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And the rubber stamping starts…

The politicians have made their first legal appointment after a campaign based on misleading people who haven’t read the state constitution into amending it to legalize appointing positions that were already unlawfully being appointed.  Amendment 2 would have never passed if people had understood what they were voting on.  Several people I spoke with, who voted for Amendment 2, regretted their votes.  They all said that they didn’t know what the state constitution actually said about election judges until after they had voted.

Thank you Brian Kelsey and many in the Tennessee General Assembly for pushing Soviet style elections on us.  I so look forward to voting for or against the R (Red ?) party appointments.

30-0 and 97-0.  How many will line up to vote yes on the judges in the next retention “election?”

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/politics/tenn-legislature-confirms-pages-as-new-state-supreme-court-justice-2c6195d8-4f17-18b8-e053-0100007f5-369729281.html

Suggested Reading:  http://www.dartblog.com/data/2013/02/010669.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_democracy

USA ranks 20th on The Human Freedom Index

While we enjoy some personal freedom, there is a lot of room for improvement.

http://www.cato.org/human-freedom-index

http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/human-freedom-index-files/human-freedom-index-2015.pdf

Not everything on this website is written by me

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!

April 2015 Commission Report

Blount County government was marred by indecisiveness and obstructionist politics in April.  However there are some commissioners who are standing for freedom and they deserve recognition for their principled stands.

Jail study hearing rejected
After paying over $94,000 for a jail study last year, the Commission rejected hearing from the jail consultant who conducted the study.  The Mayor obstructed progress by having a letter written to the Commission asking the Commission to reject hearing from the jail consultant so that the County can sue the consultant for a refund.

A man who actively campaigned for the Mayor shared with me that he told the Mayor that he should be embarrassed because the Mayor and the good ole’ boys wanted a study telling them to build.  He said that when they got a real study with real solutions, that Mayor covered it up and now wants to sue to save face.  This seems to be the prevailing opinion of people in the community.

Eight Commissioners voted to move forward instead of obstructing progress.  I (Tona Monroe) was the only Commissioner on the Blount County Corrections Partnership to vote to have the hearing.

Blount County Corrections Partnership meeting
The Corrections Partnership met on Tuesday.  This was the first meeting where ex-officio members Judges Tammy Harrington and Mike Gallegos served on the Partnership.  They were added to the Partnership to bring together all three branches of government for discussion on our criminal justice system.  There are now four commissioners, two judges, two members from the Sheriff’s Department and an ex-officio member from the Mayor’s office.

The Partnership unanimously recommended that the funding increase request for Recovery Court, which includes Drug Court, be approved by the commission.  For months I have been asking for information about how many people would be eligible for Recovery Court if it were to expanded.  I have been repeatedly told that everyone is too busy to give me that information.  Thankfully my request, that the funding recommendation include the requirement for this information to be reported to us, was included in the recommendation that will be forwarded to the full commission.  It is very important to identify how many people there are in the system who will be eligible for Recovery Court and have estimates for future demands so that the commission, and all those involved, can adequately prepare for the future.

Judge Harrington said that the funding request is “bare bones” but exactly what she meant by that isn’t clear.  She has repeatedly said she doesn’t know how many people would be eligible for Recovery Court if everyone who qualified was given the option of Recovery Court.  Harrington said that the funding will give the program enough money to fund the program that exists now but also implied that it could be expanded.  Thus, the bare bones funding statement sounded like a typical budget time request statement.  Hopefully the funding increase will help the county prepare better for the future by identifying how many inmates will be eligible for an expanding Recovery Court.

The rest of the meeting was mostly unremarkable except for Judge Tammy Harrington’s behavior.  She appeared to be more interested in venting than working together in a “Partnership” for the betterment of society.  After the meeting a citizen commented to me about Harrington rolling her eyes while people were speaking.

I was a co-sponsor to the resolution to add Judges Harrington and Gallegos to the Blount County Corrections Partnership because judges can serve an important role in working toward productive solutions for our criminal justice system and overcrowded jail.  I look forward to working with the judges and hope that Harrington will be more respectful in the future.

