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Editorial | The Volunteer Times | Campbell County

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Pat on Politics: A Tale of Two Cities Part 1

OK folks I have been writing on this particular opinion piece for about a month. It has been an evolving document to say the least. It seems like every time I thought I had it done something else so ludicrous would happen that I thought to myself, “this must be included.” It happened again this morning but I have decided that if more happens I will just write a third piece (the second is in the works and will concern Jacksboro and Jellico). So without further ado I present to you a Tale of Two Cities: Caryville and LaFollette.
Now I know some people expect this to be a straight up rip piece but that is not the case. The purpose of this is to examine what is both right and wrong in these two municipalities. For all the bad I can write about I can also find lots of good. This is likely to jump around a bit so do try to keep up.
I will start with a subject I have visited in the past, recreation facilities. The city of LaFollette is blessed with such facilities. Johnny Byrge has done a fine job as the city’s recreation director. In LaFollette there are multiple fields for the community to use, a splash park in the summer, and two recreation centers in the form of old East and West LaFollette schools. Caryville is no slouch in that department either as Asbury Park has long been the home of recreational ball play for both children and adults. Even without a full time recreation director Caryville has managed to provide nice facilities for its citizens. LaFollette also recently had the Roots and Wings festival that drew a good crowd down town. This winter will see the city provide an ice skating rink, just like the one in Knoxville’s Market Square, for folks to enjoy. Caryville may have it best festival wise though, as the annual Louie Bluie is held there and is growing yearly.
The library is another bright spot in each city. LaFollette has an impressive new facility in the old rec center. Nancy Green has always maintained a good facility for the folks who use it. In Caryville the same can be said. Robyn Turner has masterfully stocked the library with books all of the patrons seem to clamor for. The only complaint I can remotely give about the Caryville Library is that it has out grown its current space. The city needs to step up and expand both the facility and funding that it receives. I know that Caryville City Hall has limited space but it would be nice to see the city either buy an old building in down town or build one. There are at least two properties in down town Caryville that are both for sale and bigger than the current facility. Who knows bringing that kind of extra traffic downtown may open up the doors for other things to set up shop there.
Both towns also have excellent emergency services. Both police and fire departments work hard to protect the citizens and property of their municipalities and are there to back up other emergency workers when needed. LaFollette I lucky to have a paid city operated fire department. Caryville is blessed to have a department made up of roughly 20 volunteer firemen who risk their lives to protect folks for no real compensation other than knowing they are doing the right and proper thing. Sadly this is where I will hit my first negative. I have had multiple folks, both Caryville firemen and citizens alike, that are concerned that the mayor and board of aldermen are going to interfere with the semiannual election of the officers of the department. So far these elected officials have left the department alone and allowed them to elect their officers as they always have in the past. Caryville has a fire chief that has been elected to that capacity by the other volunteers for a number of years. Some feel that his position is in jeopardy due to some unknown political vendetta. The other members of the department are willing to walk out to support their chief if he is removed. I personally support them in this solidarity. It is sad when a bunch of political types want to be jackals and interfere with a group of VOLUNTEERS that just happen to be a highly trained and rated department that has kept insurance rates low for the city’s taxpayers. I call on the Caryville board to not become jackals here and leave the fire department as it has always been.
Jobs and new businesses are another area that both cities have done well with. LaFollette has already seen Bojangles begin slinging chicken out to the masses. LaFollette is also still in line to get a new McDonalds and a Weigals. Caryville recently added a Holiday Inn Express and Dollar General. There is a pair of travel centers opening up on the next exit in Caryville in the near future. Caryville and LaFollette both also have some factory jobs in the city limits and there is supposed to be a new body armor company opening in the old PACA facility. Though both cities could stand to add some more industry to provide jobs they are still expanding the job market. Caryville has a distinct advantage here with a pair of interstate exits in the city limits. But do not count LaFollette out as they have land offer as well. Also some credit must be given to former Caryville Mayor Bobby Stooksbury for the progress in Caryville as he was in office when the initial talks with these businesses began.
Now comes the down side and that is the political antics that go on everywhere. I have already mentioned Caryville’s recent potential fire department controversy but there are other antics going on. Revently the mayor of Caryville wanted to give himself and the city council a “performance bonus”. The council would get $1,000 and the mayor would get $2,400 under this proposed budget. This is among the most foolish things I have ever heard in the city I am proud to call my home. Since when do elected officials get bonus money? This is money that could go to actual worthy projects instead of lining the pockets of a few folks that, in theory at least, sought the offices they are in to better the city. I am proud to say that the council shot this ridiculous proposal down and that the budget will have to go back to the drawing board and will hopefully not have bonus money in the next one. LaFollette is not immune to embarrassing acts by elected officials though. For the last little bit the TBI has been investigating the break in to the office of the former city administrator. Now after the investigation has been going on a long time member of the council admitted that he was the one that drilled the lock. His oh so noble reason for doing so was to return the personal belongings to the most recent city administrator, who just happens to be involved in litigation against the city. This same council member and the previous interim city administrator totaled a city owned vehicle on an unauthorized trip to a women’s prison in west Tennessee. There are plenty more an tics I could write about but I am already boiling mad writing these.
In reading this I hope you all of you see that though it is easy to see the worst of what we have going that we also have a lot of positives going as well. Remember that there will be city elections coming up in November and that if you feel the need to either keep the folks we have or to make a change that the power is in your hands.

