Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Absher uses different approach in ad

Sally Absher, who is against Jeffrey Clark and incumbent Lynne Fugate for the, Board of Education District 4 seat, has a pretty interesting political ad that hit mailboxes this week.

In fact, I'm not sure I've seen a local candidate take this approach. She includes a QR-code on the mailer. It's one of those fancy codes that you scan with your phone and it takes you to a video. Now, granted, I don't know if anyone will actually use the thing, but it's different.

Anyhoo, that said, the link takes you to a video from a recent BOE meeting in which Fugate, the chairwoman, declines to let a student speak for an extra minute. Heh. Rude.

The video is not necessarily new and Fugate took some well-deserved heat for it. (I mean, come on, a student actually takes the time to show up at a school board meeting - on his own and uninvited - and you don't give him an extra 60 second? Geez.)

It's not like students are exactly banging down the doors to get into these meetings.

But . . .  whatever.

I've rambled enough.

Early voting for the May 6 primary (this is a non-partisan race) wraps up tomorrow. The top two vote-getters unless someone wins it outright with 50 percent plus 1 of the vote - advance to the August General Election.

As always, send me your election stuff for publication. Here's Absher's mailer. The video appears below.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Probably be a long time before school board, commission ever get along

Apparently, it’s OK for school officials to crap all over county leaders and call them out in public meetings, but not for county leaders to ask the superintendent questions.

According to Commissioner Sam McKenzie, members of the joint education committee (of commissioners and board of education members) met last week and a “majority” of the conversation focused on “how we talk to each other.”

McKenzie told fellow commissioners last night that committee members (including some commissioners) felt the tone of a recent public meeting with Superintendent Jim McIntyre turned “nasty.”

(That particular meeting by the way occurred on April 21. At the time, McIntyre talked finances with the commission and mostly dodged questions. I blogged about it right smack here.)

McKenzie said the committee agreed that there should be a level of “tone and civility” toward “our elected or appointed leaders” and that last week “we may have missed the mark.”

McKenzie said the commissioners who serve on the committee agreed “probably to varying points,” but told the BOE members that “we can’t legislate tone.”

Anyhoo, it’s obvious that the discussion was focused around commissioners Mike Brown and Tony Norman who took McIntyre to task, and said that he and the school system really didn’t care much for teachers (in so many words).

Brown on Monday said he wasn’t apologizing, and that – in fact – he’s still waiting for answers, which, he added, was typical.

He then took a shot at the school system’s administration, saying “they have some marvelous spin doctors over there,” and that he doesn’t believe any of the numbers that the system provides to the commission or the public.

Norman, for his part, said he was actually disappointed in the “general demeanor of the (school) board – some individuals in particular almost had their backs to the people who were speaking.”

He was referring to a number of public meetings that took place last year in which students, teachers and parents – wearing red shirts – attended the school board meetings to show support for teachers.

Norman said a number of Board of Education members were “obviously dismissive in their posture and in the way they treated the teachers.”

Folks, this isn’t going to end any time soon.

Now granted this is fun stuff to watch, but probably detrimental in the end if neither side can get along and work together.

And let’s face it: Neither side will.

Sure, they formed some lame joint education committee, but it’s comprised of members who agree with each other. Duh! Put members who don’t agree on it.

Further, there’s all this talk – every freaking year – about how both sides are going to meet super early in the year and talk about budgets, so that there won’t be any surprises.

Yeah, sure.

Remind me again when that happened?

It didn’t.

And it won’t next year, either.

Candidate Lay ad focuses on families

Patti Jane Lay, who is running against Greg McMillian in the May 6 Republican Primary for the Circuirt Court (Div IV) Judge seat, has released her own ad.

The winner in the Republican Primary advances to the August General Election and face whoever wins the Democratic Primary: either Daniel Kidd or David Valone.

As always, send me your election stuff for publication. Early voting wraps up on Thursday.

Budget presentation locations set

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will present his budget for fiscal year 2015 (which kicks off July 1) at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Main Assembly Room of the Death Star.

Those who can't (or don't want to) attend can check it out online right smack here.

