The planet's most biodiverse temperate forest is right here in eastern Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest. Biologists would agree that the salamander and fish diversity in this forest is unmatched anywhere on Earth. Nearly 20,000 acres in the Cherokee are being treated as "wilderness," requiring an act of Congress to protect forever. As a volunteer for this cause, I've interacted with thousands of Americans who have taken action through emails, postcards and calls to their U.S. senators and Tennessee's senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, who are co-sponsors of the Tennessee Wilderness Act.
It's been more than 26 years since Ronald Reagan signed into law wilderness protection in the Cherokee National Forest, yet thousands of acres outside national forest boundaries across the country each day are being swallowed up for commercial and residential complexes. All the land area in the lower 48 states, and only 2.5 percent is protected as wilderness.
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please join me in asking our U.S. senators Alexander and Corker to reintroduce the Tennessee Wilderness Act. Our drinking water is supplied by fresh water coming from headwaters in these areas, let's keep it clean for our children and diversity forever.
The Hamilton County Commission recently passed an amendment that requires county employees to report to their supervisors any arrests, charges or indictments for crimes other than minor traffic violations. Counting on an employee to share a gem like this sounds a lot like the absurd notion that convicts are going to fill out a universal background check to get their hands on a gun.
Why wouldn't the county practice a little left-hand, right-hand logic and require the county to talk to itself, particularly if it could prevent theft from the inside? Talking to oneself might sound a little strange, but could prove to be a lot less embarrassing for county officials and save the local government a considerable chunk of taxpayer dollars.
JIM GOODIN, Decatur, Tenn.
I am amazed how the news media has jumped on the bandwagon to paint Rick Davis in a bad light. I have known Rick for about 40 years and always have found him to be a fair, hard-working and honest businessman.
To take the word of an admitted thief, the media has sunk to new lows. I have personally seen Rick deal with the people who come in his store in need of financial help. If he was doing anything dishonest, why did he have the thief's name and ID to turn over to the police? What about the other places she sold things? I haven't read about them? Let's not convict him until he has his day in court.
PAUL BURKE SR.
In the Feb. 23 Free Press editorial "City Fails to Explain Charter Changes," your conclusion and support of this amendment including the statement that "there is not a single thing in the charter amendment that is objectionable," is a disservice to your readers. Fortunately, some readers did review some of the amendment changes.
You stated as support to your conclusion and recommendation that "the amendment puts the city's pension plan in the correct place in the charter" is not correct. The document I reviewed, under Section 3, clearly states "that relating to the general pension system may be amended by ordinance and shall be removed from the charter and transferred to the city code." The removal from the charter to the city code, as noted in Section 3.36, will allow changes to the general pension plan at the City Council discretion upon the advice of the mayor.
I suggest that this single change in the amendment alone might be considered objectionable by the people working for or retired from the city of Chattanooga.
WILLIAM E. SMITH
Recently, I contacted Chief Eddie Phillips about some concerns I had regarding suspicious activity in my neighborhood. Within a matter of hours, I was contacted by Detective Josh Creel who investigated my claims and assured me that my worries were unfounded.
I would like to commend both of these men for their swift response and for taking the time to personally inform me of their findings. I feel truly lucky as a resident of East Ridge to be the recipient of such timely and thorough services.
STEPHEN GASTON, East Ridge
As you can see from the recent articles in the Times Free Press, Andy Berke has prepared the machine and obtained the money from donors in and out of state to buy the mayoral race. It is no different than Chicago and the methods used to buy positions there.
One article listed all the run-down, crime-infested apartments and property his family owns in our city. Another reported how he totally ignored the public's questions to respond with the vague plans he has for Chattanooga. You don't really know what his plans are for our city. He is not beholden to you for our city's needs. He is beholden to the money from other states.
Berke recently spoke of his grandfather's influence and his desire to help people. Neither helped clean up their crime infested properties in Chattanooga. What part of the city do they want to help? Bet it isn't in your neighborhood.
Guy Satterfield is a sincere homegrown candidate with lots of common sense and a desire to clean up our whole city and crime, not just the mountains. Say no to Berke.
MARY LOU VAUGHT, Hixson
If the manufacturers of killing machines, Homeland Security, the NRA, the National Wild Turkey Federation and other such organizations treasure our Constitution, especially our Bill of Rights, they would call in their paranoid spokesmen.
"Not just maybe. It's not paranoia to buy a gun. It's survival." (AP headline, Feb. 15). Apparently, the boogieman is the "hypocrisy in the White House or Congress."
