Thoughts on Parking From the Man Behind the Tickets

By Tia Kalmon

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – Parking is bad on campus, period, for everyone that has a car, but what is parking like from the eyes of someone who writes tickets, is it any different?

Michael Scruggs has been working for UTC’s parking services for 19 years. He is a ticket writer along with 9 others.

“It’s great exercise, though it gets cold sometimes,” Scruggs said.

There may be a lot of tickets given out to illegally parked cars but Scruggs said they teach the ticket writers to not take the job like a parking “psycho.”

“You never know what’s on peoples minds, so we try to be mindful,” Scruggs said.

Best place to park:

To save students time, Scruggs describes the best place to park on campus.

“I would say the best place to park is at Engel Stadium, I know it’s a far walk, but the bus doesn’t take long and there is a security guard that has a specific job to guard just that lot all day, Monday through Friday,” Scruggs said.

Scruggs said parking services does suspend writing tickets when there are events on campus that close lots because that takes away parking from students and they don’t want to do that.


Motorcycle parking:

Motorcycles do have specific parking spaces though they are allowed to park in any parking spot that matches the decal they bought and they are allowed to park in any “dead space” in the parking lot.


Most ticketed spots:

Parking services does not require their ticket writers to write a certain number of tickets a month. They just write tickets for cars that are parked illegally or don’t have decals.

“Most get ticketed because they park on the side of a row that really isn’t a parking spot,” Scruggs said. “I know some are going to be mad, but there are some that are happy.”

Scruggs agrees that parking on campus is hard to find. General lots are always full and the reserved lots fill up with cars that are not supposed to be in them.

“They (parking services) are just doing their job, but at the same time it sucks because I get tickets all the time,” Whitney Blake, UTC Junior, said.

“The most ticketed places on campus are by Cadek Hall and in lot 10, by EMCS. Lot 36 (the gravel lot by EMCS and the Challenger Center) has the most cars that get blocked in. A lot of people call to say ‘I’m trapped,’” Scruggs said.

There are cases of students stealing decals especially out of jeeps, Scruggs said. Parking services also finds a lot of handicapped tags that are being misused by students.


Mistaken tickets:

Scruggs admits that they do write tickets by mistake sometimes. It happens when the ticket writers are having to write the tickets by hand versus by the hand-held where they can look up the owner of the car in the data base. You can appeal tickets through your My Mocs Net account or at the parking services building.

“It’s a bitter sweet job,” Scruggs said.

Big Mike Mic Describes A City Without Tears

By Tia Kalmon

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – Gangs and crime are a problem for Chattanooga, but one local rapper is trying to stop the violence through his organization, City Without Tears.

This organization was founded by Michael Kelly a year and a half ago. It now consists of a documentary, music video, a six-song EP album and a poem.

This is the postcard for City Without Tears.

This is the postcard for City Without Tears.

“I want to bring awareness, awareness of the numbness for the violence and injustice that’s been going on in the community and how people need to self-reflect,” Kelly said. “Actually the song in the project came from me actually self-reflecting and seeing what I can do, because I knew a lot of things had been going on and I didn’t want to be one of those people that was saying ‘that’s what you should do,’ or just being someone who talked. Since I’m an artist, music is so powerful, words just came out and that was the birth of City Without Tears.”

He wants this to be on the biggest scale possible, raising $20,000 to give back to the community to stop the violence. Kelly wants to take City Without Tears into the community to meet people, to make an impression on them, and to change the statistics to stop the crime.

“What drives me is the shape of the community and my own insecurities and ways that I want to be better because I’m not where I want to be as an individual,” Kelly said.

Kelly began City Without Tears when he saw loved ones in his life disappear because of violence in the city. It hit close to home for Kelly and now he has found inspiration in the mist of danger.

“Life is about your own journey and what you find in yourself and what you were put on this earth to do, to find your purpose,” Kelly said. “That’s a journey through ups and downs. It’s hard sometimes but I feel like that’s what inspires me so my music is real personal.”

Kelly goes by Big Mike Mic when he performs. Big Mike Mic performed at the Barking Legs Theater Friday, February 28th. He began his performance by making a juice out of only organic products, because he wanted to give the audience “an organic performance.”

Big Mike Mic performing at the Barking Legs Theater March 1.

Big Mike Mic performing at the Barking Legs Theater March 1.

“Everything is like an infection, if you don’t do something it’s going to get bigger and bigger,” Brian Kelly, Manager for Big Mike Mic, said. “And why be reactive when we can be more proactive.”

If you would like to donate to City Without Tears you can visit and search “City Without Tears.” For more information you can e-mail Brian Kelley at or call, 423-903-4293.

Check out the video of the interview with Big Mike Mic uploaded to the Mocs News YouTube page!

Holding back Students

Posted by: Tia Kalmon

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP/The Loop) — Flunked, retained, held back.

