Friday, April 27, 2012

Elvis has left da (blogging) building

Dear readers:

Screams from da Porch is shutting down. Yup. No kidding. I had a good run, a fun run and whatever. All that. The blog even picked up a nice award.

But, it’s taking up too much of my time and, quite frankly, I don’t feel that recently  I’ve been able to put the same effort into it as I did when I first started.

So, before any rumors start flying, or my words get twisted: This is my decision. No one is forcing me to kill it. I could continue doing this. I have opted not to. 

If you hear otherwise, there is no truth to it. I just don’t have the time and if you’re going to do a blog, then it should be done right, updated often, blah, blah. 

Still . . .  who knows.

Maybe there’s a sequel somewhere. (Never say never and all that.)

Perhaps a Screams from the Porch column in print edition?  (I never did do that follow-up for the “You’re not from Around Here” blog entry. ) There’s a thought.

That could be cool. Or not.

Anyhoo and in the meantime, you’ll still see me around the Deathstar and (occasionally) the Haunted Ivory Tower, covering county government. Heh.

Come up and say “hello.”

And again: Thanks to all those who dropped by.



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ethics chair opposes law director plan

Knox County's Ethics Board Chairwoman Elaine Davis yesterday sent an email to a bunch of local big wigs that was addressed to the charter review committee.

She's against a possible proposal to let change the county law director's seat from that of an elected position to an appointed one.

Here's the email:
Dear Charter Review Committee Members,

Unfortunately due to prior commitments, I am unable to speak before the committee tonight during Public Forum. I appreciate the Chair allowing for me to speak to you at your last committee meeting on April 11, 2012. Due to time constraints, I was unable to fully express my concerns.

I am writing in reference to the April 25, 2012 Agenda item no. 9. (8.) under the Discussion heading with reference to Section 3.08-Appointment of Law Director. "Appointment of Law Director by the Mayor effective September 1, 2016. Other branches of government will be allowed to hire on a contract basis an attorney to represent their interests."

I am writing concerning a potential conflict of interest with the appointment of the Law Director and the Ethics Committee. As you may or may not be aware, the process in which ethics complaints are initially received originate with the Law Director's office. Either a sworn complaint is received by the Law Director or a complainant may call the office and speak with the Law Director who then discerns the validity of the concern as to whether it may rise to an ethics violation. The committee as a whole is made aware of sworn complaints that are received however any calls that are made to the Law Director's office and those conversations with complainants are not. This is an appropriate process. I believe, that any verbal complaints received, the Law Director deftly handles and gives appropriate instructions to that citizen based on their complaint and situation.

However, if the Law Director is appointed by the Mayor and can be fired by the Mayor at the Mayor's discretion, my concern is that this allows for any complaints received about the Mayor or any of the Mayor's staff to be manipulated to never rise to a violation or be determined to be a credible complaint, be used to warn any wrongdoers and cover up any malfeasance, or conversely retaliate against any political enemies. In my opinion, the Law Director's loyalties would lie with the Mayor instead of remaining independent.

Additionally, there is a conflict with the language of "other branches of government contracting counsel". The Ethics Committee at one point did have a budget in order to pay for the noticing of its meetings. However, at present, the committee does not have a budget and would be unable to contract outside counsel. As a quasi-governmental body that can make recommendations of violations of T.C.A. to the District Attorney's Office that could result in a criminal charge, it is imperative that the legal advice that the Ethics Committee, a citizen's committee, receives is to be trusted.

To date, I can state that the Law Director has aided in creating Whistleblower Protection and the Process and Rules by which a formal hearing is conducted. Having served on the Ethics Committee during the hearings in which the prior Mayor's administration was found guilty of retaliating against a County employee, I can firmly say that having the Law Director independent of the administration allowed for me to make an informed decision based upon my trust of the Law Director's counsel not political machinations.

I am currently Chair of the Knox County Ethics Committee. Please know that I write this letter to you as a citizen who serves not as a spokesperson for the committee as we have not met nor discussed this matter as a body.

Thank you for your time and attention to these serious matters. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. Again, thank you for your willingness to serve.

