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: firstname.lastname@example.org 850-9411
Representative Bob Ramsey: email@example.com 984-8124
Representative Art Swann: firstname.lastname@example.org 982-6811
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.
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.
Proverbs 23: 1When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: 2 And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. 3 Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat. 4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
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.
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.
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.
Some of the people who have contributed to Blount County’s fiscal woes are in a tizzy because I dared to mention the secret actions taken to assign $1.5 million for possible jail expansion. The paper has been doing what it can to excuse the political machine (misnamed good ole’ boys, when there is little good that they do) with repeated stories downplaying the actions taken by Mayor Ed Mitchell and Finance Director Randy Vineyard.
At the Agenda Committee meeting on June 7th, I put forward an amendment to the annual budget resolution that the would prohibit any monies collected by the county that exceeds projected revenues from being designated for any purpose without commission approval. The sheriff referred to the $1 million that was set aside as an earmark and told the TCI Board of Control, last year, about a plan for another million. At the June TCI Board of Control meeting that there would be about another half a million this year, which is half a million less that what he told the Board last year.
The accounting term for this $1.5 million is that it is assigned.
Assigned Fund Balance
13. Amounts that are constrained by the government‘s intent to be used for specific purposes, but are neither restricted nor committed, should be reported as assigned fund balance, except for stabilization arrangements, as discussed in paragraph 21. Intent should be expressed by (a) the governing body itself or (b) a body (a budget or finance committee, for example) or official to which the governing body has delegated the authority to assign amounts to be used for specific purposes.
Notice the intent for the use of this fund balance for a specific purpose. The Blount County Corrections Partnership was not told about this assignment even though it is the body charged with making recommendations on the jail and criminal justice system. The commission and public weren’t told about this assignment. The public learned about the matter shortly after I did, after I read about the secret plan in the minutes of a state body.
Gary Farmer said, “There is no such thing as secret money.” The money itself may not be a secret but there was a secret plan with intended use of this money.
No solution Mike Caylor asked if the money could be spent without commission approval. It can’t. Any commissioner who doesn’t know that shouldn’t be a commissioner. This was his attempt to cover for the Mayor, Finance Director and Sheriff who would rather plan their actions in secret rather than discuss the matter in public with the Blount County Corrections Partnership.
The jail has been and remains an important issue in Blount County. Local government officials should be working diligent to address the needs of our criminal justice system, for the betterment of society. Instead the Blount County Corrections Partnership only meets a few times a year, information is withheld, meeting minutes don’t fully reflect motions that are made, the Commission Chairman cuts citizens off for referencing the jail study, Mike Caylor calls a point of order when I try to discuss ways to avoid jail expansion and money is assigned in secret. The public trust has been broken by these actions.
by Horatio Bunce
Remember, I asked you to watch for endorsements by the shills as they drop out. This is because any delegates they have earned along the way go to the endorsee. It reveals the GOPe (e=establishment) pre-selected “nominee” for you. GOPe vote splitter candidate Carly Fiorina endorsed Ted Cruz today.
“There are some people in our party saying Donald Trump isn’t so bad … but he’s a deal maker; he can make deals. The truth is Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two sides of the same coin. They’re not going to reform the system, they are the system,” she said.“
Says Fiorina….as she endorses an incumbent U.S. Senator. Ah yes, the Ron Paul Treatment™. We know it well. Say they aren’t a Republican, say a vote for them is a vote for Democrats, make up a new name to call them so you never refer to them as Republican, etc.
The Tennessee Republican primary ballot revealed that Fiorina was merely a shill campaign with only two at-large delegates to choose from – and one of those an incumbent state representative. I.e., if you used all 14 of your at-large votes then 86% of your delegate vote had to be for someone else. The GOPe must cover their bases in the proportionally awarded delegate states and ensure they have placed sufficient connected party faithful with all candidates they expect to earn delegates on primary day. Just study the committed delegate names a little. You’ll see what I mean. Note to Jerome Moon: your services will no longer be required per Roger Ailes.
Well, it isn’t easy maintaining a pretend campaign (and there were several of them) for president and pay for keeping up appearances through February, but this shill campaign has had to wait until after Super Tuesday to cough up their earned delegate (as in she only has one) since Single Digit Jeb! was failed Plan A and Rubio/Cruz was Plan B. And, since Fox News chief Roger Ailes has declared “we can’t do the Rubio thing any more”, the only choice remaining is to give the delegate….uh, I mean endorsement, to Cruz.
