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.
*The cost savings to the state may be less in counties with a contract for state sentenced felons.
Gas tax and vehicle registration fee increase for 400 jobs?
When will the rule of law be applied equally to all businesses rather than tax breaks and incentives for the special few?
Republican state Representative Art Swann, one of two reps. from Blount County, received a $1,000 donation from James Haslam of Pilot Oil during the 2016 election, even though Swann had no opponent. Rep. Art Swann voted to raise the gas tax and increase vehicle registration fees.
James Haslam is a relative of oil baron, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.
Read more on state lawmakers regarding their votes on the gas tax & registration fee increases and donations from the Haslam family and JOBS4TN PAC, which is mostly funded by Bill Haslam, here: http://tennesseestar.com/2017/05/04/follow-the-money-campaign-receipts-may-shed-light-on-why-some-republicans-voted-for-the-gas-tax/
|HASLAM II , JAMES
P.O. BOX 10146
KNOXVILLE , TN 37939
Blount County’s state legislators aren’t exactly know for fiscal conservatism or advocating liberty. They’re supporters of big government. It’s not surprising to see Tennessee Representative Bob Ramsey, Representative Art Swann and Senator Doug Overbey vote to raise the gas tax and tag renewal fees.
The increase on a tag renewal for non-commercial vehicles is $5. The sales tax on food will reduce by 1%. That means that a two car family will have to spend $1,000 on groceries to break even on the new legislation. A three car family will have to spend more than $1,500 to see any savings and that doesn’t include the gas tax increase. The state tax on gasoline will increase 6 cents per gallon over 3 years and diesel will increase 10 cents over three years.
Pay close attention to your local officials. All three of these men were Blount County Commissioners prior to being elected to state office.
A couple of weeks ago I was waiting in a rather lengthy line at a drive-thru. I passed the time by being absorbed in discussion with a friend. When I got to the window to pay for my food, the cashier informed me that the person in the car ahead of me had paid for my food.
I’d been so engrossed in conversation that I had no idea who had been in front of me. The cashier could only tell me that the person paying was a lady with grey hair. All I could see at that point was the back of her head and the car pulling out onto the highway.
Whether this was a random act of kindness or someone who knows me remains a mystery. Either way, I am grateful and the experience taught me to pay more attention to those around me.
Agenda and Commission Meetings
This was a light month for the Blount County Commission. The agenda was short. There was a zoning request that was had no objections and the commission voted to approve its minutes and receive reports.
The only thing of significance that happened was the commission moved the regular meeting time of 7 PM to 4 PM. This was likely because the Republican Party of Blount County scheduled its Lincoln Day dinner for the same night at 6 PM. Commissioner Dave Bennett had the item placed on the agenda for the Agenda Committee but he wasn’t present at the meeting to explain his request. He is the former chairman of the local Republican Party.
Would the all Republican commission change the meeting time for the Blount County Democratic or Libertarian Parties? The Information Technology Committee meeting, which was scheduled for 6 PM the same night, was also canceled. I was the only commissioner present to vote against catering to the local Republican Party.
Paper takes down a story related to jail expansion
Last month I wrote about the Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) cutting me off and not letting me do the job that I was elected to do: ask questions and get answers related to jail expansion in order to make an informed decision. This month the paper removed a story from its website that it wrote related to my research and questions about this endeavor.
Blount County Tax Revolt, a local citizens group, asked me to come speak about the BCCP cutting me off and explain what I was prohibited from asking and what I had hoped to learn by asking questions. A reporter for The Daily Times was present at the meeting and a story was written. The story did not appear in the print edition but it was online with a link on the homepage of the paper’s website until the early afternoon when it was taken down.
The Daily Times has twice published that the Purchasing Department had an open meeting related to the jail RFQ. This cherry picked reporting is a disservice to this community. Most of the purchasing process related to the selection of a firm was done in secret because of a new state law. It seems that the paper is more interested in publishing the talking points of the courthouse clique than it is evaluating a new law that made what was formerly an open process largely secret. This law coupled with the actions of the BCCP have made my job more difficult than it should be.
