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!

Female Commissioners on the Budget Committee, the Financial Management Committee and the Purchasing Commission

Women serving on fiscal bodies since 1990
Commissioner Donna Dowdy served on the Budget Committee when a woman, Beverly Woodruff, served as Mayor and made the nomination.
Judy Hackeny served on the Purchasing Commission by virtue of her position as the purchasing agent for the county according to Clerk Roy Crawford.
Mae Owneby served on the Financial Management Committee by virtue of her position as the Director of Schools according to Clerk Roy Crawford.
Commissioner Jane Fleming served on the Financial Management Committee in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  I think that I read in the Commission minutes that she also served on the Budget Committee in the early 90’s but I didn’t make a copy of that so I will have to recheck that.

The early 1990’s was as far back as Rhonda Pitts and I researched.  Assuming that Crawford is correct, only one woman commissioner was nominated by a male mayor from the 90’s on.

Letter to the Mayor regarding discrimination against women on the Commission

There has been a longstanding history of discrimination against women serving on the commission.  In 2010 the local Republican machine made defeating former Commissioner Wendy Pitts Reeves their top priority.  The machine succeeded.  She was replaced by Jerome Moon, who is now in his 4th year as Chairman of the Blount County Commission.

This year the local Republican machine made defeating commission candidate and citizen activist Linda King their number one goal.  They succeeded.  We have to deal with surly Gary Farmer as a result.  The man lives with a perpetual scowl on this face.  Various comments made to me have made it clear that I will be the number one target of the local Republican establishment if I choose to seek reelection in 2018.

A review of the Budget Committee packets online, dating back to 2001, lead me to discover that only one female commissioner has served on either the Budget Committee or the Purchasing Commission this millennium.  Donna Dowdy was nominated by a woman: Mayor, Beverly Woodruff.  In reviewing commission minutes at the courthouse, it appears that the last time a woman commissioner served on either of these Committees, absent a woman mayor, was in the early 1990’s.  Thus, it’s evident that there is longstanding discrimination against women on the county commission.

I brought the matter to the attention of the mayor.  He has responded by taking an unprecedented step while still discriminating against the women on the commission.  He is going to nominate an unelected woman to serve on the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission since State law allows for non-members of the commission to serve on those bodies.

His nomination will be his friend, Sharon Hannum.  Mitchell is trying to save face by doing this, but the thinly veiled discrimination against the three women serving on the commission continues.  Mitchell will control Hannum like a puppet on a string, which is exactly what he wants.

Mitchell was against the county seeking the common sense fixed rate financing.  Listen to Mitchell’s long hesitation to vote yes on seeking fixed rate financing during the November Budget Committee meeting.  The four commissioners voted yes, yes, yes, yes without any delay in time.  Mitchell finally caved to save face.  He wanted to keep the casino gambling style financing because it left in place balloon principle payments not due until 2030 and 2031.  His reason for hesitation is obvious.

Beginning next fiscal year, the county will have to make larger payments on the Series E-3-B debt because it will be paying on the principle and the interest.  Mitchell wanted to use the monies in debt service to continue funding the waste in his departments instead of biting the bullet to pay down debt.  Commissioners were getting complaints from their constituents, for good reason, that it was absurd to have not paid a single penny on the principle for 13 years.  Thus, the commission did the right thing in seeking responsible fixed rate financing.

Putting Hannun on the Budget Committee could give Mitchell a vote in his favor the next time he wants to kick the can down the road.  She will answer to him for reappointment and not to the people because she is elected by no one.  Allowing the Mayor to appoint someone, who will make critical financial decisions for the County, without answering to the voters is a bad idea.

Mitchell is refusing to end the dark history of discrimination against women serving on the commission.  His September nominations did not include a single woman on the commission.  Tell him what you think.  273-5700  emitchell@blounttn.org

Tona Monroe
County Commissioner, District 7 Seat B
853 Marble Lane Greenback, TN 37742
(865) 856-0814

Ed Mitchell Blount County Mayor
341 Court Street
Maryville, TN 37804

December 22, 2014

Dear Mayor Mitchell,

Earlier this year, I informed you of the lengthy history of discrimination against women on the commission serving on the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission.  You have decided to continue discriminating against the people of Blount County, who elected three women to serve as their commissioners, by taking the unprecedented move of nominating an unelected woman, who you will control because she answers to you and not to the people.

It is the people’s business that we are tending to, but rather than honoring the voters’ choices you have invented a new way to perpetuate a longstanding problem of discrimination against women serving on the county commission.  This takes the problem to a whole new level because your decision makes the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission a step removed from the voice of the people of Blount County.

