Drew's views

Drew's views

February 1st, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

HEADLINE: Former Sen. Roy Herron to lead Tennessee Democrats

THE RECAP: Former state Sen. Roy Herron became the Tennessee Democratic Party's new chairman Saturday, winning a solid majority of executive committee members' votes despite criticism he is too conservative on some issues such as abortion.

The 59-year-old Dresden attorney edged Dave Garrison, a Nashville attorney, for the post. Garrison was backed by most of the state's Democratic leaders.

DREW'S VIEW: Herron's election is further evidence of the Tennessee Democratic Party's serious state of disarray.

While Republicans face demographic and cultural challenges that may continue to whittle their power nationally, in Tennessee a schism that divides the Democrats by sex, race, geography and religion will almost certainly marginalize the party for a decades to come.

By electing Herron, a rural pro-life Yellow Dog Democrat known for his support of the NRA, charter schools and English-only driver's license exams, to run their party, the Democrats appear to be attempting to out-conservative the Republicans. In fact, Herron is such a milquetoast prototypical older white guy that Tennessee Republicans would have known better than to elect him out of fear of alienating young, female and minority supporters.

The liberal branch of the Tennessee Democratic Party is openly disgusted with Herron's election. There have been even been grumblings about the possibility of creating a progressive third party in Tennessee.

The more marginalized the tax and spend, pro-union, anti-gun progressive extremists are in Tennessee, the better. There is, however, a legitimate need in this state for a strong voice to advance discussions about gay rights, more reasonable drug laws, immigration, new approaches to nonviolent offenders and alternatives to the death penalty. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party's incompetence and infighting has all but silenced those much-needed discussions.

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HEADLINE: Tennessee sex traffic hotline receives few calls

THE RECAP: Though a 2011 study reported more than 100 people were victims of sex trafficking in Hamilton County, as of this week a statewide hotline had received just 28 phone calls in over a year.

DREW'S VIEW: Sex trafficking is a terrible crime. It's also a serious problem ... somewhere. Just not in the Chattanooga area.

The 2011 survey, a joint publication between Vanderbilt University and the TBI, is a scientifically invalid compilation of best guesses from social workers and nonprofit leaders. In reality, area law enforcement officials have had exactly one recorded case of sex trafficking -- ever. That was a recent situation in which an out-of-state prostitute was held captive by her pimp -- hardly the image of a teenage girl abducted from a developing country that we all associate with the crime of sex trafficking

Area law enforcement personnel must remain vigilant to ensure that sex trafficking does not become a serious issue in Tennessee, and work to intercept sex trafficking victims when they are shuttled through our area en route to places where the crime is more prevalent.

The reality is Chattanoogans can rest easy, our daughters and granddaughters will not fall prey to human traffickers. With only 28 calls in 15 months to a statewide sex trafficking hotline and one reported case ever in Hamilton County, it seems sex trafficking concerns in our area are more of a media invention and a ploy for nonprofits to scare people into donating than an actual problem.

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HEADLINE: Russell King reappointed to Erlanger board

THE RECAP: Chattanooga attorney Russell King, who has served on Erlanger's board for nearly 12 of the past 24 years, was reappointed Tuesday by Hamilton County's chancery judges for another term on the current 12-member board.

DREW'S VIEW: Just as state legislators began to debate over the best way to overhaul the embattled hospital and revamp its disastrous board of directors, King was reappointed to serve another four year term.

Why anyone who has been on the board during the mismanagement of Erlanger in recent years is retained remains a mystery.

It's stunning that a hospital with revenues of a half-billion dollars annually can lose roughly $1 million a month over the past year and a half -- even given the challenges of providing tens of millions of dollars in uncompensated care each year.

But the hospital is government-owned and taxpayer-subsidized. That means no one is sufficiently motivated to make sure the hospital is fiscally responsible or even solvent. After all, when the hospital loses money, it's not the board members who pay, it's the taxpayers.

Erlanger's failures are even more predictable considering the hospital has people such as Kim White on its board. White, you may remember, was at the center of a cronyism controversy first exposed by the Free Press editorial page last Sunday. As the president of the River City Company, White directed catering business from River City-managed venues to a catering company owned by River City's Director of Creative Strategies and her husband.

Sadly, with no incentive to operate efficiently and people like White leading the way, it is not surprising that the hospital, which is so important to our community, often fails to serve both patients and taxpayers well.

HEADLINE: Israel conducts rare airstrike on Syria

THE RECAP: Israel conducted an airstrike on a military target inside Syria near the border with Lebanon, foreign officials and Syrian state TV said Wednesday.

DREW'S VIEW: Isn't it odd that when Israel shoots a missile, it is called an "airstrike," but when a missile is shot at Israel, it's called an "attack?"

"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.