Thought for the day

by Horatio Bunce

As the “thin blue line” in Raleigh stood around watching vandals (I guess there were no assets to forfeit) and despite the massive government spy machine we’ve paid for on all those phones, videos and facebook recognition, I can’t help but think nothing is done in these scenarios because we want it that way.

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.

George Orwell, 1984

Jeff Sessions Endorses Theft

By Ron Paul

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently ordered the Justice Department to increase the use of civil asset forfeiture, thus once again endorsing an unconstitutional, authoritarian, and increasingly unpopular policy.

Civil asset forfeiture, which should be called civil asset theft, is the practice of seizing property believed to be involved in a crime. The government keeps the property even if it never convicts, or even charges, the owner of the property.

Police can even use civil asset theft to steal from people whose property was used in criminal activity without the owners’ knowledge. Some have even lost their homes because a renter or houseguest was dealing drugs on the premises behind the owners’ backs.

Civil asset theft is a multi-billion dollar a year moneymaker for all levels of government. Police and prosecutors receive more than their “fair share” of the loot. According to a 2016 study by the Institute for Justice, 43 states allow police and prosecutors to keep at least half of the loot they got from civil asset theft.

Obviously, this gives police an incentive to aggressively use civil asset theft, even against those who are not even tangentially involved in a crime. For example, police in Tenaha, Texas literally engaged in highway robbery — seizing cash and other items from innocent motorists — while police in Detroit once seized every car in an art institute’s parking lot. The official justification for that seizure was that the cars belonged to attendees at an event for which the institute had failed to get a liquor license.

The Tenaha police are not the only ones targeting those carrying large sums of cash. Anyone traveling with “too much” cash runs the risk of having it stolen by a police officer, since carrying large amounts of cash is treated as evidence of involvement in criminal activity.

Civil asset theft also provides an easy way for the IRS to squeeze more money from the American taxpayer. As the growing federal debt increases the pressure to increase tax collections without raising tax rates, the IRS will likely ramp up its use of civil asset forfeiture.

Growing opposition to the legalized theft called civil asset forfeiture has led 24 states to pass laws limiting its use. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out of step with this growing consensus. After all, Sessions is a cheerleader for the drug war, and civil asset theft came into common usage as a tool in the drug war.

President Trump could do the American people a favor by naming a new attorney general who opposes police state policies like the drug war and police state tactics like civil asset theft.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/august/07/jeff-sessions-endorses-theft/

#TNaintReady 2.0

by Horatio Bunce

Common Core “state” standards performance numbers for high school students are in. Commissioner McQueen had a press conference and bar graph to declare success as reported by the always- government-school-sympathetic Chalkbeat. Chalkbeat had set up the press conference the day before with another article stating that Tennessee students were struggling with the testing on the “UtahReady” tests because of the “rigorous” Common Core “State” Standards that students have only been using for two years. Convenient excuse isn’t it?

Remember how when back in 2014 (that’s 3 whole years ago for you Common Core Math students) when Stacey Campfield introduced a bill to stop implementing more Common Core “State” Standards, it was too late to turn back and lose all that ground? Apparently none of that counts, nor does the instruction happening between then and 2015 when we started paying millions of dollars to “lease” Utah Sage Assessment questions for TNReady tests. So the setup was that if we didn’t see improvement, it would be really bad news, therefore telegraphing that flat or any improvement at all is “success”. So, Candice makes up a bar graph that is really exaggerated to show improvement from 2016 to 2017.

I felt it necessary to edit her bogus graph to include the rest of the data set and illustrate how statistically insignificant the difference in the two years’ scores are. The educrats have changed the federally-driven testing language from the old “below basic, basic, proficient and advanced” terms to now only show us two terms called “on track” and “mastered”. There is a very significant data set (added by me in red) that does not fall in these categories. Not sure what that is called, since it is not “on track” or “mastered”. Maybe “obscured”, “obfuscated”, “ignored in press releases” or something similar would work?

 

 

 

Many links on this site are broken due to county’s new website

Blount County government recently launched a new website.  As a result, many of the links to the Blount County government website (www.blounttn.org) found on this website (www.bcpublicrecord.com) will no longer work because the files are now in different locations.  If you read past articles and find that the links aren’t working, there is a good starting point page to look for the references found throughout this site. Please start here: http://www.blounttn.org/926/Meeting-Archives

Meeting Archives

Commission Meetings

Budget and Finance Committee Meetings

Agenda and Work Session Meetings

Insurance Committee Meetings

HR Committee Meetings

Blount County’s YouTube Channel containing meeting recordings

June 2017 Commission Report

“Last year we said, ‘Things can’t go on like this,’ and they didn’t, they got worse.”  Will Rogers

Annual Budget
Traditionally, each June, the Blount County Commission adopts an annual budget and sets the property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year (FY).  A fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30th, which is why the commission usually adopts the budget in June.  A fiscal year is denoted by the calendar year in which the fiscal year ends.  For example FY 2017 ran July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017.  Accordingly FY 2018 runs July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.

