Friday, November 30, 2012

Meetings set for audit department

Apparently, Joe Carcello likes the Copper Cellar. The chairman to the county's Audit Committee has scheduled three meetings at the Cumberland Avenue restaurant to talk about the bidding process for internal auditing services.

You might recall that the county is looking into whether it's cheaper to hire outside help or keep Richard Walls and his crew. (I'm here to tell you keeping this in-house is not only going to be cheaper, but more convenient, particularly with the amount of mileage county commissioners get out of the office.)

Anyhoo, the meetings are in December and open to the public. I'm betting that you have to pay for your own food. Click right smack here for the list.

Knox Mayor Burchett still in hospital

Mayor Burchett
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett is still in the hospital where he's being treated for pneumonia (no, I don't believe any of the dumb a$$ conspiracy theories going around - it's pneumonia). It also doesn't look like he's going to be getting out any time soon.

I'm thinking at least another four or five days minimum. I have no inside info on this, it's just my guess from talking to people who have been treated for pneumonia.

Don't forget, back in early April, Commissioner Ed Shouse checked into Parkwest Medical Center for 16 days for the same thing. Doctors initially thought he'd be in there for five at the most. Then they moved him to ICU.

The dude has had a rough year: motorcycle accident (probably sabotage); divorce, mom passing away,  etc.

The silver lining, I suppose, is that pneumonia does go away. So, figure in another month, Burchett will be back on the Bigfoot hunting trail.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Annual Lightfest this Saturday

The Knox County Parks and Recreation Department and the Concord Marina Captains Club will host the fourth annual Lightfest for Tots, a lighted boat parade, this Saturday from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The public is obviously invited because this information comes from one of those county spin releases and the event is free. But new, unwrapped toys and cash donations will be accepted for the Toys for Tots program (that's a hint there, folks.) You can view the boat parade at the marina, 10903 S. Northshore Drive.

The event also will have bonfires and free hot drinks, hot dogs and Santa gifts for children.

UT professor to take on Campfield

The Metro Pulse in this week's edition has a piece on “early starter” Brian Stevens, a 30-year-old UT statistics professor who looks about 12. He's already campaigning for Stacey Campfield's state Senate seat, which isn't up until 2014.

Find the story right smack here.

I'm not sure what the big deal is. Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs has been running for this seat since last year. Heh.

Mayor hospitalized with pneumonia

Mayor Burchett
Knox County emperor Dean Rice is now in charge as Mayor Tim Burchett recovers from pneumonia. No really.

The mayor is in a local hospital (he asked that I not say which one). He's not sure when doctors will release him, and his staff has canceled his appointments through the end of the week.

Short story right smack here.

The dude sounds pretty bad. I talked to him briefly. He tried to joke that he put Casual Chris Caldwell in charge and then he trailed off. 

(In the meantime, Big Sexy Michael Grider has taken over Dean's office. He's kicked back with his feet on the desk as I type.)

No word on how the mayor caught pneumonia. Might have been Bigfoot hunting or metal detecting. Regardless, da Porch wishes him a speedy recovery.

Future of Norquist Pledge bleak?

Was reading the rogue's blog last night about the Norquist Pledge. He's upset that U.S. Sen Bob Corker is backpedaling on his promise. Yes, it always sucks when a politician reneges like that.

Anyhoo, the pledge – a Republican promise not to raise taxes – is going to be at the forefront of politically wonky conversations. Soooo, I figured I'd provide a few links and some info about it.

Right smack here, ABC has a great blog post about what it is and how it got started.
“The pledge began in 1986 under the aegis of president Ronald Reagan.

Grover Norquist, a Republican and former staffer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had launched Americans for Tax Reform in 1985 to advocate for tax reforms Reagan was pushing in his second term. The group was financed largely by corporate sponsors such as Kraft, the Associated Press reported at the time.

In the midterm campaign year of 1986, Norquist rolled out the Taxpayer Protection Pledge as a way to pressure candidates to support Reagan's tax agenda, and as a cudgel for Republicans to wield against Democrats on the campaign trail.”
It was so successful that the GOP lost U.S. House and Senate seats that election cycle. Heh.


Actually, that's more entertainment at the expense of others. I'll support an initiative that gets an iron clad signed-in-blood promise out of a politician. That way they can't blame the “liberal media” when they're caught lying. You know, like (former?) pot-head stoner, adulterer Rep. Scott Desjarlais.

But, I digress.

As I said earlier, Shock and Awe noted that Corker was ready to backpedal on his promise. I have a feeling there's gonna be a lot more.

Most politicians are, after all, natural born liars.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Usual suspects garner write-in votes

Clint Eastwood for president? How about God? Or Han Solo? Then again, perhaps, the cartoon character Elmer Fudd floats your boat.

Those were just a handful of the names Knox County residents took the time to write in as candidates on the Nov. 6, presidential ballot, according to the 40-page list (2,318 names) officially approved this week by county election officials.

As always, some were funny, other creative and a few too lewd, crude and rude for a family blog.
It should also go without saying that none of the write-ins won.

The biggest race on the ballot – the one for president – garnered the most: a total of 528.

On that list included: Captain America, Bill Halsam, Bill Clinton, Ham Sandwich, Mickey Mouse, Rosanne Barr (always a popular one in Knox County elections for some reason); Peyton Manning, Ted Nugent (when was the last time this guy had a hit?) and Terry Bollea (that's Hulk Hogan to you!), just to name a few.

