After 7 weeks of emails, I received answers to questions related to the annual pay increases that Blount County government employees are receiving under the Evergreen employee classification and compensation pay scale. The top pay grade employees are eligible for a higher annual percentage step increase, with a satisfactory job performance, than the lower pay grades. With the same percentage increase, those in higher pay grades would receive a bigger pay raise than those in lower pay grades because 1.84% of a larger number is more than 1.84% of a smaller.
It turns out that the people at the top of the pay scale are getting bigger pay raises. The commission should not fund two different pay raise rates when the higher rate is for the best paid employees. This pay scale applies to all county departments/offices except for the schools.
From: “Jenny Morgan” <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2018 8:27am
Cc: “Randy Vineyard” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Ed Mitchell” <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Evergreen pay raises
On Sun, Mar 25, 2018 at 12:45 PM, <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2018 1:43pm
To: “Jenny Morgan” <email@example.com>
Cc: “Randy Vineyard” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Ed Mitchell” <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Evergreen pay raises
Dear Mrs. Morgan,
2 follow up questions:
The step increases of 1.84% and 2.11% have been the same annually since the Evergreen pay scale was adopted?Yes
Why are people in positions with higher pay grades being given a larger percentage increase than those with lower pay grades? Typically, in compensation programs, the higher grades have wider ranges and larger grade progressions. Or said another way, it is common that top salary grades have a wider range and that the lowest salary grades often have the most narrow range. There are approximately 20 positions in pay grades 113-120.
From: “Jenny Morgan” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2018 2:17pm
Cc: “Randy Vineyard” <email@example.com>, “Ed Mitchell” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Evergreen pay raisesCommissioner,We have used these percentages since we implemented the compensation system that was adopted by Commission in 2015. The steps are built into the budget but only given if the employee has a favorable performance evaluation. As it pertains to total budget increases, that information is provided annually as part of the Budget Committee’s work papers and is available online.
On Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 11:14 AM, <email@example.com> wrote:
Thank you for the information. However, this doesn’t tell me what year you are referring to. Are these numbers for the current FY or what will be proposed in the budget in the upcoming year? Furthermore, I am wanting to know the percentage of increase for each FY since Evergreen was adopted. Please provide that.
From: “Jenny Morgan” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, February 22, 2018 2:47pm
Cc: “Randy Vineyard” <email@example.com>, “Ed Mitchell” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Evergreen pay raisesCommissioner Monroe,Each employee who is in a position in pay grades 101-112, is eligible for a 1.84% step increase. Those employees who are in positions in pay grades 113-120 are eligible for a 2.11% step increase. They receive the step increase provided that we have a positive performance evaluation on file in the HR office. This is consistent with the compensation plan adopted by County Commission.
Dear Finance Director Vineyard,
Please provide me with the base percentage increases that have been provided as pay raises since the Evergreen Solutions pay scale was adopted. I realize that there is some flexibility within the pay ranges. What I am requesting is the amount budgeted each year for percentage increases.
Update: I confirmed that the approximately 20 positions in pay grades 113-120 do not include office holders whose salaries are set by state law.
From: “Jenny Morgan” <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2018 10:46am
Cc: “Ed Mitchell” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Randy Vineyard” <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Evergreen pay raises
On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 2:10 PM, <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Dear Ms. Morgan,
Do the approximately 20 employees in pay grads 113-120 exclude office holders and those whose salaries are set by state law?
by Horatio Bunce
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Watch as CFR-controlled Fake News’ Parkland shooting “survivor” David Hogg explains how he wasn’t there…
Now, if you believe this story and his alleged on-the-scene “video” as an alleged “student” who wasn’t at school, well you’ll probably be willing to trade liberty for safety – and deserve neither.
If your position is that you aren’t old enough, mature enough, stable enough, etc. to own a firearm and therefore the age limit for purchases needs to be raised (which suddenly morphed into demands for all-out gun bans), just what makes you (an admitted immature, unstable youth) qualified to decide public policy on firearms?
If a minor is too young, irresponsible, or immature to own a gun, why are they forced to register with selective service to potentially be forced to handle full auto weaponry for the U.S. Military within 30 days of turning 18? Why are their educations held hostage with conscription before they can have any federal financial aid for college?
Are military recruiters still allowed on high school campuses? How about ROTC? What, no marches about any of that stuff? Is it illogical that those with EBG (Evil Black Gun) Syndrome don’t ask these questions, and don’t seem interested at all in the ongoing promotion of full auto weapons right under their noses? Or does the 501C4 “non-profit” funding these fakes need to tell them everything?
And what about these students that talk about confusion with prior active shooter drills (same as Newtown) and multiple witnesses claiming there were multiple shooters, one of them walking down the hall evacuating the building with alleged shooter Cruz while simultaneously hearing other shots being fired? There is enough testimony here to tell they are not recounting a drill, but the day of the alleged shootings. These videos are being pulled by YouTube and reposted many times daily. What about these survivors? Are they liars we need to censor, or are they just as legitimate as Hogg who wasn’t actually there?
State mandated minimum salaries and additional pay supplements for local elected officials vs what taxpayers are making
When you look at important economic indicators such as median household income and average annual income, Blount County taxpayers haven’t fared well in recent years. When adjusted for inflation, 2014 numbers show that average pay in Blount County actually dropped and that household income averages a double digit drop.
The State of Tennessee mandates very generous salaries for elected officials that are 2, 3 and 4 times what the average Tennessee taxpayer is making. I (Tona Monroe) have written the state legislature for a couple of years on this matter but this matter has largely fallen on deaf ears when it comes to taking action. A few lawmakers have agreed with me that the mandated minimums are too high but none have taken action to provide reform.
You can view the state mandated minimum salaries for local elected officials here.
2018-2019 2017-2018 2016-2017 2015-2016 2014-2015 2013-2014
2012-2013 2010-2011 2009-2010 2008-2009 2007-2008 2006-2007
This figures show huge increases to the base pay for local elected officials being mandated by state law. Despite being paid double and triple, and in the case of judges almost quadruple what the average taxpayer is making, 4 of these local elected officials are receiving pay supplements above the already large state mandated minimums. Blount County taxpayers are paying $96,717 more than state minimum for the circuit court clerk, highway superintendent, sheriff and mayor. It’s obvious these people don’t feel the same economic pain that many Blount Countians are feeling.
2 important primary elections will be held this year. The local government primary election will be May 1, 2018 and the state and federal primary election will be held August 2, 2018. All office holders elected in partisan elections are Republicans in Blount County. There isn’t a single Democrat or independent in office in Blount County, excluding the school board which has nonpartisan elections. Thus, it is highly likely that all upcoming offices, excluding the school board, will be decided in the primary elections. If you wait to vote in November, you will miss your best opportunities to have an impact on who governs at the local and state levels. There will be no county elections in November and only state and federal general elections occur in November.
