May 2015 Commission Report

The commission meeting got off to one of the worst starts that I’ve witnessed in all the years of attending local government meetings.  Citizens were ordered out of the commission room while uniformed officers were allowed to line the wall.  You can read more about that here.

I regret not speaking up at the time but it happened so fast that it caught me off guard.  However, I am doing what I can now to ensure that the discrimination against citizens doesn’t happen again.  Also, I am looking into the possibility of having the June commission meeting moved to a larger venue such as a school auditorium so that everyone can be accommodated fairly.

Commission meeting

Rural Metro will continue ambulance service
The commission approved Rural Metro to continue providing the ambulance service for emergency calls in the county.  The county will have more ambulances which should lead to quicker response times in rural areas.

The mayor held meetings which were technically open to the public but the public didn’t know about them, making them secret for all practical purposes.  A couple of commissioners expressed their displeasure with the way the mayor handled the negotiations.  This is nothing new.  The mayor has repeatedly handled important matters this way.

Campground regulations
Several amendments were put forward to the campground regulations that passed last year.  Most of these were good.  One amendment put a restriction on new business that will not apply on to current businesses.  New campgrounds will be forced to limit people staying at their campgrounds to 60 days.  Campgrounds already in business will not have this limitation placed on them.  Government shouldn’t be used to discriminate like this, giving a competitive advantage to preexisting businesses.

Furthermore, there was nothing in the regulations to allow for exceptions such as charity cases.  If someone were to lose their home to a fire or job loss and the campground owner wanted to donate the use of his land until the person can get back on his or her feet financially, new campground businesses will be prohibited from helping people who are facing hard times.

Instead of voting on the amendments separately, a motion was made to vote on them all together.  I asked to vote on the amendments separately so that I could vote no on the discriminatory 60 days limitation.  Commissioner Shawn Carter objected to unanimous consent which would have allowed a vote on the matter separate from the other series of amendments.  Since he objected, I moved to divide the question.  My motion to divide the question failed.  Thus, we had to vote on all the amendments together.  Only Commissioner Akard and I said no to the discriminatory regulation.

What Commissioner Carter and others fail to realize when they object to unanimous consent,  is that they do not save any time because a vote on the motion to divide still takes place.  The commission still has to vote the same number of times.  It’s really ashamed that commissioners won’t allow for separate votes on matters when a commissioner makes this simple request.  The whole reason for having open public meeting is twofold: to discuss the business of the people and to vote on the matters.  Several commissioners do everything they can to limit discussion and restrict voting, which are the very things that we as commissioners are suppose to do at the meeting.

The good news is that noise regulations will no longer be optional in campgrounds.

EPA Resolution
The commission failed to override the Mayor’s veto by one vote.  Shawn Carter was the swing vote who flipped.  This is really ashamed because the EPA has just expanded its jurisdiction over water through rulemaking bypassing congress.

Citizens Keith Miller and Troy Ball gave good reasons to override the mayor’s veto.

The resolution for regulatory relief had broader support at first.  Bryan Daniels of the Blount Partnership worked to kill it.  Daniels and the mayor haven’t shown much concern for the regulatory impact of the EPA on existing local businesses.  More businesses are shutting down than starting up.  We should be doing what we can to relieve the burden on existing business to preserve what we already have locally.

Daniels and Mitchell appear to be more interested in giving special deals to new businesses and cutting ribbons so that you can read about the new jobs they supposedly bring to the area.  Only adding to the jobs count without subtracting the jobs that have been lost doesn’t give the true economic impact under your tenure.

Listen to local businessman and County Commissioner Mike Akard explain the horrifying, costly effects of EPA regulations on his business.  Mike Akard’s situation feel upon deaf ears with 11 commissioners.

Environmental Court is envisioned for Blount County
In case you think that Blount County itself won’t enforce heavy handed environmental regulations, buried with the 1100+ pages of the commission packet was a liter collection grant application statement about a vision for an environmental court for Blount County.  My questioning of Jarrod Millsaps, who is listed as the contact person on the grant application, revealed that the vision statement was written by a former employee of the Sheriff’s Office.

My amendment to prohibit using the grant funds for the promotion or establishment of an environmental court failed.  Commissioners Akard, Archer, Cole, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted to ensure that the funds wouldn’t be used for this purpose.  The rest voted no.

