Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Early voter turnout down from 2008

So, Knox County voters were moving right along, actually casting ballots, and then: Wham-o!

Freakin' crappy weather sets in. Or at least that's what local election folks are attributing to the drop off at the ballot boxes.

Knox County Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers says early voting turnout has now decreased compared to 2008. After 12 days of voting so far, 88,232 folks vote, which is a 4.8 percent decrease from the 2008 presidential election when 92,614 votes had been cast after 12 days.

Just the other day, the county was 6.6 percent ahead of the 2008 numbers. Oh well.

"We began to see a drop off on Saturday with the colder weather and that trend continued though yesterday," Rodgers said. "Fewer college students are voting at our University of Tennessee location. Voter turnout at the University Center is down 50 percent from 2008."

So, is it the weather, or just dumber college students?

Anyhoo, more info right smack here.

Happy Halloween from the good porch

Tomorrow last day for early voting

Heck yeah, more election stuff. Cause you just can't get enough. (It's all over on Tuesday, baby. Yeah.) 

Anyhoo, my main man down in the county's election office just sent out another one of these news releases. The guy is on a roll.

Soooo, Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers wants to remind everyone that tomorrow is the final day to vote early. Yup (counting today) there's only two days left.

All early voting locations will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (except for the Deathstar, which dances to its own dark tune).

“If you've moved since the last election or want to avoid the long lines on election day, please vote early,” Rodgers said. “It doesn't matter where you live. If you're registered to vote in Knox County, you can vote at any early voting location."

Click right smack here for more info.

How pumpkin pie is really made. Heh.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Last day to get absentee ballot

Checked my email this morning. No election releases from Cliff Rodgers. Had to send him an email, asking what's up. He said to remind the porch readers that today is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot.

Yup, that will work,  I told him.

Anyhoo, I have some numbers from Day 8, which was at the end of last week. Turnout at that point was 6.6 percent higher than the 2008 presidential elections with 57,476 people hitting the polls compared to 53,680.

There ya go. So far we're doing better.

In the meantime, if you want to annoy the folks at the election commission, call 215-2480. Click right smack here for more info.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Casual Chris earns fancy LMU award

Chris Caldwell
Casual Chris Caldwell, the county's senior director of finance, is the 2012 R. Martin Peters Young Alumnus of the Year.

Now, I don't know exactly what this means, but it sounds kind of smart. And cool.

So, congrats to Caldwell. (He got a nice looking clock, but no coin.)

The honor was announced in one of county communication director Michael “Big Sexy” Grider's spin releases, which he is prone to email, particularly during the beginning of the week when not jack is going on and he figures he'll get some coverage.

But I digress.

The Lincoln Memorial University Alumni Association recently picked Caldwell with the honor.

In a letter to the casual one – clickright smack here for it – LMU Director of Alumni Services Donnie Lipscomb said:

“Your recent appointment as finance director of Knox County shows the confidence the Knox County government has in you with their most important information. You play an important role that touches the lives of so many people. Also, you are a positive role model not only in your community but throughout East Tennessee.”

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett promotedCasual Caldwell to the position in July after the last guy he broughtin lasted about two weeks. Chris has worked with the county for more than a decade, including the past five or so years with a small team that puts together the annual spending plan.

The award, according to the spin release, is given to an individual “who embodies the character and spirit of its namesake and exhibits qualities including patriotism, leadership ability, volunteerism, a strong work ethic and ambassadorship on behalf of the university.”

(Caldwell, 33, is a graduate of the school. I got no idea what he studied, but I assume it dealt with numbers.)

“Chris is great to work with, and is very deserving of this recognition,” Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said. “He doe an outstanding job as finance director, and is committed to being a good steward of taxpayer money.”

Stay safe: Red Cross shelters list

A reader spotted this Imperial AT-AT in the nearby mountains.

Screams from da Porch just wanted to run this pic, but figured we should include something else. You know, just to take up more space. Here's hoping you won't need this information, but if you or someone you know needs a Red Cross Shelter to ride out, escape, whatever Hurricane Sandy, you can find one right smack here.  Stay safe.

Burchett talks cash mobs with Time

Check it out: Time Magazine quoted Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett in a two-page story (with fancy graphics) about the cash mob “ bona fide social phenomena.”

