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February 2015 Commission Report

“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”  Judge Gideon John Tucker wrote this statement in the decision of a will case.  It is often attributed to Mark Twain as well.

Commission meeting canceled
The Blount County Commission meeting, along with several committee meetings, was canceled this month due to inclement weather.  The focus on safety this month has been, and still is, ensuring that people have the basic needs of life: food, clothing and shelter.  Hopefully you and your family are faring well through this winter weather.

No final decisions were made on public policy this month because the commission meeting was canceled.  The unfinished business will be conducted at the March commission meeting.

Recycling Committee
The agenda included the formation of an ad hoc committee to study recycling.  It creates three citizens seats.  If you are interested in being nominated to serve on a committee to study recycling, please contact your commissioners to express your desire to serve.

Information Technology Committee
The IT Committee meet on Monday to discuss updating the video technology in the commission room.  The matter was tabled because the Mayor said that there is a new employee in the Sheriff’s Department who may be able to provide insight to the matter and update the technology for substantially less money.

RAC2 Zoning
The only controversy this month surrounded a resolution that creates a new rural arterial commercial zone (RAC2).  Several years ago, the commission severely restricted commercial development in the rural areas of the county.  The county is growing, necessitating the need for commercial development.  The question is how to achieve responsible development.

Here’s some basic information about the commercial development regulations in the proposed RAC2 zone:

  • Development is limited to four roads: 411 North (Sevierville Road), Hwy 129 (Calderwood Highway), Hwy 72 and Hwy 321
  • Building size is limited to 10,000 square feet
  • Uses are limited  (see page 20)
  • There are no special exceptions
  • External lighting must be directed away from the right-of-way and land zoned residential
  • A noise mitigation barrier may be required as part of the site plan

I’ve read every letter and email sent to me on the subject.  If you tried calling and couldn’t reach me please know that I had very limited phone service for several days following the ice storm.

It’s been brought to my attention that the Planning Commission makes public input difficult by not having it as an agenda on the item.  I will work to correct that, making it easier for citizens to comment.

Bundle up and stay safe during this weather.  If you are feeling burdened from mother nature, you can enjoy the safety she provided you by prohibiting the legislative body of Blount County from meeting in regular session.

Adventures in head banging: Less than 24 hours to look at 5 month old quote edition

headbashwallFor several years Blount Countians have been able to watch local government meetings online.  This is convenient and useful for those with an interest in local politics who don’t want to travel.

The technology is old and needs to be updated.  The live streaming camera is in the back of the room and does not zoom in on the person talking.  People who regularly listen to commission meetings quickly learn the voices but first time listeners face a learning curve.

During the October IT Committee meeting, I shared with the committee the complaints that I have received from citizens about problems with the live streaming and the google system used for recording the meetings.  The Mayor informed the committee that he was going to bring a request for a new video system for the commission room to the Budget Committee in January.  That didn’t happen.

The IT Committee meeting is today at 5 PM in room 430, the commission room.  This meeting packet arrived in my inbox at 10:03 PM last night.  That’s less than 24 hours to review the information.  The worst part is that the Request for Proposal for a video system in the packet is dated September 29, 2014, meaning this information has been available for nearly five months.  There is no good reason why this information couldn’t have been provided five days in advance of the meeting.  I tried to amend our rules to fix the problem and petty politicians killed the solution.

Now I am left with trying to make a decision with less than 24 hours notice on 5 month old information.  I guess I should look on the bright side.  At the October IT Committee meeting, I was given my information packet at the meeting.  This time I got over a half a day to review the information.  Is this progress?  My head hurts.

Interventionism Kills: Post-Coup Ukraine One Year Later

It was one year ago last weekend that a violent coup overthrew the legally elected government of Ukraine. That coup was not only supported by US and EU governments — much of it was actually planned by them. Looking back at the events that led to the overthrow it is clear that without foreign intervention Ukraine would not be in its current, seemingly hopeless situation.