At the March BCCP meeting, Purchasing Agent Katie Branham Kerr said that she would have to refer to her notes when I asked her who she had contacted in Loudon County when consulting references for the architectural firm Michael Brady Inc. (MBI). I requested a copy of her notes and all communications records that she had with other governmental entities related to MBI. Kerr informed me that she has no communications records related to MBI.
She says that she did contact someone at Loudon County regarding MBI but can’t remember who she spoke with or what office/department this person works in. I checked with the Loudon County Mayor’s Office to see if anyone had any recollection of speaking to Kerr or anyone from Blount County related to MBI. Anita Green with the Loudon County Mayor’s Office responded with, “I have spoken with several department heads and none have any recollection of speaking with anyone from Blount County.”
I’ll likely write more on this in the future.
Spectra Recycling Center to close
Blount County has been fortunate to enjoy having recycling services provided free of charge by a private company. Spectra will be closing its recycling center on May 1st. Spectra has provided recycling services free to city and county residents for 17 years.
While some recycling materials are profitable others are not. The demand for glass is low and many governments that provide recycling services have stopped collecting it during garbage pick up.
In 2015, I served on an ad hoc committee that looked at recycling options for Blount County. You can read the report issued by the chairman of that committee here.
If the county were to provide recycling, there will be costs associated with that service. We had a valuable service being provided by a private business. I don’t know if that service could have continued but I do wish that possibility had been fully explored before looking to provide a new county service. Do you support using your tax dollars for the county to provide recycling?
Open Records Policy
The commission will soon vote on an open records policy. Those who are interested in open government and obtaining or inspecting records will want to pay close attention to this.
Last week I wrote about the Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) sending a newsletter telling local elected officials to call their legislators in support of the IMPROVE act. This legislation increases the gas tax and raises the non-commercial vehicle registration fee $5 annually.
This organization is funded by you, the taxpayers. Here is a copy of the meeting minutes for the meeting that the TCSA voted to support the IMPROVE act. The TCSA website says the board endorsed the legislation. Since the meeting minutes don’t give a roll call vote of the TCSA Board, I asked if any voted against supporting the legislation that will soon be law. Executive Director David Connor wrote, “The board vote was a voice vote. No members voted against supporting the measure and no one asked to be recorded as a no.” The minutes contain a listing of the members that were present and absent from the meeting.
Do you think your tax money should be spent to fund an association that supports/endorses raises taxes and fees on you?
The press has many important functions that can be invaluable. As such, it’s important to know the people who are doing the reporting as it can give insight into the mindsets and biases that occur in journalism.
Buzz Trexler is the pastor at Green Meadow United Methodist Church and an editor at The Daily Times. His blog/website can help readers glean information about his approach to journalism and preaching.
There you will find that he preached a sermon at the Friendsville United Methodist Church entitled, “Christian Belief Is Like Penguin Sex.”
And that folks is who is editing your daily source of written news in the Bible belt.
I am attaching1 of 3 reports and they are described below. I will be sending the other two reports in another email. The governor’s approve (should be IMPROVE) act passed Wednesday and it will insure additional transportation funding for the state and local governments.
Report “A” Shows
· 1 bill we are watching on the house floor Monday, 4/24/17 and 2 on the Senate floor the same day.
· 20 active bills next week and of those bills 3 are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA
· 13 bills that have been placed behind the budget and are depending on funding by the governor’s final proposal. Of the 13 bills behind the budged 4 are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.
· 11 bills assigned to Calendar and Rules that have not been put on notice and 3 of those bills are strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.
· 6 bills in the House budget sub-committee waiting on a special calendar and of those bills 1 is strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA.
· 57 bills that have been placed in the Senate general sub-committee and of those bills 2 are strongly supported and 4 are strongly opposed by TCCA.
· 35 bills are off notice and of those 4 are strongly supported and 1 is strongly opposed by TCCA.
