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Ray Moore runs for Blount County Commission

To the great people of Blount County:
I have been employed for 28 years by a retail company where I am in charge of millions of dollars of merchandise each year. This has given me the experience to carefully watch the resources of the taxpayers and to represent the people as a county commissioner. I have two beautiful daughters that are my life. I have lived in Tennessee my entire life and have been in Blount County for more than 20 years now. I do not like the direction our governments have been going: local, state and federal.

When my opponent wouldn’t give me straight answers about important issues that the county is dealing with, I could not sit on the side line and not do my part to change the direction of our local government. My opponent has voted for 3 budgets funded by the same 16% property tax rate increase from 2015. He also voted to restrict private property rights back in 2015 with the water buffer resolution. My opponent is against transparency. After the November 2014 Human Resources Committee meeting, my opponent told another commissioner to hide benefits information from public view. Please ask yourself: Is this the person you wish to have representing you as the citizen taxpayer?

Our county government owes over $214 million dollars in debt and total liabilities (see page 25). Some elected officials can not control their spending. We have schools that are in disrepair, yet over the past 3 years the county mayor and finance director set aside two-million dollars for jail expansion. The commission just approved spending $118,000 on a condemned bridge instead of repairing our schools. As both a voter and taxpayer, I do not think this is the way things should be done. I will prioritize the county’s spending.

I stand for the Constitution, and I will vote to insure that the money of each taxpayer will be spent wisely and not wasted on non-priority items like bridges to nowhere. I promise to vote against new taxes of any kind. We as a county do not have a funding problem; what we have is a spending problem. We need to prioritize spending and pay down our debt and in turn keep our government running efficiently. I support a transparent government that conducts its business openly rather than working behind closed doors and hiding things from the public. I humbly ask for your vote come May 1, 2018.

Thank you for considering me for Blount County Commissioner in the 7th district.

Sincerely,
Ray Moore

November 2017 Commission Report

Commission meeting
The agenda was lengthy this month, containing 17 items under new business (one added at the last minute) as well as items under the consent calendar and elections, appointments and confirmations.  Some of the items won’t be covered in this commission report but you can ask any questions that you may have about those items in the comments section below.  Commissioners Dave Bennett and Gary Farmer were absent.

Consent calendar
The consent calendar contained a resolution titled “A RESOLUTION HONORING ALL VETERANS AND THE EMPLOYEES OF THE BLOUNT COUNTY VETERANS AFFAIRS OFFICE FOR THEIR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS.”  In the September 2017 Commission Report, I explained why I frequently vote no on these resolutions honoring people.  I abstained on this vote, which is something I rarely do.  Many of our veterans are worthy of honor, which is why I abstained rather than voting no.

While the veterans are listed first in the title of the resolution, they are barely mentioned in the resolution.  The resolution is mostly about the staff of the Blount County Veterans Affairs Office.  This resolution really diminishes our veterans.  Once again politicians were using their political office to honor government employees.

Some speak highly of Veterans Service Officer Nathan Weinbaum.  That’s good that there are people who are happy with the job he is doing.  However, he is being well paid for this job.  His salary is substantially more than the average taxpayer in Blount County.  Furthermore, he works in air an conditioned building and has great fringe benefits.  He is already being rewarded by the taxpayers with the generous salary and benefits that he receives which exceed more than the majority live on.  The people of Blount County are free to honor him anytime they so chose, without the Blount County Commission telling them to.

Donation for employee recognition
Item F4 on the agenda was a resolution to approve spending $1,500 donated to pay for a recognition luncheon for Blount County Sheriff’s Office employees.  This is a much better way to honor those who people feel are doing good for the community, than the resolutions that the county commission passes.  Actions like this speak louder than the commission’s words on paper.

Highway Department employee handbook – who has authority to approve it?
The commission was asked to approve updates to the Blount County Highway Department Employee Supplement Handbook.  I questioned why the commission was voting on this when Highway Superintendent Jeff Headrick has authority under TCA 5-23-103 to adopt a policy without commission approval.

TCA 5-23-103(c)(1) says:

“Any county official whose employees are governed by the base personnel policies adopted by the county legislative body shall have the right to adopt separate base personnel policies applicable to the employees of such official’s office by filing approved base personnel policies with the county legislative body in the same manner as set out in subsection (a), at the following times.”

