Category Archives: Newspaper Opinion Columns by Deborah Levine

Opinion Columns by Deborah Levine originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Our Fall Creek Falls Challenge – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Your may think that the cost overrun for the Fall Creek inn is a state budget issue is just a dollars and cents issue. You’re probably annoyed that you’re paying for the extra $11 million with your tax dollars. Those overruns pushed the replacement cost from $29.4 to $40.4 million and pushed the completion date from 2020 to 2021. Was it an accident that increased the damage? Were mistakes made and now you’re stuck paying the bill to clean up the mess? The answer should get your attention, and keep it.

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Call terrorism by its name – by Deborah Levine

It was painful waking up to the news that suicide bombers in Sri Lanka had targeted hotels and churches during Easter services. Hundreds of people were killed and hundreds more were injured. At first, officials pointed to the perpetrators as a local group of radical Islamists espousing a terrorist ideology. Then they announced that international connections had helped design the attacks. At this point, Sri Lanka shut down online social networks, a move that would limit conspiracy theories, copy cat attempts, and violent revenge attempts. Was the ban prompted by guilt that warnings had been ignored, or by the experience days before in Paris?

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Women, Guns, but No Roses – by Deborah Levine

(Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Years ago, I sat on a bench in a neighborhood park watching my toddler play in the sandbox. A young woman sat down next to me and commented on how adorable my sweetie was. No better way to get a young mother talking than that. So after trading a few more comments on my two-year old, I asked her if she lived near the park like me. Her answer startled me, “I’m officially homeless as of 8 am this morning.”

I turned and stared at her. “I called the police to tell them that my boyfriend was threatening me with a gun. They came immediately, but instead of arresting him, they told me to leave the apartment because I was agitating him.” Smiling at my confusion, she showed me a black-and-blue mark on her arm and said, “How do you think I got this?” Then she said that the police advised her she to never go back because they couldn’t guarantee her safety. “It’s my apartment, under my name, I furnished it and pay the rent! I should at least be able to get my clothes. ” I couldn’t think of anything to say as she wandered off muttering, “I need to find a shelter somewhere.”

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Hijacked by Hate – by Deborah Levine

(Originally published as an opinion column for The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

No PR firm could have rocketed the new Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar onto the national scene as quickly as her comments on Israel, Jews, and pay-offs. Congress’ debate on how to censure her use of centuries old stereotypes ended with a general denouncement of hate groups, but she remained front and center. I saw Congress’ official response to Omar’s words as a wishy-washy, no-brainer attempt to avoid a statement regarding Israelis and Palestinians. They should be able to do more than echo the Month Python joke, “Run Away! Run Away!”

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Everything Old is New Again – by Deborah Levine

(Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

“I can’t be that old!” I muttered when I saw the latest cover of my Harvard alumni magazine. It commemorated the year 1969, fifty years ago, with the phrase “Time of Turmoil”. The article explains how “The images of that time remain vivid for those who lived through it…” They’re more than vivid for me. The campus turned into Protest Alley and tear gas rose up from the streets. There were Civil Rights marches and demonstrations and students demanding African-American studies. There was a blossoming Women’s Liberation Movement as the women’s college Radcliffe merged with Harvard. Today’s activists use similar strategies of marches, signs, and slogans, but with an internet megaphone.

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Bigger is Better is Over – by Deborah Levine

(originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

The day of the Bigger the Better came to an epic crash when Amazon pulled out of a deal to build its new headquarters in Queens, a borough outside of New York City. The huge investment was going to result in 25,000 new jobs and millions, if not billions, in new tax revenue to support schools, housing, and infrastructure. But the $3 billion dollars in tax breaks was controversial and local objections meant that Amazon activated its ‘Run Away’ mode.

Like anyone who’s spent years working in Manhattan, I know that New Yorkers’ protests can be loud, insistent, and downright aggressive. That’s why Frank Sinatra sang about New York, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” Was Amazon unprepared or just annoyed by the New York normal? Its abrupt exit shocked New Yorkers and prompted NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio to say, “Amazon couldn’t handle the heat” and the debacle was an “abuse of corporate power.” The incident prompted political diatribes, tweets, and cartoons galore, but little understanding of the key issues at stake.

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Embrace our Local-Global Connections – by Deborah Levine

(Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

The recent kerfuffle involving Chinese graduate students speaking in their native language during a break at Duke University underscores our growing hostility towards internationals. The head of a master’s program urged the students to speak and practice English 100%. Even if it’s just private conversations in Chinese, she worried that they’d be overheard and discriminated against for not speaking English. As the controversy exploded, she stepped down as program head while Duke reassured its international students that they were valued.

International students make up 14% of Duke’s class of 2021 and are a substantial revenue source for the university’s revenue, like many of our higher education institutions. It’s not surprising that Duke respects these students’ contribution to their ongoing existence. The university chose not to buy into the current fear and loathing of anything foreign that generates suspicion, dislike, and even violence. There is little to be gained in allowing the negative trends to overcome common sense and the common good.

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Let America Eat Again – by Deborah Levine

(Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

The partial shutdown that President Trump and two branches of government agreed to lift temporarily left thousands of families with no income, with many forced to work without a paycheck, relying on reimbursement in the vague future. Their unemployment and indentured servitude has put a spotlight on their need for the basics of survival. The idea of these families going hungry has affected all of us and the impact is growing. It’s impressive that people are helping them with donations, restaurants are serving free meals, and food pantries are gearing up for waves of new clients. Let’s hope that the generosity and humanity currently on display remains alive and well after the resolution of the shutdown.

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Elephant in the room: Suicide – by Deborah Levine

(Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Of the top stories summing up 2018 and predictions for 2019, few mentioned the escalating rate of suicide. Adjusted for age, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, the highest rate recorded in 28 years. Yet, despite about 129 suicides per day across the country, the topic remains in the shadows.

You may think that Tennessee is an exception, but we have twice as many suicides than homicides. With a suicide rate well above the national average, suicide is the tenth cause of death in our state. Tennessee averages one suicide every eight hours. And the situation continually worsens. The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network reports that suicide deaths have steadily increased over the last 35 years since they’ve been monitoring suicide.

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Yummy or Yucky – by Deborah Levine

(originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

We struggle to resist the temptation minute to minute this time of year. It begins with Halloween candy and proceeds to Thanksgiving dinner, exploding with holiday eating extravaganzas with the year’s tastiest foods. By the New Year, the scale shows our over-indulgence. It’s no coincidence that 12% of gym members join in January.

Maybe this year we’ll wake up to the fact that 30 million Americans suffer from the obesity-related disease of diabetes. Did you know that the ten states with the highest rates of type 2 diabetes are here in the South?

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