Friday, January 31, 2014

Campaign financial disclosure forms: Looking at county election coin

So, I spent some time looking over the campaign financial disclosure statements that were due Friday, and, well, some folks either didn’t bother to turn them. That said, they could also have sent them in registered mail so long as they're postmarked. And before anyone starts blaming Elections Administrator Cliff Rodgers, don't. He runs a pretty tight ship over there.

Anyhoo, these statements cover the period of July 1, 2013 through Jan. 15. For this entry I’m focusing only on the non-partisan school board races and some of the bigger county seats. Also note that for the most part I’m only jotting down numbers for candidates who have actually turned in nominating petitions (except in a few cases where it’s a given that they’re going to run or seek re-election).

I’ll hit up some of the other races later.

Also, keep in mind that there are some people who have raised quite a bit of coin and have probably tapped the well at this point, and there are others who haven’t even begun to rake in the bucks.

These are early numbers and don’t mean a whole lot (except in a few real obvious cases that I’ll let you figure out).

The county primary is set for May with an August general election. (For the purposes of this post, whichever candidate has the most money gets listed first. Also, unless noted, all candidates are Republicans except in the school board races, which are non-partisan, although, they're probably mostly Republicans, too.)

District 1
  • Incumbent Gloria Deathridge: Didn’t raise anything during the current reporting period but had $1,900 on hand before spending $673, which brings her to a little more than $1,221.
  • Marshall Walker: Didn't file one.
 District 4
  • Absher: Raised $163 and spent $15
  • Jeffrey “Scott” Clark: Standing at zero with no activity
 District 6
  • Terry Hill: Raised $10,650, including what looks like $6,000 in loans to herself, and spent $1,100. A couple donors of note are Steve Hill, Cathy Ackerman and Cindy Buttry. If you don’t know who they are, I can’t help you. Heh.
  • Bradley Buchanan: Raised $400 (including a $200 loan) and spent $25
  • Tamara Shepherd: Didn't file one.
District 7
  • R. Larry Smith raised $17,500, increasing his bank roll, which already included coin from his days on the commission, to just under $27,720.
  • Patti Lou Bounds raised and spent a big goose egg.
District 9 seat
  • Amber Rountree collected a whopping $100.
  • UPDATE: Incumbent Pam Trainor turn one in or the election commission but doesn't have to at this point. She closed out her last report with no money in the band and didn't appoint a treasurer until after Jan. 15, so she gets a pass, according to election stud Cliff Rodgers.

  • Incumbent Jimmy “J.J.” Jones: The Man with the Badge boasts a “who’s Who of Donors” that is just too long to list, so click right smack here for the names. Jones raised $142,630 this period. Combine that with the $51,244 he already had in the treasure chest and the $24,390 he spent, and he’s left with ONLY $169,500.
  • Bobby Waggoner: Has $16,577 on hand after raising $20,158 and spending $3,581. His report is right smack here.
  • Charles “Sam” Hammett: He’s got $175 in folding paper on hand. His numbers are here.

  • Incumbent Tim Burchett: The big dog doesn’t have much in the tank right now, but that’s not going to matter as there isn’t anyone – ANYONE – in this county that will beat him for the county mayor's seat. And you can take that one to the bank. (So long as he’s paying attention this time around.) Burchett currently has $2,940 on hand. On his last report he had $3,340. This time around he added $1,500 but spent almost $1,900. Here's his coin report right smack here.

  • Incumbent Joy McCroskey: She didn’t raise any money this time around but had $6,354 in the chest and spent $820, so she’s down to $5,534
  • Mike Hammond: Hammond raised $2,500 this period but also transferred his commission coin – a total of $2,672 – into the pot. He then spent $4,050 on stuff like stickers, yard signs and a big ole kickoff party at Calhoun’s on the River, so now he’s got $1,120.

  • Ed Shouse: Easy Ed has almost $14,600 on hand. He raised $14,375 this go-around, which he combined with another $2,200 from his time on the commission, and then reduce that by almost $2,000 in expenditures, and, well, you get the math.
  • Incumbent Craig Leuthold: Leuthold has $8,075 on hand right now. He raised $8,828 this period but spent $7,430. Still, he had $6,675 in the bank from his time on the county commission. More than a couple thousands in donations came from family members. 
  • James Berrier, a Democrat: He didn't file one.

