Archives

May 1, 2018 Local Election Issues

Harry Grothjahn of Truth Radio AM 1470 invited me to speak on his Sunday morning radio show to discuss important issues that you need to know about before voting in the upcoming May 1, 2018 local government primary election.  The interview was recorded so that you can listen to it and the slide show presentation is attached for your information and review.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of important local issues.  This is a good starting point in becoming informed for the upcoming May 1st primary election.

Let freedom ring!
Tona Monroe
Blount County Commissioner

May 1, 2017 local government primary election issues slides

http://tncitylinktv.com/archive/commissioner-monroes-most-important-blount-county-commission-issues-in-the-last-4-years/

Jeff Sessions Endorses Theft

By Ron Paul

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently ordered the Justice Department to increase the use of civil asset forfeiture, thus once again endorsing an unconstitutional, authoritarian, and increasingly unpopular policy.

Civil asset forfeiture, which should be called civil asset theft, is the practice of seizing property believed to be involved in a crime. The government keeps the property even if it never convicts, or even charges, the owner of the property.

Police can even use civil asset theft to steal from people whose property was used in criminal activity without the owners’ knowledge. Some have even lost their homes because a renter or houseguest was dealing drugs on the premises behind the owners’ backs.

Civil asset theft is a multi-billion dollar a year moneymaker for all levels of government. Police and prosecutors receive more than their “fair share” of the loot. According to a 2016 study by the Institute for Justice, 43 states allow police and prosecutors to keep at least half of the loot they got from civil asset theft.

Obviously, this gives police an incentive to aggressively use civil asset theft, even against those who are not even tangentially involved in a crime. For example, police in Tenaha, Texas literally engaged in highway robbery — seizing cash and other items from innocent motorists — while police in Detroit once seized every car in an art institute’s parking lot. The official justification for that seizure was that the cars belonged to attendees at an event for which the institute had failed to get a liquor license.

The Tenaha police are not the only ones targeting those carrying large sums of cash. Anyone traveling with “too much” cash runs the risk of having it stolen by a police officer, since carrying large amounts of cash is treated as evidence of involvement in criminal activity.

Civil asset theft also provides an easy way for the IRS to squeeze more money from the American taxpayer. As the growing federal debt increases the pressure to increase tax collections without raising tax rates, the IRS will likely ramp up its use of civil asset forfeiture.

Growing opposition to the legalized theft called civil asset forfeiture has led 24 states to pass laws limiting its use. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out of step with this growing consensus. After all, Sessions is a cheerleader for the drug war, and civil asset theft came into common usage as a tool in the drug war.

President Trump could do the American people a favor by naming a new attorney general who opposes police state policies like the drug war and police state tactics like civil asset theft.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/august/07/jeff-sessions-endorses-theft/

June 2017 Commission Report

“Last year we said, ‘Things can’t go on like this,’ and they didn’t, they got worse.”  Will Rogers

Annual Budget
Traditionally, each June, the Blount County Commission adopts an annual budget and sets the property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year (FY).  A fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30th, which is why the commission usually adopts the budget in June.  A fiscal year is denoted by the calendar year in which the fiscal year ends.  For example FY 2017 ran July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017.  Accordingly FY 2018 runs July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.

The Blount County Commission approved an annual budget in June of 2016 for FY17 that was $181,267,406 (see pages 105-107).  In June of this year, the commission adopted a budget for FY18 that is $195,958,364 (see pages 534-536).

Not all of this was an actual increase.  According to the county’s Finance Director (FD), Randy Vineyard, governmental accounting standards require some expenditures to be recorded twice.  Troy Logan, the fiscal administrator for Blount County School District told me that he couldn’t think of any expenditures that were recorded twice in the school’s budget.  Upon my request, FD Vineyard provided this spread sheet outlining the use of fund balance and the monies that are being accounted for twice.

According to the numbers provided by FD Vineyard, $5,381,930 is accounted for twice.  Based on these figures, that means that the commission adopted a budget that is $9,309,028 more than what it initially approved for the previous year, when the double accounting amounts are removed.  This is a huge increase for local government that will not be sustainable in the future without either growth in tax revenues or more tax increases.