In addition, some folks made sure Jesus was accounted for, as well as county Commissioner Richard Briggs, Willie Nelson (another local favorite) and Zombie Eisenhower!

Ron Paul, however, led the race with about 270 folks either wasting their vote, having fun or just plain making a point.

Over in the U.S. Senate race, Park Overhall took the lead with about 80 write-in votes (she still lost), but we'd be remiss if we didn't point out votes for “A Decent Person,” Buggs Bunny, Beagle Dog, Batman Villain Harvey Dent or “Yo Mama.”

News Sentinel Columnist Sam Venable, Alfred E. Newman, Luke Skywalker and Homer Simpson were tapped to represent the 2nd District U.S. House seat.

As were the Dalai Lama, John Adams, Minnie Mouse, the Tazmanian Devil and Yoda for the 6th District state Senate post.

In other seats, Bob Marley, Kermit (of frog fame), Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars is popular these days!), Crom (that's from Conan) and Cthulu also received nods.

In addition, Strawberry Shortcake, Linda Snuffy Smith and “nobody” were somebody's choice.
“Anyone else” garnered some votes in a number of races, as did Mustang Sally, Terry Bradshaw, Bart Simpson and “None of the Above.”

And, no local election would be complete, of course, without “Yellow Dog” getting a vote.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy turkey day from da Porch

Hello, hope you all have a nice Thanksgiving. I'm headed down to KARM today to cover the luncheon for the homeless. Kind of a tradition. Anyhoo, I'll be back at work tomorrow, covering the county.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Burchett opposes JWP extension plan

Add Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett's name to the growing list of top leaders who oppose the James White Parkway Extension project. (Yeah, I totally ripped off the idea of this blog entry from the hippie. Click right smack here for it.)

“I spoke with the Governor's Office and expressed my concerns and they share them, too,” Burchett said. “There are three main things with it. I'm concerned about the neighborhoods, of course, and also the fact that (the project) will cost $100 million. It will also pull traffic off Chapman Highway and those people, the businesses, are dying on the vine out there. We don't want to divert anything from the local entrepreneurs.”

Plus, he said, he doesn't want the state going in and tearing up Bigfoot's home. (No, I totally made that last part up.)

The mayor did say that he'd like to see the $100 million used elsewhere in Knox County, like widening Oakridge Highway.

He added, too, that he didn't think anything would come of the project. (The state is holding a two-hour public hearing at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 at South-Doyle Middle School.)

“I don't expect any dirt to be turned in my lifetime,” Burchett said.

In the meantime, though, the mayor said folks shouldn't get too ramped up about this, saying “it's not the time for pitchforks and torches,” but, rather, to be civil.

Eh, I like the pitchfork idea personally.

Don't tase me! Contract approved

Mostly this blog entry is an excuse to run the video at the bottom, cause I think it's funny and I don't care if you don't think it's not funny. I just don't.

Soooo, the background:
The Knox County Commission unanimously approved a resolution that lets the Sheriff's Office purchase 285 electroshock devices from Taser International for almost $300,000.

The Tasers are good for five years and by buying them now, the county saved $15,000 to $20,000, said finance officials. Regardless, though, the department needed the updated tools, since the warranties on the ones deputies currently carry are about to expire.

“Taser (International) is getting ready to phase out the old tasers and right now they are the king of the mountain, they are the sole source, so it's not like we have a choice,” said Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones. “Once they phase them out, they won't honor any type of repairs on them.”

Jones said the devises have allowed his officers to use “less than lethal force when when there were times they could have used lethal force.”

County Finance Director Chris Calwell said the county will use $110,000 from surplus revenues received in the recently closed fiscal year's budget to cover part of the costs. The rest will come from a $500,000 earmark set aside in case of a major fuel price increase.

“I don't think we'll have to dip into that because the price of fuel has gone down but we'll continue to monitor the situation,” Caldwell said.
Now, all this got me to thinking about that goofball down in Florida awhile back. You know, the “Don't tase me,” guy. Click right smack here if you have no clue what I'm talking about. Anyhoo, I youtubed the thing and found this video.

Funny stuff.

Thanksgiving tips from the county

Starting to wonder if the spin crew over at the county has all that much to do. The latest? A news release on Thanksgiving safety tips. 

OK, to be fair the tips come from the health department, which from what I understand runs a pretty tight ship and since it's the holidays we give them the benefit of the doubt just this once.

Soooo, click right smack here for two pages of common sense stuff, which basically says wash your hands well, don't mix raw meats, use separate cutting boards for meats and other foods, make sure to cook the food, blah, blah, blah.

There's also some info about fire safety and some other stuff.

You've been warned.

Campbell Station to close briefly

The county this morning said it is closing North Campbell Station Road, about one-third south of Yarnell Road, from Tuesday through Dec. 18, so construction crews can facilitate the new alignment the road and new bridge construction.

The road will be open for local access. The rest of you can take the Yarnell Road and Lovell Road detour.

There, that's my public service announcement for the day. Now back to insulting people.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Billboard ban extended. Once again

Well, the county's had a billboard moratorium in place for four years now. So, what's another two months?

Yeah, the commission yesterday decided to extend the ban through Jan. 31. Now, last week, they had agreed in theory (work session stuff) to hold a workshop on Nov. 29, extend the ban just one month and then vote on whatever it is they come up with in December.

Then Commissioner, Colonel, Doctor and overall bad a$$ Richard Briggs came back from a trip and told the dais that they'd be extending the ban two months. Yup, he told them flat up: It's a holiday period, we've spent a lot of time on it, so set it aside.Again.

