published Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Targeting Southeast Tennessee

Closing the Taft Youth Development Center in Pikeville, Tenn., was probably a done deal the moment the Haslam administration cut funds for its continued operation in the proposed budget. A reasoned case for keeping the center open or political pressure to do so has failed to reverse the decision. It's the latest in what increasingly appears to be the administration's callous disregard for residents of Chattanooga and Southeast Tennessee.

That was made clear Tuesday when Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes said the administration opposes a last-minute budget amendment by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, to provide $12 million to keep the Bledsoe County facility open. Emkes' statement is the death knell for Taft. Sexton says as much.

It will be "extremely difficult" to get the GOP-controlled legislature to support his amendment if the Republican governor opposes it. The administration, in fact, is so confident that Taft will be closed that inmates already are being moved to other facilities, though none has a history of dealing positively with the state's most hardened and violent young male criminals.

What's best for youth in trouble with the law but still of an age where rehabilitation is possible apparently did not factor into the decision to close Taft. What does matter is saving money. The administration claims it will save $8.5 million annually. The long-term costs, though, easily could exceed that.

Closing Taft means that Chattanooga area youth once assigned there now will be housed far from home. That will make visits from parents and others whose interaction is vital to the rehabilitative process more difficult and expensive. Juvenile court officials, social workers and others correctly worry that severing such ties to home will lead to higher recidivism rates. The state will pay for that in higher law enforcement and incarceration costs in the future. That doesn't seem to matter to the administration.

What it wants to do, it seems, is to punish Chattanooga and Southeast Tennessee. How else is there to explain the closure of Taft? Or the elimination of funding for the Chattanooga-based TEAM centers, which provided diagnostic and treatment services to individuals with intellectual disabilities. Or on-going cuts at Moccasin Bend Hospital. Or, perhaps most egregiously, the state's continued refusal to forward full payment of Basic Education Program (BEP) funds undeniably due Hamilton County's schools.

Haslam, a former mayor of Knoxville, should know how important the BEP education dollars are to schools, students, local government and the future of the state. He should know, too, that closing Taft and reducing or eliminating vital services used by the area's most vulnerable population is short-sighted and the antithesis of the highest calling of public service. Chattanooga area residents deserve better from the Haslam administration.

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John_Proctor said...

Remove the word "probably" from the first sentence to make it an accurate statement. As soon as this administration can figure out a way to turn Taft over to CCA, it will open again.

April 5, 2012 at 12:22 a.m.
Crossville said...

All I can say is “wow”. The Haslam administration is obviously not concerned about anyone at all. Not the juveniles or their families, not the communities these students will be turned back into, not the employees at Taft, NO ONE. The bottom line is lets save money no matter what the cost is; no matter whom it effects. This seems like such a closed minded approach and decision to the situation.

April 5, 2012 at 7:19 a.m.
vanburen said...

It's been one big lie after another since Commissioner O'Day put Taft into the budget to close if there were to be a 20% cut and said that it was only an excercize. Then there have been numerous monitary lies regarding how much renovation Taft is in need of (zero) and how much it will cost to keep it open and how much they will save. No one has been to Taft to evaluate these lies. So my opinion is that these lies are covering up the BIG lie that hasn't come out yet. It's no secret that the Governor likes to privatize things and take the cheap way out. I'm sure the BIG LIE that they don't want anyone to know about is that this is the first step in closing all the Youth Development Centers. Something that is being kept very hush-hush is the renovation of Shelby Training Center. As soon as Commissioner O'Day can get that up and running - Goodby Wilder Youth Development Center... and probably Mtn. View as well. And they aren't hiding the lie that they are lining their own pockets with the money they are planing on saving. I can't recall the amount exactly but Gov. Haslam gave Commissioner O'Day a tremendous raise just after she took office. And I'm sure Governor Haslam isn't profiting at all (NOT) on the new contract with a certain rental car agency that has just been put on contract for the state, nor is he profiting from the state vehicles being gassed up at Pilot gas stations. Lies and deceipt! Need I say more.

April 5, 2012 at 8:04 a.m.
voice said...

It was no big seceret that Bledsoe & Hamilton counties were very much Pro Zack Wamp last election day, as we should have been, Mr. Wamp has done a tremendous amount of good for this entire Southeast Tennessee area, Haslim is now repaying us for that loyality that's plain to see by anyone. I can guarentee you Mr. Haslim this time will be worse come election day, ( of course you already expect that I'm sure) & it is a sham the kids of the entire state are having to suffer your revenge tactic. Well here is a news flash for you kind sir, The "Mounatin People" of this region are strong people, with strong wills, minds & hearts Sir That's why the staff of Taft Youth Center has been, for nearly a hundred years, The Premier Facility in the State & these same people will Survive I assure you without you & thats just what "WE" Mountain FOLK plan on doing & doing it without "YOU" as our Governer next term Sir. I will never stop at a Pilot again nor will anyone in my Family, you stop the bread from being put on the table for my kids & I will try my damdest to repay the favor Kind Sir come election day.

April 5, 2012 at 10:40 a.m.
mountainboy said...

Gonna be real hard to puch a R for anyone come election time! Haslam may think we are just a bunch of dumb mtn folks but we still have the right to vote. By the time he is done this state will be in shambles. But the state voted for him so that is what we gotta deal with till we can vote him out. I voted for WAMP in the primary, but i didnt vote R in the main election. No sir i Voted D and will again and again. Good ole TAFT i hate to see her go, unappreciated and forgotten about. I once said that Haslam would be a good water boy for the TAFT TIGERS but now im not sure that he should even do that, total disreguard for saftey of the people of this state, he should work for TDOT running a shovel for 8 bucks a hour and give the state all his millions cause we gonna be broke by the time he is done! The poor always been screwed over by the rich, always have, always will.

April 5, 2012 at 11:14 a.m.
ninnyof3 said...

First I want to comment on the last paragraph of this ariticle. It doesnt matter to Haslam what ANYBODY in the State of Tennessee needs. His main objective is to take care of his self and his "peeps". Second I want to say if you havent read "mountainboy's comment" read it cause it says it all. The thing is Haslam had to start somewhere, but I am almost willing to bet u everything he has was handed to him so the meaning of "working to make a living" means nothing to him. I too hate to see Taft go but it aint about what we as a STATE need its about how much money we can line their pockets with. In closing, maybe Washington needs to be brought in on this and I too will probably never vote R again. CANT AFFORD TO.

April 5, 2012 at 12:33 p.m.
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