UTC Housing After the Students Are Gone

By: Alan Denton

james-denton@mocs.utc.edu

Chattanooga, Tenn. (UTC/ The Loop)—For most students, summer begins after their last final is completed, but students who live on campus have one last deadline to meet. All must be checked out of the dorms by May 6 at noon unless you are graduating or a currently competing athlete.

Steven Hood, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Housing, said that the deadline is in the best interest of the students and institution. “Because we are an educational institution,” said Hood, “and when classes aren’t going on, you have idle minds, with nothing to do, things can tend to go wrong. We want to try and avoid that both for the institution and for the students. We recognize that some may perceive it as rigid and inflexible but there is good reason for it.”

The 5000 Building On UTC's South Campus

This could pose as a potential problem for students who don’t live close enough to come back for their graduating friends, but for most, coming back would be a simple inconvenience.

Lauren Griffin, a freshman from Cleveland, Tenn., said “I really am not effected by the move out date just because I don’t live too far away. So it’s not a problem for me to just come back for graduation.”

According to a March 2010 UTC document, 34 percent of the undergraduates live in campus housing as compared to Knoxville’s 26 percent and MTSU’s 12 percent. More than half of the student population comes from outside the immediate Chattanooga area with all but two of Tennessee’s 95 counties represented in the 2010 school year, the document says.

The month of May is the only time housing has the liberty to get projects finished without some of the thousands of visitors that roll through campus in June and July being here, according to Hood. The only exception is summer school housing in Walker Apartments, changing from the UC Foundation building that has housed summer students since it opened six years ago.

As of Monday, April 25, housing had 80 students ranging from people taking summer classes to the softball, golf, and cross-country team signed up for the first session Hood said.

Hood said there are three main projects for housing to be completed by this fall other than touch-up painting. Lockmiller will undergo Phase 2 remodeling, which means there will be cosmetic renovations (new carpet, new light fixtures, painting the walls and kitchen cabinets) done to the apartments to the left of the sand volleyball courts.

UTC's North Campus Between Johnson-Obear and Boling

Locks will be changed in Guerry and UC Foundation for the first time since the university took over south campus. Thus far, UTC has changed three of the five buildings’ locks, including Walker Apartments over Christmas break. In May Guerry will be switched, and UC Foundation will be covered in August.

The most expensive project will be to continue to broaden the wireless coverage in campus housing. “In South Campus and in North Campus, we are expanding our wireless infrastructure,” Hood said. “All of Lockmiller will have it. All of Decosimo will have it and part of Johnson-Obear will. We are frankly behind the rest of the state in providing wireless in campus housing. That’s about a $100,000 investment in North and South Campus. And that will have about a third of campus housing to have wireless internet as a result of that including the other parts of campus that already had it.”

Click here for Steven Hood telling about the expansion of wireless internet in campus housing

After the last camp has checked out in a specific building typically at the middle or end of July, the maintenance men change gears to prepping for the fall, according to Hood. Boling Apartments is one of the first buildings given attention to due to the football players moving in for fall camp and Stophel Apartments will be one of the last because it is used for summer orientations.

Hood said that 75 percent of the camps are finished by the beginning of July, which means rooms will be closed up. This poses a problem for housing because of the high summer humidity that creates mold.

In Boling Apartments, some students were greeted with commercial grade dehumidifiers when they arrived in August 2010 but didn’t allow it to hinder them. Griffin said, “As an incoming freshman, I was confused why it was all there. But we didn’t let it bother us. We just moved them out to the front porch, so we had room to move in all of our stuff.”

Click here for Lauren Griffin talking about her experience with the large dehumidifiers

Hood doesn’t know if housing will pursue the state contracting company again to rent the mostly preventative equipment. The possibility still stands that UTC may purchase their own commercial grade dehumidifiers.

“We are looking at our end-of-the-year budget to make some decisions on that,” Hood said.

 

 

 

 

Both Republicans and Democrats At Fault For $14 Trillion Debt

By Alan Denton

james-denton@mocs.utc.edu

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two centuries after America’s birth, the national debt was a bit under $1 trillion when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. Just three decades later, it has soared above $14 trillion, and accusations of blame are flying. Both Republicans and Democrats played major roles in driving the figure sky high.

If the tab were divided up now, it would come to roughly $47,000 for each man, woman and child in the United States.