The spreadsheet shows the county using $7,087,000 of fund balances from the various funds.  Some of the increase is for nonrecurring capital expenditures.  You can read my questions and FD Vineyard’s responses related to the use of fund balances here.  Please take the time to read this as it shows that $1.1M of fund balance may be used for corporate welfare for one company.

At the Agenda Committee meeting, I asked Mayor Ed Mitchell how much this secret company would receive from local governments (City of Maryville and Blount County) and the state of Tennessee.  He only knew what the county’s contribution will be.  Thus, local elected officials walk into these types of “deals” without knowing how much public money will actually be spent.

According to FD Vineyard the county’s General Fund grew to about $15M at the end of FY16 and an estimate for the end of FY17 had not been calculated in early June.  Property tax and federal inmate revenues may have been sandbagged in FY16.  Both came in higher than projected, and you were slammed with a higher property tax rate than necessary.  Some local elected officials may feel good about having accumulated such a large General Fund, but it came about as a result of two large tax increases (sales tax and property tax) not from being good stewards with your tax dollars.

$1.85M of fund balance will be used for Information Technology (IT) updates.  This is addition to the $4.1M that has already been spent for IT improvements and huge software purchases since 2014.  This new budget brings the total to nearly $6M that has or will be spent from 2014 through the end of June in 2018.

One would think that with such large expenditures that the IT Committee would be keeping a close watch on the various IT projects but it is not.  From June 2016 through June 2017 the IT Committee only met twice and during one of those meetings it lacked a quorum.  The Mayor canceled the other two meetings that were scheduled.

Blount County taxpayers will be forced to pay $96,717 in additional salaries and benefits to four office holders beyond the state mandated minimums.  These office holders are already some of the highest paid employees in county government and have been paid nearly double or triple the average salary of a Blount County citizen.

Chromebooks lease
The commission approved a 3 year lease agreement for Chromebooks for the schools.  I voted against this because the county will be paying interest when it does not have to.  The funds are available to purchase the computers without wasting any money on interest.

Medical plan changes
The commission voted to reduce the out of pocket maximum from $4,000 to $3,000 for health care and to charge $5 for the employee only dental plan.  The dental plan for the employee only is currently free.  The cost of the dental family plan is currently the difference between the price of the premium of the employee only plan and the family plan.  The dental family plan was also increases $5 and will become the difference between the employee only premium and the family premium, plus $5.  The county will be paying $22.14 a month for employees that are enrolled in either the employee only or family dental plans. These changes will take effect January 1, 2018.  The health care plans run the calendar year, rather than the fiscal year.

Interruptions continue
Commissioner Mike Caylor continued interrupting commissioners by twice declaring a point of order.  He appears to be abusing the power to raise a point of order to stifle discussion that challenges the status quo.

Up next:
The commission will look at hiring an architectural firm to renovate and/or expand the jail.

Senator Doug Overbey won’t confirm or deny consideration for US Attorney of Eastern District of Tennessee

Yesterday on the radio show Real News airing on Talk Radio 92.3 FM in Knoxville, Knox County political operative Kenny Collins said that multiple sources have told him that Tennessee State Senator Doug Overbey will be nominated as the next US Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Overbey would not deny or confirm that he is being considered for the position, saying today that he could not comment on the matter.  He did say that he had heard the same rumors, that I have heard.

One would think that if he wasn’t under consideration he would have denied the “same rumors.”  You can draw your own conclusion.

Scott Williams, who ran against Overbey for the 2nd district senate seat last year, said today that he is seriously considering running if Overbey vacates the seat.  Williams will be in a better position to win this time, as he will have more name recognition and team of supporters willing to help him campaign.

 

State prison inmate cost is $76 a day while TN pays counties $37 a day

According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections, the average daily cost to house an inmate in state prison is $76 a day.  That is more than twice what the state pays counties to house state felons.  The state currently pays counties a daily per diem of $37.  It’s no wonder that the state is content with letting their felons be housed in local jails.  It makes their costs lower, their books look better and it frees up more money to spend elsewhere.

But don’t worry the state is here to help local governments out by increasing the daily per diem rate for housing state felons in local jails to $39 a day.  That’s a whopping $2 daily increase.  Never mind that, at $39 a day, the state still averages saving $37 a day.*  State lawmakers and officials need to be able brag about being good stewards of taxpayer money by keeping the state budget lower and having a $2 billion surplus of your money.