Blount County government appears to have an authority problem.  The sheriff did not bring the federal inmates contract to the county commission for approval before signing the contract.  Yet, the commission is approving policies that state law says office holders have the authority to adopt without commission approval.  If state law says an office holder has the authority to act, then commission should leave the responsibility to the office holder.

Fireworks ban repeal request
The possession, sale, manufacture, storing and use of pyrotechnics (fireworks) was made illegal in Blount County under a 1949 private act.  Punishment can be severe, with fines ranging from $50-400 and/or jail time ranging from 30 days to 11 months and 29 days.

You can legally buy fireworks in Loudon County but you can’t bring them into Blount County legally.  People routinely do this and the law isn’t being enforced.  As such, the law either needs to enforced, repealed or amended to something more reasonable.

A letter from Blount County Sheriff James Berrong explains that the main complaint his office receives from fireworks is related to noise.  Berrong’s suggestion is for the fireworks ordinance be rewritten to prohibit the use of fireworks between the hours of 11 PM through 7 AM.

The resolution requests that the Tennessee General Assembly repeal the private act.  Chairman Moon declared that a 2/3rds majority of 14 votes was needed, and the resolution was postponed because of the uncertainty of whether a simple majority or a 2/3rds majority is required for a resolution requesting repeal of a private act.  One has to wonder why Ron French, who questioned the number of required votes, didn’t know the answer since he is in the 4th year of his 4th term as a county commissioner.

Commission Mike Caylor topped himself this month by flying off the handle and pointing at Mike Akard after Akard spoke in favor of the resolution.  Unfortunately that the commission video doesn’t zoom in close enough for the citizens to see Caylor’s disrespectful actions.

Purple Heart Highway
The commission passed a resolution supporting the designation of US Highway 321 through Blount County the Military Order Purple Heart Highway.  The title of the resolution shows how sloppy the wording of resolutions can be.

The title reads, “RESOLUTION NAMING U.S. HIGHWAY 321/LAMAR ALEXANDER PARKWAY FROM LOUDON COUNTY/BLOUNT COUNTY LINE NORTH TO BLOUNT COUNTY/SEVIER COUNTY LINE THE MILITARY ORDER PURPLE HEART HIGHWAY.”  The commission wasn’t actually renaming the 321 but rather showing support for the designation.  The title of a resolution should reflect what the commission is actually doing.  The title should have used the word requesting or supporting instead of making it read that the road would actually be given a new name.

Interlocal agreement between Blount County and the City of Friendsville
Item F14 is a resolution to approve an interlocal agreement between the county and Friendsville.  The City of Friendsville is in my commission district but no one from the City of Friendsville contacted to discuss this matter before bringing it to the commission.  I learned of the agreement when I read the Agenda Committee packet.

The agreement requires the Blount County Sheriff’s Office to enforce city ordinances that will be adjudicated in Blount County General Sessions Court.  The agreement says, “this agreement shall extend until such time as the City requests and expresses their intent pursuant to the applicable statutes that their designated municipal ordinance is no longer to be prosecuted by the Sheriff and General Sessions Court.”  This only mentions what happens if the city wants out of the agreement.

The resolution says, “this Interlocal Agreement is necessary and required by T.C.A. § 12-9-401 to provide for the appropriate court costs and costs of enforcement.”  The fines collected go to the city, according to state law.  The court costs are $177 for each city ordinance violation and are paid into the county’s general fund, except for processing fees collected by the clerk.

I inquired what would happen if the county needed to increase its costs for enforcement.  No answer was provided.  As such, I didn’t think it wise to approve something saying that the county would do something until Friendsville no longer wanted to continue, without knowing how the county could increase court costs if needed to cover its expenses.

Duty to report law
The county commission approved a resolution requesting that the Tennessee General Assembly enact legislation “to require a person to report a person in distress by calling 911 or a first responder.”  This resolution is dangerous to liberty for many reasons.

While the resolution doesn’t mention the word crime, this is a request to make anyone who doesn’t call 911 (the government) or a first responder a criminal.  A law without a penalty is usually just a suggestion.  We need to be very careful about what we allow government to require us to report or be penalized if we don’t.  If you see something, say something resulted in this family’s dog being killed by government.

Distress isn’t defined in the resolution.  Thus, the commission didn’t know precisely what it asking the state legislature to outlaw.

