HEADLINE: Hamilton County commissioners vote to continue testing auto emissions
THE RECAP: Hamilton County commissioners voted 7-2 on Wednesday to renew a contract with the state of Tennessee to continue testing emissions in the county.
DREW'S VIEW: Only six of Tennessee's 95 counties require emissions testing. Apparently county officials in the state's other 89 counties are bright enough to realize that emissions testing is a senseless hassle that does almost nothing to reduce pollution.
Shelling out $10 to wait in line to run your car through an emissions test would be bad enough if it actually helped the environment. But it doesn't. A 2007 Georgia Tech research paper points out that numerous empirical studies find no difference in emission rates between areas that require emission inspection and maintenance and those that don't.
The reasons emissions testing doesn't work are numerous, but one factor is that auto emissions don't stay locked in the county where they are produced. The pollutants drift and travel over county and state lines. (This fact is obvious to most 9-year-olds, but apparently not to Hamilton County Commissioners.) As a result, Hamilton County's air contains pollution from counties and states that don't have the same stringent -- and useless -- emissions testing.
Also, studies show that when an automobile is found out of compliance and is forced to receive repair or maintenance to reduce its emissions, those fixes are generally very temporary. In other words, the goal of the repair is to pass the emissions test, not to maintain low emissions permanently. As a result, most cars that are fixed to reach acceptable emissions levels soon fall out of compliance.
Fortunately, some common sense prevailed during the recently concluded state legislative session when Tennessee lawmakers agreed to exempt certain vehicles less than three years old from Hamilton County's emissions testing.
Now, if only some of that wisdom would rub off on the Hamilton County Commission.
HEADLINE: Chattanooga History Center nearing completion
THE RECAP: The Chattanooga History Center soon will enter the final stage of its transformation. Construction is expected to be complete in just five weeks, and soon crews will begin creating and installing exhibits. The center's doors should open in early 2014.
DREW'S VIEW: As a history buff, I'm rooting for the Chattanooga History Center to be successful, and I'll be the first person in line when it opens. But, so far, the museum's leaders have given no reason for optimism. The Chattanooga History Center is almost two years behind schedule, its construction costs have risen from $10 million to $10.5 million, and it has cost city taxpayers $530,000 -- and counting.
Add in the fact that it's hard to imagine the center attracting out-of-town visitors, many repeat local visitors or really anyone besides students on field trips, and the Chattanooga History Center's future seems about as dark as a black steer's tookus on a moonless prairie night.
That could mean bad news for Chattanooga taxpayers, since the museum will almost certainly look for bailouts from the city if ticket revenues and donations don't pay the bills.
The Trail of Tears is expected to be the focus of an exhibit when the center opens. In that spirit, I propose a bet with Daryl Black, the center's executive director. In 2011, Dr. Black claimed that the museum would attract more than 60,000 visitors a year. If the facility draws 60,000 paying customers in its second year (I admit there might be an initial attendance bump in the first year), I will walk the entire length of the Trail of Tears. If the Chattanooga History Center fails to lure 60,000 paid visitors through the turnstiles in year two, Dr. Black has to walk the Trail of Tears. What do you say, Dr. Black? Is it a bet?
HEADLINE: Tennessee man who said he fled zombies pleads guilty to felonies in California
THE RECAP: A Tennessee man who stowed away in a big rig as it was driven across the country before stealing it in California and causing several accidents, injuring seven people and telling investigators he was fleeing zombies when he did it has pleaded guilty to several felonies.
DREW'S VIEW: Is it just me, or is this the greatest premise for a movie ever? What could be better than mixing "Smokey and the Bandit" with "The Walking Dead"?
Come to think of it, the zombie apocalypse-fleeing, 18-wheeler driving Tennessean might have the best strategy I've ever heard for getting out of a traffic ticket. "Officer, I was speeding to get away from zombies -- and you should get back in the Crown Vic and hightail it out of here, too, because they're heading this way" seems a lot better than the "I was speeding because I drank a lot of Fresca and really need to get to a bathroom" line that I usually use.
"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.