For once the meeting room wasn’t nearly empty.  Past attendees have usually consisted of Linda and Joe King, Harry Grothjahn, Commissioner Jamie Daly, Commissioner Karen Miller and a few people from the State.  Some citizens, Jail Inspector Sharon Hannum, the Sheriff and Deputy Chief Chris Cantrell were present at the meeting.

On June 24th Bob Bass, Senior Inspector with the Tennessee Corrections Institute, will give a presentation to the Blount County Corrections Partnership at 1 PM in the Commission room.   The agenda for the meeting after that (date to be determined) will include discussion about keeping federal prisoners in the jail.

IT Meeting
The IT Committee met but took no action.  It was decided that upgrading the recording equipment in the commission room would have to wait because of budget constraints.

There was some information about a new software system for the Sheriff’s Department that will allow for better communication with 911 and the municipalities that decide to use the same system.  Unfortunately there was no financial information in the packet about the costs.  The City of Alcoa told the Sheriff’s Department that they will use the same system but the City of Maryville hasn’t committed to it.  The Committee was not told why Maryville hasn’t committed to using the software system.

This was the third IT Committee meeting that I’ve attended.  The committee hasn’t made a single recommendation to the commission at any of those meetings.  I am left wondering why we have an IT Committee since it is never given timely or complete information to make recommendations.

Budget Workshops
The budget before the Budget Committee is now about $16 million over projected revenues.  The Budget Committee did not make a single cut to the proposed FY 16 budget during the month of April.

Commission meeting
Stormwater regulations
Controversial stormwater regulations passed the commission on a 13-7 vote.  Five of the six amendments proposed passed.  The part allowing a 3rd party to be added to your deed was removed.

The regulations would have allowed you to be fined up to $5,000 for simply planting a tree in a utility easement.  Most people don’t know precisely where utility easements are on their property.  My amendment adding the word knowingly to the provision about planting a tree in an easement passed, which means that the government will have to prove that you knew that you were planting a tree in a utility easement instead of simply being able to fine you up to $5,000 because a tree was planted within a utility easement.  While I wanted this provision removed from the regulations entirely I proceeded with this amendment because there was confusion as to whether this prohibition and the rest of the regulations under Section 4d are required under state law.

My amendment to remove a provision limiting you on the percentage of trees that you can plant failed.  As such, the regulations prohibit property owners from planting more than 1/3 of the same type of tree within the buffers.  There are many other causes for concern in the regulations.  You can read the unamended regulations here starting on page 38.

Commissioners Allen, Carter, Carver, Caskey, Caylor, Crowe, Daly, Farmer, Headrick, Lewis, Melton, Moon and Stinnett voted yes.  Commissioners Akard, Archer, Bowers, Cole, French, Miller and Monroe voted no.  Commissioner Samples abstained.

Stormwater repeal request
The commission passed my resolution asking federal legislators to pass legislation pending before congress that would prohibit the EPA from expanding its definition of waters of the United States through rulemaking authority and to repeal stormwater regulations returning the power back to the states and the people.  Commissioners Akard, Archer, Bowers, Carter, Caskey, Cole, Crowe, Daly, French, Miller, and Monroe voted yes.  Moon abstained.  The rest voted no.

Unfortunately the Mayor vetoed the resolution.  Instead of sending the commission his own reasoning for the veto, he sent a link to an editorial by The Daily Times on the matter.

Traffic Grants
There were five federal grants related to traffic enforcement, including DUI roadblocks.  I voted against them and explained my reasoning here and here.  The paper reported that we voted on six grants but the commission did not vote on the grant for funding for the DA’s office since their funding is through the state.

The nighttime seatbelt demo grant allows the University of Tennessee to study enforcement action for seatbelt usage at night.  The University of Tennessee obtained an unconstitutional grant from the Centers for Disease Control and will be studying five counties including Blount.  Buckle up because the state legislature just increased the seat belt fine, the Sheriff’s Department just got a grant for enforcement and UT can’t wait to use the money it got to study the results.  The nanny state has gotten expensive and complicated.

