It’s a ‘fine’ day and night in Blount County and throughout Tennessee

Well the Tennessee General Assembly just voted to raise the seatbelt fine from $10 to $25.  This is a great way for Republicans to enrich public treasuries without ‘raising taxes’.  It’s no surprise that Blount County’s 3 nanny $tati$t $upported the tax… err fine.  Good Ole’ Big Government Bob Ramsey, Art Swann and Doug Overbey.

Here in Blount County the Commi$$ion just took an unconstitutional grant for nighttime $eatbelt demo.  Buckle up, or you will find out what a ‘fine’ place Blount County is to live, especially since the federal government and the Tenne$$ee General A$$embly made $ure that you’ll be adding more to the public trea$ury if you don’t.

Most federal grants are unconstitutional

Tonight the Blount County Commission is being asked to vote on six federal grants, one for equipment for a school and five traffic grants.  All six grants are unconstitutional; therefore, I will be voting no on all six even though the equipment is for a school in my district.

The first thing that I did when taking office was raise my right hand and affirm that I would obey the federal and state constitutions.  Thus even though we might need equipment for schools, I am constrained by my oath of office and must vote no.  I would support a constitutionally authorized source of funding for food equipment for schools but not a funding source that violates my oath of office and the supreme law of the land.

Conservatives like to talk about the federal government having no role in education and some will even campaign on abolishing the federal Department of Education but that quickly becomes empty campaign rhetoric after the election.  Having read the constitution many times, finding nothing in it to authorize these grants and having made a solemn affirmation to uphold the constitution, I will be voting no.

Additionally, there has been some talk about the DUI road blocks being unconstitutional.  They are but that misses the greater point for the county funding body.  The funding for all 5 five traffic grants is unconstitutional.  There is no authority in the federal constitution for the feds to tax us (gas tax) and use the money to fund a police state.  Thus, voting no on one or two and voting yes on the rest is inconsistent with the supreme law of the land, the constitution.

In case anyone has any doubt, I will leave you with a letter that President James Madison wrote when he vetoed a public works bill (think roads and water ways, what we are dealing with tonight).  He said he was constrained by the constitution to veto the legislation because there is no authority for it in the constitution.  He should know, since he was the primary author of the constitution.

Let freedom ring!

March 3, 1817

To the House of Representatives of the United States:

Having considered the bill this day presented to me entitled “An act to set apart and pledge certain funds for internal improvements,” and which sets apart and pledges funds “for constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses, in order to facilitate, promote, and give security to internal commerce among the several States, and to render more easy and less expensive the means and provisions for the common defense,” I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling the bill with the Constitution of the United States to return it with that objection to the House of Representatives, in which it originated.

The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated in the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers, or that it falls by any just interpretation with the power to make laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution those or other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.

“The power to regulate commerce among the several States” can not include a power to construct roads and canals, and to improve the navigation of water courses in order to facilitate, promote, and secure such commerce without a latitude of construction departing from the ordinary import of the terms strengthened by the known inconveniences which doubtless led to the grant of this remedial power to Congress.

To refer the power in question to the clause “to provide for common defense and general welfare” would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation, as rendering the special and careful enumeration of powers which follow the clause nugatory and improper. Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms “common defense and general welfare” embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust. It would have the effect of subjecting both the Constitution and laws of the several States in all cases not specifically exempted to be superseded by laws of Congress, it being expressly declared “that the Constitution of the United States and laws made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges of every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” Such a view of the Constitution, finally, would have the effect of excluding the judicial authority of the United States from its participation in guarding the boundary between the legislative powers of the General and the State Governments, inasmuch as questions relating to the general welfare, being questions of policy and expediency, are unsusceptible of judicial cognizance and decision.

A restriction of the power “to provide for the common defense and general welfare” to cases which are to be provided for by the expenditure of money would still leave within the legislative power of Congress all the great and most important measures of Government, money being the ordinary and necessary means of carrying them into execution.