In what is shaping up as the next bruising economic battle, Congress is being asked by President Barack Obama to authorize fresh borrowing once the nation’s fast-growing debt slams into the current debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion — something the Treasury Department says will happen no later than May 16.

Leaders of both parties acknowledge that failing to raise the limit could force the government to begin defaulting on some of its obligations — for instance making interest payments on Treasury bills and bonds — with severe adverse consequences, including possibly pushing the economy back into recession.

Creative accounting may help forestall the crisis for a few additional months. But then the effects could be severe, or as the White House warns, “like Armageddon, in terms of the economy.”

Republican and Democratic Symbols

Republicans like to blame Obama and congressional Democrats, citing heavy spending that they claim has done little to end the recession or create jobs. Democrats argue that the stage for fiscal ruin was set by Republican President George W. Bush, with large tax cuts that favored the wealthy, two wars and a vastly underfunded prescription drug program for the elderly. They accuse Bush of squandering a budget surplus handed him by President Bill Clinton.

 

“We lost our way” during the Bush years, Obama suggested on Wednesday as he laid out his own prescriptions for taming the nation’s long-term budget woes, a move the administration hoped would also smooth the way for a debt-ceiling vote.

In fact, spending far outpaced revenues in both the Bush and Obama years. And the main culprit in addition to war spending was the devastating 2007-2009 recession, which not only prompted hundreds of billions of dollars in downturn-fighting spending by both the Bush and Obama administrations, but also resulted in a sharp dip in tax revenues due to sagging individual and corporate incomes.

The main reasons for big increases in the national debt in the years ahead are fast-growing obligations for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs as tens of millions of baby boomers reach retirement age.

Congress has raised the debt limit ten times in the last decade alone, most recently in February 2010. But this year, the stakes are higher than usual, with Republicans and some Democrats warning Obama that they will not vote to raise it unless he agrees to mandatory restraints on future spending.

It was against this backdrop that Obama on Wednesday countered Republican budget plans with a series of his own proposals that he held out as better balanced. They included wide-ranging spending cuts, tax increases aimed at the wealthy and a “debt failsafe” trigger for additional across-the-board spending cuts and tax hikes if deficits are not headed down by 2014.

“That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now, instead of kicking our problems further down the road,” Obama said. Still, his plan faced difficulties ahead, with GOP opposition to new tax increases and complaints from some Democrats that his spending cuts are too drastic.

The U.S. has never defaulted on its debt. Its bonds are viewed as among the safest investments in the world. In addition to millions of Americans, many foreign governments and investors have vast holdings in Treasury securities, with China leading the pack.

The GOP now is in the majority in the House of Representatives after mid-term elections last November that many victors and tea-party activists viewed as a mandate for deep spending cuts.

“My members won’t vote to increase the debt limit unless we’re taking serious steps in the right direction,” says House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

After a White House meeting with Obama on Wednesday to preview the speech, Boehner said, “I think the president heard us loud and clear.” He agreed that passing a debt-limit extension is highly important. “Not meeting our debt obligations is a very bad idea,” he said. But Boehner also insisted that higher taxes not be part of any debt relief deal.

The national debt is the total accumulated indebtedness of the U.S. government. As of Wednesday, it stood at $14.27 trillion. Of this, $14.21 trillion is subject to the debt limit. For various mostly technical reasons, several small governmental programs are not counted.

The national debt should not be confused with the federal budget deficit, which is only a one-year slice. The deficit is the difference between what the government spends in a given year and what it takes in. In the budget year that ends Sept. 30, the deficit is expected to be a record $1.5 trillion. At that level, for every $1 the government spends, it must borrow about 42 cents.

Only a few times in the nation’s history has the government run a budget surplus. The most recent was in the early 2000s, when for several years the government took in more than it paid out. That helped take a nick out of the national debt, then hovering between $5 trillion and $6 trillion. Soon deficits returned and the national debt resumed its relentless climb.

“America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt-free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the baby boomers,” Obama said. “But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed.”

The national debt began when President George Washington and Congress agreed to take on debts incurred by the states for fighting the Revolutionary War.

It broke through the $1 trillion mark (that’s a $1 followed by 12 zeroes) in 1981, the first year of the Reagan’s presidency. But despite Reagan’s vow to balance the budget, the debt tripled during his two terms, to just over $3 trillion under the weight of a recession, large tax cuts and increased spending.