Whatever you call it, increasing numbers of states are not promoting students who are struggling to read at the end of third grade.

Thirty-two states have passed legislation designed to improve third-grade literacy, according to the Education Commission of the States. Retention is part of the policies in 14 states, with some offering more leeway than others.

“Passing children up the grade ladder when we know they can’t read is irresponsible — and cruel,” said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in announcing in his recent State of the State address that third-graders should demonstrate an ability to read before being promoted. He also proposed a $12 million program for improving third-graders’ reading skills.

Backers say retention policies put pressure on teachers and parents to make sure children succeed.

But opponents say students fare better if they’re promoted and offered extra help. They say holding students back does nothing to address the underlying problems that caused them to struggle and is the single biggest school drop-out predictor. Students who’ve been retained have a two-fold increased risk of dropping out compared to students with similar academic struggles who weren’t retained, said Arthur Reynolds, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Human Capital Research Collaborative, citing studies of students in Chicago and Baltimore.

Retention policies were tried out in large city districts but in recent years have been scaled back or dropped in places like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Los Angeles district spokeswoman Monica Carazo said her school system studied retention and determined that “research did not show it as an effective practice.”

Ending so-called social promotion was one of Jeb Bush’s education reforms when he was governor of Florida, and his nonprofit Foundation for Excellence in Education began touting the reform package after it started in 2008.

“I think reform-minded education chiefs and state legislatures and governors are looking for something to do to help kids be successful and to do that they need policies that aren’t the same old, same old,” said Mary Laura Bragg, the foundation’s director of state policy implementation.

Although the number isn’t tracked nationally, some national representative studies show that about one-fifth of eighth graders have been retained at least once, said Reynolds, who has studied retention. He said there is wide variation among school districts, with some in urban areas reporting retention rates as high as 40 percent.

Because students shift away from learning to read in the early grades to reading to learn in the upper elementary grades, most state-mandated retention policies make third grade the make-or-break year. Such policies also give struggling students another year of instruction before they take a test as fourth-graders used to compare the educational performance of states and nations, called the National Assessment of Education Progress.

“I apologize to the rest of the country,” said Melissa Erickson, of Fund Education Now, a Florida parent advocacy group, of the spread of her state’s reforms. She said Florida’s NAEP scores had risen but noted that the test takers most likely to struggle were now a year older.

“Is the goal to manipulate data so the state looks better or is the goal to help kids?”

In Florida, where the policy is a decade old, reading is generally measured by performance on a state-administered standardized test. Exemptions also are allowed for some students, like those who do well on an alternative test or whose teachers put together a portfolio showing they can read at grade level.

Because struggling Florida students can be held back up to two times, Megan Allen has students as old as 13 in her fifth-grade class in Tampa, Fla. Some of the younger ones still talk about whether or not Santa is real and Disney movies. Among their twice-retained classmates, Allen, the Florida Teacher of the Year in 2010, has confiscated sex notes.

“I think it is defeating for them,” she said of the retained students. “These are students who are already frustrated and instead of having laws that maybe offer them supports and solutions, we have laws that are more focused on the stick than the carrot.”

The fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute studied Florida’s policy and found retained students made larger gains than students who weren’t retained.

But critics like Shane Jimerson, a professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara, said the study doesn’t monitor the students’ performance long enough. He said researchers have long known that retained students experience an initial academic boost but that the benefits fade.

One of the states where the Bush-backed Foundation for Excellence in Education has been involved in legislation is Colorado, where Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a law in May that mandates extra help for struggling young students and bars those considered far behind on reading from advancing to fourth grade without their superintendent’s permission. One year earlier, Oklahoma passed a law that requires third-grade students to demonstrate proficiency in reading before advancing to fourth grade. Schools in both states are putting programs in place to help struggling students in advance of the retention piece taking effect in the 2013-2014 school year.

In Indiana, this is the first year third-graders had to pass a state test to move onto fourth-grade-level reading instruction. Initially, 16 percent of third-graders failed the test and had a chance to retake it over the summer. The final statewide results haven’t been released, said Stephanie Sample, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Education.

She said some schools are retaining students while others are promoting them to fourth grade and offering them special reading instruction to bring them up to grade level.

“We just want to make sure the kids aren’t passed along before they are ready to succeed,” she said.

The economy could be part of the reason the reform is gaining traction, suggested Reynolds. He said the main cost of retention — another year of education if the student doesn’t drop out — is years away.

“It’s a way to say to the public that we have tough standards in our school,” said Reynolds, who says early childhood programs have better outcomes. “And because states and districts are in a financial crisis in many respects, there is no high priority placed on programs or practices that are going to have a significant cost initially.”

But Bragg, who was tasked with implementing Florida’s policy after its passage, said she knows what she saw happen in her state.

