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Tona Monroe’s comments in support of Criminal Justice System Assessment Report hearing

Thank you Mr. Chairman. The situation before us is not uncharted territory. The jail was overcrowded before and the county was forced to build, leaving us with debt that we are still paying on. We should all be able to see where the current situation is headed.

The overcrowding wisely lead the commission and sheriff to commission a study from a national firm who has studied over 400 counties across this country to provide us with options to address our jail and criminal justice system.

The Sheriff has recently started sending us letters telling us that he expects the jail overcrowding to persist. He has been telling us that tensions are increasing. The Sheriff is actually making the case for why the time for us to act is now.

The next step is to hear from the jail consultant. It will cost us nothing further to hear from the consultant. 13 of us were not on the commission when the final report came out. It would behoove us too listen to the findings.

Let the Sheriff tell us what he is seeing in the jail. Let the consultant tell us what his recommendations are. Let everyone be heard. If we continue to ignore the situation then as the Sheriff said in his October 28th letter, “the repercussions could be detrimental to not only the Sheriff’s Office, but to Blount County also”.

Here are some of the situations we could find the county in if we remain inattentive. We could be closed down by the state or the courts. We could be sued and face allegations of our jail being unconstitutional. We could be sued by inmates because of overcrowding conditions in the jail. We could lose control of the jail to inmate riots from the overcrowding. We have a pill problem and some are warning of heroine being a public safety issue. The consultants recommendations may be helpful to our public safety, budget and very fabric of our wonderful community.

Many Counties in Tennessee are in similar situations and are acting while we are not. National media is publishing the stories. We will be next in the national headlines if we don’t get to work now.

I had to go back to 2006 to find a jail report that didn’t show serious overcrowding. A plan of action was issued in 2012. How much more longer can we afford to wait?

The Comptroller’s website lists Blount County’s FY 2014 debt as the 8th highest county debt in the state. It would be a tragedy for us to add to that financial burden when the county has already been down this costly road before. We should be proactive not reactive.

We as the funding body will have to make the tough financial decisions for the jail. It is not a tough financial decision to have open discussion on what we can do to reduce our inmate population and thereby reduce or eliminate the repercussions that the taxpaying people of Blount County will face if we sit back and let the problem continue.

Therefore, I urge you to join me in voting to move forward and have a hearing on the study that we commissioned two years ago and has been out for a year and a half. Thank you.

November 10, 2015 Agenda Committee meeting

Note: The jail has 350 beds.  The March 15, 2007 jail report showed only minor overcrowding of 2 inmates (see page 147) while the rest of the 2007 showed serious overcrowding.  The December 2006 jail inspection report listed 349 inmates (see page 81), which is 1 below capacity, and the last time these reports showed the inmate population being below the bed capacity.

Troy Ball’s comments on Jail Study Hearing

My comments will address Item G4 which calls for a long awaited and much needed hearing by the full commission on the jail study. There are 4 verses in Proverbs that address the situation before us.

Proverbs 23 verses 1-4:
1 When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
2 And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
3 Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
4 Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.

Commissioners, I ask you where else does the Bible tell you that it would be better to put a knife to your throat and commit suicide than to fall for the deceitful ways of government officials? Today we call rulers leaders, politicians, commissioners, mayors and sheriffs. Sometimes we mistakenly call those in government servants but government officials are very much our rulers, dominating our lives, spending our money and telling us nearly every move to make.

The Mayor’s deceit with the jail study is obvious. There is no lawsuit. For those of you who voted no it’s time to realize the deceit and move forward. You have a chance to correct this deceit.

The Sheriff’s deceit with the jail study is obvious. The county does not make money keeping federal inmates and the report says that. The only way to make it appear like the county is profiting off the federal inmates is overcrowding the jail, packing the inmates into the jail like sardines in a can.

For those saying we need to keep the federal inmates for money, heed the words labour not to be rich, cease from thine own wisdom. Jails do not make money. The taxpayers foot the bill regardless of the level of government funding.

The next federal inmate that you sit back and allow to be brought into the jail to add to public treasury could be the one to files the lawsuit that brings the whole matter into the federal court. Then you will find out how wise it is keep federal inmates when a federal judge tells you every move to make. When you get the bill for the new jail pod then you will wish you hadn’t been given to appetite and fallen for the deceitful meat of the Mayor and Sheriff or sought the riches of federal money.

