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.

Republican discrimination against the women on the commission

Some Republicans would deny that there is discrimination against the three women serving on the commission but actions speak louder than words.  During the general election in 2014, Jamie Daly and Karen Miller faced write-in opponents but neither received any financial support from the Blount County Republican Party.

Jamie Daly defeated Gerald Kirby in the primary election.  He launched a well funded write-in campaign.  Peggy Lambert said in the paper that she always supports the Republican Party nominee but a review of Gerald Kirby’s donations show that Lambert donated to Kirby in the general election, after he lost the primary to Daly.

The Blount County Republican Party gave Gary Farmer, who faced a Democrat, $5,000 for the general election. (See page 5)  This was such a large sum of money that Farmer returned over $1,500 back to the party.  Daly would have benefited from that money.

The Republican Party gave money to Sean Carter.  He also faced a Democrat in the general election.  (See page 7).

Earlier this week I spoke to Patsy Lunde, the Chairman of the Blount County Republican Party, about the party’s discrimination against the women.  The conversation was polite and it was evident that she had no good explanation for why the Republican party chose to discriminate against the women.

I asked Mrs. Lunde why the party did not give any money to Jamie Daly and Karen Miller.  She responded that write-ins don’t usually win so the Steering Committee didn’t think they should fund write-in campaigns.  I pointed out to her that her argument had no merit because the Republican Party donated to Kenneth Melton, who faced a write-in candidate in the general election.  (See page 3).

Her response to that was that Jamie Daly and Karen Miller didn’t ask the party for any money.  I reminded her that I called her during the general election and left a message telling her that the party should donate to Daly and Miller.  She never returned my call.  There was silence.  She did not respond to that statement.  She had nothing to defend the actions of herself or the party.

Finally I continued the conversation and it concluded with Mrs. Lunde saying she would pay more attention to the treatment of the women serving on the commission.  Some consolation to the voters who chose us and for all the hard work we three ladies have put into being commissioners.

Now the Mayor and the Republicans, that the party funded, are pushing for an unelected tax delinquent Democrat to serve on the Budget Committee.  Unfortunately, the Mayor is discriminating against the women on the commission and the Republican Party of Blount County appears to be happy about it.

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

Comments to the Commission regarding the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission

Thank you Mr. Chairman.  Tonight we have before us someone who is being nominated or re-nominated for 3 bodies.  If approved for all 3, that will mean that this board approves of her serving on 4 bodies.  We have commissioners who currently only serve on one body and others whose second body is one that rarely meets and/or had little power for meaningful reform.  We need to ask ourselves why we are discriminating against the voters like this.  They elected new leadership.  We should listen.

The nominations for the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission are the same four people.  Last month we only had one bid for the purchase of a commercial washer and dryer to be installed at the animal shelter.  Two business owners, in my district, have complained to me about how difficult it is for them to find out about the purchasing needs of Blount County and to participate in the purchasing process.  Another constituent, who is a purchasing agent for a large global company, shared a concern he had about our purchasing protocols.  Rarely are questions asked during the purchasing portion of the agenda and the packet often says for information only.  In light of these concerns, now is a good time to separate the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission.   Therefore, I move to send this back to the Mayor for separate (different) names for each of these bodies.

The motion failed 10-11.  Meaningful reform failed by one vote.

Akard – yes  Allen – yes  Archer – yes  Bowers – yes  Carter – no  Carver – no  Caskey – yes  Caylor – no  Cole – yes  Crowe – yes  Daly – yes  Farmer – no  French – no  Headrick – no  Lewis – no  Melton – no  Miller – yes  Monroe – yes  Moon – no  Samples – no  Stinnett – no

Interesting note, all 10 that voted yes are new commissioners.  Perhaps if just one more incumbent had been beaten in the last election this would have passed.

My New Year’s Resolutions

Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee in 1996 and 2000, was among the greatest salesmen for liberty who ever lived. He wrote the below Libertarian New Year’s Resolutions in 1998.

While you may have read this before, his sage words are worth reading over and over again.

———————-

Libertarian New Year’s Resolutions
By Harry Browne

– I resolve to sell liberty by appealing to the self-interest of each prospect, rather than preaching to people and expecting them to suddenly adopt my ideas of right and wrong.

– I resolve to keep from being drawn into arguments or debates. My purpose is to inspire people to want liberty ­not to prove that they’re wrong.