Some good news: statewide recidivism was down in 2016.

Source: http://tn.gov/correction/news/49926

*The cost savings to the state may be less in counties with a contract for state sentenced felons.

On Military and Spending, It’s Trump Versus Trump

From the man who should have been President the last 8 years.

By Ron Paul

It can be a challenge to follow the pronouncements of President Trump, as he often seems to change his position on any number of items from week to week, or from day to day, or even from minute to minute. Consider his speech last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). It was reported as “fiery” and “blistering,” but it was also full of contradictions.

In the speech, President Trump correctly pointed out that the last 15 years of US military action in the Middle East has been an almost incomprehensible waste of money – six trillion dollars, he said – and that after all that US war and meddling the region was actually in worse shape than before we started.

It would have been better for US Presidents to have spent the last 15 years at the beach than to have pursued its Middle East war policy, he added, stating that the US infrastructure could have been rebuilt several times over with the money wasted on such militarism.

All good points from the President.

But then minutes later in the same speech he seemed to forget what he just said about wasting money on militarism. He promised he would be “upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything,” in what would be “one of the greatest military buildups in American history.”

This “greatest” military buildup is in addition to the trillions he plans on spending to make sure the US nuclear arsenal is at the “top of the pack” in the world, as he told the press last Thursday. And that is in addition to the trillion dollar nuclear “modernization” program that is carrying over from the Obama Administration.

Of course when it comes to nuclear weapons, the United States already is at the “top of the pack,” having nearly 7,000 nuclear warheads. How many times do we need to be able to blow up the world?

At CPAC, President Trump is worried about needlessly spending money on military misadventures, but then in the same speech he promised even more military misadventures in the Middle East.

Where is the money going to come from for all this? Is the President going to raise taxes to pay for it? Is he going to make massive cuts in domestic spending?

In the same CPAC speech, President Trump reiterated his vow to “massively lower taxes on the middle class, reduce taxes on American business, and make our tax code more simple and much more fair for everyone.” And that’s all good. So it’s not coming from there.

Will he cut domestic spending? The President has indicated that he also wants a massive infrastructure modernization program launched in the near future. The plan will likely cost far in excess of the trillion dollars the President has suggested.

That leaves only one solution: printing money out of thin air. It has been the favorite trick of his predecessors. While he correctly condemns the $20 trillion national debt passed down from previous Administrations, his policies promise to add to that number in a massive way. Printing money out of thin air destroys the currency, hastening a US economic collapse and placing a very cruel tax on the working and middle classes as well.

Following the President’s constantly changing policies can make you dizzy. That’s a shame because the solution is very simple: end the US military empire overseas, cut taxes and regulations at home, end the welfare magnet for illegal immigration, and end the drug war. And then get out of the way.

Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org/archives/featured-articles/2017/february/27/on-military-and-spending-it-s-trump-versus-trump/

Jail RFQ Evaluation Team/Screening Committee meeting Thursday at 8:30 AM

The jail evaluations will meet in the commission room on February 23rd at 8:30 AM to interview the 3 architectural firms that were chosen based on scoring of written qualifications.  These written qualifications and scores are currently secret due to a change in Tennessee purchasing law last year.  The public will still not be able to comment on the firms.  Purchasing Agent Katie Branham wrote of the interviews, “They are open to the public for observation only.”

Paper fails to mention that Comptroller’s Office doesn’t recognize $2 million in assignments

The article in today’s paper (Feb. 15, 2017) fails to mention that the Comptroller’s Office doesn’t recognize the assignments totaling $2 million related to the jail.  One would think that the paper would want the public to know this considering last year on September 7, 2016 the paper reported on the front page that the funds were assigned and not committed, trying to distinguish accounting terms.

From that story,

“’Assigned — not committed,’ Commissioner Chairman Jerome Moon said.”

and

“Vineyard said during Tuesday’s Blount County Budget Committee meeting. ‘I have assigned $1 million to public safety for the commission and this body to address whatever they need to address toward jail overcrowding.’”

The mayor and “management” don’t have the authority to express the county’s intent in assigning funds.  The paper should distinguish who has authority to express the county’s intent through assignments in the General Fund.