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$95,000 report ‘kept from public review,’ consultant claims

Here is the final report (jail study) issued by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) on the criminal justice system in Blount County.

Here are the key points to reducing the jail overcrowding according to Alan Kalmanoff JD, the Executive Director of the ILPP, the organization paid to do the criminal justice system assessment.

Here is the open memo to the Blount County Commission, Corrections Committee and Citizens from Alan Kalmanoff.

Here is the June 2014 Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) Audit stating that the number of federal prisoners needs to be reduced and that we should look at alternative and pre-trial sentencing solutions.

The Daily Times published a story today on the matter with my comments included.  At the October Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) meeting, I made a motion to forward the ILPP report to the full commission because that report had never been formally released to the public.  However, the full commission has not heard from the study consultant.

My statement:

“As the commissioner who made the motion to have a full commission presentation from the jail consultant on the Criminal Justice System Assessment Report, I am troubled that the meeting was canceled.  Obviously, some county officials aren’t happy with the conclusions of the independent report.  The report was suppose to be heard by the full commission last year, yet there has been no presentation to the commission and it has been delayed once again.  Nearly $95,000 of taxpayer money has been spent.  We owe it to the people of Blount County to have a thorough public discussion on our justice system and jail overcrowding problem.

The report makes some of the same recommendations that the Tennessee Corrections Institute makes including reducing the number of federal prisoners and providing more pre-trial release and alternative sentencing programs.  The report points out that our jail may be unconstitutional and that we could face legal action if we don’t reduce our jail population.  The jail overcrowding situation is dangerous not only to the inmates but to the taxpayers who may be forced to fund an unnecessary jail expansion.”  Commissioner Tona Monroe

Article: http://www.thedailytimes.com/news/report-kept-from-public-review-consultant-claims/article_1b6a1d8c-b18c-570d-b856-5376242592da.html

State mandated pay raises for local elected officals

The State of Tennessee is mandating that General Sessions judges be given pay raises.  General Sessions judges are already the highest paid officals in Blount County government at $158,795.75.  They are the last people in government who need pay raises.  Other elected officals are not receiving mandated pay raises thankfully.

If you want to stop the state mandated pay raises, for the wealthiest in Blount County government, contact state elected officials.
Rep. Bob Ramsey: rep.bob.ramsey@capitol.tn.gov  (615) 741-3560
Rep. Art Swann: rep.art.swann@capitol.tn.gov (615) 741-5481
Senator Doug Overbey: sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov (615) 741-0981

March 2015 Public Meetings

23rd
9 AM Blount County Public Building Authority Room 315 at the Blount County Courthouse
11 AM Election Commission at the Election Commission office

24th
5:30 Blount County Corrections Partnership – Agenda includes presentation by Alan Kalmanoff regarding the ILPP Jail Study and discussion about a grant for jail overcrowding

31st
The Solid Waste Authority will have it’s annual meeting on March 31st at 8:30 AM at the Alcoa Service Center at 725 Universal Street in Alcoa.  I saw one notice that said 9 AM.  The rest have said 8:30 AM.

Open meetings law don’t apply to Tenn. transparency panel

Oh the irony… Open meetings law don’t apply to Tenn. transparency panel

“A panel of experts assembled to offer advice on transparency issues is not subject to the state’s open meetings law. At least that’s the opinion of Ann Butterworth, who heads the Comptroller’s Office of Open Records Counsel.”

Read more: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/article/124982/open-meetings-law-dont-apply-to-tenn-transparency-panel#ixzz3UnhAK9sg

Ann Butterworth can’t hold a candle to her predecessor.  The availability of the Office of Open Records Counsel has nearly ceased since Butterworth took over.  The office has become another useless government bureaucracy.

NMA E-Newsletter #321: Radar Fails Under Scientific Scrutiny … Again

NMA E-Newsletter #321: Radar Fails Under Scientific Scrutiny … Again

Most longtime NMA members understand the weaknesses of using radar to measure vehicle speeds. However, less experienced drivers and even the courts regard radar as foolproof. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we have fresh evidence that further erodes radar’s patina of infallibility.

A member of the NMA Board recently attended a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and was kind enough to forward us this description of one of the research presentations titled “Testing of Police Radar”. The research was conducted by two professional engineers, one of whom previously worked for one of the radar manufacturers.