Click right smack here for a pdf copy of the article that Screams from da Porch is bootleggin' cause we didn't want to pay it.

(Little inside baseball: County Emperor Dean Rice told the mayor – when he first proposed the idea – that it was stupid. Burchett reminds him of it all the time. Heh.)

Knox County Mayor and Cash Mob Organizer Tim Buchett, right, at the county's first cash mob in February at Emery's 5 and 10. The event drew 700 to 800 people. (Photo by Jon Gustin)

Anyhoo, Time says cash mobs are a “perfectly timed tonic for a sour economic moment.”

Burchett, in the article, says: “People are struggling all over the country. This is an opportunity for everybody to join hands.”

The story also notes some history and rules for cash mobs.

The county's next cash mob is Nov. 8 at New Harvest Park Farmer's Market.

County extends early voting hours

Man, Cliff Rodgers is making this blogging stuff easy for me. The guy has sent out a news release almost every other day. Ah, elections. (Can't wait until they're over.)

In his latest, the Knox County's top election official said the county will will extend its early voting hours “to encourage more folks to go to the polls before Election Day.”

“We're experiencing the highest voter turnout in the history of Knox County,” he said. “With all the uncertain weather, we're hoping folks will avoid the lines on Election Day and vote this week.”

Early voting locations will be open through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except for the Deathstar, which marches to its own dark tune.

Additionally, the election commission will open another early voting location today at the University Center on UT's campus. Rodgers said he hopes the move encourages students, faculty, etc. to vote.

For more info, click right smack here or call 215-2480.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Voter turnout continues to increase

According to Cliff Rodgers, the county's top election official, local voter turnout is 5.5 percent higher than the 2008 presidential election. After six days of voting, 41,229 folks have cast ballots early. At this point in 2008, some 38,958 had voted.

“Many voters have made up their minds and want their voices to be heard in this election,” he said in a released statement and in a no-doubt attempt to lure people to the polls early, so on election day he can be in bed by midnight (heh.). “If you've made up your mind, avoid the lines on Election Day and go vote this week.”

He also said that the election commission expects longer lines at early voting locations next week as folks will wait until the last minute.

For more info, click right smack here, or call 215-2480

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

County celebrates National Food Day

County Communications Manager Michael Grider, freshly returned from a short vacation at the middle Tennessee nudist colony, just sent out a press release to remind folks about tomorrow's National Food Day event at New Harvest Park.

You can find it right smack here.

Grider says the even kicks off at 4:30 p.m. and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett (ah, now I know why I received this) will make some brief remarks. He said at 5 p.m. they'll announce the winners of the Scarecrows in the Park contest.

Whatever that is. (I should have probably read the release before  I posted it.)

"There will be plenty of good visuals, as the farmer's market is very popular and the scarecrows will be on display," Grider notes.

In addition, Grider said that during the event, the administration will announce the location of the November cash mob.

Library sex offender policy working?

Back in September 2011, Knox County Mayor Tim “No-Kill Bigfoot” Burchett banned sex offenders from county libraries.

Then police took this freak into custody, although it had absolutely nothing to do with the new policy.

Finally, the state's toothless wonder, also known as American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, sent the mayor a mean letter, arguing that pedophiles have rights, too.

So, what the heck ever happened?

“Nothing really, of course the policy is in place but there's been no activity (related to it),” said Mary Pom Claiborne, PR spin-meister for the local library system. “All's quiet on the western front.”

I then asked county Communications Manager Michael “Big Sexy” Grider about the policy and what it meant. He said that it shows how bad a$$ it is because it's scared off any sex offenders. They wouldn't dare show up at the library he suggested.


Funny stuff.

Vote by mail deadline next Tuesday

Upset about that pesky little law that now requires voters to have ID? Well, the Knox County Election Commission, in a news release sent out yesterday (when I was out of town), says all you have to do is vote by mail (so long as you're old enough).

Anyhoo, ya got one week as the deadline to apply for an absentee by-mail ballot is next Tuesday.

“Tennessee law has changed,” said Knox County's top election person, Cliff Rodgers. “Any registered voter 60 years of age or older may apply to vote by mail. You don't need a doctor's note. You just need to apply.”

Please note that you need to fill out an “Application for Absentee By Mail Ballot,” which you can download right smack here. Or, call 215-2480 and someone will mail a form to you.

Rodgers said they're expecting 200,000 folks to vote in this election, so “don't get caught waiting in long lines on Election Day.”

Or something.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Commission adds one to ethics panel

In what I'd say was a pretty classy move (I suppose some folks would say it was a political move, but whatever), Knox County Commissioner Brad Anders suggested that the board nominate all six or seven (I lost count there) of the applicants who showed up last week to interview for the final spot on the county's Ethics Committee.

Then Knox County Chairman Tony Norman pointed out that “someone in the audience” can also submit a nomination.

All this, obviously, was in far contrast to the Oct. 10 Ethics Committee meeting in which the panel reappointed two of its members and – according to commissioners and some folks – gave little consideration to the other 23 applicants.

In the end, Ken Gross – click right smack here for his credentials – got the gig. It's a partial term that expires next Halloween. (Seriously.)

According to his resume, Gross has some governmental experience. In August, Gov. Big Bill Haslam picked him to serve a three-year term as the East Tennessee Commissioner on the State of Tennessee Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission in Nashville (talk about a mouthful of a title).

He's also done some other stuff. Again, just click here.

Now, with that said, all this could be moot anyway. The commission today also agreed that during next month's work session it will probably appoint a subcommittee to look into overhauling the 9-member panel.

I wrote about it the other day.

Stay tuned. 

I suppose.

County early voting ahead of 2008

Turnout in Knox County early voting is slightly ahead of turnout from the 2008 presidential election, according to a release sent out by the election commission. So far, 24,417 folks have hit the ballot boxes compared to 24,123 in 2008.

“Early voting is a flexible and convenient option for many voters,” Knox County Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers said in a prepared statement. “Voters enjoy avoiding lines on election day.”

Residents can still vote early at nine spots. Polls are open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. During the week and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. (The Deathstar location closes daily at 5 p.m., opens at noon on Thursday and will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday.)

Rodgers suggests that people who have moved recently, vote early. Just in case.

“We can process your change of address at any early voting location,” he said. “Remember, no matter where you live in Knox County, if you're registered to vote, you can vote at any early voting location.”

He also encouraged voters to study the proposed charter amendments.

You can find a sample ballot right smack here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Commission meeting agendas released

Absolutely hate the fourth Mondays of the month. Pension board (which almost everyone in the media but me ignores – good job television), commission luncheon, commission meeting, whatever.

Anyhoo, the Knox County Commission will continue its monthly luncheons. There was some thought that once Tony Norman took over as chair they would stop. His predecessor, Mike Hammond, paid for the lunches (commissioners ate well) and they got pretty pricey. So, don't blame Norman for not wanting to foot the bill. (He even joked that if they continued they'd all be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.) However, commission members all agreed to each pay for one lunch, so it works out.

Here's tomorrow's luncheon agenda. No, you can't have any of the food.

Additionally, here's the commission's voting meeting agenda

I'm not telling you what's on there. You get to read it yourself. Heh.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cash Mob heads to S. Koxville again

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett's latest cash will be held on Saturday (this is a change), Oct. 27 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Stanley's Greenhouses and Plant Farm.

(A little inside baseball: The mayor's chief of staff, Dean Rice, told Burchett when he thought of doing these things that it was a dumb idea. Heh. Tim never fails to remind him of how successful they've been so far. Plus it doesn't hurt that these things are also pretty good re-election tools.)

Anyhoo, according to the spin release, which was no-doubt written by county communications manager Michael Grider, who has returned from his vacation at the middle-Tennessee nudist colony, this cash mob will have a "fall festival-like atmosphere, which will include hot dogs, hay rides for kids, cemetery tours, games and cash mob specials."

Stanley's is located in South Knoxville at 3029 Davenport Road.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Forum tomorrow to discuss charter

The Knoxville-Knox County League of Women Voters tomorrow evening will host a form about the proposed amendments to the Knox County Charter that will appear on the November ballot. (No word on the city charter's proposed amendments, but considering everyone ignores the city . . . .)