Private citizens in Tennessee can make traffic stops and arrests for traffic violations

http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/47/4775.asp

For those who would like to see more DUI enforcement, the Court of Criminal Appeals in Tennessee at Knoxville has affirmed that state law empowers citizens to arrest those driving under the influence of alcohol.  See the opinion here: http://www.thenewspaper.com/rlc/docs/2015/tn-privatecop.pdf

Arresting power of private citizens includes misdemeanors in addition to felonies.  Most of us have had police officers blow past us at high rates of speed that far exceed the posted speed limit without having their lights on.  I once witnessed an officer put his lights on to go though an intersection and then turn his lights off after he got through the intersection.

Minor traffic offenses are usually handled with a citation in lieu of arrest but more serious violations usually result in arrest.  I wonder what would happen if private citizens started exercising this power to arrest officers for all the traffic violations that they commit in public.  An officer once told me that courts frown on it, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Commissioner Tona Monroe to request long awaited jail study hearing

Commissioner Tona Monroe has filed a resolution to have a teleconference hearing on the findings and recommendations of the Criminal Justice System Assessment Report presented by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning.  Commissioner Monroe issued the following statement regarding the report and teleconference.

“In response to jail overcrowding the County commissioned a study that was conducted by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP).  Two years later the County Commission has not heard from the consultant about the findings of the study because of leadership changes on the Blount County Corrections Partnership and because of the Mayor’s false threat of a lawsuit to silence discussion.

The Blount County jail is overcrowded and the problem is not going to go away on its own.  I commend the 7 commissioners who joined me in voting to have a hearing earlier this year and I challenge the other 13 to rethink their positions. With no lawsuit on the horizon it’s time for the commission to move beyond local obstructionist politics and get to work addressing the needs of our criminal justice system.”

Commissioner Tona Monroe
District 7 Seat B
Serving Big Springs, Carpenters, Friendsville, Happy Valley and Lanier

For more information see these articles:
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/local-news/blount-county-jail-overcrowding-report-ignored-says-studys-director_79928875

http://www.local8now.com/home/headlines/EXCLUSIVE-Blount-County-May-o-297720381.html

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=6591

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=7072

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=6628

How the Sheriff’s Office wastes your money: Open Records request gets the interrogation room

As I recently wrote, it has been and continues to be my mission to provide open, transparent and accountable government in addition to restoring liberty.  For those saying this is an exercise in futility, you are mostly right but if we don’t try we automatically lose.

My adventures in head banging started long before I (Tona Monroe) became a county commissioner.  Describing my efforts in engaging the system as an “adventure” is at times an embellishment because it implies that there is some uncertainty in the outcome.  Often the outcome is quite predictable.  Bureaucrats will drag their feet as long as you will let them.  Other times it is very much an adventure in head banging.

Several years ago, I sent an open records request and request for information to the Blount County Sherriff’s Office.  I received a written response telling me that I would have to come to the Blount County Justice Center and provide a government issued photo ID.  This seemed a bit excessive to me, especially since I had just made a similar request with the state of Tennessee and did not have to drive to Nashville with a photo ID.

Karen Miller, who at that time was a concerned citizen like me and had not yet been elected to public office, Harry Grothjahn, a member of the press, and my husband Troy Ball accompanied me the Justice Center to comply with the request from the Sheriff’s Office.  Deputy Chief, then called Assistant Chief, Jimmy Long placed us in the interrogation room while he photocopied my ID and made me restate the request even thought I had provided what I wanted in writing.

Flash forward a couple years.  Karen Miller and I are both county commissioners, my website serves as a media source primarily publishing information about local government and restoring freedom, and obtaining information from local government still can be quite difficult.

After a series of unanswered request for open records and information from the Mayor’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office, earlier this year, I went above their heads to the State Office of Open Records Counsel.  Amazingly both offices responded within hours of the Open Records Counsel telling them to comply with the state open records law.

The response from the Mayor’s Office to the Office of Open Records Counsel was reasonable.  I was given the requested record that afternoon.

The response from the Sheriff’s Office was excessive and a waste of taxpayer money.  The Sheriff’s Office had Not the County Attorney Craig Garrett send a written response, by email, to Open Records Counsel and cc’ed me on the email.  You can read the letter here.