Green Meets Green: A Fable of Cronyism

Jack and John have been friends since childhood. Now in their fifties, both have enjoyed successful careers. Jack is a local business man with a company that he inherited from his grandfather. John is a local activist and powerful member of county commission. Now these two men have many times been political rivals in public, sparring over local issues, but their friendship remained intact no matter how heated the headlines.

One summer night while at Jack’s house John revealed to his long time friend that he was looking to move into state politics and needed a big issue to generate support across the state. Jack was certainly not surprised to hear this and told his friend that he might have just the issue for John to champion.

You see Jack’s grandfather had purchased quite a bit of mountain land hoping to cash in on the coal industry. A few small mines operated for over 30 years and made the family a good bit of money and employed a lot of locals. But now the coal industry was suffering at the hands of some mighty foes and the land was nearly worthless. And Jack was looking for a way to turn that land profitable again.

“John, I’ve been thinking about your environmental concerns and I think I am ready to join your side,’ Jack said laughing.

You see, Jack had come up with a brilliant scheme that he laid out for his friend. John would hold a press conference and announce a bold new initiative for protecting the environment while also boosting the local economy, providing relief for suffering homeowners and even attract more visitors to the community.

The plan: County government will pay every land owner a subsidy for every new tree planted on their land. Also, the county will offer long term subsidies for landowners that agree to place a portion of their land into a “greenway land trust.” The plan would beautify the community which in turn would raise property values and increase tourism traffic.

John loved the idea and the two went to work putting the pieces into motion. One year later, John was elected to the state senate, and the “Green Up” plan had been hailed as the perfect balance between environmental responsibility and good government. As John readied his plan for public announcement, Jack had quietly bought thousands of acres of additional land from other suffering coal miners, never revealing the plan at hand. Once the plan was enacted, in a very unceremoniously fashion, Jack received his initial check for $850,000. His subsidies on the land (which was now tax exempt sitting in the land trust) would provide him just over $200,000 a year in tax free subsidies.

Sound far-fetched? Or maybe you are thinking that the “Green Up” plan sounds like a pretty decent idea. Ask yourself: Where do funds come from to pay the subsidies? What happens when the government runs out of money? What happens if the property values never increase and the tourists never come? What if the subsidy was for building waste sites instead of planting trees?

Guest column: Keeping kids safe on the internet


Did you know 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th Birthdays? This means that in any classroom or neighborhood full of children, there are children who are silently bearing the burden of sexual abuse.
1 in 5 children are sexually solicited while on the internet.
Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under.
The median age for reported sexual abuse is 9 years old.

Approximately 20% of the victims of sexual abuse are under age 8.

Most children never report the abuse.

Sex1ually abused children who keep it a secret or who “tell” and are not believed are at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social and physical problems, often lasting into adulthood.

Step 1 Learn the facts and understand the risks Step 2 Minimize opportunity Step 3 Talk about it Step 4 Stay alert Step 5 Make a plan Step 6 Act on suspicions Step 7 Get involved

The staff at Campbell County Children’s Center is trained facilitators of the Darkness to Light program that teaches the community to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The program is 3 hours and participants will receive a certificate and CEU credits.

For more information, contact the Campbell County Children’s Center at (423) 562-4190. To report child abuse or neglect, call 1-877-237- 0004.

Special Guest Editorial: Stop Fighting and Start Winning


This weekend I attended a “Day of Resistance” Rally in Sevierville, Tennessee and was not surprised to see mainly folks from the Tea Party movement in attendance. The event was part of a national movement in support of defending our rights under the Second Amendment in response to the national debate over proposed gun control legislation. While listening to the speakers and talking to people at the event, it occurred to me that this was another example of a worthwhile movement that lacked a strategy of creating a “win”.

Most of us are aware that there is quite a partisan divide in our country, but I believe those debates are clouding where the real philosophical debate is occurring and distracting us, as a nation, from finding opportunities to protect and improve our country.

