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New Year’s Resolutions for Donald Trump and Congress

By Ron Paul

In the spirit of New Year’s, here are four resolutions for president-elect Trump and Congress that will enable them to really make America great again:

1) Audit the Fed….and then end it: The Federal Reserve Bank’s easy money polices have eroded the American people’s standard of living and facilitated the growth of the welfare-warfare state. The Fed is also responsible for the growth in income inequality. Yet Congress still refuses to pass Audit the Fed, much less end it.

During the campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump promised that Audit the Fed would be part of his first 100 days agenda. Unfortunately, he has not spoken of auditing the Fed or another aspect of monetary policy since the election. President-elect Trump should keep his promise and work with Congress to pass Audit the Fed and finally let the American people know the truth about the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy. Then, of course, end the Fed.

2) Bring the troops home: President Barack Obama has not only failed to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan and Iraq, he has further destabilized the Middle East with reckless interventions in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. The Obama administration has also brought us to the brink of a new Cold War.

President-elect Trump has criticized the 2003 Iraq war and promised to end nation-building. However, he has also made hawkish statements such as his recent endorsement of increased US military intervention in Syria and has appointed several hawks to key foreign policy positions. President-elect Trump also supported increasing the Pentagon’s already bloated budget.

America cannot afford to continue wasting trillions of dollars in a futile effort to act as the world’s policeman. Rejecting the neocon polices of nation-building and spreading democracy by force of arms is a good start. However, if Donald Trump is serious about charting a new course in foreign policy, his first act as president should be to withdraw US troops from around the globe. He should also veto any budget that does not drastically cut spending on militarism.

3) Repeal ObamaCare: ObamaCare has raised healthcare costs for millions of Americans while denying them access to the providers of their choice. Public dissatisfaction with ObamaCare played a major role in Donald Trump’s election.

Unfortunately, since the election president-elect Trump and the Republican Congress have talked about retaining key parts of Obamacare! While it is reasonable to have a transition to a new healthcare system, Congress must avoid the temptation to replace ObamaCare with “ObamaCare lite.” Congress must pass, and President Trump must sign, a true free-market health care plan that restores control over healthcare to individuals.

4) Cut Taxes and Spending: President-elect Trump and Congressional leadership both favor tax reform. However, some leading Republicans have recently said they will not support any tax reform plan that is not “revenue neutral.” A true pro-liberty tax reform would reduce government revenue by eliminating the income tax. Fiscal hawks concerned with increasing federal deficits should stop trying to increase tax revenues and join with supporters of limited government to drastically cut federal spending. Congress should prioritize ending corporate welfare, reducing military spending, and shutting down unconstitutional federal agencies like the Department of Education.

If President Trump and Congress spend the next six months passing Audit the Fed, ending our militaristic foreign policy, repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with a true free-market health care system, and cutting both spending and taxes, they will begin to make America great again. If they fail to take these steps, then the American people will know they have been fooled again.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2016/december/26/new-year-s-resolutions-for-donald-trump-and-congress/

This Thanksgiving she’ll be thankful that she will make more than 10 times Tennessee households

This is so disgusting.  It’s salaries like this that make government elite so out of touch with the working folks.  http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/education/2016/11/21/university-tennessee-name-davenport-next-chancellor/94233352/

Seriously? $585K?  Why stop there?  Why not make it $10 million?  The state legislature can just tax the people more to pay for anything the elite want.  Never mind what they make.

The median household income in Tennessee is was $47,275 in 2015.  That’s an entire household, not one salary.  http://www.deptofnumbers.com/income/tennessee/

Tennessee General Assembly Emails:

