Archives

Important questions you need to ask about the salaries of elected officials before voting in the local May 1st and state and federal August 2nd 2018 primary elections

State mandated minimum salaries and additional pay supplements for local elected officials vs what taxpayers are making

When you look at important economic indicators such as median household income and average annual income, Blount County taxpayers haven’t fared well in recent years.  When adjusted for inflation, 2014 numbers show that average pay in Blount County actually dropped and that household income averages a double digit drop.

The State of Tennessee mandates very generous salaries for elected officials that are 2, 3 and 4 times what the average Tennessee taxpayer is making.  I (Tona Monroe) have written the state legislature for a couple of years on this matter but this matter has largely fallen on deaf ears when it comes to taking action.  A few lawmakers have agreed with me that the mandated minimums are too high but none have taken action to provide reform.

You can view the state mandated minimum salaries for local elected officials here.
2018-2019  2017-2018   2016-2017  2015-2016  2014-2015  2013-2014
2012-2013   2010-2011  2009-2010  2008-2009  2007-2008  2006-2007

This figures show huge increases to the base pay for local elected officials being mandated by state law.  Despite being paid double and triple, and in the case of judges almost quadruple what the average taxpayer is making, 4 of these local elected officials are receiving pay supplements above the already large state mandated minimums.  Blount County taxpayers are paying $96,717 more than state minimum for the circuit court clerk, highway superintendent, sheriff and mayor.  It’s obvious these people don’t feel the same economic pain that many Blount Countians are feeling.

2 important primary elections will be held this year.  The local government primary election will be May 1, 2018 and the state and federal primary election will be held August 2, 2018.  All office holders elected in partisan elections are Republicans in Blount County.  There isn’t a single Democrat or independent in office in Blount County, excluding the school board which has nonpartisan elections.  Thus, it is highly likely that all upcoming offices, excluding the school board, will be decided in the primary elections.  If you wait to vote in November, you will miss your best opportunities to have an impact on who governs at the local and state levels.  There will be no county elections in November and only state and federal general elections occur in November.

The May 1 and August 2 primary elections provide opportunities for you to clean house of these state and local officials who refuse to hold the line on these outrageous salaries.  Only Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and myself have voted to cut the pay of these 4 elected officials down to the state minimum, which is already much higher than it should be.

Questions to ask before heading to the polls on May 1 and August 2:
1) Why have local elected officials refused to cut the pay of these officials to the state mandated minimums?
2) Why have the state legislators continued funding huge increases for elected officials?
3) Why did Jerome Moon try to lead the commission to believe that these pay supplements weren’t optional?

Please consider these questions before casting your votes in the May 1 and August 2 elections.

East Tennessee Index 2014 figures for median household income:

What does this measure?
Median household income, adjusted for inflation. Half of households earn below the median, and half are above.

Why is this important?
Median household income is a gauge of overall economic health of the region and the financial resources of households.

How is our region performing?
In 2010-14, median household income in the region was $45,100, slightly higher than the state ($44,600) but lower than the nation ($53,500). Among local counties, median household income was highest in Loudon ($50,600) and Knox ($47,500) and lowest in Union ($36,000) and Monroe ($37,200). The region, state, and nation all saw their median income fall by double digits from 2000 to 2010-14 (down 12% in the region, 14% in the state, and 10% in the nation). Median income fell much faster in the region from 2005-09 to 2010-14 than in the nation and state (16% decrease in the region compared to a 6% decrease for the state and the nation). Among the counties, median household incomes decreased most from 2000 to 2010-14 in Sevier, Monroe and Blount (all 14%). Union experienced the smallest rate of decline (7%), but still has the lowest median household income in the region.

Notes about the data
Figures are presented in 2014 dollars. The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The bureau combined five years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census.

ETIndex.org 2014 figures for average annual salary:

What does this measure?
The average annual salary in a region in a given year, adjusted for inflation.