Coming out of Washington D.C., the barbs and name-calling between Democrats and Republicans are in full force. At the national level, the Democratic Party is mainly controlled by those from progressive movement and Republican Party is controlled by a group that believes in a strong centralized government. But in the communities and in social media, the Tea Party movement, libertarians, conservatives and statists are engaged in the real debate over what type of government we want for our country.

I have been an active participant in the Tea Party movement since 2008 and have seen the movement get some big wins by sticking to the original idea of reducing the size of the federal government. Where I fault some in the movement is when the different thoughts within the movement begin to fight with each other and with those that identify themselves as libertarians or Republicans. Disagreement and debate in politics and government is essential, but when those disagreements turn into attacks and people walking away from the debate, you end up with all sides losing. It is time to stop this fighting and start winning.

On Fox Business Network’s show “Stossel” last week, the host John Stossel introduced guests from different political perspectives to a crowd of college-age libertarians. One exchange particularly highlighted the problem of discourse between conservatives and libertarians. Well known author and conservative Ann Coulter was challenged by a young libertarian on the question of legalizing marijuana. Coulter rejected the question by stating our problem is that we are in a welfare state and that legalizing marijuana at this time would only compound the problem. She also accused the libertarians of using the drug issue to win favor with their liberal friends. Her answer was quickly rejected by the crowd of young libertarians. The result of this kind of exchange will likely be the young libertarians dismissing any of Coulter’s arguments and Coulter will continue to admonish the libertarian movement for its insistence on putting the drug question out front.

Coulter and the young libertarians have many issues they can (and do) agree upon. Instead of finding common ground on those issues and working together, too many times the differences define the relationship. The same happens with the Tea Party vs Republicans, Republican vs libertarians and libertarians vs conservatives. Instead of looking for ways to create coalitions and consensus, we put a laser focus on our differences. And that is not a winning strategy.

I urge my friends that are conservative, libertarian, Republican and independent to keep up the debate. It helps us all define our beliefs and sharpen our thoughts. But let us all make a bigger and better effort to educate ourselves and others on the areas in which we agree. Let us all take those areas of agreement and turn them into action. Then we will all start winning.

Special guest column: What have our holidays become


Playwright William Shakespeare once said, “A rose by any other name smells just as sweet.” Sometimes, I think this statement also refers to holidays as well, but sometimes the “sweet” can be replaced with a bitter disgust.
In many cases, there’s so much unnecessary hype in regards to holidays anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I love spreading Christmas cheer and handing out candy every All Hallow’s Eve. It just seems as though commercialism tells people if you truly love your family and friend, you should spend a lot of money you don’t have.
I can’t argue with receiving presents. We all say we just want peace on earth, but who are we kidding sometimes? Who wouldn’t want something nice in his or her stocking? Hey, I’m just being real for a moment. However, packages wrapped with golden paper and bright, shiny bows often take away from the true meaning of special occasions. They are also the lasting experiences we had as children.
On Valentine’s Day, we collected and deposited handmade valentines in an old shoe box covered in silver tin foil and red construction paper. We pinched one another on St. Patrick’s Day until we were bruised from head to toe. And as far as Easter was concerned, our only worry was not stepping on an egg with our good church shoes, especially if the egg had a prize in it.
For Christmas, my grandparents always had the most beautiful Christmas tree. It wasn’t the illustrious yuletide trees you’d find at a department store. Their tree was always smaller than your average Christmas tree, a couple of the blinking lights never worked, and the garland always shed and was too stringy. Nevertheless, it was their tree, and we looked forward to seeing it every single year.
My favorite holiday was always Halloween. Mom didn’t have much money to spend on elaborate costumes for me and my sisters, so she improvised. We always had fun making our own costumes. After we’d go Trick-or-Treating, we’d immediately return home. We’d sit around the kitchen table, sip hot apple cider and munch on popcorn, as well as the candy we’d receive earlier in the evening. The kitchen was often dark and the only light we had was a lit Jack-o-Lantern. We’d each have a ghost story to tell and enough memories to carry us from one Halloween to the next.
Now, that was special and far from anything you’d find at a department store!
There’s a lesson to be learned within this short opinion of hidden truth. It’s the secret to life and happiness. It’s a precious gem that can’t be found under any Christmas tree.
Instead, it’s what dwells within us all and what we keep alive for the generations to come. Wealthy corporations will always be about money, and the “sales of the century” will always mercilessly plague our televisions and Internet spam folders. However, if we always remember what’s really important and hold on to the joys of a simpler time in our lives, we forever send the message loud and clear that we’re unchangeable in an ever-changing world.
We always have been and we always will be.