But maybe the question Cruz supporters should be asking/answering is:
“The Cruz PAC raised just over eleven million dollars by the end of June, nearly all of it from a Robert Mercer, a Wall Street hedge fund manager. The $500,000 donation to CARLY for America is its largest expenditure to date. The remainder of the $36,169 it spent went to polling research and legal fees.”
by Horatio Bunce
Jeb is out, despite finishing fourth and the “news” telling us this week that as long as he had 10% of the vote in SC he could/should continue through Florida. WWE star Trump spanked them again in nearly every county. But did you notice Fox’s exit polling at SC – I mean besides that they are apparently too embarrassed to post Single Digit Jeb’s numbers? Notice who is oddly missing from these exit poll questions:
Q: Which ONE of these five candidates would best handle the economy? (CHECK ONLY ONE)
Q: Which ONE of these five candidates would best handle an international crisis? (CHECK ONLY ONE)
Q: Which ONE of these five candidates would best handle Supreme Court nominations? (CHECK ONLY ONE)
Q: Which ONE of these five candidates do you think ran the most unfair campaign? (CHECK ONLY ONE)
Now that Single Digit Jeb has quit (and where will those tens of millions of donations go?), it will now be “ok” for Kasich to drop out and more importantly, pressure will be on Carson to drop out and the “news” will start giving him the Ron Paul treatment. You will be hearing how he has no chance and should drop out any minute now. Suddenly, single digit candidates will have “no chance” and might not even make the next debates.
Watch for whom Jeb endorses…
by Horatio Bunce
Jeb Bush gains some ground in GOP polls (of course he is…..)
“A recent Reuters poll shows him in third place, behind Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz. Two South Carolina polls support that, showing the one-time frontrunner gaining ground, even edging out Florida’s other favorite son, Sen. Marco Rubio. Just a month ago, Bush was in single digits. Some even began to count him out.”
Uh, I think you meant just yesterday he was in single digits. Remember that Gallup poll 10 whole days ago where Single Digit Jeb took honors for “least favorable candidate”?
But Justin Clark of Fort Myers has a theory. “People are looking toward more conventional candidates.“
Oh yeah…gimme that establishment GOP. No need for that double-speak “conventional” stuff.
“It probably has to do with he does have a lot of money backing him,” said Victoria Blaine.
No doubt, because you probably can’t find any actual voters backing him. Where ARE those JEB! stickers?
Have you noticed the game shift in the “news” this week? Trump constantly pitted vs. Cruz while Single Digit Jeb’s ads attack Rubio? Rubio? You mean third place Rubio? Yep. Not Cruz. Not Trump. Normally, I would have said fourth place Rubio, but since the last debate Ben Carson has officially been killed by the “news” and their new poll numbers.
“Bush will need to perform strong in the next GOP debate to continue his rise.”
Oh? Well, thanks for pre-announcing that Single Digit Jeb, while currently “least favorable” among Republican voters is automatically ACTUALLY IN the next debate already.
So Single Digit Jeb from seventh to third….just like that.
Commission canceled meeting – Mayor calls one anyway, ramrods 20 resolutions through during Christmas season
Ordinarily commissioners place resolutions on the agenda of the Agenda Committee, where the committee will discuss whether to send the resolution(s) forward to the monthly commission meeting. For two of the last three months, resolutions have not gone through the normal double vetting process.
In October, the mayor decided that he wanted to control the agenda of the commission by calling a special meeting the same week as the regularly scheduled commission meeting. Commission Chairman Jerome Moon canceled the regular commission meeting because there was no need to have two meetings in the same week. This allowed the Mayor to set the agenda for the Commission instead of the Commission setting its own agenda.
With unanimous consent, the County Commission canceled its December meetings (Agenda Committee and Commission) but the Mayor disrespected the choice of the commission by calling a special meeting to ramrod 20 resolutions through, including the creation of an IT fund using $1.3 million of your tax money. This move allowed the mayor to set the agenda again.
Under the state law, the mayor can call special meetings of the Blount County legislative body. There is rarely a need to call a special meeting because the commission meets regularly, once a month. However, the mayor has decided to abuse the process in recent months. A special meeting should be called when an urgent need arises to deal with an important matter. Special meetings shouldn’t be called to avoid the Agenda Committee process or to ramrod large agendas through during the holiday season when few people are able to attend meetings and/or are paying attention.
