August 2016 Commission Report

Debt workshop
A special commission meeting was called for the purpose of discussing debt refinancing options.  The county has $79,435,000 in outstanding par for the Series 2013B general obligation refunding bonds.  The 3 year note for this series will expire in December.  Thus, the commission will soon need to make a decision on how to refinance this debt.

There are 4 interest rate swaps with Deutsche Bank associated with this variable rate debt.  The cost to terminate the swaps is high.  It changes frequently.  You can view the monthly swap reports in the monthly budget packets online.  The most recent swap report, found in the July 11, 2016 Budget Committee packet, shows a mark to market value of $14,912,989.89 on June 29, 2016.  See page 287.  The value given at the workshop, as of July 11, 2016 was $15.2M.

The cost to terminate the swaps is negotiable.  According the county’s advisor, Public Financial Management (PFM), Deutsche Bank (DB) has not been willing to negotiate significant savings in the past.  However, due to a recent drops in the credit ratings, DB is more willing to negotiate.  Now may be a good time to terminate these swaps.

This meeting was much more useful in terms of options than the meeting called last October.  The presentation given in October gave 3 variations of keeping 20% variable rate debt in place.  This 3 options given this month include two which would refund every callable maturity (2004A, 2004B, 2005, 2011, 2013B, B-16-A, B-17-A & B-10-A) and one option to refund $39M of variable rate debt.  The county has other series of debt that can be refinanced at lower interest rates.  These series would be included in refinancing scenarios A and C that were presented to us.

Option C appears to be the best option because it eliminates all variable rate debt, terminates all swaps and has the county paying debt at a more consistent level than option A which also eliminates the variable rate and terminates the swaps.  This reduces the risk to the county and we would know exactly what we owe in terms of debt.  The county currently has about $11M in fund balance.  Option C would use $5M of this fund balance, leaving the county with about $6M in debt service fund balance.

It is my hope that the commission votes to approve option C or something similar when it is presented to us in the near future.

Commission meeting
Spending increases
There were several spending increases and all were approved.  This commission has shown that it will approve nearly every spending request put before it.

The biggest spending request came from the schools and was more than all the other requests combined.  The schools requested a $1,639,000 million increase for the General Purpose Schools Fund.  $397,000 of this request will be funded with a projected increase in sales tax revenue.  After a big property tax increase last year, closer attention should be paid to the other sources of revenue such as the sales tax before levying such a huge property tax rate increase.  The property tax payers may have been hit harder than necessary.

Last month the budget request failed to even get a motion to send it to the commission but this month it passed.  The request was the same as last month.

Animal shelter budget now over double the actual budget of 6 years ago
The animal shelter requested a budget increase of $33,054 to pay 2 part time people to clean the animal shelter after losing inmate labor when the state pulled the TDOC felons from the local jail.  I purposed using donation money given to the animal shelter to fund these two positions temporarily until the changes in jail population had been worked out.  That amendment failed.  The requested increase could have been funded without any use of tax dollars.

From Deena Finley the Accounting Manager:

“To Commission,

To follow up on the questions from August 19, 2016 Commission meeting:

Item F.3 – Resolution No. 16-08-008

In regard to donations for the Animal Center, the amount I reported at the meeting was the Total Non-SMACF donations collected for Fiscal years 2011 through 2016.  Please see below.

Fiscal Year     Donations Collected

10-11           32,862.58
11-12           25,144.32
12-13           16,253.20
13-14           8,202.09
14-15           13,867.31
15-16           76,192.09
Total           172,521.59

The amount of Committed Donations as of 6/30/2015 (account 101-346300 – Committed for Public Health & Welfare) was $16,069.40 and from above collections Year-to-Date of $76,192.09 which means the value of Committed Donations at 6/30/2016 should equal the sum total of $92,261.49, subject to Audit.”

Labor of the animal shelter isn’t limited to those serving sentences in the jail.  There are about 1800 on county probation and 700 people on state probation.  This is a large number of people to look to for help in the animal shelter.

