Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Sept. 3

The Cleveland Daily Banner on a multimillion dollar development project potentially coming to Cleveland:

Another Cleveland dream could be headed for reality if the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Foundation looks favorably on the city's application for a $4 million Healthy Place Projects program grant.

If approved, the gift would boost hopes for a proposed 62,000-square-foot sports complex — as well as a green space and a lake — in the vision to transform downtown Cleveland into a destination and not just a stopping point for quick errands, a nice meal or some shopping.

With an estimated price tag of $7.8 million, the sports complex — modeled after successful ventures in other cities — would feature eight basketball courts and eight volleyball courts, among other amenities.

Some might believe it sounds far-fetched, or not an appropriate fit for Cleveland's downtown revitalization project. On the contrary, it could be a perfect fit if the city's redevelopment initiative is to succeed.

With the ongoing demolition of the 90-plus acre manufacturing site formerly occupied by Whirlpool — and Maytag, Magic Chef, Dixie Products and Dixie Foundry before that — potential is everywhere to convert downtown Cleveland into a sprawling space for business, commerce, residency, lodging, dining and recreation.

And Whirlpool, the global manufacturing giant based in Benton Harbor, Mich., has now taken a huge step forward to help Cleveland with its revitalization plan.

It's this simple: If Cleveland is successful in attaining the massive Healthy Place Projects grant for the sports complex, Whirlpool will hand over to the city control of the property that formerly held the Plant 2 factory, a structure — now demolished and reduced to several piles of debris — that dates back to the 1870s and which once housed the Hardwick Stove manufacturing company.

What a fitting modern-day use for a historic property that once put food on the table and provided a livelihood for thousands of Cleveland and Bradley County families for well over a century!

The plan captured the attention of Whirlpool executives when it was presented in a recent face-to-face gathering in Benton Harbor. A local delegation — comprised of Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, Cleveland City Manager Joe Fivas, Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Griffin and Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Economic Development Doug Berry — made the trek to solicit support from the civic-minded corporation.

"They were energized," Brooks told Cleveland Daily Banner staff writer Tim Siniard. "If this grant comes through . that they would send a letter to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and say they are ready to partner with the city of Cleveland? Unprecedented."

In its long history, the Whirlpool Corporation has a tradition of assisting host communities in the repurposing of abandoned manufacturing sites whose operations were relocated because of age, efficiency and logistics. It doesn't happen overnight. Sometimes it even takes years. But it happens.

This was the case with the downtown Cleveland site. In 2012, Whirlpool opened the doors to its new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility on Benton Pike, thereby shutting down the weathered facilities formerly known as Plant 1 and Plant 2. The neighboring Plant 3 structure had already been closed shortly after the Whirlpool acquisition of the Maytag Corporation in March 2006, and today is under new ownership.

Of the strategic meeting with Whirlpool, Brooks pointed to the company's excitement over the site's future. Such partnerships will be pivotal in the success of Cleveland's downtown redevelopment.

It's not what one mayor can do. It's not what a city manager can dream. It's not what an economic development professional can envision. It's not what one corporation can offer or what one private developer can imagine. It's what everyone can do together.

This will become the story of Cleveland's downtown turnaround, if it is to succeed.

We believe it can. Frankly, its potential is huge.

As massive trucks haul away the remains of Plant 2 and as wrecking crews begin the dismantling of Plant 1, strategies are being put in place that will transform downtown Cleveland into a bustling center where people will live, shop, dine and enjoy day-to-day recreation.

It won't come quickly. But if done mindfully, and if grants are coupled with private investments and local dollars, it will come.

The planned transformation of Inman Street, the proposed construction of the sports complex, and a neighboring residential and commercial development by local businessman Nicholas Lillios are just the tip of the iceberg.

More ideas are out there. Some are probably already on the drawing board and we don't know it.

We encourage city leaders, Whirlpool and private developers to continue to find common cause.

