Drew's Views: Gobble resurfaces, Georgia gambles and zoo stumbles

Drew's Views: Gobble resurfaces, Georgia gambles and zoo stumbles

July 12th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

HEADLINE: Gov. Bill Haslam appoints Tim Gobble to Tennessee Board of Parole

THE RECAP: Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Tim Gobble, a former Bradley County sheriff and East Ridge city manager, to the Tennessee Board of Parole. Gobble serves as deputy chief for corrections and security with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. The position, which pays $93,732 a year, was left vacant by the resignation of Charles Taylor.


DREW'S VIEW: Rumors have swirled for weeks that Gov. Haslam might appoint Tim Gobble to the Tennessee Board of Parole.

I chose to avoid writing about the rumors on this page because I was convinced that there was zero possibility -- no way in the world -- that Gov. Haslam's judgment was poor enough that he would go through with appointing Gobble to the parole board. Boy, was I wrong. And I've never been more disappointed with this governor.

Gobble has a long history of hoodwinking voters and public officials into placing him in high salary jobs at the expense of taxpayers -- often, it seems, just using one job as a stepping stone for the next well-paying position or run for higher elected office -- before leaving in a cloud of questions and suspicions.

Most famously, East Ridge council members ran Gobble out of town on a rail in February, offering him a severance deal worth almost $80,000 just to get him to resign after his behavior and decisions turned city into a laughingstock.

In case you missed it, Gobble's laundry list of inappropriate behavior as a government leader includes: hiring a teenage family friend to perform a job that required a degree and years of experience over a number of qualified candidates, using city funds and credit cards in a questionable manner, inappropriately attacking critics on the city's official Facebook page and allegedly tainting a court case involving his daughter.

Is this the type of man who belongs on the state parole board? Of course not. The man can't seem to stay out of trouble himself.

But, shockingly and disturbingly, he's exactly who Gov. Haslam wants.


HEADLINE: Execution date set for Georgia death-row inmate Warren Lee Hill

THE RECAP: A Georgia death-row inmate convicted of killing his girlfriend and, years later, a fellow prisoner, is set to be executed Monday in Jackson, Ga. Warren Lee Hill's attorneys have long argued that he is mentally disabled and therefore should not be put to death because the execution of mentally disabled offenders is prohibited by state law and a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision. But the state has consistently argued that Hill's lawyers have failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is mentally disabled.

DREW'S VIEW: Despite compelling evidence that Warren Lee Hill is mentally disabled, it appears that only an act by the U.S. Supreme Court can save him from being put to death by the state government early next week.

According to Brian Kammer, an attorney for Hill, "every mental health expert ever to examine him finds that Mr. Hill has mental retardation." But, obviously, the state doesn't care what experts have to say. State leaders are just excited to kill someone, never mind the facts.

Hill landed on death row for two reprehensible acts of murder. The state's behavior is just as disgusting.

Most people would agree that it's not reasonable for the state to kill a mentally disabled person -- and it's apparent to doctors that Hill is, indeed, mentally disabled. But is it reasonable for a state to kill one of its residents, regardless of mental competency? I, for one, do not want to entrust the government with the power to kill its citizens.

Even if Hill is a monster who ended human lives, are we, as a society, better served by stooping to become monsters ourselves in the name of revenge or justice?


HEADLINE: Chattanooga Zoo forced to close after missing license deadline

THE RECAP: The federal government demanded the Chattanooga Zoo close its exhibits for a portion of the week after it was discovered that Zoo leaders failed to file paperwork on time with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

DREW'S VIEW: In a truly pathetic display of bureaucratic incompetence, the Chattanooga Zoo failed to submit the annual application for U.S. Department of Agriculture license in a timely matter.

Not that clumsy, inexcusable behavior is anything new for zoo leaders.

Following a rash of animal deaths at the zoo in 2011, a USDA inspector said the zoo had inadequate fencing, lacked nutrition records, fell short of sanitation standards and housed several animals that appeared malnourished.

Why do failures like these occur at the Chattanooga Zoo? Because it's not run as a private enterprise, it's run as an unaccountable government agency that lacks incentives and motivation to operate properly. The nonprofit that oversees the zoo for the city knows that when they mess up, as they did this week, it won't matter. City leaders will look the other way and continue writing big taxpayer-funded checks to cover the cost of the zoo's constant financial shortfalls.

This year, the zoo cost city taxpayers $922,726 and state taxpayers an additional $250,000. That's a lot of money for a zoo that has, historically, not been a great caretaker for animals. Perhaps the time has come to ask if the Chattanooga Zoo is worth the money -- and if it is a threat to the creatures in its care.

"Drew's views" is a weekly roundup of Free Press opinions about topics that appeared recently in the Times Free Press. Follow Drew Johnson on Twitter: @Drews_Views.