The Blount County Commission approved an annual budget in June of 2016 for FY17 that was $181,267,406 (see pages 105-107).  In June of this year, the commission adopted a budget for FY18 that is $195,958,364 (see pages 534-536).

Not all of this was an actual increase.  According to the county’s Finance Director (FD), Randy Vineyard, governmental accounting standards require some expenditures to be recorded twice.  Troy Logan, the fiscal administrator for Blount County School District told me that he couldn’t think of any expenditures that were recorded twice in the school’s budget.  Upon my request, FD Vineyard provided this spread sheet outlining the use of fund balance and the monies that are being accounted for twice.

According to the numbers provided by FD Vineyard, $5,381,930 is accounted for twice.  Based on these figures, that means that the commission adopted a budget that is $9,309,028 more than what it initially approved for the previous year, when the double accounting amounts are removed.  This is a huge increase for local government that will not be sustainable in the future without either growth in tax revenues or more tax increases.

The spreadsheet shows the county using $7,087,000 of fund balances from the various funds.  Some of the increase is for nonrecurring capital expenditures.  You can read my questions and FD Vineyard’s responses related to the use of fund balances here.  Please take the time to read this as it shows that $1.1M of fund balance may be used for corporate welfare for one company.

At the Agenda Committee meeting, I asked Mayor Ed Mitchell how much this secret company would receive from local governments (City of Maryville and Blount County) and the state of Tennessee.  He only knew what the county’s contribution will be.  Thus, local elected officials walk into these types of “deals” without knowing how much public money will actually be spent.

According to FD Vineyard the county’s General Fund grew to about $15M at the end of FY16 and an estimate for the end of FY17 had not been calculated in early June.  Property tax and federal inmate revenues may have been sandbagged in FY16.  Both came in higher than projected, and you were slammed with a higher property tax rate than necessary.  Some local elected officials may feel good about having accumulated such a large General Fund, but it came about as a result of two large tax increases (sales tax and property tax) not from being good stewards with your tax dollars.

$1.85M of fund balance will be used for Information Technology (IT) updates.  This is addition to the $4.1M that has already been spent for IT improvements and huge software purchases since 2014.  This new budget brings the total to nearly $6M that has or will be spent from 2014 through the end of June in 2018.

One would think that with such large expenditures that the IT Committee would be keeping a close watch on the various IT projects but it is not.  From June 2016 through June 2017 the IT Committee only met twice and during one of those meetings it lacked a quorum.  The Mayor canceled the other two meetings that were scheduled.

Blount County taxpayers will be forced to pay $96,717 in additional salaries and benefits to four office holders beyond the state mandated minimums.  These office holders are already some of the highest paid employees in county government and have been paid nearly double or triple the average salary of a Blount County citizen.

Chromebooks lease
The commission approved a 3 year lease agreement for Chromebooks for the schools.  I voted against this because the county will be paying interest when it does not have to.  The funds are available to purchase the computers without wasting any money on interest.

Medical plan changes
The commission voted to reduce the out of pocket maximum from $4,000 to $3,000 for health care and to charge $5 for the employee only dental plan.  The dental plan for the employee only is currently free.  The cost of the dental family plan is currently the difference between the price of the premium of the employee only plan and the family plan.  The dental family plan was also increases $5 and will become the difference between the employee only premium and the family premium, plus $5.  The county will be paying $22.14 a month for employees that are enrolled in either the employee only or family dental plans. These changes will take effect January 1, 2018.  The health care plans run the calendar year, rather than the fiscal year.

Interruptions continue
Commissioner Mike Caylor continued interrupting commissioners by twice declaring a point of order.  He appears to be abusing the power to raise a point of order to stifle discussion that challenges the status quo.

Up next:
The commission will look at hiring an architectural firm to renovate and/or expand the jail.

Just How many Motorists are stopped and ticketed in America?: NMA E-Newsletter #446

From guest writer Joe Cadillic who writes the MassPrivatel Blog

According to The Stanford Open Policing Project which looked at over 100 million police traffic stops in the United States,  “Police pull over more than 50,000 drivers on a typical day, more than 20 million motorists every year.”

Does that mean 50,000 people are breaking the law every day? Is there an epidemic of lawbreakers on our streets? Of course not, so why are police stopping 20 million motorists every year? Police across the country don’t just ticket millions of Americans every year, they’re also questioning them.