The grant passed 16-5.  Who knows what kind of Environmental Court is in store for Blount County.

Evergreen Employee Classification and Compensation Study
In Washington DC style fashion, the commission took action on the Evergreen Employee Classification and Compensation Study.  This study was not available at the Agenda meeting.  Yes, you read that right.  The commission was asked to vote on making something official public policy without having a copy of what they were being asked to vote on.

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 includes huge budget increases to fund the salary recommendations of the Evergreen study.  The Budget Committee approved these recommendations without having a copy of the Evergreen study.

At the Agenda Committee meeting, I asked if anyone had a copy of the this study.  In early April when I kept hearing the Evergreen study being referenced in budget workshops I asked the HR Director for a copy of the study.  She told me that she didn’t have a copy of the final report.  At the Agenda meeting on May 12th, I asked if anyone had a copy of the study.  The HR Director told the commission that the report was not yet finished.

Think about that for a moment.  The budget was created around an unfinished report, the commission was asked to vote on an unfinished report it and the taxpayers are being asked to fund the recommendations of an unfinished report.  If I hadn’t raised the matter at the Agenda meeting, the commission wouldn’t have even been given the draft copy of what is available.  The Washington DC approach to government has become the way of Blount County government.  It’s irresponsible and doesn’t pass the common sense test.

Here is what the commission was provided after already being asked to vote on the matter at the agenda meeting.  The draft report provides information on tenure, classification and pay.

There are problems with this study beyond being incomplete.  There are 17 entities used for comparison but only one is a county (see page 13).  The county that Blount County is compared to is Knox County, a county with over 3 times the population.  8 of the 17 “market peers” are cities.  Cities do not have jails, Register of Deeds offices, Property Assessor Offices, or the complex court structures that many counties have.  Thus, on these positions the only comparison included in this study is to Knox County.

Furthermore, data was collected for Maryville City Schools, Alcoa City Schools and Knox County Schools but not Blount County Schools.  Why collect data for other schools but not for your own?

There is talk that Blount County Schools will pay to have a study done for the schools.  I question why that would even be considered when data has been gathered for 3 surrounding school systems.  Blount County Schools could organize its own data in house and use what the taxpayers have already paid for without making the taxpayers pay for a second study to do what the first study should have done.

Page 10 of the draft report shows employee tenure by department.  The national tenure average is given and then departments are compared to the national average.  This doesn’t provide a complete apples to apples comparison of tenure.  What are the tenure numbers for counties closest to us in size?  What are the tenure numbers by department and office?  This study doesn’t provide that comparison.

Most averages are above the national tenure average.  The animal shelter is less than 10 years old; therefore, tenure there would be lower by virtue of its short existence.

Much of the focus has been on Sheriff’s deputies leaving.  The tenure for Sheriff’s Department employees is well above the national median of tenure listed in the draft report.

The tenure information is interesting but I don’t see why we needed to pay someone to do this.  Each department could have determined the tenure of their employees, saving the taxpayers money used on this study.

While there are employees who deserve a pay raise, the incomplete Evergreen study has too many problems to be used as the foundation to base the raises on.  It was premature to adopt the recommendations from an unfinished report that failed to compare us to counties similar to us in size and economic status.

In April the commission refused to hear from the jail study consultant on a study that had been completed nearly a year before and in May the commission adopted the recommendations of a study that is not yet finished.  This doesn’t make for responsible government.

Commissioners Akard, Archer, Cole, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted no.  The rest voted yes to adopting something that still has the word draft stamped on it and only compares us to a single county that is much larger in population.

Resolution on intent to raise property taxes
The resolution stating that the commission intends to raise the property tax rate above the state certified rate passed the Agenda Committee 20-1, with me being the only no vote.  At the full commission meeting it passed 14-6-1.

Commissioners Allen, Bowers, Carver, Caskey, Caylor, Crowe, Farmer, French, Headrick, Lewis, Melton, Moon, Samples and Stinnett voted yes.
Commissioners Akard, Archer, Cole, Daly, Miller and Monroe voted no.
Commissioner Shawn Carter abstained.

