Pam's Points: Allen Casey's lost dream and Common Core offer uncommon opportunity

Pam's Points: Allen Casey's lost dream and Common Core offer uncommon opportunity

February 28th, 2014 in Opinion Times

A dilapidated former restaurant barge, purchased by Allen Casey, is docked at his property on the North Shore of the Tennessee River.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Thank you, Allen Casey.

Now step aside, please.

The Chattanooga Choo Choo is known worldwide. Not just the song, but also the hotel where people come to sleep in a rail car.

The historic old train terminal -- rescued and transformed into a hotel, restaurant and conference hall by Chattanooga developer Allen Casey -- was one of Chattanooga's early successes as the city tried in the late 20th century to revive itself as manufacturers began to skip town.

But Casey didn't have that Midas touch for a second big idea -- River City Resort. In that venture, Casey wanted to turn a trashed, 12-acre riverfront parcel between the North Shore and Moccasin Bend into a 98-room hotel and restaurant combined with 60 condominiums. A decade after he first proposed it, however, the property remained empty but for a decrepit sinking barge. Casey amassed up to $7 million from deals tied to his development plan, but now seems to have no accounting for the loans and speculator investments.

"He treated this as his own back pocket," said an attorney for some of those investors who now are suing the 80-year-old Casey. This week, both River City Resort and Casey filed for bankruptcy.

It's a sad turn for Casey, but it creates a new opportunity for Chattanooga. That riverfront property across from the Tennessee Aquarium is screaming to be cleaned up and reclaimed in the same spirit as the 21st Century Waterfront and the North Shore.

Common Core is common sense

Anyone claiming that Common Core is a "federal" system, takeover, plot, brainwashing -- pick your incorrect characterization -- is wrong, wrong, wrong.

The Tennessee lawmakers and the Bradley County commissioners who continue to spout this misinformation simply have not done their homework. They have been lazy on our dimes, and it's too bad we can't get our money back.

Here's a true/false quiz:

• In recent months, Hamilton County and Tennessee received great news about school improvements: Tennessee made the largest gains of any state on the newest National Assessment of Educational Progress. True.

• Much of the credit for the turnaround goes to new teaching programs called TN Core. True.

• TN Core has nothing to do with Common Core. False.

TN Core is the Tennessee name for Common Core and it has been in place here since 2010 when the Tennessee Board of Education adopted it. Most Tennessee school districts began using Common Core state standards during the 2011-12 school year.

• The federal government created Common Core and pushed it on the states. False.

Common Core is the work of states. The program was actually developed by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers and a nonprofit group called Achieve.

Common Core standards have been state-led, state-vetted and adopted in more than 40 states. Common Core is a collection of standards -- goals, if you will, not curriculum. Curriculum is still determined at the local level, although some states -- that's STATES in capital letters -- have created their own lesson plans to help teachers and students reach those goals.

Common Core -- and TN Core -- are intended to help children with critical thinking, not memorization. And they are aimed at ensuring students move to colleges with the correct preparation, no matter what state they come from.

Some conservatives are looking to make political points by claiming that Common Core is a federal agenda. But in reality the only agenda that should be questioned here is that of those misinformed conservatives.

It's true that we can't get our money back from those guys, but we can set them straight. Maybe we can also vote the slackers out.