During the general election, the Blount County Republican Party gave money to several men facing challengers, but gave nothing to the women facing challengers.  Gary Farmer received $5,000.  This was such a large contribution that he actually returned over $1,500 back to the Republican Party.  Jamie Daly, who faced a well funded opponent in the general election, would have benefited from the unused money given to Gary Farmer.

Furthermore, during the general election at the courthouse, your treatment of the women now serving on the commission was disdainful.  You catered to the men running for office; asking them if they needed anything, while scornfully driving past the women without even speaking.  And, you were not the only Republican expressing resentment toward the women candidates.

Some Democrats say that there is a Republican war against women.  Unfortunately, this appears to be the case regarding the ladies elected by the people to serve on the commission.  I hope that you will prove the Democrats wrong; by ending your discrimination against the elected women commissioners serving on the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission.

Sincerely,

Tona Monroe

 

Cc: Blount County Republican Party, Blount County Republican Women, Blount County Democratic Party, League of Women Voters, The Daily Times, Knoxville News Sentinel, State Senator Doug Overbey, State Representative Art Swann, State Representative Bob Ramsey, Chris Devaney Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, Republican National Committeewoman Peggy Lambert, Republican National Committeeman John Ryder, Republican State Committeeman Rob Ailey, Republican State Committeewoman Susan Mills, WBCR AM 1470, The Knoxville Journal, WBIR, WVLT, WATE, The Rude Awakening

 

Related articles: http://www.bcpublicrecord.com/?p=5661

County employee health care benefits have been free for a long time

Earlier this month, BC Public Record published some information regarding the history and cost of County health care benefits that contained factual errors, due to poorly kept county commission records.  It appeared that county employees actually paid rates that were more inline with the private sector based on the commission minutes available below.  Under Insurance/Risk Management Committee Report the minutes says “the following insurance rates” were recommended and the Commission approved the rates.

BC Public Record wanted to learn exactly when county employees began receiving their health care insurance for free.  Calls to General Services and a conversation with Blount County Clerk Roy Crawford provided a stunning answer.  Crawford said that he has worked for the county for nearly 40 years and that the employee only benefits were free during all of his employment, until this year.  He said that the confusion was due to poor wording on his part.  Crawford has always been friendly and responded promptly.

What these minutes show is the how much the cost of health care benefits have risen.  $240 for employees only and $187 for dependents were the budgeted costs in FY 1996-1997.  Director of General Services told BC Public Record that the current budgeted costs are $425 for employees and $550 for dependents, which brings the total to $975 per month for an employee and their family.  Current dental care costs are available here.  This is a tremendous expense and it’s time to bring the county health care insurance costs more inline with the private sector.

 

CC96HealthDentalBenefits

Torture and Blowback

From Downsize DC

Libertarians have long argued that an aggressive U.S. foreign policy results in blowback — acts of terrorism designed to avenge real or perceived assaults by the U.S.

The political class has long sneered at this argument. Your friends may even have accused you of hating America whenever you’ve used this line of reasoning. But now, the tables are turning.

Politicians are responding to the recent CIA torture report in ways that justify the blowback theory. This gives you a powerful new argument to defend your position. The article below explains this development. Read it, and if you like it, do three things…

Do politicians now agree that an aggressive U.S. foreign policy causes blowback?

By Jim Babka

The recently released CIA torture report has caused the WARfare statists to contradict themselves.

In the previous decade, if you said that blowback explained 911, then you were accused of justifying or even siding with terrorists. Here’s Rudy Guiliani, in 2007, so-accusing Ron Paul and garnering wild applause: http://youtu.be/cQrwKr_b4Lg

But…

After the release of the CIA torture memo, we learn that blowback is very REAL. Dick Cheney and his pals are claiming that these reports increase the danger of a response by al Qaeda or ISIS or whoever the fear-based flavor of the week may be. In other words…

BLOWBACK

The torture report also informed us that the CIA torture architects didn’t even read their own agency history on this subject. So this might come as a surprise to them and their fans…

The CIA actually coined the term blowback.

Blowback means an unintended consequence rebounding from a covert act. It’s simply a fancy word for revenge. But…

Because so many of the acts that lead to blowback are covert, U.S. citizens are often confused about why the U.S. has been targeted. Here’s an example…

When Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in 1979, most Americans had no idea why our embassy had been targeted. But every Iranian citizen knew. Our embassy had been used to stage a CIA coup against Iran’s democratic government in 1953. The infamous Iranian hostage crisis was simply blowback for that previous act of covert aggression by U.S. agents.

This is the kind of history that most libertarians know, but most other Americans don’t know. Now…

It must become widely known that the idea of blowback was NOT invented by libertarians. It was a word coined by the CIA itself, to name a very REAL problem.