Elaine Davis

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Someone survey teachers 'bout budget

I got an idea. And you know it's a good one. Because over here at Screams from da porch, we have no bad ideas. (Just people who don't agree with the good ones.)

I keep hearing that there's all this support from teachers for the gazillion-dollar proposed school budget. Then I hear from some top county leaders that teachers are telling them that they don't support it, and that the higher-ups in the school system are bullying them into smiling and taking it.

So, only one way to find out, I suppose. (Cause, I mean, really, if your boss asks you if you likes something he/she likes and you really don't like it, what are you going to say? Yeah, that's what I thought.)

I figure someone should create and print a questionnaire that asks the teachers what they REALLY think of the proposed plan. Let's survey them.

Cause I think the public gives teachers a whole lot more credence than it does a bunch of fat cats with car allowances that rival some house notes. 

And, I want to know what they REALLY think about the plan. If I was making a decision on whether to jack taxes, I'd want insight from the teachers – the ones in the actual classrooms who have made a career educating students. Not from the ones in the Ivory Tower.

We already know they want this bad boy passed.

Alas, I don't see it happening. Cause someone will lose. 

If the teachers support it, then I'm pretty sure the commission will get on board. Score one for the superintendent. 

If they say it sucks, then the commission will tell the school folks to take the plan and hit the freakin' road. Score one for the county mayor. 

(Cause don't think for a minute that there isn't a spitting - I'm being polite - contest going on between the two of them about this.)

But, I digress.

Create a survey, print it, deliver it (no email) and come up with a way for teachers to securely answer the questions and deliver it to an objective third party (like Screams from da Porch) and without anyone watching. (You know, fear of retribution.)

Cause, quite frankly, if I'm a commissioner who controls the county's purse strings, I don't want to hear the obvious anymore.

And before the county/school system starts whining that it's in the poor house, know that Staples, which sucks by the way, sells reams of paper (500 count) for $7.50. I figure there's someone in county government who can click right smack here and order (what?) 14 reams. That's 7,000 sheets. How many teachers does Knox County employ? I figure it's enough.

The whole experiment won't cost much (except for the loser's pride). And you don't even have to form a committee to do it. Also, if you're having a hard time finding the money to pay for my ingenious survey, I hear the school system's PR department makes the county like a $1 million a year doing something. (Course it costs the county a gazillion to operate, too.)


Monday, April 23, 2012

Shopper sings its support for schools

Ho, ho, ha. If you missed it, then – and whenever it’s up – you have to check out the oddness that happened at today’s County Commission meeting, courtesy of the Halls-Shopper.

(Disclaimer: Scripps, which owns KNS, which I work for, owns the Halls-Shopper.  Now back to our regularly scheduled entry . . . .)

Anyhoo, the a bunch of folks bombarded the commission as they championed (my editor hates that word) Superintendent Jim McIntyre’s multi-zillion dollar school budgetary proposal. At this point, everyone knows the county mayor, El Cheap-Skate-O Tim Burchet,t isn’t going to part ways with the coin (he’d rather pay off debt) and he hasn’t found enough treasure out there metal detecting, so . . .  folks are now headed to the commission to argue their point.

And that apparently means the Shopper-News, too.

(Oh yeah, here’s the story about the meeting, right smack here, before I forget. And by tomorrow, you can probably find the video right smack here.)

Jake Mabe, the features editor, writer, columnist, was at the podium, talking to commissioners and saying something that I really wasn’t paying attention to. Because, at the same time, Editor Sandra Clark was carrying around a bucket that looked like it had some kind of Indian (should I say "Native-American" or are still allowed to call ‘em Indians) headdress in it.

Lot of feathers and stuff sticking out.

So, she starts handing them out to commissioners (I’m guilty of snagging one just cause I like feathers). 

As she’s doing that, Jake starts singing the chorus from John Denver’s “Grandma’s Feather Bed.”

No kidding. Funny stuff.

I told him he had a pair of brass ones.

Commissioner Chairman Mike Hammond, however, told him not to quit his day job.


In the meantime, you can find the Shopper's explanation over on its Facebook page, right smack here.

Election residency issue now in court

This morning and at the request of the Knox County Election Commission, county Law Director Joe Jarret filed a declaratory judgment action in Knox County Chancery Court regarding the Shelley Breeding mess and whether she lives in the county or not.