Hundreds of sex offenders living within 1,000 feet of bus stops

North Knoxville students returning home from school
Hundreds of registered Knox County sex offenders, including those convicted of molesting, raping and abusing minors, live in areas that parents say is dangerously close to where their children congregate: school bus stops.

"It's disturbing," said Stephen Buie, whose son attends fourth grade at Spring Hill Elementary. "It's disturbing to know that there's pedophiles (that close to) children."

A WBIR 10News investigation found that of the county's almost 600 known sex offenders, roughly 260 of them live within 1,000 feet of the stops, and many live within walking distance of multiple ones. State law, however, only restricts sex offenders whose victims were minors from knowingly living or working within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, parks or playgrounds.

Tennessee, unlike some other Southeastern states, does not require a buffer zone between sex offenders and bus stops. And local school officials, who oversee a district of some 57,700 students, say they don't even chart where sex offenders live when creating bus routes and schedules each year.

You can read the entire story and check out the video report right here.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Buchanan seeks District 6 BOE seat

Info from another Knox County Board of Education candidate, this one from Brad Buchanan, who is running for the 6th District seat current occupied by Thomas Deakins, who is not seeking re-election.
We are delighted to announce that Bradley (Brad) Buchanan is running for the District 6 Board of Education (BOE) seat.  Several things set Brad apart and make him the obvious choice for the position.   

Brad and his wife are the proud parents of four children.  Two attend Amherst Elementary and their oldest is at Karns Middle School, both District 6 schools.  Their youngest will soon enough be following in his older sisters’ footsteps.  Having children currently in Knox County schools provides a unique perspective.  Brad has first-hand knowledge of policy changes, testing schedules, testing anxiety, and educational shifts.  

Brad is currently a Senior Systems Architect for a great local company, but he started his professional career in the classroom.  Prior to earning his MS in Computer Science he completed his MEd in Secondary Education specializing in Business Education.  Brad taught business and computer classes in high school for 4 years and then taught 2 additional years at the collegiate level.  Brad remains closely linked to education through his wife of nearly 20 years.  She has taught for 15 years, the last 9 years with Knox County Schools. 

Brad has a true respect for educators and public education.  He values educators as the true professionals they are.  Brad believes that as much funding as possible should directly touch the students.  This means that money should be spent on services, personnel and items that directly impact the students’ education and not routed around them to a top heavy central office or private companies.  Brad also feels that teachers should TEACH and not be tied to restrictive frameworks and punitive systems that hinder their ability to reach their diverse populations.  
Brad has been meeting with parents, educators, principals, and students to listen and learn about concerns and successes among their schools. As your District 6 BOE representative, Brad would be committed to being a true voice for the students, educators, and parents.
Buchanan at this point will face Tamara Shepherd and Terry Hill in the May primary. In addition, Sandra Rowcliffe and Ronald Hennen also have picked up nominating petitions but haven't turned them in yet.

The general election is set for August and the top two vote-getters in the primary will move on. The BOE races are non-partisan.

As always, send me your elections stuff and I'll post it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Task force to look into BEP funding

Yesterday, the Tennessean posted an article by Chas Sisk (who is a bad a$$ state reporter but not as bad a$$ as my guy Tom Humphrey) that said Gov. Big Bill has formed a task force to study the state’s Basic Education Program, or BEP, funding to schools.

Sisk notes that the formula, which factors in enrollment, tax revenues and school staffing, was last adjusted in 2007. (I know some folks don’t want to hear this, but you can thank for then-county Mayor Mike Ragsdale for that.)

The move is good news for the Big Four counties as they’ll more than likely get some more coin.
Last year Knox County received almost $172 million, but Knox is considered a “donor” county, meaning it turn into a lot more – about $40 million in sales taxes – than it gets back.

That could change.

“The students don’t get that money – it gets distributed to other schools across the state,” Knox County Finance Director Chris “Money Bags” Caldwell told me today. “But this has always been a fight between the rural and urban counties.”

He said that seven years ago, the state formed what essentially has been dubbed BEP 2.0. He said Knox County – if it was fully funded under 2.0 – should have received an additional $20 million. It didn’t. Caldwell, who was out buying ties yesterday because the county is closed and wasn’t near his finance books, said he believed it jumped “about $10 to 15 million” at the time.

The task force will report back to the governor at the end of the year.

UPDATE: Ha ha. Randy Neal weighs in. Apparently the task force already exists.

Robert Taylor talks about sacrifices, dedication to his school students

I'm willing to bet that there is absolutely no one - no one - in that educational ivory tower who has sacrificed like Robert Taylor, a special education teacher for the past eight years at Amherst Elementary School, has.

