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Sen. Briggs represents the raw milk nazis

by Horatio Bunce

Sen. Richard Briggs has introduced a bill (SB-015) in an attempt to make consuming milk from hooved animals illegal if you own a partial interest in the animal. I guess it could be argued that if you own full interest you also own partial interest. Or if you and your husband/wife or you and your brother own a herd of dairy cows, you only own a partial interest in them. Or if you have a farm loan for the animals, you only have a partial interest. It doesn’t seem well thought-out, but the target is stealing the produce from the dairy animals of partial owners – specifically cow share arrangements that allow folks to consume raw milk. You do remember Richard don’t you? He’s the state Senator that didn’t live in the Senate district where he was running for election and had a fake “residence” apartment he used to qualify illegally. Stacey Campfield requested the utility bills for the apartment and found it was using almost no water and the gas service was not connected. Or, maybe Richard doesn’t take baths, wash his clothes or flush his toilet very often. Which makes it funny he is so concerned about this issue that boils down to cleanliness.

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Tona Monroe to speak at Bill of Rights Banquet on December 18th

Recipient of last year’s Eagle Award, then Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe, will be the speaker at the 4th annual Truth Radio Bill of Rights Banquet on Tuesday December 18th.  The topic of the speech will be Proof of Authority and the Proper Role of Government: The Foundation of a Constitutional Republic.

A dinner will be held at 7 PM at RJ’s Courtyard located at 3749 Airport Hwy, Louisville, Tennessee 37777.  Book your meal by calling WBCR at 984-1470. 

2017 Bill of Rights Banquet
Eagle Award Recipients Tona Monroe, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Scott Williams 

Audit: Most Tennessee cities, counties require photo ID to access public records

The Blount County Commissioner referred to in this article is me: Tona Monroe.  The state agency that is discussed is the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance which is responsible for providing meeting minutes for the Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control

https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/tennessee/2018/05/21/tennessee-public-records-open-government-id-required/617790002/

Last year, when the commission adopted an open records policy, I said during discussion that a photo ID should not be required.  Then Chairman Jerome Moon, now a state representative, defended requiring papers just to see records.  Most of the commissioners must have agreed because only Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted against this policy.

It is good to read that a few counties don’t demand papers, proving identity, just to see records.  Requiring proof of citizenship is an unnecessary impediment to a society that is suppose to be free and claims to be transparent.  The USA is not Nazi Germany.

Read the audit herehttp://tcog.info/public-records-policy-audit/

On another note, this is the second article in which a request that I made is discussed without naming me.  The other involved questions that I submitted to Troy Logan, fiscal administrator for Blount County Schools.  Some teachers had several questions about the schools related to how money is spent.  I submitted their questions.  A response was sent me as well as the other 20 county commissioners.

A few months later, there was a story in The Daily Times about this request for information.  Then Blount County Board of Education Chairman
Trevis Gardner told the paper that he supported charging for looking at records because they’d received a big request that took a lot of time to respond to.  He citied the questions that I submitted with his support for charging you to look at records.

The paper requested a copy of the questions and answers, and knew they were submitted by a commissioner, but did not mention this in its story.  Gardner said the response took time away from administrators focusing on classrooms but failed to mention that the answers included comparisons to other school systems, which were not part of the inquiries.  Such a comparison may have required time but it was not what was requested.  Furthermore, the fiscal administrator is a records custodian so his job duties include providing records.

Logan said the questions were frequently asked which is why he submitted the response to all 21 Blount County Commissioners.  Thus, having written answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) may have saved the schools time and money in responding to FAQs.

The Daily Times hasn’t moved out of the Stone Age, loves big government

With the passing of Dean Stone and the retirement of penguin sex preacher and editor Buzz Trexler one would hope that The Daily Times would have moved out of the (Dean) Stone Age.   Alas that is not the case.  The stale big government, courthouse clique bias of Bob Norris remains and the new editor J. Todd Foster ran political hit pieces on Commissioner Mike Akard right before the election.  Norris does not reflect the values of many in this community but he and the editors have hidden behind their editorials and trash those who challenge the status quo.