sen.paul.bailey@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.mike.bell@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.rusty.crowe@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.todd.gardenshire@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.dolores.gresham@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.ferrell.haile@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.thelma.harper@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.lee.harris@captitol.tn.gov,
sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.jon.lundberg@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.randy.mcnally@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.kerry.roberts@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.john.stevens@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.reginald.tate@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.jim.tracy@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.bo.watson@capitol.tn.gov,
sen.jeff.yarbro@capitol.tn.gov,
“Becky Massey” <sen.becky.massey@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Bill Ketron” <sen.bill.ketron@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Brian Kelsey” <sen.brian.kelsey@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Doug Overbey” <sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Ed Jackson” <sen.ed.jackson@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Frank Niceley” <sen.frank.niceley@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Jack Johnson” <sen.jack.johnson@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Janice Bowling” <sen.janice.bowling@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Mae Beavers” <sen.mae.beavers@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Mark Green” <sen.mark.green@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Mark Norris” <sen.mark.norris@capitol.tn.gov>,
lt.gov.ron.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov,
“Steven Dickerson” <sen.steven.dickerson@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Steve Southerland” <sen.steve.southerland@capitol.tn.gov>,
sen.sara.kyle@capitol.tn.gov,
“Richard Briggs” <sen.richard.briggs@capitol.tn.gov>,
“Ken Yager” <sen.ken.yager@capitol.tn.gov>,
rep.raumesh.akbari@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.alexander@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.armstrong@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.beck@capitol.tn.gov, rep.harry.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kevin.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sheila.butt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kent.calfee@capitol.tn.gov, rep.karen.camper@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dale.carr@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.carter@capitol.tn.gov, rep.glen.casada@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.ray.clemmons@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jim.coley@capitol.tn.gov, rep.barbara.cooper@capitol.tn.gov, rep.martin.daniel@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.deberry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.barry.doss@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kevin.dunlap@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.dunn@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jimmy.eldridge@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jeremy.faison@capitol.tn.gov, rep.andrew.farmer@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joanne.favors@capitol.tn.gov, rep.craig.fitzhugh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.forgety@capitol.tn.gov, rep.brenda.gilmore@capitol.tn.gov, rep.tilman.goins@capitol.tn.gov, rep.marc.gravitt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.curtis.halford@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ga.hardaway@capitol.tn.gov, speaker.beth.harwell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.hawk@capitol.tn.gov, rep.patsy.hazlewood@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gary.hicks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.timothy.hill@capitol.tn.gov, rep.matthew.hill@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.holsclaw@capitol.tn.gov, rep.andy.holt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dan.howell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bud.hulsey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jamie.jenkins@capitol.tn.gov, rep.darren.jernigan@capitol.tn.gov, rep.curtis.johnson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sherry.jones@capitol.tn.gov, rep.roger.kane@capitol.tn.gov, rep.kelly.keisling@capitol.tn.gov, rep.sabi.kumar@capitol.tn.gov, rep.william.lamberth@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mary.littleton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ron.lollar@capitol.tn.gov, rep.harold.love@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jon.lundberg@capitol.tn.gov, rep.susan.lynn@capitol.tn.gov, rep.pat.marsh@capitol.tn.gov, rep.judd.matheny@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jimmy.matlock@capitol.tn.gov, rep.gerald.mccormick@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.mcdaniel@capitol.tn.gov, rep.steve.mcmanus@capitol.tn.gov, rep.larry.miller@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bo.mitchell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.debra.moody@capitol.tn.gov, rep.antonio.parkinson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.pitts@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mark.pody@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jason.powell@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dennis.powers@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.ragan@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jay.reedy@capitol.tn.gov, rep.courtney.rogers@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bill.sanderson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.charles.sargent@capitol.tn.gov, rep.cameron.sexton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jerry.sexton@capitol.tn.gov, rep.johnny.shaw@capitol.tn.gov, rep.david.shepard@capitol.tn.gov, rep.eddie.smith@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.sparks@capitol.tn.gov, rep.billy.spivey@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mike.stewart@capitol.tn.gov, rep.art.swann@capitol.tn.gov, rep.bryan.terry@capitol.tn.gov, rep.joe.towns@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ron.travis@capitol.tn.gov, rep.johnnie.turner@capitol.tn.gov, rep.micah.vanhuss@capitol.tn.gov, rep.terri.lynn.weaver@capitol.tn.gov, rep.dawn.white@capitol.tn.gov, rep.mark.white@capitol.tn.gov, rep.ryan.williams@capitol.tn.gov, rep.john.windle@capitol.tn.gov, rep.tim.wirgau@capitol.tn.gov, rep.rick.womick@capitol.tn.gov, rep.jason.zachary@capitol.tn.gov

It’s been 6 months and there is no jail Evaluation Team

Do you remember the big rush for the commission to pass a resolution authorizing the purchasing agent to issue a request for qualification (RFQ) for architectural planning and/or design services for the manufactured crisis of jail overcrowding because commissioners might have to sit in deposition in federal court?

Do you remember that the resolution was suppose to be for the jail but that the resolution failed to mention the jail in the title of the resolution?

Do you remember that the purchasing agent said she could issue the RFQ without commission approval?  (Wasn’t this suppose to be done in a hurry?  Why ask for commission approval if it wasn’t needed and this needed to be done in a hurry?)

Do you remember the purchasing agent saying that 30 days was sufficient time to issue the RFQ when questions were asked because this had to be done in a big hurry to appease the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) Board of Control?

Do you remember it taking 12 weeks for the purchasing agent to issue the RFQ?

Well after the great big rush to issue the RFQ to buy time as Mike Caylor put it  and set aside (assign) $2 million without asking the public or the commission what they think (except for asking them to approve and RFQ that the purchasing agent said she can issue without commission approval) it appears that the courthouse clique really is trying to buy time.  Today marks the 6 month point of the commission approving the RFQ.

The submissions are in but no Evaluation Team has been empaneled to evaluate the companies.  Neither the commission nor the Blount County Corrections Partnership identified what Blount County needed before handing this manufactured crisis to the Purchasing Department to deal with.  It appears that wasn’t such a grand idea/plan after all.

What’s the hold up?
Director of General Services Don Stallions told me that the Evaluation Team hasn’t been empaneled yet because they are still looking for citizens to serve on the team.  Apparently its hard to find a few citizens in a county with a population of about 125,000.  Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either but would you expect anything different from these people?

Measureable progress?
TCI Director Beth Ashe said that the Board of Control looks for measurable progress.  How is 6 months of nothing but the status quo (keeping discretionary inmates on slates and/or the floor, setting another million aside, the BCCP doing nothing, etc.) measureable progress?