Why is this important?
Salaries are a gauge of overall economic health and a measure of the degree to which employees are sharing in the prosperity of a community. They also indicate the vitality of a region and its ability to compete and attract workers.

How is our region performing?
In 2014, the region’s average salary was $43,000, below the average for the state ($45,200) and the nation ($51,400). Since 2000, the region’s average salary increased by 6%, on par with growth nationally and but below statewide (7%). Roane County’s average annual pay grew by 26% over the same time period, more than any other county, while average salary fell in Blount and Sevier counties over that period (both less than 1% respectively). Between 2013 and 2014, the region’s average annual salary increased by 1%, on par with the state increase.

Notes about the data
Data presented in 2014 dollars.

May 1, 2018 Local Election Issues

Harry Grothjahn of Truth Radio AM 1470 invited me to speak on his Sunday morning radio show to discuss important issues that you need to know about before voting in the upcoming May 1, 2018 local government primary election.  The interview was recorded so that you can listen to it and the slide show presentation is attached for your information and review.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of important local issues.  This is a good starting point in becoming informed for the upcoming May 1st primary election.

Let freedom ring!
Tona Monroe
Blount County Commissioner

May 1, 2017 local government primary election issues slides

http://tncitylinktv.com/archive/commissioner-monroes-most-important-blount-county-commission-issues-in-the-last-4-years/

County Commissioners Daly, Miller and Monroe given Blount Patriot Eagle Awards at Bill of Rights dinner

Harry Grothjahn of Truth Radio AM 1470 hosted the 3rd annual Bill of Rights dinner in Alcoa today.  State Senate candidate Scott Williams was the keynote speaker, speaking about the history of states holding conventions to address problems.

Grothjahn presented the three ladies on the Blount County Commission, Commissioners Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe, with the Blount Patriot Eagle Award.  Grothjahn told the Blount County Commission last month that only the women on the commission are standing for righteousness in government.  The plaques feature an eagle and are engraved with a scripture from the book of Isiah.

Yet those who wait on the LORD will gain new strength: They will mount up with wings like eagles.  They will run and not get tired.  They will walk and not become weary.  -Isaiah 40:31

Commissioner Jamie Daly, Harry Grothjahn, Commissioner Karen Miller and Commissioner Tona Monroe

Blount County Commissioners Tona Monroe, Jamie Daly & Karen Miller  and state Senate candidate Scott William

 

14 machine commissioners make Art Swann state senator

Blount County Commissioners Andy Allen, Dave Bennett, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Scott King, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon and Tom Stinnett voted to replace Doug Overbey who recently resigned from the Tennessee Senate with (now former) Representative Art Swann.  Swann was nominated by Commissioner Carver.

Commissioner Tona Monroe nominated Scott Williams.  Commissioners Archie Archer, Karen Miller and Monroe voted for Williams.

Commissioners Mike Akard, Brad Bowers, Tom Cole and Jamie Daly were absent from the meeting.

Only Commissioners Miller and Monroe spoke during the discussion portion of the meeting with both sharing why they were voting for Williams.  Monroe shared that Williams served his country through military service, is a gentleman and a class act.  She said Swann had never returned any of her emails about concerns she had related to state laws and matters impacting local governments.

After the meeting, Jim Hammontree, who has picked up a petition to run for the seat currently held by district 2 Commissioner Mike Lewis, shared with BC Public Record and the local paper that the commission took a do nothing state representative and turned him into a do nothing state senator.

Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe and state Senate candidate Scott Williams

Happy Thanksgiving

Troy and I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  We have much to be grateful for.

One thing that I am thankful for is the opportunity to call out government officials for wrong doing and advocate for reform.  In some parts of the world people face severe repercussions for rebuking their government “leaders”.  Sadly I too often hear from people who are afraid of retaliation if they challenge that courthouse clique that exists in local government.  Good people who initiate no harm should not live in fear of their governments.

