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Local History Professor Running For Congress

A Walters State Community College history professor and Greeneville resident will seek the Democratic nomination for Congress.

Running to represent “ordinary, hard-working Americans,” Dr. Larry Smith hopes to claim the seat Congressman Phil Roe will vacate in early 2021.

“My expertise is in the modern world, and I of course follow world and U.S. politics,” said Smith, who has taught at Walters State since 2008. “Things are continuing, in my opinion, to get worse at the national level, and I thought it was time to step out of the ivory tower and take an active role.”

Smith has already been traversing the First Congressional District, which covers much of northeast Tennessee and includes Greene County.

He has never sought elected office before.

A critic of Donald Trump, Smith has published to his campaign website, larrysmithforcongress.com, detailed perspectives on health care, defense, income inequality, immigration and criminal justice reform.

He supports a single-payer, full-coverage Medicare For All.

“For-profit medical insurance is not only immoral,” he wrote, “it is not cost efficient for the American people or the government.”

He also backs the Green New Deal, an idea introduced as legislation by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. It calls on the United States government to limit fossil fuels and cut greenhouse gas emissions, among other measures. Its proponents have argued that it will also address income inequality and help generate quality jobs, in part by directing the government to provide job training and economic development in communities that have historically depended on fossil fuel-related employment.

“Donald Trump is a demagogue and a con artist. But he is a good con artist,” Smith wrote. “He pretends to rail against the establishment, to feel the pain of ordinary Americans, to end our interventionism, and to stand up for our traditional values. Ask yourself honestly is Trump really against the elites and the establishment?”

FILING DEADLINES, OTHER CANDIDATES

Nominating petitions for the congressional race can’t be issued until Feb. 3, according to Greene County Administrator of Elections Donna Burgner. The qualifying deadline for the August Primary is April 2 at noon.

As previously reported, several candidates have announced that they will run or will at least consider running for Congress. Some of those include:

  • State Rep. David Hawk, a Republican from Greeneville, who is actively considering a bid.
  • John Clarke, the mayor of Kingsport, a Republican.
  • Steve Darden, a former Johnson City mayor, a Republican.
  • Nicole Williams, a former intern with Congressman Roe, a Republican.
  • Chris Rowe, an Air Force veteran, a Democrat.

The list of candidates is actively growing, and The Greeneville Sun will provide more in-depth coverage of official candidates closer to the election.

State Rep. Jeremy Faison, a Cocke County resident who represents a portion of western Greene County, will not run for Congress.

Faison had told news outlets that he would consider running thanks partly to calls from citizens asking him to seek the GOP nomination.

“Please know that I would be so honored if you would let me stay right where I am at. Serving you in Nashville is exactly where I want to be and hopefully you will let me go back,” he posted on his campaign’s social media account. “I will be a candidate on your ballot next August for State Representative.”


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Trees Come Down, 700 Lose Power In Storm

About 25 trees came down Saturday night in Greene County on or near roadways as showers and storms pushed through the area, said Heather Sipe, interim director of the Greene County Office of Emergency Management.

The Greene County Highway Department removed debris from at least five roads.

At the peak of Saturday night’s storm, 703 Greeneville Light & Power System customers were without power. Electricity has since been restored to most customers.

Most of the trees came down in the west and northwest sections of the county, according to road Superintendent Kevin Swatsell.

Winds in the mountain sections of Greene County ranged from 25 to 40 miles per hour, with higher gusts reported in some areas.

Sunday’s National Weather Service forecast for Greene County calls for decreasing clouds and a high temperature of about 61 degrees, with increasing clouds Sunday night and a low of 44 degrees into Monday morning.


Recovery Begins After Storms Kill 11 In Midwest, South

Icy roads, deadly tornadoes, punishing waves — severe weekend weather has been blamed for 11 deaths and major damage in parts of the Midwest, South and Northeast.

Tens of thousands remained without electrical power Sunday as a result of the storms a day earlier. Officials in far-flung locations were assessing the damages while utility crews worked to restore power.

The storms toppled trees, ripped off roofs and, in some areas, reduced buildings to rubble. The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado with winds of around 130 mph hit a high school in Kershaw County, South Carolina on Saturday, causing extensive damage.

The National Weather Service said it was a tornado packing winds of at least 134 mph that hit Alabama’s Pickens County on Saturday, killing three people.

“I could hear everything just coming apart,” Larry Jones, standing amid the rubble in Pickens County, said in a video posted by The Tuscaloosa News.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey praised the state’s first responders in a statement Sunday expressing grief over the deaths.

“This morning, I have reached out to both the county leadership as well as the legislative delegation to offer my deepest condolences in this terrible loss of life,” Ivey’s statement said.

In northwestern Louisiana, three fatalities were blamed on high winds. A man in his bed in Oil City, Louisiana, was crushed to death by a tree that fell on his home early Saturday. A couple in nearby Bossier Parish were killed when the storms demolished their mobile home. The National Weather Service said a tornado with 135 mph winds hit the area.

