Friday, October 28, 2016

Kane, Hensley to discuss House seat

Kane, right and Hensley, left
The two candidates running for the 89th District state House seat are the guests on this Sunday’s edition of “Inside Tennessee” on WBIR 10News.

Incumbent and Republican Roger Kane and Democrat challenger Heather Hensley touch on a number of topics during the 30-minute political and public affairs program that kicks off at 9:30 a.m.

The show, which was taped on Wednesday, features a panel comprised of Don Bosch, an attorney and Democrat, Susan Williams, a Republican and public relations specialist, and 10News reporter Mike Donila.

WBIR anchor John Becker serves as the show’s moderator.

Kane, an insurance agent who has held the seat since 2012, and Hensley, a registered nurse, discuss a range of matters the General Assembly expects to act on when the body meets again in January.

Issues include: health care and Insure Tennessee, the state’s failed version of the Affordable Healthcare Act; desperately needed road repairs; whether a gas tax increase is warranted; and just how much oversight the General Assembly should have over the University of Tennessee.

The 89th District is sandwiched between Oak Ridge at the north and I-40 at the south and includes roughly 65,000 residents.

Early voting has already started for the Nov. 8 general election.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Knox Co. Clerk Arnett drops mold lawsuit against PBA, county

Foster Arnett Jr.
Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr has dropped his “toxic mold spores” lawsuit against the county and the Public Building Authority, he confirmed to WBIR 10News on Thursday.

The move comes after Knox County Circuit Court Judge Bill Ailor ruled that Arnett could not sue in his official capacity as an elected official, but could as an individual. That means Arnett – and not the taxpayers – would have to cover his attorney fees.

In his order, filed July 14, Ailor notes that neither the state nor the county charter gives the county clerk, or any elected officeholder, the authority to pursue such a lawsuit against the county.

“Thus, the Knox County Clerk may not sue the PBA because that would be Knox county suing Knox County,” Ailor wrote. “Moreover, if the claims by Foster D. Arnett Jr. in his official capacity were allowed to proceed, the court notes that no matter the outcome of the case, the Knox County taxpayer would be the loser. If the plaintiff won, defendant PBA would use Knox County taxpayer money to pay the judgment. Additionally, if the defendant won, Knox County taxpayer money would pay the Knox County Clerk’s attorneys’ fees.”

Ailor also ruled that Arnett – because he can’t sue in his official capacity – cannot use money from the county’s general fund or his own office to pay his attorney fees.

Arnett told 10News that he "respects the judge's opinion" and opted not to further pursue the matter.

Arnett in February 2015 filed the lawsuit after, he said, the PBA failed to remove “toxic mold spores” form the Old Courthouse where he works. Arnett said the mold cause his health to deteriorate.

The PBA argued that he didn’t lack the authority to sue the county in his official capacity as the clerk.

Ailor agreed.

Since filing the lawsuit, Arnett has worked out of his Cedar Bluff satellite office.

Knox County to collect unwanted medication at disposal event

Members of the East Tennessee Regional Medication Collection Coalition will collect and properly dispose unwanted medication on Saturday.

Knox County residents can dispose of unwanted prescription medications or over-the-counter medicines on Saturday at the Ingles at 430 East Emory Road.

Saturday’s event goes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Residents can only drop off medicines at the Ingles in Powell during Saturday’s event. At all other times, residents can bring old or unused medicines to the Knoxville Police Department Safety Building at 800 Howard Baker Jr. Ave., which is open 24/7.

Go to Knox County’s website for more information.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

East Tennessee Libertarian Party to meet Thursday at Dead End BBQ

The East Tennessee Libertarian Party plans to meet Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Dead End BBQ on Sutherland Avenue with U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan, Jr. Rep. Duncan serving as guest speaker.

Anyone interested is welcome to attend and please bring any questions you have about our presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, or libertarianism in general, the news release states.

