published Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Pam's Points: Crime, wine and farm preservation

Newly retired Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd may challenge Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond in the May 6 Republican primary.
Newly retired Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd may challenge Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond in the May 6 Republican primary.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Time and the river city

The retirement of Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd and the expected retirements of most of his command staff, effective at the end of the year, are jarring.

Chattanooga faces many challenges and opportunities as we embark on a focused crime-deterrence program sometimes called the "High Point solution" that may best be described as part intervention, part redemption and part tough enforcement.

Now, the city seems caught between that future and some present deadlines of a pension "drop" that is creating the defacto force-out of able-bodied leaders among police and firefighters who would receive thousands of dollars less in retirement money if they continue to serve.

Perhaps new leaders for a new day won't be a bad thing, but a wholesale loss of leadership at a crucial juncture for city improvement can't be a good thing either.

Really? One stop shopping?

The grocery store industry is planning another run at legislation to allow local governments to hold referendums on the sale of wine at food stores, according to Jarron B. Springer, president of the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association.

Springer and representatives of Publix visited the Chattanooga Times Free Press last week to make a case for giving Chattanoogans and residents of other municipalities an opportunity to vote on having wine on grocery aisles.

The legislation they plan to offer in January would require a petition from 10 percent of the number of city or town people who voted in the last gubernatorial election. Then in a scheduled election the town's registered voters would decide the issue.

Springer said 36 states already allow the sale of wine in retail food stores. The Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association has opposed similar legislation in the past, saying it would put small, mom-and-pop liquor stores out of business.

Springer says that won't happen.

"No state which has passed wine in retail food stores has seen a decrease in the number of retail package stores," according to a printed handout from his group. "In fact, the proof is to the contrary -- retail package stores tend to benefit over time as new customers are introduced to wine through retail food stores."

We can bet on this issue heating up in 2014.

Preserving Sequatchie Valley

People familiar with the narrow Sequatchie Valley, a 125-mile rift from the Tennessee River to Crossville, often call this largely rural and farming valley "God's country."

Tucked between Walden's Ridge and the larger Cumberland escarpment that separates East Tennessee from Middle Tennessee, the valley is beautiful from any view.

But beauty was just one reason that Erich Woerner made a special decision to preserve two properties there -- his 572-acre farm at the base of Lewis Chapel Mountain and his 90-acre plot along the Sequatchie River in Bledsoe County. The second reason was farm love.

The 86-year-old Woerner and his late wife, Else Woerner, had made a pact that they wouldn't do what they saw so many farm neighbors do: Sell the land off in lots to developers. They believed in farming, so they wanted to keep together the farms they had built over time. They wanted to ensure there is land for farming in the future.

So Woerner recently signed over an easement on the acreage to the Tennessee Land Trust. Woerner will still farm there, and the land can still be sold -- but only as one chunk and only to be used for farmland. What's more, it cannot be used as an industrial farm with high-density feed lots or commercial slaughter and animal processing.

Does it cut the profit that can be made from land sales? Probably. But it also has tax benefits and it gives Woerner peace of mind. It also gives us and our children the promise that a little piece of the Sequatchie Valley Garden of Eden will still be around for generations to come. Thanks, Mr. Woerner!

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soakya said...

As Clemson University economics professor Bruce Yandle writes:

Such programs encourage land trusts to serve as government land agents, often quite profitably. If land trusts continue to respond to this temptation, land conservation will become ever more political...History teaches us that market incentives for conservation are strongest when individuals pay market prices and receive market rewards. They are weakest when government agents spend someone else's money and get no reward for good management

While documentation is limited showing precisely how much land under conservation easement is transferred to government, anecdotal information indicates the practice is prevalent. An article published by the American Enterprise reports that more than two-thirds of the Nature Conservancy's operating budget goes to purchasing private lands that are then sold to the government

December 18, 2013 at 11:05 a.m.
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