During the commission meeting I explained why I was voting no, which included taking my oath of office to uphold the federal and state Constitutions and mentioning what James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution had to say about the constitutionality of what we were voting on.  After the meeting, on the way down in the elevator Deputy Chief Jarod Millsaps mocked me for explaining my vote.  The next day the Sheriff apologized to me for Millsaps behavior.

On the bright side, I was thrilled to have three commissioners join me in voting no.  Commissioners Akard, Cole, Miller and I voted no.  The rest voted yes.  I commend these three commissioners for upholding their oaths of office and respecting the bill of rights which has been so trampled upon.

Recycling Committee appointed
Commissioners Brad Bower, Grady Caskey and I were appointed along with four citizens to serve on the Recycling Committee.  If you have ideas that you would like to share, please attend the first meeting on May 26th at 5 PM at the courthouse.

Abstaining on important votes
Commissioner Steve Samples abstained on the stormwater vote and Jerome Moon abstained on the jail study vote and the stormwater repeal request resolution.  These two have been abstaining on several issues lately.  Jerome Moon is the Chairman of the Commission and Steve Samples is the Chairman of the Agenda Committee.  These two hold the two most important positions of leadership within the legislative body of Blount County.  Why are they abstaining so much on critical issues?

Up next
The ambulance service agreement is up for renewal.

Laws and their effectiveness based on emotions and opinions

Jamie Satterfield has been writing some blog post about emotions, politics and opinions driving laws and interpretation of their effectiveness, rather than facts and logic.  Read two posts here and here.  She talks about passing laws by having people bring framed pictures of their loved on.

That was seen earlier this month in Blount County government.  A lady held up a picture of her mother during the Commission meeting while talking about the DUI roadblock grant.  This tugs at heart strings.  Losing a loved one to a drunk driver is inexcusable but the rights of people who don’t drink and drive should not be infringed upon because there are careless people in the world.  Enforcement of criminal laws should be directed at the people breaking the laws not the people who abide by the laws.

During the Commission meeting the Assistant DA, Ryan Desmond, said that the enforcement actions paid for with the federal grants were effective but the statistics he gave don’t support his statement.

He gave three years of statistics for impaired driving arrest in Blount County: 2012: 392, 2013: 341,  2014: 322.  He also stated impaired conviction rates had increased from 76.9% in 2010 to 88.9% in 2014.

I called him and asked for more information.  The numbers he provided show that impaired driving convictions rates fluctuated widely from 2010 to 2014.  2014 (88.9%), 2013 (81.4%), 2012 (84.8%), 2011 (82.9%), 2010 (76.9%)

He didn’t know when the Blount County Sheriff’s Office began conducting roadblocks.  Thus, I have to wonder how he could say that roadblocks are working without having a starting point to measure from.

According to the data provided by the Governors Highway Safety Office traffic fatalities started decreasing with the economic recession in 2008.  This includes a significant drop statewide in alcohol impaired fatalities from 2008-2012 compared to previous years.  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that traffic fatalities have been dropping nationwide and that just like Tennessee the drop started in 2008.

This decline in fatalities is likely due to people having less money to spend and thereby driving less.  Discretionary driving decreases when you are pinching pennies to put food on the table.  Less driving usually means less accidents.   Statistics suggests that the economy has lead to a significant decreases in traffic fatalities in recent years, not the unconstitutional enforcement campaigns.

Read more:

http://tntrafficsafety.org/data-statistics/1738

http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx

http://knoxblogs.com/lady-justice-unmasked/2015/04/22/james-brown-aint-the-only-who-feels-good/?_ga=1.150336246.1990585110.1429753314

http://knoxblogs.com/lady-justice-unmasked/2015/04/20/survey-17-prosecutors-believe-law-made-the-earth-flat/

Seven Reasons to Vote for the Libertarian Party

From Reason:

1. The Libertarian Party supports all of your freedoms, all of the time
2. The Libertarian Party is consistent and principled
3. Voting for old party politicians tells them that you want to keep government big
4. Voting Libertarian is the only clear message you can send
5. Voting Libertarian forces the old parties to take the libertarian positions
6. Because the old parties don’t want you to
7. Voting Libertarian helps your favorite “libertarian-leaning old party politician


For great explanations to each of these reasons, click the link above or here.

