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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for September 19, 2023


All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.


We start with local news…

Shooting Incident (Press Release)

On September 16th the Columbia police department responded to a shooting incident involving a large group which had gathered in the 800 block of Woodland Street. Officers were on scene as gunfire began to be exchanged between individuals on both sides of the street. Officers detained 20-year-old Te’Kwantarius Dion Johnson who they witnessed firing a handgun in the crowd. Several vehicles and structures nearby were struck by gunfire, but there have been no reports of any person being shot during this incident. One individual sustained a non-life-threatening injury when he was struck by a vehicle as it fled the scene. All other persons involved fled the scene and have not yet been identified.

Te’Kwantanrius Dion Johnson was charged with attempted first-degree murder and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and is being held at the Maury Count Sheriff’s Department.

This investigation is ongoing and additional arrests may be forthcoming.

Any person with additional information that may assist in this investigation is encouraged to contact the Criminal Investigations Division of Columbia Police Department at 931-560-1670, Maury County Crimestoppers at 931-381-4900, or Columbia Police SAFE Tip Email to SAFETips@ColumbiaTN.Com.


GM Poised to Strike (Tennessean)

A third-generation union worker, Telisa Sangster has called the General Motors plant in Spring Hill her home for 15 years.

She takes pride in its legacy.

A tradition that is now at stake.

Sangster is one of more than 3,000 United Auto Workers members at the plant working under an expired contract. They continue to work while anticipating phone calls and texts that could add them to a strike that has garnered national attention.

On Friday morning, about 13,000 of the union's 150,000 members were involved in what the movement is calling the "Stand up Strike" — a sequel to the 1937 "Sit-Down Strike" which was considered the first major labor dispute in the U.S. auto industry. Workers in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri spent the day on the picket lines.

Spring Hill could be among the next plants to strike if a deal isn't reached with automakers GM, Ford and Stellantis.

At the forefront of the dispute are core issues such as pay and cost of living increases.

"We do our best to build world class vehicles, engines and components," Sangster said. "Based on our J.D. Power scores, it has been accomplished on multiple occasions.

"I support my union leadership's decision. And I pray GM does what's right."

The strike occurs after one month of negotiations failed late Thursday night with GM, Ford and Stellantis, workers, who responded by walking out of assembly plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri.

Vanderbilt finance professor Josh White said UAW is showing strength to leverage wins from recent collective-bargaining contracts for UPS and airline pilots. In those deals, unionized workers received significant raises.

"I anticipate the negotiations will unfold prominently in the public eye, which is a tactic unions employ to put pressure on executives," White said.

"I fear that pushing for a steep raise could backfire, prompting companies to relocate production to areas with lower costs or to ramp up automation — both strategies potentially leading to diminished workforce at unionized plants over the long run."

GM CEO Mary Barra said Friday in an interview on "CBS Mornings" the union's demands are unreasonable and would cost more than $100 billion.

The company's offer includes a "record" overall wage increase and strong health benefits, Barra said.

"We've been at the table since July 18," Barra added. "We received over 1,000 demands. We have a historic offer on the table, and we're at the table right now ready to keep going."

In turn, UAW spokesperson Brian Costantino said workers nationwide are ready for action in lieu of more concessions.

Until that call comes, Costantino said Spring Hill workers continue producing around 700 vehicles per day with an expired contract.

But, he emphasized, everything is in place for a strike. And the more than 3,000 workers in Spring Hill are "fired up" and fed up. Contract negotiations have stalled as demands for cost-of-living increases continue.

"The average new hire starts at $16.67 an hour," Costantino said. "They would have to work for 3 years straight to make what our GM CEO makes in a single day."

Said Sangster: "The wage disparities and retirement benefits between us and our CEO is embarrassing."

UAW strike pay is about $500 per week and is available about a week after action initiates.

President Joe Biden weighed in on the dispute Friday, citing record profits for auto companies in recent years.

"Those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers," Biden said. "Strong unions are critical for a growing economy. That's especially true as we transition to a clean-energy future, which we're in the process of doing."

Negotiations have been a belabored process since union demands were submitted in July and August. Counter proposals have been underwhelming, Costantino said.

On Sept. 7, the guild responded to GM's contract offer.

"After refusing to bargain in good faith for the past six weeks, only after having federal labor board charges filed against them, GM has come to the table with an insulting proposal that doesn’t come close to an equitable agreement for America’s autoworkers," UAW President Shawn Fain said.

Costantino believes the big three automakers want a strike.

"The Big three delayed everything till the last minute," he said. "They have not met our demands as they continue to give insulting proposals."

But, while pilots and UPS workers recently prevailed after contentious contract disputes, White said autoworkers may have a harder time getting demands met because of the high cost of transitioning to electric vehicle technology.

Cheaper, non-unionized labor in southern states and Mexico has increasingly drawn automakers away from the Midwest as they cut costs to accelerate EV technologies.

"In the case of UAW, the high demand for new vehicles comes with the caveat of already elevated labor costs for heavily unionized companies such as Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler," White said. "While these firms operate with high labor expenses, competitors have capitalized on cheaper, non-unionized labor. Shareholders will be looking for cost cutting in other areas of the business to offset these investments, which is the opposite of what the unions seek."