Breeding, a Democrat, wants to run for the 89th District state House seat. 

Click right smack here for 22-pages worth of legal stuff.

Commish briefly talks about homelessness

During today's luncheon, the good folks at Compassion Knoxville finally got around to meeting with the Knox County Commission – about eight months after the body released its report on the homelessness.

Coincidence that the commission in less than two weeks will get a hold of county Mayor Tim Burchett’s proposed budget? Heh.

I mean, seriously, it took long enough to get together and go over it. Anyhoo, there was really nothing new out of the talks. The commissioners appear to like the recommendations, but – according to Chairman Mike Hammond – there really isn’t a next step.

He said the commission will take a wait and see approach in regards to what the Burchett proposes.

I’m pretty sure there’s gonna be a long wait as the mayor told me earlier today that the county already provides $5 million in indigent care, mostly through the health department, and he’s not chipping in any more than that.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

City touts green initiatives on Hippie Day

The city's hippie department will have a booth at Earthfest 2012 on Saturday for those interested in Knoxville's green initiatives. The event, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Pellissippi State Community College's Hardin Valley campus, brings together exhibitors, vendors and agencies across East Tennessee, according to a city spin release, which you can access here.

 For more information on it, click right smack here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who cares if she's not a resident? Heh.

So, in the morning the Knox County Election Commission is supposed to talk about whether State House hopeful, Shelley Breeding, is eligible to run for the newly created 89th seat.

If you’ve been under a rock, here’s a recap right smack here.

In the meantime, Shelley’s lawyer, Bill Stokes, has sent the elections folks a memo – click right smack here for that bad boy – detailing why they she is a resident. And Stokes, along with attorney Jon Cope, dispute state election coordinator Mark Goins’ reason why she isn’t. Click right smack here for that.

This is actually a pretty bizarre case and I can see the arguments both ways. But, here’s why she should be allowed to run. (Since you asked.)

First, she’s a Democrat, so she has a snowball’s chance of winning that seat. (Stacey’s people live out there. Heh.)

Second, fair is fair. I mean you have a Republican on the local Election Commission that pretty much anyone with a brain believes committed voter fraud.


So, I figure: If no one gave a rat’s a$$ about that, why should they care if someone who doesn’t live in the county runs for the seat?

Ramblings, yappings from da Porch

So, awhile back I got tickets to check out Diamond Dave and the boys in Nashville later this month. And today, I see that they're playing in Knoxville on Aug. 4. What the deuce? Someone suggested I sell the Nashville tickets and hold off, but I figure the band will have broken up by then.

A couple things/feel like rambling.

Best Buy should rename its Geek Squad the “We Suck/Suck Squad.”

The other day I posted about a proposal from the Charter Review Committee that would require the pension board to increase its membership to include finance experts (whatever that means) and to send its annual operating budget to the mayor and County Commission for approval. Well, as one pension board member noted to me yesterday, four commissioners and the mayor sit on the pension board, so aren't they pretty much doing that already?

My Twitter account got one of those viruses where it sends messages to contacts. If you got one it wasn't from me. I think the problem has been fixed.

County Mayor Tim Burchett over this weekend was in Athens, metal detecting with his former finance director, Burton Webb. He took me metal hunting with him once. Just goes to show that he'll hang out with anyone. Heh.

There's some rumors going around that the school folks have six votes on the County Commission to raise taxes to fund the system's proposed $35 million education plan. At this point, that's BS. That could change, but I doubt it. (At the most, they'd pass a waaaay slimmed down version, but I don't even see that happening.) All sides will meet May 22 to talk more about it. Expect someone to have a substitute plan in place before then. (No, this has nothing to do with a slimmed down version.)

And speaking of school stuff. The other day I saw a large, dark bird circling above the Andrew Johnson Building. I'm sure it doesn't mean anything.

Finally, I know it's unorthodox, but taking a whiz on campfires always seems to extinguish them. What say we send a couple hundred homeless and a couple dozen kegs down to the mulch fire and see if we can't put this thing out.