Some of these commissioners have never seen a tax increase that they won’t support.  The only thing that can stop this is you.  An informed citizenry is the best defense of liberty.  Now is the to write emails and make phone calls.

Up next
The annual budget approved by the Budget Committee proposes a huge property tax increase.  I intend to do what I can to stop the tax increase by reining in government spending.

Commissioner and Alcoa businessman Mike Akard explains horrifying EPA stormwater regulations

Where is the Blount Partnership/Chamber of Commerce when you need them? Bryan Daniels was busy killing a resolution asking our federal legislators to provide regulatory relief for existing businesses. Listen to local Alcoa businessman and County Commissioner Mike Akard explain the horrible situation he faced because of EPA regulations. Your Mayor Ed Mitchell and the face of industrial development/recruitment worked to kill this simple request for regulatory relief that could help native local businessmen like Mike Akard.

Bryan Daniels’ salary should be cut and the money used to fund pay raises for the Sheriff’s deputies.

This fell upon the deaf ears of 11 commissioners. The resolution originally passed 11-10. Commissioner Shawn Carter flipped and voted not to override the Mayor’s veto. We should be looking out for existing businesses and spend less time giving special deals to foreign owned companies.

Chairman Jerome Moon orders standing citizens to clear commission chamber while letting uniformed officers line the wall

The May Commission meeting started with one of the most despicable acts toward the citizenry of Blount County that I’ve ever witnessed.  Chairman Jerome Moon ordered the citizens who were standing to clear the room while allowing uniformed armed officers to line the wall.

Citizens have historically lined the walls of county government meetings.  You can pull up archived meetings from previous years to see citizens standing along the walls without being ordered to leave.

Furthermore a member of the press, Harry Grothjahn of Truth Radio, was not allowed to enter the commission meeting room except for the 3 minutes that he spoke about items on the commission agenda.

Fire codes are the excuse but if they are so important why can government employees stand along the wall in large number?  No distinction was made by Chairman Moon as to off duty uniformed officers and on duty uniformed officers.

Furthermore, the citizens are smart enough to know whether they want to stand in a room or leave.  Laws are used by those in authority to suppress those that they don’t agree with.  The people have long stood against the walls of public building rooms.  Using the fire codes to suppress free speech is the latest tool of the political machine and should not be tolerated.

Conveniently this occurred at a meeting where discussion about a new pay scale for county employees was on the agenda.  The uniformed officers were able to clap for those advocating adoption of a new pay scale from an incomplete study, while the citizens opposing having their taxes raised, who weren’t able to obtain seats, were relegated to standing outside in the hallway.

One of my constituents said to me what are they (the commission) there for?  It seems that some have forgotten that they are there for the people of Blount County.

This video only shows the second time that Jerome Moon ordered citizens out of the room.  The first time he told them that they could stand out in the hallway while the Sheriff’s deputies could stand along the wall.  Moon’s first statement was likely made prior to the meeting starting and is therefore not available as a part of the commission meeting video.

Keith Miller reminds Commission of societal foundation, rebukes Jarrod Millsaps behavior toward Constitution

Keith Miller addressed the Blount County Commission at its monthly board meeting on May 21, 2015 about Blount County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Chief Jarrod Millsaps mocking Commissioner Tona Monroe for talking about her oath of office to the Constitution of the United States of America.  His statement serves as a much needed reminder of why the people of this country have suffered so much loss of liberty.  Cavalier and arrogant treatment of citizens from those in government should not be tolerated.  Government officials are to protect liberty, not treat those who cherish it with contempt.

Jarrod Millsaps has a history of mistreating commissioners and citizens.  A couple of years back, Mayor Mitchell held a meeting for county employees.  The meeting was open to the public.  A few citizens attended but it was mostly county employees.  During the meeting, Millsaps yelled at Linda King and then commissioner Jim Folts, for the whole room to hear, implying that they were responsible for what some of the employees viewed as problems in county government.

During the 2007 county budget discussions, Jim Folts, a citizen activist at the time, placed some literature on the table outside the commission room.  Jarrod Millsaps threw the literature in the trash.  You can read Barney Lowe’s statement regarding this incident here and here.

Keith Miller’s statement on Items Not on the Agenda
Regular Commission Meeting
May 21 2015

Commissioners Psalm 11:3 states “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous
do?”