Animal shelter spending was originally budgeted to be up 86%, compared to 6 years ago when the mayor took office.  With the budget amendment, the amended budget is now more than double what the actual budget was when Mayor Ed Mitchell took office.

FY Actual Budget SMACF Donations Original Budget Amended Budget
2007 $131,849 $138,349 $138,349
2008 $102,846 $148,349 $138,349
2009 $124,142 $138,349 $138,349
2010 $157,459 $135,826 $203,326
2011 $223,941 $414,806 $414,806
2012 $263,901 $361,710 $361,710
2013 $272,685 $330,419 $330,419
2014 $320,388 $330,407 $327,310
2015 $322,742 $76,139 $342,931 $355,426
2016 $371,126 $180,400 $407,727 $415,217
2017 $182,090 $417,315 $450,369

2007-2014 data is from state CAFRs
2015-2017 is data from the county’s website
2016 data is subject to change as budget is finalized
2017 data is budgeted amounts not actual amounts

There was a request to spend $195,000 of the Drug Control fund balance.  The only explanation given was to buy needed equipment and there was no date on the budget request.  That is a lot of money that will be spent without any details given for the use of the funds.

Half way point
The end of this month marks the half way point of this commission term.  As I look back over the past two years, I think the best thing this commission did was refinance $20,165,000 in variable rate debt and the swap attached to it to fixed rate debt.  Creating the school capital fund, providing funds that don’t have to be split with the cities to fix leaking roofs is another good thing.

The large property tax increase after an increase in the local option sales tax may have been the worst thing this commission has done.  The unwillingness to hear from the jail consultant while approving an RFQ to seek design services for the jail doesn’t make good sense or good public policy.

What I’d like to see over the next two years is for the county to go to completely fixed rate debt with more debt service money going to principal.  I’d like for the commission to take a look at the county’s land use regulations, particularly zoning which is too easily manipulated for the benefit of the few.  The Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) should meet to actually discuss the needs of the criminal justice system rather than just meeting a few times a year to appease the state for certification that means very little.  Critical decisions that should have been fully discussed through the BCCP are going to be made through the Purchasing Department.  Additionally, the commission should look at the over $1 million that is given to the Industrial Development Board and the approximately $1.6 million in hotel/motel tax money given to the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority.  Both of these entities serve special interests with crony deals.  These monies could be put to better use by paying down the enormous county debt.

What would you like to see your county government do during the next two years?

Why do traffic deaths fall in recessions? Dangerous drivers drive less

http://www.thecarconnection.com/news/1105825_why-do-traffic-deaths-fall-in-recessions-dangerous-drivers-drive-less

http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx
2006 US Death rate per mile 1.42 Total Deaths 42,708 Miles Driven 3.014 Trillion
2007 US Death rate per mile 1.36 Total Deaths 41,259 Miles Driven 3.031 Trillion
2008 US Death rate per mile 1.26 Total deaths 37,423 Miles Driven 2.977 Trillion
2009 US Death rate per mile 1.15 Total deaths 33,883 Miles Driven 2.957 Trillion
2010 US Death rate per mile 1.11 Total deaths 32,999 Miles Driven 2.967 Trillion
2011 US Death rate per mile 1.10 Total deaths 32,479 Miles Driven 2.950 Trillion
2012 US Death rate per mile 1.14 Total deaths 33,782 Miles Driven 2.969 Trillion
2013 US Death rate per mile 1.10 Total deaths 32,894. Miles Driven 2.988 Trillion
2014 US Death rate per mile 1.08 Total deaths 32,675 Miles Driven 3.026 Trillion
Fatality rate is per 100 million miles traveled

The Right Lessons from Obamacare’s Meltdown

By Ron Paul

The decision of several major insurance companies to cut their losses and withdraw from the Obamacare exchanges, combined with the failure of 70 percent of Obamacare’s health insurance “co-ops, ” will leave one in six Obamacare enrollees with only one health insurance option. If Obamacare continues on its current track, most of America may resemble Pinal County, Arizona, where no one can obtain private health insurance. Those lucky enough to obtain insurance will face ever-increasing premiums and a declining choice of providers.