KTSC duties possibly up for bid next week

The county's administration next week could officially start the bidding process for the duties currently performed by the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. All of this, of course, was initiated after a member of the KTSC board said Mayor Tim Burchett bullied them into ending their contract early. (The mayor since then has publicly referred to the gentleman as “the big dog.” I'm not kidding.)

Anyhoo, county Purchasing Director Hugh Holt, who by default of his job with the county, has somehow found himself caught in the middle of this pending S-storm in which no one will win. In the meantime, though, he said he's talked to a number of organizations with such fancy acronyms as CVB and DMO and POS and HEH in an effort to put together a document with its own fancy acronym: RFI.

The RFI (henceforth known as a Request for Information) should be complete sometime next week. Holt said he's sought input from a number of outlets engaged in the convention, tourism and marketing something or others and he's “trying to attack it from as many points as possible.”

He also plans to get some input from KTSC – which will also bid on the proposal if necessary – later this week.

Here's the original story right smack here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Odd twist to finance director firing story

Jesse Osbourne, the editor of the Springfield Sun over in Kentucky, has a story about former Knox County Finance Director Burton Webb's predicament. You can find it right smack here.

Osbourne touches on Webb's firing but also delves a little bit into the background of Will Singleton, the Washington County, KY man who took his case against Webb to the grand jury.

In it, Osbourne notes that “Singleton has been involved in a previous legal battle against his former employer, Select Specialty Hospital in Lexington.”

There's allegations of racism, wrongful termination and improper dispensing of pills. Or something like that. Strange stuff.

Read Osbourne's story and also click right smack here for some other details of the case.

In the meantime, Webb contacted me about his case. Looks like he's going to get a Kentucky lawyer and fight the allegations. He has some documents that show Singleton might actually owe him some coin. There's a hearing of some sort set for April 25.

If you can't access the story, here it is:

An indictment in Washington County earlier this year had serious implications for a man in Knox County, Tenn.

Burton Webb, listed on the indictment as residing in Athens, Tenn., was charged with theft by failure to make required disposition of property over $10,000.

According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel in Knoxville, Tenn., Webb was recently appointed as the Knox County Finance Director.

After Webb’s indictment was discovered, he was fired from the position.

“It is apparent that Burton Webb’s legal problems are more extensive than either he or I realized, and this afternoon (Friday) I became aware of an issue that he is going to have to address,” Knox

County Mayor Tim Burchett said in a press release.“I have spoken with Burton, and he understands that he will no longer be employed by Knox County.”

Will Singleton, a Washington County resident, said on Monday in a phone interview that he hired Webb last fall to build a log cabin.

Singleton, sole owner of Double Dee Holdings, said he paid Webb over $140,000 to build a log cabin.

Of that, $22,000 was for doors and windows. Those materials were never delivered.

Singleton said he had to buy new interior and exterior doors, which cost approximately $12,000.
He said Webb also shorted him another $7,000 to $8,000 in materials.

Singleton said he had to drive to the northern part of Ohio to find replacement windows.

He also said he’s been unable to locate Webb. Singleton added that he’s sent over 100 emails trying to reach him.

Singleton said that Webb has supposedly closed down the company that was under contract to build the cabin, Tennessee Log and Timber Homes, but added, “something shady is going on.”

He said he wanted to have Webb extradited to Washington County and arrested.

Chris H. Trew, Webb’s attorney, said that Webb has closed the company, though he doesn’t remember the date.

He said that the housing market, specifically the niche market for log homes, took a big hit, along with the rest of the housing industry.

Trew said he considers this case a civil matter and that Singleton used the criminal system to gain an advantage.

He added that Singleton still has obligations under the contract and owes money to Tennessee Log and Timber Homes.

Trew said that Webb is in the process of retaining an attorney in Kentucky to try and solve the issue.

“What the corporation owes Mr. Singleton is some doors,” Trew said. The amount, he added, was less than $10,000.

Trew said that the charge of theft, which is listed on the indictment, is inaccurate.

He said that he and his client deny theft, but if it were theft, it would have occurred in Tennessee and not in Kentucky.

If it was determined that a theft took place, his question, he said, is where and when did it occur. If theft occurred, he said, it occurred in Tennessee.

According to the Kentucky Court of Justice website, Webb’s case is scheduled for review on April 25 at 9 a.m.