The East Tennessee Libertarian Party includes Knox, Blount, Sevier, Loudon, and Anderson Counties. The Libertarian Party is the fastest growing political party and the only one that supports the principles of Liberty. The party says it's philosophy is: “Minimum government, Maximum Freedom."

Teachers can get free school supplies at Teacher Supply Depot on Oct. 29

The Teacher Supply Depot will open from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday to give Knox County Schools’ teachers and teaching assistants the opportunity to shop for free classroom supplies.

The Depot, located at 709 N. Cedar Bluff Road, in the former Cedar Bluff Intermediate School, is a joint venture of Knox County Schools and the Teacher Supply Depot PTA.

The Teacher Supply Depot provides KCS teachers and others with new and used classroom materials for free.

In its 15 years of service, the Teacher Supply Depot has benefited more than 10,000 KCS professionals and provided more than $2.6 million in materials through the support of local businesses and community members.

The depot is driven solely by donations and is a unique way for local businesses and community members to partner with the school system to provide material support to teachers. All donated materials are used to enhance instruction and promote student achievement in classrooms across the district.

Although donations are accepted year-round, the Teacher Supply Depot is only open on certain dates throughout each academic year. Those planning to shop at the Teacher Supply Depot must bring a school ID or another form of identification to be admitted.

Two additional Teacher Supply Depot shopping days will be held this academic year on Jan. 21 and Apr. 1, 2017.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Knoxville ordinance would bring churches and breweries closer

The Knoxville City Council will vote tonight on an ordinance that has kept churches and breweries apart for years. The change would no longer require allow churches and places receiving a beer permit to be located more than 300 feet apart.

“In my mind, it makes sense to remove that restriction for churches,” said Knoxville City Councilman Finbarr Saunders.

Saunders and his colleagues recently received a letter signed by ten churches encouraging the change.
He believes the current law is inconvenient for churches and breweries, both of which are increasingly choosing more creative locations.

“They’re in shopping centers or in office buildings or in some cases, even right next to a bar," he said.
Saunders said breweries can also work around the current law.

“You can walk right around it by going to the state and getting the ABC license to serve wine and whiskey,” he said.

According to local brewery owner Aaron McClain, it isn't that easy.

"There are mountains of paperwork and it costs thousands of dollars," said McClain, owner of Crafty Bastard Brewery.

McClain is referring to a $1,000 annual licensing fee required by the Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission. That is in addition to a $300 application fee and over $2,000 in fines from the city and county. A change in the current city law would eliminate almost all of those costs for local bars and breweries.

"It's disproportionately affecting small businesses, small breweries," said McClain.

His brewery is next to St. John's Lutheran Church, requiring him to purchase state permits instead of city permits. Pastor Stephen Misenheimer also supports a change in the current law.

“As the church has changed over the years, so has the need for laws to be changed," Misenheimer said.

He said the relationship between breweries and churches has deeper ties than one might think.

"Martin Luther, it's said, was one of the original craft brewers," Misenheimer said.

This is the second attempt by the city council to pass such a law. The first attempt which failed included the separation of beer permits and other entities such as schools and daycare facilities. This one focuses on churches, which councilman Saunders says is a less controversial topic.

Knox County early voting numbers up over 2008, 2012 in first 5 days

Five days into early voting, Knox County is seeing a 50 percent increase in voter turnout over the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Cliff Rodgers, Knox County administrator of elections, said about 10,000 people have voted on each weekday and about 6,000 people cast their ballot the first Saturday of early voting bringing the total to 46,188 as of 5 p.m. Monday.

"The numbers have just been out the roof," Rodgers said. "We love it. This is great. This is what we want to see is people coming out to vote early."

According to voting data, the Downtown West location has consistently been the busiest polling location, while the Carter Branch Library location has seen the fewest voters.

"We're delighted," Rodgers said. "I think I've made my goal pretty clear. I want everybody voting early."

In order to achieve that goal, voters must follow the polling location laws and rules.