Iceland Today, the US Tomorrow?

By Ron Paul

During the 2008 economic crisis, Iceland’s government froze offshore accounts held by foreign investors in that country’s currency, the krona. Recently, the government of Iceland announced it would unfreeze the accounts if the account holders paid a voluntary “departure tax,” which could be as high as 58 percent. Investors who choose not to pay the departure tax would have their investment “segregated” into special funds that only invest in CDs issued by Iceland’s central bank. These CDs are expected to only provide a rate of return of at most 0.5 percent a year. So investors in offshore accounts can thus choose between having their money directly seized via the departure tax or indirectly seized via the inflation tax.

Iceland’s freezing of offshore krona accounts was part of a “stabilization and recovery” program implemented under the guidance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which also provided Iceland with a $1 billion loan. So US taxpayers not only helped the IMF bail out Iceland’s government, they may have helped the IMF advise Iceland on how best to steal property from American investors!

The IMF’s role in Iceland’s seizure of the property of foreign investors shows the hypocrisy of IMF officials, who recently expressed concerns about the increasing support for protectionism supposedly exemplified by the Brexit vote. However, freezing of assets held by foreign investors is a particularly harmful form of protectionism, while Brexit was more about rejecting the European Union’s bureaucracy than rejecting free trade. Perhaps what the IMF and its supporters are really worried about is losing their power to use taxpayers’ money to force other countries to adopt IMF bureaucrats’ favored economic policies.

Iceland is not the only government to turn to a departure tax to raise revenue. Just last year, in order to raise revenue for federal transportation programs, Congress gave the IRS the power to revoke the passport of any American accused of owing more than $50,000 in back taxes.

As an increasingly desperate Congress looks for new ways to squeeze money out of the American people to fund the welfare-warfare state, it is likely that more Americans will have their liberties limited because the IRS accuses them of not paying their fair share of taxes. It also is likely that the Federal Reserve will follow the example of its counterpart in Iceland and devalue the holdings of anyone who dares to resist the IRS’s demands.

Those hoping that the presidential election will result in real changes are bound to be disappointed. While Donald Trump seems to appreciate how current Fed policies help the incumbent administration while harming the people, he does not appear to understand that the problem is not with certain Fed policies, but with the Fed’s very existence. While Mr. Trump does support tax cuts, he also supports increasing government spending on infrastructure at home, militarism abroad, protectionism, and an economic cold war with China.

Hillary Clinton has actually said it is inappropriate for candidates to criticize the Fed. Sectary Clinton has also called for massive increases in government spending and taxes. Hillary Clinton may be more hawkish than Donald Trump, since Mr. Trump has rejected Secretary Clinton’s calls for a new cold war with Russia.

Instead of looking to politicians to save us, those of us who understand the dangers of our current course must continue to spread the ideas of liberty among our fellow citizens. Politicians will only change course when a critical mass of people stops falling for the war party’s propaganda, stops demanding entitlements, and starts demanding liberty.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2016/october/17/iceland-today-the-us-tomorrow/

Where have we seen this before?

The jail situation in Claiborne County appears to be similar or the same as Blount County.  The rotund mayor appears to be a figurehead who does what the sheriff wants and the media appears to be more interested in he said, she said than reporting the facts and doing investigative journalism.

http://claiborneprogress.net/news/9238/a-dog-days-journey-into-night

The paper in Claiborne County referred to the August commission meeting as a dogfight.  The local rag had “fur flies” in the headline and said that hackles were raised.

The people working to protect the taxpayers are blamed for the poor financial decisions of others and the truth is their opinion/interpretation until state officials say it isn’t just their opinion/interpretation.

One thing that is different about Claiborne County is that Circuit Court Judge John McAfee, in his private capacity, is looking out of the taxpayers in his county.  Blount County’s judges, with the possible exception of Kenlyn Foster, are part of the political machine or court house clique.

10th amendment goes out the window when federal money is on the line

Tennessee could lose federal funding because it doesn’t have a law on the books that complies with a federal rule concerning the blood alcohol level of those between 18 and 20.

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2016/08/26/tennessee-attorney-general-joins-fight-save-road-funds/89421304/

Sheriff Berrong said he doesn’t want to keep state prisoners and they’re only a good deal for the state

In April, Mayor Ed Mitchell called a special commission meeting for the sole purpose of the commission
voting to authorize the purchasing agent to issue a request for qualifications related to jail design and program services.  At that meeting, Sheriff James Lee Berrong said that he and his staff try to get rid of state prisoners every day, that it is out of his control whether the state takes its prisoners, that he doesn’t want to keep the state prisoners and that the revenue the state sends the county is only a good deal for the state of Tennessee.

Direct quotes from Sheriff James Lee Berrong at the meeting include:

“We try every day to get rid of the state prisoners.  I don’t want to keep the state prisoners.”
“We make a request every single day.” (to get rid of state prisoners)
“Out of our control (state prisoners).  We get like $37.50 which is not a good deal for anybody other than the state.”

You can listen to the sheriff’s statements.

How do these statements compare to the sky is falling Chicken Little PR propaganda that we’re hearing now that the state actually removed many of its prisoners from the jail?