Many Obamacare supporters claimed that the exchanges created a market for health insurance that would allow consumers to benefit from competition. But allowing consumers to pick from a variety of government-controlled health insurance plans is not a true market; instead it is what the great economist Ludwig von Mises called “playing market.”

Unfortunately, if not surprisingly, too many are drawing the wrong lessons from Obamacare’s difficulties. Instead of calling for a repeal of Obamacare and all other government interference in the health care market, many are calling for increased penalties on those who defy Obamacare’s individual mandate in order to force them onto the exchanges. Others are renewing the push for a “public option,” forcing private companies to compete with taxpayer-funded entities and easing the way for the adoption of a Canadian-style single payer system.

Even those working to restore individual control over health care via tax deductions, credits, and expanded health savings accounts still support government intervention in order to provide a “safety net” for the poor. Of course, everyone — including libertarians — shares the goal of creating a safety net. Libertarians just understand that a moral and effective safety net is one voluntarily provided by individuals, religious organizations, and private charities.

Government has no legitimate authority to take money from taxpayers to fund health care or any other type of welfare program. Government-run health care also does not truly serve the interest of those supposedly “benefiting” from the program. Anyone who doubts this should consider how declining reimbursements and increasing bureaucracy is causing more doctors to refuse to treat Medicaid and Medicare patients.

Medicaid patients will face increasing hardships when, not if, the US government’s fiscal crisis forces Congress to make spending cuts. When the crisis comes, what is more likely to be cut first: spending benefiting large corporations and big banks that can deploy armies of high-powered lobbyists, or spending benefiting low-income Americans who cannot afford K Street representation?

Contrary to myth, low-income individuals did not go without care in the days before the welfare state. Private, charity-run hospitals staffed by volunteers provided a safety net for those who could not afford health care. Most doctors also willingly provided free or reduced-price care for those who needed it. The large amount of charitable giving and volunteer activity in the United States shows that the American people do not need government’s help in providing an effective safety net.

The problems plaguing the health care system are rooted in the treatment of health care as a “right.” This justifies government intervention in the health care marketplace. This intervention causes increasing prices and declining quality and supply. Ironically, those who suffer most from government intervention are the very people proponents of these programs claim to want to help. The first step in restoring a health care system that meets the needs of all people is to start treating health care as a good that can and should only be provided via voluntary actions of free people.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2016/august/28/the-right-lessons-from-obamacares-meltdown/

10th amendment goes out the window when federal money is on the line

Tennessee could lose federal funding because it doesn’t have a law on the books that complies with a federal rule concerning the blood alcohol level of those between 18 and 20.

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2016/08/26/tennessee-attorney-general-joins-fight-save-road-funds/89421304/

School bus safety

From the National Motorist Association
August 21, 2016

This month, our children and grandchildren will be going back to school after a long summer of fun and vacation.  Many of those kids will be riding a school bus.

Did you know that riding a school bus is the safest way for a child to go to school? In fact, riding a school bus is 8x safer than riding in cars to school.  In the U.S. alone, 450,000 public school buses travel 4.3 billion miles per year to transport 23.5 million children each school day.

School transportation fatalities are rare.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics between the years 2004-2014, only 1344 fatalities occurred related to school transportation. This number accounted for just 0.40 percent of the total number of annual traffic fatalities during this ten-year period.

NMA Foundation Board Executive Director James Walker analyzed the NHTSA statistics for school transportation related crashes and concluded that the biggest safety concern for children getting on and off the bus is the bus driver.  Every child fatality of course is tragic but when you look at the numbers, there is a totally different picture that emerges.