Without a clear definition of what constitutes distress, it’s possible to envision a scenario where you’re driving down the road one day minding your own business and harming no one, pass a car on the side of the road and find yourself charged with a crime a few days later because you didn’t report the person inside the vehicle who was distressed.  You could have been recorded with a government surveillance camera or an I-phone and you would then have to explain to a judge why you didn’t call 911.

The second whereas clause says, “a person who knows that another person is exposed to great physical harm and in need of assistance, and can give assistance without danger or peril to himself, should report the person in distress by calling 911 or a first responder.”  This doesn’t appear to address those instances where the person rending aid is successful in resolving the problem.  Why should someone who is rendering assistance be required to report their own help if it successful without further medical intervention?

What if someone is fearful of the government or medical practitioners?  Is it right to report someone’s problem to 911, government or emergency responders if they don’t want their situation reported?  What if the person being required to report is fearful of those they would be required to report to?  Not everyone views assistance from the police, government and allopathic medicine practitioners as being productive or amicable.  What if someone doesn’t think that reporting a distressed person to 911, government or emergency responders is the best course of action?  This appears to request that individual judgement be criminalized.

This matter stems from the disappearance of Eric Ashby, a former Tennessee resident who moved to Colorado to hunt for a “chest containing treasure fit for a pirate,” that is thought to be buried in New Mexico.  It is bizarre that the Blount County Commission was being asked to vote on a resolution asking for state law in Tennessee because someone from Tennessee moved to Colorado to hunt for a modern day pirate’s treasure that may be in the state of New Mexico.

Ashby disappeared after his raft capsized in the Arkansas River.  Those with Ashby on the treasure hunting trip made it safely back to land but Ashby did not.  None of those who returned safely reported Ashby’s emergency.  Thus, the commission was asked to support the enactment of a new law because those with Ashby didn’t call police for help.

However that isn’t the whole story.  It turns out that a bystander who witnessed the incident did report it to the police.  Thus, it seems likely that the law Ashby’s family and friends are requesting would not have saved his life, unfortunately.  I offer condolences to Ashby’s family and friends for his tragic loss of life but we don’t need to pass another law that could make criminals out of Tennesseans when it likely wouldn’t have saved Ashby’s life if it had been the law in Colorado.

Up next:
The commission will be filling the Tennessee Senate seat vacated by Doug Overbey who was appointed the U.S. attorney for East Tennessee.

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

 

Candidate Trump: ‘I Love Wikileaks.’ President Trump: ‘Arrest Assange!’

Written by Ron Paul

“I love Wikileaks,” candidate Donald Trump said on October 10th on the campaign trail. He praised the organization for reporting on the darker side of the Hillary Clinton campaign. It was information likely leaked by a whistleblower from within the Clinton campaign to Wikileaks.

Back then he praised Wikileaks for promoting transparency, but candidate Trump looks less like President Trump every day. The candidate praised whistleblowers and Wikileaks often on the campaign trail. In fact, candidate Trump loved Wikileaks so much he mentioned the organization more than 140 times in the final month of the campaign alone! Now, as President, it seems Trump wants Wikileaks founder Julian Assange sent to prison.

Last week CNN reported, citing anonymous “intelligence community” sources, that the Trump Administration’s Justice Department was seeking the arrest of Assange and had found a way to charge the Wikileaks founder for publishing classified information without charging other media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post for publishing the same information.

It might have been tempting to write off the CNN report as “fake news,” as is much of their reporting, but for the fact President Trump said in an interview on Friday that issuing an arrest warrant for Julian Assange would be, “OK with me.”

Trump’s condemnation of Wikileaks came just a day after his CIA Director, Michael Pompeo, attacked Wikileaks as a “hostile intelligence service.” Pompeo accused Assange of being “a fraud — a coward hiding behind a screen.”

Pompeo’s word choice was no accident. By accusing Wikileaks of being a “hostile intelligence service” rather than a publisher of information on illegal and abusive government practices leaked by whistleblowers, he signaled that the organization has no First Amendment rights. Like many in Washington, he does not understand that the First Amendment is a limitation on government rather than a granting of rights to citizens. Pompeo was declaring war on Wikileaks.

But not that long ago Pompeo also cited Wikileaks as an important source of information. In July he drew attention to the Wikileaks release of information damaging to the Clinton campaign, writing, “Need further proof that the fix was in from President Obama on down?”

There is a word for this sudden about-face on Wikileaks and the transparency it provides us into the operations of the prominent and powerful: hypocrisy.

The Trump Administration’s declaration of war on whistleblowers and Wikileaks is one of the greatest disappointments in these first 100 days. Donald Trump rode into the White House with promises that he would “drain the swamp,” meaning that he would overturn the apple carts of Washington’s vested interests. By unleashing those same vested interests on those who hold them in check – the whistleblowers and those who publish their revelations – he has turned his back on those who elected him.

Julian Assange, along with the whistleblowers who reveal to us the evil that is being done in our name, are heroes. They deserve our respect and admiration, not a prison cell. If we allow this president to declare war on those who tell the truth, we have only ourselves to blame.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/april/24/candidate-trump-i-love-wikileaks-president-trump-arrest-Assange/

After Trump’s Syria Attack, What Comes Next?

Written by Ron Paul   April 10, 2017

Thursday’s US missile attack on Syria must represent the quickest foreign policy U-turn in history. Less than a week after the White House gave Assad permission to stay on as president of his own country, President Trump decided that the US had to attack Syria and demand Assad’s ouster after a chemical attack earlier in the week. Trump blamed Assad for the attack, stated that “something’s going to happen” in retaliation, and less than two days later he launched a volley of 59 Tomahawk missiles (at a cost of $1.5 million each) onto a military airfield near where the chemical attack took place.

President Trump said it is in the “vital national security interest of the United States” to attack Syria over the use of poison gas. That is nonsense. Even if what Trump claims about the gas attack is true – and we’ve seen no evidence that it is – there is nothing about an isolated incident of inhuman cruelty thousands of miles from our borders that is in our “vital national security interest.” Even if Assad gassed his own people last week it hardly means he will launch chemical attacks on the United States even if he had the ability, which he does not.

From the moment the chemical attack was blamed on Assad, however, I expressed my doubts about the claims. It simply makes no sense for Assad to attack civilians with a chemical weapon just as he is winning his war against ISIS and al-Qaeda and has been told by the US that it no longer seeks regime change. On the verge of victory, he commits a suicidal act to no strategic or tactical military advantage? More likely the gas attack was a false flag by the rebels — or perhaps even by our CIA — as a last ditch effort to forestall a rebel defeat in the six year war.

Would the neocons and the mainstream media lie to us about what happened last week in Syria? Of course they would. They lied us into attacking Iraq, they lied us into attacking Gaddafi, they lied us into seeking regime change in Syria in the first place. We should always assume they are lying.

Who benefits from the US attack on Syria? ISIS, which immediately after the attack began a ground offensive. Does President Trump really want the US to act as ISIS’s air force?

The gas attack, which took some 70 civilian lives, was horrible and must be condemned. But we must also remember that US bombs in Syria have killed hundreds of civilians. Just recently, US bombs killed 300 Iraqi civilians in one strike! Does it really make a difference if you are killed by poison gas or by a US missile?

What’s next for President Trump in Syria? Russia has not backed down from its claim that the poison gas leaked as a result of a conventional Syrian bomb on an ISIS chemical weapons factory. Moscow claims it is determined to defend its ally, Syria. Will Trump unilaterally declare a no fly zone in parts of Syria and attempt to prevent Russian air traffic? Some suggest this is his next move. It is one that carries a great danger of igniting World War Three.

Donald Trump’s attack on Syria was clearly illegal. However, Congress shows no interest in reining in this out-of-control president. We should fear any US escalation and must demand that our Representatives prohibit it. If there ever was a time to flood the Capitol Hill switchboard demanding an end to US military action in Syria, it is now!

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/april/10/after-trump-s-syria-attack-what-comes-next/

Sad day for dogs: Court says barking warrants execution by police state death squad

Why do we put up with this?  We need better judges.  A warrant is not a license to murder.  People to stand up and push back against this tyranny.  Laws need to be put in place to require protocols to deal with barking dogs instead of just murdering them for barking in their homes.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/court-police-can-shoot-dog-if-it-moves-or-barks-when-cop-enters-home/article/2610097

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/court-rules-it-was-reasonable-for-cop-to-shoot-dog-for-barking_us_585c4bc9e4b0eb586485d619

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/

April 2016 Commission Report

If you demand better government you will get better government.  Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe

Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP)
BCCP Chairman Jeff Headrick missed the March and April BCCP meetings.  Vice Chairman Rick Carver filled in.  Carver showed that he has little or no respect for our constitutional participatory process*.  Citizens have shared with me the horrible faces that he makes when they are speaking and when I am speaking.  Apparently he can’t hide his contempt for the people he is suppose to be representing.

Last month BCCP Vice Chairman Rick Carver asked the BCCP whether we should ram through a request for qualifications (RFQ) to expand the jail.  This matter wasn’t on the agenda.  Another meeting was called to place the item on the BCCP agenda, to ensure that the rush to vote on seeking an RFQ to expand the jail and look at program services would be legal.  What does that say about some local government employees and officials that they would want to ram through something this important without giving the public time to comment?

This wasn’t Carver’s only legally questionable move related to the BCCP.  He also prohibited me from adding an item to the BCCP agenda.  At the end of the March BCCP meeting I requested that discussion and possible action to make a recommendation about housing federal inmates be placed on the agenda.  Rick Carver said he would not allow it to be placed on the agenda.  I asked him if he had authority to stop me from placing an item on the agenda.  He said that he didn’t know.

After the meeting I (Tona Monroe) told Rick Carver that he couldn’t do what he had just done.  He told me to add it to the agenda.  I called Rhonda Pitts, the Commission Secretary, and shared that Rick Carver told me to add it to the agenda.

The agenda was released without the item that I requested.  Neither Pitts or Carver have the integrity to answer who told Pitts to exclude the item from the agenda.  However, records that I have obtained indicate that Rick Carver was making decisions related to the BCCP, in the absence of Jeff Headrick.  Pitts has also failed to properly record the motions that I make into the BCCP meeting minutes.

Historically, no commissioner has ever been prohibiting from adding items to the agenda, that I am aware of.  The commission is free to reject the item and even remove it from the agenda if they choose not to discuss it.  However, prohibiting a commissioner from adding something to the agenda is unprecedented and it trashes the fiduciary responsibility and sacred trust that elected officials have been given.

If it seems trite to talk about this scared trust, it is because people like Rick Carver have thrown our system of governance into the trash bin of antiquity, preferring a oligarchy to our constitutional republic.  No commissioner should be allowed to dictate what can and can not be placed on a meeting agenda.  Why have a committee if one person, acting as chair, can bottleneck and determine the entire agenda?  Committees are suppose to discuss ideas not stifle them.

Defining moment – dangerous precedent
This is a defining moment in Blount County government.  If Rick Carver is allowed to get away with his actions, then the machine will never again have to allow commissioners to place items on the agenda that they don’t approve of.

I am doing what I can to stop this deplorable action from happening again but I can’t do it alone.  It is time for you to step up and demand that this stop.  If you demand better government, you will get better government.

Rick Carver’s phone number is 984-6674 and his email address is rcarver@blounttn.org.  Commission Secretary Rhonda Pitt’s can be reached at 273-5830 and her email is rpitts@blounttn.org.  County Clerk Margaret Flynn, Rhonda’s supervisor, can be reached at 273-5804 and her email is maflynn@blounttn.org.

The RFQ was approved with only me voting no.  This should come as no surprise.  Of the 5 voting members present, 2 are employees of the Sheriff (Jeff French and John Adams), one was finically supported by the Sheriff during his campaign (Rick Carver) and the other sits on a board with the Sheriff (Mike Caylor).

I made a motion to amend the RFQ recommendation it to program services and not expansion of the jail.  Mike Caylor embarrassed himself by speaking out of order by saying that he wouldn’t accept my amendment to his motion, rather than allowing the process to work.

There was further embarrassment when clarification had to be sought from the Purchasing Agent, Katie Branham, as to whether the recommendation needed to be sent to the commission.  The Purchasing Agent said that under the Purchasing Act of 1957, which the county operates under, the BCCP could recommend that she issue the RFQ without commission approval.

It is no wonder that the Purchasing Agent was overheard saying, they don’t know what they are doing.  She is correct.  Rick Carver and Mike Caylor don’t know what they are doing.  They do what they are told and many times they can’t even do what they are told correctly.

No solution Mike Caylor asked the Finance Director, Randy Vineyard, what he thought about the procedure for handling the RFQ process.  The Finance Director, who is usually quite happy to run things while the mayor is out to lunch or cutting a ribbon, told Caylor you’ve heard the same things that I heard.  Caylor said, I just wanted to hear you (Vineyard) say it and laughed.  Once again no solution Caylor was showing that he doesn’t want to do the thinking and is just there as a rubber stamp for the machine.

Agenda Committee
Favoritism shown
Toward the end of each meeting there is a section on the agenda for statements and announcements from commissioners.  The Agenda Committee Chairman Steve Samples frequently skips over the section.  I had my light on to speak and he skipped me and went straight to public input for items on the agenda.

Rather than letting me make my statement in my commission seat, where commissioners normally make their statements, Jerome Moon insisted that I go to the podium and speak which I did.  However, Samples let commissioner Ron French speak from his seat.  Moon did not insist that French go to the podium and speak.  Samples apologized to me after the meeting but he let Moon have his way.

Called Commission meeting
The commission approved the RFQ to look at costs to expand the jail and/or programs.  I made the motion to remove jail expansion and just focus on programs.  My amendment failed with Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and me voting for it.  These are the same 6 who voted against the RFQ.

The paper reported the final vote wrong.  Jerome Moon did not abstain and Gary Farmer left before the final vote.  Jeff Headrick was absent at the start of the meeting but came in late and voted yes.  Headrick and Carver are the two sponsors of the resolution.

What Jerome Moon abstained on was my challenge to his ruling as Chair.  No solution Mike Caylor who wanted to hear from the Finance Director, who had nothing to say, declared a point of order saying that I was out of order because I was referring to the Institute for Law and Policy Planning report which discussed why we didn’t need to build.  It is not out of order for a commissioner to talk about why we shouldn’t be doing something before the body (commission) and reference resources that support that position.  However, Jerome Moon declared me out of order and the commission voted to shut my discussion on the matter down by upholding Moon’s ruling.

I wasn’t the only one shut down when referencing the jail study.  Moon shut citizens down who spoke about the study.  He also told Commissioner Tom Cole that he could be sued if he didn’t vote for the RFQ.

What has Blount County government become?
Think about what Blount County government has become and decide if it is serving you well.  If not, you shouldn’t put up with this and should demand better from those who are suppose to be your public servants.

  • The Blount County Adult Detention Facility (jail) is overcrowded, exceeding its certified capacity of 350 beds.
  • The sheriff and US Marshal’s service willfully contribute to the crowding problem by agreeing to house federal inmates in the jail.
  • The taxpayers funded a $94,580 study to address jail overcrowding.
  • The study is a criminal justice system assessment and not just a plan to expand the jail.
  • Several of the powers that be were upset with the findings, conclusions and recommendations.
  • The BCCP recommended that the commission conduct a teleconference hearing with the jail consultant.
  • The Mayor threatened to sue the consultant to stop discussion on the study.
  • The county paid $3,710 in legal fees to the mayor’s attorney.
  • There was no lawsuit and the commission still rejected hearing from the consultant.
  • The study said that the county is losing money housing federal inmates and that the only way to make it seem like money is being made is to understaff and overcrowd the jail.
  • I requested that the issue of housing federal inmates be added to the BCCP agenda.  It took 7 months for this to happen.
  • After some discussion with figures showing that the county isn’t making money on federal inmates, the BCCP Chairman Jeff Headrick cut discussion off and moved to the next item without considering whether the BCCP should recommend that federal inmates no longer be housed in the jail.
  • The Finance Director and Sheriff’s Office cut the revenue projections for housing federal inmates.
  • More revenue accumulated than projected.
  • The Finance Director, Mayor and Sheriff secretly planned to use this accumulated revenue to build.
  • The Purchasing Agent chose a company charging 3.5 times more than the lowest offer to renegotiate the federal inmate per diem daily rate.
  • The county was obligated to pay the $65,000 consultant fee but the commission wasn’t presented with a budget amendment until after services were rendered.
  • I tried to place the federal prisoners issue back on the BCCP agenda, to make a recommendation but Vice Chairman Rick Carver stopped it from being placed on the agenda.
  • Commission Secretary Rhonda Pitts has refused to record the words of my amendments in the meeting minutes.
  • Mike Caylor declared a point of order prohibiting me from speaking about why we didn’t need to build.
  • Jerome Moon ruled that I was out of order and commission upheld that a commissioner can’t talk about why we shouldn’t build, when being presented with resolution seeking approval of an RFQ to build.
  • The sheriff told the paper in December that he hasn’t asked the commission for a new jail.
  • The sheriff still hasn’t asked the commission for a new jail or expansion.

Why are we doing this?

Commission meeting – a spending spree
Mike Caylor was absent.

The majority of commissioners showed again that they have no fiscal discipline and that they are happy to accommodate government anytime it wants to go on a spending binge.