The May 1 and August 2 primary elections provide opportunities for you to clean house of these state and local officials who refuse to hold the line on these outrageous salaries. Only Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and myself have voted to cut the pay of these 4 elected officials down to the state minimum, which is already much higher than it should be.
Questions to ask before heading to the polls on May 1 and August 2:
1) Why have local elected officials refused to cut the pay of these officials to the state mandated minimums?
2) Why have the state legislators continued funding huge increases for elected officials?
3) Why did Jerome Moon try to lead the commission to believe that these pay supplements weren’t optional?
Please consider these questions before casting your votes in the May 1 and August 2 elections.
What does this measure?
Median household income, adjusted for inflation. Half of households earn below the median, and half are above.
Why is this important?
Median household income is a gauge of overall economic health of the region and the financial resources of households.
How is our region performing?
In 2010-14, median household income in the region was $45,100, slightly higher than the state ($44,600) but lower than the nation ($53,500). Among local counties, median household income was highest in Loudon ($50,600) and Knox ($47,500) and lowest in Union ($36,000) and Monroe ($37,200). The region, state, and nation all saw their median income fall by double digits from 2000 to 2010-14 (down 12% in the region, 14% in the state, and 10% in the nation). Median income fell much faster in the region from 2005-09 to 2010-14 than in the nation and state (16% decrease in the region compared to a 6% decrease for the state and the nation). Among the counties, median household incomes decreased most from 2000 to 2010-14 in Sevier, Monroe and Blount (all 14%). Union experienced the smallest rate of decline (7%), but still has the lowest median household income in the region.
Notes about the data
Figures are presented in 2014 dollars. The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The bureau combined five years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census.
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.
With all the recent discussions about the hospital’s nonprofit embezzlement scandal and today’s coverage of the taxpayers being on the hook for hospital debt, it is worth taking a look at what I (Tona Monroe) wrote about the debt and lack of information provided by Blount Memorial Hospital in November 2016. Some of you may recall that then Chairman Jerome Moon, who was appointed state representative by 16 yes men on the commission, cut me off for discussing information that the hospital should have been forthcoming with prior to asking the commission to approve refinancing its debt.
Mayor Ed Mitchell and Commissioner Dave Bennett are acting indignant now, but these two and most of the commissioners didn’t seem to be concerned about the taxpayers when they reauthorized Blount County citizens being on the hook for variable rate debt that have swaps attached. You can listen to the meeting here and will hear Bennett objecting to my pointing out that approving the hospital’s variable debt means that the county will still be responsible for variable rate debt.
Furthermore, when two hospital board appointments came before the commission in January 2016, I moved to postpone it for a month so that we could learn more about the nominees’ plans for the hospital debt and vision for the future. (See page 3.) The majority of commissioners didn’t seem to care enough to think we should discuss future plans for the hospital.
Thus, there are some who are acting indignant now but where was this concern when I tried to shed light on how the hospital was/is operating?
Those voting to approve the Blount Memorial Hospital Board nominees in January 2016
Allen – yes Archer – yes Bowers – yes Carter – yes Carver – yes Caskey – yes Caylor – yes Cole – yes Crowe – yes Farmer – yes Headrick – yes Lewis – yes Melton – yes Moon – yes Samples – yes Stinnett – yes
Those voting not to approve the nominees in January 2016
Akard – no Daly – no Miller – no Monroe – no
French was absent. There were 16 voting yes, 4 voting no, 0 abstaining, and 1 absent. Chairman Moon declared the appointments approved.
Those who voted to approve renewing the variable rate debt with interests rate swaps
Allen, Bennett, Carver, Caskey, Caylor, Cole, Crowe, Farmer, French, Lewis, Melton, Moon, Samples, Stinnett
Those who voted not to approve renewing the variable rate debt with interests rate swaps
Archer, Daly, Miller, Monroe
Those who were absent
Akard, Bowers, Carter
There were 14 voting yes, 4 voting no, 0 abstain, and 3 absent. Chairman Moon declared the motion to have passed and the resolution adopted.
The next time you hear that the county’s debt is finally fully fixed rate keep in mind that much of the hospital debt is variable, with swaps attached, and that you’re on the hook for it if the hospital defaults, thanks to a lackadaisical commission majority and mayor who didn’t demand more accountability and transparency from the hospital.
Rick Carver has a conflict of interest
Commissioner Rick Carver works for East Tennessee Medical Group, which is owned by Blount Memorial Hospital. He has a conflict of interest and should have abstained on both of these votes. He did not declare that he has a conflict of interest and voted yes on both.
Let freedom ring!
Commissioner Steve Samples passes – Scott King appointed as replacement
After the death of Steve Samples, a meeting was called to appoint a replacement to Seat A of the 3rd district. Scott King was appointed to fill vacancy.
Commissioner Dave Bennett and Mike Lewis were absent.
Consent Calendar – no standards for resolutions honoring people
I (Tona Monroe) frequently vote against the Consent Calendar. It’s possible that I’ve voted no on the consent calendar more than any other commissioner in Blount County history. It’s certainly true in the 10 years that I’ve been attending commission meetings, with 3 of those years as a commissioner and 7 years as a citizen activist. My reasons for voting no have never been thoroughly explained.
The commission approved a resolution honoring Steve Samples. I was the only no vote at the commission meeting. I did not intend for the resolution honoring Steve Samples to be resolution that resulted in an explanation of why I frequently vote no but the circumstances surrounding and within the resolution warrant discussion.
There is no standard for honoring someone with a resolution in Blount County, other than a commissioner deciding to sponsor it and a majority of commissioners voting to approve the resolution. Any commissioner can file a resolution honoring anyone that they want to, for any reason they want to. I don’t recall seeing any resolution honoring anyone being voted down during the decade that I’ve been attending commission meetings.
There has been recent controversy at the state level with who Tennessee should honor. This country is struggling with who the USA should honor. Considering the lack of standards, it is understandable why people would get upset over some of the people that politicians chose to honor.
A free society doesn’t need the government making decisions about who to honor. People should be free to honor whomever they want. Some of the last people we need telling us who and what to honor are politicians.
The proper role of government is to assist in protecting your life, liberty and property while you pursue happiness. A position of trust should be used for that reason, not to honor your friends, relatives, coworkers and those you deem worthy of praise and honor. We have the right to peacefully assembly in this country. Politicians who want to honor people should exercise that right, like any other citizen.
Perhaps governments’ role in honoring people should be limited to naming land marks, roads, bridges, buildings, and governments after people. Governments and roads do need to be named.