 

“That is an out-and-out falsehood,”

Don't believe the Fred Thompson lies -Vote NO on 2!

Don’t believe the Fred Thompson lies -Vote NO on 2!

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?

Supreme Court edits it’s opinions after public issuance

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/25/us/final-word-on-us-law-isnt-supreme-court-keeps-editing.html

The federal government has far to much leeway for editing their statements and actions.  Members of Congress ask for “unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks”.  Enforcement of laws change from case to case, often lacking uniformity.  Does anyone understand rule making authority and how rules and regulations get changed?

We have much work to do if we’re going to reform the federal government.

Senator Doug Overbey should support Grand Jury Reform

My letter to the editor was published today.  Click here to read more on the subject of Grand Jury reform.  Earlier this year, a local activist was dismissed from jury duty, demonstrating the need for judicial reform.

http://www.thedailytimes.com/Your_Voice/story/Grand-jury-reform-is-advocated-id-046998

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?cat=10

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=4686

From Jon Roland:

The following are the standards that a grand jury system must satisfy to comply with the original understanding of that term used in the U.S. Constitution:

  1. Selected at random from the general public, with perhaps some filtering, but without “stacking”.
  2. Selection by a neutral party (not the judge or prosecutor).
  3. Size of 23.
  4. Decision by 12.
  5. Election of foreperson by the members.
  6. Term of service long enough to learn how to do it.
  7. Limits on terms of service to avoid entrenchment.
  8. Adequate training of grand jurors.
  9. Prevention of undue influence by interested parties, especially judge or prosecutors.
  10. Secrecy of grand jury deliberations, while they are going on, but with allowance of disclosures in their presentments.
  11. Enough time to examine each case, or enough grand juries.
  12. No impediment to access by public to members to present complaints or give testimony, except for reasonable scheduling.
  13. Acceptance of any person, not just a professional prosecutor, being appointed to prosecute a case by the grand jury granting him an indictment.
  14. Acceptance that a grand jury indictment removes official immunity from criminal prosecution.
  15. Acceptance that a grand jury finding of sufficient evidence of misconduct removes official immunity from civil prosecution.
  16. Establishment of rule that a grand jury must determine whether a court has jurisdiction before returning an indictment for that court.
  17. Avoidance of excessive or abusive use of grand jury to harass, intimidate, discredit, or injure persons.
  18. Prevention of misuse during trials of evidence obtained by grand jury.

See http://grand-jury.org

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Constitution Society               http://constitution.org
2900 W Anderson Ln C-200-322           twitter.com/lex_rex
Austin, TX 78757 512/299-5001  jon.roland@constitution.org
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Local Activist Dismissed from Jury Duty, no Reason Stated

A local political activist was dismissed from Jury duty earlier this week without an explanation.  The case was criminal theft in Wal-Mart for less than $500.  When Judge David Duggan dismissed three people from Jury duty, the first two were told  that because they had previously worked for Wal-Mart, the State wanted to eliminate any possibility of impropriety.  The third person dismissed, a local political activist, was then dismissed without explanation.

The activist has challenged the status quo of County government and would not be a myrmidon easy guilty vote.  Elimination of the person who is probably the most likely to question the State’s case makes for a much easier conviction.  It may be within the purview of Circuit Court criminal Judge to dismiss people, but when he states a reason for the first two but not the one who is politically active, it leads one to conclude that the good ole boys are working to shut out anyone who doesn’t agree with the agenda of the local political machine.