When his successor, President George H.W. Bush, left office in early 1993, the debt was over $4 trillion. Clinton’s eight years in office took it to nearly $6 trillion, despite those fleeting budget surpluses. When George W. Bush finished his two terms the debt had pushed through the $10 trillion mark.

A celebrated national debt “clock” near Times Square had to be rebuilt to allow for the extra digit.

In just 2½ years under Obama, the debt has grown to where it stands today.

Of the $14.27 trillion national debt, some $4.62 trillion is money the government owes itself — mostly money borrowed from Social Security revenues. Without it, the “debt held by the public” is $9.65 trillion.

According to Obama administration figures, just over $3 trillion of the $14.27 trillion debt can be attributed to Bush-era tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Medicare prescription drug program. Stimulus spending by Obama and tax cuts he signed into law accounted for about $600 billion through last Sept. 30.

If there are no changes in government policies, the debt will soar to $18.76 trillion by 2014 and $20.8 trillion by 2016, according to administration projections.

 

Possible Money Missing in Outdoor Chattanooga Program

By Alan Denton

james-denton@mocs.utc.edu

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop)—The Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department may be missing money.

An internal auditor found in 2009-2010 many violations in the Outdoor Chattanooga recreation program. The audit shows cash collections were not properly handled, documented, and submitted within three days, the lack of maintenance of support documents to facilitate an audit of cash collections, and fees collected were not always in accordance with City Code.

The auditor found Phillip Grymes, Executive Director of Outdoor Chattanooga, also served on the board of the program Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga (FOC). In July 2009, FOC opened a business checking account even though it does not own or lease any facilities or have any paid employees.

 

Executive Director of Outdoor Chattanooga and Former Board Member of the FOC

The audit found “substantial amounts of money” being deposited in the FOC’s bank account over the past 18 months from fundraising and public events. But the events were promoted by the City of Chattanooga using the Outdoor Chattanooga name.  The auditor found instances where checks made payable to Outdoor Chattanooga were diverted to FOC’s bank account.

In response to the internal audit, Grymes stepped down from his board position in the FOC.

City Councilwoman Deborah Scott, who began the talks during April 5th’s City Council Meeting, says, “It’s my understanding that we have money that’s missing. We definitely need to follow up on that.”

City Attorney Mike McMahan says the internal auditor is still looking into another item that hasn’t been completed yet but the decision to put it into a report form or not hasn’t been decided.

“If there is confirmed evidence of money missing, we will get a recommendation to take legal action on it once we review and see there is substantial evidence to support an action,” says McMahan.  “It may be that I’ve just dropped the ball on this, but I really am personally not aware of that. And it would have come to me, and I don’t know why I would have seen it or addressed it. But I will do so immediately.”

City Attorney Mike McMahan on the Audit

According to a Chattanooga Times Free Press article, Outdoor Chattanooga was created in 2003 by former Mayor Bob Corker to promote outdoor activities throughout the city and region.

Detroit Suffers Massive Population Loss

By Alan Denton

james-denton@mocs.utc.edu

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Hammered by the auto industry’s slump, Detroit saw its population plummet 25 percent over the past decade, according to census numbers released Tuesday that reflect the severity of an economic downturn in the only state where overall population declined.

The statistics show that the Motor City’s population fell from 951,270 in 2000 to 713,777 last year. Although a significant drop was expected, state demographer Ken Darga said the total is “considerably lower” than the Census Bureau’s estimate last year.

“That’s just incredible,” added Kurt Metzger, a demographer with a Data Driven Detroit, a nonprofit that collects statistics used by area planners. “It’s certainly the largest population loss percentage-wise that we’ve ever had in this city.”

Detroit’s population peaked at 1.8 million in 1950, when it ranked fifth nationally. But the new numbers reflect a steady downsizing of the auto industry — the city’s economic lifeblood for a century — and an exodus of many residents to the suburbs.

Mayor Dave Bing disputed the new population data and plans to appeal. He said his city has at least 750,000 residents, which he called an important threshold for qualifying for some state and federal financial programs. He didn’t say how so many people may have been missed.

City Council President Charles Pugh suggested that thousands of people “who are skeptical, distrustful of the government” avoided the count, such as convicted felons, illegal immigrants and residents who list suburban addresses to get lower car insurance.