– I resolve to listen when people tell me of their wants and needs, so I can help them see how a free society will satisfy those needs.

– I resolve to identify myself, when appropriate, with the social goals someone may seek ­ a cleaner environment, more help for the poor, a less divisive society ­ and try to show him that those goals can never be achieved by government, but will be well served in a free society.

– I resolve to be compassionate and respectful of the beliefs and needs that lead people to seek government help. I don’t have to approve of their subsidies or policies ­ but if I don’t acknowledge their needs, I have no hope of helping them find a better way to solve their problems. No matter what the issue, I resolve to keep returning to the central point: how much better off the individual will be in a free society.

– I resolve to acknowledge my good fortune in having been born an American. Any plan for improvement must begin with a recognition of the good things we have. To speak only of America’s defects will make me a tiresome crank.

– I resolve to focus on the ways America could be so much better with a very small government ­ not to dwell on all the wrongs that exist today.

– I resolve to cleanse myself of hate, resentment, and bitterness. Such things steal time and attention from the work that must be done.

– I resolve to speak, dress, and act in a respectable manner. I may be the first Libertarian someone has encountered, and it’s important that he get a good first impression. No one will hear the message if the messenger is unattractive.

– I resolve to remind myself that someone’s “stupid” opinion may be an opinion I once held. If I can grow, why can’t I help him grow?

– I resolve not to raise my voice in any discussion. In a shouting match, no one wins, no one changes his mind, and no one will be inspired to join our quest for a free society.

– I resolve not to adopt the tactics of Republicans and Democrats. They use character assassination, evasions, and intimidation because they have no real benefits to offer Americans. We, on the other hand, are offering to set people free ­ and so we can win simply by focusing on the better life our proposals will bring.

– I resolve to be civil to my opponents, and treat them with respect. However anyone chooses to treat me, it’s important that I be a better person than my enemies.

Link here

Mitchell’s Budget Committee nominee Hannum has been habitually delinquent on property taxes

Sharron Hannum has done good things for our community and I commend her for her service.  The Mayor has nominated to her to serve on the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission.  There’s one big problem though; she doesn’t pay her taxes on time.

A call to the Trustee’s office on Wednesday confirmed that Mayor Ed Mitchell’s unelected nominee for the Budget Committee and Purchasing Commission has been habitually delinquent in paying her property taxes.  According to the Trustee’s office, both of Sharon Y. Hannum’s parcels have been delinquent three years in a row.  One parcel was turned over to the Clerk and Master for collection on the delinquent taxes.  That property became delinquent again and remained delinquent, at the time of the call to the Trustee’s office.

The memberships of the Purchasing Commission and the Budget Committee are very important to the financial well being of the people of Blount County.  The people deserve new leadership with the integrity to speak up and make the difficult decisions necessary for the financial well being of all Blount County citizens.

People have repeatedly told me that they are tired of business as usual.  The people deserve to know how the Mayor may be stacking the deck against fixed rate financing, and how our purchasing process is not getting the best deals for the taxpayers.

My calls to Sharron Hannum went unreturned at the time of publication.

Since Hannum will answer to the Mayor, instead of the people, it’s important that the people of Blount County have the opportunity to weigh in on the subject now.  The commission must approve or reject her nominations.  Any of the three great ladies, that the voters elected to serve on the commission, will do a fine job serving on the Budget Committee and/or the Purchasing Commission.  The three ladies have already proven they are the most fiscally conservative commissioners.

Question for you, the taxpayers:  Do you think that someone who is habitually delinquent on their taxes should be in a position of power to make decisions affecting your tax rate and how your tax money is spent?