The shindig kicks off at 7 p.m. in the Main Assembly room of the Deathstar.

Here's some background on the proposals right smack here.

And here's what the KNS editorial board has to say.

Obviously the two big things on the county's side (cause, again, no one cares about the city) are the pension program and term limits.

A couple folks from the Knox County Charter Review Committee, a couple of Knox County Commissioners (have they sun shined this meting yet?????) and some guy from one of those TV channels will be there to talk about this stuff.

I, however, won't be there. I'm taking a few days off. The voices are starting to speak to me again.

Early voting starts today for Knox

Ah, don't forget that early voting for the Nov. 6 elections kicks off today and runs through Nov. 1. Click right smack here for some locations near you. Also, here's a copy of the ballot.

In the meantime, enjoy my (so far) favorite meme from today:

Fact checking the presidential BS

We're going to be stuck with one of these knuckle heads real soon.
One good thing about presidential races/elections: Nothing gets done. That means nothing gets screwed up, either. (Unless of course, you're this guy. Heh. But I digress.)

Course, in the meantime, that Social Security exemption on your pay check will soon expire. So, expect to pay it next year no matter who wins.

Sooooo, I managed to watch about 10 minutes of the debate, killing time before Sons of Anarchy came on. Biker gang soap opera. Can't beat that.

Anyhoo, here's the latest BS checker from last night's contest, right smack here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Broyles on voting against committee

Photo by Michael Patrick
Knox County Commissioner Amy Broyles is fond of study committees.

In fact, she gets pretty upset when fellow commissioners vote against them.

Case in point: She took fellow members to task late last year when the board voted against a redistricting plan that a panel spent months working on. Instead, the board signed off on their own version, and one that wouldn't displace any of them.

Go figure.

Anyhoo, I figured it was worth asking the good commissioner why she was now spearheading a proposal to postpone a parking fee increase for the government peeps who park below the Deathstar.

I mean, it was after all a committee that proposed the increase and Broyles was part of the commission that approved the bump.

Here's her response:
“The difference is that whenever I've said that before it was about an issue that we had just sent to a committee and then when we get it back we immediately tossed the work out the window and said 'we don't want it.' We did this (parking fee increase) two years ago and we implemented it but it didn't go as expected. So, we're not tossing the work out the window. We're just asking them to study the issue in light of the economy.”
OK, fair enough, I guess.

The commission briefly addressed the issue during today's work session, and members in the coming week(s) are expected to reconvene the parking committee.

I figure the county (and city) for that matter will hold off on the fee increase. However, I just don't see them letting the public park in the building. (Another issue. Another time.)

Applicant skewers Ethics Committee

Looks like six folks (unless I miscounted) interviewed with the Knox County Commission for the open seat on the the county's Ethics Committee today. Another 14 didn't show up.

One person, Diane Jablonski, skewered the committee.

She said she was withdrawing her application yet appeared before the commission because she “felt this was the only way that would be able to publicly air my disgust with the fiasco perpetrated on the public by the so-called Ethics Committee.”

She noted that the board “operated within their own rules,” but there is “something un-ethical about a committee, who deals with the public trust, appointing themselves to full terms of office.”

Let me interject here. Last week the board gave 20 or so applicants each two minutes to say why they should be picked for he two open spots. Two of those applicants were board members whose terms were expiring. The board nominated the two members and then promptly reappointed them. This hasn't gone over well with some folks. Today's selection is to fill a partial term. The commission – not the committee – is to make this appointment.

OK, back to Jablonski:
“(What) happened was a sham, a farce and a fraud perpetrated on the citizens who had applied,” she said. “This self-appointed Ethics Committee, in my opinion, did a great disservice to Knox County and to the citizens who had appeared before them, in good faith, believing that they would be given fair consideration. What happened has unfortunately become the norm in Knox County where ethics is paper thin.”
She noted that educators, attorneys, mediators and “many of whom had served on ethics committees within their own professions applied.

Anyhoo, enough of that. Got more meetings to cover. I should note that no one, including Jablonski, has complained to me about the actual selections that were made, but rather the process.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More county drivers 'handicapped'

Here's something I found kind of interesting. If you didn't see Saturday's story – click right smack here for that bad boy – then here's the down and dirty: Knox County Commissioners and Knoxville City Council members are expected to talk about postponing a fee increase of $12.50 for about 615 government workers who park in the garage under the ol' Deathstar.