Ms. Ann Butterworth responded to the letter from the Not the County Attorney by email saying:

“Dear County Attorney Garrett:

Thank you for responding to my inquiry regarding public record requests made by Ms. Monroe.  I support the County’s direction to develop a reasonable rule to govern public record requests.  Tenn. Code Ann. Section 10-7-506(a) provides “that the lawful custodian of such records shall have the right to adopt and enforce reasonable rules governing the making of such extracts, copies, photographs or photostats.”  Without properly adopted reasonable rules in place, a records custodian is not authorized to charge for copies.

I disagree with the approach the County is taking with regard to requests from citizens (whether they are also elected officials or not).  The County, as the record custodian, does have the right to require proof of citizenship by presentation of a government issued photo ID with a home address.  However, I do not see where the County requested Ms. Monroe to present the identification prior to viewing the record as permitted by Tenn. Code Ann. Section 10-7-503(a)(7)(A).   Since Ms. Monroe is a Commissioner for the County, and a request for identification was not made, I do not see how the County could justify its refusal to respond to her public records request on the basis of citizenship.

The County, as the record custodian, should not ignore a request made under the Tennessee Public Records Act.

While custodians of public records do not have an obligation to review and search their records pursuant to a Public Records Act request, they do have the clear obligation to produce those records for inspection, unless otherwise provided by state law, and to provide a copy or copies of any such record requested by such citizen, upon the payment of a reasonable charge or fee therefor.  T.C.A. § 10-7-503.  Waller v. Bryan, 1999, 16 S.W.3d 770, appeal denied.

The appropriate response is a written denial indicating that no such record exists and that Tenn. Code Ann. Section 10-7-503(a)(5) does not require a custodian to create a record that does not already exist.  Tenn. Code Ann. Section 10-7-503(a)(3) provides that failure to respond constitutes a denial and the requestor has the right to bring an action under Tenn. Code Ann. Section 10-7-505.  If the requested documents did exist, I believe a court would find the County to be willful in its action of failing to provide the documents.

Whether or not a governmental entity has a full-time position designated to respond to public records requests, under Tenn. Code Ann. Section 10-7-503(a)(2)(B), record custodians are required to promptly make open public records available for inspection and, if requested, to provide copies of such records.  If prompt response is not practicable, then a record custodian must respond using the form developed by this Office.

If you have any questions, or would like assistance with or review of the proposed rule for the County, please let me know.

Ann V. Butterworth Open Records Counsel & Assistant to the Comptroller for Public Finance”

About a week later, I received the record that I requested.  It would have been much simpler if the Sheriff’s Office had responded in a timely manner, without wasting money on an attorney.  This occurred after Chief Deputy Jeff French told the commission in June that any commissioner was welcome to come to his office to see where money had been spent.  Hopefully open records and information requests in the future won’t result in letters from attorneys and placing citizens and members of the press in an interrogation room.

Why is all of this important to you?

Besides placing citizens and a member of the press in an interrogation room for asking for public records and information, and failing to respond to requests, the State of Tennessee is considering allowing local governments to charge you, the taxpaying citizens, just to look at your governments public records.  Show up and speak out at the hearing in Knoxville on September 15.  This is your government and its time to remind those who are suppose to “serve” you of that.

USA ranks 20th on The Human Freedom Index

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

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

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

Not everything on this website is written by me

There are some in the community who think that everything on this website is written by me (Tona Monroe).  That is not the case.  This site was never intended to be a website solely with material written by me.  I own domains with my name and could just as easily write the material there.

There are some in the community who think that I agree with everything written on this website.  That is not the case either.  My intention in creating this website was never to have complete and total agreement with every word posted here.

The litmus test for content on this website was never complete and total agreement with my views and is not the case now.  My goals are to promote freedom and transparency in government.  Those are the reasons why I started this website and why I continue publishing on this website.  Those are also the reasons that I ran for office and what I hope to achieve while in office.

The content here is intended to be thought provoking while promoting freedom and openness in government.  Everything that is posted here should no more be viewed as my opinions than letters to the editors are viewed as being the opinions of the editors at newspapers.

As I’ve said many times before and will continue saying, let freedom ring!

Dear Tennessee government, you do not have my consent

by Eric Holcombe

Tennessee State Constitution Article 1 Section 3:  That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience; that no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any minister against his consent; that no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or
mode of worship.