Which is the biggest tall tale: the mayor saying there has been no conversation about expanding the jail or the sheriff saying that he doesn’t want to keep state prisoners and tries to get rid of them every day?

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.

Claiborne County voters to determine jail expansion bond issue

ClaiborneCoNoJailExpansion

Sign in Claiborne County

Voters in Claiborne County will determine whether the county should issue bonds for jail expansion in this August 4th election.  A Circuit judge, acting in his private capacity as a citizen, is opposing jail expansion saying the county losses money on its inmates, just as I (Tona Monroe) have been saying here in Blount County.

There has been confusion about the role of the Tennessee Correction Institute (TCI) and the TCI Board of Control.  The TCI inspects local jails.  The TCI Board of Control votes to certify a jail as being in compliance or not in compliance with jail standards.  The TCI and its Board of Control can not shut down a jail for not being in compliance with state standards.

The Blount County Purchasing Agent finally issued the RFQ for jail expansion last week, 12 weeks after the commission authorized it.  With the state inmates being removed, the only thing the county should look at expanding is programs.  If the Blount County Commission pushes for an unnecessary jail expansion, then the citizens of Blount County should be able to weigh in on the issue through a referendum.

Pay supplements aren’t required

At the June Blount County Board of Commissioners meeting, I (Tona Monroe) tried to cut the salaries of Mayor Ed Mitchell, Sheriff James Berrong, Highway Superintended Jeff Headrick and Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher to the minimum salaries required by state law.  Only Commissioner Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted to cut the salaries to the state minimum.  Commissioner Mike Akard was absent.  Last year, it was just the 3 ladies and Mike Akard who voted to cut the salaries to the state minimum.  All the rest supported these 4 being paid substantially more than we are required to pay them.

At the meeting, Chairman Jerome Moon lead the commission to believe that we had to pay the sheriff an additional pay supplement.  This pay supplement would trigger the mayor being paid more because the mayor is required to be paid 5% above the next highest paid official, which is the sheriff.  I had read the laws governing salaries and didn’t think we were required to pay more.  However, I could of missed something and inquired which law.  Moon didn’t know what law required us to give a pay supplement.  Neither did the sheriff or Commissioner Steve Samples, the longest serving commissioner.

I asked the County Technical Assistance Service for clarification on salary laws because minimum and maximum salaries are referenced.  CTAS failed to respond.  Thus, I sent the same questions to the Tennessee County Commissioners Association and received a response.  We (the county) are not required to pay these additional supplements.  Cutting these discretionary pay supplements would save the taxpayers $91,713 this budget year.

Below is his response and the attachment received is available here.

—–Original Message—–
From: Charlie Curtiss
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 11:27am
To: Tona
Subject: RE: Minimum and maximum salaries for elected officials

Tona,

There is not a maximum salary listed in the Tennessee Code, there are a few references but the law they reference was deleted in 1990. The legislature sets the minimum salary based upon a county’s classification. If the county commission wants to pay above the minimum salary that is their choice.

Tennessee code allows that a county commission can pay a sheriff additional salary to administer a workhouse. The law does not require a the county to provide an additional amount, it just allows a county commission to pay more if they chose to do so.

The fact that Tennessee law at one time set a maximum  salary, there is language in several parts of the law that give authority to go above the maximum salary. As I mentioned above, that language in not in the law today but there references are still there and it becomes confusing.

The state law says the county legislative body may pay additional compensation to a sheriff to administer a workhouse but it is not required.

I have attached a word document that has some support information.

Thanks,

Charlie

 

From: Tona
Sent: Sunday, July 17, 2016 5:32 PM
To: Charlie Curtiss
Subject: Minimum and maximum salaries for elected officials

Dear Charlie,

Wesley at CTAS has failed to respond to this email, like so many.
Do you know the answer to these questions?

Thanks,

Tona

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Tona

Sent: Thursday, June 30, 2016 11:06pm
To: “Robertson, Wesley Ross” <
wrober25@mail.tennessee.edu>, “Robertson, Wesley Ross” <wrober25@utk.edu>
Cc: “Roberts, Robin A” <
robin.roberts@tennessee.edu>
Subject: Minimum and maximum salaries for elected officials

Hi Wesley,

State statute 8-24-102 governs minimum salaries for elected officials.  CTAS publishes those minimum salaries, which I have a copy of. 

 

State statute 8-24-103 references a maximum salary for the sheriff. 

 

(3) No sheriff shall claim, hold, or have any interest in such funds for services performed under § 8-24-102, fees paid the sheriff as a witness for appearing in court, the boarding of prisoners at the county jail, ex officio services, or fees from any other source whatsoever, except that this provision and the provisions of subdivision (a)(2) are not intended to prevent the county legislative body from paying the sheriff in such county an amount in addition to the maximum salary allowed by § 8-24-102 for ex officio services as superintendent of the workhouse, if the workhouse in such county is combined with the jail as provided for by title 41, chapter 2.

 

Questions:

1) What is the maximum salary in 103 that references 102?

2) Can a supplement be given for a workhouse if the county does not have a workhouse?

3) For purposes of 8-24-11 and/or any other statute, is the jail considered an ex officio service?

