Thursday, October 1, 2015

TN is Hoarding $194 Million in Unspent Money for Improving Drinking Water...That and More from Crockett

Roy Exum: Horror Stories From Jail

Tennessee is No. 1 in nation for unspent federal funds to improve drinking water

The Big Business of Internet Bigotry

Rogero coasts to new term as Knoxville mayor

Mayor Madeline Rogero and most other incumbent city officials easily won new terms in Knoxville’s city elections Tuesday,reports the News Sentinel.
The only City Council seat left to be decided pits small-business owner Pete Bonovich against incumbent Finbarr Saunders in November.
“This campaign was a lot easier this time around,” Rogero said on stage at The Standard following her victory. “I think because of the outstanding success of our first term.”
Rogero had 3,711 votes, according to unofficial returns, versus 46 for write-in candidate Jack Knoxville. (Note: All election results HERE.)
Both (council) candidates lamented the historically low turnout that continued Tuesday, with just 4,748 votes cast in a city with roughly 105,000 registered voters. Knox County Election Commissioner Cliff Rodgers said he was expecting between 4,000 and 5,000 voters. About 2,000 cast their ballots during early voting. LINK

Roy Exum: Horror Stories From Jail

The reason I am on my jail bandwagon is because I just read two of the worst stories you can imagine and we can’t ever let this disease come here.
The first was in the Nashville Tennessean that described Inmate No. 81736 who died in the West Tennessee State Penitentiary on June 12, 2013. The state records state Elbert Thornton, age 55, died of natural causes. But when the autopsy report was unearthed, it stated he had broken ribs, a broken breastbone and severe burns on his genitals.
When Thornton was rushed to Lauderdale Community Hospital after efforts to resuscitate him at the prison were futile, an examining doctor noted he had numerous bruises on his head and what appeared to be “whip marks” on his upper abdomen and shoulders. In addition there was an “odd laceration” on his genitals, read the story written by Dave Boucher.
After an assistant medical examiner with the Lauderdale County determined Thornton had died of natural causes, an autopsy was conducted at the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center in Memphis where it was determined the cause of death as “multiple blunt traumatic and thermal injuries (burns).” It found there were 39 linear abrasions and scars on the front of his body and 27 more on his back, ranging from one inch to one foot in length.
The autopsy revealed nine ribs of the left side of his body were either broken or healing from fractures and 10 more were the same way on the right side. Blood was found in both lungs. There was a bruise on the inside of his left arm measuring 18-by-six inches. Severe burns, matching five inches-by-three inches, were found of the inside of each upper thigh and burns to his genitals included a “full thickness” burn that medical experts say should have set him to the hospital.
There were abrasions noted on his neck and head and further investigation found a blood-clot on his brain (subdural hematoma), which in itself can be fatal.
Here’s the kicker: The Tennessean reporter contacted the Tennessee Dept. of Corrections and spokesperson Neysa Taylor responded, “If I had blunt force trauma you would assume I was beat up. But I could have fallen out of bed.”
Taylor said she couldn’t release Thornton’s medical records, not ever to his family, but said he had “multiple medical issues,” had spilled hot water on himself just prior to his death, and had “fallen several times.” Then she refused the Tennessean’s request to interview Dept. Of Corrections Commissioner Derrick Schofield. LINK

President Obama signs funding bill to avoid government shutdown

President Barack Obama has signed a short-term spending bill that averts a government shutdown and gives Congress and the president about 10 more weeks to fashion a longer-lasting budget deal.
The House and Senate each voted to approve the bill earlier Wednesday.
The White House issued a statement hours before Obama signed the bill saying Americans deserve far better than last-minute, short-term legislating.
The legislation finances the government through Dec. 11, providing 10 weeks to negotiate a more wide-ranging budget deal that would carry past the 2016 presidential election. But the talks promise to be difficult, and success is not assured. LINK

Tennessee judicial vacancies caught in Senate logjam

Confirmation votes to fill three judicial vacancies in Tennessee are stuck in a partisan logjam, even though the White House and the state’s Republican senators agree on who should fill the seats.
Senate confirmation of federal judges has slowed, with only six confirmed so far in 2015. Democrats accuse Republicans of blocking President Barack Obama’s choices for lifetime judicial appointments, saying Obama has only 14 months remaining in his term and GOP lawmakers hope the next president will be Republican.
“Six judges in nine months? That’s appalling,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters recently. “In all the years I’ve been in the Senate … I’ve never seen such a low record. It’s deliberate, and it has a political purpose.”
Eight nominees, including two from Tennessee, have cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee and are awaiting final votes by the full Senate.
Waverly Crenshaw Jr. of Nashville was approved by the committee in July for a U.S. District Court seat in the Middle District of Tennessee. Because of the high caseload in the Nashville courthouse, the Administrative Office of the Courts considers that seat a “judicial emergency.” LINK

See where Gov. Bill Haslam ranks on Forbes' list of the richest Americans

Founding the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain is good for your pocketbook.
Once again, Thomas Frist Jr., one of the founders of Nashville-based HCA Holdings Inc., (along with his family) leads the list of Tennessee's richest people, part of the annual Forbes 400. Nationally, Frist, with a net worth of $8.7 billion, ranks 54th on the magazine's list.