It's too late to worry about gun control. Just about everyone who might use one, has one or more. We need to hush up the paranoid spokesmen and suggest they use their counterproductive energy in a constructive way.
Members of NRA and other such organizations who understand the responsibility that goes with having such weapons could be a good influence on their associates, including those outside of their organizations. Furthermore, they would be more apt in identifying seriously paranoid and otherwise mentally ill people who should be carefully watched.
It's safer to run or scream than trying to kill the attacker. It's safer to hand over the bag of money, or avoid the exposure than trying to kill the robber.
JAMES OB WRIGHT, Sequatchie, Tenn.
In your Free Press editorial on Feb. 14 in which you endorsed Larry Grohn for the District 4 City Council position against incumbent Jack Benson, you claim that Benson's communication with his constituents has been lacking.
It has been my experience over the course of many years that Benson always responds promptly to all emails and phone calls for all of his constituents in District 4, myself included. In fact, I have personally seen the handwritten log he keeps in his office for use in responding to received correspondence and calls, and it is well worn through use.
MICHAEL A. PRICE
Much has been said of the "fiscal cliff." In fact, it floods our consciousness, fills newsprint, is discussed, cussed and debated in every nook and cranny of our society. It is inescapable on the airways. It supplants the Mayan calendar as the great "end times" threat. Many pundits infer Congress is nero fiddling while Rome burns!
As one nation "under God" (at least through the eyes and hears of our founding fathers) will we ever wake up to the fact of our creation and recognize the admonition of our Creator that we reap what we sow and that the wages of sin is death?
To the point, it seems obvious we should be more concerned about the moral cliff we are plunging headlong over -- in the good name of individual freedom and rights, anti everything that doesn't fit my desire and downright lawlessness that seems to urge endless legislation and regulation. We seem to say "yes, God, thank you for creation, but we can take it from here, we are gaining all knowledge and we are hell bent on making evil good."
Oh, how long have alchemists been obsessed with turning silver into gold? How long will our almighty God tarry with a people in an evil and rebellious state?
Repentance is difficult, humbling and often demoralizing, but it is a Godly requirement because God knows all the good and evil elements in man's heart, and the element we feed is the one that grows.
JAMES E. McCALL, Signal Mountain
The primary reason Jack Benson has opposition in this council race is the fact he strongly supports the East Brainerd land use plan which restricts harmful speculative zoning changes that negatively impact the citizens and their neighborhoods.
The present East Brainerd land-use plan was initiated by Jack and adopted by the City Council in 2002. Since that time, the plan -- conceived with guidance from the neighborhoods and two professional land-use consultants -- has prevented our district from many of the bad problems we see occurring in other business and residential sections of Chattanooga.
Just take a drive down Gunbarrel and view the new sidewalks, controlled curb-cuts, absence of 24-hour nightclubs and other distasteful activities and you will see the importance of keeping Jack on the Council.
Just ask Jack's opponents if they support the East Brainerd land-use plan. They will try to please the land speculators by giving you vague, wiggle-room answers. Our residents need a strong supporter of the land-use plan. That is why I will strongly back Jack.
Jerry Mitchell is our choice for Chattanooga City Council District 2. Our representative on the City Council should be honest, transparent and intelligent. We live in District 2, and our family has known Jerry since childhood. We fully trust him to represent us well.
Jerry Mitchell has a perfect mix of both private and public sector experience. We have no reservations trusting Jerry to manage our city's budget wisely and make fiscally sound investments for our community. Jerry has always looked to improve the quality of life for Chattanoogans, and his career and service show it.
Jerry and his wife, Carla, are assets to this community. We hope you will join us in supporting Jerry Mitchell for City Council.
RICK AND BILL EBERLE
With City Council elections now at hand, we share the anger of many who have been annexed into the city against our will and without a vote. We have been promised extensive city services which include two of the most basic, police protection and road maintenance. We are therefore astonished to learn that in early 2000 the city had 330 officers and now in 2013 (with a population increase of 9.4 percent not even counting the newly annexed areas) there are only 349 officers! Is it any wonder that gangs thrive here so easily and crime rates have escalated?
In the Hixson (District 3) area, our roads continue to crumble, yet our incumbent city councilwoman once again is seeking re-election based on her past performance.
Chattanooga residents, you now have a chance to replace two of these "comfortable" incumbents (Benson and Ladd) with two concerned and knowledgeable men, Larry Grohn (District 4) and Ken Smith (District 3). Both have done extensive research into their districts and have spoken with hundreds of constituents to learn the depths of the problems in these areas as well as the difficult issues facing the city as a whole. Honesty and integrity describe them both.