4) Is the commission required to give the sheriff any pay supplement above the minimum (excluding the Court Clerk supplement that requires an additional 10%)?

 

Sincerely,

Tona

Should the fireworks ban be repealed?

Fireworks went off all around me in celebration of Independence Day.  A few went off Saturday night.  On the evening before the 4th, the sky was lite up all around me.  At one point, I could see fireworks going off at four houses at the same time.  This didn’t include what was going off behind me that I couldn’t see without turning to span the entire sky.

Several that I have talked with don’t realize that it is illegal to possess and set fireworks off in Blount County.  Do you think the ban on fireworks should be repealed?

June 2016 Commission Report

When I (Tona Monroe) envisioned writing monthly reports on county government, I thought that the reports would be published within a few days of the monthly commission meetings, which are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month.  However, I quickly realized that it was better to wait until the end of the month to more fully report on your local government.  This is because there are important meetings after the monthly commission meeting and the meetings can create more questions than answers.  Thus, I usually follow up after these meetings by seeking answers.

Sometimes I get answers and sometimes it is difficult to get answers.  As such, these monthly reports are intended to provide a review of the monthly activities of your local government.  If you desire to learn about important matters before the commission votes on them, please be sure to visit this site at least a couple of times a month because I write about issues throughout the month.  Additionally, I also have an email list that you can subscribe to which will keep you informed.  If you’d like to join the email list, please send me an email.  tona@breezeair.net

Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control meeting
On June 1, I drove to Nashville to attend the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) Board of Control meeting.  Commissioners Jamie Daly and Karen Miller also attended the meeting.

My reasons for attending are manifold.  Please search this website, if you are new to the site, to learn those reasons.  My statement to the board is available here.

A county should strive to meet minimum standards and be certified by the TCI.  However, after reading prior Board of Control minutes and watching the process in action, I’ve concluded that obtaining certification can be political rather than an objective recognition of compliance with standards.

I had intended to write about the meeting before now but haven’t been able to obtain all the documents that I wanted to review before writing about the meeting.  This may be something that I will write about in the future.

Agenda Committee
Commissioners Tom Cole, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett were absent.

At the Agenda Committee meeting, I offered two taxpayer protection amendments.  Both were rejected.

One amendment would have amended the annual budget resolution to prohibit the mayor and finance director from assigning fund balance money without commission approval.  My intention was to ensure that there would be no more secret plans for your tax money as there has been in the past.

The other amendment was intended to ensure that no monies appropriated for pay raises would be expended for any other purpose without commission approval.  The budget funds 1.8% pay raises for all county employees, excluding the Highway Department and schools that set their own raises, and office holders who receive raises based on state mandates.  However, not all the amounts budgeted for pay raises will be expended for that purpose.

Raises are suppose to be awarded based on satisfactory job performance.  This will leave money in funds that won’t be awarded as pay raises.  This means that office holders can transfer money not awarded for pay raises for use elsewhere in their budgets.  This is a misuse of the public trust.  Office holders should not be requesting money that isn’t needed and no office holder should use the funds for any other purpose.

Pay raises are not uniform throughout local government.  Office holders will receive state mandated pay raises.  Some school employees will receive 5% pay raises.  General county employees will receive 1.8% pay raises.  I don’t know what the Highway Department employees will receive.

Only commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted to protect the taxpayers with these two amendments.

Commission meeting
Commissioner Mike Akard was absent.

Tax rate is set for $2.47
The property tax rate will remain at $2.47.  The powers that be are patting themselves on the back for a job well done because they’ve put together a budget where they get nice pay raises and much of what they want, without increasing the property tax rate.  However, that doesn’t mean that local government held the line on spending.

The budget is up $6,789,571 million over the previous year’s original adopted budget.  The adopted budget for fiscal year (FY) 15-16 is $174,477,835 while the adopted budget for FY 16-17 is $181,267,406.  Not all of this is local money.  The schools will receive a sizeable increase from the state and $1,250,000 of this money came from fund balance that was approved as a budget increase in December for the IT fund that was rushed through.  It is money that hasn’t yet been spent and has to be budgeted in the new year.

More of your money is projected to be collected due to tax revenue growth but pay has not keeping up with inflation.  The local government hasn’t done you any favors by keeping the tax rate that is 15% higher than it was 2 years ago.

Only commissioners Miller and I voted no.  That means that there are only 3 commissioners left who haven’t supported a tax rate that is higher than when they took office, or in the case of Peggy Lambert, left office.   The commissioners who voted no on the tax increase last year, among other things, have now supported it and everything in the budget a year later.

What good is it to oppose something for one year and then rubber stamp it a year later?  The property tax rate was $2.15 when I took my oath of office.  When I ran for office, many people told me that they didn’t want another property tax increase.  I made a campaign promise not to raise property taxes and I will stick by that.  I will never vote for a budget that requires a tax rate that is higher than when I took office.

Someone said to me what good does it do to focus on a tax increase when the entire tax amount is being wasted.  That’s a valid point.  People often get upset about a tax increase, but that is often just a small amount of what you are paying.  The entire amount is important, not just the increase.  We should look at every penny the government wants and spends.