The schools were back for more budget increases despite being given a huge increase in local revenue this year and already receiving another large budget increase a few months back.  I have never received the information that I requested regarding new hires and part time jobs being made full time this fiscal year.  Only commissioner Karen Miller and I voted against giving the schools another big increase.

The commission was presented with a lease for laptops for the Sheriff’s Office.  There were numerous problems with this lease.  Neither the Purchasing Agent or the new $100+ hourly Mindboard IT consultant could answer questions about the agreements that they negotiate.  I asked why the paperwork listed a 4 year warranty for a 3 year lease.  The $100+ hourly IT consultant did say what was already obvious, that this 3 lease is just a way to go and get new laptops again in 3 years, rather than using the laptops for the life of the equipment.  During the meeting commissioner Mike Akard was able to find a lower price for the same model laptops from the same vendor.  Why we need someone making over $100 a hour involved in a laptop lease is beyond me.

The most potentially dangerous item approved by the commission is a lease agreement for county employees to lease new cars for 5 years.  The Sheriff’s Office and Blount County Schools are excluded.  The rest will be able to get new cars if they can find the money in their budgets.  With all the transfers taking place, it won’t surprise me to see several people with new cars soon.

Besides the obvious opening the door to get new cars, this matter was not presented in a business like manner to the commission.  The commission should have been given an expense sheet documenting the cost of purchasing and maintaining cars for at least the last 3 budget years, preferably more.  We should have been given a list of market options, beyond leasing new cars.  There are software programs that handle fleet management but nothing like this was presented, even though the lease agreement was sold to the budget committee as a way to solve our lack of having a fleet management system.  All the market options should have been presented to us so that we could determine what the best option was.  We were given none of this.  While the laptops were a bad deal for the taxpayers a few leased cars will quickly cost more than the laptops.  Only myself and Commissioner Karen Miller voted no on this poorly thought out way to manage county vehicles.

The annual litter grant, with language about an Environmental Court being envisioned, was back.  Last year I pointed this matter out and put forth an amendment to ensure that no funds would be used for this purpose.  That amendment failed and it failed again this year.  If there is no agenda or desire for an Environmental Court, why does this statement keep getting submitted to the state?

Information Technology (IT) Steering Committee meeting canceled
The IT Committee meeting was canceled.  No explanation was given for the cancelation.  Mike Cain, Assistant IT Director and custodian of the IT Committee minutes, has not responded to my email inquiring why the meeting was canceled.  This is bad for the taxpayers of Blount County because it reduces oversight on major, expensive IT projects.

IT costs have soared the past couple of years.  The IT Committee should be meeting regularly to ensure good fiscal stewardship of the large sums of taxpayer monies that have been allocated to IT projects.  However, the opposite is occurring.

The IT Committee is only scheduled to meet 4 times a year and this meeting was canceled.  With no meeting on the near horizon and an Assistant IT Director who won’t respond to emails, it makes it difficult for me to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent wisely.  I never had a problem getting a timely response from the former IT Director John Herron.

Unfortunately this is business as usual.  The Mayor and his staff willfully leave those who might question their decisions in the dark.  Canceling a meeting, when we should be discussing how the $1.3 million IT fund is being spent is the latest way to avoid accountability.

Up next
The commission will chose a replacement for Jeff Headrick, who was appointed by the commission to the office of Highway Superintendent, to serve until the next election.

Call to action – Please get involved in your government
As I stated above, if you demand better government you will get better government.  Make phone calls, send emails, write letters to the editor and attend commission meetings.  Local government is right here.  You don’t have to drive to Nashville or Washington DC to be heard.  If you don’t show up, you will have to pay up, because your taxes will keep going up to pay for all the poor decisions being made right in your back yard.  This is your government.  Take charge of it.  Let freedom ring!

*Constitutional participatory process: this is commonly called the democratic process.

