boards and commissions

State museum chairman says comptroller review vindicates new leadership efforts to resolve past troubles

A “limited review” of Tennessee State Museum operations finds past problems – ranging from missing booze to nepotism and other conflicts of interest — are now being addressed and Thomas Smith, chairman of the board that oversees museum operations, tells The Tennessean he sees the report as a vindication of new leadership.

“I believe that this letter from the comptroller’s office is excellent,” Smith said in a phone interview Wednesday.

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UT trustees grumble about ‘slaps in the face’ to Haslam outsourcing plans

Members of the University of Tennessee board of trustees have slammed a decision by UT Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport to not participate in facilities outsourcing even though Davenport argued the university wouldn’t save as much by privatization as promised, reports the News Sentinel.

In a presentation to the board (Friday), Davenport said UT Knoxville would only save $906,654 in the first year of outsourcing with private company Jones Lang LaSalle, compared to the $5.2 million the company estimated.

The university is already making its own improvements in efficiency; an outside company would not be able to handle the complexity of work associated with facilities management in research departments and the change could be harmful to the local economy, Davenport listed as additional reasons for her decision.

Trustees criticized the decision saying it lacked financial justification and would make it hard to go to the state to ask for money in the future.

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Haslam fills 217 positions on state boards and commissions

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointments of 217 Tennesseans to 93 boards and commissions.

“By serving on our state boards and commissions, these Tennesseans are helping us provide responsive, effective and efficient service to their fellow citizens,” Haslam said. “I am grateful for their service and know they will well represent the people of Tennessee.” 

Appointment terms are varied due to differing statutory requirements or term limits determined by specific qualifications.

The appointments are listed below:

 

Advisory Committee for Purchase From the Blind and Other Severely Disabled

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Commission votes against moving N.B. Forrest statute

Meeting in Athens, the Tennessee Historical Commission on Friday denied the City of Memphis’ request to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from a city park, reports the Commercial Appeal. The vote came after two hours of discussion.

City Attorney Bruce McMullen said he intends to file an appeal with the Chancery Court in Davidson County within the 60 days allotted by law.

Separately, the commission approved the city’s request to seek a declaratory order from an administrative law judge this November on whether the city even needs a waiver to remove the statue. State lawmakers didn’t add protections of historical figures to the language of the state’s preservation law until 2016, after the city filed the waiver. A previous version of the law protected “war memorials” but not statues like Forrest’s.

Further, from the Memphis Flyer:

Before the commission voted, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told the commission he is speaking on behalf of a very united Memphis that wants the statue removed.

“But first we must understand and come to terms with why this statue exists in the first place,” Strickland said, citing that the statue was put in its current location 40 years after the Civil War, just as Jim Crow laws were becoming active. “It’s a monument to Jim Crow.”

Strickland concluded by adding that his administration has respected the legal process thus far and he asked that the commission would “respect the will of Memphis” and formally take up the waiver request.

However, Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesperson Lee Millar told the commission the picture that Strickland painted about Memphis’ consensus to remove the statue is not accurate. Thousands of Memphians say leave history alone, he said.

One of those Memphians is history teacher Elizabeth Adams, who told the commission that everyone is not in agreement with the mayor and city council.

“If you don’t know your history, you are doomed to repeat it,” Adams said. “Next they’ll want to remove the crosses from our churches.”

Steven Stout, an attorney with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, advised the commission not to vote on the waiver until after the new THC rule-making process is completed and becomes effective, which could take until February.

“It would be a poor decision to not vote until the rules are adopted,” Stout said.

He added it is “practically impossible” to take a vote and provide reasoning for the vote without referencing the rules. This could present legal challenges in the future. He says his counsel is aimed to make the commission “less vulnerable.”

But, after nearly two hours of hearing comments and discussion, commissioner Keith Norman of Memphis made a motion to vote on the waiver, which was seconded by Beverly Robertson, also of Memphis. Norman and Robertson are two of three African Americans on the commission.