I met Taylor awhile back when I was working on a story regarding the school system. I've got a pretty good BS meter. This guy is genuine, the real deal.

The following is from Monday's form the Knox County Commission hosted to listen to teachers talk about some of the problems they face from the school system.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stokes campaign ad touts experience

Billy Stokes’ campaign for Knox County Circuit Court Judge (Division 1) released its first Internet advertisement (I guess this is the second – heh) called “Experience.” The add, according to a release “exclusively details Bill’s Knoxville roots, 30 years of trial experience, and dedication to the people of Knox County.”

You can find it right smack here, and you can find the full release and script right here.
As always, send me your political stuff and I'll post it. Maybe. Heh.

The county primary is set for May with the general elections in August.

In addition to Stokes, Ray Jenkins, Kristi Davis and William "Bill" Ailor, all Republicans, also have picked up nominating petitions to run for the seat.

Jones, Knight raised a TON of coin

Well, the Man with the Badge turned in his campaign financial disclosure forms today and he might need a new nickname: Sheriff Money Bags!

Jimmy “J.J.” Jones has apparently raised some $169,400 in his bid for re-election. He faces Robert “Bobby” Waggoner and Charles “Sam” Hammett Jr. in the May Republican primary.

Democrat Tracy “T.A.” Clough also has taken out a nominating petition to run for the seat but hasn’t turned it in. So, too, has Donald Wiser, an Independent. But, Wiser also took out a nominating petition to run for the Register of Deeds seat, so I wouldn’t take that one too seriously. Heh.

The general election, which – come on, let’s face it, it’s really over after the Republican primary – will be held in August.

The disclosure forms are due Friday, but, technically, they can be late or pretty much filed whenever you like, because it’s not like the state Ethics Committee, which is supposed to punish such ne’er-do-wells, actually has any guts.


Additionally, I’m also hearing that Charme Knight, a Republican and the only candidate so far to run for the open District Attorney General seat, has raised about $120,000 in folding paper.

Now, you’re not going to find any of this on the election site right now, because the office is closed. So, check back tomorrow.

In the meantime, it appears that Jones isn’t done raising money. He also has plans to host a meet-and-greet/minor fundraiser/pizza party on April 15 at the Expo Center. The event is designed to boost his election base.

Note that April 16 is the first day of early voting.

As always, send me your campaign stuff and I’ll post it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

BOE campaign kickoffs for this week

A couple of campaign kickoffs to mention:

Sally Absher, who is running for the 4th District School Board seat, will hold her first campaign shindig from 5 to 7 tonight at Calhoun’s on Bearden Hill. Her slogan, according to her flyer, is “a voice for students, teachers, parents, and taxpayers.” She notes that contributions are appreciated.

Absher is expected to face incumbent Lynne Fugate and Jeffrey “Scott” Clark” in the election. In addition, Laurel Alford has picked up a nominating petition to run, but hasn’t turned it in.

Terry Hill, who is running for the 6th District School Board seat, will host her first shindig on Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Barrington Subdivision Clubhouse on 5716 Bridgehampton Drive.

Her campaign email to me this morning noted that she’s been campaigning for several months, meeting with parents, teachers, principals and business leaders.

Hill said she is running “to bring real ideas and real solutions to the challenges facing public education in Knox County.”

“Together we can make sure our children receive the education they deserve while providing the taxpayers the return on investment they deserve,” she added.

Hill is expected to face Bradley Buchanan and Tamara Shepherd in the elections. In addition, Ronald Hennen and Sandra Rowcliffe have picked up nominating petitions to run for the seat, but haven’t turned ‘em in.

The county primaries are set for May, and the top two vote getters in school board races will move on to the August elections. The school board races are non-partisan.

As always, send me your campaign stuff and I’ll post it, so long as you return my calls if you win. Heh.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jenkins for judge sets Feb. 7 kickoff

Got this in the email today:

The campaign of Ray Jenkins for Judge of the Knox County Circuit Court, Division I announced its official Kickoff event is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 7 at the Downtown Crowne Plaza from 5-7 p.m.  Light hors d'oeuvres will be served.  Contributions welcome but not required.

“We are looking forward to a big turnout and a great night of fellowship with friends and supporters.  This is First Friday, so come out and celebrate with us and then enjoy First Friday in downtown Knoxville,” Jenkins, a Republican, said in a statement today.  “We have a large number of volunteers and supporters signing up and as the old saying goes – ‘the more, the merrier!’”