Rodgers said people cannot talk on their cell phones or take selfies inside the voting buildings.

He also said people must vote in the counties where they are registered.

RELATED: Early voting is underway - here's where to cast your ballot

"We've had some people trying to creep in here from Anderson County and Sevier County and Blount County thinking, well, they can early vote here," Rodgers said. "No, you need to go back to your county and vote."

Rodgers said voters also need to remember that campaign posters and materials, including hats, buttons and shirts cannot come within a 100-foot boundary of the polling location.

"We've had some issues with a few folks on both sides of the presidential aisle, if you will," he said.

Trinity McCulley, a first-time voter who wore a Trump t-shirt to cast her ballot, went to the New Harvest Park location to cast her ballot, but she said she had not heard of the 100-foot rule.

"When I found out I wasn't allowed to wear the shirt and that I was actually forced to take it off before I actually cast my ballot, I was a little bit annoyed by that," McCulley said.

Election officials said the rule is in place to give voters a protective zone from campaign solicitation.

"Everybody's got to learn the rules to do it effectively, and it's a part of the system so you just kind of have to comply with them," McCulley said.

Rodgers said most people are following the rules, leading to the record number of early voters he would like to see continue. Early voting in Tennessee ends Nov. 3.

"We'd love to see nobody on election day," Rodger said. "That will never happen, but the more people we get to vote early, the shorter lines will be on election day."

Friday, October 21, 2016

TN House candidates Smith, Johnson face off on 'Inside Tennessee'

Gloria Johnson, left, and Eddie Smith, right
The two candidates again facing off in the battle for the 13th District state House seat are the focus of this Sunday’s edition of “Inside Tennessee” on WBIR 10News.

Incumbent and Republican Eddie Smith and Democrat challenger Gloria Johnson will sit down with reporters during the 30-minute political and public affairs program that kicks off at 9:30 a.m.

Smith and Johnson will discuss a number of issues including: health care, education, the state of the roads in Tennessee, and whether a gas tax increase is warranted.

The 13th District encompasses parts of north and south Knoxville and includes more than 62,000 residents.

Early voting has already started for the Nov. 8 general election.

Johnson won the seat in 2012, succeeding Democrat Harry Tindell, who held the seat for 22 years. Smith defeated her in 2014 by just under 200 votes.

Local politicos expect this race to be the closest of all the state House races in the Knox County area.

Sunday’s panel features moderator John Becker, WBIR reporters Mike Donila, John North and Mary Scott.

Donald Trump campaign bus, but not Trump, to hit Knox County on Monday

The Donald Trump campaign tour bus will make its way to Knox County on Monday, although the Republican presidential candidate is not expected to be here.

However, U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. and possibly Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett plan to give brief speeches.

The bus should arrive around noon at the Knoxville Expo Center at 5441 Clinton Highway and stay for about an hour.

“I don’t want people to think that Donald Trump or some big name will be on the bus, but it’s a GOP Trump rally and they’re bringing the bus through,” said Knox County Republican Party Chairman Buddy Burkhardt. “But, I’m hoping there will be a surrogate, maybe one of his kids.”

Burkhardt added: “Voter turnout has been very good for early voting, so we’re looking forward to having the bus here, which we hope will keep the motivation going for more people to get out and vote.”

The Trump bus is part of a five-state tour of the South, which kicks off in Tennessee, Burkhardt said.

Trump, a real estate mogul, faces former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 general election.

The local GOP plans to release more information about the event later Friday.

$100K Haslam donations: Just how Knox County schools are putting it to use

At Bearden High School, educators are looking to build a new future for the students through engineering, specifically robotics.

The move comes roughly a year after members of the philanthropic Haslam family and Pilot Flying J gave the Knox County school system $10 million. The bulk of the money – $8.7 million – was set aside to provide synthetic turf fields and some running tracks at the county’s 13 high schools.

