Black talks expanding broadband, mental health during campaign visit to Johnson City

Zach Vance • Updated Jun 26, 2018 at 11:31 PM

As a registered nurse, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, a Republican front-runner to become Tennessee’s next governor, tries to find the root cause when solving any particular problem or issue.

If she proves victorious and becomes Tennessee’s first woman governor, you can foresee Black, a fervent supporter of President Donald Trump, using that same approach while governing.

Black’s campaign made a brief stop in Johnson City Tuesday to discuss getting to the root of some of Tennessee’s problems, including enhancing its infrastructure, a topic of importance affecting all three grand divisions of the state.

“I think the things that are common, there seems to be a need for infrastructure all the way across the state,” Black said.

“It may be a little different in Middle Tennessee than what it is here in Upper East Tennessee, but infrastructure is important. And when I speak of infrastructure, beside roads, I’m talking about broadband. It’s very important.”

Black said broadband is no longer “just a pleasure,” but in today’s technological age, it’s becoming a necessity to have high-speed internet, whether it’s for enhancing education or luring economic development.

“What I found that’s so interesting is that when I was in a little rural area in Dickson County, I was meeting with some retired folks. I asked them, ‘What would you say is the most important thing for you?’ They said, ‘broadband,’ and I said, ‘Seriously? Why?’ and it was very interesting,” Black said.

“As a retired person, they said that’s a way for us to look at our retirement accounts, to look at our Social Security, telemedicine is very important, connectivity for their children and grandchildren. So it’s important all the way across the spectrum, from those kids in school that need it for education, to our businesses and to our seniors.”

With the state recently allowing municipalities to provide broadband services within their jurisdictions, Black called it a great move.

“I have also met with those service providers, like AT&T, to say, ‘Look, if you’re not willing to (provide high-speed internet) in the areas that you already have as your service area ... then we’re going to find a way to make that happen,” Black said.

“It’s not just the legislature that I’m going to meet with. I’m going to meet with the service providers and say let’s get around the table and acknowledge that there needs to be a way to get this done. Now, is that a public-private partnership, is that a change in the code, what is it that gets us there.”

Black talked about increasing mental health resources as a way to combat the recent string of violence, particularly mass shootings, in schools.

“I’m going back to root cause again because that’s always where I always go when I look at a problem. What we’re missing in this conversation right now is why we’re seeing what we’re seeing,” Black said.

“It’s about mental illness and until we address that, we can never make our schools completely safe. I believe that we ought to listen more to our students, our teachers and our counselors that when they see something they think is occurring, they can take action. ... I want to empower our students, teachers and counselors that when they see something, they say something. ... That mental health issue will lead people to a dark place if we don’t address it.”

During a May listening session with ministers at Safe Harbor in Clarksville, Black cited a decline in family support systems and a rise in access to pornography, which comes mostly via the internet now, as one of the “root causes” of school shootings.

“Pornography, it’s available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store. Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there’s pornography there," Black was recorded saying, according to a tape obtained by The Tennessean.

"All of this is available without parental guidance. And I think that is a big part of the root cause that we see so many young people that have mental illness get caught in these places."

Black is being challenged by Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Williamson County businessman Bill Lee in the Aug. 2 Republican primary for governor.





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