Years for each 10 years School Transportation Related Crashes Under Age 19 Child Pedestrian Fatalities caused by passing vehicles Under Age 19 Child Pedestrian Fatalities caused by school buses Total Under Age 19 Child Pedestrian Fatalities by passing vehicles and school buses
1999-2008 36 Fatalities (24%) 113 Fatalities (76%) 149 Fatalities
2000-2009 35 Fatalities (27%)   95 Fatalities (73%) 130 Fatalities
2001-2010 32 Fatalities (26%)   91 Fatalities (74%) 123 Fatalities
2002-2011 35 Fatalities (28%)   88 Fatalities (72%) 123 Fatalities
2003-2012 36 Fatalities (30%)   83 Fatalities (70%) 119 Fatalities
2004-2013 38 Fatalities (33%)   78 Fatalities (67%) 116 Fatalities
2005-2014 40 Fatalities (36%)   71 Fatalities (64%) 111 Fatalities

An average of 36 children per EACH 10 year – 29 percent of School Transportation (bus) related crashes – were victims of passing vehicles over the 1999 to 2014 period while 88, or 71 percent were killed by accidents involving the school bus. The ten-year average per state works out to 0.72 children killed by passing cars and 1.77 by school buses.

If school bus cameras prevented 50 percent of the under age 19 child pedestrian fatalities caused by passing vehicles, it would take 27.78 years to prevent one fatality in an average state (per state).

The school bus stop laws in the United States and Canada are usually based on 11-705 of the 1992 Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC).  The code states the following:

UVC 11-705(a) The driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus that meets the color and identification requirements of 12-222(a)* , (b) and (c) of this code stopped on the highway shall stop before reaching such school bus when there is in operation on said school bus the flashing red lights specified in 12-222(a) and said driver shall not proceed until such school bus resumes motion or the flashing red lights are no longer actuated.

* A school bus is painted National School Bus Glossy Yellow in the United States and similarly in Canada. Signs in the front and rear top center read SCHOOL BUS (AUTOBUS SCOLAIRE or ECOLIERS in French Canada). Its front and rear ends usually has alternately flashing lights with 2 red lamps at top corners and 2 yellow (amber) lamps near red lamps at the same level but closer to the vertical central line of the bus. It often has an octagon red stop arm on the left.

There are some variations state-to-state with regards to stopping distance from the school bus and some state laws indicate what kind of road (divided highway or not) that a motorist would be required to stop. Penalties vary widely and range from driver’s license suspensions and fines to jail time.

What is needed to help keep our kids safe?

Education of course. Comprehensive drivers’ education for all students and continuing education for more mature drivers would be a start. Thorough bus driver training by school districts will go a long way in helping keep kids safe. Thorough safety training for students, kindergarten through high school on how to cross streets, safety inside and outside the school bus also has to be part of the safety equation.

What we don’t need – school bus cameras that cost between $3000 to $8000 per bus and pushing penalties on drivers while doing nothing to improve safety for all school children.

Source: https://www.motorists.org/alerts/how-safe-are-our-kids-getting-on-and-off-the-school-bus-nma-e-newsletter-397/

Use of cameras on local school buses

Regarding the money in the budget to buy cameras for school buses, I inquired about the use of the cameras.  From Troy Logan:

“We have not yet purchased cameras for the school buses.  We do have a budget of $81,400 and plan to purchase this fall.
These cameras will be used to monitor the activity on the interior of the bus, both student and driver.  They will not monitor traffic around the bus.

Thanks!”
Troy Logan
Blount County Schools
Fiscal Administrator

On Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 10:18 AM, <tona@breezeair.net> wrote:
Hi Troy,
Did the schools purchase cameras for the schools buses this year?

Is the purchase of the cameras to monitor traffic around the bus, what is happening inside the bus or both?
Thanks,
Tona

Justice Department: States Should Not Jail Poor People Over Fine Nonpayment

Tennessee trial court judges are the best paid in the nation after a cost of living adjustment while the taxpaying people of Tennessee don’t fare so well.  The General Sessions Courts in Blount County have the highest collection rate in the state for court costs.  Should court costs and fines collections be the standard measure of success?

