People May Get A Say
In 1972, then-Mayor Robert Kirk Walker moved to annex areas that would nearly double the size of Chattanooga. Many people then and now applauded his efforts for expanding the tax base of the city, but others then and now -- especially in Hixson -- are still waiting to see some of the services promised at the time.
When then-Mayor Ron Littlefield moved to annex a much smaller amount of land -- in many pieces -- in 2009, lawsuits followed -- as they did in the 1970s -- and then an appeal to the legislature.
The result is a bill, sponsored by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and passed by the Tennessee Senate Thursday, that would permit annexation of land only by the owners' consent or by a public referendum vote. The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, will be considered on Wednesday.
It's a common-sense move that allows residents to have a buy-in when a city wants to expand its territory. There are times when cities need to expand in order to grow, but now those cities must convince landowners the move is in their best interest. To do that, they need to have a plan in place before annexation is even suggested.
Littlefield, to his credit, moved to expand what he believed the city could easily or rapidly serve. Hilly neighborhoods south of the present city limits -- Holly Hills and Mountain Shadows, for example -- were once thought to be in danger of annexation but in the end were never seriously considered because of the cost of expanding services there.
The present 1955 law allows Tennessee cities to annex by ordinance, which requires just three readings by a city's governing body (or owners' consent or public referendum). Naturally, most chose to annex by ordinance.
Were a bill to pass the House and be signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, it would become law May 15, 2015. In the meantime, it would extend for one year a current moratorium on annexations that expires May 15 of this year.
Speak With Your Wallet
Christians who believe marriage is between a man and a woman spoke with their wallets earlier this week when the potential loss of $2.1 million apparently caused Christian charity World Vision U.S. to reverse a 2-day-old decision that would have permitted the hiring of employees in legal same-sex marriages. In an interview with Religion News Service, President Rich Stearns said the organization was facing the loss of around 5,000 sponsorships of children in the U.S. at $35 per month per sponsorship.
"We created more disunity by our action and we blurred the image of World Vision in the eyes of our supporters and church partners," he said, "so we took steps to rectify that and be quite clear in where we stand." He said the organization is not anti-gay and likely has employees "with a same-sex orientation. We believe that all people are created in the image of God and are to be treated with love and respect."
The original modification of its Employee Standards of Conduct was "an honest attempt to wrestle with a divisive issue," Stearns said. Since it was reversed, he said, many of the sponsors have come back.
Christians who favor traditional marriage may feel the left-leaning government, courts and media, and in turn cowed businesses, eventually will get their way on nationwide approval of same-sex marriage, so the only way they see to make their feelings known is through the pocketbook. If more who felt this way spoke with their wallets, the inevitable ball rolling down the hill might not move quite so fast.
Traumatic Brain Injury, Anyone?
It's understandable how folks can think a motorcycle helmet law -- one Tennessee legislators were trying to amend -- is just another tenet of a nanny state. But there are real teeth behind this law, not the veneers that prop up so many similar proposals.
In 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the law saved 46 lives in the Volunteer State and prevented $94 million in economic losses. Want more? When Kentucky made helmets optional for riders over age 21 in 1998, motorcycle accident fatalities rose by more than 50 percent.
Helmets, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reduce the risk of death by 37 percent, the risk of traumatic brain injury by 69 percent and save the country approximately $3 billion per year.
The proposal (SB548 and HB0044), which died in the Senate earlier this week, would have allowed riders older than 25 to ride without a helmet and set minimum insurance requirements for them.