Commissioner Folts Corrects Mayor’s Attorney Craig Garrett

James R. Folts
Blount County Commissioner
865-995-9476
jimfolts@gmail.com

May 29, 2013

Mr. Craig Garrett
Blount County Mayor’s Attorney
607 Smithview Dr.
Maryville, TN 37803

Mr. Garrett:
This is in response to your letter to Jerome Moon, Blount County Commission Chairman, dated May 15, 2013, which was read at the May 16 Commission meeting.

It is disappointing that your letter contains a number of factual errors, false accusations and false statements. I shall take them in the order they are presented in your letter.

You speak of “a request from Commissioner Jim Folts to be furnished the resume of Jason Holt”. This is wrong. The video record of the Agenda Meeting clearly shows that Commissioner Monika Murrell made the request for that information.

You refer to a request I made in March of 2011, for the resume of a candidate for Judicial Commissioner by the name of David French. You say that I “published a link to Mr. French’s resume on his (my) website”. You go on to call attention to a statute and say that I wrongly made Mr. French’s address and phone number available to the public. Wrong again. Mr. French’s resume, including his address and phone number, was made public, as part of the Commission meeting information package, on the County website, on March 16, 2011. It remained there, unchanged, for more than two years, until the address and phone number were deleted this month. It was Circuit Court Clerk Hatcher, who may have violated the statute by failing to redact Mr. French’s phone number and address, before the resume was placed on the County’s public website.

Nearly two weeks after the material was published on the County Commission’s public website, I copied the pages from the Commission’s website to my own website. I did this so that my readers would not have to wait for the full, 400+ page, Commission “packet” to download, in order to review a single page. The name of the file on my website, ‘pages from CC110317.pdf’, clearly reveals its source. ‘CC110317.pdf’ is the name of the Commission information packet file, located on the Commission’s public website, for the meeting held on 3/17/2011. Anyone who is familiar with Commission packets, like yourself, should have recognized that fact.

You also make the false accusation: “After Commissioner Folts’ post on his website, Mr. Hatcher pointed out to the Commissioner the above law and his potential violation of the same, yet Mr. French’s resume remained on Commission Folts’ website for many months and may actually still be on the website today”. This statement is flatly untrue. Circuit Court Clerk Hatcher never communicated any such concern to me. How can you, as a presumably responsible attorney, state this as a fact, when you have no supporting documentation for this statement? An astute attorney might also have asked Mr. Hatcher why he was not concerned about the resume continuing to be available on the County website, for more than two years, complete with phone number and address.

If you had the courtesy to call me on this matter, before making these unfounded accusations, you might have saved yourself a great deal of embarrassment.

Your conclusion that copies of resumes should be withheld from the Commission does not pass the common sense test. Are all twenty-one Commissioners supposed to visit Hatcher’s office to get information about the qualifications of a candidate who must be approved by the Commission? Simply providing the job application, or resume, with personal information redacted, would be a far better solution.

The timing of the delivery of your letter seemed designed to prevent a review of the claims you made. It was placed in each Commissioner’s paper in-box shortly before the start of the meeting. (The Commission has been trying to save money by using email for most matters.) Commissioner Caylor, who obviously did not bother to check the truth of the claims, was then used to read it into the public record at the at the Commission meeting. In contrast, a second letter from you, concerning your failed attempt to draft a resolution regarding prayer at Commission meetings, was also delivered shortly before the meeting, but was sent to all Commissioners by e-mail so they would have time to review it. Why email for one last-minute letter, and not for the other?

As the Mayor’s Attorney, you are often asked for opinions on matters that are of great concern to our citizens. The factual errors and false statements in your letter, must inevitably lead thoughtful members of the Commission, and the Mayor, to question the credibility of your work.

I also note there is no signature block your letter. Do you often send important documents, unsigned?

As men of presumed integrity, I trust that you, Mr. Hatcher, and Mr. Caylor will take appropriate steps to correct these factual errors, false accusations and false statements.

Regards, 

James R. Folts
Blount County Commissioner – District 7

Cc: Mayor Ed Mitchell, Blount County Commissioners, Blount County Clerk – Roy Crawford, Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher