From: “Todd Orr” <email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, February 13, 2020 2:27pm
Subject: Re: Changes that you’d like to see
Dear Mr. Orr,
What changes would you like to see in the Blount County Property Assessor’s Office?
The Blount County Budget Committee will hold its annual budget hearing meeting on Monday June 10th at 5 PM in room 430 at the courthouse.
The proposed budget will increase the amount of property tax collected from the businesses and citizens of Blount County by approximately $8.3 million over the current budget.
The increase is due to the proposed budget including a tax rate of $2.47 rather than the certified rate of $2.25. The value of a penny in the current budget is $347,000 but under the reappraisal the penny will be worth $378,000, meaning that property owners will be taxed $8.3 million more in the new (proposed) budget.
Another reason, among many, why it isn’t a good idea to house pretrial detainee inmates in the Blount County jail. The arsenic gravy on top of the horse biscuit is that the Blount County Sheriff’s Office didn’t even know about this until the press contacted them.
Recipient of last year’s Eagle Award, then Blount County Commissioner Tona Monroe, will be the speaker at the 4th annual Truth Radio Bill of Rights Banquet on Tuesday December 18th. The topic of the speech will be Proof of Authority and the Proper Role of Government: The Foundation of a Constitutional Republic.
A dinner will be held at 7 PM at RJ’s Courtyard located at 3749 Airport Hwy, Louisville, Tennessee 37777. Book your meal by calling WBCR at 984-1470.
Rural (In)Justice: Covering America’s Hidden Jail Crisis
National Conference and Fellowship Launch
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
New York City, NY
July 10-11, 2018
Read more here: https://thecrimereport.org/covering-americas-jail-crisis/
There will be a Blount County Corrections Partnership (BCCP) meeting on Thursday at the Blount County Courthouse in room 430 at 5:30 PM. The BCCP met only twice in 2017, with one of those meetings being a workshop.
The Blount County Commissioner referred to in this article is me: Tona Monroe. The state agency that is discussed is the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance which is responsible for providing meeting minutes for the Tennessee Corrections Institute Board of Control
Last year, when the commission adopted an open records policy, I said during discussion that a photo ID should not be required. Then Chairman Jerome Moon, now a state representative, defended requiring papers just to see records. Most of the commissioners must have agreed because only Commissioners Mike Akard, Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and I voted against this policy.
It is good to read that a few counties don’t demand papers, proving identity, just to see records. Requiring proof of citizenship is an unnecessary impediment to a society that is suppose to be free and claims to be transparent. The USA is not Nazi Germany.
On another note, this is the second article in which a request that I made is discussed without naming me. The other involved questions that I submitted to Troy Logan, fiscal administrator for Blount County Schools. Some teachers had several questions about the schools related to how money is spent. I submitted their questions. A response was sent me as well as the other 20 county commissioners.
A few months later, there was a story in The Daily Times about this request for information. Then Blount County Board of Education Chairman
Trevis Gardner told the paper that he supported charging for looking at records because they’d received a big request that took a lot of time to respond to. He citied the questions that I submitted with his support for charging you to look at records.
The paper requested a copy of the questions and answers, and knew they were submitted by a commissioner, but did not mention this in its story. Gardner said the response took time away from administrators focusing on classrooms but failed to mention that the answers included comparisons to other school systems, which were not part of the inquiries. Such a comparison may have required time but it was not what was requested. Furthermore, the fiscal administrator is a records custodian so his job duties include providing records.
Logan said the questions were frequently asked which is why he submitted the response to all 21 Blount County Commissioners. Thus, having written answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) may have saved the schools time and money in responding to FAQs.
With the passing of Dean Stone and the retirement of penguin sex preacher and editor Buzz Trexler one would hope that The Daily Times would have moved out of the (Dean) Stone Age. Alas that is not the case. The stale big government, courthouse clique bias of Bob Norris remains and the new editor J. Todd Foster ran political hit pieces on Commissioner Mike Akard right before the election. Norris does not reflect the values of many in this community but he and the editors have hidden behind their editorials and trash those who challenge the status quo.
Editors of the past and present at the paper love big government. In a town where many are conservative, the best they can achieve is support for the establishment Republicans, just look at all the pro Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker editorials. These big government Republicans and the big government Republicans in the courthouse clique love to tax you, spend your money and tell you how to live your lives. Thus, the rag trashes those who try to hold the line on spending and question the authority of local government. The four commissioners who have recently been the subject of hit pieces and an editorial are the four who have most consistently looked out for the taxpaying citizens of Blount County.