As always, send me your political stuff and I'll post it. Maybe. Heh.

The county primary is set for May with the general elections in August.

In addition to Jenkins, Billy Stokes, Kristi Davis and William "Bill" Ailor, all Republicans, also have picked up nominating petitions to run for the seat.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

McMillan for judge releases first ad

Checking email this morning and noticed I received something from the Greg McMillan campaign. He’s a Republican running for the 4th Circuit Court Judge seat against Democrats Daniel Kidd and David L. Valone.

In addition, Republican Patti Jay Lane has picked up a nominating petition but not yet turned it in.

McMillan’s email noted that he’s releasing his first ad, dubbed “Knoxville: My Hometown.”

You can read the full release right smack here.

As always, if you’re running for office, shoot stuff my way and I’ll put it up. The primary is set for May and the General in August.

Friday, January 24, 2014

'Inside Tennessee' debates vouchers

Tune in at 9:30 a.m. Sunday (Channel 10, WBIR of course) to catch the latest Inside Tennessee program and the discussion we had about the merits of school choice in the state.

The guest were Justin Owen, president and CEO of the Beacon Center, and Joan Grim, a UTK professor and voucher skeptic. Myself, local attorney Dennis Francis and PR/consultant Mike Cohen joined the panel.

This was one of the more lively episodes and there was some good back and forth banter between Grim and Owen, as well as between Francis, a Democrat, and Cohen, a Republican.

Course that meant we weren't able to ask everything we had planned, but, well, whatever . . . .

Tune in. Good stuff.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

McCroskey stepping down? Not so fast

The rumors are picking up again in the old Death Star that the embattled Joy McCroskey, Knox County’s criminal court clerk, is contemplating stepping down from office or even not running for re-election.

This comes after a robo call to voters last week that asked residents who they would pick in the upcoming race: McCroskey or Mike Hammond, a county commissioner who plans to run for the seat.

(Steve Williams, a local attorney who also has picked up a nominating petition, was not a choice in the survey.)

Awhile back, when we first broke the story about the many of the problems in McCroskey’s office, she did ask at least one employee whether she should step down. That person told her no.

My guess is that she won’t now, either. McCroskey can be pretty defiant, so I don’t expect her to give up so easily. Plus, she's still got plenty of supporters and there's a lot of folks out there who will vote for her if only to vote against Hammond. (Also, Williams might take votes away from Hammond, and it's the top vote-getter - you don't need "50 plus 1" - in the Mayor Republican Primary who moves on to the August General Election.)

Another rumor is that she won’t turn in her petition by the Feb. 20 due date, a move that would essentially signal her resignation (although she’d still serve until the end of August).

I doubt even that happens.

We’ll see. Stranger things happen in that building.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Knox County school coverage roundup

Full disclosure: I'm totally ripping off this blog post from Randy over at the hippie site. Randy, by the way, will be on our 5 p.m. 10News show tonight to talk about his blog.

Anyhoo, as predicted the County Commission bumped the teacher discussion ahead a week. But, there was plenty to talk about during the school board's meeting. You can find the roundup right here.

In addition, here's the results of the anonymous teacher survey, and the comments from the teacher survey, and Superintendent Jim McIntyre's action plan memo.

These are problems that have been lingering for a long, long time. Too bad it took an election year to actually get something done.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hopson endorses Rountree for BOE

Lauren Hopson might not run for office this time around, but it certainly looks like she’s endorsing a fellow educator.

Hopson, the third grade teacher from Halls Elementary who kicked off the whole so-called “revolt” last October by having the guts to say what probably almost every teacher in this county thinks, is currently serving as the political treasurer for Amber Rountree. (If this isn't an endorsement I don't know what is.)

You can find the appointment right smack here.

Rountree, so far, is the only South Knoxville candidate to turn in a nominating petition. At this point four others, including incumbent Pam Trainor, have picked up the paperwork to run but haven’t completed it.

However, two of them – Larry Clark and Jim McClain – have suggested that they won’t run. (I’m not quite sure anyone has even heard from William Hiscock, who also picked up a petition and coincidentally lives in Rountree’s neighborhood.)

I’m guessing that Trainor is in, since her website now says “re-elect” her. Still, she’s in for a tough race. Trainor lost a ton of support in the 9th District, particularly after her episode in Bizarro World.