Editors of the past and present at the paper love big government.  In a town where many are conservative, the best they can achieve is support for the establishment Republicans, just look at all the pro Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker editorials.  These big government Republicans and the big government Republicans in the courthouse clique love to tax you, spend your money and tell you how to live your lives.   Thus, the rag trashes those who try to hold the line on spending and question the authority of local government.  The four commissioners who have recently been the subject of hit pieces and an editorial are the four who have most consistently looked out for the taxpaying citizens of Blount County.

Look at the paper’s Twitter account.  The only two days, during the last year, that the paper has published a “sneak peak” of the front page of the paper are the two days where the new editor ran hit pieces on Commissioner Mike Akard.  Despite throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Mike Akard the new editor says he isn’t partisan, won’t publish the letter to editor I (Tona Monroe) wrote asking questions about the stories and won’t answer the questions that I raised about his stories.  https://twitter.com/DailyTimes/status/989698528195866625
https://twitter.com/DailyTimes/status/989354790714073088

The rag trashed Jim Folts, who served on the previous commission, when he was the lone ranger questioning local government spending.  Now on the eve of this local government primary election, the rag’s focus is on the three women commissioners, who have also challenged the status quo.

The rag should be focusing on important issues on the eve of the election.  However, if they did that it would make those they support, the big spending courthouse clique, look bad.  Many of these big government Republicans are in local office for selfish reasons.  Just look at the conflicts of interest that proceed commission votes.  I wonder what would happen, in this election, if the paper published a story about candidates with conflicts of interest the day before the election.

The Daily Times asked the three ladies on the commission to come be interviewed, not the other way around.  When have the courthouse clique officials sat down for an interview?  Would the paper respond by publishing an editorial the day before the election praising them for what they said?

The Daily Times did willingly publish a hate screed from Ed Mitchell telling Blount County to wake up because voters chose to replace some of the incumbent, courthouse clique commissioners in the last election.  What Ed Mitchell and the anonymous editor(s) are telling us is that they think those of us who voted for people who aren’t part of the courthouse clique need to wake up, because we aren’t smart enough to chose who governs.

The point that I made about being more effective as a citizen is misconstrued in the editorial.  The point was that an active citizenry can accomplish more than a few commissioner without an active citizenry.  When the citizens groups were active, the property tax increases were less.

To act like the three women never transitioned into being public servants is absurd.  The three women were the first three commissioners to hold public town halls after being elected.  They were asked to hold these public meetings by the now defunct Citizens for Blount County’s Future.  When have the political machine commissioners held town hall meetings?  Furthermore, three of the four commissioners that have been the recent focus of paper have worked to inform the public about Blount County government, when the paper often failed to cover issues.  This website is viewed by many and I have done several radio interviews.  Commissioner Jamie Daly has published a newsletter and Mike Akard has posted to Facebook.  These types of efforts to engage with the public are scant or non-existent with the rest of the commissioners.

Running on a platform and sticking by it is fulfilling what you said you would.  Another citizens group recognized that when it honored 6 commissioners, including the 3 women and Mike Akard, for doing what they said they would do.  Blount County Tax Revolt, and those in attendance of the awards ceremony dinner, certainly thought the former citizen activists were fulfilling their roles as public servants.

In fairness to the reporters at The Daily Times, they don’t all share the views of those who make the final decisions at the paper.  Even Joel Davis, the reporter most critical of me, wrote that he was impressed with my vigilance, when I found the secret $2 million jail plan in TCI Board of Control meeting minutes.

“Tona,

Thank you every much for the information. Your vigilance is quite impressive. This is definitely going to make an interesting story.

Best,
Joel”

The wrath of God resolution was over the top.  I doubt that it would have gotten a second but the courthouse clique shut the meeting down by voting against setting the agenda.  Commissioner Karen Miller was the only sponsor of the resolution.  Yet Jamie Daly and I are included in the editorial.  The paper talks about how embarrassing it was for Blount County, but it was The Daily Times that started the media circus surrounding the resolution.