Cast your vote for Grohn and Smith, and finally create the much needed changes to City Council.
KAREN AND JIM CHASTAIN, Hixson
I noted in a recent Times Free Press article that Erlanger board member Kim White gave a rousing thumbs up to the notion that Erlanger's new CEO needed a pay increase. One has to ask why? Well, maybe Ms. White feels that if the new CEO makes bundles of cash, it will deflect some attention away from her nearly $300,000 salary as CEO of River City, a not-for-profit like Erlanger. And just what does Ms. White do at River City that is worth over $125 per hour?
Also, Erlanger's No. 2, Mrs. Charlsetta Woodard Thompson is paid $480,000 per year, more than prior CEOs Skip Reeder and Dennis Pettigrew. And yet, making that much money, she lacks the skill set to run Erlanger? C'mon, people, something just isn't right here. No wonder health care costs are out of control.
Regarding your recent article about TVA's nuclear plant construction plans: The use of "old" reactor designs is sound since these are proven designs with decades of reliable operation. Many of the large and expensive components are already on site. In addition, there are trained personnel and existing plant procedures available that could be utilized with very little effort.
With regard to Dr. Stephen Smith's concerns about the cost-effectiveness of building nuclear power plants; consider the options available to reliably satisfy electric grid demands in the future. If we curtail (or eliminate) the operation of fossil-fueled plants (as is being proposed by some in Congress) how much will a 1,000 MW, nonpolluting plant be worth? How much would we be paying for electricity if a major portion was generated by solar or wind power? How reliable would the grid be if we were relying on solar and wind (that produces power for less than 12 hours a day)? What would be the impact on the economy (read: jobs) if we had insufficient power available to meet grid demands, or if we had to pay three times what we currently pay per KWH?
GIL JOHNSON, Soddy-Daisy
I vote for Jack Benson as my councilman because he is effective and cares about our district and city. He has put a priority on preserving the integrity of our neighborhoods, and has worked full-time to ensure a balance of growth and maintaining a quality of life we all desire. He stands up to developers and those who care only about their agenda. Jack has a proven record, keeps us informed, responds to problems and can be relied on to look out for us. I ask you to vote for Jack Benson so he can continue to serve us.
I have watched and been part of the wrestling family of Soddy-Daisy for about 25 years. I am sure no one would have wanted coach Jim Higgins to make a successful run for the championship more than Steve Henry and supporters of the program. I stand behind Jim's decision on the three boys sent home from Franklin for breaking the rules. You must make good decisions on and off the mat. I do not know the rule that was broken, but I know the decision was hard.
As leaders we must lead and make sometimes hard decisions in order to help our youth make better decisions later in life. That is how we grow. Hopefully whatever the violation, the boys will put to good the lesson the coach was trying to teach everyone on the team. You must follow rules on and off the mat and respect those making the calls.
MARGARET H. CHASTAIN
I am so relieved that the mainstream media have saved us from the incompetent and bumbling Sen. Marco Rubio by declaring his political career now is over. I mean -- if a politician can't lead his staff to do the basics, then what good would he or she be as the president?
Sure, President Obama has had a few minor staff glitches himself. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testifying to Congress that he couldn't get the president's attention during that thing in Libya doesn't even begin to rise to the level of Rubio's "Glass of Watergate." And yes, some staffer sent out some other staffer to the Sunday talk shows to talk about whatever it was that happened in Libya with one or two minor points that were not exactly correct. Could have happened to anybody.
So, I send out my thanks to the mainstream media for holding Rubio's incompetence to constant scrunity over recent days and leaving our president and his flawed, but human staff, free to go about the transformation of America into the country it should be.
STEVE GALYON, Trenton, Georgia
The front page articles of the Times Free Press on Thursday morning are a painful representation of "problems" in our area -- an area that boasts about all of its achievements, growth, opportunity and the good lifestyle.
To blame increased community problems on the color of our president is infantile thinking, at best. On the same page showing the brutality of an inmate at a halfway house, breaking both his legs. He is black, both policemen are white, points to the injustices present in our society which have nothing to do with our president!
What does this say to you? If anything, we have more problems because the "majority" has become the group of change for all, demanding betterment for all, including the underdog.
The former majority are losing ground, and they have to blame someone instead of looking at themselves and trying to grow in their thinking and attitudes to benefit everyone.
CAROL VANDENBOSCH, Sewanee, Tenn.