Commissioners Mike Caylor and Karen Miller were absent. The other 19 were present.
20 resolutions – no fiscal discipline
There were 20 resolutions on the special called meeting and all 20 passed. While seven of the resolutions were to amend the budget to reflect the funds that the County received to recoup expenses related to the CSX train derailment and one was to allow for safe passage of a visitor from the North Pole there were twelve more resolutions that should have gone through the usual vetting process. This is a sorry way to conduct business.
If you are upset with the omnibus spending bill that congress just rammed through, you’ll want to pay closer attention to your local government that just rammed through 20 resolutions in a rush right before the Christmas holiday season. There is a Washington, DC, Blount County, Tennessee parallel.
Property Assessor cut health benefits and then wanted it back and more
The Commission was asked to vote on a budget amendment to increase funding for health care benefits for the Property Assessor’s reappraisal employees. The Commission was asked to appropriate an additional $35,500. Interestingly, most of this amount was in the budget last year. See page 18 for the FY 15 and 16 health insurance amounts. The cost centers are 205 and 207. When I inquired why money had been cut from these cost centers, no one from the Property Assessor’s Office was present to answer the question. No one from the Property Assessor’s Office attended the Budget Committee to explain this either.
$1.3 million IT Fund – IT expenses $4.1 million without approval of IT Committee
Information Technology (IT) expenses are projected to have a 5 year cost exceeding $4.1 million. Remarkably, none of these expenses have been recommended by the IT Committee.
Finance Director Randy Vineyard is the driving force behind many of these expenditures. He appears to be the defacto leader of the courthouse, rather than Mayor Ed Mitchell.
The costs include:
- $2.3 million for Kronos, over a 5 year period
- $9,300 for the first year and $3,400 each year there after for software used by the Election Commission
- $579,064 Spillman software purchase for Sheriff’s Office
- $1,348,942 million IT Fund to update infrastructure and purchase new equipment
The Commission was not presented with the Election Commission software purchase because the Election Commission budget was already so bloated that it did not take an increase to purchase the software. The IT Committee sent this item to the Budget Committee on the condition that the Administrator of Elections show up and explain the purchase. The Administrator did not attend the IT Committee meeting and did not provide any explanation to the IT Committee as to why the new software was needed.
The Election Commission had previously been using in-house software. The IT Director said the new software requested by the new Administrator of Elections Susan Hughes will actually take more time to use than the old system. Why anyone would want to spend money on software that takes more time to use than an in house system is beyond me. To add insult to injury, when Hughes inquired whether she needed to present the software request to the Commission, the Mayor responded saying, not unless you are a glutton for punishment.
The Kronos payroll, time keeping and H.R. software was a top secret project. The lead volunteer on the project is no longer overseeing the project and the payroll portion is 3 months behind schedule.
The Spillman software purchase last month was another big expense. All but $100,000 of it was funded with court costs. You can read the contract here.
The IT Director, John Herron, left earlier this year to go to work for Blount County Schools. He kept the County’s IT system afloat on in-house software and by modifying software purchased many years ago. This saved the County large sums of money that is and will be spent on more modern software programs. While many of us in the private sector make due without having state of the art everything and live within our budgets this apparently wasn’t good enough for our Finance Director. More than one County employee shared with me that the Finance Director wanted the IT Director gone. Rather than working with the IT Director while he had the chance, the Finance Director waited until the IT Director left and seized the opportunity to go on a spending spree after already getting a $2.3 million software system the year before.
The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for an IT company for the newest IT project was sent out on December 4th, before the Budget Committee and Commission met. This should tell everyone that the Mayor and Finance Director considered this issue a slam dunk with the Budget Committee and the Commission. It should alarm the taxpaying public that your Commission allows the Mayor and Finance Director to take us for granted. The legislative body is suppose ensure that important matters aren’t rushed through irresponsibly and that taxpayer money is spent wisely on priority items not long wish lists.
The IT Committee sent the report to the Budget Committee but made no recommendation based on the report. When the IT Committee voted to send the report on, I stated that I hoped that before the Budget Committee made any budget
recommendation that the IT Committee be given the chance to make recommendations. That didn’t happen.