Capital fund amendment failed
I offered an amendment to the tax rate that would have moved one penny of the schools general fund to the schools capital fund.  This amendment would have saved county taxpayers about $127,500 because capital fund money doesn’t have to be split with Alcoa and Maryville schools.

Blount County Schools teacher and County Commissioner Dodd Crowe spoke against the amendment although he didn’t actually give a precise reason why he opposed the amendment.  Fiscal Administrator for the schools, Troy Logan, said the amendment wouldn’t align with the school board’s goals.  Ask your school board member if he or she thinks that one of their goals should include giving $127,500 in tax money to Maryville and Alcoa, when the county doesn’t have to.

The School Board is planning on spending over $2 million to fix roofs this budget year.  This will consume the entire capital fund and the rest will be paid for with fund balance in the schools general purpose fund.  The shift in the penny would have given the schools additional funds, thereby reducing use of fund balance, without increasing the county property tax rate.

Commissioners and teachers Grady Caskey and Dodd Crowe voted against the amendment, as did Commissioner Tom Cole whose wife works for the schools.  These three gave about $127,500 to the cities when they didn’t have to.  Commissioner and school employee Gary Farmer abstained.  Only commissioners Andy Allen, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I thought it makes good fiscal sense to use the money to fix the roofs instead of giving it to the two cities.

I don’t like using the term penny to describe the tax rate because it makes the amount you are paying sound so much smaller than it really is.  A penny on the tax rate is estimated to be worth $327,500 in property tax money.  Because of split dollars, the amount given to the schools for each penny is about $200,000 according to fiscal administrator Troy Logan.  The schools capital fund receives the entire amount of $327,500 per penny, excluding the Trustee’s Fees that are deducted from property taxes.

Budget Committee’s recommended budget is rubber stamped
The commission rubber stamped the budget recommended by the Budget Committee without any changes.  Only commissioners Karen Miller and I offered amendments to the budget.

Commissioner Miller offered an amendment to gut the budget given to the Industrial Development Board, which is used to dole out corporate welfare.  The IDB receives over $1 million.  Miller’s amendment would have cut the IDB budget to $1 and given the money to the Highway Department.

The finance director said that Miller’s amendment would have required the commission to amend the tax rate resolution.  This is a good example of why it doesn’t make sense to set the tax rate in advance of setting the budget.  How can the commission properly budget the rate when it hasn’t determined the amounts that will be spent from each fund?

Commissioner Miller requested permission of the body to read her prepared remarks on the amendment.  The commission rejected allowing her to read her statement.  This is appalling.  Commissioners are given the power to be heard and the duty to look out for taxpayers.  Apparently the majority of commissioners don’t want a commissioner to come prepared with the facts and their reasons for advocating positions.  The commission rejected allowing me to read a statement last month.

Miller did speak briefly without reading her statement.  She said she didn’t think tax money should be given for corporate welfare, that she was upset with the way Bryan Daniels and the Blount Partnership had blocked commissioner Jamie Daly and me and that the money should be used to fix the pot holes in the road.  I seconded Miller’s amendment but it was rejected by the commission with only Commissioners Daly, Miller and myself supporting it.

4 officials are paid above the state mandated minimum
State law mandates minimum salaries for elected officials.  The salaries range from being nearly double to near quadruple the average salary in Blount County.

State law allows the commission to pay elected officials more than the state mandated minimums.  With the salaries already being so much more than what the majority of households live on, I moved to cut the salaries of the court clerk, highway superintendent, sheriff and mayor to the state mandated minimums.

The cut would have saved the taxpayers $91,713 but it was rejected with only commissioners Daly, Miller and myself voting for it.  Chairman Jerome Moon gave one of the typical reasons to rubber stamp the matter and move on.  He said that state law requires us to give the sheriff a pay supplement above his base pay.   However, when I asked what state law said we have to give the sheriff more than the state minimum, he couldn’t name the law.  The sheriff couldn’t state the law either.  Moon them passed the buck to Commissioner Steve Samples, because he is the longest serving commissioner.  Samples didn’t know the law either.

I am researching the matter to see exactly what the county is required to pay the sheriff.

No one read a conflict of interest statement but several have conflicts of interest.

Meeting minutes missing wording of a motion
The meeting minutes for the May commission meeting did not include the wording of a motion that I made.  I moved to amend the minutes to include the wording of the amendment that I had offered but the commission rejected the amendment.  The minutes should reflect any change that a commissioner tries to make to public policy and government documents.

Highway Grant
There was a reimbursement grant for highway funds expended during an emergency with begin and end dates that spans five years.  The new Highway Superintendent (HS) Jeff Headrick couldn’t explain these dates.  He said it was handled before he became HS but his name is on the budget amendment request.  I often wonder if anyone in local government understands what they are signing up for, with state and federal grants.

IT Meeting
A special Information Technology (IT) Committee was called by the mayor, to have the new IT consulting firm Mindboard give a presentation on its IT assessment of the county.  A previous assessment was done.  The Mindboard consultant referred to it as the 10,000 foot view.  He referred to his assessment as the 3,000 foot view.  The county is in need of some IT improvements but we need to tread carefully.