The commission passed a resolution in 2017 after the death of Steve Samples quoting a scripture from the Bible proclaiming that he would enter into the joy thy Lord.  There was no media coverage, including the paper, on this resolution.  Does the paper think it’s OK to interject religion into a resolution by proclaiming and approving something from the Bible as long at it supports the courthouse clique?  Where’s the outrage from the editors telling us how embarrassing it is for the commission to think that it can determine who enters into the joy of the Lord?  This wasn’t a prayer proceeding the meeting.  It is a formally adopted resolution and official statement of the Blount County Commission and Mayor.  Karen Miller and I were the only two commissioners who did not sponsor this resolution.

The paper further criticizes the no votes of the women when doing routine business while praising the machine for finessing the shut down of a regularly scheduled meeting and lauding Mayor Mitchell for restoring “order”.  That kind of double speak makes clear the misguided priorities of those in the back rooms of the paper.  The courthouse clique can waste our money all day long.  That isn’t news worthy, unless you vote against it, but a non-binding resolution warrants a media circus and praise for shutting down a meeting.  Remember that it was the courthouse clique and the newspaper that made the huge deal out of the resolution.  It would have likely died for a lack of a second.

There wasn’t any mention of anything that Jamie Daly or I tried to do over the last 4 years.  Before going to vote, the anonymous editor(s) want(s) you to focus on one non-binding resolution that did not bear the names of 2 of the 3 they talked about.  What about the issues that matter?  What about the 15% property tax increase that a majority of commissioners approved shortly after the local option sales tax was raised?  The list of issues is extensive but this is what the paper choses to focus on.

The paper should have learned, from the media coverage of the most recent presidential election, to rethink their election and government coverage priorities. Whether you love or hate Trump or are somewhere in between, the relevancy of many media outlets wore thin on many people in the 2016 election because of the constant Trump bashing.  Many decided, that despite Trump’s numerous character flaws, they trusted him more than the biased barrage of media attacks.  This message was lost on those making decisions at The Daily Times.

People run for public office for a variety of reasons.  The paper is free to express what they think make good qualifications for public office but the people writing anonymous editorials at the paper need a reality check.  Their views don’t align with many in the community.  The number of subscribers has dropped because of it, while the population of Blount County is increasing.  People share their concerns about the bias when the paper solicits renewals, but even when the people trying to sell subscriptions agree and share that they hear this often, the message falls on deaf ears with the decision makers at the paper as we can see by the editorial today.

The Daily Times might increase its number of subscribers if it actually published the votes of every commissioner on every issue, rather than selectively publishing what it wants the public to see.  Of course, if it did that, then big government, courthouse clique Republicans that they support will not look so good.

Letter to the editor that self proclaimed nonpartisan editor Todd Foster won’t publish.

April 27, 2018

Dear Editor,

What I took away from the first article about Commissioner Mike Akard is that he burns wood and brush on his property, had a permit to do so and no wrong doing was found, fireworks have been let off in celebration of our nation’s independence and he had two traffic citations: one with a $50 fine and the other was dropped after driving school.

Who hasn’t done such horrible things as burn wood, let off fireworks and exceed the speed limit?  That hardly warrants the following day’s headline that Akard has a criminal past.

Is The Daily Times going to refer to everyone, who has been given a traffic ticket, as having a criminal past?  No other charges or convictions were stated.  Has The Daily Times researched the driving records of all candidates or just Mike Akard?

There was no comment from Akard about the two traffic tickets.  Did The Daily Times ask Akard for a comment, like it asked his opponent for an explanation about his criminal conviction?

Sincerely,
Tona Monroe
Greenback, TN 37742

Update: I received this in an email Tuesday evening.  “I canceled my subscription after I read that editorial today. Sounded like something the president would put in Twitter. Disgusting.”

April 2017 Commission Report

Agenda and Commission Meetings
This was a light month for the Blount County Commission.  The agenda was short. There was a zoning request that was had no objections and the commission voted to approve its minutes and receive reports.