The Budget Committee decided to fund the entire estimated costs (over $1.3 million) listed in the report and recommended putting it into a capital projects fund. The Budget Committee asked very few questions on the matter.
The Commission addressed the $1.3 million request at the special called meeting. We were told that the IT Committee had recommended it and that the Sheriff’s Office couldn’t proceed without this fund, neither of which are true. Creating the fund isn’t actually appropriating money for specific purchases. The purchases could be made without the fund and still have to go through normal purchasing protocols.
Motions were made to postpone the matter until February, which didn’t make a lot of sense since the matter needed to be prioritized rather than just delayed, to reduce the amount to $700,000 and to send the matter back to the IT Committee. All 3 motions failed.
There are two things that jump out at me regarding the $1.3 million placed in the capital fund. Some of the estimates seem high. For example, monitors are listed at an estimated cost of $168.30 each (see page 54) but any of us could walk into an office supply store and get a better off the shelf price, with no prior planning. The same is likely true for the desktop pcs, even though the individual specifications aren’t listed. Furthermore, there are two capital costs listed as unknown (see page 53). I hope this doesn’t cause this latest IT project to exceed its budgeted costs.
The money will come out of the General Fund. Now that the funds are available, there is little, if any, incentive not to spend the funds.
All of this has taught me that it is a bad policy to forward anything from the IT Committee to the Budget Committee without a specific recommendation. The IT Committee needs to thoroughly examine everything before sending anything on without a recommendation. I will be insistent on this in the future.
More mistakes by Finance Director and staff
Last month I wrote about mistakes made by the Finance Director and/or his staff. The mistakes continued this month. Last month the Commission was asked to vote on a budget amendment for the donations to the Animal Shelter. This month we were asked to vote on an amendment to undue last months amendment because we didn’t need the amendment after all.
The Commission was asked to vote to amend the budget to appropriate an additional $578,611 for workers compensation because of an omission by the Finance Director. It is not that difficult to calculate workers compensation. Situations can arise that would necessitate a small increase but a competent Finance Director wouldn’t miss the mark this much.
Funding workers compensation isn’t an optional budgetary expenditure. While I voted for this amendment, in hindsight I wish that I hadn’t. Could it be that this was under budgeted, to make the budget look smaller than it actually was, knowing that funding it isn’t optional? It’s much easier to come back during the middle of the fiscal year for a huge budget increase on an expense that isn’t optional than for one that isn’t. I intend to monitor this situation more closely in the future and will likely only support amendments that are minor necessary adjustments, not huge increases (‘mistakes’) like this.
Competitive sealed bid threshold raised from $10,000 to $25,000
In January, the Commission rejected having the same people serve on the Purchasing Commission and the Budget Committee at the same time. In March, the Commission approve the Mayor’s appointments to the newly separated Purchasing Commission. I voted no on the appointments for several reasons, the most important being that I didn’t see anyone in the nominees that I could be sure would look out for the taxpayers. Unfortunately, based on the first action of the new Purchasing Commission,
my concern is now justified.
It should be noted that this is also one of the first things that the new Purchasing Agent, Katie Branham an attorney, pushed for. The Purchasing Commission approved 4 to 0 with 1 absent to raise the competitive sealed bid threshold from $10,000 to $25,000. Now the Purchasing Department will only need to try to get 3 bids before awarding purchases up to $25,000. Special deals were just made easier in Blount County. Only Commissioners Akard and I voted no.
Election Commission members given pay raise
We live in a time where the idea that public servants should actually serve the public, rather than themselves, seems trite, if not nonexistent. I take my job as a public servant very seriously, to the point that I am willing to serve without compensation. So many today get in positions in government to enrich themselves while giving lip service to the notion of public service.
The Blount County Election Commission meets once a month. In a non-election year, the meetings can be brief, some lasting less than an hour. The current pay is $300 a month for each member except for the Chairman who is paid $400. The members will now be paid $400 a month starting in February. Where else can you get paid $400 for an hour or two of work each month?
During an election year there is more work for the Election Commission but that is public service. My wish for the new year is for those who claim they want to serve to examine whether that is really what is in their hearts and minds. While 4 Commissioners voted no on the resolution to increase the pay, only Commissioners Akard and I voted no on the transfer that made the pay increase possible.
The majority of Election Commissioners were on the Election Commission when it voted to not count the ballots of Keith and Karen Miller in 2010 because they had requested paper ballots.