Report “B” Shows
· 11 bills that have been deferred until 2018 and of those none are strongly supported or strongly opposed by TCCA
· 5 bills recommended for summer study and of those 1 is strongly supported and 0 are strongly opposed by TCCA
· 77 bills have passed and of those 9 were strongly supported and 2 were strongly opposed by TCCA. Of the 77 bills 26 have already been signed by the governor and assigned public chapter numbers.
· 12 bill have failed and of those 2 were strongly opposed by TCCA
· 8 bills have been withdrawn and none of them were strongly supported or strongly opposed by TCCA
Report “C” Shows
· 144 bills have not been put on notice by their sponsor and of those 10 are strongly supported and 5 are strongly opposed by TCCA
Written by Ron Paul
“I love Wikileaks,” candidate Donald Trump said on October 10th on the campaign trail. He praised the organization for reporting on the darker side of the Hillary Clinton campaign. It was information likely leaked by a whistleblower from within the Clinton campaign to Wikileaks.
Back then he praised Wikileaks for promoting transparency, but candidate Trump looks less like President Trump every day. The candidate praised whistleblowers and Wikileaks often on the campaign trail. In fact, candidate Trump loved Wikileaks so much he mentioned the organization more than 140 times in the final month of the campaign alone! Now, as President, it seems Trump wants Wikileaks founder Julian Assange sent to prison.
Last week CNN reported, citing anonymous “intelligence community” sources, that the Trump Administration’s Justice Department was seeking the arrest of Assange and had found a way to charge the Wikileaks founder for publishing classified information without charging other media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post for publishing the same information.
It might have been tempting to write off the CNN report as “fake news,” as is much of their reporting, but for the fact President Trump said in an interview on Friday that issuing an arrest warrant for Julian Assange would be, “OK with me.”
Trump’s condemnation of Wikileaks came just a day after his CIA Director, Michael Pompeo, attacked Wikileaks as a “hostile intelligence service.” Pompeo accused Assange of being “a fraud — a coward hiding behind a screen.”
Pompeo’s word choice was no accident. By accusing Wikileaks of being a “hostile intelligence service” rather than a publisher of information on illegal and abusive government practices leaked by whistleblowers, he signaled that the organization has no First Amendment rights. Like many in Washington, he does not understand that the First Amendment is a limitation on government rather than a granting of rights to citizens. Pompeo was declaring war on Wikileaks.
But not that long ago Pompeo also cited Wikileaks as an important source of information. In July he drew attention to the Wikileaks release of information damaging to the Clinton campaign, writing, “Need further proof that the fix was in from President Obama on down?”
There is a word for this sudden about-face on Wikileaks and the transparency it provides us into the operations of the prominent and powerful: hypocrisy.
The Trump Administration’s declaration of war on whistleblowers and Wikileaks is one of the greatest disappointments in these first 100 days. Donald Trump rode into the White House with promises that he would “drain the swamp,” meaning that he would overturn the apple carts of Washington’s vested interests. By unleashing those same vested interests on those who hold them in check – the whistleblowers and those who publish their revelations – he has turned his back on those who elected him.
Julian Assange, along with the whistleblowers who reveal to us the evil that is being done in our name, are heroes. They deserve our respect and admiration, not a prison cell. If we allow this president to declare war on those who tell the truth, we have only ourselves to blame.
The Tennessee County Services Association (TCSA) sends local elected officials a newsletter, called Capitol Update, while the Tennessee General Assembly is in session. The TCSA failed to mention the purchasing secrecy legislation in the six issues that it sent to me in 2016. When I asked TCSA Executive Director David Connor why he didn’t include bills that made an open process a secret government process he wrote, “Since it was mirroring the process used at the state, I didn’t see a problem with it.” Two wrongs apparently make a right.
This year the TCSA has sent newsletter with a headline telling local officials to call their state lawmakers and tell them to support the gas tax increase included in the slyly named IMPROVE act. TCSA seem more interested in telling local officials what to do rather than keeping them informed of legislation that creates local government secrecy. Is the tail wagging the dog?