At the last commission meeting, one of your number dramatized the Oath you all swore to the Constitution with the raising of her hand as she re-emphacized the seriousness of that oath. Shortly thereafter a member of the Sheriff’s staff made a flippant remark about the raising of one’s hand to take an Oath to the Constitution. I do not believe I have ever heard of such disrespect ever spoken by anyone with reference to the Constitution of Tennessee or the US Constitution. Especially disturbing is the fact that it came from an official in the Sheriff’s department. Not only is the US Constitution highly respected by the people of this county but some who have taken the oath referred to by that commissioner have given their lives in executing it. We would all do well to remember that when such an oath is taken as part of the military swearing in ceremony it means “I will protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic even if it kills me.”

The very bedrock of the temporal social order we have established as Americans is the Constitution. Let’s respect it.  Again Psalm 11:3 “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Keith Miller served in the United States Marine Corps.

Keith Miller and Troy Ball take Mayor Mitchell to task over EPA resolution veto

Keith Miller’s Comment on Items on the Agenda
Regular Commission Meeting
May 21, 2015

I would like to voice my support for the passage of item F-2. This is the vote to override the Mayor’s veto of the will of the people of Blount County. That will having been expressed by the elected representatives of the people and not by fat cats who seek to suppress the will of the people for personal gain.

During the last election cycle I recall the county establishment asserting that Blount County politics and Washington politics were not the same. I beg to differ. Washington politics is characterized by an arrogant chief executive who is happy to by-pass the legislature to bring hoards of illegals over the border. Washington politics is also characterized by a legislature that refuses bring the chief executive to heel by cutting off the funding for this alien invasion.

So what have we here in Blount County? Our County Mayor attempts to overturn the results of the 94 thousand dollar jail study with an absurd lawsuit, he appointed a committee to change ambulance companies which had meetings that were for all practical purposes secret, he and his finance director fast tracked a total of 900 thousand dollars in capital fund expenditures through a predominately lapdog commission…money which morphed into the problematic Kronos project. Not only that but he seconded a motion to send to the commission the infamous Evergreen compensation study which embodies all the ridiculous nature of Obamacare in that you must vote on it before you can read it since it is not yet finished.

By the way, still on the subject of skull duggery through secrecy, I spoke to Lamar Alexanders office today and they confirmed that a reading of the Trans Pacific Partnership Treaty, now before the Senate, is only available by appointment and if notes are taken they may not be shared with anyone.

Commissioners, this is your chance, in this little microcosmic equivalent of Washington DC to symbolically reject the attitudes of the boot-lickers in the US Congress, to raise a righteous fist against an out-of -control executive, to stand up for the people of Blount County and strike down the mayor’s veto by voting yes on item F-2.

Troy Ball’s Comment on Items on the Agenda
Regular Commission Meeting
May 21, 2015

I will be speaking on Item F-2.

I want to thank the eleven statesmen on this commission who voted to communicate with our legislators the longstanding problem of heavy handed mandate.  You stood for the property owners of Blount County and I thank you.

For those of you who have been told that this resolution somehow jeopardizes recruitment, consider what the costs to businesses already in operation are by allowing the EPA to continue expanding.  The Competitive Enterprise Institute estimates that complying with EPA regulations costs the U.S. economy $353 billion per year.  We need regulatory relief for existing businesses.

Problems with the EPA mandating control over local and state waters doesn’t stop with stormwater regulations.  Currently the EPA is trying to expand its control to virtually all water through rulemaking authority without congressional authorization.  If the EPA succeeds in circumventing congress, it will make the unfunded stormwater regulations look like cupcakes and rainbows.

While the Mayor vetoed the resolution asking congress to stop EPA expansion, our Republican representatives in the US House of Representatives have been busy working to stop EPA expansion over water under state, local and private ownership.  All of Tennessee’s 7 Republican Representative have cosponsored H.R. 594.  The House of Representatives just passed legislation, that according to John Duncan’s office goes further than H.R. 594.  The legislation mandates the EPA to include state and local election officials in the discussion of EPA rulemaking authority regarding what constitutes waters of the United States.

You may be wondering why it is necessary to override the Mayor’s veto if congress is acting on the matter.  According to Duncan’s office there is no companion bill in the United States Senate.  We need to ask our federal Senators to get busy in the Senate protecting against a rogue agency.

