Editorial Roundup: Tennessee

Kingsport Times News. June 11, 2021.

Editorial: Independence Day signals a return to normal

To date, it appears Kingsport alone of the Tri-Cities will host a July 4th parade, and that means visitors from other localities may add to the excitement from the Renaissance Center to Memorial Park across from Dobyns-Bennett High School.

We don’t know what plans Bristol may make, but Johnson City has for the second consecutive year canceled what was its annual Pepsi Independence Day Fireworks Celebration, saying the event requires extensive planning and that the COVID-19 restrictions that were in place earlier this year and unknowns about the pandemic led Pepsi and city officials to cancel this year’s event.

Long heralded as among the best fireworks shows in the region, the Rogersville Fourth of July Celebration is also approaching. Although organizers are pretty much limiting it to a fireworks show, it promises to be one not to miss. But a little more help is needed.

Event Chairman Dr. Blaine Jones said recently that donations for the event have “slowed to a trickle. We really could use several more large sponsors/donations to put us over the top so to speak,” Jones said. “But, like we always say, any size donation, large or small, will help us out. We are very, very close to being at a level of a fireworks show that we have never seen in these parts.”

The celebrations take place Saturday, July 3, in Rogersville and Kingsport. Previously, Rogersville has hosted a full day of live music, children’s games, food and other activities at Rogersville City Park, but this year there will only be live music at the park at 5 p.m. with the fireworks at 9:30 p.m. If you’d like to donate, call Jones at (423) 272-3150.

In Kingsport, the 67th annual Independence Day parade will begin at 10 a.m. on July 3 at the Renaissance Center and proceed down Center Street to Fort Henry Drive, ending at Memorial Park across from Dobyns-Bennett High School. The parade will take place without any special conditions, according to Vanessa Bennett, the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce’s executive director of operations and talent development.

“We are urging people to get vaccinated, though,” Bennett said. “We’re going to be able to have these things if more people are vaccinated and keep everybody safe. We’re hopeful that the parade route is so spread out that will help as well.”

The chamber is accepting applications for sponsors and entries for the parade. Interested parties can call (423) 392-8800 or email vbennett@kingsportchamber.org. At this point, Bennett said three bands have confirmed for the parade, Dobyns-Bennett, West Ridge and Volunteer. Also, West Ridge will include its dance team, ROTC and cheerleaders, Bennett said.

“We’ll be announcing our grand marshal soon,” Bennett said. “I think it’s going to be some people that everybody will be proud of.”

The Twilight Alive Concert series will kick off that evening and include a fireworks display.

“It has been a tough year for all of us through the pandemic,” Bennett said. The parade “will be a great way our community can join together as we celebrate our freedom and honor those who serve and sacrifice for our country.”

The return of the Mack Riddle American Legion Independence Day Parade followed by Fun Fest signals full speed ahead in the city’s litany of year-round events, and we’re certainly glad for the progress we’ve made against COVID-19 to allow for these events. But we will continue to encourage everyone eligible to get vaccinated against this often debilitating and potentially deadly disease. The more people who are protected, the safer we’ll all feel and be.

___

Johnson City Press. June 15, 2021.

Editorial: Farmers market is more than a downtown event

When Press Staff Writer David Floyd reported last week that the Johnson City Farmers Market organizers were considering alternate locations for the market because of the high fees to rent the downtown Pavilion, we were puzzled.

Apparently, this season the city began charging the market $150 per half-day — a discounted nonprofit rate — in accordance with the city’s fee structure for the rental of downtown facilities.

Originally, under the Johnson City Development Authority’s management, the farmers market paid $1 a year for the facility. The fee rose to $125 a month last year to cover costs the city said it incurred for cleanup and setup.

It’s strange that the city’s recent actions may price the farmers market out of The Pavilion, because the city built the downtown facility as a permanent home for the farmers market.

Ten years ago, city leaders named creating a permanent, open-air home for the market, which then resided under portable canopies in the Cherry Street parking lot, as a key component of downtown revitalization.

From then until shortly before The Pavilion opened in 2016 — the first event there was a meet and greet with farmers market vendors — city officials referred to the project being designed and built next to Founders Park as “the farmers market.”

The building was built in part with the market in mind, allowing farmers to back their trucks and vans into parking spaces and sell their produce to visitors protected from the sun and rain by a roof.

Some city leaders now seem unconcerned that what was once considered a key component to the downtown area’s future might leave after the 15,600% fee increase in the last two years.

City Manager Pete Peterson and Mayor Joe Wise both told the Press that they believed $150 per day was a reasonable price.

Wise, making the unrealistic assumption that every single vendor spot at the market would be filled every week from spring to fall, said the fee would only cost $3 or $4 from each $12 vendor fee.

“Only” a third of all incoming funding on the busiest days?

Cities host farmers markets not because they generate revenue, but because they are quality of life amenities.

They provide residents with fresh, low-cost produce, they give growers secondary outlets to sell their wares, and they bring needed foot traffic from potential customers to local businesses.

Sometime in the last decade, city administrators forgot about these benefits and started thinking about ways to squeeze money from this downtown fixture.

___

Cookeville Herald-Citizen. June 15, 2021.

Editorial: Council was right to pass hospital budget

Over the past several months, a lot of questions have been raised in the community about Cookeville Regional Medical Center and, more specifically, how much the hospital is paying its top executives.

And let’s be honest. Most people are not overly concerned about the pay of the Chief Nursing Officer or, in fact, many of the other so-called C-suite executives like the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, or Chief Information Officer, although we still maintain that such information should be available to the public.

What people really want to know is what the hospital pays its Chief Strategy Officer Ricky Shelton, who was started the job in January. Reasonably or not, people are naturally skeptical about the circumstances surrounding the hiring of Shelton, who, as the mayor of Cookeville, had served on the hospital’s board of trustees for several years.

We have heard some pretty wild — and likely incorrect — rumors that the salary of Shelton and other hospital executives is “astronomical,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.

An internet search tells us that the national average salary for a hospital’s Chief Strategy Officer is $184,915, but we can’t tell you whether Shelton is making more or less than that because the hospital has obstinately refused to reveal the salaries of its top level executives, and so the questioning and the rumor-mongering continues.

As the Cookeville City Council debated the hospital’s budget this week, the comment was made that the budget should not be “held hostage” to a disagreement over the release of salary information.

We agree with that sentiment and applaud the council for unanimously approving the budget. It was the right thing to do.

But we caution the hospital administration not to take approval of the budget as an indication that some council members are satisfied with the level of transparency the hospital has shown on the salary issue.

The perception remains that the hospital is trying to hide something when it comes to executive pay.

We understand that it’s not comfortable for some to have their financial information put on public display, but until the information is made available, the questions — and the rumors — will remain.

END