So, they did.

But, get this, the board had to vote twice to do it. Yeah. First they extended it until Jan. 28. Then some commissioners realized that the board meets that day. So, they had to vote again to extend it to Jan. 31. Oh, man, entertainment at the expense of others. Heh.

By the way, the vote wasn't unanimous. The measure passed (both times) 7-3. Commission Vice Chairman Rrrrrrrrrr. Larry Smith, and commissioners Jeff Ownby and Dave Wright voted against it.

(Commission Chairman Tony Norman was out. His mother-in-law passed away, so he was at her funeral. Condolences to the family.)

So, when the board does meet in another week, they will talk about the three proposals that Briggs has touted for months now. But, they're not voting on them. Click right smack here for a prior back story about this mess.

Anyhoo, Commissioner Sam McKenzie again called out his fellow board members for stalling.

“How many more times are we going to put this thing off,” he asked them. “I still think the parties up here know what they are going to do . . . . I think we all know what we want this thing to look like in order to get (the six votes needed to win). It's not fair to both parties (to hold off any longer). The opponents or the proponents.”

He added: “And who knows what will happen in January. We're starting to get eerily close to budget season.”

In other words: Are you jokers going to postpone it again in January and blame it on the budget? (My words, not his.)

In the end, Briggs agreed that he was “tired of beating a dead horse,” but “I'm not sure what horse I'm beating,” suggesting that a compromise next week could change everything. “This is very important to our community and something that can affects us for the next 20 to 25 years.”

Provisional ballots now counted

Knox County Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers in an email this morning said the Central Provisional Counting Board (how exactly do you audition for this band?) has now finished counting the provisional ballots from the 2012 presidential and state general election.

Click right smack here for an updated copy of the unofficial cumulative election results for Knox County. And no, I am not going to tell you what they are. Other than the winners are still the winners. And the losers still lost.

The Election Commission will certify the results on Monday.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The 'casual' report on county coin

Chris Caldwell
Casual Chris Caldwell, the county's finance director, met today with the Knox County Commission during its monthly luncheon to talk numbers.

As you might recall, the county got about $24.2 million in extra tax revenues - it was announced in September - so everyone kind of faked surprise or outrage (depending on the elected office) and stomped their feet, and the Knox County Commission then demanded that the administration start providing quarterly reports, detailing revenue projections.

It's worth noting that the county's finance department used to give commissioners printed, detailed reports on its bank accounts. No one bothered to read these things. (I know most of mine are still collecting dust in a desk drawer.) Then, the commissioners – I think it was a few summers ago – asked that the administration put them online instead. You know, to save money on trees.

So, now we're back to where we were because no one bothered to read the online stuff, and Casual Chris now has to read it aloud to the commission.

Anyhoo, the county's sharpest dressed finance director today told the commission that the general fund is down about $3 million. He also noted that expenditures leaving the general fund are up about $1.6 million.

Yeah, not good. Heh.

In addition, though, revenues for the school system are up about $2.4 million, according to the casual one. But, expenditures are up a whopping $16.7 million.

That, however, could be a “timing thing,” Caldwell noted. In other words, this could be the time of year when school officials make purchases, etc.

Overall, Caldwell said, it's “way too early to start panicking,” adding that “at the end of December we'll get a better explanation of where we are.”

Panel to certify election results

The Knox County Election Commission will meet next Monday to tell us what we already know: Obama is still president. The meeting, which is perfunctory, starts at 4 p.m. (which means we're getting out by 5 p.m. cause no one wants to stay late on a Monday) in the Small Assembly Room of the ol' Deathstar.

The agenda looks kind of slack. As I said this is standard stuff. They commission will certify the results of the Nov. 6 election and consider appeals for rejected voter registration forms. The panel also will set aside some time for a public forum.

Big Sexy on the hunt for Bigfoot

Catching up from over the weekend. Just say this email from county communications manager of only one person, Michael “Big Sexy” Grider, that provides some numbers for Friday's Bigfoot gathering that he says deal “with potential impact.” Whew. Long sentence.

Click right smack here for the story. And yeah, from what I understand Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett really did sport a Sasquatch suit. Heh. Dude cracks me up.

Anyhoo, according to Grider “well over” 1,000 folks turned up for the Friday event. He noted that some people can't apparently read, adding that others “were still coming in as I left, despite the fact that the publicized time for the event was 5-7 p.m.”

He said people from across the states, as well as Kentucky, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama attended. He also said “one family that flew in from a northeastern state” also attended, but I think he's either making that up or it's someone he knows.

He added that several locals were hired as part of the production crew. That's kind of cool.

Finally, Grider noted that the cast and crew will be in the area at least through the end of the weekend, which means they “will continue to stay in local hotels and eat at local restaurants.”

And, that also means they have no chance in hell of actually finding Bigfoot.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

'Coach' Dooley out: Good riddance

Well, Derek Dooley is gone.  And Screams from da Porch says: Don’t let the door hit you on you’re a$$ on the way out!

Seriously. Let us count the ways you suck-ethed. 

You are arrogant.

You were a $*#& to a reporter bud of mine who doesn’t even cover your crappy team but called you out because you also don’t know how to count or manage money.

You wore the tackiest, lamest, dumbest pants ever. In public.

You can’t coach. Although your deer-in-the-headlights look on the big screen was always amusing.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

That said, Nick Saban couldn’t coach that batch of losers the University of Tennessee fielded this year. Or last year. Or the year before. Or . . . .