At the very least, governments should develop standards to determine those who are worthy of honor if governments are going to continue honoring people. This of course opens up a can of worms and is why decisions of honor are best left for people to make up their own minds.
Some would say that Steve Samples is worthy of honor and give their reasons. I’ll give a major reason why I chose not to honor him with a public resolution proclaiming how wonderful he is: debt. Like so many politicians, Steve Samples voted to indebt future generations.
When he died, the county had debt extending into 2037. He left a future generation to pay for the decisions that he made. He was not a good fiscal steward who made sure that the county paid its way as it went. The resolution says Samples “leaves behind a legacy of compassion, loyalty, and dedication to his fellowman,” but it fails to mention the debt he leaves behind. Leaving future generations to pay for what you do today is inexcusable and certainly not honorable.
Commission claims authority to proclaim that people enter into the joy of the Lord
My name was placed on the resolution honoring Steve Samples, without asking me if I wanted to sponsor the resolution. This had never happened before. I had my name removed for the reasons described and because of what was contained in the resolution. The last WHEREAS clause of the resolution says:
“As the scripture says in St. Matthew 25:21, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Let me start by saying that I am in no way making the case that any mention of religion should be completely prohibited in or around government buildings. The founders did not intend for the 1st amendment to the federal Constitution to prohibit people from praying before a government meeting.
This scripture is included in the whereas section of the resolution as though it is a statement of fact. When did the Blount County Commission decide that it has the authority to proclaim who is entering into the joy of the Lord? What’s next? Will the commission claim the authority to sell indulgences?
Some of these same commissioners voted against even setting the agenda containing a resolution in 2015 that mentioned the wrath of God, among other things. Now, as sponsors of the resolution, 19 commissioners and Mayor Ed Mitchell are claiming authority to determine who enters into the joy of the Lord.
During the statement portion of the meeting, Commissioner Mike Caylor berated Commissioner Karen Miller and me because we chose not stand with them during their honoring ceremony. Miller and I stood but we chose to remain at our commission seats. I stood out of respect for the people who elected to me to this position of trust and to be respectful of the proceeding but I did not participate in the ceremony portion for the reasons described. Does Caylor’s boorish behavior show a lack of respect for the process? Or is his boorish behavior the way he treats those that he disagrees with?
Vocational career equipment for schools
The commission approved spending money provided by the state to purchase welding equipment and a robot that is similar to what Denso uses at its training facility. It is good to see funds being used for career training. There has been far too much emphasis on going to college.
Teachers union lawsuit settled
The commission approved spending the funds to settle a lawsuit brought against the Blount County Board of Education (School Board) by the Blount County Education Association (commonly called the teachers union). The budget was increased $417,657 to pay for salaries that had been in dispute. Commissioners Grady Caskey, Dodd Crowe and Gary Farmer abstained because they are school employees. Caskey was the President of the BCEA at the time the lawsuit was filed. You can read what he wrote about the funding of education during that time here. One has to wonder who exactly Caskey is representing in his capacity as a Blount County Commissioner. Caskey was unopposed in the May 2014 primary election because the incumbent died shortly before the election.
Smart meter opt-out resolution
Excluding those absent, the commission unanimously approved a resolution thanking local utilities that allow their customers to opt-out of smart meters. Privacy, health and safety concerns have been raised by many who do not want to be forced to have a smart meter as a condition of electric service. Commissioner Akard stated that he hoped the City of Alcoa would allow its electric customers to opt-out of smart meters.
Commission pay raise pulled
Commissioner Ron French pulled his resolution to increase pay for county commissioners from the agenda. This was French’s second attempt this year to increase the pay of commissioners.
The first attempt failed in the Agenda Committee. The second attempt made it out of the Agenda Committee. No reason was given for why Commissioner French pulled the resolution. Commissioners Andy Allen, Archie Archer, Dave Bennett, Brad Bowers, Rick Carver, Shawn Carter, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Scott King, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon and Tom Stinnett voted yes at the Agenda Committee meeting to send the pay raise to the commission. Commissioners Mike Akard, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted no.
Commissioners Gary Farmer, Kenneth Melton and Steve Samples were absent.
Last month, the commission approved a contract for architectural services with Michael Brady Incorporated (MBI) without also approving a budget amendment to pay for the contract. This month the commission approved the funding for the contract with the architectural firm as well as funding for public relations and a project manager.
Yes, Blount County government thinks that it needs a Ministry of Propaganda to tell you why they’ve hired an architect for the jail. Unless you’ve been living in the forest you know that Blount County, like any other county in this nation, has a drug problem stemming from the use of pain pills and street drugs. It’s really a shame that the taxpayers are having to pay to be told that there is an opioid and drug problem in the community.
The memo in the commission packet from the Blount County Purchasing Department, Human Resources and Finance Department says that the contract was approved by the Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP). However, it was not approved by the BCCP.
The last time that the BCCP met was in March to discuss the purchasing agent’s selection of MBI. The agenda for the meeting says, “Discussion and possible action regarding presentation regarding the solicitation and request for qualifications for architectural planning and/or design services and/or programming services for Blount County.” There is no mention of a contract in the agenda or the unofficial meeting minutes of this BCCP meeting. The minutes are unofficial because the BCCP has not met since this March 28, 2017 meeting and therefore has not taken any vote to approve the meeting minutes.
The contract with MBI is time stamped on the bottom with a date of May 24, 2017, which is almost two months after the BCCP March 28 meeting. Why would the purchasing agent, human resources director and director of accounts and budgets (finance director) sign a memo with a false statement? Why would their boss Mayor Ed Mitchell let them?
The cost to the taxpayers is $244,723 which includes $188,000 for the MBI contract. Only Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I (Tona Monroe) voted against this.
The resolution says that the monies came from funds “Assigned for Public Safety.” Many remember when I found that Sheriff James Lee Berrong and Mayor Ed Mitchell had a $2 million jail plan in Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control meeting minutes. The commission is the body who has the authority to express the county’s intent by assigning monies in the general fund. The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office did not recognize the assignments of $2 million for public safety.
The bigger and potentially more expensive picture is that “Blount County has not set a specific scope or budget for this project,” as stated under Article 1.12 of the MBI contract.
Grant process dysfunctional
The commission was asked to approve five grants. The deadline for two of these grants, one for juvenile court and the other for the animal shelter, had already passed. While these two grants had already been written, neither provided the commission with copies of the actual grants. The juvenile court grant worksheet included a memo about the grant while the animal shelter only provided the grant worksheet. It seems reasonable that any department/office wanting the commission to approve a grant after the deadline would include a copy of the grant along with the worksheet.