Teacher 'revolt' at BOE not commish

The Knox County Commission holds court today at 2 p.m. over at the old Death Start. Despite what the other guys think, don't expect a whole lot to happen today.

There's been some talk about a teacher "revolt," a craftily worded description no doubt penned by Commissioner Tony Norman to strike at his arch nemesis Jim McIntyre. Heh.

Anyhoo, there's probably not going to be a discussion, or at least a deep discussion about teacher issues today.

BUT, some commissioners are lining up speakers so expect some fireworks during NEXT Monday's commission get-together.

Further, Do expect some fireworks tonight as officials talk about the anonymous teacher survey and some other teacher-related stuff during the Board of Education meeting. I'm sure you'll find a few teachers there. Heh.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Rowcliffe's ironic email to PTA

So, Sandra Rowcliffe, president of the Knox County Council PTA, picked up a nominating petition to run for office – specifically the 6th District school board seat.

Now, picking up a petition doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually going to run. (You have to get the signatures and turn it in to the Election Commission to get on the ballot.)

But, roughly a week later she sends an email to PTA members, telling them not to get all political. 

Maybe I’m the only one who sees the irony in this. You know: Do as I say, not as I do.

Naw, I doubt it.

Here’s the email (Subject: protocols to follow):

Hello Knox County Principals and Local Unit PTA Leaders-

Because we find ourselves in what seems to be a fairly active political climate in Knox County, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you all of several protocols to be followed with regard to elections, candidate debates, and legislative positions.  These are NOT rules and regulations enforced through PTA but rather through the IRS if an organization is considered a 501(c)3 not-for-profit group. 

Therefore, Principals, I would ask that if your parent group is a PTO as opposed to a PTA that you inform them as well if they are, in fact, a 501(c)3.

Representing PTA
As a PTA leader, you represent PTA wherever you go.  It does not matter where you are - on Facebook, the grocery store, your church or your school - people look at you and think “PTA.”

It is also important that you know when you can publicly speak for PTA and when you may not. Only the president of a PTA or the Board/Executive Committee may authorize you to speak for PTA. No one else has that authority. This is true for a local unit, council, district, state or the National PTA. If you are contacted by any media sources or outlets regarding statewide issues, you should refer that person to the state PTA President or executive board. Likewise, if you are contacted about county issues, you should refer that person to the county PTA President.  It is important that you only make statements that represent Board approved PTA position statements when representing your local unit PTA.

PTA is a non-commercial, non-sectarian and non-partisan organization. Because PTAs are 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, the IRS rules regulating some types of legislative activities of non-profit organizations must be followed.

Certain political activities are absolutely prohibited: supporting or opposing political parties or candidates for federal, state, or local public office. PTA may only engage in non-partisan, issue-oriented advocacy. PTA members are encouraged to be informed voters. Likewise, PTA units are encouraged to take an active role in informing both their members and community members about pertinent educational issues.

In an effort to maintain a non-partisan effort, it is strongly encouraged that all candidates be invited and allowed equal time to address the public and answer questions when legislative forums and candidate debates are hosted.

PTAs must be careful not to be used by other individuals, groups or organizations to promote non-PTA interests. In voter surveys, PTA is widely respected for its positions on children’s issues.

Thank you for your time, and please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. 

Kindest regards,

Sandra Rowcliffe, President
Knox County Council PTA

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Padgett expected to run for clerk

Word going around is that Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr., a Republican, will have some competition in August's general election. (He's not expected face an opponent - or one of any merit, anyway - in the May primary.)

Mike Padgett, a Democrat, who was term-limited out of the clerk's office in 2007, has picked up - or plans to up - a nominating petition for the seat. And yes, before you ask, he can run again. Term limits apply to the amount of terms in a row someone can serve, rather than the overall number of terms.

The last time Padgett, as I recall, was really involved in politics was a failed bid in the Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate in 2008.  His son, Mark, lost the city mayoral bid a couple years ago to Madeline Rogero in a non-partisan race.

Audit released - some problems found

A combined series of accounting errors between the county trustee’s office and the finance department during 2011 and earlier led the school system to operate under the guise that it had $1 million more in its reserve funds than it actually did during the past couple of years, according to a report made public to the county’s Audit Committee on Tuesday.

No cash, however, actually changed hands and the money was never spent. The mistake occurred on paper only.

Still, auditors dinged the county for the snafu, saying it could eventually have led to more compounded accounting issues, and “resulted in unnecessary complexity in the Trustee’s accounting records.”