By the end of 2013, Ukraine’s economy was in ruins. The government was desperate for an economic bailout and then-president Yanukovych first looked west to the US and EU before deciding to accept an offer of help from Russia. Residents of south and east Ukraine, who largely speak Russian and trade extensively with Russia were pleased with the decision. West Ukrainians who identify with Poland and Europe began to protest. Ukraine is a deeply divided country and the president came from the eastern region.

At this point the conflict was just another chapter in Ukraine’s difficult post-Soviet history. There was bound to be some discontent over the decision, but if there had been no foreign intervention in support of the protests you would likely not be reading this column today. The problem may well have solved itself in due time rather than escalated into a full-out civil war. But the interventionists in the US and EU won out again, and their interventionist project has been a disaster.

The protests at the end of 2013 grew more dramatic and violent and soon a steady stream of US and EU politicians were openly participating, as protesters called for the overthrow of the Ukrainian government. Senator John McCain made several visits to Kiev and even addressed the crowd to encourage them.

Imagine if a foreign leader like Putin or Assad came to Washington to encourage protesters to overthrow the Obama Administration!

As we soon found out from a leaked telephone call, the US ambassador in Kiev and Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, were making detailed plans for a new government in Kiev after the legal government was overthrown with their assistance.

The protests continued to grow but finally on February 20th of last year a European delegation brokered a compromise that included early elections and several other concessions from Yanukovych. It appeared disaster had been averted, but suddenly that night some of the most violent groups, which had been close to the US, carried out the coup and Yanukovych fled the country. 

When the east refused to recognize the new government as legitimate and held a referendum to secede from the west, Kiev sent in tanks to force them to submit. Rather than accept the will of those seeking independence from what they viewed as an illegitimate government put in place by foreigners, the Obama administration decided to blame it all on the Russians and began imposing sanctions!

That war launched by Kiev has lasted until the present, with a ceasefire this month brokered by the Germans and French finally offering some hope for an end to the killing. More than 5,000 have been killed and many of those were civilians bombed in their cities by Kiev.

What if John McCain had stayed home and worried about his constituents in Arizona instead of non-constituents 6,000 miles away? What if the other US and EU politicians had done the same? What if Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt had focused on actual diplomacy instead of regime change? 

If they had done so, there is a good chance many if not all of those who have been killed in the violence would still be alive today. Interventionism kills.


Copyright © 2015 by RonPaul Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a live link are given.

The Failed ‘Yemen Model’

by Ron Paul

Last September President Obama cited his drone program in Yemen as a successful model of US anti-terrorism strategy. He said that he would employ the Yemen model in his effort to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

But just a week ago, the government in Yemen fell to a Shiite militia movement thought to be friendly to Iran. The US embassy in Yemen’s capitol was forced to evacuate personnel and shut down operations.

If Yemen is any kind of model, it is a model of how badly US interventionism has failed.

In 2011 the US turned against Yemen’s long-time dictator, Saleh, and supported a coup that resulted in another, even more US-friendly leader taking over in a “color revolution.” The new leader, Hadi, took over in 2012 and soon became a strong supporter of the US drone program in his country against al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula.

But last week Hadi was forced to flee from office in the coup. The media reports that the US has lost some of its intelligence capability in Yemen, which is making it more difficult to continue the drone strikes. Nevertheless, the White House said last week that its drone program would continue as before, despite the disintegration of the Yemeni government.

And the drone strikes have continued. Last Monday, in the first US strike after the coup, a 12 year old boy was killed in what is sickeningly called “collateral damage.” Two alleged “al-Qaeda militants” were also killed. On Saturday yet another drone strike killed three more suspected militants.

The US government has killed at least dozens of civilian non-combatants in Yemen, but even those it counts as “militants” may actually be civilians. That is because the Obama administration counts any military-aged male in the area around a drone attack as a combatant.

It was al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that claimed responsibility for the brutal shooting at an anti-religious magazine in Paris last month. At least one of the accused shooters cited his anger over US policy in the Middle East as a motivation for him to attack.