The commission approved a $360,791 increase to the state aid account of the highway department budget. According to a memo from Highway Superintendent Jeff Headrick, Tennessee Department of Transport (TDOT) provided the funds for replacement of tiles/culverts on state highways. The state aid account is now $1,082,000 for fiscal year 2018.
The commission approved TDOT’s proposal for the relocated Alcoa Highway. While there was a public meeting in the City of Alcoa about this proposal in May, this was the first time that this commission was provided anything on the proposal. It would have been nice to have been given more time to study the matter and to hear from the citizens on something this important. Most seemed to be unaware that the commission was considering this matter. I voted against this because of the short time frame to study the matter and because of the lack of information about other possibilities for Alcoa Highway. Commissioners Jamie Daly and Karen Miller also voted no while the rest of the commissioners present voted yes.
A meeting was called to approve applying for federal funds to make improvements to Morganton Road. This road has long been in need of repair. People in the 1st, 6th and 7th districts have expressed their concerns about the road to me. This has been one of the top 10 issues that I hear the most about from those in the community.
This a good start but more work is needed. Some are upset that this project does not come further into the county. There have been concerns expressed about the City of Maryville annexing part of Morganton Road.
According to the mayor, the commission approved $4 million for improvements to Morganton Road in 2006 but those funds were never spent for that purpose. No one that I’ve spoken with seems to know why this money was never spent.
This project runs into 2023. You can read more about it here.
Accounting and financial software
The commission approved a 7 year, $2.334M contract for a Financial Management Information System (FMIS). This Services as a Software (SaaS) agreement is with Tyler Technologies. The estimated cost for implementation is $293,470.50 and the annual recurring fees are $299,945.00 throughout the 7 year contract.
When the Kronos time keeping, payroll and HR software system was presented to the commission, a business case was made for savings through staff reductions. Those projected savings never materialized. According to a June 22, 2017 email from Finance Director Randy Vineyard, “there have been no retirements or departures since implementation in General County.” He did write that there could be possible staff reductions in the future as “as staff retirements arise.”
No business case for savings was made for the purchase of Tyler Technologies software. The commission was told that the current financial system was antiquated, unsecure, needed to be replaced with a modern system and that Tyler Technologies is the best fit for the county. The commission not given anything to support the assertion that this company’s software is the best fit for Blount County.
The commission is often asked to vote on what the bureaucrats want without being given any information on comparable products. With an annual reoccurring expense of nearly $300K, it would have been helpful to have seen what other companies had to offer. Other companies might offer a bit less than a competitor but at a much lower price while still providing what the county needs. I don’t know if there were any better deals or fits for the county because I wasn’t given any information on any other products.
The memo to the commission is from the county’s program manager for IT Abhijit Verekar of Avèro Advisors. He is being sued in federal court by a previous employer.
Considering the lack of information about comparable products, I thought it best to vote no to this long term costly commitment. Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly and Karen Miller also voted no.
Up next: The end of August marks the end of the 3rd year of this four year commission term. What would you like to see me focus on during the next year?
It’s also time to give serious consideration to running for local office. In November, candidates can begin picking up petitions to run in the May 1, 2018 primary election. That will be here before you know it. Don’t let the opportunity slip past you.
In the words of a great American:
“We are not weak, if we make proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power… The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” Patrick Henry
Even if you don’t want to run, you can begin talking to others about running and support good candidates who do run.
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” — Edmund Burke
Information Technology (IT) Committee meeting
The IT Committee heard from Abhijit Verekar (AV) on the status of Blount County’s ongoing IT project updates. AV has served as the project manger for the multiyear IT project. However, this time he was the project manager from his own newly started company Avero Advisors, rather than Mindboard Inc (Mindboard). If you’re thinking this seems odd, you may be right.
AV and Mindboard Inc. were embroiled in a lawsuit with AV’s previous employer RNR Consulting when the county commission approved a contract with Mindboard Inc. Some serious allegations were made in that lawsuit. If you aren’t familiar with the situation please click on these links and read about the matter before proceeding with the rest of this report.
New company not brought to the commission for approval
Only one of the references listed in response to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) provided by Mindboard had a budget over $60,000 while the county’s IT budget was more than 22 times that amount. It didn’t make good sense to hire Mindboard because of these serious allegations and too much uncertainty about Mindboard handling such a large budget.
Purchasing Agent Katie Branham-Kerr defended her choice in early 2016 by saying that the rates that Mindboard offered the county were 20% lower than other contract rates but nothing was provided to the commission to support this statement. When I (Commissioner Tona Monroe) asked Branham-Kerr why the county was switching from Mindboard to Avero Advisors, she said the county would save about 30% from what it was paying Mindboard. It makes one wonder why Mindboard was chosen when she could find another firm to do the work cheaper the following year. The county’s purchasing process leaves much to be desired.
The county hasn’t actually terminated its contract with Mindboard. Both Mindboard. and AV’s company Avero Advisors are providing IT services to Blount County government. The contract with Avero is set up on a yearly basis, renewing annually at the start of each fiscal year. The arrangement means that the Avero contract doesn’t have to be brought to the commission for a vote on the matter because it doesn’t extend beyond the current fiscal year. However, a contract that annually renews automatically, unless being canceled, should be required to be approved by the county commission. This is a reform needed at the state level.
I asked Branham-Kerr if AV was working for both companies and she said no. She said that the county had received a signed agreement from Mindboard Inc., releasing AV from contract with Mindboard. You can read the Change of Relationship Agreement here.
Under Terms and Conditions it says:
“1. Contract Termination.
The parties hereby agree that the Agreement has been and is hereby terminated in all respects, provided however that the provisions of Sections 5 shall survive with the exception that Employee is permitted to contract with Blount County, TN and Mindboard will not seek to enforce Section 5 with respect to Employee contracting with Blount County, TN.”
Section 5 is not stated in the agreement but it appears to refer to a non-compete clause in the terminated employment contract between Mindboard and AV. Thus, it appears that Mindboard allowed AV to contract with Blount County but not any other customer that Mindboard may have. If so, why?
Despite this large sum of money, people are expressing their dissatisfaction with the county’s new website and software system used for commission and committee meetings. The new Granicus program isn’t as user friendly as the older, simpler system.
The IT Committee had no say in the selection of the new software system or website. I have and continue to wonder why there is even an IT Committee since the Mayor’s Office along with the purchasing agent and these IT firms are making the decisions how to spend your money.
Over $3 million has been budgeted in recent years for Mayor Ed Mitchell, Mindboard Inc. and Avero Advisors to manage. It is really a shame that there is so much dissatisfaction with the use of millions of your tax dollars.
Commissioners Mike Akard and Steve Samples were absent. Once again, I was prohibited from asking questions at the monthly commission meeting.