$1 million ear mark for jail
I have long maintained that our local government operates far too secretively. That point could not be clearer than the recent revelation that Mayor Ed Mitchell and Finance Director Randy Vineyard earmarked one million for the jail without telling the commission or the public.
When asked for a comment, the Mayor lacked the integrity to even respond. Failure to respond to a request for comment has become the norm for the Mayor.
The Finance Director said that he had a transition facility in mind when he earmarked the money without telling you, the taxpaying public. A Sheriff’s employee recently told me that he also wanted a transition facility. Blount County may benefit from a transition facility but something this important should be discussed openly for the benefit of the public, not behind closed doors with secret earmarking.
The Finance Director serves as a non-voting member of the Blount County Corrections Partnership but he did not bother to inform the BCCP, the Commission or the public about this money. After the Budget Committee meeting, where I questioned the Finance Director about this money, he yelled at me after the microphones were turned off and the press had left the room. With this type of behavior and secrecy and the volume of financial mistakes, I am convinced that the taxpaying citizens of Blount County deserve a better Finance Director and Mayor.
With all the big spending by this Commission, Mayor and several office holders, I think the best investment this County could make is to hire a new Finance Director who will be open, better informed, live within the budget and stop making so many mistakes. My November 6th email to the Finance Director on the nearly $80 million in variable rate debt that will need to be refinanced in 2016 remains unanswered.
The resolution that I filed in November to have a hearing on the nearly $94,580 jail study was delayed until January. Interestingly the Sheriff’s Office has already followed the advice given in the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) report regarding renegotiating per diem rates for housing federal inmates. The ILPP report recommended hiring a company with expertise in rate negotiations to renegotiate the rates. The Sheriff’s Office took this advice and received a rate increase.
The BCCP unanimously (5-0 with one absent) recommended that the Commission have a hearing on the jail study. The Commission chose not to because of the Mayor’s false threat of a lawsuit, against the jail consultant, to silence discussion. There is no lawsuit. It’s time to hear from the consultant.
by Eric Holcombe
Check out the latest UN global governance missive you paid to be broadcast to folks at the movies this week; those whom may have missed out on the coincidentally-timed, wall-to-wall coverage of the redundant message from the “holy father”:
“THE PLAN IS AGREED BY EVERYONE”…..yeah, all the cool kids are doing it – except for the Holy See of course.
This was followed by a trailer for military-industrial complex p*rn: The Martian, a movie suggesting human residence on Mars is plausible (in a boy-in-a-bubble sort of way) – coincidentally-timed with the state media release of the “we gotta spend NASA billions to explore Mars saltwater” story replete with “liquid” water gems like these:
“Liquid water has many uses:
- It can be used for drinking.
- It can be used to produce breathable oxygen.
- It can help make rocket fuel to launch astronauts off the planet and back home.“
Really now….water-based rocket fuel you say? I guess it’s a great thing then that the surface of the earth is about 70% salt water. All our energy worries are over! On Mars however, there is precious little of it. But you too can sign up for the “one-way” trip to the red desert at the Mars One project.
Just a couple of examples of the 2013 NDAA Congress--sponsored propagandizing of the American people at their own expense…”making “available, in the United States, motion pictures, films, video, audio, and other materials prepared for dissemination abroad or disseminated abroad pursuant to this Act….”
There are some in the community who think that everything on this website is written by me (Tona Monroe). That is not the case. This site was never intended to be a website solely with material written by me. I own domains with my name and could just as easily write the material there.
There are some in the community who think that I agree with everything written on this website. That is not the case either. My intention in creating this website was never to have complete and total agreement with every word posted here.
The litmus test for content on this website was never complete and total agreement with my views and is not the case now. My goals are to promote freedom and transparency in government. Those are the reasons why I started this website and why I continue publishing on this website. Those are also the reasons that I ran for office and what I hope to achieve while in office.
The content here is intended to be thought provoking while promoting freedom and openness in government. Everything that is posted here should no more be viewed as my opinions than letters to the editors are viewed as being the opinions of the editors at newspapers.
As I’ve said many times before and will continue saying, let freedom ring!
by Eric Holcombe
Rocky Top Politics has reminded us that July 13 is Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee. It’s required by state law TCA 15-2-101:
Additional special observance days.