Now, maybe if they’d bother to recruit county Mayor Tim Burchett’s nephew . . .

Naw, forgot, he doesn’t have any tattoos or a criminal record.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Jones, Tramel talk shop in Taiwan

The Man with the Badge, Knox County's own jet settin', globe trottin' sheriff, Jimmy "J.J." Two-Tone Jones was in Taiwan the other day, according to the local rogue blogger, who is reporting that the sheriff's influence has now gone worldwide!

Apparently, Jones and Assistant Chief Lee Tramel were hanging with Fang-Chin-Chiu, the acting speaker of Chia-Yi City Council, and some other VIPs and law enforcement people. I think. Brian Hornback reports that the the sides talked about combating dug-related problems, including "ice."

He said no tax dollars were used to foot the bill.

There's no mention whether the two hit the links.

The above video is from a newscast Jones and Tramel appeared in while visiting. It's not in English, which makes it kind of funny.

Was that pension meeting sunshined?

The county pension board's documents committee met yesterday to talk about the new retirement plan for the Knox County Sheriff's Office. Story right smack here.

One item of note that wasn't in the article: I'm pretty sure this was not a sunshined meeting. I'm not 100 percent positive, but I certainly didn't get anything from the pension board office, nor did I see anything in the legal section.

If true, this is the same thing that happened back in 2006 when the first plan was put together: The media and the public for that matter were not informed about the committee meeting dates. Subsequently, they got no coverage and no one knew just what the heck kind of plan we were going to get. (Pension board officials said they put up a notice on a wall in the Deathstar. That wall, by the way, was down a long, narrow hallway that folks in the public – not counting county retirees and employees – rarely visit.

Anyhoo, I found out about the meeting on Tuesday while talking to Commissioner Ed Shouse. He mentioned it. I was pretty surprised. (Ed sits on the pension board and I should add that it's not his job to sunshine document committee meetings, but he does a good job of letting people know about this kind of stuff.)

I later get a copy of the letter that was sent to the five members of the document committee and a handful of others. You can find that bad boy, by clicking right smack here.

Now, if you're looking at it (you did click, right?), you'll notice that the memo actually states that Thursday's meeting is actually a rescheduled meeting from one that was supposed to happen on Tuesday. Yeah, I don't think the one on Tuesday was sunshined, either.

Further, you might also see that Thursday's meeting was set for 2 a.m. Thursday. Good thing that was a typo.

I think.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wright wants 15 on the commission

Dave Wright
He's going to get absolutely zero traction from the rest of the dais, but Knox County Commissioner Dave Wright, the sharpest dresser on the board, wants officials to change the charter “to provide for a 15 member commission elected from 15 districts.”

Yeah. Heh. That one is going to go over lie a lead balloon. (The Zeppelin reunion show from 2007 is out on DVD next week – cheap plug.)

Anyhoo, Wright, who represents East Knox County, feels that voters reduced the board's membership from 19 to 11 in reaction to Black Wednesday. He called the move “the most poorly thought out charter change that went through” (whenever that was passed by voters – I forget what year).

“The people were mad with the occupants – not with the seats themselves,” he said. “We cut the size of the commission in half, but we didn't cut the work in half.”

He's got a point actually. Plus, you got those two at-large seats, which really have to cover some territory. And then you've got more than 11 committees and members are allowed to serve as chair on only one committee. Odd.

Wright doesn't expect the issue, which commissioners are expected to talk about briefly on Monday, to go anywhere.

But, he's “bringing it up again just to make a point.”

(As a side note, I think I've written about this proposal four or five times in the past couple of years and it went nowhere.)

“No one really wants to step up to it because they think the powerful that support how you go about getting elected . . . well they want to maintain control of what commission is doing,” he said. “The charter review committee didn't want the population to look at it, and the commission doesn't want to look at it. They want it to be a 'go away' issue.”

He continued: “I want to put some people on the spot. We need a little bit of frank, open discussion for 10 or 15 minutes, and then we'll go on because nothing can happen for two years – that's the earliest it can be put on the ballot.”

Wright didn't single out any commissioners, but I asked Tony Norman about it, just because he's the board's chairman.

“It came up in the charter review process, but I think it's the sense of the commission that it is too much of a change too soon given the type of redistricting issues we face,” Norman said. “I think it will take awhile.”

To be continued.

In a few years.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Public in favor of parking fee hike?

Today's story - right smack here - about the Knox County Commission willing to postpone a parking fee increase to employees has ticked off a number of people. At least according to some of the voice mails I've received.

Anyhoo, a little background: The commission during yesterday's work session began talking about forming a committee comprised of employees to determine what the Deathstar workers should pay to park under the City County Building. Later it was rephrased to a committee comprised of "employees and citizens." That's a little better, I suppose. Cause, you know, it's not like employees are going to willingly increase their own parking rates.

I figure nothing will come of this. The commission kicked it down the road and over to the city and county administrations where it will probably remain dormant until someone reminds them about the matter next summer. Or whatever.

So, back to the ticked off people. That would be upset the residents who pay more than government employees to park. One woman told me that when she retired in 1990, she paid "$48-something" to park downtown, and she also had to walk three blocks.

"They're getting a bargain," she said. "I think it should go to $60. Those employees are on the gravy train."

Now, right or wrong, this is pretty much the outside sentiment.

I really don't see this one getting revisited. Politics and all. Best to hide.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

'America Recycles Day' on Saturday

The county is hosting its annual “America Recycles Day” this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m in the West Town Mall parking lot just off Morrell Road.