“That hard line in the sand of retention for third-graders moved schools in a way they had not been moved before,” she said. “I don’t understand why it takes the threat of something like that to do what you should be doing all along, but it worked. What I saw was a change in human behavior when a policy is put in place that forced people to do what they are supposed to be doing.”


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

Campus Weather Comments

LONG ISLAND, NY. (AP/The Loop) – On the heels of a massive snowstorm that dumped up to 3 feet of snow across the Northeast, rain was forecast for Monday, which could threaten snow-laden roofs with added weight. The roof of an empty bowling alley on New York’s Long Island already partly collapsed just from heavy snow from the weekend storm, police said.

What to do to stave off a roof collapse:

THE RISK: The snow that accumulated over the weekend will act as a sponge, soaking up extremely heavy rain and threatening roofs with collapse. Roofs that are at most risk of being burdened by wet snow are flat or slightly pitched, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

WHAT TO DO: Try to remove weight ahead of Monday’s rain and do so safely, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said. Use roof rakes to safely pull off snow, Judge said. If you have to climb a ladder, first make sure the ladder is placed in a safe area away from ice. Wear boots to avoid slipping.

WHAT TO AVOID: Stay off the roof itself, Judge advised. “We don’t recommend that people, unless they’re young and experienced, to go up on roofs,” he said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

Scholarly Men in Action

By Tia Kalmon

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – Scholarly Men in Action have set a goal to raise graduation rates among men at UTC.

Cameron Armstrong, UTC Senior and founding member said, the organization began when members realized a need for a strong alliance. They looked at graduation statistics and noticed a trend. So they decided to form an organization that focused on leadership, brotherhood, academics, financial support and mentorship for college males.

According to, only 16-percent of UTC students graduate in four years and 37-percent graduate in six years. In comparison, all public universities in the state of Tennessee have a graduation rate of 20-percent in four years and 46-percent in six years.

Scholarly Men in Action posing in front of the Chattanooga sign for a Christmas card.

Scholarly Men in Action are trying to change that. They want to encourage the knowledge in men, so they can cross the stage and turn their tassels.

“They tutor me for English writing because I’m an English major,” Armstrong said. “They will help me review a paper I have or help me in another subject like a general education course like Spanish. We have a member who speaks Spanish, so that really helps me out and personal support as well.”

Each week, this group of men meet on campus to discuss how they are doing. They encourage each other to stay in school and follow their dreams.

“Everybody in this organization are like brothers because we all hang out, do community service together, we have conversations together, and sometimes we make cookies together,” Mark Gilbert, UTC sophomore, said.  “It’s the brotherhood aspect of it that’s really appealing.”

Not only do they want to make a difference on campus, but they also want to make a difference in the community. Scholarly Men in Action participate in many community service projects. They have plans to work more with the community this semester.

A Christmas card from SMIA.

Gilbert said, “this semester, every Friday, we are going to work with BCM, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, and serve food to the homeless downtown and also we will be working with the Office of Disabilities, mentoring disabled students.”

“We are a diverse organization and we are open to all types of minorities whether that be race or religion, whatever major and we will accept everybody and welcome anybody who is willing to join,” Armstrong said.

These men meet every Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Ocoee Room on the third floor of the UC.

Government Helping or Hindering Obesity

WASHINGTON (AP/The Loop) — Everyone could use a little help keeping those New Year’s resolutions to slim down. But if it means the government limiting junk food, the response is an overwhelming, “No.”

A local Chattanoogan eating food at a restaurant.

Americans call obesity a national health crisis and blame too much screen time and cheap fast food for fueling it. But a new poll finds people are split on how much the government should do to help — and most draw the line at attempts to force healthier eating.


A third of people say the government should be deeply involved in finding solutions to the epidemic. A similar proportion want it to play little or no role, and the rest are somewhere in the middle, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Require more physical activity in school, or provide nutritional guidelines to help people make better choices? Sure, 8 in 10 support those steps. Make restaurants post calorie counts on their menus, as the Food and Drug Administration is poised to do? Some 70 percent think it’s a good idea.

“That’s a start,” said Khadijah Al-Amin, 52, of Coatesville, Pa. “The fat content should be put up there in red letters, not just put up there. The same way they mark something that’s poisonous, so when you see it, you absolutely know.”

But nearly 6 in 10 people surveyed oppose taxes targeting unhealthy foods, known as soda taxes or fat taxes.

And when it comes to restricting what people can buy — like New York City’s recent ban of supersized sodas in restaurants — three-quarters say, “No way.”

“The outlawing of sugary drinks, that’s just silly,” said Keith Donner, 52, of Miami, who prefers teaching schoolchildren to eat better and get moving.

“People should just look at a Big Gulp and say, ‘That’s not for me.’ I think it starts when they are young and at school,” he added.