Look at the paper’s Twitter account. The only two days, during the last year, that the paper has published a “sneak peak” of the front page of the paper are the two days where the new editor ran hit pieces on Commissioner Mike Akard. Despite throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Mike Akard the new editor says he isn’t partisan, won’t publish the letter to editor I (Tona Monroe) wrote asking questions about the stories and won’t answer the questions that I raised about his stories. https://twitter.com/DailyTimes/status/989698528195866625
The rag trashed Jim Folts, who served on the previous commission, when he was the lone ranger questioning local government spending. Now on the eve of this local government primary election, the rag’s focus is on the three women commissioners, who have also challenged the status quo.
The rag should be focusing on important issues on the eve of the election. However, if they did that it would make those they support, the big spending courthouse clique, look bad. Many of these big government Republicans are in local office for selfish reasons. Just look at the conflicts of interest that proceed commission votes. I wonder what would happen, in this election, if the paper published a story about candidates with conflicts of interest the day before the election.
The Daily Times asked the three ladies on the commission to come be interviewed, not the other way around. When have the courthouse clique officials sat down for an interview? Would the paper respond by publishing an editorial the day before the election praising them for what they said?
The Daily Times did willingly publish a hate screed from Ed Mitchell telling Blount County to wake up because voters chose to replace some of the incumbent, courthouse clique commissioners in the last election. What Ed Mitchell and the anonymous editor(s) are telling us is that they think those of us who voted for people who aren’t part of the courthouse clique need to wake up, because we aren’t smart enough to chose who governs.
The point that I made about being more effective as a citizen is misconstrued in the editorial. The point was that an active citizenry can accomplish more than a few commissioner without an active citizenry. When the citizens groups were active, the property tax increases were less.
To act like the three women never transitioned into being public servants is absurd. The three women were the first three commissioners to hold public town halls after being elected. They were asked to hold these public meetings by the now defunct Citizens for Blount County’s Future. When have the political machine commissioners held town hall meetings? Furthermore, three of the four commissioners that have been the recent focus of paper have worked to inform the public about Blount County government, when the paper often failed to cover issues. This website is viewed by many and I have done several radio interviews. Commissioner Jamie Daly has published a newsletter and Mike Akard has posted to Facebook. These types of efforts to engage with the public are scant or non-existent with the rest of the commissioners.
Running on a platform and sticking by it is fulfilling what you said you would. Another citizens group recognized that when it honored 6 commissioners, including the 3 women and Mike Akard, for doing what they said they would do. Blount County Tax Revolt, and those in attendance of the awards ceremony dinner, certainly thought the former citizen activists were fulfilling their roles as public servants.
In fairness to the reporters at The Daily Times, they don’t all share the views of those who make the final decisions at the paper. Even Joel Davis, the reporter most critical of me, wrote that he was impressed with my vigilance, when I found the secret $2 million jail plan in TCI Board of Control meeting minutes.
Thank you every much for the information. Your vigilance is quite impressive. This is definitely going to make an interesting story.
The wrath of God resolution was over the top. I doubt that it would have gotten a second but the courthouse clique shut the meeting down by voting against setting the agenda. Commissioner Karen Miller was the only sponsor of the resolution. Yet Jamie Daly and I are included in the editorial. The paper talks about how embarrassing it was for Blount County, but it was The Daily Times that started the media circus surrounding the resolution.
The commission passed a resolution in 2017 after the death of Steve Samples quoting a scripture from the Bible proclaiming that he would enter into the joy thy Lord. There was no media coverage, including the paper, on this resolution. Does the paper think it’s OK to interject religion into a resolution by proclaiming and approving something from the Bible as long at it supports the courthouse clique? Where’s the outrage from the editors telling us how embarrassing it is for the commission to think that it can determine who enters into the joy of the Lord? This wasn’t a prayer proceeding the meeting. It is a formally adopted resolution and official statement of the Blount County Commission and Mayor. Karen Miller and I were the only two commissioners who did not sponsor this resolution.
The paper further criticizes the no votes of the women when doing routine business while praising the machine for finessing the shut down of a regularly scheduled meeting and lauding Mayor Mitchell for restoring “order”. That kind of double speak makes clear the misguided priorities of those in the back rooms of the paper. The courthouse clique can waste our money all day long. That isn’t news worthy, unless you vote against it, but a non-binding resolution warrants a media circus and praise for shutting down a meeting. Remember that it was the courthouse clique and the newspaper that made the huge deal out of the resolution. It would have likely died for a lack of a second.
There wasn’t any mention of anything that Jamie Daly or I tried to do over the last 4 years. Before going to vote, the anonymous editor(s) want(s) you to focus on one non-binding resolution that did not bear the names of 2 of the 3 they talked about. What about the issues that matter? What about the 15% property tax increase that a majority of commissioners approved shortly after the local option sales tax was raised? The list of issues is extensive but this is what the paper choses to focus on.