According to the latest spin job issued by the county, folks can speak to “more than a dozen environmental organizations about where, how and why to recycle.” (Hippie talk, in other words.) The event also will have some free stuff, games, activities, blah, blah.

Additionally, if you want to lug your old or unwanted documents down to the parking lot, then Goodwill Industries of Knoxville will shred them “confidentially” for free. Also, representatives from the TVA Credit Union will be there to provide free info on how long you should keep all your old documents.

And, if you really want to get rid of your old pills, the Knoxville Police Department is hosting a medication collection (seriously). And there's a “recycling bin giveaway” (Oh, boy).

OK, in all seriousness, I know I make fun of the hippies, but you really should recycle and hug trees and all that.

Three apply for internal audit gig

Three firms have expressed interest in taking over Knox County's internal auditing program.

Yeah good luck. Like that contract is really gonna go anywhere.

A little catch-up here: Awhile back the audit committee and the county commission started talking about outsourcing the $251,000-a-year operation. Now, I'm not sure who internal auditor Richard Walls ticked off, but it was someone. Cause, really, no one is buying the whole “we're just testing the water and trying to see if we can save money, so we're going to bid out the office.”

Cause that's not happening. Not with the peanuts the county invests in the audit department right now. So, don't expect any changes.

However, to keep the charade going, the county did open up the “request for proposals” process on Oct. 30. Three organizations – Pugh and Company (they're also the county's outside auditors), KPMG (the county's most recent external auditor) and Blackburn, Childers and Steagall submitted proposals.

Walls' operation, which didn't have to turn over anything, also will be considered.

The county still needs to get some more information from the firms, like references and how much it will cost to staff such an operation. The county set a Dec. 7 date to get that, and officials expect to hold interviews Dec. 11.

Each firm will get 45 minutes – 20 minutes for presentations and 25 to answer questions. The meeting will be open to the public although I'm pretty sure no one from the public will attend.

The internal audit department investigates financial transaction and reports directly to the Knox County Commission.

And that's the problem. The commission is always asking the department, which has like four people, to look into stuff. And it's easy; it's not an issue. It's already paid for.

Now, what happens when the commission wants something investigated and a replacement firm comes back with a major bill? Will commissioners be so quick to investigate?

Audit tattletale line quiet lately

Remember the ol' tattletale line? Yeah. Didn't think so. Apparently a lot of people forgot. What was once a place to regularly leave late night drunken messages or rat screw your work buddy is pretty much dead. Either that or the county is just so full of goodness that nothing is wrong.

Anyhoo, during today's county audit committee meeting, the panel's chairman, Joe Carcello, said that in the past eight weeks, the hotline has received two reports. He said both are being investigated and – according to Mark Jones (who was out today) – there also is “no urgent need to close any open or active reports.”

All this means we probably won't know jack for a long time.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanks: Honoring those who served

A personal thanks from me to all those who served and currently serve. Here's the Veterans Day proclamation for 2012 right here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mayor doesn't hold back on Twitter

Well, it wasn’t exactly a Donald Trump-like  meltdown on the Twitterverse because, well, almost no one can be as stupid and ridiculous as Trump and the dead animal that sits on top of his head, (how many times has be filed for bankruptcy and why is he still allowed a credit card again?), but Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett – a well know twittin’ Twitter-er (yes he does his own tweets) on Friday night had a few things to say about the University of Tennessee.

The tweet in question: “I need to get him some tats and a criminal record so UT will be interested.” (He was no doubt referring to the troubled football program. (“Troubled” being generous. How about that Kentucky game last year. Bwahahahahahah.)

 The mayor, of course, was writing about his nephew, a senior who plays quarterback on the Christian Academy Knoxville football team and is a finalist for Mr. Football. The kid is a stud. (CAK also beat up on Alcoa last night by the way.) And he’s certainly better than that pretender who can hit a car with a beer bottle on a Friday night but can’t manage to find his wide receivers the next afternoon.

Anyhoo, Burchett quickly took down the tweet, but not before a number of folks retweeted it. One person said it wasn’t smart of him, another thanked him for his honesty and another told him to “stay classy.” Whatever. You got to see the stuff I have to remove sometimes. Heh.

“I pulled it down pretty quickly,” the mayor, who has almost 1,800 followers on the social media site, told me this after. “I was just being funny but everyone went ballistic. I didn’t think anyone read that stupid thing. It was probably up for about five minutes.”

Course in all the outrage, no one seemed to notice all the nice stuff he said about veterans.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quick list of freebies for Veterans

Thanks to Brian Paone for putting this together (I had it in the comment section, but wanted to give it better play.)

Here's a non-exhaustive list of the restaurants and eateries around town that are giving out Veterans Day freebies to former/current armed forces members:

KRISPY KREME - Free donut on Veterans Day, proof of service required.

APPLEBEES - Free signature meal on Veterans Day. DD-214, state-issued military ID card (if you have one you know what it is; if you don't I'm not telling you) or proof of membership in a veteran service organization will be accepted.

TGI FRIDAY'S - Free lunch on Veterans Day. Proof of service accepted: Active Duty ID card, Retired ID card, DD-214, VA ID card or veteran's designation on your driver's license.

ARBY'S - Free Classic Roast Beef Sandwich on Veterans Day for veterans and active military with ID.

OLIVE GARDEN - Free meal for active duty and veterans on Veterans Day with ID.

CHILI'S - Free meal (choice from six options, and no, I don't know what they are but I assume it's pretty common food) with valid military ID or proof of service.