Each year it is the duty of the governor of this state to proclaim the following as days of special observance: January 19, “Robert E. Lee Day”; February 12, “Abraham Lincoln Day”; March 15, “Andrew Jackson Day”; June 3, “Memorial Day” or “Confederate Decoration Day”; July 13, “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”; and November 11, “Veterans’ Day.” The governor shall invite the people of this state to observe the days in schools, churches, and other suitable places with appropriate ceremonies expressive of the public sentiment befitting the anniversary of such dates.
RTP pointed out that Achieve Inc. board member Haslam has signed such a proclamation for Nathan Bedford Forrest Day the last four years running and wondered in light of his recent, new-found distaste for certain statues if Achieve Inc. board member Haslam would break the state law this year. However, that question has been answered already: Achieve Inc. board member Haslam signed the proclamation declaring July 13 as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day back on June 2.
So to recap:
Achieve Inc. board member Haslam on June 2, 2015: “I….do hereby proclaim July 13, 2015 as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee and encourage all citizens to join me in this worthy observance.”
Achieve Inc. board member Haslam on June 23, 2015: “If I’m choosing the Tennesseans that I’m going to honor, and we’re only going to honor a few in the State Capitol, I don’t think I’d pick Nathan Bedford Forrest,”.
It’s interesting that Mayor Ed Mitchell has hired a reporter who a few months ago covered the fact that the Blount County Commission has yet to hear from the jail consultant paid to address the overcrowding problem. Mitchell responded by threatening to file a frivolous lawsuit.
The reporter doesn’t have any experience in the field of Emergency Management that he was hired to work in. Could this be Mitchell’s attempt to keep his friends close and his enemies closer? It appears to be a smart move on Mitchell’s part but the way that Mitchell, the Sheriff and the commission have responded to the jail report is not smart for the taxpayers of Blount County.
The Sheriff is hell-bent on building a new jail pod. The criminal justice assessement report (jail study) said there are many things we can do besides expand the jail. That’s why the report had to be squashed, ignored, ridiculed and the character of the person who did the report maligned. Most of the people in county government are afraid to stand up to the Sheriff and say no to expanding the jail.
Ed Mitchell doesn’t run this town. The Sheriff does. Mitchell is only in charge of the things that the Sheriff doesn’t care about. You can see it in Mitchell’s actions. The Mayor didn’t have to respond to the jail consultant the way he did.
Where is that lawsuit Mayor? You know the one that you threatened to file with your Not the County Attorney*. It’s time to quit playing games. Numerous lives and the wallets of the people of Blount County are at risk from the poor decisions made by our local government.
The best place to start reducing the jail population is to stop taking federal inmates since we lose money on them. The report that the Mayor and his Not the County Attorney don’t want the commission to talk about said we lose money on federal inmates.
*Blount County does not have a county atttorney established by private act. The Mayor is authorized to employee counsel when there is no office of county attorney.
Those are the words of Wally Kirby, executive director for the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference referring to the outright lies told by the attorneys paying political hack Fred Thompson to lie to you on the radio about “preserving your right to vote” for judges. TNReport covered a strong-arm attempt by Gov. Haslam via Bill Gibbons to leverage an endorsement on 2 from the actually elected district attorneys. They couldn’t muster a 2/3 majority without Gibbons “reminding” them of how invested the Governor is in this amendment and holding an additional vote.
So there are 10 (or more) district attorneys that still have a shred of a conscience left and know that the executive branch is acting illegally by “selecting” judges and our entire current state supreme court has been “selected” by Bredesen and Haslam.
“Quite frankly, there was strong opposition from a few,” Wally Kirby, executive director for the DA’s organization, told TNReport. “Some of them feel like all of the judges should be properly, popularly elected — like they are.” [emphasis mine]
“Kirby wouldn’t provide names of those who voted against the measure, but he related that some felt Amendment 2 is confusing, and that the campaign in favor of it has been misleading. The “Yes on 2″ commercial suggesting that the amendment protects the people’s right to vote for judges is “very deceiving,” he said.
“That is an out-and-out falsehood,” said Kirby. “It does not give you the opportunity to vote for a judge. It gives you the opportunity to vote in a retention election eight years from now.”[emphasis mine]
If I had been violating the state Constitution like Governors Bredesen and Haslam have been, the illegally “selected” judges have been….I guess I would want the buy-in of the remaining state level DA’s too. Who is left to indict you?