A criminal justice system assessment look at Blount County’s use for the jail as a debtors prison.

From page 87 of the report:
“The answers to these two questions will be an indicator of how often the Blount Jail is being used as a debtors prison. Although federal imprisonment for unpaid debt has been illegal in the U.S. since 1833, this relic of the past has returned in a modern guise: probation violation. ILPP strongly finds that Blount Jail’s probation violation numbers are substantial enough, and the release of these people would ease or eliminate crowding and/or the need to build.

The federal government is taking a stronger stand on debtors prisons.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/department-justice-states-should-not-jailed-over-fine-nonpayment-n537796

The Blount County Corrections Partnership should be looking more in depth into the use of the jail to see if anything like this may be going on.

Purchasing Agent explains her duties when it suits the machine

Purchasing Agent Katie Branham is an attorney who came to the county with little relevant purchasing experience.  The citizens of this county are not being well served under her leadership because she is controlled and does what the machine wants.

One of the first things that she did was push to weaken the competitive sealed bid process.  She wrote the jail RFQ resolution but failed to include the word jail in the resolved portion of the resolution.  She presented the commission a contract for leasing cars without providing any comparison of buying verses leasing.  Now she is being selective in describing her duties and authority under state law.

At the April 8th Blount County Corrections Partnership meeting, Branham told the body that under the Purchasing Act of 1957 she could proceed with a request for qualifications (RFQ) to look at jail expansion and program services at the request of the Partnership.  She said that commission approval wasn’t necessary to issue the RFQ.

The commission approved a resolution to authorize the purchasing agent to do something that she said she could do without its authorization.  Why did Branham write a resolution to authorize herself to do something that she said she can do without commission approval?  Couldn’t she have used more accurate wording in the resolution that she wrote for the commission?

Blount County government needs to take a close look at the authority, under state law, of each office and position in county government.  The commission met to authorize the purchasing agent to do something that she said she could do without their approval.  Sheriff James Berrong told the commission at that meeting that the state prisoners were out of local control when state law says that counties don’t have to keep state felons with a continuous sentence of more than one year.  Furthermore at the same meeting, the sheriff said the federal inmates were his decision, while the Comptroller’s Office has said it is unaware of any specific state statute that says he can sign a contract to house federal inmates without commission approval.

Does anyone within the political machine of Blount County government understand their duties and authority under state law?  Commissioner Mike Caylor was so unaware at the BCCP meeting that he consulted the finance director, who told him that he had heard the same thing that the finance director heard.

Does Branham understand what she is doing?  When asked if 30 days would be enough time, she said that 30 days should be sufficient time for to issue the RFQ.  It took Mrs. Branham’s office 12 weeks to issue the RFQ.

I (Tona Monroe) was told that the US Marshals Service follows local purchasing procedures with federal inmate contracts.  Thus, I sought to find out what, if any, authority the local purchasing agent has related to contracting to house federal inmates.

Mrs. Branham won’t tell me if she has the authority to sign or execute a contract to house federal inmates.  She had no problem explaining her duties as she understands them under the state law when the machine asked for clarification.  Why the selective explanation of duties?  Unfortunately this is par for the course of questionable legal authority in Blount County government.

Sheriff Berrong said he doesn’t want to keep state prisoners and they’re only a good deal for the state

In April, Mayor Ed Mitchell called a special commission meeting for the sole purpose of the commission
voting to authorize the purchasing agent to issue a request for qualifications related to jail design and program services.  At that meeting, Sheriff James Lee Berrong said that he and his staff try to get rid of state prisoners every day, that is out of his control whether the state takes its prisoners, that he doesn’t want to keep the state prisoners and that the revenue the state sends the county is only a good deal for the state of Tennessee.