The gist of the presentation is that, despite 30 years of technological innovations, radar still suffers from the same reliability and performance issues that have made it unacceptable as evidence in a court of law. The researchers state that radar cannot meet the requirements of the Daubert test, which is a set of standards trial judges use to determine whether or not expert testimony is based on valid scientific reasoning and methodology:

The reality of police radar is that it fails when subjected to the Daubert test. In this regard, police radar operation should be repeatable—this research demonstrates that it is not a repeatable technique and is, in fact, subject to operator interpretation when multiple targets are present.

The researchers tested several radar unit brands and units. With only one target, the units were pretty consistent in their speed measurements. However with multiple targets, there was no guarantee as to which vehicle’s speed was displayed. They observe that “the radar units can well read different speeds … the decision to issue a citation is highly dependent upon the operator, relative to the instrument.” This refers to one of radar’s biggest downfalls: it can’t distinguish one vehicle from another.

The researchers further explain that radar can pick out either the strongest signal or the fastest signal, depending on road conditions and the mix of vehicles on the road. It cannot, however, pick out the speed of the nearest vehicle. They point out that radar “gun sights” intended to aid target acquisition are useless. They also note that one radar manufacturer allows the officer to black out the displayed speed of the police vehicle in moving mode to conceal from the motorist that the officer was exceeding the speed limit.

Even though the researchers come from a technical/scientific background, they have the presence of mind to point out that radar speed enforcement encourages policing for profit. The NMA has been making this argument for years, but we have seen few other observers make the same connection between shoddy speed enforcement and revenue generation. The researchers further warn that using unreliable radar readings as an excuse to conduct a traffic stop and execute a questionable vehicle search raises Fourth Amendment questions:

But some jurisdictions use strict traffic enforcement as the basis of presumptive traffic stops—they will issue a warning for the traffic violation and instead are looking for a reason to search a vehicle for contraband.

Can anyone say civil forfeiture?

Overall, the study further supports the conclusion that radar speed measurement is unreliable, easily misused and often abused for revenue purposes. In the NMA’s “Fight That Ticket!” e-book, we show you how to use the many kinds of radar error to undermine the officer’s scripted testimony. When you prove to the court that what the officer has testified to is physically impossible or technically violates proper radar procedures, the prosecution’s case will be seriously compromised.

Supporting members can download “Fight That Ticket!” at no charge from the members’ area at www.motorists.org. Non-members can download it here for only $9.95.

Traffic court is a dysfunctional money making scam

“Ferguson does not even rank among the top 20 municipalities in St. Louis County in the percentage of its budget drawn from court fines and fees.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/08/us/ferguson-became-symbol-but-bias-knows-no-border.html

It’s not just Ferguson, Missouri that is the problem.  Frequently traffic courts are dysfunctional scams designed to enhance public treasuries while shirking due process and failing to teach people how to improve driving habits in ways that actually improve public safety.

 

Bill would prohibit county employees from serving on the county commission

SB466

Here are the email addresses for the Senate State and Local Government Committee members.

sen.ken.yager@capitol.tn.gov,

sen.steven.dickerson@capitol.tn.gov,

sen.richard.briggs@capitol.tn.gov,

sen.mark.green@capitol.tn.gov,

sen.thelma.harper@capitol.tn.gov,

sen.ed.jackson@capitol.tn.gov,

sen.jack.johnson@capitol.tn.gov,

sen.bill.ketron@capitol.tn.gov,

sen.mark.norris@capitol.tn.gov

February 2015 Commission Report

“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”  Judge Gideon John Tucker wrote this statement in the decision of a will case.  It is often attributed to Mark Twain as well.

Commission meeting canceled
The Blount County Commission meeting, along with several committee meetings, was canceled this month due to inclement weather.  The focus on safety this month has been, and still is, ensuring that people have the basic needs of life: food, clothing and shelter.  Hopefully you and your family are faring well through this winter weather.

No final decisions were made on public policy this month because the commission meeting was canceled.  The unfinished business will be conducted at the March commission meeting.

Recycling Committee
The agenda included the formation of an ad hoc committee to study recycling.  It creates three citizens seats.  If you are interested in being nominated to serve on a committee to study recycling, please contact your commissioners to express your desire to serve.

Information Technology Committee
The IT Committee meet on Monday to discuss updating the video technology in the commission room.  The matter was tabled because the Mayor said that there is a new employee in the Sheriff’s Department who may be able to provide insight to the matter and update the technology for substantially less money.

RAC2 Zoning
The only controversy this month surrounded a resolution that creates a new rural arterial commercial zone (RAC2).  Several years ago, the commission severely restricted commercial development in the rural areas of the county.  The county is growing, necessitating the need for commercial development.  The question is how to achieve responsible development.

