September 2017 Commission Report

Commissioner Steve Samples passes – Scott King appointed as replacement
After the death of Steve Samples, a meeting was called to appoint a replacement to Seat A of the 3rd district.  Scott King was appointed to fill vacancy.

Commission meeting
Commissioner Dave Bennett and Mike Lewis were absent.

Consent Calendar – no standards for resolutions honoring people
I (Tona Monroe) frequently vote against the Consent Calendar.  It’s possible that I’ve voted no on the consent calendar more than any other commissioner in Blount County history.  It’s certainly true in the 10 years that I’ve been attending commission meetings, with 3 of those years as a commissioner and 7 years as a citizen activist.  My reasons for voting no have never been thoroughly explained.

The commission approved a resolution honoring Steve Samples.  I was the only no vote at the commission meeting.  I did not intend for the resolution honoring Steve Samples to be resolution that resulted in an explanation of why I frequently vote no but the circumstances surrounding and within the resolution warrant discussion.

There is no standard for honoring someone with a resolution in Blount County, other than a commissioner deciding to sponsor it and a majority of commissioners voting to approve the resolution.  Any commissioner can file a resolution honoring anyone that they want to, for any reason they want to.  I don’t recall seeing any resolution honoring anyone being voted down during the decade that I’ve been attending commission meetings.

There has been recent controversy at the state level with who Tennessee should honor.  This country is struggling with who the USA should honor. Considering the lack of standards, it is understandable why people would get upset over some of the people that politicians chose to honor.

A free society doesn’t need the government making decisions about who to honor.  People should be free to honor whomever they want.  Some of the last people we need telling us who and what to honor are politicians.

The proper role of government is to assist in protecting your life, liberty and property while you pursue happiness.  A position of trust should be used for that reason, not to honor your friends, relatives, coworkers and those you deem worthy of praise and honor.  We have the right to peacefully assembly in this country.  Politicians who want to honor people should exercise that right, like any other citizen.

Perhaps governments’ role in honoring people should be limited to naming land marks, roads, bridges, buildings, and governments after people.  Governments and roads do need to be named.

At the very least, governments should develop standards to determine those who are worthy of honor if governments are going to continue honoring people.  This of course opens up a can of worms and is why decisions of honor are best left for people to make up their own minds.

         Debt
Some would say that Steve Samples is worthy of honor and give their reasons.  I’ll give a major reason why I chose not to honor him with a public resolution proclaiming how wonderful he is: debt.  Like so many politicians, Steve Samples voted to indebt future generations.

When he died, the county had debt extending into 2037.  He left a future generation to pay for the decisions that he made.  He was not a good fiscal steward who made sure that the county paid its way as it went.  The resolution says Samples “leaves behind a legacy of compassion, loyalty, and dedication to his fellowman,” but it fails to mention the debt he leaves behind.  Leaving future generations to pay for what you do today is inexcusable and certainly not honorable.

          Commission claims authority to proclaim that people enter into the joy of the Lord
My name was placed on the resolution honoring Steve Samples, without asking me if I wanted to sponsor the resolution.  This had never happened before.  I had my name removed for the reasons described and because of what was contained in the resolution.  The last WHEREAS clause of the resolution says:

“As the scripture says in St. Matthew 25:21, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Let me start by saying that I am in no way making the case that any mention of religion should be completely prohibited in or around government buildings.  The founders did not intend for the 1st amendment to the federal Constitution to prohibit people from praying before a government meeting.

This scripture is included in the whereas section of the resolution as though it is a statement of fact.  When did the Blount County Commission decide that it has the authority to proclaim who is entering into the joy of the Lord?  What’s next?  Will the commission claim the authority to sell indulgences?

Some of these same commissioners voted against even setting the agenda containing a resolution in 2015 that mentioned the wrath of God, among other things.  Now, as sponsors of the resolution, 19 commissioners and Mayor Ed Mitchell are claiming authority to determine who enters into the joy of the Lord.

During the statement portion of the meeting, Commissioner Mike Caylor berated Commissioner Karen Miller and me because we chose not stand with them during their honoring ceremony.  Miller and I stood but we chose to remain at our commission seats.  I stood out of respect for the people who elected to me to this position of trust and to be respectful of the proceeding but I did not participate in the ceremony portion for the reasons described.  Does Caylor’s boorish behavior show a lack of respect for the process?  Or is his boorish behavior the way he treats those that he disagrees with?

Vocational career equipment for schools
The commission approved spending money provided by the state to purchase welding equipment and a robot that is similar to what Denso uses at its training facility.  It is good to see funds being used for career training.  There has been far too much emphasis on going to college.

Teachers union lawsuit settled
The commission approved spending the funds to settle a lawsuit brought against the Blount County Board of Education (School Board) by the Blount County Education Association (commonly called the teachers union).  The budget was increased $417,657 to pay for salaries that had been in dispute.  Commissioners Grady Caskey, Dodd Crowe and Gary Farmer abstained because they are school employees.  Caskey was the President of the BCEA at the time the lawsuit was filed.  You can read what he wrote about the funding of education during that time here.  One has to wonder who exactly Caskey is representing in his capacity as a Blount County Commissioner.  Caskey was unopposed in the May 2014 primary election because the incumbent died shortly before the election.

Smart meter opt-out resolution
Excluding those absent, the commission unanimously approved a resolution thanking local utilities that allow their customers to opt-out of smart meters.  Privacy, health and safety concerns have been raised by many who do not want to be forced to have a smart meter as a condition of electric service.  Commissioner Akard stated that he hoped the City of Alcoa would allow its electric customers to opt-out of smart meters.

Commission pay raise pulled
Commissioner Ron French pulled his resolution to increase pay for county commissioners from the agenda.  This was French’s second attempt this year to increase the pay of commissioners.

The first attempt failed in the Agenda Committee.  The second attempt made it out of the Agenda Committee.  No reason was given for why Commissioner French pulled the resolution.  Commissioners Andy Allen, Archie Archer, Dave Bennett, Brad Bowers, Rick Carver, Shawn Carter, Grady Caskey, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Scott King, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton, Jerome Moon and Tom Stinnett voted yes at the Agenda Committee meeting to send the pay raise to the commission.  Commissioners Mike Akard, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted no.

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