Previous legal battle

Singleton has been involved in a previous lawsuit against his former employer, Select Specialty Hospital in Lexington.

According to an opinion filed about the case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Singleton’s case originated in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Singleton filed a claim of unlawful retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The employer, Select, alleged that it “terminated Singleton for numerous and ongoing errors pertaining to Singleton’s documentation of narcotics administration and patient pain levels, which it discovered during an investigation it initiated following the discrepancy in the count of a narcotic Singleton was responsible for administering.”

At both the district and court of appeals level, Singleton was ruled against.

At the district level, he was given a summary judgement, dismissing the case.

He appealed the judgement to the United States Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals voted 2-1 in favor of Select.

On Monday afternoon via telephone interview, Singleton confirmed that he was involved in the lawsuit.

He said that he sued Select because he did the right thing and he was fired. As a result, he said, they slandered him.

Singleton said he blew the whistle on some discriminating practices and was punished as a result.

In the Court of Appeals opinion, a 23-page document, it outlines three occasions during a three-and-a-half month period in which Singleton filed formal complaints alleging racist behavior among staff at the hospital.

According to the court opinion, each instance was investigated.

Nearly a week after the third formal complaint, an incident arose over a discrepancy in a medication dispensing machine.

An investigation began on Singleton, which included an examination of “his documentation and narcotics control practices over the most recent six weeks.”

Singleton was suspended without pay while the investigation occurred. He was later fired for “failing to meet nursing practice standards related, but not limited to, control of narcotic medications and proper documentation of pain assessment and narcotic administration.”

In the opinion, it cites that Singleton was shown charts he had prepared that contained inconsistencies and errors he couldn’t account for.

“With respect to more than one patient to whom Singleton had given morphine, for example, Singleton admitted that there was no place on their charts where he had documented how many milligrams of the drug he had administered,” according to the court opinion.

The opinion also cited that Singleton was administering medicine to patients that didn’t need it.

“Singleton was unable to explain why, on one chart, he had administered morphine to a patient that had been resting comfortably for several hours, and whom Singleton had rated a ‘zero’ on a pain scale of zero to 10,” according to the opinion.

Circuit Judge Damon J. Keith wrote a dissenting opinion.

He disagreed with the majority, arguing that a jury could find that Singleton was correct in some of his claims.

Keith stated that Singleton presented data logs that demonstrated the carelessness of how Select managed pharmaceuticals.

The medicine dispensing machine was shown to have 343 discrepancies in over a year’s time, Keith wrote.

Keith said that Select “solicited, but never received or reviewed, Singleton’s drug test” that came as a result of his investigation.

Singleton, via phone on Monday, said he passed a urine test and was denied a blood test.

According to the opinion, he alleged that Select’s CEO falsely told him that he had failed a drug test, but refused to give him copies of the investigation reports.

The judge also pointed to evaluations of Singleton’s work prior to the incidents.

Singleton was given high ratings, especially in pain assessment.

“The tides only turned a week after Singleton submitted a racial complaint,” Keith wrote.

Then, he wrote, the errors Singleton committed became extreme.

Keith concluded that the case should be left for a jury to decide.

The Court of Appeals opinion can be found online by searching for “Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals + Will Singleton.” The document is located at

Monday, April 16, 2012

Twitter accounts getting hacked

Just a heads up. If you get a direct message from me from my Twitter account and there's a link to it? Yeah, don't click on that crap. And know that I didn't send it. Some piece a dog turd who thinks computer viruses are cool started it.

Just one more class of criminal whose crime should be punishable by death.

Commish postpones membership talks

Had a story in today's paper that detailed a couple county commission proposals regarding district and membership size. Looks like some folks want to increase the board. You can read all of it by clicking right smack here.

Anyhoo, the commission during today's work session opted to table the discussion until next month. They wanted to give Ed Shouse a chance to participate in the conversation. Shouse, after a nasty battle with pneumonia, was released Sunday from the hospital, so he's taking it easy for a few weeks.

County pension board says leave it alone

Last week the Knox County Charter Review Committee, an unwieldy bunch that, maybe, one day will get down to the tough decisions, decided to give the county's pension board first crack at determining whether its budget should be approved by the County Commission (yeah, I'm laughing, too) and whether it should increase its size by adding four outsiders appointed by the commission and the county mayor.