Haslam request to move Forrest bust rejected

The State Capitol Commission today rejected Gov. Bill Haslam’s request to move a bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from the lobby of the state Capitol building to the state museum. Seven of the members on hand opposed the move; five voted yes – and the tally could be seen as a legislature-versus-the-governor lineup.

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Confederate flag joins Forrest on Haslam unapproved list

Gov. Bill Haslam has formally asked the Tennessee Historical Commission to approve a Memphis City County request to remove a statute of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from a city park. This follows his request last week to the State Capitol Commission that a bust of Forrest be removed from the state capitol building.

Further, The Tennessean reports, he is informally questioning whether the state should stop issuing specialty vehicle license plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans that have an image of the Confederate battle flag.

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More on Memphis effort to remove Forrest statute — with Haslam’s help

The Memphis City Council, which voted in 2015 to remove a statute of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a city park but saw its effort rejected by the Tennessee Historical Commission, held a meeting Tuesday to talk over options for getting around a state law that requires commission approval. One is to sell the park to a private entity, which would not be covered by the state law; another is to cover the statute up.

Gov. Bill Haslam, who was in Memphis Tuesday and who is a member of the commission, told reporters that he’s been talking with Mayor Jim Strickland and supports the Memphis chief executive’s efforts to remove the statute.

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Latest ECD incentives: $28M to Finnish tire maker, $22M to South Korean appliance firm

The state of Tennessee is providing a $28.42 million grant to a Finnish tire manufacturer and grant of $22.3 million to a South Korean appliance manufacturer to support the companies opening of new facilities within the state, reports the Times Free Press.

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State Board of Education gives final OK to new social studies standards

News release from State Board of Education

NASHVILLE – Today, the State Board of Education voted unanimously on final reading to approve new, Tennessee-specific academic standards for social studies.

The new Tennessee Academic Standards for Social Studies will be implemented in classrooms in the 2019-20 school year. This multi-year, comprehensive review involved teams of Tennessee educators, subject matter experts, higher education faculty, state history and geography organizations, and multiple public comment opportunities, ensuring that all Tennesseans had a voice throughout the process.

“These new social studies standards provide a strong foundation for our students, due in part to incredible participation from educators and Tennesseans across the state in the review process,” said Dr. Sara Morrison, executive director of the State Board of Education. “Standards point the way for high-quality instruction in the classroom, which is our ultimate goal.”

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Widow of former legislator fights parole of drunken driver who caused his death

The widow of a former state legislator and restaurant owner is leading a petition drive asking the state Board of Paroles to reject the release of the drunken driver convicted of vehicular homicide in her husband’s death, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Debbie Locke is the widow of Mike Locke, former state representative and founder of the popular local eatery the Hot Dog Hut. Locke was killed on June 23, 2014, when an intoxicated driver struck him on Fort Henry Drive, sending him into a ravine 20 feet below.

The driver, James Hamm, has been incarcerated since his arrest. He was convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication, felony reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, leaving the scene of a collision involving a fatality and failure to exercise due care. He was later sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Now, less than 15 months after being sentenced, Hamm will be up for parole on Aug. 10.

“If he gets out, he will do it again, and this will put somebody else at risk,” Locke said. “Honestly, I’m appalled. I’m appalled that we the citizens of Kingsport or the state of Tennessee have to do this.”

To try to prevent Hamm’s parole release, Locke has started a petition that she plans to send to the parole board in Nashville… So far, Locke estimates that she has gotten between 850 and 900 signatures. Her goal is to get as many as possible by the middle of next week, at which point she will gather all the petitions and send them to Nashville.

…On the evening Mike Locke was killed, he was putting out campaign signs for Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, who was running for state representative at the time. Hulsey later won the election and holds the office Locke himself previously held.

Hulsey said he has signed the petition and plans to join Locke and her family at Hamm’s parole hearing.