Does anyone wonder why, after 14 years of drone strikes killing more than 800 al-Qaeda militants, it seems there are still so many of them? As a Slate Magazine article this week asked, “what if the drones themselves are part of the problem?” That is an excellent question and one that goes to the heart of US anti-terrorist strategy. What if it is US interventionism in general and drone strikes in particular that are motivating so many people to join anti-US militant movements? What if it is interventionist and militarist western foreign policy that is motivating people to shoot up magazines and seek to bring terrorism back to the countries they see as aggressors?

That is the question that the interventionists fear most. If blowback is real, if they do not hate us because we are so rich and free but because of what our governments are doing to them, then US interventionism is making us less safe and less free.

The disintegration of Yemen is directly related to US drone policy. The disintegration of Libya is directly related to US military intervention. The chaos and killing in Syria is directly related to US support for regime change. Is there not a pattern here?

The lesson from Yemen is not to stay the course that has failed so miserably. It is to end a failed foreign policy that is killing civilians, creating radicals, and making us less safe.

http://www.ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2015/february/01/the-failed-yemen-model/

January 2015 Commission Report

The Good
A tremendous victory was achieved this month.  Commissioner Mike Akard and I have been trying to separate the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission since taking office.  Our efforts were finally successful.  Read my articles on the subject here and hereBusiness owners have expressed their concerns, to me, about the county purchasing procedures.  This is our opportunity to reform business as usual in Blount County government.

Ultimately, real reform is dependent upon the quality of people elected to serve on the Purchasing Commission.  Please contact the Mayor at 273-5700 and emitchell@blounttn.org with your suggestions for people to serve on the Purchasing Commission.  Commissioner Akard would make an excellent member on the Purchasing Commission because he is a business owner with extensive purchasing experience and will ask the questions that need to be asked in order to improve county purchasing procedures.

At the Blount County Corrections Partnership meeting, on the 27th, my motion to hear from the Executive Director of the Institute of Law and Policy Planning on the Criminal Justice System Assessment Report that the county paid $95,000 for last year, passed out of the committee and will be sent as a recommendation to the Agenda Committee.  Despite the final report being issued May 31, 2014, the commission has never been given a presentation on the findings in the report.  The report addresses multiple ways to reduce the jail overcrowding problem.  This should be on the commission agenda soon.  You can read the study here, starting on page 264.

The Bad
Unfortunately the political machine was able to muster the votes to appoint a habitual tax delinquent to the Budget Committee.  The Trustee’s office told me that Sharon Hannum had 9 delinquent tax bills during 2011-2013.  That means that she was delinquent on all of her property taxes during those three years.  Six tax bills were parcels of property and three tax bills were related to Hannum’s business.  The current business tax bill is only $6 for the year.  The Mayor tried to justify putting someone who can’t manage her own household budget in charge of a $165 million budget.  The people didn’t buy the Mayor’s excuses.

About two dozen emails filled commissioners’ inboxes asking us to vote no on Sharon Hannum.  A few asked that the commission separate the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission.  Furthermore, after the front page articles, people who have worked with Sharon Hannum contacted me, thanked me and shared their experiences and concerns about Hannum.  Apparently, many people are in agreement with me but have been afraid to express their views for fear of being attacked like I have been.

Someone pointed out to me that no women or minorities spoke in favor of Sharon Hannum.  It was just the good ole’ boys, who like to spend your money, who spoke at the meeting in support of her. This confirms my concern that she will be a yes woman for the political machine.

What was lost in the paper’s coverage of the nomination was Mitchell’s hesitation on fixed rate financing and the purchasing problems within county government.  Those should have been the focal points of the nomination but they don’t make for good headlines.

Commissioners Andy Allen, Brad Bowers, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Jeff Headrick, Jerome Moon, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett voted yes. Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly and Karen Miller voted no. Commissioners Cole and Lewis abstained.  Jerome Moon was suppose to abstain and said so after the vote total was announced.  Commissioners Melton and Monroe were absent.

The other bad news was the commission’s rejection of a highly qualified and accomplished nominee for the Jail Inspection Committee.  At the Agenda meeting, I nominated Doctor Nancy McEntee to serve on the Jail Inspection Committee.  There were four nominees and Doctor McEntee received the least number of votes.