I encourage everyone during this time of thanksgiving to give serious consideration to your knowledge and involvement in state and local governments.  In general people are too focused on federal politics.  The main stream media bombards us with drama and endless controversy in Washington DC.

Give some consideration to taking a break from media sources that focus solely or mostly on national politics and put some time and energy into learning what your local and state governments are doing.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of people can’t even name their local and state officials.

While I stood in a very long line to vote in the November election, I noticed someone willing to wait in the long line to vote in the Presidential race who hadn’t voted in the local government primary election held in May of 2014.  The reason this stood out to me is because this person had my sign in their yard but they didn’t actual take the time to vote in the local election.

If you voted in the presidential race this year, your vote was one in over 120 million votes.  If you voted in a county commission race in the local government election in May of 2014, your vote was about 1 in a thousand.  Some districts had more than 1,000 votes and some had less.  Many people don’t vote because they don’t feel that their votes matter.  Where does your vote have the most impact, a race with over 120 million votes or a race with about 1,000 votes?

If you still aren’t convinced that your vote matters tremendously in local elections, let me put it another way for you.  3 of the 21 county commission races were decided by less than 25 votes in the May primary election in 2014.  Jamie Daly won her race by 21 votes.  Archie Archer won his race by 12 votes.  Kenneth Melton won reelection to the Blount County Commission by receiving 6 more vote than his challenger.

These local races are often very close.  Do you vote in the local elections?  If not, why?

The unofficial results on the county’s website show 53,260 votes in the November election while only 12,061 voted in the August election.  If you are one of the many people who voted in November but not in August, please reflect upon why you didn’t vote in August.

Yesterday and today I posted several articles about the difficulties and unresponsiveness that I deal with on a regular basis as an elected official serving the community through local government.  Contact information for the appropriate people is provided in these posts if you feel so inclined to provide input on any of these matters.

It has been said that serving as a county commissioner is a thankless job.  Actually its not.  I receive several thanks on a fairly regular basis.  What is more accurate is to describe it as a helpless job because there are so few willing to help promote better government locally.

What would make me even more thankful this Thanksgiving Day would be to see more people take an active role in what is happening right here in our county.

Sincerely,
Tona Monroe
Blount County Commissioner

Senator Doug Overbey and Representative Art Swann are nonresponsive

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new name for the political machine or good ole’ boys: the courthouse clique

For many years the powers that be here locally have been referred to as the political machine and the good ole’ boys.  I’ve used the terms myself, as have many others, although I’ve never liked the term good ole’ boys.  There is rarely any good that they do.  Thus, I propose a new name for the local establishment: the courthouse clique.

Who exactly are the courthouse clique?  The Blount Lifestyle PAC website provided a list.  The website is down but this screen shot provides a list of those who are the courthouse clique.

Newly elected County Commissioner Dave Bennett can be added to the list of the courthouse clique.  He was the secretary of the PAC.  See the page dated 12-31-15.

BlountLifestyles

Jeff Headrick voted to advance a wheel tax levy resolution

In the race for Highway Superintendent, the Brian Downey campaign is telling the public that Jeff Headrick voted for a wheel tax while he served on the county commission.  Some are countering that Headrick voted for a referendum for the voters to decide if they want a wheel tax.  To settle the confusion regarding former commissioner Jeff Headrick’s record on the wheel tax, a review of Agenda Committee packets will set the record straight.  These are readily available online.

Jeff Headrick voted to advance a resolution that would have levied a wheel tax.  This vote would have placed the resolution on the commission agenda.  To read the resolution see pages 58-59 of the May 12, 2015 Agenda Committee packet: http://www.blounttn.org/comm/AG150512.PDF

Compare that to the 2013 resolution that actually called a referendum on the question of levying a wheel tax.  See pages 38-39.  http://www.blounttn.org/comm/CC130418.PDF  Jeff Headrick was not on the commission in 2013 when this vote occurred.