Direct quotes from Sheriff James Lee Berrong at the meeting include:

“We try every day to get rid of the state prisoners.  I don’t want to keep the state prisoners.”
“We make a request every single day.” (to get rid of state prisoners)
“Out of our control (state prisoners).  We get like $37.50 which is not a good deal for anybody other than the state.”

You can listen to the sheriff’s statements.

How do these statements compare to the sky is falling Chicken Little PR propaganda that we’re hearing now that the state actually removed many of its prisoners from the jail?

Which is the biggest tall tale: the mayor saying there has been no conversation about expanding the jail or the sheriff saying that he doesn’t want to keep state prisoners and tries to get rid of them every day?

Tennessee trial court judges are best paid in nation after cost of living adjustment

I’ve long maintained that government officials in Tennessee are making too much money and that the salaries are far too disproportionate to the salaries of the people paying their salaries.  During the past two budget discussions, I tried unsuccessfully to cut some of the top paid county officials salaries to the state mandated minimums.

A new survey shows that trial judges in Tennessee are the best paid in the nation after a cost of living adjustment.

Judicial salaries and rank among the states and Washington DC
High Court (Supreme Court) $182,508  12th
Intermediate Appellate Court $176,436  9th
General-Jurisdiction Court $170,352  9th  after cost of living adjustment 1st

Compare that to the taxpaying citizens for Tennessee.  Tennessee ranked 46th in 2014 for median household income at $43,716.

You can express your concerns to the Tennessee Generally Assembly.

sen.ken.yager@capitol.tn.gov, “Becky Massey” <sen.becky.massey@capitol.tn.gov>, “Bill Ketron” <sen.bill.ketron@capitol.tn.gov>, “Brian Kelsey” <sen.brian.kelsey@capitol.tn.gov>, “Doug Overbey” <sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov>, “Ed Jackson” <sen.ed.jackson@capitol.tn.gov>, “Frank Niceley” <sen.frank.niceley@capitol.tn.gov>, “Jack Johnson” <sen.jack.johnson@capitol.tn.gov>, “Janice Bowling” <sen.janice.bowling@capitol.tn.gov>, “Mae Beavers” <sen.mae.beavers@capitol.tn.gov>, “Mark Green” <sen.mark.green@capitol.tn.gov>, “Mark Norris” <sen.mark.norris@capitol.tn.gov>, lt.gov.ron.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov, “Steven Dickerson” <sen.steven.dickerson@capitol.tn.gov>, “Steve Southerland” <sen.steve.southerland@capitol.tn.gov>, sen.sara.kyle@capitol.tn.gov, “Richard Briggs” <sen.richard.briggs@capitol.tn.gov>, rep.raumesh.akbari@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.alexander@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.armstrong@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.beck@capitol.tn.gov, rep.harry.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kevin.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sheila.butt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kent.calfee@capitol.tn.gov, rep.karen.camper@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dale.carr@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.carter@capitol.tn.gov, rep.glen.casada@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.ray.clemmons@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jim.coley@capitol.tn.gov, rep.barbara.cooper@capitol.tn.gov, rep.martin.daniel@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.deberry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.barry.doss@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kevin.dunlap@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.dunn@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jimmy.eldridge@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jeremy.faison@capitol.tn.gov, rep.andrew.farmer@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joanne.favors@capitol.tn.gov, rep.craig.fitzhugh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.forgety@capitol.tn.gov, rep.brenda.gilmore@capitol.tn.gov, rep.tilman.goins@capitol.tn.gov, rep.marc.gravitt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.curtis.halford@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ga.hardaway@capitol.tn.gov, speaker.beth.harwell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.hawk@capitol.tn.gov, rep.patsy.hazlewood@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gary.hicks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.timothy.hill@capitol.tn.gov, rep.matthew.hill@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.holsclaw@capitol.tn.gov, rep.andy.holt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dan.howell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bud.hulsey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jamie.jenkins@capitol.tn.gov, rep.darren.jernigan@capitol.tn.gov, rep.curtis.johnson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sherry.jones@capitol.tn.gov, rep.roger.kane@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kelly.keisling@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sabi.kumar@capitol.tn.gov, rep.william.lamberth@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mary.littleton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ron.lollar@capitol.tn.gov, rep.harold.love@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jon.lundberg@capitol.tn.gov, rep.susan.lynn@capitol.tn.gov, rep.pat.marsh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.judd.matheny@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jimmy.matlock@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gerald.mccormick@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.mcmanus@capitol.tn.gov, rep.larry.miller@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bo.mitchell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.debra.moody@capitol.tn.gov, rep.antonio.parkinson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.pitts@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mark.pody@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jason.powell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dennis.powers@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.ragan@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jay.reedy@capitol.tn.gov, rep.courtney.rogers@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.sanderson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.charles.sargent@capitol.tn.gov, rep.cameron.sexton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jerry.sexton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.shepard@capitol.tn.gov, rep.eddie.smith@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.sparks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.billy.spivey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.stewart@capitol.tn.gov, rep.art.swann@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bryan.terry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.towns@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ron.travis@capitol.tn.gov, rep.johnnie.turner@capitol.tn.gov, rep.micah.vanhuss@capitol.tn.gov, rep.terri.lynn.weaver@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dawn.white@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mark.white@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ryan.williams@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.windle@capitol.tn.gov, rep.tim.wirgau@capitol.tn.gov, rep.rick.womick@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jason.zachary@capitol.tn.gov,