Kronos, the $2.3M time keeping, payroll and HR IT software project, is several months behind schedule.  This was rushed through without fully examining whether the county was ready for the project.

The estimated capital costs of about $2.5M, in the Mindboard presentation, are nearly double what the commission approved last year for the updates.  Furthermore, the annual costs to maintain these updates will greatly increase the IT budget.  The committee was given a figure that was over $600,000.

These aren’t exact numbers.  The costs for computers was listed as zero.  The former IT Director John Herron, who now works for the schools, pointed out that this wasn’t realistic.

I wondered why this was listed as zero and I may have learned why.  In the commission packet, there are budget transfers to purchase computers in both the Finance and Accounting and Data Processing (IT) budgets. (See pages 330 and 334)  Finance Director Vineyard told me that all IT needs would come out of the IT fund but apparently both had money left over at the end of the year to use to buy new computers.

It is amazing how much money is moved around (transferred) at the end of the year.  I may write more about the subject in the future.

The IT Committee took no action on the presentation.  However, the mayor and finance director usually proceed with their big spending plans without a recommendation from the IT Committee.

State to remove 99 felons from jail
The best news of the month is that the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) is going to remove 99 felons to state facilities.  This reduces the chance of a tax increase for jail expansion.  However, we should be ever vigilant of the matter.  We need to ensure that TDOC and the sheriff actively work to move felons, with a continuous sentence of more than a year, to state facilities in the future.

The sheriff stated that I have “offered no realistic or legal solutions.”  That’s false.  One realistic and legal solution that I offered was to have the state sentenced felons moved to state facilities.  It’s good to see this solution will happen.

Up next
The commission will consider reforming the Human Resources and Insurance Committee.

Happy Independence Day!

Tennessee corporate welfare

Check out this new website which has an interactive map that tells where corporate welfare is being handed out.

http://endcorporatehandouts.com/

In Blount County

Corporate Handouts for Alcoa

Alcoa, Inc. $950,000 training reimbursement 2013
K12 Management, Inc. $148,800 training reimbursement 2014
ProNova Solutions, LLC $525,000 training reimbursement  2013

Corporate Handouts for Maryville

Alcoa, Inc. $2,200,000 grant/low-cost loan 2013
Microtherm, Inc. $14,700 training reimbursement 2013
Surface Ignighter, LLC $540,000 training reimbursement 2013

Corporate Handouts for Rockford

Cooper Standard Rockford  $45,000 training reimbursement 2013

Doug Overbey’s jobs claims haven’t materialized into better pay for his district

By now, those of you who vote have received your latest glossy mailer of the week from State Senator Doug Overbey entitled “Doug Overbey Focuses on Jobs.”  This looks like a brag sheet produced by the Blount Partnership with the name Doug Overbey inserted in its place.

Overbey is taking credit for crony deals using your money.  The IDB gave the farm away, literally, to get AMI here.  Some of these jobs are expansions from companies that are already heavily invested in the community.  While the Blount Partnership, Governor Bill Haslam and Doug Overbey are taking credit for Cirrus Aircraft moving in, they aren’t telling you about the better paying jobs that have and will likely continuing leaving the airport.

What about all the small business that create jobs but don’t get any special tax incentives like these crony deals given to bigger companies?  Overbey, like most Republicans, would probably claim to support economic liberty.  A free market wouldn’t favor specials interests and provide corporate welfare.  A free market would provide a level playing field for all to compete on.

A better measure of a politician’s success would be jobs created without special deals.  A strong economy wouldn’t require special tax breaks for a few connected companies, so that politicians like Overbey can brag about giving the farm away, using your money, to attract jobs.

If Overbey has done such a great job of “creating an environment that’s bringing thousands [of] quality jobs to the people of Blount and Sevier Counties”, during his time as state senator, then pay should be increasing at or above the rate of inflation.  It is not.

According to the East Tennessee Index, Blount County was the only county in the region where pay was below the rate of inflation in 2013.  In 2014, Sevier County joined Blount County as the only other county in the region where pay isn’t keeping up with the rate of inflation.  These two counties are Overbey’s district.

The next time you hear Overbey and the Blount Partnership tout jobs, take it with a grain of salt.  Neither are worth their salt.

Vote for Scott Williams for State Senator in the Republican Primary on August 4th.

Commissioner Tona Monroe calls for immediate meeting of Blount County Corrections Partnership to discuss removing discretionary inmates after AG’s opinion on state sentenced felons.

The Tennessee Attorney General (AG) has now opined that jails aren’t required to house state felons sentenced to more than one year of continuous confinement.  It is no longer just my (Tona Monroe) interpretation, as the local paper reported.  It’s also the interpretation of the AG.

For Immediate Release: Commissioner Tona Monroe requests immediate meeting of Blount County Corrections Partnership to discuss removing discretionary inmates after AG’s opinion on state sentenced felons.

Contact Tona Monroe
(865) 856-0814
tona@breezeair.net

June 21, 2016

Commissioner Monroe issued the following statement on Tennessee AG opinion 16-21.