I am tired of paying for the worshippers of Molech and their child sacrifices.

Achieve Inc. board member Haslam should stop chasing Forrest’s pre-conversion ghost and put an end to the current Negro Project we are being forced to fund.

 

 

Commissioner and Alcoa businessman Mike Akard explains horrifying EPA stormwater regulations

Where is the Blount Partnership/Chamber of Commerce when you need them? Bryan Daniels was busy killing a resolution asking our federal legislators to provide regulatory relief for existing businesses. Listen to local Alcoa businessman and County Commissioner Mike Akard explain the horrible situation he faced because of EPA regulations. Your Mayor Ed Mitchell and the face of industrial development/recruitment worked to kill this simple request for regulatory relief that could help native local businessmen like Mike Akard.

Bryan Daniels’ salary should be cut and the money used to fund pay raises for the Sheriff’s deputies.

This fell upon the deaf ears of 11 commissioners. The resolution originally passed 11-10. Commissioner Shawn Carter flipped and voted not to override the Mayor’s veto. We should be looking out for existing businesses and spend less time giving special deals to foreign owned companies.

Chairman Jerome Moon orders standing citizens to clear commission chamber while letting uniformed officers line the wall

The May Commission meeting started with one of the most despicable acts toward the citizenry of Blount County that I’ve ever witnessed.  Chairman Jerome Moon ordered the citizens who were standing to clear the room while allowing uniformed armed officers to line the wall.

Citizens have historically lined the walls of county government meetings.  You can pull up archived meetings from previous years to see citizens standing along the walls without being ordered to leave.

Furthermore a member of the press, Harry Grothjahn of Truth Radio, was not allowed to enter the commission meeting room except for the 3 minutes that he spoke about items on the commission agenda.

Fire codes are the excuse but if they are so important why can government employees stand along the wall in large number?  No distinction was made by Chairman Moon as to off duty uniformed officers and on duty uniformed officers.

Furthermore, the citizens are smart enough to know whether they want to stand in a room or leave.  Laws are used by those in authority to suppress those that they don’t agree with.  The people have long stood against the walls of public building rooms.  Using the fire codes to suppress free speech is the latest tool of the political machine and should not be tolerated.

Conveniently this occurred at a meeting where discussion about a new pay scale for county employees was on the agenda.  The uniformed officers were able to clap for those advocating adoption of a new pay scale from an incomplete study, while the citizens opposing having their taxes raised, who weren’t able to obtain seats, were relegated to standing outside in the hallway.

One of my constituents said to me what are they (the commission) there for?  It seems that some have forgotten that they are there for the people of Blount County.

This video only shows the second time that Jerome Moon ordered citizens out of the room.  The first time he told them that they could stand out in the hallway while the Sheriff’s deputies could stand along the wall.  Moon’s first statement was likely made prior to the meeting starting and is therefore not available as a part of the commission meeting video.

Keith Miller reminds Commission of societal foundation, rebukes Jarrod Millsaps behavior toward Constitution

Keith Miller addressed the Blount County Commission at its monthly board meeting on May 21, 2015 about Blount County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Chief Jarrod Millsaps mocking Commissioner Tona Monroe for talking about her oath of office to the Constitution of the United States of America.  His statement serves as a much needed reminder of why the people of this country have suffered so much loss of liberty.  Cavalier and arrogant treatment of citizens from those in government should not be tolerated.  Government officials are to protect liberty, not treat those who cherish it with contempt.

Jarrod Millsaps has a history of mistreating commissioners and citizens.  A couple of years back, Mayor Mitchell held a meeting for county employees.  The meeting was open to the public.  A few citizens attended but it was mostly county employees.  During the meeting, Millsaps yelled at Linda King and then commissioner Jim Folts, for the whole room to hear, implying that they were responsible for what some of the employees viewed as problems in county government.

During the 2007 county budget discussions, Jim Folts, a citizen activist at the time, placed some literature on the table outside the commission room.  Jarrod Millsaps threw the literature in the trash.  You can read Barney Lowe’s statement regarding this incident here and here.

Keith Miller’s statement on Items Not on the Agenda
Regular Commission Meeting
May 21 2015

Commissioners Psalm 11:3 states “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous
do?”