Doug Overbey votes with Democrats and the Police for Profit Class against Constitution

Sen. Doug Overbey with Single Digit Jeb, Common Core promoter - photo submitted to Daily Times

Sen. Doug Overbey with Single Digit Jeb, Common Core promoter – photo submitted to Daily Times

by Horatio Bunce

Sen. Mark Green introduced a “Constitutional Carry” bill (SB1483) last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  This was one of many issues various Republicans promised to address if their party ever gained the majority in the state legislature. Years of Republican majorities later and now with a veto-proof super-majority, the only progress made is you can now drive with your legally purchased arms in your vehicle without a special tax paid to the state. However, you cannot bear your legally purchased arms outside of your home or your personal vehicle without paying a perpetual tax to the state to exercise your “right” to keep and bear arms, pay an exorbitant fee for an additional criminal background check and 8 hours of instruction by the THP carry permit monopoly and submit to fingerprinting – just like an arrested criminal. The original bill was simple: remove the currently unconstitutional infringements on the legal possession and bearing of arms by non-felons that are imposed by the state in the form of perpetual taxation for the exercise of a constitutionally-protected right. The ability to pay a perpetual tax to obtain an unconstitutional “carry permit” for reciprocal use in other states would remain if you so choose.  A criminal background check (background tax and sales tax paid by the buyer) would still be required to purchase any new firearms.

Sen. Green had already acquiesced to amend the bill into “Less Than Constitutional Carry” by adding a requirement for the same mandatory 8 hours of training, currently controlled by the state Police For Profit class, that is required to get your unconstitutional “carry permit” (a.k.a. receipt of tax paid to exercise your “right”) in Tennessee. This, despite the fact that the same department currently is willing to issue reciprocity permits to visiting Alabama residents – where no training at all is required.

This amendment to the bill did two things: 1) It removed any argument by the Anti-Constitutionalists that there was no “safety training” of those bearing arms. Anyone carrying open or concealed would have to produce their state government-approved training certificate upon demand by the Police For Profit class. Again, that returns actually bearing arms to a state-sanctioned privilege controlled by the Police For Profit Class, not a right. However, they would receive the exact same 8 hours of training currently imposed on those obtaining the unconstitutional “carry permit”.  2) It maintained the Police For Profit class revenue source for all that mandatory training, although Sen. Green did dare to add that the training could be provided by the U.S. military. The one revenue stream dislodged would be the exorbitant $72 the Police For Profit class charges for a SECOND background check as they fingerprint you like a criminal for showing up to pay your 2nd Amendment Tax. Remember, that first background check only cost $10 when you purchased the weapon.

With over a half million Tennesseans already forfeiting their 2nd Amendment right to pay $150 every 7 years for the privilege of bearing arms in Tennessee, you can see the Police For Profit Class stands to lose a lot. You do the math on the revenue stream at stake.

You really should take the time to watch the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of this bill.

Note the timidity of judge-selector Brian Kelsey as he “reluctantly” seconds the motion to even hear the already-neutered bill. Hear the “legal opinion” that it is against Tennessee law to be in possession of a loaded weapon without the Police For Profit Class’ explicit permission – but unloaded is ok.  Listen to the arguments made by the Anti-Constitutionalists and the Police For Profit head revenue agent Tracy Trott as they rationalize that while they know the status quo infringements are indeed unconstitutional (and therefore illegal as any real-smart attorney should know), in their opinion, they are not “unreasonable” unconstitutional demands.  Trott is all about maintaining “control” of the revenue, and claiming they provide necessary “constitutional training” regarding use of deadly force to the permit holder.  Apparently, Trott was daydreaming about his next highway robbery asset forfeiture stop of “trucky-trailers” when Sen. Green explained the amendment to the bill required the exact same 8 hours of training they are already providing – except we would not continue to fleece our innocent, law-abiding, already-passed-a-background check neighbors perpetually in order to exercise their constitutionally-protected right.  Like Robot Rubio, head revenue agent Trott can only repeat the same couple of irrelevant lines over and over. The Anti-Constitutionalists have no response to the fact that Tennessee grants reciprocity to Alabama concealed carry visitors – who are not required to have any sort of training by their state (just pay us their money for the privilege of walking into Tennessee). Particularly, Senator Kerry Roberts had the courage to openly argue for your constitutionally-protected rights in support of Green’s bill and made very reasonable points exposing the hypocrisy of our current unconstitutional statutes.

End result: In the Republican-stacked committee (7-2), alleged Republicans Doug Overbey and John Stevens sided with the Democrats and the Police For Profit Class against the law-abiding citizens and the US Constitution. Republican Todd Gardenhire abstained, apparently believing restoring constitutionally-protected rights is a “bad bill”. Bill Fails to pass committee 4-4-1.

Yeas : Mike Bell, Janice Bowling, Brian Kelsey, Kerry Roberts

Nays : Doug Overbey, John Stevens, Sarah Kyle, Lee Harris

Present Not Voting : Todd Gardenhire