Commissioner Last name Phone Email District
Archie Archer 336-1999 aarcher@blounttn.org 1
Sean Carter 405-5113 scarter@blounttn.org 1
Mike Akard 982-6369 makard@blounttn.org 2
Mike Lewis 984-0413 mlewis@blounttn.org 2
Steve Samples 984-6238 ssamples@blounttn.org 3
Mike Caylor 323-3143 mcaylor@blounttn.org 3
Gary Farmer 983-4778 gfamer@blounttn.org 4
Karen Miller 233-5185 kmiller@blounttn.org 4
Jerome Moon 984-3304 jmoon@blounttn.org 4
Jeff Headrick 982-3233 jheadrick@blounttn.org 5
Rick Carver 984-6774 rcarver@blounttn.org 5
Tom Cole 856-4995 tcole@blounttn.org 6
Dodd Crowe 742-6737 dcrowe@blounttn.org 6
Tom Stinnett 207-7207 tstinnett@blounttn.org 7
Tona Monroe 856-0814 tmonroe@blounttn.org 7
Brad Bowers 659-7711 bbowers@blounttn.org 8
Grady Caskey 368-4300 gcaskey@blounttn.org 8
Ron French 577-8393 rfrench@blounttn.org 9
Andy Allen 382-2528 aallen@blounttn.org 9
Jamie Daly 977–9822 jdaly@blounttn.org 10
Kenneth Melton 981-2683 kmelton@blounttn.org 10

 

Richard Hutchens thanks Joe and Linda King for service to the community

Linda and Joe King have decided to end Citizens for Blount County’s Future after 13 years of dedicated service to the taxpayers of Blount County.  Richard Hutchen’s email to them is below.

Joe and Linda,

First let me say that I consider it a true honor to have known you and worked side by side with you these past 6 six years.  Both of you have my deepest respect for your example and commitment to lead the way for fellow Blount County Patriots to join with your leadership in trying to bring accountability to our local government.  I am convinced that God called both of you 13 years ago to this work and now the time has come for Him to release you from this calling.

I truly believe the words of Paul have application to your Divine release.   “I have fought a good fight.  I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

I am convinced that no one else in Blount County could have done what you have done these past 13 years.  Thomas Jefferson perhaps said it best,  “The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance.” You should feel good about finishing your calling on a high note.  With your help along with 50 other active patriots, the “taxpaying citizens” elected 6 county commissioners to represent the taxpayer.

Your work is finished.  Their work is starting.

God will now hold them accountable for their stewardship.

Unfortunately, the “Fallible Nature of Man” is a very hard temptation to resist, and we have already seen early evidences that some among these new commissioners are already weakening on their campaign promises to protect the taxpayers from government excesses, waste and abuse.

I close this e-mail with a charge and two quotes to the six new County Commissioners who were elected by the Taxpayers.  It is a lot easier to be a “small minded, big ego” politician   than it is to be a “large minded, small ego” statesman.

When you decided to run for County Commissioner, “in your heart”, which did you want to be for the citizen taxpayer.  Are your votes reflecting that aspiration?

A quote I heard last month in church and a quote from Thomas Jefferson.  “Going with the flow is what makes rivers and men crooked.”  “Power is not alluring to pure minds.”

Ponder and pray about these ideals so that when you are released,  you can face God at the day of judgment with Paul, Joe and Linda and be able to say,  “I have fought a good fight.  I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Local business owner responds to purchasing problems

A local business owner responded to my monthly commission report by expressing his concerns with the way Blount County handles purchasing.  He asked that his personal information be removed because he doesn’t want any of his business partners suffering backlash from his comments on the subject.

“Hi Tona,

I just wanted to say thank you for all of your efforts not just being a rock of common sense and responsibility among so many squishy go-with-the-flow conformists on the commission, but also taking the time to keep the rest of us nose-to-the-grindstone types informed about what is going on in our local government.  You are doing an excellent job.

Regarding the issue of the county needing to get more bids on items and services they are purchashing, there is a web site where they are supposed to post these things, but it is little used.  You may already know about it, but if not here is a link:

http://www.blounttn.org/purchasing/select.asp

I check this almost every day to look for projects that my company might be interested in bidding on.  I do not remember seeing the commercial washer and dryer listed there.  Sometimes there are one or two items on the list, occasionally even four or five, but more often than not the list is empty as it is now.  For comparison, here are similar sites for the city of Knoxville, and for UT that always have many items on their list.

http://www.cityofknoxville.org/purchasing/

http://purchasing.tennessee.edu/bid_proposal_advert_list.html

I’m not sure what legal obligation the city has to post items on this web page that they intend to purchase (bid notices are also posted in the daily times and the two usually match – I check it daily also and didn’t see anything about the washer and dryer there either) maybe you could check with someone on their legal responsibility.  But putting aside the legality for a moment, it is not responsible government to conduct almost all of your purchasing without inviting interested parties to competitively bid and thus get a better price.  The web page already exists, so there is no excuse other than laziness on the part of well paid county employees (actually there could be other reasons but I won’t go there) not to list items there.  With the millions the county spends, I should not be looking at an empty list for weeks at a time.  My business resides in Blount County and pays a lot of taxes to fund Blount County government.  I should not be denied the opportunity to compete for county business because county employees can’t be bothered to do their job well.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year,”