The sheriff, mayor and some commissioners have been pushing to spend what could be tens of millions of Blount County taxpayer dollars on jail expansion because the current facility is “overcrowded”. Commissioner Tona Monroe has repeatedly pointed out that the facility is only “overcrowded” because the sheriff insists on keeping a large number of federal inmates that the county is under no legal obligation to take. In addition, the sheriff is housing a large number of state prisoners. It has been shown that both arrangements are a loss to the taxpayers of Blount County. Now a new opinion by the Tennessee Attorney General makes it clear that the county is not obligated to house the state prisoners either.

This eliminates any need to spend huge amounts of money to expand the Blount County Adult Detention Facility (jail). Based on the most recent month’s jail population statistics, if the federal and state prisoners were removed, the Blount County jail would be well under capacity.

Commissioner Tona Monroe is calling for an immediate meeting of the Blount County Corrections Partnership to discuss removing the discretionary state and federal inmates from the jail, in order to save tens of millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

###

Previous jail summary reports are available here: https://www.tn.gov/correction/article/tdoc-jail-summary-reports

Blount County pay still not keeping up with the rate of inflation

Mayor Ed Mitchell is bragging about a budget without a tax increase and Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher said the budget process was easy this year.  It’s no wonder that both are happy because they will both get nice raises and be paid substantially more than state law requires.  Hatcher will make 2.13 times the average 2014 salary of Blount County citizens.  Mitchell will make 2.95 times the 2014 average of $42,728.  Does anyone think that the Circuit Court Clerk and Mayor do double and triple the work of the average taxpayer struggling to pay their bills?

These two are patting each other on the back and padding their pockets with your money, while Blount County pay continues to fall below the rate of inflation.  With the 2014 numbers in, Blount County pay actually averaged a $3 drop compared to 2013, when adjusted for inflation.

From the East Tennessee Index:

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.

In past years, Blount County was the only county in the region to average pay below the rate of inflation.  With Sevier County joining Blount, two counties that heavily promote tourism, we should be questioning how the governments’ heavy involvement in tourism promotion is actually benefiting its citizens.

With the repeated failures of the Blount Partnership, Chamber, Industrial Development Board and Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority (SMTDA) to foster an environment where average pay keeps up with the rate of inflation, it’s time for the commission to look at abolishing the SMTDA and letting the private sector promote its own tourist attractions.  The roughly $1.5 million that the SMTDA authority is getting from the hotel/motel tax should be used to help the citizens of Blount County by paying down some of the $232.8 million in liabilities (page 24) instead of being used to train gas station attendants (yes the former Tourism Director bragged about training gas station attendants) and give corporate welfare to a select few.

Don’t look for reform anytime soon though.  Commissioner and county school employee Gary Farmer was wearing his Blount Partnership shirt at the commission meeting Thursday evening.  As a commissioner, he gets to vote to fund money that is used for his regular pay raises as a school employee.  What’s inflation to someone with that power?

It’s down to 3: Only Commissioners Akard, Miller and Monroe have not supported increased tax rate

The Blount County Commission consists entirely of Republicans who claim to espouse positions of low tax and small government but actions speak louder than words.  There are now only 3 commissioners who have not voted for a property tax rate that is 15% higher than when they took office in September of 2014, or in the case of Peggy Lambert, left office.

The tax rate for fiscal year (FY) 2015 (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015) was $2.15.  In FY 16 the commission raised the tax rate to $2.47.  The tax rate approved for FY 17 is also $2.47.

Last year (FY 16) commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted no on both the tax rate (increase) and the annual budget resolutions.  Commissioner Brad Bowers pulled a Steve Hargis by voting for the budget resolution while voting no on the tax rate resolution.  Commissioner Tom Stinnett took the courageous position of abstaining on the tax rate resolution while voting for the budget resolution.  Neither Bowers or Stinnett should be taken seriously by voters in the future because you can’t vote for most, or all, of the spending without voting for the taxes to pay for the spending.

This year leaves no doubt on their tax and spend ways.  Commissioner Mike Akard was absent from the Commission meeting but he voted no on the tax rate and budget resolutions at the Agenda Committee meeting.  Commissioners Karen Miller and Tona Monroe voted no on both the tax rate resolution and budget resolutions at both the Agenda Committee meeting and Commission meeting.

Commissioners Archie Archer, Brad Bowers, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Peggy Lambert and Tom Stinnett all joined the tax and spend crowd this year by voting yes to both the $2.47 tax rate resolution and the annual budget resolution that is partially funded by the $2.47 property tax rate.

Commissioners Archer, Cole and Daly showed the people that they lack firm principles by voting against the tax rate last year and then turning the other way and voting for it this year.  Commissioners Bowers and Stinnett showed last year that they have no principles by their contradictory and cowardly votes last year, respectively.  Peggy Lambert recently wrote that she never voted a tax increase in comments on BC Public Record’s website but a few days later voted for a tax rate that was 15% higher than when she left office in 2014.  Her hypocrisy is clear.  The rest of the commissioners reaffirmed their tax and spend ways.  These commissioners include Andy Allen, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon and Steve Samples.

“There is no such thing as secret money” but there are secret plans for your money

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.

From the Governmental Accounting Standards Board:

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.