If a general power to construct roads and canals, and to improve the navigation of water courses, with the train of powers incident thereto, be not possessed by Congress, the assent of the States in the mode provided in the bill can not confer the power. The only cases in which the consent and cession of particular States can extend the power of Congress are those specified and provided for in the Constitution.

I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the National Legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the General and the State Governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it, and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the Constitution in its actual form and providently marked out in the instrument itself a safe and practicable mode of improving it as experience might suggest.

President James Madison



Traffic grants are federally funded not state funded

At the Agenda Committee meeting, I asked the Director of Budgets and Finance if the traffic grants before the commission are federally funded or state funded.  He said he would find out.

Jarrod Millsaps of the the Sheriff’s Office responded saying that the grants administered through the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) are state funded.  (see page 503)  However, a quick internet search revealed that state is not the funding source.  The State DOT website says that programs administered through the GHSO are 100% federally funded.

To hear or not to hear: Failure to move forward

Eight Commissioners decided it was time to move forward on the jail overcrowding situation by hearing from the jail consultant and looking to see what we can do in the community to reduce the jail population and get people back to work as productive members of society.  Bryan Daniels of the Blount Partnership is always talking about moving “forward” an being “positive”.  Eight Commissioners voted to do that.

One Commissioner lacked the guts to even vote on the matter.

To hear Not to hear Abstained
Mike Akard Andy Allen Jerome Moon
Archie Archer Brad Bowers
Sean Carter Rick Carver
Tom Cole Grady Caskey
Jamie Daly Mike Caylor
Karen Miller Dodd Crowe
Tona Monroe Gary Farmer
Tom Stinnett Ron French
Jeff Headrick
Mike Lewis
Kenneth Melton
Steve Samples

Aiming at the wrong target

The Mayor’s response to the jail consultant pointing out that the criminal justice system assessment report has been ignored shows that the Mayor is aiming at the wrong target.  The goal is to do what is best for society, which includes everyone: the taxpayers, the jail employees and the inmates.  Instead of working toward solutions the Mayor is using the age old tactic of attacking the messenger by threatening to sue.

It is good to see Joel Davis at The Daily Times be factually correct in his reporting.  Craig Garrett is the attorney for the mayor, not the county attorney.  Blount County doesn’t have a county attorney, despite the mayor referring to him as the county attorney.

The drama should stop.  As elected officials it is our responsibility to now work together to implement solutions that are productive for all of society.  The taxpayer funded study provides several solutions.  Let’s get started putting those solutions to work.

March 2015 Commission Report

March was a busy month because I made it a priority to attend several meetings to learn as much as I can about how local government operates.  In order to avoid writing a book, I will hit the highlights.

I attended 11 of the 13 meetings that I planned for and toured the county jail.  One meeting was canceled due to inclement weather and the other, the Blount County Corrections Partnership, received a lot of media attention for being canceled.

Public Building Authority (PBA)
The PBA met to select a company to do its annual audit.  Ingrahm, Overhalt and Bean is the current auditor.  There were 6 audit findings, due to the way the information was reported and not substantive in terms of discrepancies in money.  The State felt that there were 6 areas the audit accounting standards could be improved.  Cheri Huffman Jones, PBA member, suggested that the Board select a new company because of the audit findings and because the state recommends changing auditors periodically.  However, Jerry Cunningham made the motion to keep the current auditor because they offered the lowest price.  Ingrahm, Overhalt and Bean was approved.

Solid Waste Authority
The Solid Waste Authority held its annual meeting but lacked a quorum to conduct business.  As a result, those present were able to have discussions about recycling, litter, state regulation and to hear a presentation from Enerdyne.  Landfill gas is about 50% methane.  Enerdyne has set up operations at the county dump to collect this methane and it is being used to power about 1,000 home.

Budget Workshops
The Budget Committee conducted its annual budget workshops for fiscal year 2016.  The frustrating part of these meetings is seeing how few questions are asked concerning the proposed budgets.

Planning Commission
One of the complaints that I received about the Planning Commission was that it didn’t allow for public input at its meetings.  Commissioner Brad Bowers made a motion to make public input a regular part of each meeting.  The Planning Commission will now be open for public comments.