Unfortunately the Open Policing Project doesn’t mention how many passengers are stopped and questioned by police every year. Many motorists travel with someone so the amount of people being stopped & questioned might be double than the estimated 20 million. The numbers become even more disturbing when the estimated 50,000 motorists stopped each day turns into a conservative estimate of 80,000 or more motorists plus passengers stopped each day.

In a recent Reason.com editorial, Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote in Curbing Traffic Stops would Save Lives that traffic stops are often an excuse for cops to search a car for drugs and guns. He added,Curtailing police reliance on this pretext would free motorists from being dragooned to ‘consent’ to searches for which the cops lack probable cause.” Chapman continued, “True, the change would let criminals operate at less risk. But hassling the innocent to catch the guilty is an abuse of our constitutional principles. In Illinois last year, police conducted 2.17 million traffic stops. Just 8,938 yielded contraband—one bust for every 242 stops.”

Unfortunately, Chapman goes on in the editorial to extol the virtues of automatic traffic enforcement, a major step in the wrong direction, which most of the online commenters were quick to point out.

On top of traffic stops, did you know that law enforcement use at least fifteen different types of checkpoints to stop and question motorists?

In what country would it be acceptable to stop and question millions of people?

Certainly not America the land of the free, right?

For years, police have had to meet ticket quotas during their shifts. A Google search for “do police have quotas” returned over five million hits, and a Google search for “police ticket quotas 2017” returned close to six million hits.

In 2015, a Boston.com story said Traffic Ticket Quotas are Real. “Officers were told to issue more revenue-generating tickets. Officer Tom Delaney said that officers who didn’t operate under the system wouldn’t get overtime assignments and other perks.”

It’s the same story across the country.

Police departments send text messages to officers on the road reminding them to reach their quotas during their shifts. In 2015, a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer claimed he was texted about not meeting ticket quotas and denied a night off.

In 2017, the NYPD agreed to pay $56.5 million to people written bogus tickets by police.

If the public knew how much money is being made off of motorists each year from taxes, fines and arrests there would be a public outcry.

The Stanford Open Policing Project points out that police don’t want the public to know how many people are stopped each year. “Some states don’t collect demographics of who police pull over. States that do collect the information don’t always release the data.”

Why do we know how many people are arrested for drunk driving each year but have no data about how many motorists have been ticketed by police?

According to Stanford, “The most common police interaction — the traffic stop — has not been tracked, at least not in any systematic way.”

It’s 2017 and we still don’t know how many motorists are being stopped and ticketed in America! 

States like California and Texas have stopped 24-32 million motorists from 2009-2015, while states like Rhode Island and Montana have stopped approximately 500,000-825,000 motorists.

Secrecy is a cop’s number one priority.

The Open Policing Project found that police require less suspicion to search black and hispanic drivers than whites and they’re two or three times more likely to be searched: “After accounting for age, gender, and location, we find that officers ticket, search, and arrest black and hispanic drivers more often than whites… when pulled over for speeding, black drivers are 20% more likely to get a ticket (rather than a warning) than white drivers, and hispanic drivers are 30% more likely to be ticketed than white drivers. Black and hispanic motorists are about twice as likely to be searched compared to white drivers.”

“When we applied the threshold test to our traffic stop data, we find police require less suspicion to search black and hispanic drivers than whites. This double standard is evidence of discrimination,” the findings noted.

This is the first study that shows police are stopping and questioning thousands of motorists every day and millions of passengers every year.

The next time you’re stopped by the police, exercise your right not to speak. To travel freely in America is not a privilege, it is one of our constitutional rights.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the author. For the NMA’s list of Traffic Stop Do’s and Don’ts, click here.

Source: https://www.motorists.org/alerts/just-many-motorists-stopped-ticketed-america-nma-e-newsletter-446/

Trump Should Veto Congress’ Foolish New Sanctions Bill

by Ron Paul

This week’s expected House vote to add more sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea is a prime example of how little thought goes into US foreign policy. Sanctions have become kind of an automatic action the US government takes when it simply doesn’t know what else to do.

No matter what the problem, no matter where on earth it occurs, the answer from Washington is always sanctions. Sanctions are supposed to force governments to change policies and do what Washington tells them or face the wrath of their people. So the goal of sanctions is to make life as miserable as possible for civilians so they will try to overthrow their governments. Foreign leaders and the elites do not suffer under sanctions. This policy would be immoral even if it did work, but it does not.

Why is Congress so eager for more sanctions on Russia? The neocons and the media have designated Russia as the official enemy and the military industrial complex and other special interests want to continue getting rich terrifying Americans into believing the propaganda.