Increased insurance coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act translated to a boom year for hospital shares and, as such, a more than billion-dollar increase in worth for Frist, who ranked 26th last year with a net worth of $7.6 billion.
Here's the state's other 2015 representatives on the list, and how they stack up to last year:
  • Martha Ingram and family, No. 129, with a net worth of $3.9 billion. Ingram's family controls Lebanon-based Ingram Industries, which includes everything from book distributors to a barge company. Ingram reported exactly the same net worth and rank on this year's list as 2014's.
  • Frederick Smith, No. 171, with a net worth of $3.5 billion. Smith is the chairman and CEO of Memphis-based FedEx. Smith, like Frist, moved down a bit in rank from No. 155, but maintained the same level of net worth.
  • Gov. Bill Haslam, No. 327, with a net worth of $2.1 billion. Described by Forbes as "America's richest elected official," Haslam's family controls truck stop chain Pilot Flying J. Bill Haslam was not included on last year's list.
  • Jimmy Haslam, No. 234, with a net worth of $2.8 billion. See above, minus the elected official part. He moved up substantially on this year's list, from No. 353 last year, and added a billion dollars to his net worth. LINK

Tennessee is No. 1 in nation for unspent federal funds to improve drinking water

This is one national ranking Tennessee officials are not likely to boast about any time soon.
As of July, Tennessee had the highest percentage nationally of unspent money from a federal program used to improve the nation's local drinking water systems and ensure the water flowing through your tap is reliable and safe.
The national figures, compiled by The Associated Press, show that of the estimated $194.2 million in cumulative funds Tennessee received since 2011 under the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, 15.67 percent remains unspent.
That comes to $30.44 million for the program that provides low-to-no-interest loans to dozens of local water systems across Tennessee. While other states like California had higher actual unspent dollar amounts, Tennessee had the highest percentage.
The AP review shows project delays, poor management in some states and other factors have contributed to nearly $1.1 billion in unspent money when it comes to states' collective accounts nationally. The money is used to help communities fund public water projects ranging from new drinking water plants to replacing or upgrading old delivery structures like pipes.
By comparison, nearby Alabama's unspent funds — $5.7 million — represent just 2.8 percent of the estimated cumulative $200 million in federal funds the state received from 2011 to 2015. Georgia's unspent percentage was 7 percent, or $24.43 million out of $348.7 million.
Last year, EPA's inspector general issued a report saying its examination showed that in some states the unused funds resulted in "missed opportunities." It also noted that "when loans are not issued, intended drinking water improvements may not be implemented and states lose opportunities to infuse funds into their economy and create jobs."
For the past several years, EPA officials have been nudging states to put the money to use more quickly.
Tennessee officials insist the situation here isn't as bad as it appears. The "unobligated" fund balance actually was obligated but was "artificially inflated" due to a previously accepted accounting method used by Tennessee, said Eric Ward, a spokesman with the state Department of Environment and Conservation.
"For example," Ward said, "if you consider a loan to a drinking water utility for $2 million made in 2011, all contractor charges for that work would be paid from the 2011 EPA Drinking Water capitalization grant, even if the construction work required four years to complete."
He said that while the $2 million for the project was obligated, "it would not show up as an obligation to EPA until the utility actually incurred costs and charges were ultimately made against the 2011 EPA Drinking Water capitalization grant." LINK

The Big Business of Internet Bigotry

The question on everyone’s minds recently is, “Why won’t George Zimmerman go away?”
You’d think of all the people who’d want to keep their heads down and avoid the spotlight, people who’ve been acquitted for murder after a media circus where much of the country decided they were guilty would be at the top of the list.
Certainly O.J. Simpson, who had a much higher media profile than Zimmerman at the time of his acquittal for murder, did a comparatively much better job of keeping his nose clean. It was over 10 years before Simpson tried to capitalize on his infamy with the book If I Did It.
But, for George Zimmerman, persistently reminding the public that he shot and killed an unarmed black boy has so far been good for business.
It took only a few months for Zimmerman to start selling paintings (really crude copies of existing stock photos) for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Similarly, Simpson, who’s had his share of legal troubles, still didn’t get in the news again for brandishing firearms at people until 2007; Zimmerman’s incident involving threatening his girlfriend with a shotgun happened four months after the trial.
To some degree making a direct comparison between any two people is problematic, especially since Zimmerman had a great deal less personal wealth to start with than Simpson.
But it’s nonetheless telling that Zimmerman has been so apparently reckless in attracting hate from the American public. He directly teamed up with an anti-Muslim storeowner a couple months after the Charleston shooting made the Confederate flag radioactive. He mocked President Obama’s expression of sympathy for Trayvon Martin by saying his hypothetical son would look like Vester Flanagan. He publicly posted someone’s phone number in an apparent attempt to shame them for having an abortion.
And, of course, on Monday, he retweeted photos of Trayvon Martin’s corpse while bragging he was a “one-man army.” (Even If I Did It didn’t include photos of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman’s corpses with captions bragging how badass their killer must’ve been.)
It’s hard to deny that there’s an element of pure psychological reward to trolling, that there’s circumstances in which some people deal with being disliked by gleefully playing the role of the villain and reinterpreting the hate they generate as “winning.” LINK

Crockett Policy Institute

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