Harry Grothjahn of Truth Radio contacted 3 of the 4 nominees, Brad Bryant, Nancy McEntee and Robert Mathis to inquire if they had read the jail study.  Only Nancy McEntee was aware of the study.

Worth noting is Commissioner Tom Stinnett’s efforts to ensure that Doctor McEntee did not get nominated even though he voted for her.  She resides in mine and Commissioner Stinnett’s district so he voted for her, which allows him to avoid criticism in his district.  However, he got to vote last because of the alphabetical roll call vote and knew that the machine’s three nominees had already won election without his votes.  At the Agenda meeting he seconded the motion to forward on the nomination of Robert Mathis, even though he didn’t vote for him at the Agenda meeting.  He was able to help the good ole’ boys while appearing to save face in his district.  These sorts of tricks are unfortunate but easily seen by those in attendance.

The three jail inspectors elected are Brad Bryant, Sharon Hannum (yes she was elected to this committee as well) and Robert Mathis.  You can read about the committee responsibilities and the people who will serve on the Jail Inspection Committee here beginning on page 26.  The machine made sure that the three elected to serve on the Jail Inspection Committee won’t rock the boat in any significant way.

The Ugly
Several attacks were launched against me because I wrote about someone who can’t manage her own household budget being nominated to manage your local government budget.  It doesn’t pass the common sense test; therefore, I took to writing about the matter.  I never said Sharon Hannum’s name in public, which the paper noticed and wrote about, yet Commissioner Rick Carver launched an attack against me at the Agenda meeting.  Chairman Steve Samples allowed the attack to go into great length before commissioner Jerome Moon asked Chairman Samples to stop the attack.  Chairman Moon has gotten pretty good about shutting down personal attacks.  It wasn’t always that way but he has become consistent in stopping such attacks.

It’s times like this when I reflect upon why so few good people want to run for office.  Hit dogs holler the loudest and there was plenty of hollering at me.  However, I will carry on standing for your liberty and working to protect your wallets.  As I always like to conclude my emails, let freedom ring!

Ignorance about fixed income

This email was sent to Mayor Ed Mitchell from a citizen in the community.  I was cc’ed on it.  The name was removed at the request of the citizen.

Mr. Mitchell,
Every time you open your mouth you show your ignorance. You stated you nominated Ms. Hannum because she is on a fixed income. Well, everybody is on a fixed income including yourself, unless you take money out of the debt reduction fund and give yourself a raise.

Some people retired with a pension like Ms. Hannum did from Alcoa  Aluminum which is income for the rest of her life. Yes it’s fixed but a good income.

Some people retire with an IRA that they budgeted to save to have an income for retirement, but it is a fixed income depending how much was saved.

Some people retire on Social Security which is a fixed income with Medicare premiums taken out which reduces the amount of spendable income.

Carpenters, Plumbers, Brick Layers, Electricians, etc. are all on fixed income called hourly salary no matter how many hours they work. Same with factory workers and fast food workers and the unemployed on government assistance which eventually runs out.

The only people NOT ON A FIXED INCOME are sales people like car salesmen, insurance agents, real estate agents as they all work on commission.

It’s Ms. Hannum’s fault that she over spent on fixing up her property. That shows she can’t budget her own finances.

Every time you make a statement I wonder if your education didn’t get past the 10th grade.

Focal points should have been the Mayor’s agenda and better county purchasing procedure

Well it appears that Joel over at The Daily Times missed me (or something that I bring to the meetings) while I was gone.  When was the last time that the paper reported on the front page that a commissioner was “conspicuously absent from the meeting?”  ;-)  “Hugs” to Joel Davis and the people at The Daily Times.

The focal points of the Mayor’s picks for the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission should have been his hesitation for fixed rate financing and the purchasing problems within county government, rather than Hannum’s habitual tax delinquency.  I wrote about the Mayor’s agenda here and the purchasing problems here.  However, these issues don’t make for good front page headlines.

The people of Blount County understand though.  People routinely write me about the county debt.  My inbox had about two dozen emails asking commissioners to vote against Sharon Hannum and a couple to split the Budget Committee and Purchasing Commission.  None were in support of Hannum, or continuing status quo with the two bodies.