You can find the story right smack here (although the headline, which I don't write, is completely misleading).

Anyhoo, the pension board today, in an 8-1 vote, said screw that. Members said they don't need to add four more people to the board. Only Casual Chris Caldwell, the mayor's appointee to the pension board and the county's new finance director, dissented (no-doubt at Tim Burchett's request/demand).

County Commission Chairman Mike Hammond, also a pension board member, said:

“The worst thing we can do is put this pension program and these millions of dollars in the hands of politicians. And any time you're talking about appointees, you're talking about political appointees.”

Heh. Good point, Mike. (Also, the idea was to put financial experts on the board, and some members noted that the board has money managers, actuaries and other financial wizards under contract.)

The board also in an 8-1 vote (again, Casual Chris dissenting) said they didn't think it was such a hot idea to let the commission approve its budget. They argued that the budget, which is funded by the county and then reimbursed by the board is “revenue neutral,” meaning it costs the county nothing, so there's really no reason the commission needs to approve it. They also used the “we're independent from regular government” card.

That might be true. But that budget isn't exactly revenue neutral. You see, the money that the board uses to reimburse the county comes out of employee investment funds. And guess who contributes to those funds? Yeah, the county.

Commissioner Ed Shouse out of hospital

How about some good news? County Commissioner Ed Shouse, left, was released from the hospital on Sunday - 16 days after he checked in to be treated for pneumonia.

“I'm a free man,” he said. “I was the begging the doctors to let me go and they finally did.”

Shouse, 61, a former Knoxville city councilman, has served on County Commissioner since August 2008. He was elected to one of the two commission at-large seats in 2010.

Shouse was admitted to Parkwest Medical Center in late March where he stayed in the critical care unit for four days. He said at this point no one knows how he got pneumonia.

He was eventually taken out of critical care, but couldn't leave because doctors still needed to drain his left lung, which continued to collect fluid.

Shouse said he kept up with local news during most of his stay and expects to attend next Monday's regular commission meeting. But, he said, his doctor told him to stick with “extra light duty for the foreseeable future.”

“I'll be able to make a few phone calls and check email,” he said. “I'm having a tough time just making it across the living room, but at least I'm home.”

At one point, the pneumonia caused pleurisy, a painful inflammation of the lungs and chest lining. The pain was so severe, he needed an oxygen mask to breathe.

When there is smoke, the mayors weigh in

Photo by Dan "da Man" Andrews

Apparently, there's a fire going on or was going on or whatever. I don't know. I don't pay attention to this stuff. I know that there's a ton of smoke around the Metal Shed and it smells like (insert whatever expletive you feel necessary here), so I'm over at the Deathstar waiting on a pension board meeting that TV will no doubt bother to attend. Heh.

Anyhoo, here's a story about the smoke or whatever right smack here.

In addition and in their infinite wisdom the two mayor's - County Tim and City Madeline - figured they needed to weigh in, so they got the city's overpaid PR department (which is still paid less than the school system's waaaaaay overpaid PR department) to work with the county's underpaid PR department and the two sides sent out a spin release.

You can find that bad boy right smack here.

Note that somehow Michael "Big Sexy" Grider managed to get the county mayor's name in first on the spin job. Heh.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Next cash mob on Sutherland Avenue

The county's next Cash Mob will be held tomorrow (that's Friday) from 5-7 p.m. At Strawberry Fields Market and Red Onion Pizza & Subs, both which are on Sutherland Avenue and not too far from the Metal Shed on da Hill.

According to Michael “Big Sexy” Grider (the county's most underpaid spin doctor), the two businesses will have cash mob specials.

Friday's mob will be the third one that the Tim Burchett administration has held in recent months. They've all been pretty successful, so it's a good thing officials ignored Emperor Dean Rice. Cause he thought holding a cash mob was a dumb idea.


County Clerk recovering, back at work

Was looking through the blogs this morning and came across the rogue's report on Foster Arnett's trip to the hospital, so I figured I better give the good county clerk (pictured to the left with his wife) a call.