Recycling convenience center – Failed leadership of Mayor Ed Mitchell
There is perhaps no greater example of the failure of Mayor Ed Mitchell’s leadership than with the way he has handled recycling in Blount County. For those who are cheering the opening of a convenience center in the county, I encourage you to consider the history of recycling in Blount County because we now have less recycling sites with the county providing recycling than before the county decided to provide recycling.
Spectra recycling announced that in May it would be closing its recycling location on Robert C Jackson that was open to the public. After learning about this, I called the owner Mr. Steve Dixon. He told me that I was the only elected official to call him to find out why he had closed the recycling convenience center. After I shared this with the Big Springs Community Club at its monthly meeting, the other commissioner from the 7th district went and met with Mr. Dixon after he had already voted to spend taxpayer money for a convenience center.
Mr. Dixon shared with me how previous mayors had met with him and were appreciative of his free recycling services that he provided to the citizens of Blount County. He shared that this changed with the Mitchell administration and the new Purchasing Agent Katie Branham-Kerr.
In 2015, the Purchasing Department issued Request for Proposal (RFP) 2015-2372 to provide recycling services for county buildings. Spectra had been providing free recycling to the county government, in addition to free recycling convenience centers throughout the county. Spectra was the only one to bid that RFP.
Spectra had provided free recycling to the county government up to that point but the recycling market is dynamic and hadn’t been profitable; therefore, it had asked for a small trip fee to cover expenses. The cost would have been a few thousand dollars annually.
Then Purchasing Agent Theresa Johnson, who was later demoted to assistant purchasing agent, told Mr. Dixon that she would have to take the matter to Mayor Ed Mitchell. Mr. Dixon waited about a year thinking that Spectra would be awarded a contract but when he called the new Purchasing Agent Katie Branham-Kerr he was told that the county would not been awarding a contract for RFP 2015-2372. During this year Spectra continued providing free recycling services to the county government.
When I tried to inquire why this RFP was not awarded, Commissioner Ron French declared a point of order saying that it was 2017 not 2015 and Chairman Jerome Moon declared me out of order. This prohibited me from making the point that perhaps this matter had something to do with why Spectra was no longer offering recycling and inquiring why Spectra didn’t respond to the current RFP 2016-2456 (issued in 2017). The 2017 RFP only had 2 responses. Commissioners looking out for the taxpayers should want to know why Spectra, a local business, did not respond to a recycling RFP.
Mr. Dixon shared with me that he did not know that a new RFP had been issued. This is alarming because I reviewed the 2015 RFP and found that the county reached out to potential bidders but did not appear to make the same effort with the 2017 RFP. I asked the purchasing agent who the county reached out to on the 2017 RFP and received this response:
From: “Katie Branham-Kerr” <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, September 8, 2017 4:24pm
Cc: “Jackie Cooper” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Fwd: Question about Recycling
From: Lauri Bell <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 8:48 AM
Subject: Re: Question about Recycling
To: Katie Branham-Kerr <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 8:07 AM, Katie Branham-Kerr <email@example.com> wrote:
Please review Mrs. Monroe’s email and let me know who we reached out to individually regarding the recycling bid.———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Mon, Sep 4, 2017 at 10:31 AM
Subject: Question about Recycling
To: Katie Branham-Kerr <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Katie,In reviewing the recycling records, the purchasing office reached out to potential bidders, by email, in 2015 for recycling needs. There wasn’t any record of that occurring this year. Did your office reach out, by email or any other form of communication, to potential companies that might provide recycling services?Also, I received 3 records from Jackie but didn’t receive the email that I asked be forwarded related to the hourly rates that you negotiated with AV. Please forward that email to me.Sincerely,
I have repeatedly asked the purchasing agent and Mayor’s Office why the 2015 recycling RFP was not awarded. No explanation has been given.
At one time, Spectra was providing 12 free recycling sites throughout Blount County, not including the schools that it was providing free recycling services for. Some of these recycling centers were open to the public 24/7/365. The county’s convenience center will only be open 3 days a week. Furthermore, recycling at the library will stop as well.
At one time Spectra was providing free recycling for the county at the location on McArthur Road where the new convenience center will be located. Now the taxpayers will pay for part time recycling at this location and the 12 free recycling centers that the county once had are gone. After speaking with Mr. Dixon at Spectra, I am firmly convinced that the county could have many more recycling centers throughout the county with more hours of operation for less money than the 3 day a week county operation that will be at McArthur Road. This great loss to the community falls squarely on the shoulders of Mayor Ed Mitchell. Blount County needs a mayor with private sector experience who can get things done without going to taxpayers for everything.
To make matters worse, the commission wasn’t provided with all the documentation pertaining to the contract. The contract instrument says that the contract consists of 7 documents including: the Request for Proposal, the Instructions to Proponents, the Contractor’s Proposal, the General Specifications, the resolution of Blount County ordering or authorizing, the work and services contemplated herein, this instrument and any addenda or changes to the foregoing documents agreed to by the parties hereto. The commission was only provided with the instrument and the authorizing resolution. It’s possible that there were no amendments but the commission should have been told that no amendments exists if there were none.
I moved to postpone the matter until the next month so that the commission could be provided with all of the documentation. The motion failed with only Commissioners Archie Archer, Shawn Carter, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voting to wait one month to be given all of the documentation prior to voting on the matter. The commissioners who sponsored the resolution approving the contract have egg on their faces. You should watch the commission meeting to see how some of them try defending why they brought a contract to the commission without having the entirety of the contract. The purchasing agent said that the reason that some of the documents were not provided is because they weren’t yet finished. However, that does not explain the failure to provide the RFP to the commission.
Commissioner Mike Caylor asked the mayor if he had done his due diligence on this matter. Mitchell said he had. Apparently Caylor was OK with not doing his due diligence as a county commissioner, to protect the taxpayers.
Most of the commissioners present took the Nancy Pelosi approach to government when they voted for something only to learn later what is in it. Only Commissioners Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted against approving a contract without having all of the documents available.
Jail architect contract approved without a budget amendment – discussion process seriously flawed
The commission approved a contract with Michael Brady Incorporated (MBI) for jail expansion/renovation (?) without knowing the full costs of what is being called the Criminal Justice Initiative (CJI). Jerome Moon and the commissioners who follow his lead made hypocrites out of themselves with this issue because there was no budget amendment in the packet to pay for the contract. Moon has insisted in the past that the commission appropriate money to pay for something prior to discuss what the money is actually being appropriated for. Remember when I tried to move discussion of the budget ahead of setting the tax rate in 2015 and only the three women commissioners voted to discuss the budget first?
