about how the exchange would operate. Grass-roots conservative and Tea Party activists claim that the governor listened to their concerns. Whichever is the actual basis for Haslam's decision, it is clear that he made the wise choice for Tennessee and should be applauded.
HEADLINE: Rhea County leaders eye $50 wheel tax
THE RECAP: Rhea County commissioners will consider imposing a $50 wheel tax to balance the county's budget. Finance Director Bill Graham said a $50 wheel tax would raise about $1.2 million per year and "cover what the deficit was last year."
DREW'S VIEW: According to financial documents submitted to the state, the Rhea County budget has increased from $45.5 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year, to more than $57.8 million this year. This shocking 27 percent budget increase over two years is a clear indication that the county's issue is not a revenue shortage. The real problem is that Rhea County's county executive and county commissioners are irresponsible with tax dollars and have little regard for the county's taxpayers.
Unfortunately, any concerned Rhea County residents who would like to see in detail how the county spends their tax money have no simple way to do so. That's because Rhea County is one of the few remaining counties in Tennessee that does not voluntarily post its budget online for residents to view.
The failure of Graham and other Rhea County officials to make the county budget easily available is a story in itself. It's a clear indication that county leaders aren't proud of how the county is operating and they are apparently afraid to allow taxpayers the right to keep tabs on how their hard-earned dollars are spent.
HEADLINE: Chavez in tough fight, may miss swearing-in
THE RECAP: Somber confidants of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez say he is going through a difficult recovery after cancer surgery in Cuba, and one close ally is warning Venezuelans that their leader may not make it back for his swearing-in next month.
DREW'S VIEW: It's never particularly sad when it appears that a villainous tyrant's life is coming to an end. It's an ever more joyous occasion when you have that loathsome dictator in your "celebrity death pool," as is the case for me with Chavez.
Just as gambling makes watching otherwise excruciating regular season NBA games an entertaining endeavor, a celebrity death pool brings excitement every time breaking news comes on TV or hits your email inbox. Could it be that today is the day that you get to mark an ill, aging and hard-living celebrity or world leader off your list, bringing you one step closer to winning?
A death pool may seem tacky and macabre. Because it is. That's why I choose to fill my celebrity death pool with evil dictators and terrorists. That way, I'm rooting for bad people to die, rather than sweet old folks like Zsa Zsa Gabor or Wilford Brimley.
It's funny how hoping that evil jerks like Chavez and Castro will soon die somehow makes life a little more worth living.