Costantino said the transition to electric is seeing both job creation and job loss due to new technologies, but that the union will prevail.

"The UAW isn't going anywhere," Costantino said. "In fact, it's growing with the installation of a new Ford plant near Memphis. Unions are needed now more than ever for the working class, and we will be leaders on that front."


Center for Profitable Agriculture (WKOM Audio 5:17)

Yesterday, the University of Tennessee’s Center for Profitable Agriculture celebrated their 25th anniversary at Farm Bureau Headquarters. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the event and learned more about what the Center does for Tennessee Agriculture…


Center of Hope Opens SAFE Clinic (CDH)

For the past 34 years, Center of Hope has served as a beacon for safety and support for victims of sexual and domestic violence, and now celebrates its brand-new SAFE clinic.

The SAFE clinic, which means Sexual Assault Forensic Exam, will focus primarily on rape victims, providing access to kits and other medical needs. Center of Hope Director Cindy Sims said this new clinic will not only help expand the services the nonprofit currently provides, but is another resource for victims to go to for support, care and, above all, a means to a better future.

"This is a free rape clinic, and something that's been a long time coming," Sims said. "One-in-six females and one-in-13 males experience rape in their lifetime, and so a place like this is absolutely necessary."

Center of Hope, along with the Maury County Chamber of Commerce and other community leaders, celebrated the new clinic's opening Thursday with a ceremonial ribbon cutting. The ceremony also included comments from city officials like Mayor Chaz Molder, Vice Mayor Randy McBroom, as well as Columbia Police Chief Jeremy Alsup and other first-responder representatives.

"Center of Hope has been such an important part of our community for a number of years now, and what I love is that they are continuing to look for ways to improve their services and expand what they have to offer," Molder said. "This SAFE clinic is a great example of that, providing a space for women and men who have been sexually abused. It's a resource we would not have in this community without the Center of Hope's efforts."

Patients who visit the SAFE clinic will be treated by a specially-trained nurse.

The exams, as well as Center of Hope's other services, are also provided free of charge.

"The word that sticks out to me when it comes to a place like this is 'compassion,' and we can certainly use more of that today, compassion for people," McBroom said. "This is a great partnership."

Anyone wishing to use the clinic, or for more information may call Center of Hope's 24-hour hotline at (855) 465-4652 or visit www.CenterofHopeTN.org.


Columbia Academy Foot Races (WKOM Audio 2:00)

Columbia Academy hosted an elementary school 1-mile cross country footrace for area private school students. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy stopped by to watch the competition and speak to some of the folks at the event...


And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Mr. Jerry Lee Bell, 77, former resident of Columbia and former inspector for Union Carbide, died Friday at Savannah Health Care & Rehab Center in Savannah, Tennessee.

Funeral services will be conducted Thursday at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.


Mrs. Bobbie Claire Johnson Jones, 88, Retired L.P.N. for Maury Regional Medical Center and resident of Columbia, died Saturday, September 16, 2023 at NHC Columbia.

No services are scheduled at this time. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements and condolences may be extended online at www.oakesandnichols.com.


…And now, news from around the state…

Williamson County Tourism Big Draw (WIlliamsonHomepage)

Visitors to Williamson County spent a record amount of nearly $1.2 billion in 2022 according to a release from Visit Franklin.

Tourists spent more than 14 percent more than they did in 2021 according to data compiled by the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics and released by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. The billion-dollar number also tops spending from pre-pandemic economic data benchmarks.

Williamson County ranks number six out of the 95 counties in Tennessee for visitor spending, and only those top six counties surpassed $1 billion in direct spending. The county also set a new record with 1.9 million visitors in 2022 according to data by DK Shifflet – meaning visitors spent an average of $3.28 million per day in Williamson County.

That spending generated $80.5 million in state and $49.3 million in local tax revenues. The Visit Franklin release cites tourism tax revenue as a reason that each household in the county is paying $1,522 less in taxes.

"Tourism continues to be a tremendous asset to our entire county," said Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson in the release. "The revenues generated by visitors to our county allow us to keep taxes on our local residents and businesses lower, which we can all appreciate."

The hospitality industry in particular saw an 11 percent increase over 2021 and accounted for more than 8,300 jobs. Spending on hotels and lodging increased to 41 percent with $92.1 million in visitor spending. But, food and beverage actually brought in the most amount with more than $111 million earned from visitors, an increase of 11 percent. Recreational spending was up almost 21 percent, transportation increased by 17 percent and retail was 5 percent over 2021 numbers.

"The positive trend in visitor spending and the incredible benefit that brings to residents of our county is poised to continue through 2023 and beyond," current Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau board chair and general manager of the Hilton Brentwood Nashville Suites, Tom Rybak, said in the release. "As residents, we are all thankful for the tax savings provided by visitors choosing to spend their travel dollars here, and the increased tourism amenities like Southall, improvements to the Factory at Franklin, and more, which are all great benefits that residents can be proud of and enjoy too."

The release also noted funds collected through lodging tax is distributed to participating cities for tourism capital projects and contribute to the county’s general fund.


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