The only thing of significance that happened was the commission moved the regular meeting time of 7 PM to 4 PM.  This was likely because the Republican Party of Blount County scheduled its Lincoln Day dinner for the same night at 6 PM.  Commissioner Dave Bennett had the item placed on the agenda for the Agenda Committee but he wasn’t present at the meeting to explain his request.  He is the former chairman of the local Republican Party.

Would the all Republican commission change the meeting time for the Blount County Democratic or Libertarian Parties?  The Information Technology Committee meeting, which was scheduled for 6 PM the same night, was also canceled.  I was the only commissioner present to vote against catering to the local Republican Party.

Paper takes down a story related to jail expansion
Last month I wrote about the Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) cutting me off and not letting me do the job that I was elected to do: ask questions and get answers related to jail expansion in order to make an informed decision.  This month the paper removed a story from its website that it wrote related to my research and questions about this endeavor.

Blount County Tax Revolt, a local citizens group, asked me to come speak about the BCCP cutting me off and explain what I was prohibited from asking and what I had hoped to learn by asking questions.  A reporter for The Daily Times was present at the meeting and a story was written.  The story did not appear in the print edition but it was online with a link on the homepage of the paper’s website until the early afternoon when it was taken down.

The Daily Times has twice published that the Purchasing Department had an open meeting related to the jail RFQ.  This cherry picked reporting is a disservice to this community.  Most of the purchasing process related to the selection of a firm was done in secret because of a new state law.  It seems that the paper is more interested in publishing the talking points of the courthouse clique than it is evaluating a new law that made what was formerly an open process largely secret.  This law coupled with the actions of the BCCP have made my job more difficult than it should be.

At the March BCCP meeting, Purchasing Agent Katie Branham Kerr said that she would have to refer to her notes when I asked her who she had contacted in Loudon County when consulting references for the architectural firm Michael Brady Inc. (MBI).  I requested a copy of her notes and all communications records that she had with other governmental entities related to MBI.  Kerr informed me that she has no communications records related to MBI.

She says that she did contact someone at Loudon County regarding MBI but can’t remember who she spoke with or what office/department this person works in.  I checked with the Loudon County Mayor’s Office to see if anyone had any recollection of speaking to Kerr or anyone from Blount County related to MBI.  Anita Green with the Loudon County Mayor’s Office responded with, “I have spoken with several department heads and none have any recollection of speaking with anyone from Blount County.”

I’ll likely write more on this in the future.

Spectra Recycling Center to close
Blount County has been fortunate to enjoy having recycling services provided free of charge by a private company.  Spectra will be closing its recycling center on May 1st.  Spectra has provided recycling services free to city and county residents for 17 years.

While some recycling materials are profitable others are not.  The demand for glass is low and many governments that provide recycling services have stopped collecting it during garbage pick up.

In 2015, I served on an ad hoc committee that looked at recycling options for Blount County.  You can read the report issued by the chairman of that committee here.

If the county were to provide recycling, there will be costs associated with that service.  We had a valuable service being provided by a private business.  I don’t know if that service could have continued but I do wish that possibility had been fully explored before looking to provide a new county service.  Do you support using your tax dollars for the county to provide recycling?

Up Next:
Open Records Policy

The commission will soon vote on an open records policy.  Those who are interested in open government and obtaining or inspecting records will want to pay close attention to this.

Pastor and The Daily Times editor Buzz Trexler compares Christian belief to penguin sex

The press has many important functions that can be invaluable.  As such, it’s important to know the people who are doing the reporting as it can give insight into the mindsets and biases that occur in journalism.

Buzz Trexler is the pastor at Green Meadow United Methodist Church and an editor at The Daily Times.  His blog/website can help readers glean information about his approach to journalism and preaching.

There you will find that he preached a sermon at the Friendsville United Methodist Church entitled, “Christian Belief Is Like Penguin Sex.”

And that folks is who is editing your daily source of written news in the Bible belt.

Candidate Trump: ‘I Love Wikileaks.’ President Trump: ‘Arrest Assange!’