But, lost in the headlines was another $100,000 donation for each of the system’s 13 traditional high schools to use for academics.

“When the money came along, I was just like, ‘This is unbelievable – this gift just fell in our lap – hey, here’s the chance to do something,’” said Bearden High School principal John Bartlett. “That’s one-time money to start up a program that’s going to help a lot of students.”

As it stands, school leaders submitted proposals to the Haslam family earlier this year, detailing how they would use the money.

The school system is now putting together a report that should be complete some time in December.

“There's a lot of flexibility that's been given to our school leaders,” interim Knox County Schools Superintendent Buzz Thomas added. “That's the way we're trying to run the school district: we're trying to make decisions as close to the action as possible, and that's the way the Haslam family did this gift."

A majority of the money so far has gone to technology, according to a WBIR 10News analysis of the expenditures.

Schools so far have purchased or plan to purchase new computers, laptops, tablets, interactive whiteboards, cameras and calculators.

They’ve also bought office and lab furniture, dry erase tables and materials to help improve test scores.

Some of the money will pay for instructional coaches and tutors and some will support career readiness programs through field trips, job shadowing and student internships.

"We're on a track over the next 3 years to have one-on-one technology in each school and each student's hands,” Thomas said. "This gift gave a lot of schools the opportunity to kind of surge ahead."

The money also enables schools to continue to update what they have.

“When we opened our doors in 2008, all of our technology was new,” Hardin Valley Academy principal Sallee Reynolds said in a letter to the Haslam family in February, adding that the school plans to spend its money almost entirely on new computers and laptops. “Eight years later, many of our teachers are still using the original laptops that have been serviced several times.”

Rest of story, with details for each school, RIGHT HERE.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Big turnout on 1st day of voting

Early voting for the presidential and state general election got underway in Knox County on Wednesday.

Election officials said more than 8,800 people cast their ballot in Knox County on the first day of the early voting period. That's a bigger turnout for the first day of early voting than in 2008, when there 5,887 voters on the first day, and 2012, when there were 6,392.

So far, the Downtown West location has been the busiest spot.

As of Wednesday, there were more than 238,000 registered voters in Knox County.

The early voting period runs through Nov. 3.

No extra fees from Knox Co Circuit Court Clerk four years running

The Knox County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office has again failed to turn over any money to the county’s coffers – for the fourth year in a row and the fifth time in the past six years.

In fact, the county – as it closes its financial books on the recently wrapped-up fiscal year – even had to underwrite the overall operation for 2016 to the tune of almost $80,000.

That’s because the juvenile court, which is under the Circuit Court clerk’s purview, spent more than the office brought in.

Now, top county leaders say they are troubled about the office’s lack of finances, but question whether they can step in.

“There’s always a concern, absolutely,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “If they don’t collect it, then the deficit is going to come from somewhere else. Either you raise taxes or you raise the base.
We’re kind of limited in local government. At some point it’s going to come from the taxpayers . . . it’s not going to magically appear.”

Knox County Commission Vice Chairman Randy Smith agreed, saying he, too, is “very concerned.”

“They need to look at aligning their staffing with the revenue streams,” Smith told WBIR 10News. “This is supposed to be at least a break-even entity.”

The Circuit Court Clerk’s Office is one of five county fee offices. These departments are run by elected leaders and are supposed to be self-funded from the fees they collect. But, they also are expected to contribute to the county’s overall bottom line.

For example, whenever someone files a lawsuit in the circuit court, the plaintiff has to pay an upfront fee of $186.50. An adoption carries a $252 fee and name change runs $186.50.

Those monies first go to covering the salaries in the office and any excess revenue is turned over to the county.

That doesn’t happen often in the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.

But, the office’s spokesman, Randy Kenner, said officials in the department are doing everything they can.

“I think the office is pretty well run,” he said. “I don’t think we have a lot of collections out there. We’re collecting the fees we’re supposed to collect . . . (but) there’s just not as much money as there once was.”

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.