Pam's points: On guns, the death of a hero and livable wages

Pam's points: On guns, the death of a hero and livable wages

December 7th, 2013 in Opinion Times

Harriet Cotter holds was among the protesters Thursday at the McDonald's on Brainerd Road in Chattanooga.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Too many trigger-happy people

In the space of three weeks, three people have been fatally shot locally, two at residences and one outside a professional's office. All the shooters were white.

A Ringgold, Ga., man shot at two teens in his backyard in broad daylight, killing one. He didn't call police until after he fired. An Ooltewah man visiting a Chickamauga, Ga., home shot and killed a lost Alzheimer's patient in the yard in the middle of the night as police were on their way to the house. And in Manchester, a 47-year-old woman shot her husband as the two left a lawyer's office because, she said, "he'd been picking on her," according to police.

Only the woman has been charged. Investigations are continuing in the other cases.

Meanwhile in Chattanooga, a month after a roundup of 32 black men that police and federal authorities tagged as the "worst of the worst" criminals here, city Mayor Andy Berke says shootings in the city are "way down."

He said that before a Highway 58 grocery store parking lot shooting during a botched robbery in which one man was killed and another wounded when the alleged victim fought back, but numbers still bear out the mayor's claim.

Perhaps the take-away here is that even in the new wild west -- which increasingly seems to be the Chattanooga region outside the core city -- we need to let police do their jobs and not try to act out what we see on TV.

Taking lessons from Nelson Mandela

It's a simple question. But it has an over-complicated American answer.

If Nelson Mandela, a man once labeled "an enemy of the state" who eventually became the president of South Africa, can bring about democracy and harmony in one lifetime to the once Apartheid-torn country of 51 million people, why can't the Congress of the United States find compromise on ordinary issues like health care, immigration and budgeting?

Fighting for wages and a union

Chattanooga workers took to the streets on two fronts this week.

Protesters at the McDonald's in Brainerd held up signs demanding things like "Living wage now!"

Of $7.25 an hour, the current minimum wage, Stephen Mason says "you're just working to live. I'm scraping by."

He and about 25 local activists support a proposed $15 an hour minimum wage.

In a time when corporate profits are up and continually widening the gap above the also-growing numbers of people living in poverty, the protesters noted that if their own raises had kept up with corporate earnings, "we'd be making $22 an hour right now."

Across town at South Chattanooga's Main Terrain Park, protesters criticized local congressmen for opposing the ongoing United Auto Workers' campaign to organize the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant.

Leroy Griffith, a retired minister from Renaissance Presbyterian Church, said Sen. Bob Corker can't "cry 'free enterprise, free enterprise, free enterprise,' on the backs of unrepresented workers."

VW production workers currently earn a starting salary of $15 a hour, which can rise to $21 an hour after four years.

The poverty level and a living wage, by the way, are different things for different people, but it's hard to deny the protesters' logic.

According to a "Living Wage Calculator" developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Chattanooga fast-food full-time worker -- or any other kind of full-time worker -- making $8 an hour is earning very close to a poverty-level wage ($5.21 an hour).

However, if the worker is a single parent with one child, a poverty wage is $7 an hour. And that same worker with one child would have to earn $23.53 to be making what MIT calls a living wage.

America should be able to do better than this.