published Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

And another thing ... Tips, pay and children

Just a phone call away

The 1988 triple murder of Kenneth Griffith, Earl Smock and Richard Mason on Signal Mountain was dramatized in a new episode of "Bloodlands" on the Investigation Discovery cable television channel Monday night. Though the episode did not capture the tenseness in the area when the murders were not solved for eight years or the drama of the trial, re-trial and subsequent court proceedings, it did demonstrate how a tip can change a cold case into a hot one.

A tip to Hamilton County Sheriff's Office detectives fingered Signal Mountain resident Frank Casteel, who lived near the vicinity of where the victims were heading on their ATVs, and he eventually was convicted.

Last week, in a meeting with Times Free Press writers and editors, Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher described how local property crime -- burglaries and robberies -- are at their lowest levels in five years. Specifically, burglaries are 10 percent below and robberies 15 percent off their five-year averages this year.

Local police say tips from neighbors and calls from concerned community members as well as cooperation among area law enforcement agencies helped drive the decline.

For those of us whose homes have been burglarized and robbed, and who have benefited by a call from a wary neighbor that led to the arrest of a suspect, we are grateful for those neighbors who care to check on who goes in and out of one's house.

As Fletcher has mentioned before, tips, calls and pressure from family members also help solve bigger cases, ones that are stymied when victims clam up or are wary of reprisal. The Griffith, Smock and Mason families are grateful for such tips, too.

Worst can get better

Many Chattanoogans won't be surprised to learn the Scenic City is seventh on the list of worst paying cities in the country, according to Forbes magazine and based on data from Payscale.com, which collects salary and career data from more than 35 million people.

The starting median pay for people with at least a bachelor's degree in the city is $39,900, according to the list. The overall median pay is $48,400.

Slightly worse than Chattanooga on the list is No. 6 Little Rock, Ark., and slightly better is No. 8 Columbia, S.C. Topping the "worst" list is Youngstown, Ohio.

Fortunately for local residents, the city also is fairly low on many cost-of-living lists.

On a 2010 Information Please Database, for instance, the city's composite cost-of-living index is 8.9 percent below the baseline United States average of 100 percent, based on 2010 numbers.

The expansion of Volkswagen and the arrival of other businesses, though, hold hope for higher pay for Chattanoogans. And a renewed interest in public education and lower crime will only make the city more attractive for higher wage jobs.

Quarter-million investment

Parents sending their children to college for the first time this month will have spent $241,440 on them in their first 17 years in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the Agriculture Department's annual "Expenditures on Children and Families" report.

When the USDA released those figures in mid-1997 concerning those same children born in 1996, it came relatively close to estimating the 2013 dollars under which they'd turn 17, according to an analysis of government figures.

That is borne out in the 2013 report, which was released Monday. It estimated parents would spend, in last year's dollars, $245,340 on a newborn child through the age of 17. Such figures do not include college expenses, which raise the tab for child-rearing even higher.

But what's a little less than $4,000 over 17 years -- that inflationary difference -- in comparison to hours attending sports games, seeing light bulbs come on in little heads when an idea is grasped and hearing a compliment expended over something your child did.

The most recent figures also show a growth of more than $4,000 from 2012 to 2013 and indicate that families in the urban Northeast will spend more on their children over those 17 years than families in the rural South.

Sad to say, there are parents in Chattanooga, Chicago and Concord, N.H., who view a child as a possession and no differently than a big-screen TV, a video game system or the latest drug score. Would that they could look at the $245,000 as an investment in helping refine someone who might help the world become a better place.

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