In Lubbock, Texas, two first responders were killed when they were hit by a vehicle at the scene of a traffic accident on icy roads; in Iowa, where a semitrailer on Interstate 80 overturned, a passenger was killed in similar road conditions.

Near Kiowa, Oklahoma, a man drowned after he was swept away by floodwaters, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.

In Wisconsin, high winds, towering waves and flooding caused millions of dollars in damage to Port Milwaukee on Lake Michigan. Port Director Adam Schlicht called it “an unprecedented event at Port Milwaukee.”

Icy weather also complicated travel in some areas. Winter weather prompted the cancellation of more than 1,200 flights Saturday at Chicago’s two main airports.

Schlicht said the port’s international docks, which are closed for the season, sustained “significant damage.”

High winds and icy weather were factors in power outages affecting tens of thousands of people in the South and the Northeast. The PowerOutage.US website, which tracks outages, reported more than 11,000 outages in New York as of Sunday evening. Outage numbers were falling but there remained more than 10,000 without power in West Virginia; roughly 17,000 in the Carolinas; 14,000 in Alabama; 20,000 in Mississippi, and 12,000 in Arkansas.

Entergy Corporation, said its subsidiaries serving Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi were working to restore power to roughly 30,000 Sunday, most in Mississippi and Arkansas. That was down from a peak of 134,000 outages in the entire Entergy system.

While most were expected to be restored later in the day, some in areas of Arkansas and Mississippi with extensive damage might take longer, said spokeswoman Lee Sabatini.

“They have had extensive infrastructure damage,” Sabatini said of those two states.


Local_news
City School Officials Raise Education Concerns With Legislators

Increasing teacher salaries and accountability for schools receiving state funding through vouchers were among city school officials’ concerns discussed Friday with local state representatives.

The city school system hosted its annual legislative breakfast at the Kathryn W. Leonard Administrative Office Friday morning to discuss legislative concerns with State Sen. Steve Southerland (R-1), of Morristown, and State Rep. David Hawk (R-5), of Greeneville ahead of the upcoming Tennessee General Assembly session.

Southerland said he and Hawk were present at the meeting “not to tell you what we’ve done, but to listen and see what we need to do.”

Hawk echoed the sentiment, adding that he and Southerland get “a lot of great ideas from here,” and that he hopes to raise one particular issue raised at last year’s legislative breakfast — the need for more nursing and mental health professionals in schools — again this year, as he said the need to focus on school resource officers took precedence last year.

TEACHER SALARIES

Director of Schools Steve Starnes brought up the first of roughly 13 topics discussed at the breakfast.

On behalf of the Greeneville City Schools system, Starnes requested that the General Assembly provide funding for an increase in the instructional salary component of the Basic Education Program (BEP) formula equal to the amount of public funding spent on the Education Savings Account Program, passed in 2019, each year.

The state uses the BEP formula to determine the amount of funding a public school system receives based on the number of students in the system and a district-wide student-to-teacher ratio.

Starnes said the current funding for teacher salaries through the BEP is insufficient as it does not represent the actual number of teachers a district must employ to meet the state’s ratio requirements, nor does it accurately represent the average teacher’s salary statewide.

Starnes said this has played a part in the growing problem of teacher shortages across the state.

Starnes urged Southerland and Hawk to advocate that the state invest in teacher salaries an amount at least equal to the state’s investment in the Education Savings Account Program, including the funding allocated toward administration of the program.

VOUCHER PROGRAM ACCOUNTABILITY

Dr. Suzanne Bryant, assistant director for instruction, raised the issue that the laws relating to the Tennessee school voucher program, scheduled to be implemented in the 2020-2021 school year, do not currently require state testing and accountability plans for the schools that will receive voucher funding as is required of public school systems.

Under current law, state funded schools and school systems are required to participate in strict testing to ensure accountability through the Every Student Succeeds Act accountability model.

The State Report Card that publishes all results and other public data is made available each year.

Bryant said that, currently, the schools set to receive voucher funding are not required to participate in this accountability model and urged Hawk and Southerland to address this issue.

“Schools receiving state funding through vouchers should be held to the same accountability level and reported in the same way,” Bryant said.

OTHER CONCERNS

Other concerns brought up by city school system officials Friday included a request for a reduction in the number of state assessments.

Starnes said that while there are benefits to statewide testing, including measuring student progress and evaluating teacher performance, each of these assessments requires instructional time to prepare and administer and often create unnecessary stress on students and teachers.

The Tennessee Department of Education accountability model requires regular yearly state assessment plans in math and science beginning in grade three, and Starnes asked that the testing schedule be reexamined.

“I would advocate state legislature to look at the assessment schedule to allow us to recoup some instruction time,” Starnes said.

City school system officials also voiced concern over a looming teacher shortage and requested support for the Tennessee Department of Educator Licensure’s proposal for more pathways for out-of-state educators to be licensed in the state of Tennessee.

Officials also requested an annual increase in the voluntary Pre-K budget to provide its preschool program, a grant the Greeneville district has received since 2003-04 but which has not risen since then.