Now for the interesting/unusual/makes-me-scratch-my-head part.

The folks who have handicapped placards or plates for their car(s) don't have to pay to park. That's cool. It's state law. Whatever.

But the breakdown is certainly curious.

The county has 120 employees who have the placards/plates. The city has seven.

Heh. Yeah.

Right now  you'd be hard pressed to get anyone to talk publicly about it, but there's quite a few folks who aren't happy about this. They're wondering whether everyone who has a placard really needs one.

Of course, what are you going to do? Start harassing someone you think is scamming the system only to find out they’re really disabled? Good luck with that.

Still, scoring one of these placards is not all that hard. I mean look how easy it is to get pain pills around here. Or a driver's license if you're an illegal.

In the meantime, keep in mind that even though someone doesn't appear disabled, there are legitimate “invisible” disabilities.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Who won: Smokin' Joe or The Count?

The Count and Smokin' Joe participating in the ol' death star

Did you folks check out the debate last night? Man, I saw about five minutes. Funny stuff. Whatever Smokin' Joe Biden was on, well, I want some. The guy is nuts. Paul Ryan, though, looks like Count Dracula or something. Eh, whatever. Here's a fact checking story by the Associated Press right smack here.

In the meantime, I was looking around the Web at the memes, jokes, etc. Found a few I liked. Looks like the credit of these photos goes to the Associated Press, also, and whatever jokes sites I visited.

(I'm picking on both sides, now, so I don't want to hear any crap about the liberal media, blah, blah, whatever. I hate 'em all equally.)

Biden working up a spirit bomb

Biden successfully conjures said spirit bomb

Biden then goes back to sleep

Can't remember where I found this one, but it's funny. Don't care who you support.

Here's a few more I found from some blog out in Seattle or wherever. So, click right smack here for those. There's also some good GIFs, too.

On a side note, out in Houston, folks feel Ryan won the social media battle. Click right smack here for their take. 

I'm out for now. If I find any more silly crap I'll throw it up. Or throw up. Or whatever.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Biden, Ryan heartbeat from presidency

Biden says life better than it was four years ago, but nothing touches the summer of '87 - Onion
Don't forget (if you care) that VP Joe Biden and Republican Paul "I ran a marathon in under three hours - not" Ryan take the stage at 8 tonight in the only vice presidential debate this year.

Let's face it: Neither one of these guys is exactly inspiring, but Walter Shapiro writes about why you should watch. It's not a bad article.

For the fun stuff, check out the Onion's piece on the Vice-Presidency of Biden. Heh.

KNS reporter blogging on city

KNS city hall reporter Gerald "the couch whisperer" Witt has started a blog about Knoxville government. You can find it right smack here.

So far he's written about bees, Arby's, a beer truck hitting a bridge, and Sertoma. Or something.

Obviously, it's not as fun as the train wreck you'll get from the ol' Porch, but there's still some good stuff over there. Heh.

Check it out.

'Chase it with a shot of Bud Light'

Oh, man, this is funny. Someone has applied some new lyrics to the tune "Boot Scootin' Boogie." In the newspaper world, we call it "localizin'" the story. Not sure how happy Brooks & Dunn are gonna be. Check it out:

Ethics applicants get second shot

Well, well, we got us a little debate going on over at the hippie's site. Apparently, an applicant for the county's ethics committee isn't happy with the selection. Yesterday, I blogged about some other upset folks.

Anyhoo, what's done is done. The membership has been set. On Monday, though, the Knox County Commission will fill the third and final open slot. This is a partial term for someone who has moved (I think).

I should note that there has been some confusion. The ethics committee had two slots to fill on its panel. A lot of folks, including myself, were under the impression that the board just had that one. Well, no. The one spot is a commission appointment.

So, now that we have all that covered, I was messing around on the county's website this morning and found the resumes to the ethics committee applicants. I think it's pretty much the same folks who went before the ethics people yesterday. Means they get a second shot.

Here they are, right smack here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Some applicants question ethics panel

The county's ethics committee met this morning to go ahead and rubber stamp the reappointment of two sitting members.

