Drew's views

Drew's views

March 1st, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

HEADLINE: Former South Pittsburg mayor, Mike Killian, to plead to gambling charge

THE RECAP: Mike Killian, former mayor of South Pittsburg, Tenn., and wholesale fireworks dealer, has agreed to plead guilty to illegal gambling in connection with an FBI investigation that surfaced in January when federal agents raided his Lotto Mart convenience store and carried away video poker machines. Besides the illegal video poker machines, feds claim Killian owned a sports betting operation.

DREW'S VIEW: During the same week when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law that legalized gambling over the Internet and the Tennessee Lottery -- the state government's very own gambling operation -- announced a Powerball Jackpot well in excess of $100 million, this poor schmuck agreed to give up fighting his gambling charges.

Instead of needlessly throwing harmless people like Killian in prison, the government should address the issue of gambling by legalizing, taxing and regulating it.

If Tennesseans are responsible enough to raise kids, fight in wars and pay taxes, surely to goodness we're responsible enough to handle a few games of blackjack. It's time for government to realize that.

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HEADLINE: Spending up in Chattanooga City Council races

THE RECAP: Campaign financial disclosures were due Tuesday for city elections. Twenty-two of the 27 candidates turned in their forms on time. The District 2 City Council race has brought in the most money of the nine council contests -- about $104,000.

DREW'S VIEW: There was a particularly compelling aspect to reporter Cliff Hightower's rundown of Chattanooga city council campaign finance disclosures: Even though he is unopposed, District 5 Council member Russell Gilbert has raised more than $30,000. That in itself is unusual, but it doesn't necessarily raise red flags since he could carry that money forward to future races when he does have an opponent.

What is truly odd, however, is that Gilbert is unnecessarily spending a tremendous amount of the money he has raised. That behavior raises serious questions about where that money is ending up.

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HEADLINE: Ron Ramsey opposes NRA-backed sealing of gun carry permits

THE RECAP: A National Rifle Association-backed effort to block public access to handgun carry permits goes too far for Tennessee Lt. Gov. and Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, one of the top gun-rights advocates in the Tennessee General Assembly.

The Speaker's position conflicts with the NRA's, which has long called for sealing the records so the public and news media cannot see who has the state-issued permits.

DREW'S VIEW: On its face, the NRA's desire to keep media, government watchdogs and active citizens from obtaining a list of which Tennessee residents maintain gun permits through state open records laws may make sense. Lt. Gov. Ramsey, however, is right on target with his support of keeping the records open.

Ramsey makes the logical argument that by allowing state residents to see how many other law-abiding Tennesseans have carry permits, it will only encourage more upstanding citizens to obtain permits. That will only expand the number of trained, responsible gun owners in Tennessee.

Further, making the list of handgun carry permit holders a matter of public record serves to deter crime against Tennesseans with gun permits. It makes sense that criminals would be less likely to target people who are legally allowed to carry guns.

On a grander scale, anytime the government is in control of licensing or regulating something, it's imperative to hold government officials accountable. The sunlight created by ensuring that as many government documents are a matter of public record, the more transparent and accountable -- and the less corrupt and devious -- government will be.

"Drew's views" is a weekly roundup of Free Press opinions about topics that appeared in the Times Free Press over the past week.