Written by Ron Paul

“I love Wikileaks,” candidate Donald Trump said on October 10th on the campaign trail. He praised the organization for reporting on the darker side of the Hillary Clinton campaign. It was information likely leaked by a whistleblower from within the Clinton campaign to Wikileaks.

Back then he praised Wikileaks for promoting transparency, but candidate Trump looks less like President Trump every day. The candidate praised whistleblowers and Wikileaks often on the campaign trail. In fact, candidate Trump loved Wikileaks so much he mentioned the organization more than 140 times in the final month of the campaign alone! Now, as President, it seems Trump wants Wikileaks founder Julian Assange sent to prison.

Last week CNN reported, citing anonymous “intelligence community” sources, that the Trump Administration’s Justice Department was seeking the arrest of Assange and had found a way to charge the Wikileaks founder for publishing classified information without charging other media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post for publishing the same information.

It might have been tempting to write off the CNN report as “fake news,” as is much of their reporting, but for the fact President Trump said in an interview on Friday that issuing an arrest warrant for Julian Assange would be, “OK with me.”

Trump’s condemnation of Wikileaks came just a day after his CIA Director, Michael Pompeo, attacked Wikileaks as a “hostile intelligence service.” Pompeo accused Assange of being “a fraud — a coward hiding behind a screen.”

Pompeo’s word choice was no accident. By accusing Wikileaks of being a “hostile intelligence service” rather than a publisher of information on illegal and abusive government practices leaked by whistleblowers, he signaled that the organization has no First Amendment rights. Like many in Washington, he does not understand that the First Amendment is a limitation on government rather than a granting of rights to citizens. Pompeo was declaring war on Wikileaks.

But not that long ago Pompeo also cited Wikileaks as an important source of information. In July he drew attention to the Wikileaks release of information damaging to the Clinton campaign, writing, “Need further proof that the fix was in from President Obama on down?”

There is a word for this sudden about-face on Wikileaks and the transparency it provides us into the operations of the prominent and powerful: hypocrisy.

The Trump Administration’s declaration of war on whistleblowers and Wikileaks is one of the greatest disappointments in these first 100 days. Donald Trump rode into the White House with promises that he would “drain the swamp,” meaning that he would overturn the apple carts of Washington’s vested interests. By unleashing those same vested interests on those who hold them in check – the whistleblowers and those who publish their revelations – he has turned his back on those who elected him.

Julian Assange, along with the whistleblowers who reveal to us the evil that is being done in our name, are heroes. They deserve our respect and admiration, not a prison cell. If we allow this president to declare war on those who tell the truth, we have only ourselves to blame.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/april/24/candidate-trump-i-love-wikileaks-president-trump-arrest-Assange/

Paper fails to mention that Comptroller’s Office doesn’t recognize $2 million in assignments

The article in today’s paper (Feb. 15, 2017) fails to mention that the Comptroller’s Office doesn’t recognize the assignments totaling $2 million related to the jail.  One would think that the paper would want the public to know this considering last year on September 7, 2016 the paper reported on the front page that the funds were assigned and not committed, trying to distinguish accounting terms.

From that story,

“’Assigned — not committed,’ Commissioner Chairman Jerome Moon said.”

and

“Vineyard said during Tuesday’s Blount County Budget Committee meeting. ‘I have assigned $1 million to public safety for the commission and this body to address whatever they need to address toward jail overcrowding.’”

The mayor and “management” don’t have the authority to express the county’s intent in assigning funds.  The paper should distinguish who has authority to express the county’s intent through assignments in the General Fund.

 

Senator Doug Overbey and Representative Art Swann are nonresponsive

Some years back, prior to be elected to serve as a county commissioner, I (Tona Monroe) asked Senator Doug Overbey to obtain an opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General.  He declined saying that that he felt that AG’s opinions should be used to answer questions that local government officials have.  His response told me that he doesn’t give a flip what the people he is elected to serve want but I had hoped that after my election to local government that Overbey would be responsive to my requests for information and ideas for reform.  He isn’t.