According to Arnett, he returned to work this week, even spending eight hours in the office on Tuesday, which he joked wasn't a full-time day for him.

Overall, Arnett said, he was at the UT Medical Center for 10 days (starting March 21), including three days in the critical care unit. He was treated for five bleeding ulcers.

He's still under doctor's care, but is feeling better.

“I'm going to be fine,” he said. “Everything is lovely, but God tapped me on the shoulder and said 'it's time for you to slow down, boy,' so I'm going to slow down.”

Arnett said the ulcers were stress related and he was told to “stop worrying about the little things.”

“In the grand scheme of things, if you do the right thing then you don't need to worry and we're doing the right thing,” he said.

Arnett has since returned to work.

In the meantime, Arnett said his wife of almost three decades has been cancer free for a year.

Dottie Arnett in January 2011 was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It's been a tough year, but we're happy,” he said.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ballot question: Wording can trump issue

The Charter Review Committee tonight could get into some good stuff. I wrote about it right smack here.

As noted, one issue that more than like will see some heavy debate is whether to let the mayor appoint some of the fee offices, like trustee, register of deeds, county clerk, blah, blah, blah. And, yes, I know, the voters already shot it down.

And that's what I wanted to note here that I didn't have a chance to do in today's story.

On November 4, 2008 voters overwhelmingly said he!! No to giving the mayor the authority to appoint (and subject to County Commission approval) the law director, trustee, county clerk and register of deeds.

Almost 118,500 voted against it and close to 45,000 voted for it. A real beat down. Since then the issue has been brought up from time to time and folks like to point to the now-four-year-old election as to why we should put the issue behind us. (It kind of reminds me of how Superintendent Jim McIntyre likes to point to a more than 10-year-old study that says his administration isn't top heavy. But I digress.)

Anyhoo, I don't care, really, whether the positions are appointed or elected. Makes no difference to me. But, personally, I wouldn't use the 2008 vote to measure just how the voters of today feel.

Two reasons. First, Mike Ragsdale was the county mayor at the time. A lot of people didn't want him appointing dog catcher, let alone someone who manages property, money and records.

Second: Just read the actually ballot question. It was written by a thief who wanted to keep his job. I mean read it. Seriously.

Click right smack here for the ridiculousness. (It's County Charter Amendment Question 4 by the way).

It asks whether the charter should be amended “to take away from the people the ability to vote . . .” and whether the mayor should have the power to "create or eliminate major departments of county government . . ."


Why was this guy law director again? Oh yeah, he got voted in.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dirty lots, spin, sin and typical ramblings

Couple things.

You folks see what happened on the emperor's property? Man, that sucks. And, yeah, the Web site disabled the comment section so the peanut gallery can't weigh in. Too bad. Because, you know, so much freakin' wisdom gets espoused during the riveting conversation over there and now we're deprived of it.

The latest edition of Spin County, or as Michel “Big Sexy” Grider likes to call it - “Knox Happenings” - is out. You can find it right smack here. County Mayor Tim Burchett talks briefly about the budget and reflects a little bit on outgoing finance minister John Troyer.

Banned AGAIN from the KNS peanut gallery/comment section, Brian Paone has said the heck with it and is back to reporting. You can find the latest satire right smack here. (Other links are at the bottom.) Some funny stuff.

Madame Mayor Mad Madeline (I just like saying that) and her posse will participate in a “codes enforcement neighborhood sweep” tomorrow, according to the city's zillion dollar public affairs department, which still costs less than the school system's zillion dollar public affairs department (as opposed to the county's ten cent office). I'm not holding my breath on this whole enforcement thing. Former KNS reporter Rebecca Ferrar wrote a whole series about "dirty lots" back in 2010.

Crap like this costs money. But it sure looks good for the TV stations. You know, going around and fighting the good fight. Whatever. They should just bulldoze the crap and dare someone to sue them. Heh.

I'm sure I'll find some other crap to ramble about later.

As always . . .

Friday, April 6, 2012

Commish Shouse feeling a little better

My boy Ed Shouse, left, has been taken out of critical care and back on the road (knock on wood) to recovery. His life, Lisa, left a message with me last night, saying that doctors took the good county commissioner out of critical care on Wednesday, but on Thursday he needed a chest tube because his left lung had been collecting fluid.