Frankly the Mayor looks foolish having vetoed something that all of Tennessee’s Republican Representatives are taking very seriously.  Congress knows the EPA is a problem.  You know the EPA is a problem.  Apparently the Mayor doesn’t.

11 of you stood strong as statesmen.  You can do it again by overriding the Mayor’s veto.  The rest of you have the opportunity to be statesmen by joining the 11 in saying enough to bureaucratic over reach.

Who are the Blount County good ole’ boys?

There is a letter to the editor today talking about the good ole’ boys of Blount County.  In case you are wondering who the elected officials in county government are that comprises the good ole’ boys, a political PAC Blount Lifestyles has made this easy for you.

The political machine isn’t just the local elected officials.  There are several people who helped finance these races.  These are the local elected officials that comprise the good ole’ boy network.

To learn who is not a part of the  good ole’ boy network, look at the 8 county commissioners and one General Sessions judge who are not on this list.

Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Tom Cole, Grady Caskey, Dodd Crowe, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe.  Juvenile Court (General Sessions) Judge Kenlyn Foster is not on this list.  These 9 elected local officials were not supported by the political machine/good ole’ boy network in the 2014 election.

Interestly 6 of the 8 commissioners voted no on the resolution saying that the commission intends to raise the property tax rate.  The two who voted yes, Grady Caskey and Dodd Crowe are Blount County teachers.

Is this what Achieve Inc. board member Haslam means by “compete in the global marketplace”?

wages

From Zerohedge:

Want A Low-Wage Job? Go To College

 

Perhaps it is time to rethink the “college for everyone” meme as ‘fair’ and instead realize it is nothing more than government delaying the inevitable of a middle-class being down-trodden to debt-servitude for the good of the few at the top who need credit to be extended to any or everyone in order for the obvious unsustainability to be exposed for all to see.”

Rider could block EPA water grab

https://arizonadailyindependent.com/2015/04/23/rider-could-block-epa-water-grab/

Last week, the United States House of Representative passed legislation regarding the EPA’s rule making authority on waters of the United States.  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114hr1732eh/pdf/BILLS-114hr1732eh.pdf

An Environmental Court is envisioned for Blount County

On the Commission agenda this month is a resolution (Item F7) to authorize the Mayor to apply for a liter grant from the State of Tennessee.  That sounds good.  I certainly am all for work programs to get inmates out of jail and back into society faster and for cleaning up the trash on the sides of our roads.  However, in looking at the supporting documentation provided with the grant application, there is a provision that is alarming and deserves further research and discussion.

Page 566 of the Commission packet says:

Environmental Issues: An Environmental Court is envisioned for Blount County.  KBB (Keep Blount Beautiful) Members lead this campaign by speaking with the members of the community about the need.  Budget constraints continue to be problematic for the issue.

With the recent stormwater regulations controversy about property rights violations, I have to wonder what exactly the mission for the Environmental Court will be.  Will the goal be to start dragging people into court for unintentionally planting a tree in a utility easement and slapping a hefty fine on the property owner?  Will the goal to be to start dragging people into court for planting too many of one type of tree on their property?  The idea isn’t so far fetched when you consider the the head of Keep Blount Beautiful just left to work for a stormwater association.

Who decided that this was a vision for Blount County and whether we should be giving tax money to a non-profit company (KBB) to promote the idea of establishing an environmental court?  The work program for Blount County Tennessee Department of Transportation Litter Grant says that this vision was submitted by Beverly Collins on May 7, 2014.

That’s the problem with these grants.  The commission authorizes applying for the grants and then bureaucrats gets to write the grants, goals and spend the money without any commission oversight.  It doesn’t make for good government.

Senate Majority Leader urges States not to comply with EPA regulations

http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/72083

From the article:

Writing in The Wall Street Journal on April 22, Kenneth C. Hill, Director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, said “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) set off a firestorm when he advised states not to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Yet that advice isn’t as radical as his detractors make it sound. As a state public utilities commissioner who deals with the effects of federal regulations on a regular basis, I also recommend that states not comply.”

Also see:  http://www.fb.org/index.php?action=newsroom.agendas&id=76