The series of articles has begun

Yesterday I posted a comment that I received that the typical response from government related to a reduction in inmates in the jail is to allege how harmful this will be to Blount County’s budget and how the media will be right there with these government officials publishing a series of articles.  Predictably there is another article today and we are seeing the situation described in the comment come to fruition.

A TV station also did a story.  The story didn’t include any of the actual figures and solutions that I provided to the TV station.

Mark Twain is credited with saying “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”  This same is true for other news sources.

I gave several figures and solutions to resolve the issues related to state inmates being removed from the local jail but the TV station didn’t publish that and instead published the two sentences that sounded the most sensational.  Americans have grow distrustful of media.  I can see why.

This is another comment and view of the media coverage of the jail situation that was sent to me last week.  “All that sheriff does is talk about you in the articles. He doesn’t address the topic at hand, he just passively says he’s doing his job and then goes on a tirade about you.  That writer Joel in all these articles needs to go back to journalism school and learn how to focus his writing on the topics at hand.  He’s just spewing gossip at this point, with very little substance in his pieces.  He’s not writing for the national enquirer about celebrities here, but that seems to be his writing style.  Journalists are now held in similar regards/disdain as lawyers in this country.”

I recommend the book Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkinson.  Attkinson, a reporter, talks about obstruction, intimidation and harassment tactics from the federal government and the media’s willingness to go along to get along and repeated failures to accurately cover the news.  The situation is similar in Blount County.

Comment on inmate labor in animal shelter and jail and media coverage

Emails and phone calls have been rolling in regarding the jail and possible bias in media coverage of the jail.  This comment was received today, in response to the article in the paper about the Animal Center requesting a budget increase.  People are questioning why it appears that only the state felons were doing the inmate labor.

“That is soooo typical.

It was only the state felons who fed and walked dogs and cleaned kennels who got pulled. And there are no others left in the jail who can do this!

It will end up with a “series” of articles on the awful impact of having fewer inmates in the jail.

So crime and an overcrowded jail are the keys to Blount’s budget?

You depend on crime and state felons to fund your budget and provide labor.

Your 400 “other” inmates can’t/won’t pick up the slack?

The animal shelter can’t find any other inmates in a 400-person facility to clean kennels and walk and feed dogs?”

Note: Comments/statements should not be viewed as total statement of facts.  This includes statements from government officials, that the media parrots and likes to sensationalize.  However, comments from the community do reflect the views and questions of the community.