And this hasn't gone over too well with a couple of folks.

You see, 25 people applied for the two open spots (five didn't bother showing up to today's meeting) and, quite frankly, it appeared that no one – other than the committee members – really had a shot.

I'm not saying that's the case, but, you know . . . appearances and all that.

One person called it “a farce” and another person said “the whole thing was disgusting.” A third walked out of the room, mumbling that “it was a monumental waste of time.”

And several have now dubbed it the “unethical committee.” (Yes, I know. Not real original.)

Soooooo . . . . what happened?

Glad you asked.

The committee has three open spots – two that it gets to fill and one that the Knox County Commission has to fill in the upcoming weeks.

The 20 people – including board chairwoman Elaine Davis and board member Mae Killebrew-Mosley – each were given two minutes to state why they should get the pick. (Board members said they reviewed the applications/resumes before the meeting.)

During the first round of nominations, the board picked Davis and Killebrew-Mosley. Now keep in mind that only the board – no one from the public – can make nominations.

Davis in a 5-1 vote was picked. And yes, she voted for herself. (Killebrew-Mosley also voted for herself.)

In the second round only Killebrew-Mosely received a nomination.

As one person told me: “They didn't even make it look good.” Heh.

Just before the meeting closed, Davis said: “I'm incredibly amazed and appreciative of the number of people and the quality of people who have shown up today.” She suggested that the committee increase its size. (They've been talking about making like this for almost two years.)

In the meantime, officials said they'd turn the remaining applications (and there are some good ones in the batch by the way) over to the county commission to look through. The person who had the post that's set to expire is not applying for it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ethics board set to add new member

The county's great paper tiger, sometimes referred to as the Ethics Committee, meets tomorrow morning, and there's not a whole lot on the board's plate.

(Are you telling me everyone has been acting all ethical these past few months?)

Anyhoo, here's the agenda, right smack here.

It appears that the only thing the committee has to do is pick a new member. Twenty-five people applied for the gig, although one, who is currently embroiled in a little brouhaha with the county, pulled out.

(I'm guessing the person who is already a board member gets reappointed.)

If I'm not mistaken, the person picked will fill the partial term that end on Halloween 2013.

The nine-member ethics board is charged with investigating complaints regarding county business and county employees.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Last chance to register to vote

Thanks to the hippie for the reminder. Today is the last day to register in Knox County to vote in the Nov. 6 elections. (As always, don't freakin' complain if you don't vote.)

Here's a sample ballot. And here's the early voting schedule. (Hint: It starts Oct. 17.)

October commission board birthdays

Just notice that one-third of the members on the Knox County Commission have a birthday this month. And two - Vice Chairman R. Larry Smith and Amy Broyles - celebrate theirs today.

Additionally, board Chairman Tony Norman has a birthday on the 23rd and Sam McKenzie celebrates his on the 26th.

I'm not sure how old/young they are. I used to have this stuff written down. Not sure where I put it.

For the county's complete October calendar, click right smack here.

Just more mindless info from da Porch.

Left over notes on salary survey

(Update at the bottom)

Dumping notebook here from Friday's story about a proposal to conduct a salary survey of county employees (which could eventually lead to pay increases).

The survey will probably happen. The raises? Way to early to say. The discussions really won't take place until next spring. Still . . . .

Here's some thoughts from Knox County officials:

County Commission Chairman Tony Norman: “I'd be open to the conversation but I don't know much about the process (of conducting the survey) right now. There are a lot of questions, particularly about the expense. It's one of those things were all the parties need to sit down and talk about what it is and what it means and what is it going to cost. Is there some reason to put a whole lot of effort into something like this right now, given where we are financially?”

Commission Vice Chairman Arrgghhh Larry Smith: “I'm not aware (of the potential discussion). It would be fine for me to know where we are compared to others in our economic region, but I think this is something we need to discuss during budget time and make the adjustment then.”

County Finance Director Casual Chris Caldwell: “If the survey shows that we're 10 percent under market, can we correct that overnight? Absolutely not. We know the fiscal restraints that we are in and if the restraints are that there is no money, well, then there is no money. Maybe it's something you could fix over several years. But right now it's not really something we can address until we do a survey.”

