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January 2015 Commission Report

The Good
A tremendous victory was achieved this month.  Commissioner Mike Akard and I have been trying to separate the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission since taking office.  Our efforts were finally successful.  Read my articles on the subject here and hereBusiness owners have expressed their concerns, to me, about the county purchasing procedures.  This is our opportunity to reform business as usual in Blount County government.

Ultimately, real reform is dependent upon the quality of people elected to serve on the Purchasing Commission.  Please contact the Mayor at 273-5700 and emitchell@blounttn.org with your suggestions for people to serve on the Purchasing Commission.  Commissioner Akard would make an excellent member on the Purchasing Commission because he is a business owner with extensive purchasing experience and will ask the questions that need to be asked in order to improve county purchasing procedures.

At the Blount County Corrections Partnership meeting, on the 27th, my motion to hear from the Executive Director of the Institute of Law and Policy Planning on the Criminal Justice System Assessment Report that the county paid $95,000 for last year, passed out of the committee and will be sent as a recommendation to the Agenda Committee.  Despite the final report being issued May 31, 2014, the commission has never been given a presentation on the findings in the report.  The report addresses multiple ways to reduce the jail overcrowding problem.  This should be on the commission agenda soon.  You can read the study here, starting on page 264.

The Bad
Unfortunately the political machine was able to muster the votes to appoint a habitual tax delinquent to the Budget Committee.  The Trustee’s office told me that Sharon Hannum had 9 delinquent tax bills during 2011-2013.  That means that she was delinquent on all of her property taxes during those three years.  Six tax bills were parcels of property and three tax bills were related to Hannum’s business.  The current business tax bill is only $6 for the year.  The Mayor tried to justify putting someone who can’t manage her own household budget in charge of a $165 million budget.  The people didn’t buy the Mayor’s excuses.

About two dozen emails filled commissioners’ inboxes asking us to vote no on Sharon Hannum.  A few asked that the commission separate the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission.  Furthermore, after the front page articles, people who have worked with Sharon Hannum contacted me, thanked me and shared their experiences and concerns about Hannum.  Apparently, many people are in agreement with me but have been afraid to express their views for fear of being attacked like I have been.

Someone pointed out to me that no women or minorities spoke in favor of Sharon Hannum.  It was just the good ole’ boys, who like to spend your money, who spoke at the meeting in support of her. This confirms my concern that she will be a yes woman for the political machine.

What was lost in the paper’s coverage of the nomination was Mitchell’s hesitation on fixed rate financing and the purchasing problems within county government.  Those should have been the focal points of the nomination but they don’t make for good headlines.

Commissioners Andy Allen, Brad Bowers, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Jeff Headrick, Jerome Moon, Steve Samples and Tom Stinnett voted yes. Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly and Karen Miller voted no. Commissioners Cole and Lewis abstained.  Jerome Moon was suppose to abstain and said so after the vote total was announced.  Commissioners Melton and Monroe were absent.

The other bad news was the commission’s rejection of a highly qualified and accomplished nominee for the Jail Inspection Committee.  At the Agenda meeting, I nominated Doctor Nancy McEntee to serve on the Jail Inspection Committee.  There were four nominees and Doctor McEntee received the least number of votes.

Harry Grothjahn of Truth Radio contacted 3 of the 4 nominees, Brad Bryant, Nancy McEntee and Robert Mathis to inquire if they had read the jail study.  Only Nancy McEntee was aware of the study.

Worth noting is Commissioner Tom Stinnett’s efforts to ensure that Doctor McEntee did not get nominated even though he voted for her.  She resides in mine and Commissioner Stinnett’s district so he voted for her, which allows him to avoid criticism in his district.  However, he got to vote last because of the alphabetical roll call vote and knew that the machine’s three nominees had already won election without his votes.  At the Agenda meeting he seconded the motion to forward on the nomination of Robert Mathis, even though he didn’t vote for him at the Agenda meeting.  He was able to help the good ole’ boys while appearing to save face in his district.  These sorts of tricks are unfortunate but easily seen by those in attendance.

The three jail inspectors elected are Brad Bryant, Sharon Hannum (yes she was elected to this committee as well) and Robert Mathis.  You can read about the committee responsibilities and the people who will serve on the Jail Inspection Committee here beginning on page 26.  The machine made sure that the three elected to serve on the Jail Inspection Committee won’t rock the boat in any significant way.

The Ugly
Several attacks were launched against me because I wrote about someone who can’t manage her own household budget being nominated to manage your local government budget.  It doesn’t pass the common sense test; therefore, I took to writing about the matter.  I never said Sharon Hannum’s name in public, which the paper noticed and wrote about, yet Commissioner Rick Carver launched an attack against me at the Agenda meeting.  Chairman Steve Samples allowed the attack to go into great length before Commissioner Jerome Moon asked Chairman Samples to stop the attack.  Chairman Moon has gotten pretty good about shutting down personal attacks.  It wasn’t always that way but he has become consistent in stopping such attacks.

It’s times like this when I reflect upon why so few good people want to run for office.  Hit dogs holler the loudest and there was plenty of hollering at me.  However, I will carry on standing for your liberty and working to protect your wallets.  As I always like to conclude my emails, let freedom ring!

Ignorance about fixed income

This email was sent to Mayor Ed Mitchell from a citizen in the community.  I was cc’ed on it.  The name was removed at the request of the citizen.