On this same agenda the commission voted to appropriate the money for the recycling contract before voting on the actual contract, which was not provided in its entirety. Moon didn’t even want me discussing the recycling contract during the discussion time of the budget amendment that funded it. The commission is expected to approve the money without first discussing the substance of the matter, the actual legal documents and impact those documents will have. Doesn’t it make sense to discuss the substance of the matter before you spend the money to do it? The discussion process is seriously flawed.
Commissioner Andy Allen pointed out that the contract was specific in the cost for this project. It’s true that the cost of the architectural firm is in the contract. However, the costs of the project are more than the MBI contract. The commissioners weren’t told what the actual total costs of the CJI project would be. Only commissioners Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted against approving the contract.
Not satisfied due to the lack of information provided, I wrote Director of Accounts and Budgets Randy Vineyard for an explanation of the costs. It turns out that he didn’t know either and wrote that due diligence for the CJI was not finished when the contract was presented to the commission.
From: “Randy Vineyard” <email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, July 24, 2017 11:05am
Cc: “Marvin Mitchell” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “James Berrong” <email@example.com>, “Jarrod Millsaps” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Funding for MBI contract
The amendment has not been finalized because there are items likely to be recommended along with the MBI fees. Our due diligence is not yet completed.
Randy Vineyard, IOM
Blount County Finance Director“
Support for the federal government’s war on poverty
The commission approved a resolution supporting federal government programs that were created as a part of the war on poverty. Nearly everything that the federal government declares war on turns into an expensive failure. The war on poverty may be the costliest “war” disaster of all.
All 21 Blount County Commissioners were elected and are in office as Republicans. Only Commissioner Karen Miller and I voted against this, showing that most Republicans aren’t serious about cutting wasteful spending or eliminating failed government programs. Furthermore, most of the commissioners do not seem to honor their oaths of office because there is no authority for the federal government’s war of poverty authorized in the United States Constitution.
Federal COPS grant approved after deadline
The commission was presented with a USDOJ Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) grant application after the grant deadline had already passed. The grant will pay for 75% of the salaries and benefits for 6 officers for 3 years. The grant does not pay for equipping the officers with laptops, uniforms, weapons, or cars. The commission was told that the county would be required to keep these positions, after the grant money runs out.
Commissioner Caylor seemed indigent that Commissioner Daly would even inquire about the county having to pay for the officers after the grant money ran out. He said it was a savings but there is no savings. Federal money is taxpayer money. At the rate that the federal government is borrowing money, your children and grandchildren may be forced to pay interest to foreign investors in China and Saudi Arabia on these officers because the federal government is not paying its (our) bills now.
While the program goal and objectives were including in the grant application guide, the commission was provided no data to show that six more officers will actually improve safety in the community. Only commissioners Daly, Miller and I voted no this grant.
July was a doozie. The lackadaisical attitude of several on the commission should give pause to those concerned about their community. If you want to see better government, then seriously considering becoming that better government by either running for local office or supporting good candidates who will ensure that due diligence is done prior to each vote of the commission.
Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie discuss Section 702 spying from the Foreign Intelligence Act (FISA) and how one good bill has been mixed with bad gun legislation.
by Horatio Bunce
As the Bitcoin crypto-currency bubble expands from $12000 to $13000 in one day, the cryptocurrency market cap now exceeds that of Citigroup (over $220 Billion). For electrons…..that are “mined”….by solving math problems with computers. Sounds legit.
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon (the pot) previously called the cryptocurrency kettle “black”:
“You can’t have a business where people can invent currencies out of thin air and think that people who are buying it are really smart. It’s worse than Tulip Bulbs; it won’t end well. It’ll eventually blow up; it’s a fraud.”
Ironically, he wasn’t talking about the federal reserve notes electronically created out of thin air they trade every day. So of course, JP Morgan will now engage in trading futures on the cryptocurrency they declared “a fraud”.
Gee, who could see that coming…electronic theft of fake electron “money”….and how does Bitcoin, on this good news today of its immediate disappearability (new word) increase in “value” 8% IN ONE DAY?
by Horatio Bunce
Does anyone else think it strange that the guys that are so poor they don’t have lights at night have the funding and skills to simultaneously complete the Manhattan Project and Space Race?
by Horatio Bunce
Under the guise of “suicide prevention”, Facebook is allegedly using artificial intelligence to evaluate its users and engage government intervention to “save lives”.
Kind of reminds me of the same excuse used by Columbia University/Pfizer with their evil TeenScreen program that declared 84% of screened kids “mentally ill” and subsequently put many of them on black-box-warning SSRI psychotropic drugs….that instead of preventing suicide, help turn them into homicidal maniacs (see Columbine, Kip Kingle, Red Lake Minnesota, Virginia Tech shootings for example) which is exactly why they were outlawed in some European nations. But it was all “for the children” and “saving lives”.
“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the product update in a post today, writing that “In the future, AI will be able to understand more of the subtle nuances of language, and will be able to identify different issues beyond suicide as well, including quickly spotting more kinds of bullying and hate.”
“By curtailing frivolous and “fighting” words, the Party seeks to narrow the range of thought altogether, such that eventually thoughtcrime will be literally impossible. The same goes for disruptive or subversive behavior.”
by Horatio Bunce
If only Republicans had been as rabid in their demand that Ted Cruz “step aside” from the presidential race when five women claimed he engaged in “sexual misconduct” with a woman other than his wife as they have Roy Moore on the same level of “evidence” (except for them also knowing Cruz’s PAC gave $500,000 to one of the women’s employers in the Carly Fiorina campaign)…then maybe I could take the same useless dolts seriously that also wouldn’t impeach Bill Clinton despite the claims of Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Connie Hamzy, Juanita Broaddrick, Eileen Wellstone, Sandra James, Christy Zercher, Monica Lewinsky, Elizabeth Gracen, Dolly Browning, Sally Perdue, Susie Whitacre and Bobbie Ann Williams.
By the way, shouldn’t there have been a Cruz vs. National Enquirer defamation lawsuit by now? We are often reminded of what a smart lawyer Cruz is so…what’s the holdup?
The reason there hasn’t been one is the same reason the Rubio campaign held that Cruz information for leverage to defend Rubio’s own “sexual misconduct” if necessary. That’s a very important thing to remember any time you see these two operating in Congress. They are leveraged, compromised. How much of what they do every day in Congress is blackmailed?
Which brings me to Roy Moore.