At the last commission meeting, one of your number dramatized the Oath you all swore to the Constitution with the raising of her hand as she re-emphacized the seriousness of that oath. Shortly thereafter a member of the Sheriff’s staff made a flippant remark about the raising of one’s hand to take an Oath to the Constitution. I do not believe I have ever heard of such disrespect ever spoken by anyone with reference to the Constitution of Tennessee or the US Constitution. Especially disturbing is the fact that it came from an official in the Sheriff’s department. Not only is the US Constitution highly respected by the people of this county but some who have taken the oath referred to by that commissioner have given their lives in executing it. We would all do well to remember that when such an oath is taken as part of the military swearing in ceremony it means “I will protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic even if it kills me.”

The very bedrock of the temporal social order we have established as Americans is the Constitution. Let’s respect it.  Again Psalm 11:3 “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Keith Miller served in the United States Marine Corps.

Looting the Looters

Bill Gibbons announces death of the 4th Amendment in TN

Bill Gibbons announces death of the 4th Amendment in TN

If You See Something Say Something™ right Bill Gibbons? I see our Department of Safety and Homeland Security are a bunch of 4th and 5th Amendment-violating crooks. The state legislature has attempted (and failed) in two sessions now to enact some kind of restraint on the armed robbery committed in the name of “asset forfeiture” in Tennessee. It is looking more and more like Nashville may be the root cause.

The “thin blue line” strikes again:

http://knoxblogs.com/humphreyhill/2015/05/01/department-of-safety-fights-for-cash-that-police-say-was-wrongfully-seized/

“When the Sevierville Police Department learned pills in a woman’s car were antacids and the $11,922 an officer seized as suspected drug money was an inheritance, the agency agreed to drop charges and return the cash.

The Tennessee Department of Safety wants it back….

The department essentially argues that the only way that Ms. Stiltner could prove (the cash was not drug money) is through taking serial numbers of all the bills she received from the estate check, hiring an accountant to review all of her cash spending, and then comparing these notes to the money that was seized,” he wrote. “This is nonsensical, and the department’s position is wholly untenable … This appeal results from the Tennessee Department of Safety’s continued efforts to steal $11,922 from Kathy Stiltner despite uncontroverted evidence that the funds were derived from a legitimate source and a total lack of evidence that the funds resulted from illegal activity.”

If only the United States was the land of the free, we might have some kind of law against this.

These taxpayer-funded, unaccountable armed robberies need to stop.

April 2015 Commission Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up next
The ambulance service agreement is up for renewal.

Blount County 2013 per capita income is less than $24,000, median household income is $45,991

There has been a lot of talk in the Budget Worshops about the Evergreen Employee Classification and Compensation Study but it hasn’t been released to the Commission or to the public.  The roughly $16,000,000 budget deficet is partially due to budget requests for pay increases.  Another big part of the deficet is due to increased health care benefits costs.  It’s not going to be possible to continue with health care plans that the previous broker repeatedly called “rich” and give raises without a huge tax increase.

Here are some things to consider about Blount County government and its citizenry.

Blount County is providing free dental benefits to its employees.  The employees pay for the family plan but if they opt for the employee only plan it’s free.  The cost to the county per employee, as discussed at the May 15, 2014 Commission meeting, is $23.15 per employee per month.  The county pays the same amount for the family plan and employees pay the difference of $49.24 per month for family coverage.  This seems like a good place to start cutting.

Current health care plans and costs reported at the Budget Workshop on Monday:

Plan Employee Pays Taxpayers Pay Total Costs
Employee Only 25 425 450
Employee Plus Child 125 975 1100
Employee Plus Spouse 150 975 1125
Family 175 975 1150

The 2013 per capita income in Blount County is $23,788.  Some of the county employees making less than the per capita income are part time employees.

View the 2015 payroll here.

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/47/47009.html

The median household income for Blount County (2009-2013) is $45,991.  Many households include two incomes.  There are about 18 pages of Blount County government employees making more than the median household income for just one salary.  There are 24 pages of people making over $40,000 with one income.  Couple this with the fact that benefit plans are far better than what is available in most of the private sector and the cost of each position becomes a whole lot more than just the base salary.

It may seem like some employees are underpaid, and perhaps there some who are.  However many county government employees are making more than the people paying their salaries and benefits are living on.