The drop-off of more than 237,000 people in Detroit helped Michigan become the only state that suffered an overall population decline between 2000 and 2010, slipping 0.6 percent to 9,883,640. But the city, the state’s largest, was not solely responsible for the dubious distinction.

The population fell 18 percent in Flint, another city heavily dependent on the auto industry and the birthplace of General Motors. Pontiac and Saginaw, which also lost jobs in auto and parts manufacturing, dropped 12 percent and 17 percent respectively.

Nearly half of the state’s 83 counties lost residents, underscoring the ripple effect from Michigan’s reliance on the ailing manufacturing sector. Michigan has lost nearly 860,000 jobs since 2000, and its unemployment rate has long been among the nation’s highest.

“The census figures clearly show how crucial it is to reinvent Michigan,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “It is time for all of us to realign our expectations so that they reflect today’s realities. We cannot cling to the old ways of doing business.”

Metzger, the demographer, said Detroit’s population drop partially reflects the migration of middle-class blacks to suburban counties, a trend that the mayor acknowledged. The numbers also suggest that some blacks have given up on Michigan altogether: the state’s non-Hispanic black population fell 1.8 percent, from 1,408,522 to 1,383,756.

That marks Michigan’s first drop in black residents since statehood, and a historically significant change for a state that was long a magnet for blacks leaving the South to escape discrimination and find jobs, said William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer.

The recent housing crisis has accelerated foreclosures and driven down prices, which Metzger said has enabled more black families to buy houses in the suburbs.

“The next wave of ex-Detroiters with the same hopes and dreams has moved to the suburbs,” he said.

Altogether, Michigan’s cities lost 7 percent of their populations. Flint’s population now stands at 102,434 residents. The capital city of Lansing suffered a 4 percent drop to 114,297, and even Grand Rapids — Michigan’s second largest city, located in the less hard-hit western part of the state — was down 5 percent to 188,040.

Population increases were recorded in mostly suburban and some rural areas, the largest in counties on the fringe of metropolitan areas with large numbers of suburban commuters. Clinton County, north of Lansing, jumped 16.5 percent and Livingston County, between Detroit and Lansing, was up 15.3 percent.

Some rural areas fared badly. For example, the Upper Peninsula saw populations drop in 13 of its 15 counties, including a 13.3 percent drop — the worst statewide among counties — in far northwestern Ontonagon County.

Sharp increases were seen in Michigan’s Asian and Hispanic populations.

The non-Hispanic Asian population was 236,490, up 35 percent over the decade — Michigan’s fastest growing racial group — and now accounts for 2.4 percent of the state’s residents. The state’s Hispanic population grew by 34.7 percent, to 436,358, or 4.4 percent of the overall population.

The American Indian population inched up 1.3 percent to 54,665.

Aretha Franklin Drops 85 Pounds

By Alan Denton

james-denton@mocs.utc.edu

DETROIT (AP) — Aretha Franklin says she’s lost 85 pounds as part of an ongoing effort to drop weight.

The legendary singer said in a taped interview that aired Wednesday on “The Wendy Williams Show” that she’s been trying to shed pounds ever since looking at pictures of herself and deciding she was “entirely too fat.”

Williams interviewed Franklin on Friday at a Detroit-area hotel.

The 68-year-old Franklin underwent surgery for an undisclosed ailment in December and didn’t go into detail about it during the interview with Williams.

The “Queen of Soul” did say a recurring pain in her side last year was her “first inkling that something was not what it should be.”

The second part of the interview is to air on Thursday.

 

Stocks Continue to Rebound

By: Alan Denton

James-Denton@mocs.utc.edu

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks edged higher Tuesday after a mixed round of corporate earnings reports and a move by China’s central bank to control inflation.

McDonald’s Corp. gained 3 percent after reporting January sales that were higher than analysts predicted. It was the best performing company among the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones industrial average.

Homebuilder Beazer Homes USA Inc. fell 1 percent after reporting that new orders declined last quarter. Avon Products Inc. fell 5.5 percent after its fourth-quarter earnings fell and missed expectations.

The Dow index rose 36 points, or 0.3 percent, to 12,198 in midday trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index gained 3 points, or 0.2 percent, 1,321. The Nasdaq composite edged up 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,785.

China said after its market closed Tuesday that it would raise interest rates for the third time since October. The country’s economic boom has resulted in higher prices, forcing some poor families to spend up to half of their incomes on food.