Why now? If these allegations are true, then a lot of people know about the alleged philandering character of Roy Moore and they have known this for a long time. They have allowed him to achieve very high levels of political office in their state. And did nothing – that we know of. As hated as Roy Moore is by the left (for at least the last 16 years on the national stage), even after the “Roy’s Rock” ten commandments saga and the ignore unconstitutional federal supreme court Obergefell orders case, no one in media had this information? No one wanted to take Roy down enough until now? He was too powerful you might say. Is he not now more powerful than before? If the allegations are true, then is not Roy Moore also leveraged? Or more to the point, hasn’t he been for a long time? Has his usefulness suddenly expired for those holding the leverage? What are the odds that the Washington Post could simultaneously discover the existence of four women from his past, locate and interview them – just in time after Luther Strange gets spanked in the primary?
If the allegations are true, someone had this information compiled and was holding onto it, waiting for an opportune time to use it. They are not interested in justice (though it may be due).
Why isn’t Republican-ambulance-chaser Gloria Allred interested in “justice” for the victims she allegedly represents?
“Allred called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a public hearing where Nelson would voluntary appear and testify before lawmakers on the incident.”
A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing? How about filing a civil or criminal suit in Alabama – you know, the actual jurisdiction? Is it because Gloria Allred is not licensed there? Is her show-boating and offering legal services in Alabama illegal since she is not listed as an Alabama state bar member and neither are any of the attorneys in her firm? Or is the truth that what she is doing ISN’T actually practicing law OR offering legal services?
More importantly, if Roy Moore does not “step aside”, what “fullest extent” legal action will Allred pursue? Is it in reality NONE since neither she nor her firm are licensed in Alabama? Or could Roy Moore write a big check like Bill Clinton did to Paula Jones to “make it all go away”? Maybe send a big check to Luther Strange’s PAC like Ted Cruz did for Carly Fiorina (and everyone forgets until next time they need to remember and leverage you again). If Moore drops out, will there be a sudden void where that demand for justice was just days before? Will those five “sexual misconduct” (whatever that means) lawsuits never materialize?
So I have to weigh those Republicans making statements denouncing, removing support, blah, blah, blah without a claim, without a lawsuit, without sworn testimony (despite the fake “yearbook signature” and Allred’s alleged victim apparently having also attended the Robbie Parker Sandy Hook No-Tears acting school) and their records, their deeds and their fraud foisted on the American people (Ryan, McConnell, ISIS McCain, Gay-marriage executive order Romney, Bailout Bob Corker, TPP Ted Cruz, et al) plus Gloria Allred (and yes, FOX NEWS also “Judge” Jeanine, Hannity, Ingraham no less than controlled opposition in this one) teaming up to attempt another Evan ISIS McMullen style “independent” write-in for Alabama.
When you idiots actually passed a law admitting that you will use our tax dollars to feed us propaganda, we know you are intentionally lying to us at least part of the time. The only decision to make is what not to believe.
By Horatio Bunce
Sorry, I just couldn’t let this go. I see the “party of Lincoln” is still sending their Freedman’s Bureau agents in to create strife between free blacks and whites. Folks, this little event should plainly reveal to you just what kind of character Lamar Alexander is – and how he, like the Freedman’s Bureau agents, is still baiting and exploiting the black man today with his version of the Bureau’s false promise of “40 acres and a mule”.
WKRN in Nashville reported a couple of weeks ago that Lamar! was calling for the removal of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest inside the state capitol building:
“The senator said there “is a place to honor” all of those in the Civil War whether it be the “battlefield, birthplaces or museums” but “places of honor should be for those who inspire all of us.”
He then said, “There is a place for General Forrest’s bust, but not in a place of honor at the state capitol.”
Forgetting for the moment that Lamar! did not mention where “a place” would be for confederate monuments, I would think that Nathan Bedford Forrest might be a worthy example of the era to promote – if the goal were truly racial unity, not that many people ever enter the state capitol building for that sort of thing. I believe he is a great example of the power of God to change people, make them new creations in Christ. But then maybe I am expecting too much of a U.S. Secretary of Education to know about U.S. history, heck, his own home state history for that matter. As an alternative, Lamar! suggests that this place of honor in the capitol building should go to other Tennesseans such as Alex Haley:
“Instead, he said that place of honor should have Tennesseans like “Roots” author Alex Haley, Senator Howard Baker, or World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York.”
Ah yes, the alleged “Roots” “author” Alex Haley. Playboy magazine author Alex Haley. Plagiarist fraud Alex Haley. Surely a U.S. Secretary of Education and actual contemporary of Alex Haley would remember that Haley was sued for stealing significant portions of “Roots” from “The African”, a work of fiction by a white man, Harry Courlander written in the 1960’s. The plagiarism trial happened in 1978 when Lamar! was walking across the state in his plaid shirt campaigning for governor. After the presentation by the prosecution, the defense “settled” rather than proceed with the case. Further, it has been proven that many of Haley’s claims regarding his “ancestors” in the book cannot be true.
But it isn’t like Alexander is not aware of all this. Unlike Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose history we might forgive Lamar! for not knowing, Haley was a “close friend” of Lamar! according to Vanderbilt University which has received his correspondence with Alexander as part of the “pre-Senate” papers donated for an exhibit there:
“Other highlights are the papers of Honey Alexander and correspondence with Alexander’s close friend, author Alex Haley. Haley and Minnie Pearl were co-chairs of Homecoming ’86, a statewide celebration that provided Tennesseans an opportunity to rediscover their past and identify the uniqueness of their communities.”
You may also remember that Lamar! invited Haley to co-chair (with Minnie Pearl) the 1986 Tennessee Homecoming campaign. So, he knows Haley. He likely knows he was a plagiarist fraud. He likely knows Haley exploited the lives of slaves in America for a dollar, stole from Harry Courlander to foist a fraudulent “history” of his “ancestors” on America and sell it as the truth. Lamar! likely knows “Roots” is a lie.
So why does Lamar! insist on continuing to promote this fraud as hero? Could it be we really have no interest in the truth about either Nathan Bedford Forrest or Alex Haley? Is it more important that Haley’s fraudulent work has “shaped the contemporary African American consciousness” with lies?
By Ron Paul
Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey, including my family and me, appreciate the outpouring of support from across the country. President Donald Trump has even pledged to donate one million dollars to relief efforts. These private donations will be much more valuable than the as much as 100 billion dollars the federal government is expected to spend on relief and recovery. Federal disaster assistance hinders effective recovery efforts, while federal insurance subsidies increase the damage caused by natural disasters.
Federal disaster aid has existed since the early years of the republic. In fact, it was a payment to disaster victims that inspired Davy Crockett’s “Not Yours to Give” speech. However, the early federal role was largely limited to sending checks. The federal government did not become involved in managing disaster relief and recovery until the 20th century. America did not even have a federal agency dedicated solely to disaster relief until 1979, when President Jimmy Carter created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by executive order. Yet, Americans somehow managed to rebuild after natural disasters before 1979. For example, the people of Galveston, Texas successfully rebuilt the city following a major hurricane that destroyed the city in 1900.