TEXAS ROADHOUSE (specifically, Morrell Road) - free lunch on MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12 from 11AM to 4PM with valid military ID or proof of service. I don't know if other TRs are doing the same; I advise calling and asking. I did call Morrell Road, however, and confirmed the above information for their particular location.

SHONEY'S - Free breakfast or lunch buffet on MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12 all day with military ID or proof of service.

LITTLE CAESAR'S - Free Crazy Bread on Veteran's Day with military ID, DD-214 or veteran's designation on your DL.

OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE - Free Bloomin' Onion and a Coke on Veterans Day with proof of service.

GOLDEN CORRAL - Free dinner on Veterans Day with proof of service.

TRAVEL CENTERS OF AMERICA (because truck stops have the best food) - Free meal on Veterans Day with proof of service.

MIMI'S CAFE - Free lunch or dinner on Veterans Day with proof of service. (Reservists are specifically included in this.)

RED ROBIN - Free Red's Tavern Double burger on Veterans Day with military ID.

DENNY'S (had no idea we had one, but it's apparently on Watt Road) - Free all-you-can-eat pancakes on Veterans Day with proof of service.

Again, this is not an exhaustive list. There may be smaller eateries offering freebies, and a lot of 'em are offering discounts, but I focused on free stuff that I could confirm (because no one likes to waste their time).

Also, every veteran should get a lot more free stuff every day than they do. But that's another rant.

Veterans Office expands outreach

Don't forget that Veterans Day is this Sunday. County offices will be closed on Monday. I believe the city's side of the Deathstar will still be open. (They like to work. Heh.)

Anyhoo, the county just sent out a release, noting that its Veterans Service Office “is making it more convenient for veterans to get assistance by expanding its outreach to senior centers and partnering with faith-based organizations to more effectively reach” local veterans.

(You might recall that earlier this week, the county opened its new Veterans Service Office. Actually, it just moved the office about two feet, but still, new digs are always cool.)

Veterans also can meet with officials to get assistance with claims for service-connected disabilities, improved pension, health benefits, insurance programs, educational programs and burial benefits at the following locations (and times): Click right smack here.

Also, the public is invited to a veterans benefit brief at First Baptist Concord on Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m. Click right smack here for that info.

Ethics panel reappoints officers

Knox County's Ethics Committee met this morning, mostly to elect new officers. Not a whole lot here, other than one small note of (sort of) humor.

This isn't exactly a talkative group, so when the panel sought nominations from its members there were quite a few bumps on the ol' logs up there on the dais. Finally Richard Bell nominated Elaine Davis for reappointment to the chair seat. That quickly passed 6-0.

Davis then asked about the vice chair seat. She was met with chirping crickets. Finally, she nominated Karen Smith to serve. Smith, by the way, was not at the meeting. (This is starting to be a running theme.) No other nominations. That, too, passed 6-0.

Finally, Davis nominated – since everyone else forgot how to talk – Richard Bell for reappointment for the secretary spot. Yup. Passed. 6-0.

Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs, Karen Smith a Raj Patel were absent from the meeting.

I'll have more on the Ethics Committee in tomorrow's paper. Good stuff, folks, good stuff

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mayor appoints four to new KTSC

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett appointed four people today to the board of directors of Visit Knoxville, which used to be called the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp, but abruptly changed its name after the last board got caught doing absolutely nothing other than letting the former executive director run wild and get paid like a gazillion dollars and no one really cared until a former Knoxville mayor started a whisper campaign to get her run out because she made waaaaay too much money for doing whatever she did, and, well, I digress.

Anyhoo the mayor named his senior director of community outreach, Hemal Tailor, Knox County Commissioner Brad Anders, Anita Lane (Hampton Inn Downtown general manager) and Courtney Piper (Piper Communications founding principal) to the board.

Let's hope they pay attention a little bit better than the last batch. Heh.

“Like me, they are all committed to ensuring transparency in the operation of Visit Knoxville, and the efficient use of taxpayer dollars to effectively promote tourism in Knoxville and Knox County,” Burchett said in a released statement.

The city and county recently approved contracts with Visit Knoxville to serve as a “destination marketing service.” No one was surprised.

For more info about the organization, click right smack here.

Broyles misses meeting, becomes chair

Forgot about this little tidbit. Must have been hanging with Diane Sawyer. Heh.

Anyhoo, The Knox County Commission has a sub-panel called the insolvency board, which is comprised of commissioners Dave Wright, Sam McKenzie, R. Larry Smith and Amy Broyles.

Now the board has been trying to meet for weeks, but had to cancel a number of times because it couldn't get a quorum. On Monday, everyone but Broyles finally made it to a meeting. It was at that time, the panel voted in Broyles to serve as its chair, if only because the other members chaired (can you use that word as a verb?) other committees.

So, the three vote her in, and she's not there. (I'm not even sure if she knows that she's in charge yet.)

Then they go ahead and conduct a meeting that she is now supposed to run. I'm sure there is some sort of Roberts Rules violations, but, you know, Knox County and all.

In the meantime, I overhear one of the attorneys in the law director's office tell a commissioner that only the Rules Committee is the only sub-panel of the Commission that has named a chair. (There's been some confusion about this for awhile.)

So, if that's the case, did they have to vote in Broyles? And was the business conducted during the meeting legit, since she wasn't there to oversee it?


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hey, Diane Sawyer: Have another one

Update: Had to change the video. ABC started crying about copyright infringement or something.