County Mayor Tim Motorcycle Burchett: “I'm not scared of the results – I welcome them. But I don't know what the commissioners' attitudes are going to be if the survey comes back and it says our directors and managers are underpaid and our other employees are overpaid. What then? Does it work both ways? I can't see them leading the charge to pay our managers more money.”

The plan would be to survey the county's general employees and the folks out of the sheriff's office. That's about 2,000 people, and the combined payrolls annually total about $84.8 million, which represents about 36.7 percent of the county's overall budget, once you take out the spending for schools.

I asked some folks whether they should survey the school system. I was met with more than a few blank stares and then overall chuckles before they exploded into great laughter. The general consensus is that teachers are underpaid and pretty much everyone else there is overpaid. They figured it wasn't worth pointing out the obvious. Heh.

Update: Knox County Board of Education member Indya Kincannon took issue that "everyone but teachers in KCS is overpaid."

"Not true," she said in a note to me. "Most are at or below market if you compare with to people with similar responsibilities. Principals for example, but also, gasp, those ne'er do well Central Office Administrators."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

KNS participates in Octoberfest run

The Knoxville News Sentinel scored this afternoon in the 13th annual Hops and Hope Octoberfest 5K run.

Metro Editor John North finished third in his age group; county reporter Mike Donila placed second in his; and city reporter Gerald Witt won his. Police reporter Don Jacobs and Lance Coleman, who covers a little bit of everything, also competed.

Winners received a bottle of beer, a cool glass and some stickers. 

(We don’t need no stinkin’ trophies.)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mayor Burchett OK after bike wreck

Screams from da Porch wishes Mayor Motorcycle a healthy recovery.

Yes, in the latest string of “he did what?” events, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett was involved in a motorcycle accident Thursday evening that left him with a broken “proclamation signing hand” and busted elbow. 

Now, I know I’m making light of this somewhat, but it’s because I talked to the mayor and he seems to be recuperating and joking about the incident.

Here’s what the mayor, a longtime motorcycle enthusiast, said happened: Burchett was riding his 1972 BSA-A65 Lightning around 10 p.m. on Amherst Road when the back tire blew.

He said he was going about 20 to 30 m.p.h. and he tried to ease it off the route he called the “Poor Man’s Dragon” so he could put lay it down.

“It’s not like in the movies when they run off the road and weave around the trees or a fence,” he said. “You really can’t dodge them.”

He said he managed to get off the road and put the bike down but it landed on his left side. When he did that, his left elbow hit the ground “and it just exploded.” He then hit a tree with his right arm and knee. 

“The thing that bothered me more than anything was that I couldn’t tell where my legs were (or how close they were to the chain),” he said, adding that the engine was running at top speed but his broken right wrist prevented him from turning off the accelerator off.

The mayor said he managed to turn off the bike (the key is in the back of the bike), which killed the engine. (New bikes by the way shut off immediately when they go down.)

“My thoughts were: I have a hot engine and gasoline and I’m laid up in all this brush,” he added.

So get this: Someone stops to help him. The mayor patches up the tire with fix-a-flat or whatever and then drives off as blood from the injury fills his jacket and runs down his arm. (That’s rock star stuff right there.)

He gets about half a mile and notices that the tire is again going flat.

“I think God was telling me to get off that dad gum thing,” he said. “I got it trucked home.”

It gets better: The mayor doesn’t go to the doctor. No, he goes home, gets up in the morning and then goes to work, missing only one meeting until Friday afternoon he finally decides that maybe he should get a little medical helped “because I was pretty banged up.”

“Well, I had been sick with the flu the past week and I was so far behind on my work, that I needed to catch up on it,” he said, justifying why he didn’t need no stinkin’ doctor.

The mayor will sport a cast for a few weeks and he’s also got a pad on his elbow. He said he’ll continue to ride, but the doctors told him to ease off until he’s fully recovered.

“My dad used to ride (when he was alive) and when I go out there I feel close to him even now,” the mayor said. “But while I was in that ditch, all I heard was my mama saying: ‘You need to quit riding those things.’ Of course my daddy was laughing.”

Credit to Dan the Man for breaking the story Friday evening and the mayor for supplying the photo.