I asked the gentleman if it was possible that the ad was in a different section of the newspaper.  His response is below.  Even if it was briefly listed online and in the paper one day, it shows how hard it is for people who try to keep up with county purchasing info to stay informed.  Clearly, these purchasing problems need to be addressed.  A great place to start is having a purchasing commission with people who will ask questions and demand more information and better purchasing accountability and policies.  The Purchasing Commission has been such a formality for years that mayor’s have called it by the wrong name, calling it the Purchasing Committee, when it’s the Purchasing Commission.  Tell Mayor Mitchell to split the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission into two separate bodies so that the taxpayers have more accountability during the purchasing process.  273-5700  emitchell@blounttn.org

 

“Tona,

I can’t say for certain that the washer and dryer was not posted in the paper – I don’t subscribe to the print copy or the online copy, I just review the community announcements section of the classifieds on their website, which is where bid notices are usually posted – here is the link I use:

http://www.thedailytimes.com/classifieds/community/announcements/?sd=desc&s=f_int_year

It is possible that the washer and dryer was posted in another section of the classifieds, or it might have been a day that I was too busy to check the classifieds, or I might just not remember since I’m looking for (other) things rather than washers and driers.  But it should also have been placed on the purchasing web site, and I’m pretty sure it was not.  Rather than the notice in the paper, which only appears for one day, items remain on the purchasing web site until the bid date, so I should have seen it there every day for a couple of weeks at least.  My memory is not what it used to be, but I hope it’s not that bad yet.

Right now the purchasing web site is empty – no listing for a health care benefits broker.

I think some departments might have lists of vendors that they have done business with before that they solicit bids from for new items, but the bid notices should also be made public (as should the lists of vendors that are sent bid invitations) so all vendors have an opportunity to bid if they choose.  Apparently this is done in some cases, but too often it is not done.  I’m sure the city of Knoxville and UT have issues as well, but comparing the amount of items on their purchasing sites to what Blount County has on theirs, they are miles ahead of us.

Thanks,”

Update: I received an email regarding this post that speaks to this matter.  Thus, I will try to learn more about this process and see what can be done to get better deals for the taxpayers.

“Tona,

What I have seen in dealing with McMinn County (and I would expect Blount to be similar) is that for work/items <$10,000 in value they (whomever for the County is purchasing) only have to obtain three independent prices to get a requisition approved. I.e. your washer and dryer example may not be publicly bid, but they should have obtained three prices and those can be obtained at the discretion of the purchaser. If the work/item is >$10,000 then there is a public bid and advertisement required, usually 10 days (calendar) prior to bid opening. They are only required to advertise it once locally, so the website is a luxury of sorts, but not required. McMinn also has a list of contractors that they will send the bid advertisement to on the jobs I design (or additional ones that I suggest) to increase the potential number of bidders.”

 

The heart of the matter: Is Mitchell stacking the deck against fixed rate financing?

The Mayor’s discrimination against the three elected women now serving on the commission is evident, but my previous article only alluded to the heart of the matter which will directly affect the taxpayers of Blount County.  Mayor Ed Mitchell appears to be working to stack the deck against fixed rate financing in the future.

As I mentioned previously, Mitchell did not want fixed rate financing on the Series E-3-B debt because it requires a larger use of monies to pay principal on debt.  The recently refinanced loan contained balloon indebtedness; where the principal payments were delayed until the end of the loan.  Paying only the interest freed up more money to waste the past 13 years, while kicking the can down the road.  It’s a generational curse, a morally reprehensible sin and it’s shameful to place this kind of large unstable debt burden on future generations.

Before the economic meltdown in 2008, few people understood the risks involved with variable-rate-demand-obligation financing.  It’s still a complicated subject that few understand.  However, what isn’t hard to understand is that paying on debt for 13 years without paying a single penny on principal doesn’t make sense.  One man said to me, “It’s stupid.”

