Sohn: Neighborhoods, prevention, the newspaper are all new again

Contributed photo 2019 / This rendering from 2019 shows the possibilities at The Bend, a planned development on the former Alstom site.

A new neighborhood in the making

In March of 2019, "Chattanooga's Next Great Neighborhood" was unveiled as the city's new West End, but now called The Bend. The plan features all manner of downtown embellishments - townhomes for millennials and retirees, a 10,000-square-foot food hall and music venue, a canal, a brewpub, a childcare center and more - all sprawling out over and around the 112-acre site of the former Alstom manufacturing plant with its $88 million vacuum-sealed chamber for testing turbines built in anticipation of a nuclear industry renaissance that never arrived.

But The Bend plan lives. And it should warm the hearts of many Chattanoogans who remember the footprint it eventually will fill as the eyesore on the Tennessee River bank known to most local boomers as the old Combustion Engineering plant property.

Now, thanks to a bold plan by Urban Story Ventures, the downtown property across the river from the long eastern side of Moccasin Bend is gradually moving toward becoming the Southside on steroids and with a riverfront. Think an expanded downtown with full access to the river on two sides, not just one.

On Friday, Chattanooga developer and Alstom site owner Jimmy White announced he has purchased an adjacent riverfront parcel from food processor ADM that he and officials will seek to rezone next week for a possible new downtown marina.

This plan is looking better every day.

BlueCross stands strong for public good

On the heels of the Tennessee General Assembly's vote to mandate no mandates on COVID-19 vaccines and masks - and while the state awaits Gov. Bill Lee's signature or veto on the measure - BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is standing strong for our health and the public good.

Tennessee's biggest health insurer opted to follow a federal order and is requiring all of its 6,400 workers to be vaccinated by Dec. 8.

BlueCross already had required about 900 workers who have direct contact with the public to get vaccinated and lost 19 of those workers over objections. BlueCross said another 22 left the company on Thursday when the expanded vaccination requirement was announced.

"Because we serve federal programs, which account for half the annual revenue that supports our 6,400 jobs, we will require COVID-19 vaccination for all BlueCross employees," the company said in an employee announcement Thursday. "We are respectful of the state of Tennessee's authority on vaccine requirements and appreciate they have allowed exceptions for federal contractors like BlueCross."

BlueCross said it advised Tennessee's comptroller that the company is implementing the vaccine mandate - another new requirement of the state's bill. The comptroller must establish guidelines on what documentation might be required from a company seeking waivers.

The idea was to create still more hoops for businesses to jump through in order to simply do what's right.

It's not about "individual liberty." Lawmakers know that driving drunk is not individual liberty and neither is refusing to vaccinate and mask to slow a dangerous and preventable disease. This was and is for the sole purpose of allowing Tennessee's Republican supermajority lawmakers to continue drumming up support from extreme right-wing funders and supporters.

Kudos to BlueCross Blueshield of Tennessee for taking the high road.

You'll like the iPad Times Free Press

Chattanooga Times Free Press Publisher Walter Hussman Jr. demonstrated tomorrow's (and today's) newspaper on an iPad Thursday to the Chattanooga Rotary Club.

He told Rotarians that a venture which began at his papers in Arkansas three years ago to pare newsprint and delivery costs to offset a drop in traditional ad revenues has become a trailblazing way to create a more sustainable newspaper business model.

And it's a model coming soon to an inbox near you.

WEHCO Media, the 112-year-old family-owned newspaper company that acquired both of Chattanooga's daily newspapers in 1998, is spending $6.1 million to buy thousands of iPads and offer training on how to use them for subscribers of the Times Free Press.

On the iPad (or your home computers or your smart phone), you can read a replica of our daily newspaper - just as it looks on the newspaper pages - but with some extras. Extras like being able to upsize the type to make it easier to read. Extras like having your device read the paper to you as you get ready for your day on busy mornings. Extras like more photo galleries and videos. Extras like being able to access the news earlier than ever before, usually by 4 a.m. Extras like additional puzzles and games that aren't carried in the print version of the paper.

Delivery of a physical newspaper for the Monday through Saturday editions will cease here by mid-2022, although the Times Free Press will continue to publish its printed Sunday editions, along with its weekly Community News publication and its three magazines - Chatter, Edge and Get Out.

Already we're making the conversions, giving subscribers iPads and offering training.

"We thought maybe people will accept this as a substitute for the print edition," said Hussman. "What we really didn't expect is that people told us they liked it better."

We do. And we believe you will, too. To get started, call (423) 757-6262 to schedule an appointment to learn how to use the replica edition of the iPad, or wait until you receive a letter in the mail.

Long live the future. And this newspaper.