And the risk of blowback is growing! That’s what happens when you torture people. Their allies and loved ones tend to want revenge. And the warfare statists, like Dick Cheney, are now making it clear that they understand this too. You can further judge this by the CIA’s own actions…

If torture actually protected America, if it brought no risk of blowback, then the CIA should be PROUD of its work. It should be willing to trumpet what it did and what was gained from it. They should use it as a “deterrent” to would-be terrorists. Instead…

Jose Rodriguez, the former Chief of the CIA’s Clandestine Service — the man who created the torture program — destroyed the video tapes of the torture proceedings, rather than share them with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Why? Wasn’t he proud of his work? Didn’t he want Congress to see what he had done to protect America?

Rodriguez explained his action to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday (12/14). He destroyed the videos because…

“My intention… was to protect the people who work for me and whose faces were shown all over those tapes. I was concerned for their safety. I knew the tapes would leak some day and I was concerned that al Qaeda would try to go after them and their families. That was the reason that I destroyed the tapes.”

BLOWBACK! Then, he went on to say…

“There was a second reason, and that was that I was concerned about the survivability of the clandestine service because I knew that once the tapes leaked, the mainstream media would not make a distinction between a legal program as the one that we had, and programs like Abu Ghraib.”

In other words, there was nothing to celebrate. Rodriquez is admitting that his work wouldn’t survive the scrutiny of natural human empathy. Nearly all of us recognize each other’s humanity. It might take a bit of time, but eventually, we even recognize the humanity of our enemies. Rodriquez clearly understood what would happen if you and your neighbors had a chance to see his work. You would’ve been revolted. You would have wanted a more American approach.

Worse, in a slap to so-called “representative government,” Rodriguez looked at the Senate Intelligence Committee and did his best Colonel Jessup imitation, “You can’t handle the truth!”

It would be more appropriate to say that Mr. Rodrigues can’t handle YOU knowing the truth.

And now the warfare establishment, which claimed NOT to believe in blowback before, is telling us that we risk blowback. Why? Because the torture report was shared with the American people.

In other words, the warfare establishment is admitting that blowback is real, and that our aggressive actions do lead to retaliation. Well…

We libertarians knew that all along.  And we’ve long promoted the proper solution to this problem…

  • If you don’t want people to tread on you, then don’t tread on others.
  • Don’t initiate force against people.
  • Reserve force for defensive purposes only, but even then, don’t defend yourself in a way that creates new enemies.

So here’s the takeaway…

  • The CIA invented the term blowback and Dick Cheney now admits blowback is a real danger.
  • That means, when we do bad things to others, others do bad things to us.
  • Specifically, in this case, when our so-called “government” tortures non-Americans, those non-Americans may someday return the favor or gain revenge in some other way. As we judge, so shall we be judged.
  • Encourage a Golden Rule foreign policy, where we treat others the way we want to be treated.

If you like these arguments, do the following…

–END–

Petty Politicians

Several of the Blount County Commissioners demonstrated that they are nothing more than petty politicians at December 9th Agenda Committee meeting.  In October there were proposed rules changes that would have shrunk transparency.  The proposed rules resolution had passed the Agenda Committee 11-5 and appeared ready to pass at the full Commission meeting.  Thankfully it was defeated.

I decided to try to get something good out the proposed rules changes.  As it stands now there is no requirement to publish anything prior to the meeting.  In October I attended my first meetings of both of my Committee assignments.  In both meetings, the Information Technology (IT) Committee and the Blount County Corrections Partnership, I was given an information packet when I arrived at the Committee meetings.  Thus, I put forth an amendment at the October Commission meeting that would have required Committee information packets to be published 5 days prior to the Committee meetings.

After listening to the concerns of Commissioners my amendment was amended and passed 13-6.  Akard – yes  Allen – yes  Archer – yes  Bowers – yes  Carter – no  Carver – no  Caskey – yes  Caylor – absent  Cole – yes  Crowe – no  Daly – yes  Farmer – no  French – absent  Headrick – yes  Lewis – yes  Melton – no  Miller – yes  Monroe – yes  Moon – yes  Samples – yes  Stinnett – no

It read:

16 E All committee chairman shall furnish the members of each respective committee with the tentative agenda and a meeting packet containing relevant supporting documentation no less than five days prior to the meeting date. All members shall have all revenant information to the chairman seven days prior to the committee meeting, and the Agenda Committee and the Budget Committee are exempt.

After the amendment was added to the rules resolution, Commissioner Gary Farmer got angry that it was amended and said he no longer supported the resolution as amended.  It’s as though some of the Commissioners take orders from him, because the resolution was killed 6-13.  I voted no because, despite my amendment, the original resolution would still shrink transparency.