The good people of Blount County have been telling their commissioners that it is time to pay principal and live within a frugal budget instead of raising taxes.  The commission rose to the challenge in November securing fixed rate financing for the Series E-3-B debt.  Control of the commission got away from the Mayor.

The commission will be faced with refinancing a much larger amount of debt in 2016, about $79.8 million, because the county still has 37.5% of it’s debt in variable rate financing.  With Mitchell nominating his friend to the Budget Committee, he may well have a second vote to stop common sense fixed rate financing on this debt.  Sharon Hannum is Mitchell’s friend to whom he gave an award earlier this year; creating a politically convenient conflict of interest.  Hannum won’t be voting on her own salary and benefits, but being given awards and being highly praised in public is usually persuasive in getting what one wants from someone.  It appears to be a smart move on his part but its a bad move for the taxpayers.

Commissioner Mike Lewis is on the Budget Committee.  He is the commissioner who made the motion to seek common sense fixed rate financing on the Series E-3-B debt.  He voted yes to send it on from the Budget Committee without any hesitation.  However, at the November Commission meeting, he appeared to waffle, trying to kill it at the last minute.  He made a motion to look at keeping the debt in variable rate financing.  Thankfully the motion failed.

With Mitchell against common sense fixed rate financing, his friend whom he regularly flatters with an award and public praise, and Commission Lewis who waffled, that may be all that Mitchell needs to stop fixed rate financing when the next series of debt refinancing comes before the commission.

The other two commissioners on the Budget Committee are Commissioners Jerome Moon and Tom Cole.  Moon will go which ever way the political wind blows.  Look at his voting record for ample evidence of that.  Commissioner Cole voted no on Commissioner Lewis’ original motion to seek fixed rate financing.  He did vote for it when it came before the commission after receiving approval from the state comptrollers office.  There doesn’t appear to be anyone on the Budget Committee who will fight for the people.

Thus, if Mitchell gets his way, he may have the deck stacked on the Budget Committee; putting an end to fixed rate financing in the future.  The taxpayers need to be aware.  That’s why I sounded the alarm on Mayor Mitchell’s nomination.  The discrimination against the women now serving on the commission is not good, but what is being done against the best interest of the Blount County taxpayers in the future is even worse.

December 2014 Commission Report

Commission reports are coming out later than anticipated because the commission meetings can generate more questions than answers.  In an effort to do through reporting, the reports are delayed while seeking answers.  All commissioner were present at the commission meeting.

Animal Shelter
There were three items on the agenda regarding the animal shelter. A couple of people have contacted me in states of confusion about these votes thinking that all three were one issue.  Hopefully this report will clear up any confusion.

The first was a request for a second animal control officer.  Currently there is only one person performing the duties of an animal control officer.  There is a need for another animal control officer.  However, I voted against the measure because the previous director of the shelter worked in the field doing animal control service.  A new director was hired and given substantially more pay than the previous director, yet he does not have the same job responsibilities.  The new director now handles paperwork that was previously done by the Mayor’s assistant.  With the new director getting substantially more pay, he should be on call to fill in for the other animal control officer.  Additionally the last part time employee was made full time this year.

Furthermore, the animal shelter budget has been steadily increasing; rising nearly 37% since FY11.
FY 11 $223,942
FY 12 $263,901
FY 13 $272,625
FY 14 $320,387
FY 15 $355,426 (appropriated)

Thus, with increases in the staff hours, budget and pay for the director I didn’t feel it was wise to add more to the shelter budget.  Government spending can quickly spiral out of control and I didn’t want to add more to a budget which has been growing so rapidly.  Commissioners Cole, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted no.  The rest voted yes.

The second item was a request for $12,000 for a new commercial washer and dryer along with the installation costs.  $6,000 was paid for with donations, the other half with tax money.  The donation account had about $8,200 in it and the director told the commission that he had no plans for the additional donation money.  Thus, I made a motion to amend to use $8,000 of donation money and thereby use $2,000 less of tax revenue.  The common sense motion was defeated 7-14.
Akard – yes  Allen – yes  Archer – no  Bowers – no  Carter – no  Carver – no  Caskey – yes  Caylor – no  Cole – yes  Crowe – no  Daly – yes  Farmer – no  French – no  Headrick – no  Lewis – no  Melton – no  Miller – yes  Monroe – yes  Moon – no  Samples – no  Stinnett – no

The question was asked of me why the Commission would reject this amendment when there was no plan to use this money.  I don’t know but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the director put in a request for a new phone system utilizing the leftover donation money.