Mr. Mitchell,
Every time you open your mouth you show your ignorance. You stated you nominated Ms. Hannum because she is on a fixed income. Well, everybody is on a fixed income including yourself, unless you take money out of the debt reduction fund and give yourself a raise.

Some people retired with a pension like Ms. Hannum did from Alcoa  Aluminum which is income for the rest of her life. Yes it’s fixed but a good income.

Some people retire with an IRA that they budgeted to save to have an income for retirement, but it is a fixed income depending how much was saved.

Some people retire on Social Security which is a fixed income with Medicare premiums taken out which reduces the amount of spendable income.

Carpenters, Plumbers, Brick Layers, Electricians, etc. are all on fixed income called hourly salary no matter how many hours they work. Same with factory workers and fast food workers and the unemployed on government assistance which eventually runs out.

The only people NOT ON A FIXED INCOME are sales people like car salesmen, insurance agents, real estate agents as they all work on commission.

It’s Ms. Hannum’s fault that she over spent on fixing up her property. That shows she can’t budget her own finances.

Every time you make a statement I wonder if your education didn’t get past the 10th grade.

Focal points should have been the Mayor’s agenda and better county purchasing procedure

Well it appears that Joel over at The Daily Times missed me (or something that I bring to the meetings) while I was gone.  When was the last time that the paper reported on the front page that a commissioner was “conspicuously absent from the meeting?”  ;-)  “Hugs” to Joel Davis and the people at The Daily Times.

The focal points of the Mayor’s picks for the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission should have been his hesitation for fixed rate financing and the purchasing problems within county government, rather than Hannum’s habitual tax delinquency.  I wrote about the Mayor’s agenda here and the purchasing problems here.  However, these issues don’t make for good front page headlines.

The people of Blount County understand though.  People routinely write me about the county debt.  My inbox had about two dozen emails asking commissioners to vote against Sharon Hannum and a couple to split the Budget Committee and Purchasing Commission.  None were in support of Hannum, or continuing status quo with the two bodies.

For a change your voices weren’t totally ignored.  A victory was achieved.  Blount County will now have a Purchasing Commission that is separate from the Budget Committee.  Let us hope that the new members will work to achieve better purchasing protocols for the taxpayers of Blount County.

Despite being absent from the commission meeting and having never said Hannum’s name in public, (The Daily Times noticed and reported that as well) the political machine of Blount County was rattled.  Hit dogs holler the loudest.  To the political machine I say, don’t hate me because The Daily Times reports some of what it reads on this website.

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away.

“Antigonish” (1899), Hughes Mearns

Woo hoo! The Budget Committee and Purchasing Commission will now be separate bodies

Commissioners Mike Akard and I have both previously tried to make the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission two separate, distinct bodies composed of entirely different members, with the exception of the Mayor who serves on both as required by state law.  Commissioner Akard tried to achieve this in October of last year and I tried it at the Agenda meeting this month.  Both efforts failed, with the recent effort failing by a single vote.

A new day is dawning though.  The political machine of Blount County failed to get enough votes (11 are required) to approve the same four people to serve on the Purchasing Commission.  It is now up to the community to convince the Mayor to nominate people who will ask questions and demand accountability for taxpayer money.

We have a couple of commissioners who will ask tough questions when they need to be asked.  It would be good to get a someone like commissioner Akard, a businessman, on this committee since he knows what to ask and has recently demonstrated that he will ask important questions.

Under state law the Mayor may choose citizens.  Such citizens should be people with purchasing experience.  If you know anyone with experience as a purchasing agent, who is interested in serving, please contact the Mayor and suggest that he or she be nominated to serve in this role.

The Mayors contact info: emitchell@blounttn.org  273-5700

Good job commissioner Mike Akard in seeing this through!!!

Because Cutting Spending is Never on the Table

From the Tennessean:

“A push is mounting for Tennessee’s first gas tax increase in a quarter-century, buoyed by growing interest from Gov. Bill Haslam and Republican legislative leaders who have historically opposed tax hikes of any sort. The intrigue at Capitol Hill comes as more than 40 Middle Tennessee mayors have called on the governor to find additional revenue for transportation projects that have piled up across the state.”

More here.

About 99% of people pay their property taxes before going to collections

Most people are paying their taxes before the county turns the bills over for collection by the Clerk and Master.  These figures are from the Blount County Trustee’s office.  No year since 1997 has fallen below 98.91%.  These figures don’t include the taxes that are late but paid prior to being turned over to the Clerk and Master for collection.

Property Taxes Turned Over to Clerk & Master
As Amended
Turned
Tax Year Over In Collected by Trustee $ to C & M Parcels to C & M
1997 1999 99.14% $206,144 436
1998 2000 99.56% $125,091 277
1999 2001 99.34% $192,113 359
2000 2002 98.91% $326,439 554
2001 2003 99.22% $249,562 463
2002 2004 99.16% $296,593 507
2003 2005 99.39% $212,301 383
2004 2006 99.54% $175,466 364
2005 2007 99.48% $214,620 394
2006 2008 99.31% $334,337 495
2007 2009 99.23% $399,615 621
2008 2010 98.91% $587,586 806
2009 2011 98.59% $768,695 1,130
2010 2012 98.98% $560,102 1,074
2011 2013 98.99% $648,955 909
2012 2014 99.08% $569,037 915