According to ABC's Diane Sawyer, Tuesday night's winner was . . . Sutter Home. Heh. Geez, I figured Karl Rove would have been the one to go get drunk, particularly after his little meltdown with his former buds at unfair and biased Fox News, but seriously, lady, carry your a$$ home.

Anyhoo, check out the vid, particularly the parts when she's talking to George Stephanopoulos and Barbara Walters. True entertainment at the expense of others.

Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that apparently some hippie New York Times reporter is claiming that she gets this way when she's tired. Yeah. B.S.

Don't we all know a former judge who used that excuse?

Well, at least she wasn't butt chugging.

I, mean, I don't think she was.

Johnson still wins the House seat

The Knox County Election Commission has wrapped up counting absentee ballots and it doesn't appear that the extra votes changed the outcome to any election, including the closest one for the 13th state House District seat, according to the unofficial results.

Late last night, Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers said the county had about 5,800 voters cast ballots by mail, so not everything would be complete until today. 

The Central Absentee County Board is now done counting, according to the Knox County Election Commission's website.

The closest race of the night – before absentee ballots came in – was the contest between Democrat Gloria Johnson and Republican Gary Loe, who were vying for the state House seat. Johnson held a 395-vote lead.

That race had 625 absentee votes and Johnson's lead dropped to 296.

Stoned Immaculate: Weed now legal

Not really much to say. Enjoy the picture. Heh. According to the Washington Post, it's now legal to burn one in Colorado as voters agreed to legalize small amounts of weed “for recreational use for adults 21 and older, regulating and taxing the drug in the same way alcohol is regulated.”

The Post says supporters raised almost $2 million. Gee, wonder where they got the money from. In addition, Colorado resident also can grow marijuana next to their tomatoes, since cultivating also is now legal.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Still counting votes, Loe complains

Getting a little late into the night and my main man down at the election office just cranked out another news release, letting folks know that even though all the county's precincts have reported, the Central Absentee County Board will be counting ballots late into the night.

“We had approximately 5,800 voters cast ballots by mail,” said Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers. “We hope to finish counting late tonight and into the early morning hours if necessary.”

On the surface, about the only local election this appears to have any possible – and really, it's super slim – chance to affect would be the contest between Democrat Gloria Johnson, who as of right now, beat Republican Gary Loe by 400 votes for the 13th District state House of Representatives seat.

When questioned by a reporter about the race, Loe asked if this “was another ploy” by KNS Editor Jack McElroy to influence the race.

Yeah, dude, all the strings lead back to the puppet master's corner office at News Sentinel Drive. Cause, you know, Jack stayed up late, hoping to influence a race that – even if a Democrat wins – will have absolutely no affect on state-wide decision-making cause there's like a gazillion Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature and about three Democrats.

Seriously, it's sad that some people really believe this crap.

But I digress.

Knox County election officials, in the release, said they were pleased with the quick tally of the election day precincts. The final tally of all votes cast was done at 9:56 p.m., which election officials say “was the fastest tabulation of election day results for a presidential election in memory.”

Expect delay for election results

Knox County's polls close at 8 tonight, but those in line by then can still vote.

That means, however, the county will end up delaying the release of the election results tonight.

(The office typically has some early voting results in usually by 8:20 on Election Day.)

“It may take awhile,” said Knox County Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers in a released statement.

Rodgers added that the wet weather didn't deter folks from the polls today.

“We're pleased by today's turnout so far,” he said. “It's not too late. Go vote!”

Burchett "finds" Bigfoot in Knox

The rest of you folks can go look for the next president. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett is on his own mission: To find Bigfoot.

Yup, the Sasquatch aficionado and well-known conspiracy theorist (I think he also believes in Nessie) and some members of various local Bigfoot clubs have worked out a deal with Animal Planet to bring the show “Finding Bigfoot” to Knox County.

I'm not kidding.

You see, I'm required to get an election brief for the ol' rolling blog over on the KNS website, so I figured I'd call the mayor. That's when he told me what he was doing on Election Day.

“Well, I’m just being the mayor,” Burchett said with a laugh. “But we’re also bringing the Bigfoot show to town.”

He added that the show’s producers will meet with the public during a Nov. 16 shindig at Powell Auction from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“This is not going to hurt Knox County or East Tennessee one bit – not with the exposure we’ll get of the local beauty,” the mayor said.

I assume he is referring to the landscape – not the hairy and elusive ape-like creature that no one has ever taken a non-grainy picture of.

“The show has 1.5 million to 1.7 million viewers – it’s international, so everyone will see Knox County,” he said.

Burchett added that when the show’s production crew does arrive, the staff will interview locals who claim to have seen what many believe to be the missing link. They’ll conduct research and also journey out into the nearby wilderness, perhaps looking for Sasquatch. 

The mayor, though, said where they go will remain a secret until next year when the show airs.

In the meantime, the Burchett said the rest of his day will be spent “working the polls,” and asking folks to vote to close a costly pension plan for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

He also noted that he broke from tradition this year and voted early. He joked that he was afraid he’d have another motorcycle wreck and wanted to make sure he got to the polls.

Call collected: I voted for Alice

Not sure whatever happened to the "Third Party, the Wild Party,"  but Alice Cooper is still rocking. I think. Check out this awesome video in honor of Election Day. Cooper does the whole Mike Donila thing with his arms raised in the sky. (No, I invented it. Not Cooper, not Nixon. Me. Check out the picture to the right of the blog, baby. Yup.)