Why, just weeks after the White House affirmed that Iran is abiding by its obligations under the nuclear treaty, does Congress pass additional sanctions anyway? Washington blames Iran for “destabilizing” Syria and Iraq by helping them fight ISIS and al-Qaeda. Does this make any sense at all?

When is the last time Iran committed a terrorist act on our soil? It hasn’t. Yet we learned from the declassified 28 pages of the Congressional 9/11 report that Saudi Arabia was deeply involved in the 2001 attacks against Washington and New York. Who has funded al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria for years? Saudi Arabia. Yet no one is talking about sanctions against that country. This is because sanctions are not about our security. They are about politics and special interests.

Why is Congress poised to add yet more sanctions on North Korea? Do they want the North Korean people to suffer more than they are already suffering? North Korea’s GDP is half that of Vermont – the US state with the lowest GDP! Does anyone believe they are about to invade us? There is much talk about North Korea’s ballistic missile program, but little talk about 30,000 US troops and weapons on North Korea’s border. For Washington, it’s never a threat if we do it to the other guy.

Here’s an alternative to doing the same thing over and over: Let’s take US troops out of North Korea after 70 years. The new South Korean president has proposed military talks with North Korea to try and reduce tensions. We should get out of the way and let them solve their own problems. If Iran and Russia want to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda at the invitation of their ally, Syria, why stand in the way? We can’t run the world. We are out of money.

President Trump was elected to pursue a new kind of foreign policy. If he means what he said on the campaign trail, he will veto this foolish sanctions bill and begin dismantling neocon control of his Administration.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/july/24/trump-should-veto-congress-foolish-new-sanctions-bill/

Big Military Spending Boost Threatens Our Economy and Security

By Ron Paul

On Friday the House overwhelmingly approved a massive increase in military spending, passing a $696 billion National Defense Authorization bill for 2018. President Trump’s request already included a huge fifty or so billion dollar spending increase, but the Republican-led House found even that to be far too small. They added another $30 billion to the bill for good measure. Even President Trump, in his official statement, expressed some concern over spending in the House-passed bill.

According to the already weak limitations on military spending increases in the 2011 “sequestration” law, the base military budget for 2018 would be $72 billion more than allowed.

Don’t worry, they’ll find a way to get around that!

The big explosion in military spending comes as the US is planning to dramatically increase its military actions overseas. The president is expected to send thousands more troops back to Afghanistan, the longest war in US history. After nearly 16 years, the Taliban controls more territory than at anytime since the initial US invasion and ISIS is seeping into the cracks created by constant US military action in the country.

The Pentagon and Defense Secretary James Mattis are already telling us that even when ISIS is finally defeated in Iraq, the US military doesn’t dare end its occupation of the country again. Look for a very expensive array of permanent US military bases throughout the country. So much for our 2003 invasion creating a stable democracy, as the neocons promised.

In Syria, the United States has currently established at least eight military bases even though it has no permission to do so from the Syrian government nor does it have a UN resolution authorizing the US military presence there. Pentagon officials have made it clear they will continue to occupy Syrian territory even after ISIS is defeated, to “stabilize” the region.

And let’s not forget that Washington is planning to send the US military back to Libya, another US intervention we were promised would be stabilizing but that turned out to be a disaster.

Also, the drone wars continue in Somalia and elsewhere, as does the US participation in Saudi Arabia’s horrific two year war on impoverished Yemen.

President Trump often makes encouraging statements suggesting that he shares some of our non-interventionist views. For example while Congress was shoveling billions into an already bloated military budget last week, President Trump said that he did not want to spent trillions more dollars in the Middle East where we get “nothing” for our efforts. He’d rather fix roads here in the US, he said. The only reason we are there, he said, was to “get rid of terrorists,” after which we can focus on our problems at home.

Unfortunately President Trump seems to be incapable of understanding that it is US intervention and occupation of foreign countries that creates instability and feeds terrorism. Continuing to do the same thing for more than 17 years – more US bombs to “stabilize” the Middle East – and expecting different results is hardly a sensible foreign policy. It is insanity. Until he realizes that our military empire is the source of rather than the solution to our problems, we will continue to wildly spend on our military empire until the dollar collapses and we are brought to our knees. Then what?

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/july/17/big-military-spending-boost-threatens-our-economy-and-security/

GOD AND COUNTRY PETITION NEWSLETTER EXPRESS – THE HEALTH CARE PROPOSAL

Good evening my friends,

I know it has been a long time since a newsletter has gone out. For all purposes the “God and Country Petition” is a dead issue and will NOT continue. We gave it a good try but in could not come to fruition. However, a lot of what was in my petition, President Trump is trying to accomplish, such as the repeal of Obamacare, the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Bill, illegal immigration, building our military & defenses and more.