The paper should have learned, from the media coverage of the most recent presidential election, to rethink their election and government coverage priorities. Whether you love or hate Trump or are somewhere in between, the relevancy of many media outlets wore thin on many people in the 2016 election because of the constant Trump bashing. Many decided, that despite Trump’s numerous character flaws, they trusted him more than the biased barrage of media attacks. This message was lost on those making decisions at The Daily Times.
People run for public office for a variety of reasons. The paper is free to express what they think make good qualifications for public office but the people writing anonymous editorials at the paper need a reality check. Their views don’t align with many in the community. The number of subscribers has dropped because of it, while the population of Blount County is increasing. People share their concerns about the bias when the paper solicits renewals, but even when the people trying to sell subscriptions agree and share that they hear this often, the message falls on deaf ears with the decision makers at the paper as we can see by the editorial today.
The Daily Times might increase its number of subscribers if it actually published the votes of every commissioner on every issue, rather than selectively publishing what it wants the public to see. Of course, if it did that, then big government, courthouse clique Republicans that they support will not look so good.
Letter to the editor that self proclaimed nonpartisan editor Todd Foster won’t publish.
April 27, 2018
What I took away from the first article about Commissioner Mike Akard is that he burns wood and brush on his property, had a permit to do so and no wrong doing was found, fireworks have been let off in celebration of our nation’s independence and he had two traffic citations: one with a $50 fine and the other was dropped after driving school.
Who hasn’t done such horrible things as burn wood, let off fireworks and exceed the speed limit? That hardly warrants the following day’s headline that Akard has a criminal past.
Is The Daily Times going to refer to everyone, who has been given a traffic ticket, as having a criminal past? No other charges or convictions were stated. Has The Daily Times researched the driving records of all candidates or just Mike Akard?
There was no comment from Akard about the two traffic tickets. Did The Daily Times ask Akard for a comment, like it asked his opponent for an explanation about his criminal conviction?
Greenback, TN 37742
Update: I received this in an email Tuesday evening. “I canceled my subscription after I read that editorial today. Sounded like something the president would put in Twitter. Disgusting.”
Mike Akard is seeking reelection to county commission, district 2 seat A. The post card also include information about the other district 2 commission seat. Jim Hammontree is challenging incumbent Mike Lewis for seat B.
The heading is “My Voting Record” and the 4 points are:
- Yes to convert the variable rate debt to fixed rate
- Yes to converting $.04 cents of the sales tax to school capital fund
- No on The Property Tax Increase
- No on the Commission Pay Raise (Twice)
Cole says that he voted yes to convert the variable rate debt to fixed rate but the very first vote that he cast on fixed rate debt was a no vote. See the meeting minutes of the called commission meeting held on October 14, 2014. Cole was one of 2 no votes.
Cole says that he voted yes to converting $.04 cents of the sales tax to the school (education) capital projects fund. The local portion of the sales tax is $.0275. The entire amount of the local option sales tax is less than $.04. It was $.04 of the property tax that was appropriated to the education capital projects fund. Apparently Cole doesn’t know one tax from the other.
In 2016 an amendment was proposed to increase the $.04 education capital projects fund to $.05 and reduce the general purpose school fund by $.01. This would have given the schools about an additional $120,000 without raising taxes because the money appropriated to this fund does not have to be split with the city schools. Cole voted against this shift of the property tax that would have saved the county taxpayers about $120,000 and not raised your property tax.
What does Cole mean when he says he voted yes to converting $.04? Is he saying that $.04 was moved from one place in the budget to another? If so, that’s not the case. The $.04 cents was added to the budget in fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016), the year that the majority of commissioners voted to raise the property tax from $2.15 to $2.47. That brings us to his next bullet point.
Cole did vote against the property tax increase in 2015 but his claim is disingenuous for a couple of reasons. The $.04 from a tax that he can’t get right and he says he supports was part of the property tax increase. An amendment was made at the June 18, 2015 commission meeting to set the property tax rate at $2.43. An amendment to this amendment was made to raise $2.43 to $2.47 for the $.04 education capital projects fund that Cole calls a sales tax. See page 63 for the property tax votes. Thus, he did vote to increase the property tax rate by $.04 but tells us that he voted against the property tax increase.
The next budget year he voted for the $2.47 property tax rate; therefore, he did support the property tax increase. He just did it one year later than the majority of commissioners. See page 3 for his votes on the fiscal year 2017 property tax rate, including the $.01 education capital projects fund vote that would have saved you money.
On the last bullet point, Cole is correct. He did vote against the pay raise twice, but we all know that a broken clock is right twice a day.
On election day, May 1st, please vote for Nick Bright for Blount County Commissioner, District 6 Seat A. I’ll work to get the taxes and my votes straight, unlike my opponent who doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about.