Many large U.S. companies have counted on spending in China for growth. Previously, interest rate hikes in China have resulted in stock losses in the U.S. because of fears that spending there would fall.

Brain Gendreau, market strategist at Financial Network, said investors are becoming less concerned about slower spending in China because they are more confident that the U.S. economy will grow on its own.

“Raising interest rates is what the Chinese need to do when they have such an overheated economy,” he said.

Several big acquisitions and a strong earnings report from Loews Corp. pushed stocks higher Monday. The Dow has risen for six days straight, its longest streak of gains since November.

White Stripes Split

By: Alan Denton

James-Denton@mocs.utc.edu

NEW YORK (AP) — The White Stripes are done.

The groundbreaking rock duo, which helped revive and reshape a stale rock scene with their scorching, guitar-fueled, blues-tinged songs, announced Wednesday they are splitting up after more than a decade and six albums together.

Jack and Meg White (who presented themselves as brother and sister but were actually ex-husband and wife) said no “Behind the Music”-type troubles doomed the band.

“The reason is not due to artistic differences or lack of wanting to continue, nor any health issues as both Meg and Jack are feeling fine and in good health,” a statement announced. “It is for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way.”

The Grammy-winning, platinum-selling band started off in Detroit in 1997. Seen mainly as the brainchild of frontman Jack White (Meg was the drummer), the band’s breakthrough came at the start of the new millennium with the albums “White Blood Cells” and 2003′s “Elephant,” with the now-classic song “Seven Nation Army.”

But over the years, Jack White has focused attention on other projects, including the bands the Dead Weather and the Raconteurs, as well as his Nashville, Tenn.-based Third Man Records. He’s also acted as producer, helping revive the career of Loretta Lynn with the album “Van Lear Rose” and most recently, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson’s “The Party Ain’t Over.”

The last recording by the White Stripes was the live album “Under the Great White Northern Lights,” released last year, along with an accompanying DVD documentary.

In an interview with The Associated Press last year, White said being a part of the Stripes was “extremely hard,” but he liked the challenge.

“If it ever got easy to go out and do a White Stripes show, I think we would just end it. It’s always been hard. That’s what I get from it though. It forces me to create something that I wouldn’t have done before. That’s tricky,” he said. “It’s tricky to go out on stage with two people in front of 10,000 people and make them all interested and keep them all interested for an hour or two, and standing their proudly and say it’s finished, that’s the show. That’s hard to pull off.”

The duo urged fans not to be upset at the band’s demise. Though no new recordings are expected, unreleased tracks are forthcoming.

“The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack anymore. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want,” they said. “The beauty of art and music is that it can last forever if people want it to. Thank you for sharing this experience. Your involvement will never be lost on us and we are truly grateful.”

Winter Weather Possible Across Tennessee Again

By: Alan Denton

James-Denton@mocs.utc.edu

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A snowstorm that has dropped up to five inches in the Great Plains was pushing eastward Thursday and Tennesseans began stocking up for winter weather.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for West Tennessee and Middle Tennessee for Thursday. The precipitation began during the morning in northwestern Tennessee.

“It’s just misty rain right now,” said Tractor Supply cashier Karli Castellaw as she looked out of the front windows at the Union City store.

Customers were preparing for snow as they shopped.

“They buy dog food and say they don’t want to go out after it starts,” Castellaw said of the expected snow.

Forecasters expect a mixture of snow and sleet, turning to all snow and accumulating one to three inches in the Reelfoot Lake region.

The cold front was expected to push swiftly eastward, with snow tapering off in Union City, Dyersburg and Memphis by sunset.

Accumulating snow was expected in the Nashville area by midafternoon and up to two inches was expected. Snow depths on the Cumberland Plateau were expected to reach up to four inches at Crossville.

Up to three inches of snow was forecast for the Tri-Cities region, beginning after midnight. Up to an inch was forecast for Knoxville, while snow showers with no accumulation were expected in Chattanooga.

Temperatures will drop as the snow band moves through, with overnight lows falling to the mid-teens to the mid-20s across the state.

Schools that had opened in the western half of the state were closing early as the snow approached on Thursday.

After a cold Friday, forecasters expected weekend high temperatures into the low 40s before another shot at sleet and snow on Monday.

The same system brought two to five inches across Oklahoma and was a factor in at least one traffic death when a car slid off of an icy highway near Cheyenne in western Oklahoma early Thursday.