Cheers & Jeers: Spotlighting winners and losers in the news

Cheers & Jeers: Spotlighting winners and losers in the news

July 11th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

Gov. Bill Haslam answers a question during a news conference in this file photo.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.


Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

The governor strongly backed his education commissioner Kevin Huffman in the wake of teachers union-led whining about his policy proposals. Critics of Huffman launched an online campaign demanding that Haslam fire the education commissioner after his recommendations changing minimum teacher salary schedules were adopted by the State Board of Education.

Apparently, Huffman's ill-informed detractors believed (incorrectly) that the policy would reduce teacher pay and limit pay increases. In reality, the move frees schools to pay teachers more by implementing merit pay and other incentive systems.

In doing so, Huffman hopes to attract great educators to teach at failing schools. Huffman's effort to draw more high quality teachers to Tennessee's schools -- as well as his other plans, such as expanded school choice -- should be applauded, not denigrated. Haslam's willingness to stand up for his innovative education commissioner is reassuring.


Gov. Bill Haslam

The Associated Press reports that Gov. Haslam has failed to fulfill a campaign pledge to avoid dealing with matters relating to Pilot Flying J, the embattled family-owned truck stop chain run by his brother, Jimmy Haslam.

An FBI investigation of alleged fraud at the company has uncovered that Tom Ingram, a top political adviser to the governor, is paid to handle Pilot's public response to the Justice Department investigation. Further, the governor appointed a Pilot board member and part-owner of the company as the interim president of the University of Memphis. To make matters worse, another Pilot board member runs "the parent company of a mining firm that wants to extract coal from public land in Tennessee," according to the AP.

Gov. Haslam's unwillingness to live up to his campaign pledge to distance himself from Pilot's activities, not to mention his actions to use his authority as governor to benefit Pilot board members, raises serious concerns about whether he is more worried about doing what's best for Tennesseans or for his family's company.


Chattanooga City Council

An ordinance that would have allowed Chattanooga residents to keep hens within the city limits failed on a 6-3 vote on Tuesday. While urban chickens are permitted in every other major city in Tennessee -- and in cities from Atlanta and Chicago to Seattle and Los Angeles -- council members in the People's Republic of Chattanooga decided to keep a backyard chicken ban in place.

As a result, it's a crime for Chattanoogans to keep a clean and quiet hen or two on their own property for the production of fresh, healthy, hormone-free eggs. The ordinance would've gone to extremes to ensure that hens were kept in a "clean, dry and odor-free" environment and that would "not disturb the use or enjoyment of neighboring lots."

Even with regulations that seemed outrageous and unnecessary tacked onto the legislation, a majority of city council members still chose to treat Chattanoogans like 6-year-olds who are too irresponsible to handle pet chickens.


Dalton Mayor David Pennington

A darling of fiscal conservatives and tea party activists, Pennington has announced his intentions to challenge Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in the Republican primary for governor. Under Pennington, Dalton slashed property taxes 28 percent, cut some business license fees in half and trimmed general fund spending by 19 percent. As a result, the Carpet Capital has become one of the most taxpayer-friendly cities in our region. While Pennington may not defeat Deal, a popular, well-financed incumbent, the Dalton mayor's presence in the governor's race can only help to further discussions about ways the state can cut waste, lower taxes and become more fiscally responsible.


The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

The federal appeals court has denied a request to delay a Georgia death row inmate's execution until after the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in. Warren Lee Hill is scheduled to be executed on July 15, despite the fact that there is compelling evidence that Hill is mentally disabled and, therefore, not subject to the death penalty. Hill and his attorneys now have to hope the Supreme Court agrees to delay the execution and considers the case. Let's hope the Supreme Court is willing to interrupt the execution. Otherwise Georgians will have to live with the fact that they killed a man who very likely shouldn't be put to death.


Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt

In the wake of discussions that the European Union will soon outlaw menthol cigarettes, the 94-year-old Schmidt bucked the nannyist plan by hoarding 38,000 menthol cigarettes in his house -- enough to last until his 100th birthday. In addition to menthol cigarettes, the EU hopes to ban fruit and chocolate flavored tobacco as well. Apparently the organization actually believes that young people are so stupid that they won't know they are smoking tobacco if it contains flavors other than tobacco. Such lunacy from the EU shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, EU legislators have "already proposed or implemented bans on unsupervised children blowing up balloons, refillable olive oil jugs, and pictures of babies on baby formula," according to Reason magazine's website.