I can’t recall him responding to anything that I have sent him since taking office in September 2014.  He did find the time to send me a letter during his campaign for reelection saying he hoped that he had earned my support.

Overbey spends his time catering to his wealthy donors and attending social events.  He represents the elite.  He is a career politician floating in the swamp of Nashville.

The people of Tennessee failed to drain the swap in Nashville during the primary elections in August.  Voter turnout was very low.  The election was lost in the drama and media coverage of federal politics.  I encourage everyone to pay more attention to state and local politics.

Representative Art Swann doesn’t respond either.  Rep. Bob Ramsey does respond to some things but never offers to work toward any reform that will improve local government.

Senator Doug Overbey: sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov  850-9411
Representative Bob Ramsey: rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov  984-8124
Representative Art Swann: rep.art.swann@capitol.tn.gov  982-6811

Police will be out in full force to write tickets on the interstates in Tennessee during Thanksgiving while the media tells you its to keep you safe

Law enforcement will be stationed every 20 miles over holiday weekend

Interstates are some of the safest roads.  It makes no sense to put the police on the safest roads, while ignoring the most dangerous roads, unless the goal is revenue.  It’s a FINE time to travel through Tennessee.  Buckle up, drive safely and watch out of the ticket writers.

Great propaganda piece WKRN.

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.

July 2016 Commission Report

Proverbs 23:  1When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:  And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.  Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.  Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.

Agenda Committee
Commissioners Mike Akard, Mike Caylor, Peggy Lambert and Tona Monroe were absent.

Commissioner Jamie Daly put forward a resolution to say that citizens aren’t out of order for citing sources and should be allowed to speak rather than being declared out of order.  This came as a result of Commission Chairman Jerome Moon shutting down citizens during public input at the special called commission meeting in April.  Commissioner Mike Caylor objected to me citing the Institute for Law and Policy Planning study.  Moon declared me out of order as well as the citizens when the study was referenced.  Daly’s resolution said “the Commission Chairman and the Blount County Legislative Body will not prohibit citizens from citing supporting references during public input.”  You can read the resolution here on page 108.

The commission voted to table this.  Only commissioners Archie Archer, Jamie Daly and Karen Miller voted against the motion to table the resolution.  I would have voted for the resolution had I been present.  The majority of commissioners are now on record saying that they don’t want you to come to commission meetings prepared with references that support your positions.

Commission meeting
Commissioner Peggy Lambert was absent.

Zoning request for storage units was voted down
The commission rejected a request to rezone a parcel of land from residential to commercial.  I have to wonder if the request would have been approved if the man making it had been politically connected.

Commissioner Ron French led an effort to amend the zoning regulations so that a politically connected office holder could have his land rezoned to commercial to put in a commercial business.  The regulations were written such that one of the few intersections that could be rezoned belonged to an office holder.  Would you and I be able to get the zoning regulations amended to put a commercial development on our property?  Why would commissioner French work so hard for one of the good ole’ boys but vote against this request?

After serving nearly two years, I’ve come to the conclusion that zoning has destroyed the private property rights of the people of Blount County and is nothing more than a tool of the political machine to limit competition.  Unfortunately, there are some in the community who play right into the hands of the political machine, thinking that they are keeping Blount County safe from developers while preserving the scenic beauty.  However, the machine gets what they want, competition is limited and property rights are nothing more than property privileges granted by government.

I’ve been asked what I like best about being a county commissioner and what I like least about being a county commissioner.  What I enjoy best is advocating for the liberty of the people that I represent.  Government should be limited and justice should be blind.  The most disappointing thing is the lack of citizen participation in government.  I’d love to see more involvement from the people.  What I dislike the most about being a county commissioner is voting on zoning regulations and requests for rezoning.  21 people sit as a board of overlords and micromanage land use regulations.  We’re suppose to protect property rights, not eliminate your rights and grant special privileges to a select few.