County Commission
District 2 School Board Member Selected
The commission chose a replacement for District 2, Blount County School Board member Chris Cantrell who resigned from the seat.  Retired teacher Bill Padget was selected.  Prior to the nomination, a majority of the school board (4 of 7) were retired employees of the schools or relatives of employees of the schools.  With Padget, five of the seven School Board members will be retired school employees or relatives of school employees.  The School Board has so many conflicts of interest that it revised its nepotism policy to make the meetings run faster.

Additionally, School Board member Scott Helton retired from the county.  Six of the seven School Board members worked for the county or are related to people working for the county.  Thus, I didn’t think it wise to vote for another retired school employee.  My vote was cast for Sam Duck a local activist who has spoken out against Common Core.

Roof Repairs and Rules Loophole
The commission voted unanimously to replace the roofs on Middlesettlements and Montvale Elementary Schools.  These roofs were needed but the commission packet lacked information about the bid process and the companies chosen to install the roofs.  There was only 2 pages in the commission packet about the installation of the roofs (see pages 39-40), the resolution and the budget amendment request.  If I hadn’t checked the paper’s website to learn about the bid process I wouldn’t have known that it took place.  After the meeting Troy Logan, the budget director for the schools, apologized to me about the lack of information and said he would do better in the future at providing information.

This budget request did not go through the Agenda Committee before coming to the commission for a vote because Commission Rule 9B allows budget request to go directly to the full commission without first going through the Agenda Committee.  The Agenda Committee meeting was optional until January of this year when the commission passed my resolution to amend the Commission Rules to require the meeting.  Additionally, a resolution was passed requiring  a 2/3’s vote of the commission (14 votes) to add an agenda item directly to the commission meeting agenda.  However, budget items remain exempt under current commission rules.  This should be fixed.  The commission should have to vote to add budget items to the commission agenda.  I will work to fix this.

Judical Commissioners – Hard to get a straight answer from the Director of Budgets and Finance
There was a $6,000 transfer request to move money from the Circuit Court Clerk budget to the Judicial Commissioner budget.  In the past the budget for judicial commissioners has been under the Circuit Court Clerk.  It was separated out this year.  This was a good move because in the past resolutions were presented to the commission stating that judicial commissioners were to be paid $1 for their services when they were paid substantially more.

When I tried to find out who presented the annual budget for judicial commissioners, I couldn’t get a straight answer from the budget director Randy Vineyard.  He is back to his bad habits of dancing around an issue without giving a straight answer.  His behavior is uncalled for.  The county would benefit from having a Director of Budgets and Finance who can give straight answers with a pleasant demeanor.

Stormwater Buffers
Stormwater regulations have been the subject of repeated controversy, with debate centered around property rights and what is mandated by the EPA and TDEC and what isn’t.  My motion to postpone this matter until the April meeting passed, giving commissioners time to do their homework to understand what is mandated and what isn’t.

Ad hoc Recycling Committee
An ad hoc committee to study recycling was created.  Members will be chosen at the April commission meeting.

Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP)
The BCCP meeting this month was canceled.  The jail consultant for the Institute for Law and Policy Planning (ILPP) was scheduled to discuss the ILPP report on the criminal justice system in Blount County.  The report was issued last May but the full commission hasn’t been given a presentation on the report.

The agenda for the April Agenda Committee meeting contains an item under unfinished business to schedule a hearing from the jail consultant.  It is my sincere hope that all finger pointing will cease and that Blount County government officials can come together and work toward solutions.  The jail overcrowding is a serious problem in need of productive solutions.  Great leaders are those who rise to the occasion during difficult times.  Our community will benefit from people rising to the occasion.

Up next:
I’ve filed a resolution urging federal legislators to repeal EPA stormwater regulations restoring rights back to the people and power to the states and the people per the 9th and 10th amendments.  The people of Blount County are smart enough to manage water quality without the federal government dictating unconstitutional policy.

$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