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.

Tennessee Highway Patrol quota system

http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/article/124967/4-more-troopers-come-forward-about-dui-quota-system

http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/article/125069/thp-colonel-responds-to-troopers-claims-of-dui-quota

http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/article/125172/tennessee-department-of-safety-homeland-security-bill-gibbons-says-thp-has-no-dui-quotas

Apparently, it’s a top 15 priority

by Eric Holcombe

The Tennessee legislature currently has a 15-bill limit on House members. This means as a Representative, you likely have less than 15 bills of your own that you can advance because you also may be carrying companion bills for a Senator in the House – which may not be on you or your constituents’ radar at all, but all bills have to progress through both chambers. My Representative is now Jerry Sexton. He is a “freshman”, having just been elected, so this is his first House session. I was interested to see what bills Jerry would sponsor, hoping that maybe I could get a feel for his convictions and what he thought was important to change. However, I also realize the stranglehold the GOP (or whichever political club is in majority at the moment) has on the “freshmen” Tennesseans elect to represent them – as if somehow they are not equally as important as “ranking members” – even though obviously the actual voters wanted a change and booted the incumbent (Dennis “ghost-vote” Roach in this case).  So I took a look at Jerry’s bills.

See HB0616 for example. Gee, it seems kinda odd that for some reason it is a real high priority for Grainger County residents to prohibit their own county and local governments from being able to decide if they want un-manned vehicles driving around on their roads. I have been asking my neighbors how they feel about “vehicles equipped with autonomous technology” and if they are the ones pushing Jerry to prohibit ourselves from accidently deciding we might possibly one day find a reason they are not a good thing. The typical response is “HUH?”

Why would a representative go to the state to pass a bill into law that further removes liberties from his own constituents (and those all across the state)?

Of course, I know this isn’t Jerry’s bill. It’s Sen. Brian Kelsey’s bill (You remember Brian. He’s the attorney that introduced the constitutional amendment to remove your constitutional right to vote for the state supreme court judges- and keep attorneys selecting them for you – just like they have done illegally for the last 40 years.).

Senator Jim Tracy has amended this bill to camouflage its original language that explicitly stated it was prohibiting county and local governments from being able to regulate the use of unmanned vehicles on their own roads. Now it says “political subdivisions”. And the new, johnny-on-the-spot general assembly website even substitutes the language on the bills themselves – so you can no longer see what it was prior to amending. Convenient, yes?

So, Sen. Kelsey, just whose corporate welfare bill is this? Nissan’s? What happened to all that 10th Amendment talk? You want to claim the US Constitution when the federal government oversteps its bounds (unless they offer a lot of Common Core money), but then are plenty happy to steal the authority from county and local governments or the voters. Sen. Tracy wants to claim “it should be a local issue” when it comes to maintaining unconstitutional traffic revenue cameras – but apparently you local yokels are too incompetent to think about unmanned vehicles on the county and local streets you pay to maintain.

Republicans Will Never Cut Spending

From Reason.com:

” …the GOP-led Congress is now funding Obamacare just as much as the divided Congress did before, and now debt-ceiling deadlines are occasions not for the meaningful possibility of restraining Leviathan, but for quick rubber stamps. It will be fascinating to see what kind of federal budget the party plops on President Barack Obama’s desk.”

More here

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

Discrimination against the women on the commission

Judy Rollins wrote a letter to the editor about the discrimination against the women serving on the commission.  Here are links where you can read more on the subject.

http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=6324
http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=5661
http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=5607
http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=6150

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.