For a change your voices weren’t totally ignored.  A victory was achieved.  Blount County will now have a Purchasing Commission that is separate from the Budget Committee.  Let us hope that the new members will work to achieve better purchasing protocols for the taxpayers of Blount County.

Despite being absent from the commission meeting and having never said Hannum’s name in public, (The Daily Times noticed and reported that as well) the political machine of Blount County was rattled.  Hit dogs holler the loudest.  To the political machine I say, don’t hate me because The Daily Times reports some of what it reads on this website.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away.

“Antigonish” (1899), Hughes Mearns

Woo hoo! The Budget Committee and Purchasing Commission will now be separate bodies

Commissioners Mike Akard and I have both previously tried to make the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission two separate, distinct bodies composed of entirely different members, with the exception of the Mayor who serves on both as required by state law.  Commissioner Akard tried to achieve this in October of last year and I tried it at the Agenda meeting this month.  Both efforts failed, with the recent effort failing by a single vote.

A new day is dawning though.  The political machine of Blount County failed to get enough votes (11 are required) to approve the same four people to serve on the Purchasing Commission.  It is now up to the community to convince the Mayor to nominate people who will ask questions and demand accountability for taxpayer money.

We have a couple of commissioners who will ask tough questions when they need to be asked.  It would be good to get a someone like commissioner Akard, a businessman, on this committee since he knows what to ask and has recently demonstrated that he will ask important questions.

Under state law the Mayor may choose citizens.  Such citizens should be people with purchasing experience.  If you know anyone with experience as a purchasing agent, who is interested in serving, please contact the Mayor and suggest that he or she be nominated to serve in this role.

The Mayors contact info: emitchell@blounttn.org  273-5700

Good job commissioner Mike Akard in seeing this through!!!

Republican discrimination against the women on the commission

Some Republicans would deny that there is discrimination against the three women serving on the commission but actions speak louder than words.  During the general election in 2014, Jamie Daly and Karen Miller faced write-in opponents but neither received any financial support from the Blount County Republican Party.

Jamie Daly defeated Gerald Kirby in the primary election.  He launched a well funded write-in campaign.  Peggy Lambert said in the paper that she always supports the Republican Party nominee but a review of Gerald Kirby’s donations show that Lambert donated to Kirby in the general election, after he lost the primary to Daly.

The Blount County Republican Party gave Gary Farmer, who faced a Democrat, $5,000 for the general election. (See page 5)  This was such a large sum of money that Farmer returned over $1,500 back to the party.  Daly would have benefited from that money.

The Republican Party gave money to Sean Carter.  He also faced a Democrat in the general election.  (See page 7).

Earlier this week I spoke to Patsy Lunde, the Chairman of the Blount County Republican Party, about the party’s discrimination against the women.  The conversation was polite and it was evident that she had no good explanation for why the Republican party chose to discriminate against the women.

I asked Mrs. Lunde why the party did not give any money to Jamie Daly and Karen Miller.  She responded that write-ins don’t usually win so the Steering Committee didn’t think they should fund write-in campaigns.  I pointed out to her that her argument had no merit because the Republican Party donated to Kenneth Melton, who faced a write-in candidate in the general election.  (See page 3).

Her response to that was that Jamie Daly and Karen Miller didn’t ask the party for any money.  I reminded her that I called her during the general election and left a message telling her that the party should donate to Daly and Miller.  She never returned my call.  There was silence.  She did not respond to that statement.  She had nothing to defend the actions of herself or the party.

Finally I continued the conversation and it concluded with Mrs. Lunde saying she would pay more attention to the treatment of the women serving on the commission.  Some consolation to the voters who chose us and for all the hard work we three ladies have put into being commissioners.

Now the Mayor and the Republicans, that the party funded, are pushing for an unelected tax delinquent Democrat to serve on the Budget Committee.  Unfortunately, the Mayor is discriminating against the women on the commission and the Republican Party of Blount County appears to be happy about it.