It is ridiculous that we don’t have more small businesses such as restaurants out in the county.  People shouldn’t be forced to drive into the cities for small businesses that could be readily available in the county without destroying the scenic beauty.  We should stop to think about the pollution created by people driving into cities for simple household items and a meal that could easily be obtained in the county.  Small businesses aren’t going to destroy the scenic beauty of Blount County anymore than new subdivisions, yet subdivisions have been placed all around the county.  Have you noticed that it is usually the large chain that can work through this complicated, political process?

We’re always told that the roads can’t handle any more traffic.  It is true that we have some roads that are in bad shape and some that are in need of expansion.  However, we need to ask if private property rights are dependent upon which road you live on.  We’re told that roads are too narrow for trucks to travel through.  If that is the case then then trucks should be prohibited from traveling on these narrow roads, but this is often not the case.  Rather than talking about how bad roads are to limit development, we should work to fix the roads that are dangerous.

Furthermore, the economic consequences of zoning has resulted in the cities getting the lion’s share of sales tax because the county’s zoning regulations are so restrictive toward development.  The last time I inquired, I was told that roughly 85% of businesses were in the cities

Zoning was started 100 years ago in New York City to deal with skyscrapers.  The County doesn’t have skyscrapers.  The only building that might fit that definition is in the City of Maryville.  However,  zoning regulations have been expanded through the last century to impact nearly all development.

What we have in place with zoning is a system that is suppose to protect property rights but it doesn’t.  Connected people get what they want and those who aren’t connected don’t get what they want.  No one that I talk with thinks the system is fair, even if they strongly support having zoning.  It’s just a system and not a very good one at that.

Some land use regulations are good, such as setbacks from roads and flowing water.  However, I think it is time for Blount County to have a discussion on whether zoning is serving us well.  For reasons stated here and many more, I conclude that the county is not well served by the system in place and that we should look at taking a different approach to land use regulations.

Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP)
The BCCP met and did nothing other than approve the meeting minutes of the last meeting and receive and briefly discuss some paperwork that is submitted monthly to the Tennessee Corrections Institute as a part of the Plan of Action to address issues related to overcrowding.  The updated Plan of Action was not included in the paperwork provided to the BCCP.  I had to request that.

The resolution that I introduced in May to request that the sheriff stop housing federal inmates in the local jail was sent by the Agenda Committee to the BCCP after the courthouse clique failed to kill the resolution through parliamentary procedure.  None of the sheriff’s employees, friends and relatives would second my motion; therefore it died for a lack of a second.

I wasn’t able to offer discussion on the matter.  If I had been able, I would have referenced the response that I received from the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury that says their legal staff could find no specific law that says the sheriff can sign a contract to house federal inmates without commission approval.

Commission Secretary Rhonda Pitts continued her failure to accurately record the meeting minutes.  The minutes of the April 7, 2016 BCCP meeting say, “Tona Monroe made a motion to amend the motion.  There was no second.”  The minutes do not reflect what my motion would have done to the recommendation that the BCCP sent to the commission.  However, I made the same motion at the commission meeting that the mayor called to authorize the purchasing agent to issue an RFQ related to the jail.  That motion is reflected in the commission minutes.  Why was my motion fully recorded in the minutes of one meeting and not the other?

The one good thing that is happening is the Sheriff’s Office request for guidance in establishing a reentry program for those who are incarcerated to integrate back into society.  This is something that I would have liked to have seen several years ago.  Furthermore, this is something that  I would have tried to get the BCCP to look into if the BCCP had been meeting regularly and without interference from people like Commissioner Rick Carver.  The BCCP and County Commission should have listened to the findings and conclusions of the author of the jail study.  A reentry program would have been a logical step forward after hearing from the author who could have helped us get started on this process much sooner.

Information Technology (IT) Committee
The IT Committee meeting was canceled with no explanation given for the cancellation.  With $1.3M having been put into a fund in a rush last year, these meetings should not be canceled.

Up next
The Agenda Committee meeting will be held at the courthouse at 6:30 PM in room 430 on Tuesday the 9th.  The commission meeting will be held in the same room at 7 PM in the same room on Thursday the 18th.