In the meantime, we thank Whirlpool for stepping up. We cross our fingers that BCBS of Tennessee Health Foundation decision-makers will look favorably on Cleveland's grant application.

We can't wait for what might come in the months ahead.

Online: http://www.clevelandbanner.com

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Sept. 1

Johnson City Press on misinformation on social media and efforts to combat it:

Facebook's part in the erosion of common decency in America may be only outweighed by its role in spreading misinformation and manipulating public opinion.

The social media platform grew into an unbridled behemoth before anyone could grasp the consequences. None of us who joined with hopes of more easily connecting with family and friends imagined that it would divide as much as it joined.

We had no idea that its influence would reach into every aspect of our lives — our spending habits, our personal relationships, our respect for differences and our ability to ascertain fact from fiction.

Facebook has violated our naive trust in innumerable ways — particularly in allowing our information to be used by nefarious groups for their own ends. Regardless of political perspective, it should give each of us pause that Facebook exercised little if any moral compass in regard to that trust.

Facing increased public and governmental scrutiny in the wake of its breeches, Facebook has touted new privacy policies and steps to reduce the misleading and false information disseminated on its network and its photo platform, Instagram. Those measures included authorization and transparency requirements before posting ads about politics and social issues. In theory at least, the process would prevent advertisers from masking their identities and locations.

Last week, the company announced yet more steps to crack down on those shadowy influencers — "to protect elections and prepare for the U.S. 2020 election." Beginning this month, Facebook will require even more data from political advertisers — a tax-registered organization ID number, a government website with a .gov or .mil email address, or a Federal Election Commission ID number. Small businesses and political candidates will also have new verification steps.

Facebook users will see either "Confirmed Organization" or "About this ad" by clicking the "i' icon on a post. In mid-October, Facebook will begin blocking non-compliant ads.

Such reasonable requirements should have been in place long ago, and they undoubtedly will not be enough to stop clever groups from hacking the process or verified sources from skewing facts. The ship has sailed on Facebook's ability to be a trustworthy entity.

That's why it's imperative for Americans to be much more discerning about what they read and share on all social media, particularly Facebook. From this newspaper's own experience, it's clear that many users do not read beyond a headline before commenting, blasting away at others and sharing posts without truly grasping the content.

The responsibility belongs to users, not just the social networks.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com

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Aug. 18

The (Cookeville) Herald-Citizen on enforcing the Tennessee hands free driving law:

It has been weeks since the state's new "Hands Free Tennessee" law took effect, yet we still see folks driving with their phones in their hands, or even held up to their ears.

We understand the desire to pick up the phone every time it rings, but in our experience, rarely is it an emergency. Inconvenient, maybe. Emergency, seldom.

In a story a couple of weeks ago, the Herald-Citizen learned that most area law enforcement agencies have issued few citations, opting for warnings because of the drastic changes required by the new law.

But enough is enough. It's time to stop coddling scofflaws and start hitting them where it hurts — the wallet.

(Nine) weeks is enough time for everyone to be aware of the new law. It's enough time for those who must work from their cars to pick up one of several hands-free devices to comply with the law. Hey, most cars made in the past five years or so include a wireless link to modern phones, so for many, it's a matter of learning how to link the phone to the car.

So we urge motorists to comply with the law. Bluetooth devices are no longer the expensive proposition they once were. Learn to link your phone to your car. But remember, fiddling with your hands-free device can be as distracting as your phone, so be careful. Remember, you're driving a two-ton, or more, vehicle, and that can be dangerous.

We would urge the Cookeville Police Department, Putnam County Sheriff's Office, Monterey Police Department, Algood Police Department, Baxter Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol to stop warning folks about the new law and start penalizing them for defying it, because by now it's no longer ignorance, it's defiance.

Folks, these are lives we're talking about here. Your lives. Your children's lives. Our lives. Our children's lives. Life is precious. Treat it that way.

Online: http://herald-citizen.com

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