Despite the severity of the problem, most of those surveyed say dealing with obesity is up to individuals. Just a third consider obesity a community problem that governments, schools, health care providers and the food industry should be involved in. Twelve percent said it will take work from both individuals and the community.

That finding highlights the dilemma facing public health experts: Societal changes in recent decades have helped spur growing waistlines, and now a third of U.S. children and teens and two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese. Today, restaurants dot more street corners and malls, regular-sized portions are larger, and a fast-food meal can be cheaper than healthier fare. Not to mention electronic distractions that slightly more people surveyed blamed for obesity than fast food.

In the current environment, it’s difficult to exercise that personal responsibility, said Jeff Levi of the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health, which has closely tracked the rise in obesity.

“We need to create environments where the healthy choice becomes the easy choice, where it’s possible for people to bear that responsibility,” he said.

The new poll suggests women, who have major input on what a family eats, recognize those societal and community difficulties more than men do.

More than half of women say the high cost of healthy food is a major driver of obesity, compared with just 37 percent of men. Women also are more likely than men to blame cheap fast food and to say that the food industry should bear a lot of responsibility for helping to find solutions.

Patricia Wilson, 53, of rural Speedwell, Tenn., says she must drive 45 minutes to reach a grocery store — passing numerous burger and pizza joints, with more arriving every year.

“They shouldn’t be letting all these fast-food places go up,” said Wilson, who nags her children and grandchildren to eat at home and watch their calories. She recalls how her own overweight grandmother lost both her legs and then her life to diabetes.

More than 80 percent of people in the AP-NORC poll said they had easy access to supermarkets, but just as many could easily get fast food. Another 68 percent said it was easy for kids to purchase junk food on their way to school, potentially foiling diet-conscious caregivers like Wilson, who doesn’t allow her grandchildren to eat unhealthy snacks at home.

“If they say they’re hungry, they get regular food,” she said.

Food is only part of the obesity equation; physical activity is key too. About 7 in 10 people said it was easy to find sidewalks or paths for jogging, walking or bike-riding. But 63 percent found it difficult to run errands or get around without a car, reinforcing a sedentary lifestyle.

James Gambrell, 27, of Springfield, Ore., said he pays particular attention to diet and exercise because obesity runs in his family. He makes a point of walking to stores and running errands on foot two to three times a week.

But Gambrell, a fast-food cashier, said he eats out at least once a day because of the convenience and has changed his order at restaurants that already have begun posting calorie counts. He’s all for the government pushing those kinds of solutions.

“I feel that it’s a part of the government’s responsibility to care for its citizens and as such should attempt to set regulations for restaurants that are potentially harmful to its citizens,” he said.

On the other side is Pamela Dupuis, 60, of Aurora, Colo., who said she has struggled with weight and has been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. She doesn’t want the government involved in things like calorie-counting.

“They should stay out of our lives,” she said.

The AP-NORC Center survey was conducted Nov. 21 through Dec. 14. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,011 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.


Associated Press writer Stacy A. Anderson and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

Grammy Award Winning Percussionist, Forrest Robinson, Visited UTC

By Tia Kalmon

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop) – UTC alum and Grammy Award winning percussionist, Forrest Robinson, gave UTC a rhythm to drum and a West African beat when he came to visit Monday.

“I have a love music. If there is no music industry around, I’m still going to love music,” Robinson said.

Click here to listen to the story about Forrest Robinson

He performed many original pieces that gave him a standing ovation. Robinson ended the night with a bang, performing with the UTC Percussion Ensemble directed by Dr. Monte Coulter. Robinson concluded the ensemble with a drum solo, complete with twirling drum sticks in between beats.

Robinson conveyed a love of Chattanooga and a remembrance of friends as he called to a couple of audience members by name.

“The main thing that I wanted to bring here tonight was that everyone here sees Chattanooga as a very special city with special gifts with a lot of talented people and there’s a whole lot to learn anywhere and everywhere including Chattanooga,” Robinson said.

Robinson said he expressed his love for music at a very young age, beating on pots and pans to find that perfect rhythm.

“Music from its onset which was literally since I was a baby, it exists in a way that let me know that there is something much bigger than me out there that is just really beautiful and it literally helps my outlook on life,” Robinson said.

Robinson left Chattanooga in 1994. He has made a name for himself as a renowned drummer and pianist performing with names like India Arie, Victor Wooten, Joe Sample, TLC, Arrested Development, Hikaru Ataka, The Crusaders and many others. He has traveled the world as a musical performer and recording artist playing live on “The Opera Winfrey Show,” “Saturday Night Live,” and “Live with Regis and Kelly” to just name a few.

“People like Forrest Robinson and songs like this with people with their heart in it like this, really do give it the character, kind of returning back to the soul,” Jarod Soltis, a senior percussion player from Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn. said.