The resolution passed 20-1 with my vote for it because the equipment was needed.  However, there was another problem with this request that likely stems from purchasing.  The county only received one bid for the washer and dryer.  There are five employees in purchasing.  There is no reason why these people can’t obtain more bids.  I will work toward more accountability from purchasing.

Furthermore, the Purchasing Commission and the Budget Committee have been operating as one body for several years.  The purchasing portion of the packets routinely say for “information only.”  The Mayor and commissioners serving on the Purchasing Commission have not been doing their jobs in demanding more from our purchasing employees.  Tell the Mayor that you would like to see more effort from the Purchasing Commission.  273-5700 emitchell@blounttn.org

The third vote approved funds for a shelter vet and vet tech.  The funds were provided by Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation.  The vet will now be a county employee.  I wanted to look at making the vet serve through independent contract labor rather than being a county employee because the county health care benefits are so rich.  However, there wasn’t time this year since the funding will kick in with the new year.  Thus, I voted for it and am looking into regulations for contract labor to see if this idea is feasible in the future.

The hard work and dedication of the volunteers and donors is greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Judicial Commissioners – Business as usual
The Commission was back to business as usual, with several commissioners pencil whipping the appointments of Judicial Commissioners.  Judicial Commissioners have great powers including issuing issuing arrest warrants and setting bail, but the county commission takes a lackadaisical approach to these important appointments.

There were no resumes in our packets.  I made a motion to postpone the matter for one month so that we could be furnished resumes.  The motion failed 6-15.
Akard – no  Allen – no  Archer – yes  Bowers – no  Carter – no  Carver – no  Caskey – no  Caylor – no  Cole – yes  Crowe – yes  Daly – yes  Farmer – no  French – no  Headrick – no  Lewis – no  Melton – no  Miller – yes  Monroe – yes  Moon – no  Samples – no  Stinnett – no

The terms of the appointments are for one year and automatically renew unless the commission passes a resolution to stop the automatic renewal.  Amendments to require annual approval by the commission failed.  Previous terms have been 4 years.  Judge Bill Brewer told the commission that the shorter terms were necessary to prevent having to use an ouster suit to remove a non-performing judicial commissioner.  He said that the county almost had to pursue one to terminate a judicial commissioner.  When I questioned him on the matter, he retreated telling me that it wasn’t as bad as he made it sound, that the reason for poor job performance was excessive absences and that the judicial commissioner had quit.  When I asked him who recommended this judicial commissioner to the county commission he gave the convenient answer that he didn’t remember.

The statute governing judicial commissioners says:

No member of the county legislative body of any county to which this subdivision (a)(1)(B)(i) applies shall be eligible for appointment as a judicial commissioner

One of the nominees is a City of Alcoa Commissioner.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to appoint someone serving in a legislative capacity to also serve in another branch of government.

Judge Brewer informed the commission of the training required to be a judicial commissioner.  He also told us that the county attorney suggested that we do the annual appointments and that the judicial commissioners are subject to discipline by the Court of the Judiciary.  There are problems with what he told the commission.  There is no county attorney and the Court of the Judiciary was abolished by the state legislature in 2012.  Honestly, I think Judge Brewer could stagger into the commission room and slur his words and that the Commission would rubber stamp the appointments.  Only Commissioners Cole, Miller and I voted no.

Rules – Petty Politicians
Please read this article about the petty politicians serving on your commission.  Resolutions are now required to go through the Agenda Committee unless at least 2/3 of the commission votes to add the resolution to the agenda of the commission meeting.  The Agenda Committee is still optional per board rules.  I made a motion to amend Rules 12 to fix this.  Chairman Jerome Moon declared my motion out of order.  I challenged the rule of the chair but only 4 other commissioners joined me in following the rules.  Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe showed respect for the democratic process.  The rest did not.  That wasn’t the only time that chairman Moon cut me off.  He cut my microphone off while discussing the Judicial Commissioners.  He has repeatedly cut my microphone off.   jmoon@blounttn.org

War Memorial
The commission approved plans for updating Blount County War Monuments.  This should be neat to see when it’s completed.

Up next: Budget Committee and Purchasing Committee nominations
It’s high time that we demand more accountability from the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission.

Happy New Year!