Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Kingsport Times-News and The Johnson City Press on a historical document returning to the state:
The Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition of 1897 was a huge event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the state’s entry into the union and featuring more than 100 buildings spread over 200 acres in Nashville, including an exact replica of the Greek Parthenon which still stands.
Counties contributed in various ways to the event, and Washington County — the state’s first — appropriately lent history to display on this historic occasion. Its documents included the first minutes of the Washington County Court in the handwriting of John Sevier, its first clerk, and Deed Book A, an 1830s copy of the county’s original deed book created between 1717 and 1782.
The state returned these valuable documents, some not initially and some only after the county pressed for the records back. But not the deed book, which should rest where Tennessee’s history began.
In 1772, the Watauga Association, a semi-autonomous government created by settlers, met with and leased lands belonging to the Cherokee at Sycamore Shoals at Elizabethton. Three years later it also was the site of the Transylvania purchase, conducted between the Cherokee and a North Carolina land baron, Richard Henderson, who bought large tracts of land in the area.
The same year the Watauga Association was reorganized as the “Washington District,” allied with the colonies that were declaring independence from Great Britain. Washington, Sullivan and Greene counties were formed as western counties of North Carolina between 1777 and 1788 but were largely ignored by the state. In 1784, they formed the breakaway State of Franklin with John Sevier as governor. That was short-lived, and in 1796 Tennessee became a state.
Considering this tremendous history, it is all but inconceivable that Northeast Tennessee does not have a major historical museum to display it, including the 4,252 boxes and 3,674 bound volumes covering British rule to the early 21st century now being held in the Washington County Archives Building in downtown Jonesborough. The material comprises nearly two linear miles — except for Deed Book A.
Washington County wants it back and has every legal right to it. The region should join in that demand. After 120 years, it’s time Deed Book A was returned home.
The Johnson City Press on election reform:
In the aftermath of the 2020 national elections, several of our congressional representatives took strong stands to ensure the sanctity of our electoral process.
Their statements mostly concerned objections to presidential election results in other states where accusations of election fraud were present.
The investigations and court proceedings stemming from those allegations did not uncover any fraud in those states on a level that would affect the outcome of those elections, and despite a full-blown attack on the Capitol intended to interrupt the process Congress certified Joe Biden as the winner of the Electoral College and the next president of the United States.
With that order of business out of the way, we hope 1st District Rep. Diana Harshbarger and Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty don’t forget their commitments to free and fair elections.
For decades, marginalized voices in our state and our nation have demanded election reforms to ensure every voice is heard and accurately represented.
Our representatives who have thrust protecting the electoral process to the front of their priorities can start by taking a look at campaign finance reform.
For too long, fundraising ability has been a disproportional determinant in our elections, from the local level all the way up to nationwide races. Our current process, aided by the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, breeds corruption, and makes candidates subordinate to donors with the deepest pockets.
Reformers have pushed for “democracy vouchers” provided to each eligible voter that can only be spent on political candidates or issues. Others advocate clean elections, in which each candidate receives a fixed amount of federal dollars for his or her campaign, and clean money, which requires strict disclosures of the sources of all political contributions.
With money no longer a hurdle, officials should turn to our election districts.
Too often, the victors of elections carve up their constituencies to give themselves and their parties the edge in future elections. In Tennessee, this gerrymandering has resulted in a Picasso-esque district map, contorted to split our communities and disproportionately represent the people of our state.
With the results of a new Census on the table, a re-examination of congressional and state legislative districts is in order.
Then, although out of our congressional representatives’ hands, are the slew of state laws and rules governing how elections are conducted in each state. Everything from voter identification requirements to mail-in ballot practices should be given a once-over to guarantee everyone the best opportunity to participate in our democratic process.
Our elections can only be free and fair if everyone can participate on a level field.
We hope overturning the results of the presidential election in a handful of states wasn’t the singular focus of our men and women in Congress, and urge them to tackle meaningful election reform soon.
The Kingsport Times-News on craft breweries:
First brewed in China some 9,000 years ago, beer was a part of Colonial life in the United States and until recently had evolved to two major companies, with Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors controlling nearly 90% of American beer production.
But according to The Atlantic magazine, something strange and extraordinary is happening, and each of the Tri-Cities is part of it, to the point that Sen. Jon Lundberg of Bristol is sponsoring legislation in support of it.
An innovative disruption of the beer industry is underway. The Atlantic reports that between 2008 and 2016, the number of craft brewery establishments expanded by a factor of six, and the number of brewery workers grew by 120% or some 70,000. And average beer prices have grown even as overall beer consumption is declining.
“So while Americans are drinking less beer than they did in the 2000s, they’re often paying more for a superior product,” The Atlantic reports. “Meanwhile, the best-selling beers in the country are all in steep decline as are their producers. Between 2007 and 2016, shipments from five major brewers — Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken, Pabst and Diageo which owns Guinness — fell 14%.”
There now are dozens of mini breweries and craft beer outlets in Northeast Tennessee, and this new industry has seen double-digit growth as consumers are introduced to more fuller-flavored beers and interesting flavors.
During 2018, more than a thousand new breweries opened, and there are now more than 7,300 regional breweries, brewpubs and microbreweries in the U.S., according to multiple news sources.
They are successful because of a different marketing strategy, offering products that compete on the basis of quality and diversity instead of low price and advertising, while packaging in colorful cans with innovative product names rather than in traditional bottles.
But in Tennessee, craft brewers are prevented by state law from self-distributing their brews outside the county where it is made. Lundberg would like to change that to expand opportunities for craft brewers to distribute their products in the region.
Lundberg is sponsoring legislation to allow craft beer makers to sell direct without having to go through a distributor. He said the legislation would change the law to allow brewers to self-distribute their products within a 100-mile radius, as is the case with wineries.
“Craft breweries are small businesses, and the state has limited where they can sell their products,” he said. “I would like to level the playing field.”
Says The Atlantic, “Goliaths are tumbling, Davids are ascendant, and beer is one of the unambiguously happy stories in the U.S. economy.”
We’ll drink to that, and to Sen. Lundberg’s success.