HEADLINE: Crutchfield comeback? Tennessee Waltz may not have been ex-lawmaker's last turn on the floor
THE RECAP: Convicted felon and disgraced former state Sen. Ward Crutchfield will neither confirm nor deny rumors of an attempted comeback to public office five years after he was swept up in the Tennessee Waltz public corruption sting. If Crutchfield runs, it would likely be to represent the 7th City Council District, where he owns a home.
DREW'S VIEW: Crutchfield and the other disgraced state lawmakers associated with the Tennessee Waltz scandal did more to damage Tennesseans' faith in government than anyone since corrupt Gov. Ray Blanton left office in 1979.
For Crutchfield to believe that voters will overlook the fact that he abused his office to fill his pockets indicates a level of arrogance that is difficult to comprehend. In his mind, Crutchfield must believe that he's a beloved statesman who can be forgiven for a small indiscretion. But Crutchfield isn't a beloved statesman, he's a lousy bum -- a state senator who accepted bribes for sponsoring a bill.
State law "forever" disqualifies any elected official who commits a felony in his official capacity from holding any public office. Crutchfield supporters, however, seem to believe that they can make a legal case that, since a judge restored his voting rights, his right to run for office should likewise be restored.
Ward, save us the time and trouble of the court cases and the campaign and just slink back into the hole you crawled out of. No ballot should be sullied with the name of a criminal who committed such an egregious breach of the public trust.
HEADLINE: EPB throws down the speed gauntlet in Chattanooga
THE RECAP: EPB has upgraded almost all of its customers to faster Internet speeds — for free.
The city-owned utility increased the minimum speed offered from 30-megabits-per-second to 50 mbps, and added a new 250-megabits-per-second tier for its high-end users as a celebration of its third year in the market.
DREW'S VIEW: To call the upgrade — or anything else related to EPB's fiber service or Smart Grid — "free" is laughable. So far, the Smart Grid has taxpayers and EPB electric customers on the hook for $552 million. Much of the reason for this exorbitant cost is that EPB built the Smart Grid specifically so the electric company could get in the Internet business.
In fact, EPB could've provided almost the exact same services and benefits to electric customers by constructing a wireless Smart Grid instead of a fiber optic version, and a wireless Smart Grid would have been 30-40 percent cheaper, according to several studies and estimates. So why spend so much more money on the fiber Smart Grid? EPB wanted to expand into a socialist-style government-owned cable and Internet company, and a fiber Smart Grid was needed to make that happen.
As a result, taxpayers and ratepayers paid roughly $200 million more for the Smart Grid than was needed just so EPB could compete against private businesses in a field in which they had no experience. That's why it's so absurd to call something associated with EPB's fiber service fiasco "free."
Beyond the cost of the EPB Internet boondoggle, it's hard to ignore the gimmickry of this upgrade in Internet speed.
According to GigaOM, a tech news and research website, the average Internet connection speed in an American home is 5.8 mbps. That makes EPB's speed impressive, but indicates the overkill of the upgrade. Quite simply, many EPB Internet customers don't need — or use — the data capability they already have. By making this upgrade for customers, they will incur little additional customer usage — thus it's a false benefit. Many EPB Internet customers didn't come close to utilizing their speed before, and they certainly won't now.
EPB's internet upgrade would be like IHOP throwing in a free pancake if you order a stack of ten. It may make you feel good since you're getting something at no additional cost, but you weren't going to be able to finish eating all 10 to begin with. In the end, the free 11th pancake was good marketing, but it does you no good.
HEADLINE: Surge of solar farms heats up Scenic City
THE RECAP: The biggest solar park in Tennessee, nicknamed "Project Titan," will be located in Chattanooga when the $30 million project comes on line next to the Volkswagen plant later this year. It is one of 14 solar installations in Hamilton County.
DREW'S VIEW: Guess what most of these Tennessee solar farms have in common? They burn through a heck of a lot of your tax dollars.
The Tennessee Solar Institute, which is behind many of the state's solar schemes, was given $9 million in stimulus funds to toss at economically unjustifiable solar installations throughout the state.
In 2009, former Gov. Phil Bredesen used $62 million more of the state's stimulus funding to support a variety of solar projects. In a move that reeks of corruption, Bredesen and two of his ex-cabinet members, former state economic development commissioner Matt Kisber and former revenue commissioner Reagan Farr, started up a solar firm as soon as they left office. You don't suppose folks in the solar industry somehow rewarded Bredesen and his lieutenants for funneling tens of millions of dollars their way? Nah. Surely not.
Currently, the Chattanooga airport is lobbying the Federal Aviation Administration for $3.06 million to expand the solar farm at Lovell Field. That's in addition to the $4.1 million taxpayers have already shelled out for the airport's solar project.
If solar farms are a good idea, private business will build them -- as they have in other areas of the country where solar energy is more reliable and more feasible. There's no use pouring millions of tax dollars into solar farms that don't make economic sense.
"Drew's views" is a weekly roundup of Free Press opinions about topics that appeared in the Times Free Press over the past week. Follow Drew on Twitter: @Drews_Views.