The proposed health care bill has been a major issue and confusing to say the least. I have been following the house version of the bill and now the proposed senate version of the bill, which may come to a vote and passage as early as this week. Personally I hope it does not, I feel it is being rushed and there are problems within the proposed Republican senate version!

Below are two attachments, the first attachment is the proposed Republican Party senate version of the bill, broken out section by section in a summary fashion, in short, this is not the garbled up actual proposed bill! This is a summery that was prepared by a US senators committee on health care for their constituents, it contains 142 pages. As simplified as it was mad in comparison to the actual bill, it is still confusing.

The second attachment is a proposal I created, with the help of many of you reading this newsletter, my version is only 6 pages long!

My feelings partially are as follows on the proposed Republican Party version before the senate to be voted on. I must say, there was not only a lot of reading in what is in the proposed Republican Party version in the first attachment above but dissecting it and understanding it was even more of a challenge for me, it may not be for many of you reading it!

I understood some of what I read but did not understand other parts of it as well. Section 102 I have many problems with, I feel it is discriminatory in many ways. I also feel the formula proposed will come back to haunt us many times over!

I felt this from the beginning as evidenced in my proposal in the second attachment above, the formula for calculating premiums, in my opinion, needed to be a blended actuary table based on the entire population of the American people.

By banding those in the senior age brackets or pre-existing conditions, or segregating other segments of the population is a bad thing. However, income brackets are an entirely different issue in itself. My proposal has subsidies based on income brackets. I feel very strongly that section 102 needs a lot of soul searching by each member of the senate as well as realizing the consequences that will go along with it!

Section 103 – 105, I don’t see any glaring problems. Please don’t take me wrong, this is an improvement over the house version and as far as Obamacare, that is not even on the table for discussion!

Section 106, good in some ways, bad in others. I feel the dollar amounts need to be higher, especially spread amongst 50 states.

The new subsection (I), which would establish a Long-Term State Stability and Innovation Program is good. It appears to make funding available to all 50 states and the District of Columbia from CY2019 through CY2026.

If I am reading this right, a state would be required to submit an application to the CMS Administrator to receive any federal funding to carry-out specified activities in the state, which were outlined in those 3 activities listed. That I felt was good.

Sections 107 through 119, I saw no problems with. Section 120, I am not sure of, too vague for me at this time, I need to research. Section 121 through 124 more in detail. If anyone reading this can help me out on it, I would appreciate it!

Sections 125 and 126 there are a lot of problems with it, in my opinion. I feel our senators need to go back to the drawing board and get their heads together on these issues. Hear again, I feel there are many discriminatory areas in these two sections that will come back to haunt us. These two sections need to be clarified re-worked and put in plain English for all to understand!

Section 133 in my opinion could cause more problems than it is worth. Hear again, we are using actuary tables based on individual states in many areas, rather than the aggregate of all 50 states and the entire US population. Section A however, does use aggregate and Federal averages of medical assistance matching percentages.

I also see threw out this proposal there are many areas that a state can opt out of participating in certain things that could take away benefits from its residents that other states may have. In short, I see a lack of a lot of uniformity with this proposal. In my opinion, it lacks the all for one, one for all approach!

I may be all wrong in my analysis, this is why I included my proposal above for all of you to view. This is a very complex issue facing this nation and the American people. We may not be able to push this through as fast as some would like it to be. It just seems like a lot of work needs to be done with this proposal to make it as palatable as possible for the American people.

I will say this in closing and I am not saying this because I am a senior but the elderly, especially the 50 to 65 year old, will have many pains to face with this proposal, as I read it, which I am the first that will say I am open to be corrected!

As I had said, these are my opinions as I see it, you may see it differently and I am open to be corrected on anything I have stated in this newsletter. I do not like it in its present form! I hope and pray, the Republican Party senators do what is right for all the American people, equally, with this so critical bill before us all!

I ask each of you to please take an interest in reading my e-mail and the senate version of the proposed bill and my proposal, both attachments are above! If any of you feel what I am proposing has merit, will you please send out my newsletter and the attachments to everyone you know as well as posting it on Facebook, U-Tube or any other social media you may belong to, if you do, I will be beholding to you. This repeal and replacement of Obamacare is so critical to all of us, please don’t ignore this!!

God speed to all of you and thank you,

JS
John A. Smaldone
God and Country petition
http://www.usa-godandcountry-petition.com/

 

Attachment 1     Attachment 2