The author of this letter to the editor points out that there was a lawsuit in Knox County regarding state sentenced felons and the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) must take the TDOC felons. Here are the court orders regarding that lawsuit.
Remember that nonsense from former Chairman Jerome Moon about commissioners being sued in federal court over the jail? These court records should put this matter in its proper perspective.
In politics tall tales and utter nonsense can float around. The Mayor of Friendsville, Andy Lawhorn, has told people that I (Tona Monroe) don’t return phone calls to the people in my district. A while back, Commissioner Tom Stinnett called me and said that Lawhorn was trying to get ahold of me and asked if it would be OK to give him my phone number. I told Stinnett sure and that my number was available on the county’s website. I never heard from Lawhorn before or after that.
There have been a couple of issues related to the City of Friendsville that have come before the Blount County Commission. No one from the City of Friendsville government has contacted me to discuss these matters, or if anyone has I never received a single message.
Someone asked me why someone had posted on Facebook that I don’t take landline phone calls. I don’t know whether an incoming call is from a land line or from a cell phone. There are some numbers that are recognizable as having been land line numbers but there is no guarantee that they are still land lines. My number was a land line and is now a cell number.
As far as I can recall, I have returned every phone call to the constituents of my district, with the exception of a few who have told me that I didn’t need to call them back. Some months back, I did have some phone trouble and I didn’t get messages or texts for a few days. It’s possible that I could have missed a few calls and texts during that time. If I did miss your call or text, feel free to call me at 856-0814.
Someone did share with me that they didn’t know how to get ahold of Lawhorn’s wife, Staci Crisp-Lawhorn, who is running for county commission because there is no phone number listed for her on the candidate petition page of the county’s website.
District 7 includes those who vote at Big Springs, Carpenters, Friendsville, Happy Valley and Lanier.
At the April 10th, 2018 Agenda Committee meeting, Chairman Grady Caskey turned Commissioner Tona Monroe’s microphone off for discussing what is in the resolution that the body was considering and getting ready to vote on. 10 commissioners voted to uphold Caskey’s decision to cut her microphone off. Three abstained including Caskey.
Do you want commissioners who will cut other commissioner’s microphones off or are too cowardly to even cast vote for or against the decision? If these people don’t even want to listen to their fellow commissioners, will they listen to you the citizens?
Voting to uphold Caskey’s decision cut Commissioner Monroe’s microphone off:
Commissioners Andy Allen, Brad Bowers, Shawn Carter, Rick Carver, Mike Caylor, Dodd Crowe, Scott King, Kenneth Melton, Mike Lewis and Tom Stinnett
Voting to abstain:
Commissioner Grady Caskey (Chair), Tom Cole and Brian Robbins
Commissioners voting not to uphold Caskey’s decision to cut Commissioner Monroe’s microphone off:
Commissioners Mike Akard, Archie Archer, Jamie Daly, Ron French, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe
Commissioners who were absent:
Commissioners Dave Bennett and Gary Farmer
The commission would not let Commissioner Karen Miller read her prepared statement at the June 2016 commission meeting. You can read more about this in the June 2016 Commission Report.
From page 4 of the July 2016 commission packet containing the June 2016 meeting minutes:
“Commissioner Miller then made a motion that she be allowed to read her statement. Commissioner Monroe seconded the motion. An electronic vote was taken on the motion by Commissioner Miller to read her statement.
Akard -Absent, Caylor -No, Lewis -No,
Allen -No, Cole -Yes, Melton -No,
Archer -Yes, Crowe -No, Miller -Abstain,
Bowers -No, Daly -Yes, Monroe -Yes,
Carter -Yes, Farmer -No, Moon -No
Carver -No, French -No, Samples -No
Caskey -No, Lambert -No, Stinnett -No
There were 5 voting yes, 14 voting no, 1 abstaining and 1 absent. Chairman Moon declared the motion to have failed.”
These are just two examples. There are many more. You can read the monthly commission reports on this website, read commission meeting minutes and watch commission videos to find many more instances of the courthouse clique silencing those who dared to ask questions.
The only way to stop this to raise awareness of it and elect better people. Please vote in the May 1st, local government primary election.
Blount County Commissioners Jamie Daly, Karen Miller and Tona Monroe discuss why they aren’t seeking reelection. To tie this together, when the citizens group was active, Citizens for Blount County’s Future, there were more people fighting the courthouse clique/political machines/good ole’ boys/establishment. These citizens were present at Blount County government meetings and spoke out on many important issues. After the citizens group disbanded, and Blount County Tax Revolt followed suit, there were often no citizens at commission and committee meetings. This is likely why the courthouse clique has been able to cut commissioner Monroe’s microphone off for about a year and a half. If there had been some citizen participation these past couple of years, the three ladies may have been more effective in trying to reform local government.