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

This month I put forth a similar change to the rules as a stand alone resolution.  It was not identical, but was similar to the amendment that received 13 votes in October.  The rules amendment read (see page 117):

16E. Excepting the Agenda Committee, the Budget Committee and the Purchasing Commission, all Committee Chairmen shall furnish the members of each respective Committee with the tentative agenda and an information meeting packet containing relevant documentation not less than five days prior to the meeting day. Members shall have all relevant documentation to the Chairmen seven days prior to Committee meetings. For agenda items meeting the five day requirement, Chairmen may allow relevant information to be added to the information meeting packet for legitimate reasons of time constraints, no less than three days prior to the meeting.

Commissioner Andy Allen stated that the resolution this month was identical to what had failed in October.  You can see that it’s not identical.  Furthermore, the amendment didn’t fail on it’s own.  The amended resolution failed, which did kill my amendment along with.  The advice of the Parliamentarian, Commissioner Mike Lewis was sought.  Lewis doesn’t know the rules or Parliamentary procedure very well.  He tried to say it was against the rules, but I pointed out that he would need to name a rule that the resolution violated and he did not name anything.

Pettiness prevailed.  The resolution failed 7-12.  Akard – yes  Allen – no  Archer – yes  Bowers – absent  Carter – yes  Carver – no  Caskey – no  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 – absent  Stinnett – no

Compare the votes from October to December.
Commissioners flip-flopping for and then against: Andy Allen, Grady Caskey, Jeff Headrick, Mike Lewis, Jerome Moon
Commissioners flip-flopping against and then for: Shawn Carter
Commissioner against Committee transparency: Rick Carver, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Gary Farmer, Ron French, Kenneth Melton, Tom Stinnett
Commissioners for transparency: Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Brad Bowers*, Tom Cole, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller, Tona Monroe, Steve Samples*

Commissioner Tom Stinnett chastised the people at the Big Springs Community Club this month and attacked me.  Part of his attack included a rant about Commission rules saying that we both had proposed rule changes on the Agenda this month, that we were trying to do the same thing and that he had a hard time supporting me.  He obviously doesn’t make much sense when he votes against something yet says we’re trying to do the same thing.  I voted for his resolution to improve transparency and accountability in our Commission rules.  He felt it necessary to be a petty politician and vote against something, even though he said we were trying to do the same thing.

*Brad Bowers and Steve Samples were absent during the December Agenda meeting.

Blount County Will Never Get Out Of Debt

There have been a couple of letters to the editor about the 3 women being the only Commissioners who consistently say no to the wasteful spending.  Nancy McEntee had a wonderful letter to the editor in The Daily Times on December 1st.  Larry Henry also submitted one to The Daily Times, but the Publisher didn’t respond to his requests to have his letter printed.  He went around The Daily Times, as several others have also done this year, sending it to the Knoxville News Sentinel.  It was published December 10th. The letter is published here with Henry’s permission.

Thank you to everyone paying attention.  Let freedom ring!

Blount County Will Never Get Out Of Debt

“Au contraire,” cry the dilettantes of the Blount County Commission. “We serve the People!”

So say the majority on the Commission who march in lockstep with Finance Director Randy Vineyard, Mayor Ed Mitchell, Barrister Craig Garrett, and Sheriff James Berrong. The only ones who consistently buck the Yes Men are the women, Tona Monroe, Karen Miller, and Jamie Daly.

Blount County currently owes $240,000,000 in debts and liabilities. That’s $1,920 for every man, woman, and child in a population of 125,000. For a family of four that’s about eight thousand bucks. $46,000 is the median income which is tough in today’s political quicksand.

Kronos is the latest waste of $$$ that might have been used to pay down the debt.

$1,000,000 was tossed in the pot recently to purchase a fancy new computer system for doing the Blount County payroll. Kronos is the name of that system. Projected costs over the next 5 years are $2,300,000. For those familiar with government projections, you know they’re always wrong and they’re always low.

Ten bids were originally taken, the most expensive start-up option being chosen by Randy Vineyard. This purchase was never properly debated because it never went through the Information Technology Committee. It was rammed through by the Mayor and a handful of political drones. A full explanation of expenses and responsibilities has never been presented to the Blount County Commission.

Incumbent commissioners who consistently rubber stamp whatever’s coming down the pike: Carver, Caylor, Farmer, French, Lewis, Melton, and Moon. New commissioners who are consistently wrong: Akard, Allen, Bowers, Carter, Caskey, Cole, Crowe, Headrick, and Stinnett.

Larry Henry