Here’s some basic information about the commercial development regulations in the proposed RAC2 zone:

  • Development is limited to four roads: 411 North (Sevierville Road), Hwy 129 (Calderwood Highway), Hwy 72 and Hwy 321
  • Building size is limited to 10,000 square feet
  • Uses are limited  (see page 20)
  • There are no special exceptions
  • External lighting must be directed away from the right-of-way and land zoned residential
  • A noise mitigation barrier may be required as part of the site plan

I’ve read every letter and email sent to me on the subject.  If you tried calling and couldn’t reach me please know that I had very limited phone service for several days following the ice storm.

It’s been brought to my attention that the Planning Commission makes public input difficult by not having it as an agenda on the item.  I will work to correct that, making it easier for citizens to comment.

Bundle up and stay safe during this weather.  If you are feeling burdened from mother nature, you can enjoy the safety she provided you by prohibiting the legislative body of Blount County from meeting in regular session.

Adventures in head banging: Less than 24 hours to look at 5 month old quote edition

headbashwallFor several years Blount Countians have been able to watch local government meetings online.  This is convenient and useful for those with an interest in local politics who don’t want to travel.

The technology is old and needs to be updated.  The live streaming camera is in the back of the room and does not zoom in on the person talking.  People who regularly listen to commission meetings quickly learn the voices but first time listeners face a learning curve.

During the October IT Committee meeting, I shared with the committee the complaints that I have received from citizens about problems with the live streaming and the google system used for recording the meetings.  The Mayor informed the committee that he was going to bring a request for a new video system for the commission room to the Budget Committee in January.  That didn’t happen.

The IT Committee meeting is today at 5 PM in room 430, the commission room.  This meeting packet arrived in my inbox at 10:03 PM last night.  That’s less than 24 hours to review the information.  The worst part is that the Request for Proposal for a video system in the packet is dated September 29, 2014, meaning this information has been available for nearly five months.  There is no good reason why this information couldn’t have been provided five days in advance of the meeting.  I tried to amend our rules to fix the problem and petty politicians killed the solution.

Now I am left with trying to make a decision with less than 24 hours notice on 5 month old information.  I guess I should look on the bright side.  At the October IT Committee meeting, I was given my information packet at the meeting.  This time I got over a half a day to review the information.  Is this progress?  My head hurts.

HasbamaCare – It’s Uncontrifuted!

photo credit: midsouthsentinel.com

photo credit: midsouthsentinel.com

by: Eric Holcombe

Video is linked below to the lecture Doug Overbey gave to the Senate Health & Welfare Committee as he played the Establishment “administration” role of selling Insure TN as anything-but-ObamaCare.

Doug Overbey insults the Health & Welfare Committee – and then goes down in flames. Of course, this is the final vote after a good amount of behind the scenes vote counting in the House so it was all over but the crying. Give Doug a listen as he:
1) Questions the Senators’ motivation for serving in their office – that somehow listening to their constituents is not representing them or making their communities better. He sets this up with the straw man that he knows that is why the majority of them would say they initially sought public office.
2) States that the current system is “broken” and the Senators are “doing nothing” by not voting for HasbamaCare. By the way, “NO” is the default vote. Our representatives should only ever vote “YES” if they are sure the legislation is: constitutional, actually desired by their constituents (not just the ones that own the liquor stores in Pigeon Forge), there is a sound funding mechanism, etc.
3) Whines that he has served on Health & Welfare committees for 14 years in the House and Senate (but of course is somehow not responsible for the current “broken” system and “doing nothing” for 14 years as he calls it) but now is having to present the Establishment’s bill to make the sale.
4) Reminds them that Gov. Haslam has his finger on the pulse of Tennesseans and points to his re-election as evidence of same. Live by the vote-for-me-instead-of-Obama sword, die by the vote-for-me-instead-of-Obama sword.
5) Tells the Senators they are supposed to ignore you and instead vote on whether HasbamaCare is good “policy” (after he just said Gov. Haslam is so “in touch” with all the constituents).
6) Creates new word: “uncontrifuted”.
Senator Overbey has consistently demonstrated that he believes the legislators are above the people rather than public servants. I remind you of his “we have the legislative authority” statement lobbying for the continued unconstitutional (and therefore illegal) selection of judges back when the Republicans wouldn’t simply “do nothing” and let the illegal Tennessee Plan sunset when they first won majority. This attitude of we-know-better-than-the-peasants, so let’s force “policy” isn’t representing the constituents. It’s tyranny – and that’s “uncontrifuted”….