FEMA’s well-documented inefficiencies are the inevitable result of centralizing control over something as complex as disaster recovery in a federal bureaucracy. When I served in Congress, I regularly voted against federal disaster aid for my district. After the votes, I would hear from angry constituents, many of whom would later tell me that after dealing with FEMA they agreed that Texas would be better off without federal “help.”
Following natural disasters, individuals who attempt to return to their own property — much less try to repair the damage — without government permission can be arrested and thrown in jail. Federal, state, and local officials often hinder or even stop voluntary rescue and relief efforts.
FEMA is not the only counterproductive disaster assistance program. The National Flood Insurance Program was created to provide government-backed insurance for properties that could not obtain private insurance on their own. By overruling the market’s verdict that these properties should not be insured, federal flood insurance encourages construction in flood-prone areas, thus increasing the damage caused by flooding.
Just as payroll taxes are unable to fully fund Social Security and Medicare, flood insurance premiums are unable to fund the costs of flood insurance. Federal flood insurance was almost $25 billion in the red before Hurricane Harvey. Congress will no doubt appropriate funding to pay all flood insurance claims, thus increasing the national debt. This in turn will cause the Federal Reserve to print more money to monetize that debt, thus hastening the arrival of the fiscal hurricane that will devastate the US economy. Yet, there is little talk of offsetting any of the costs of hurricane relief with spending cuts!
Congress should start phasing out the federal flood insurance program by forbidding the issuance of new flood insurance policies. It should also begin reducing federal spending on disaster assistance. Instead, costs associated with disaster recovery should be made 100-percent tax-deductible. Those who suffered the worst should be completely exempted from all federal tax liability for at least two years. Tax-free savings accounts could also help individuals save money to help them bear the costs of a natural disaster.
The outpouring of private giving and volunteer relief efforts we have witnessed over the past week shows that the American people can effectively respond to natural disasters if the government would get out of their way.
Good evening my friends,
I know it has been a long time since a newsletter has gone out. For all purposes the “God and Country Petition” is a dead issue and will NOT continue. We gave it a good try but in could not come to fruition. However, a lot of what was in my petition, President Trump is trying to accomplish, such as the repeal of Obamacare, the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Bill, illegal immigration, building our military & defenses and more.
The proposed health care bill has been a major issue and confusing to say the least. I have been following the house version of the bill and now the proposed senate version of the bill, which may come to a vote and passage as early as this week. Personally I hope it does not, I feel it is being rushed and there are problems within the proposed Republican senate version!
Below are two attachments, the first attachment is the proposed Republican Party senate version of the bill, broken out section by section in a summary fashion, in short, this is not the garbled up actual proposed bill! This is a summery that was prepared by a US senators committee on health care for their constituents, it contains 142 pages. As simplified as it was mad in comparison to the actual bill, it is still confusing.
The second attachment is a proposal I created, with the help of many of you reading this newsletter, my version is only 6 pages long!
My feelings partially are as follows on the proposed Republican Party version before the senate to be voted on. I must say, there was not only a lot of reading in what is in the proposed Republican Party version in the first attachment above but dissecting it and understanding it was even more of a challenge for me, it may not be for many of you reading it!
I understood some of what I read but did not understand other parts of it as well. Section 102 I have many problems with, I feel it is discriminatory in many ways. I also feel the formula proposed will come back to haunt us many times over!
I felt this from the beginning as evidenced in my proposal in the second attachment above, the formula for calculating premiums, in my opinion, needed to be a blended actuary table based on the entire population of the American people.
By banding those in the senior age brackets or pre-existing conditions, or segregating other segments of the population is a bad thing. However, income brackets are an entirely different issue in itself. My proposal has subsidies based on income brackets. I feel very strongly that section 102 needs a lot of soul searching by each member of the senate as well as realizing the consequences that will go along with it!
Section 103 – 105, I don’t see any glaring problems. Please don’t take me wrong, this is an improvement over the house version and as far as Obamacare, that is not even on the table for discussion!
Section 106, good in some ways, bad in others. I feel the dollar amounts need to be higher, especially spread amongst 50 states.
The new subsection (I), which would establish a Long-Term State Stability and Innovation Program is good. It appears to make funding available to all 50 states and the District of Columbia from CY2019 through CY2026.
If I am reading this right, a state would be required to submit an application to the CMS Administrator to receive any federal funding to carry-out specified activities in the state, which were outlined in those 3 activities listed. That I felt was good.
Sections 107 through 119, I saw no problems with. Section 120, I am not sure of, too vague for me at this time, I need to research. Section 121 through 124 more in detail. If anyone reading this can help me out on it, I would appreciate it!
Sections 125 and 126 there are a lot of problems with it, in my opinion. I feel our senators need to go back to the drawing board and get their heads together on these issues. Hear again, I feel there are many discriminatory areas in these two sections that will come back to haunt us. These two sections need to be clarified re-worked and put in plain English for all to understand!
Section 133 in my opinion could cause more problems than it is worth. Hear again, we are using actuary tables based on individual states in many areas, rather than the aggregate of all 50 states and the entire US population. Section A however, does use aggregate and Federal averages of medical assistance matching percentages.
I also see threw out this proposal there are many areas that a state can opt out of participating in certain things that could take away benefits from its residents that other states may have. In short, I see a lack of a lot of uniformity with this proposal. In my opinion, it lacks the all for one, one for all approach!
I may be all wrong in my analysis, this is why I included my proposal above for all of you to view. This is a very complex issue facing this nation and the American people. We may not be able to push this through as fast as some would like it to be. It just seems like a lot of work needs to be done with this proposal to make it as palatable as possible for the American people.
I will say this in closing and I am not saying this because I am a senior but the elderly, especially the 50 to 65 year old, will have many pains to face with this proposal, as I read it, which I am the first that will say I am open to be corrected!
As I had said, these are my opinions as I see it, you may see it differently and I am open to be corrected on anything I have stated in this newsletter. I do not like it in its present form! I hope and pray, the Republican Party senators do what is right for all the American people, equally, with this so critical bill before us all!
I ask each of you to please take an interest in reading my e-mail and the senate version of the proposed bill and my proposal, both attachments are above! If any of you feel what I am proposing has merit, will you please send out my newsletter and the attachments to everyone you know as well as posting it on Facebook, U-Tube or any other social media you may belong to, if you do, I will be beholding to you. This repeal and replacement of Obamacare is so critical to all of us, please don’t ignore this!!
God speed to all of you and thank you,
John A. Smaldone
God and Country petition