Pam's Points: Snow, Holmberg honor and another harmful bill from state lawmakers

Pam's Points: Snow, Holmberg honor and another harmful bill from state lawmakers

February 14th, 2014 in Opinion Times

Nathaniel Waters shovels the front walkway to his house in North Chattanooga on Thursday, February 13, 2014. Waters said he was clearing the way for fun.

Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.

Beware the Ides of March

I love snow - at least when the alternative is ice. So waking to winter wonderland Thursday was a treat and great relief.

And it was a wonderland. The cardinal, fluffed to stay warm on a branch near my bird feeder, was a perfect pre-Valentine greeting.

But in anticipation of next week's predicted highs around 60, I offer myself and Chattanooga neighbors one word of caution: That word is "March."

The deepest snows in Chattanooga's recorded weather history came in March -- 20 inches on March 12-13 during the infamous "Blizzard of '93" and 11 inches on March 1-2, 1927.

And not to be outdone by fluffy white stuff, the area's most memorable ice storm was in March 1960.

More acid runoff in mining proposal

Two bills in the Tennessee General Assembly propose that state regulators take back regulatory authority over surface coal mining here (strip mines and mountaintop removal) from the federal Office of Surface Mining.

Both of these bills -- one sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, and the other sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains -- need a resounding no vote.

Tennessee has a terrible record of coal mining regulatory enforcement, and now has cut virtually all of its environmental regulatory staff to the bone. The state has neither the money nor the manpower to oversee an industry that consistently causes environmental problems wherever it operates. And the coal mining industry offers far too much degradation and far too little benefit to communities around the mining sites to get even more favors from regulators than currently exist in a regulatory infrastructure already designed to be friendly to business.

The reason federal officials took over the permitting and enforcement in 1984 was that mines abandoned decades before still dripped acid into Tennessee's rivers and streams.

Perhaps there is more politics than common sense in these bills. Tea party-endorsed Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, sponsored the Niceley bill in the state House, and Carr is seeking to unseat U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander -- who in the 1980s as governor had recommended the coal mining oversight transfer from the state to federal government because, as Alexander's spokesman said, the federal regulators continually second-guessed state inspectors, creating "a bureaucratic nightmare." The state legislature agreed and voted for the transfer.

That crumb of better enforcement should not be undone now.

Kudos to Ruth Holmberg, ArtsBuild

To say Ruth Holmberg is deserving of honor is the greatest of understatements.

So it is, without question, a pleasure to see ArtsBuild announce it will honor her in March with its first Arts Leadership Award.

ArtsBuild, formerly Allied Arts, will recognize Mrs. Holmberg for "her extraordinary support of the arts and cultural community in Chattanooga over the past 68 years."

She served as publisher of The Chattanooga Times from 1964 to 1992, and she was chairwoman of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Association and the Hunter Museum of American Art. She also is a founding member of the Tennessee Arts Commission.

For decades, she has embodied support for arts creativity and culture here, as well as professionalism. As Daniel Stetson, executive director of the Hunter, put it, she has been "an arts angel whose generosity inspires a community."