Since discovered, though, the mayor’s office and trustee’s office have corrected the matter, using more “stringent recordkeeping procedures” put in place last year at the recommendation of the Audit Committee, according to county Finance Director Chris Caldwell.

“There’s no such thing as a good finding, but this is a good finding in the sense that the procedures worked and for the first time in a long time, there is a great communication between the Trustee’s Office and the finance department that allows us to tie down every account,” Caldwell said.

The county’s Audit Committee spent part of Tuesday discussing the county’s annual report, an in-depth analysis that delves into the fiscal year budget that covered July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013.

In it, the external auditor, Knoxville-based Pugh & Co., cited three problems.

External auditors found a $2.4 million discrepancy between the county’s financial books and the Trustee Office’s financial books. They called the difference a “material weakness,” a technical description that describes a misstatement which could take longer to correct or could be missed altogether.

The $2.4 million overstatement stemmed from a series of liability accounts that were never reconciled between the two departments for a number of years.
The mistake led officials to believe that the county’s reserve fund – and the school system’s reserve fund – each appeared to have about a $1 million more in them then they really did. (The school system gets a cut of collected property taxes.)

Caldwell said now both offices have put procedures in place to fix the matter and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Auditors also noted two “significant deficiencies,” mistakes that are slightly less damning than material weaknesses but still keep management from discovering a problem in a timely manner.

Auditors said the county’s accounting systems doesn’t produce reports that allow auditors to easily follow the county’s capital assets, which include any equipment that’s worth more than $5,000, like vehicles or buildings.

The county by the end of the month plans to bring in a consultant to tailor the reporting needs and resolve the matter, Caldwell said. The consultant will probably cost about $5,000.

The audit also said that the county at times didn’t adhere to the Davis-Bacon Act, a federal mandate that requires officials to follow certain rules to ensure that the contractors who oversaw a series of low-income housing projects funded with more than $200,000 in “community development block” grants turned in the proper payroll paperwork.

County officials said turnover in the community development department at the time created a lapse in monitoring. The new employees have been trained in the proper procedures.

Neither Caldwell nor Leuthold were in charge of their respective departments when the mistakes occurred.

Mistakes that aren’t corrected could end up affecting the county’s bond rating, which could lead to higher interest rates when the county takes out loans or issues bonds.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

County audit to note a few problems

As I said would happen back in mid-December, the county received a clean bill of health from its auditors in a review tied to its annual report, which covered the entire previous fiscal year.

However, I noted that when the county officially turns over the single audit report (this is kind of the sister report to the comprehensive finance report, or CAFR), that there were going to be some problems.

Well, that report will be made publicly on Tuesday when the Audit Committee accepts it. And, like I predicted, officials will talk about several problems auditors found.

“A government our size is always going to have an audit finding,” said County Finance Director Chris “Money Bags” Caldwell. “We expect a handful of findings. The key to the thing is cleaning up the findings from the previous year.”

However, Caldwell, who didn’t actually take the top finance gig until the middle of last year so you really can't blame him for any of it, said the county has taken care of the problems.

You can read the original story I wrote right smack here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A different look at teacher survey

In the KNS’ continuing effort to hunky-dory-up (first time I’ve ever used that word in print) all things for the school system, the paper’s latest press release today – right smack here if you want to pay money for stuff you can find elsewhere for free – left out some crucial information.

Big surprise. But, hey, it’s not just me complaining. Hit the social media world. Lots of folks have expressed dismay! (Yellow Card for you, KNS. Heh.)

Anyhoo, the school system last night released the results to its anonymous teacher survey.

Let’s look at how the Slantinel reported the “facts” and then let’s look at how the real world sees them.

KNS: 29.9 percent of teachers agreed that Common Core standards will benefit instruction and student learning, while 22.6 percent disagreed.

Real World: A combined 37.3 percent of teachers “STRONGLY Disagree” and “Disagree” that Common Core standards will benefit instruction and student learning, while 35.6 percent "Agree" and "STRONGLY Agree."

Big FREAKING difference, huh? See how it gets switched around when you include more facts?????

How about another one:

KNS: 32.5 percent disagreed that teachers had the opportunity to provide input regarding the district’s strategic direction, while only 17.8 percent agreed they had.

Real World: A combined 60.9 percent “STRONGLY Disagree” and “Disagree” that teachers had the opportunity to provide input regarding the district’s strategic direction, while only 19.2 percent “Agree” and “STRONGLY Agree.”