Anyhoo, you can find the lyrics right smack here. And in the meantime, enjoy, dream and pretend your vote actually counts when you don't live in a swing state. Cheers.

More info for tonight's big elections

Yeah, they really do hate each other (Photo by AP)
Unfortunately there's no way either of the two knuckleheads running for president can lose.

(Yes - there's only the two candidates. Don't give me that third party hippie crap. Go waste your vote if you want.)

Anyhoo, if you haven't figured how who you're picking - if anyone - then I've got a couple of sites you can check out. Maybe they'll help you make a decision. Or not.

Sooooo, there's Project Vote Smart, which you can find right smack here. And there's "I Side With," a site one of our KNS commentators pointed out, which you can find right smack here.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter on election night as I rip off Dan Rather quotes. And yes, they're all dumb, but I'm pretty sure he thought he was witty. Right smack here for some twittin'. And, as I've been reminded, also check out the Twitter hashtag #knoxvote.

So, that should do it. For now.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Voters to vet odd term limit rule

Not sure if you saw this one, but this is from today's paper, a story about the No. 7 proposed charter amendment. Click right smack here for some awesomeness.

Anyhoo, it reads in part:
It's a quirky law that deals with one of Knox County most controversial matters – term limits – yet it appears to be pretty much toothless.

And now voters have the chance to get rid of, save taxpayers a couple of bucks and spare the Knox County clerk a few minutes of his time each year.

At issue is proposed amendment change No. 7 that appears on Tuesday's ballot.

It asks voters whether the county should no longer require the clerk each year to write to a number of top ranking elected officials, stating “the people's support of term limits at both the state and federal levels.”

And yes – before you ask – Knox County Clerk Foster Arnette Jr. actually does it.

“I don't want to be in violation of any law, no matter how small it may seem,” said Arnett, who had no idea the task would be part of the duties when he took over the office in 2000.

No, none,” he said, chuckling.
You can find the letters Arnett wrote to federal leaders right smack here. And right smack here for the ones sent to the state officials.

Grider touts Veterans Service office

Ol' "Big Sexy" Michael Grider spent the morning haunting my editor, trying to get some coverage of this ribbon cutting thing-a-ma-jig that we blew off. But, just cause Grider is a good guy, we'll run a brief based on his spin job. (Check out tomorrow's paper for something about a Veterans Service office opening.)

Anyhoo, that's not really on my mind. I just found it curious, though, that Grider, who is paid about $6 bucks an hour because he works for the county's biggest cheapskate, actually managed to put out a release. On top of that, he quoted his boss, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, in it. (He left out everyone else, but, hey, that ain't the dude's job.)

However, and because he's such a nice guy, Big Sexy mentions that Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Congressman John J. Duncan Jr. and a bunch of people I've never heard of also were at the little shin dig.

This got me to thinking: Why the other parties issue their own spin jobs? They certainly got the paid staff to do it.

Heh. Score one for the big guy.

Follow the knoxvote hashtag tomorrow

Hey, just to let you know if you're into that whole twittin' on Twitter thing, then check out the hashtag #knoxvote tomorrow. Apparently, that's what we're going to be using to follow, and write about, and make fun of the elections. Or whatever.

We'll probably have some fancy pictures on there, too.

In the meantime, don't forget to follow me on Twitter, as I always ramble like a mental patient and I'll be spouting out the ol' Dan Ratherims like they're Hotter than a Time Square Rolex.” And, I'll probably forget to use the hashtag.

By the way, am I the only one that thinks a hashtag sounds like something illegal?

Free election iPad app available

Not to be outdone, of course, by county election guru Cliff Rodgers, the county's communication manager, Michael “Big Sexy” Grider, just issued his own spin job, touting an iPad app the county's IT department developed for election returns tomorrow night.

Grider says voters have a “new way to follow election returns,” although most folks have been using similar apps for years now, but we'll forgive him this one time. Anyhoo, the thing is free to all iPad users and is titled “Knox County Tennessee Election Results” in the App Store.

Also, you can still follow the live results on mobile and desktop devices right smack here.

Voting tips for tomorrow's election

Case you've been under a rock, or if you're just brain dead, there's an election tomorrow. Sooo, it's that time again as I contact the county's main main in the election commission, Cliff Rodgers. Or rather, he contacts the media through one of his many spin releases.

The guy is on a roll, folks. Anyhoo, Rodgers has some election tips for those who missed early voting and do plan to hit the ballot box tomorrow.

“On election day, you're required to vote in the precinct where you live,” he said. “Our early locations are closed on election day. Don't show up and try to vote at Downtown West!”

Heh. Good stuff. Oh yeah, by the way, the polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

If you're not really sure about your polling place, then click right smack here where you will find the link “Where do I vote.” Enter your name, address, etc. to find your location.

Don't forget your ID. Cause, you know, the new rule is there to prevent you from voting. Heh. Also, vote early and often. (Cliff really didn't say that. His right and man, Scott Frith, did. Kidding, of course. Not really. Maybe. You'll never know.)

Do expect moderate to heavy lines, especially in the morning and evening. If you're in line at8  p.m., you can still vote, but come on, don't be THAT person.

The election commission won't release any results until everyone in line has vote, so that might not be until after 9 p.m. Seriously, don't call. Just go to the website and hit refresh every few seconds.

Rodgers said he expects about 50,000 to 70,000 voters tomorrow, so be patients with the folks at the ballots and if you have any questions or problems, then call. (Look up the number on your own – I'm not the white pages.)