The vote on the resolution to levy a wheel tax is found in the minutes of the May 12, 2015 Agenda Committee meeting, which are available in the June 2015 Agenda Committee packet.  See page 55. http://www.blounttn.org/comm/AG150609.PDF

Headrick resigned his commission seat earlier this year when the commission voted to appoint him to the position of Highway Superintendent to fill the vacancy left by Bill Dunlap’s resignation.  Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted for Brian Downey.  Commissioners Andy Allen, Brad Bowers, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Tom Cole, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett voted for Jeff Headrick.  Commissioner Mike Caylor was absent.

If the wheel tax is an important issue to you, then you should take note that Brian Downey says he opposes it while Jeff Headrick voted to advance a measure that would have levied a wheel tax.

Will the Republican Party of Blount County release its bylaws before picking the County Clerk and Highway Superintendent?

The Republican Party of Blount County, Tennessee hasn’t exactly been known for transparency or fairness.  Several Republicans were denied entrance to a meeting in 2013.  The Party left Commissioner Jim Folts off its website.  When I was asked to speak to the Republican Party about why I thought Ron Paul was the best choice for President in 2012, then Chairman Susan Mills wouldn’t let me speak even though I had been an approved delegate candidate for Ron Paul, twice (2008 and 2012).  When Gerald Kirby lost his primary commission race to Jamie Daly, the party big whigs went to work for Kirby’s write-in campaign, even though party leadership is suppose to support Republican candidates.

Now the Republican Party Executive Committee will get to pick the Republican candidates for Blount County Clerk and Blount County Highway Superintendent.  The selection meeting will be a spectator sport.  You and I will be able to watch but we will not be able to participate.

The August general election for these two offices could be a Soviet style election.  If the Democratic Party doesn’t nominate candidates and no independents run, then the people of Blount County will get to go vote the R party or not the R party.  Actually it will be worse than that because you won’t even get to vote NO on the candidate.

Unless someone runs as a write-in, any write-in votes will not count.  Even if an independent or Democrat runs, barring some major scandal, the Republicans will win.  There are no independents or Democrats in elected office in Blount County, excluding the nonpartisan School Board.

With this kind of power, the Republican Party should release its bylaws.  I asked the Blount County Republican Party Chair, Patsy Lundy, for a copy of the bylaws.  She said the bylaws were being revised.  That’s the same excuse that has been used to deny releasing the bylaws for years.  The Tennessee Republican Party said it is checking with the County Party to see if the bylaws that it has are current.

I asked Lundy for a copy of the current bylaws.  She said she would check with some people (apparently the Chair has to get permission from her bosses) to see if she could release the bylaws to me.

The bylaws for the Blount County Democratic Party are available on the Tennessee Democratic Party’s website.  The Blount County Libertarian Party uses the bylaws of the Libertarian Party of Tennessee.  Both are available online for review, although the bylaws posted for the State Libertarian Party are over 4 years old.

People are talking about the Republican establishment coming unhinged because more voters are backing Trump than Rubio.  People would do well to pay attention to what the local GOP is doing.  Since it is likely that the Republican Party Executive Committee is going to pick 2 of our local office holders the least the Executive Committee can do is release its bylaws.

Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap to retire

This morning I received a call telling me that Bill Dunlap will retire.  I called the Highway Department and Julie Talbott confirmed that Bill Dunlap is on vacation for two weeks and will be retiring effective February 1st.

Who will take his place?

Commissioner Jeff Headrick (5th District) has been posturing to take his place.  He is a developer and a waterboy for the Sheriff.  His wife is related to the Sheriff.  If he replaces Bill Dunlap then the Sheriff will effectively control the Highway Department, the Mayor, the Blount County Commission and the Sheriff’s Office.

Now would be a good time for Brian Downey to start campaigning.  He did well in the last election for someone with little name recognition starting out.  He will need to do more than put out signs if he intends to win.

Have you heard any other names?