Now, in order to continue its consistent quest of inconsistency, KNS decides to note that “77.9 percent of teachers said their school was a good place to work and learn.”

Well, wait a minute here, but that 77.9 percent is a combination of the “agree” and “strongly agree” categories. Why combine them both now????

Oh yeah.


‘Cause everything is hunky-dory.

In the meantime, you can find the entire survey right smack here and make up your own mind.

Whether you agree or disagree. 

Regas could still operate as eatery

Well, it looks like there's a chance the Regas Restaurant could remain an eatery.

I just got off the horn with Roger Moore, president of the real estate services firm Sperry Van Ness/R.M. Moore, which helped oversee the sale, and he said the new owners  have “no definitive plans” yet but could potentially lease the lower portion of the building for restaurant and office space.

(Moore by the way is no relation to the baddest a$$ James Bond but a nice guy nonetheless.)

The new owners, he said, are a group of local investors, dubbed Regas Property, LLC.

“I can’t say as of yet who they are because they don’t want it made public yet, but they have a passion for Knoxville and the Regas,” he said. “The property is important to them to maintain and as part of Knoxville’s history.”

Moore added that the investors, in part, also purchased the iconic building because there were other potential suitors that wanted the property but planned to demolish it.”

Regas Restaurant sold for $2 million

Area's in blue were sold
The former Regas Restaurant, a long-time downtown meeting place for some of the area and region’s biggest political players, has been sold for $2 million to a new company dubbed Regas Property, LLC, according to the paperwork filed Monday with the Knox County Register of Deed’s Office.

The building, located at 318 N. Gay St. just north of Market Square, closed Dec. 31, 2010. At the time, proprietor Bill Regas said the eatery was tough to keep open as it competed with construction projects, other nearby culinary competition and an overall poor economy.

Brothers Frank and George Regas founded the restaurant in 1919.

The sales includes the iconic building, and the property and parking lot that fronts West Depot from N. Gay Street to Williams Street with the exception of a 25-foot strip owned by the City of Knoxville. The total is roughly 2.25 acres.

Regas Property, LLC is a new company. The address goes back to real estate services firm Sperry Van Ness/R.M. Moore.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Big Bill vs. Raccoon for Governor

I meant to post this on Friday, but looks like Big Bill will have some competition during his re-election. Or, well, he'll have a challenger anyway. From Tena Lee of the Gallatin News Examiner:

A Gallatin man who made national headlines when state wildlife officials confiscated his pet raccoon last year has announced he is running for governor.

Mark "Coonrippy" Brown, 55, pulled a petition for the office on Friday with intentions to challenge incumbent Gov. Bill Haslam in the Republican primary in August.

"This is all about the raccoon," Brown said.

Brown gained national attention in July following the seizure of his pet raccoon, Rebekah, by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials. Brown claimed he was targeted by the agency after videos of him with another raccoon, Gunshow, went viral. His quest to regain ownership of Rebekah was eventually featured on CNN when he appeared on the Anderson Cooper 360 RidicuList in August.

Brown said his letter to TWRA officials seeking a permit went unanswered and a petition to Haslam with over 60,000 signatures was returned unopened.

"Gov. Haslam ignored the cries from the entire United States," he said.

The Gallatin High School graduate said that by running for governor he hopes to "expose the people in office who are not for the people."

"He can free prisoners, he can pardon people, but he refused the online petition and refused to accept the letter," he said. "All eyes were on Tennessee and it made us look bad. It made it look like we were under Caesar's law."

Brown said he has plenty of support for a campaign on Facebook, YouTube and "the media across the planet."

The licensed firearms dealer and former city of Gallatin employee said he's not deterred by his lack of political experience and hopes to capitalize on his outsider status.

"We've got to take this country back one state at a time," he said. "We live in the United States of the Offended -- not the United States of America."

Friday was the first day candidates could pick up petitions for the Aug. 7 state and federal primary races and for nonpartisan Sumner County general election seats, such as school board. The deadline for petitions to be returned is noon on April 3.

Friday, January 3, 2014

State, Farragut candidates can get nominating petitions for election

Only a handful of candidates on Friday picked up a nominating petition to run in the primary election for open state House and Senate seats that represent the area, according to the Knox County Election Commission.

However, most incumbents have suggested recently that they plan to seek re-election.

The deadline to qualify is noon April 3.

As it stands, Cheri Siler, a Democrat and instructional coach in the Knox County school system, picked up a petition to run for the 7th District state Senate seat currently held by Republican Stacey Campfield.

Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs, a Republican, also is expected to challenge Campfield, but he did not pick up a petition yet.

The state primaries are set for Aug. 7 with the general election is scheduled for Nov. 4.

Also on Friday, state Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Democrat, picked up a petition to seek re-election for her  District 13 seat, as did state Rep. Steve Hall, a Republican and the District 18 House incumbent.

The following state seats also are up for re-election: 5th District Senate (Randy McNally, R); 14th District House (Ryan Haynes, R); 15th District House (Joe Armstrong, D); 16th District House (Bill Dunn, R); 19th District House (Harry Brooks, 19); and 89th District House (Roger Kane, R).

Friday also marked the first day that Town of Farragut candidates could pick up nominating petitions, although no one did. The mayoral post and two alderman seats are up for re-election.  The seats are non-partisan. That election is also set for Aug. 7.

Candidates need to meet certain qualifications to run for office. In addition, they need 25 signatures from registered voters who can vote in that particularly race.

Was McClain's BOE candidacy a ruse?

Word I’m hearing now from several sources is that Jim McClain, who picked up a nominating petition on Dec. 27 to run for the 9th District School Board seat, did it for show, rather than to actually run.


Anyhoo, Georgiana Vines over at the Slantinel wrote a column about his possibility as a candidate – right smack here for the pay wall that mostly features information that you can read elsewhere for free – and, well, quite frankly, at the time I wondered what his intentions were.

As Vines noted, he didn’t really distinguish himself from Pam Trainor, the incumbent whose campaign he actually managed four years ago. In her column, McClain suggested that he “sees the reasoning for Common Core standards” and didn’t “blame McIntyre for the mixed feelings in the community.”

So what were his motivations? Well, maybe he will run. Or maybe he just wanted to get the juices flowing, maybe get some other folks invigorated enough to run.

Whatever the case, two others since then – retired teacher Larry Clark (as noted by the rogue blogger Brian Hornback right smack here) and librarian Amber Rountree – have also since picked up nominating petitions.

Those two, I suspect, will distinguish themselves from Trainor who (from the way I’m hearing it) pretty much ignored the overall will of South Knoxville residents when she approved the superintendent’s gazillion dollar school budget a few years ago and then most recently agreed to give the superintendent another year on his contract.

The biggest beneficiary if McClain does pull out, however, will more than likely be Clark if he does decide to run. I suspect that the two of them would have split each other’s votes, allowing Rountree and Trainor to slide into the August general election. (This is assuming it would have been a four-person race.)

Now, it’s going to be a little harder to predict.

Well, not really.

But that’s for another time.

For the latest on who has picked up petitions, click right smack here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Davis to host kick-off gig Jan. 7

Local attorney Kristi Davis, who is seeking the Circuit Court Judge Division 1 seat, announced a campaign kick-off reception for Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. at the Bistro at the Bijou.

The public is invited and campaign contributions are welcome but not required.

The primary is in May and the general election is set for August. Incumbent judge, Dale Workman, has said that he won't seek re-election.

Davis, a Republican, is expected to face opposition from attorneys Ray Jenkins, Billy Stokes and Bill Ailor, who have also announced their intentions to seek the position. All are Republicans.

As always, any candidates can send me their election announcements, campaign plans, etc. for publication.

KCSO releases NYE traffic stats

The Knox County Sheriff's Office today released its holiday traffic stats for New Year's Eve, and it looks like deputies popped 11 people for DUI.

The Man with the Badge and crew conducted saturation patrols throughout the county, starting at 9 Tuesday night and ending at 5 Wednesday morning.

Deputies issued 405 citations for various offenses and threw 95 people in the clink.

They also worked seven crashes where alcohol was involved. No fatalities, however, were reported.

Knoxville unveils homelessness plan

The City of Knoxville, in a long-winded press release that was no-doubt written by new spin-guy Eric Vreeland (who never met a news story he couldn't hack 4 inches off - heh), has released a draft plan to combat homelessness.

You can find the plan itself right smack here. (And no, I'm not copying and pasting the whole release.)

The city will host a "public input session" at 5:30 p.m. on Feb 11 at the Cansler Family YMCA, 616 Jessamine St.

The City Council has set a 5:30 p.m. Feb. 27 date to talk more about the plan. The council will hold that meeting in the Main Assembly Room of the Death Star.

You can also email comment about the plan to Michael Dunthorn at