The right lung is OK.

His wife said they should be able to (knock on wood again) get that one drained and he'll be feeling a lot better.

So, the family is asking folks to keep Ed in their prayers. You should. He's a pretty good guy.

Click right smack here for the initial story about Ed's battle with pneumonia.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Knoxville to celebrate National CD Week

I swear, there's a “national” day, or week, or month for everything. Regardless, the city of Knoxville is celebrating National Community Development Week, which runs from April 9-14, according to the latest spin job by a communications department that still costs more than the county's, but nowhere close to the school system's. Heh.

Anyhoo, the city has a bunch of stuff planned, ranging from a ribbon-cutting, some action plan thing, a bus tour and whatever.

You can click right smack here for all the goodness.

“The community development department does vital work to ensure our neighborhoods are strong and livable,” Mayor Madeline Rogero said in a statement that she no doubt never really said but was crafted by her spin team (but she still means it). “I am proud to celebrate National Community Development Week and raise awareness of the department's ongoing work.”

On a side note, if next week is CD week and we work thought the alphabet, then VD week should be sometime this fall.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

School system spin team tops city/county

(UPDATE: It's actually $450K the school PR gets - not $360K. (I'm sure this is one correction the school people didn't want me to make. Heh.)

Central office staffing is a big issue with some county officials. It gets brought up about this time each year. Some say the office - at about 210 folks - is overstaffed. Others say it's lean and mean.

I don't know. It's probably somewhere in between.

What I do know, however, is that I like to pick on the city because it spends more than $250,000 in folding paper on PR. But, check out public affairs in the school system's central office: $450K in coin. And that's not including benefits.

Yeah, yeah, I know: They do more than just public relations.

And Michael “Big Sexy” Grider over in county Mayor Tim Burchett's office (where the entire PR budget is about $55,000) does more than make sure that the mayor's Superman cape doesn't get caught in the doorway.


Anyhoo, click right smack here for the salaries for the folks who are considered “central office staffing” for the Knox County school systems.

And note that the head of PR earns more than the chief of staff of security.

Course, fair is fair. The city's top PR spin doc earns like $20K more than the school system's.

BOE to vote on proposed budget tonight

School Board Vice Chairwoman Indya Kincannon put together some frequently asked questions about the school system's proposed budget. You can find it right smack here.

I don't think it's going to be any surprise if the school board tonight signs off on the zillion dollar spending plan. After that it will be in the hands of the County Commission.

Make no mistake, county Mayor Tim Burchett is NOT putting that request (It's actually a little more than $47 million in coin, with about $12 million of that attributed to natural growth) in his proposed budget. He's just not.

I don't expect the County Commission, which really controls the purse strings, to do anything, either. There's not six votes there right now. (And they'll need seven to override a mayoral veto.)

But, here's the thing, and School Board Lord Jim McIntyre reminded me about it yesterday.

A while back (Was in January?) the school board and county commission had a little powwow where the two sides agreed to make the Knox County school system “the best school system in the southeastern United States.

As McIntyre said: “That's a big deal; that's a high bar, also.”

Oddly enough, for all the complaining about how much this plan will cost, I haven't heard too many alternatives. Actually, I haven't heard any.

(And, based on the students' crappy test scores, it's obvious that the current system isn't working although I'm a firm believer that crap-parenting has a lot to do with that.)

So, right now it's looking like they either raise taxes to support the plan and their promise to make Knox County the best blah, blah, blah.

Or don't raise taxes and go back on your word.


Kind of in a pickle.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rogero proposes five pension alternatives

Looks like Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero is serious about this pension stuff. But she has to be, considering Gov. Big Bill who held her seat for almost eight years turned a blind eye to it the whole time.

Then, as an afterthought just as he was heading to Nashville to hang with the beautiful people, thought it might just be a good thing to let folks know how bad the situation is.

Anyhoo, this morning, the Rogero administration's zillion-dollar-a-year spin team issued a release that you can find right smack here.

In it, she outlines five alternative plans for future employees (you can't do anything to the people on the plan now or the retirees). She wants the City Council to begin talking about this at its workshop next Monday.

You can find links to the proposals right smack here.