As is typically the case, Burchett then takes the show on the road for the rest of the day, hosting a series of public meetings in each commission district to let folks ask questions about the proposal.

For a full list of locations, click right smack here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Henley Bridge project time-lapse

Check out this incredible hand-edited time-lapse movie of the Henley Bridge project, courtesy of TDOT. It covers the progress from December 2010 to this January.

E-Warning system set to go online

The county’s “e-warning” mass notification system that has the ability to instantly warn residents of approaching storms is almost up and running.

Officials will use the system to quickly provide emergency telephone, text, or email notices to every one of its residents at one time or focus only on a single neighborhood or street corner if need be.

The plan is to call a press conference in the next few days to a week to go over how folks can sign up for it.

To read our story, which we broke first almost a year ago, click right smack here.

Knox splash pads open for the season

Knox County Parks and Recreation will open its splash pads for the 2014 season on Saturday, according to latest county spin deal.

Splash pads are automated water playgrounds for kids of all ages. Knox County’s splash pads are located at three parks: Carl Cowan Park, New Harvest Park and Powell Station Park. They are open, weather permitting, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. spring through fall.

For more information click right smack here.

McMillian ad focuses on 'beginning'

Greg McMillian, who is running against Patti Jane Lay, in the May 6 Republican Primary for the Circuit Court (Div. IV) judge seat, has released another campaign ad, this one entitled "From the Beginning."

It's designed to highlight his early entry into the race and lay out his plan to make "much needed changes . . . (in a) court that has for far too long been known for limited court hours, excessively long dockets, and extremely long delays in the resolution of cases," according to the release.

The winner in the Republican Primary advances to the August General Election and face whoever wins the Democratic Primary: either Daniel Kidd or David Valone.

As always, shoot me over your election stuff.

Check out McMillan's video below:

Early voting wraps up this Thursday

Cliff Rodgers
The Knox County Election Commission just sent out a note, reminding folks that this is the last week of early voting for the May 6 primaries. 

Early voting wraps up May 1. There are 10 locations across the county and all except the City County Building location are open from:

11 am to 7 pm on Monday and Tuesday (Noon to 5 pm at the C/C Bldg.), and
·         9 am to 7 pm on  Wednesday and Thursday (Noon to 5 pm on Wednesday and noon to 7 pm on Thursday at the C/C Bldg.).

“Early voting is a flexible and convenient option for many voters,” said Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers. “Voters enjoy avoiding lines often present on Election Day.” 

Rodgers emphasized that, “it is especially critical for voters to consider voting early in this particular election since all Knox County schools will be open on May 6 (It's not an in-service day - students will be present) and parking will be scarce.

During school hours, parking will be scarce and—at times—virtually non-existent. “I am very concerned about folks with disabilities and our senior citizens not finding a place to park if they vote in a school,” Rogers said.

Moreover, at some schools, because of the lay-out of the school, voters will have to be “buzzed-in” by school security. If voters whose polling place is a school choose to wait until Election Day, then Rodgers suggested that they vote after schools have been dismissed.

A sample ballot, as well as a list of early voting locations, can be found on the election website, right here.  If you have any questions, call the election commission at 215-2480.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A look at teacher salary increases

Since, there’s so much misinformation (from both sides) regarding the proposed teacher raises, I figure I’d do my public service and provide folks with the accurate breakdown.

A little background: The school system wants to give teachers (and some others) a 2.5 percent raise. The school people, though, want the county to pay for a majority of it (which isn’t going to happen).

So, the school system is ready to put up $1.67 million to cover a .7 percent raise.

The school system is then asking the county to pay for a 1.8 percent increase. That will cost $4.55 million.

Total cost: $6.2 million.

There’s been some question about who will get the raises. Will it all go to “real classroom” teachers?

No, it won’t.

According to the good Melissa Ogden, of the combined $6.2 million in raises:
  • Roughly 86 percent ($5.37 million) goes to teachers “and other school level personnel" (EXCLUDES principals, assistant principals, nurses, psychologists, social workers, central office personnel, assisted tech support, etc.).
  • “All other certified employees” will make up the other 14 percent of the cost ($885,250).
Now, in addition to the proposed 2.5 percent, the school system also is covering step raises, which can amount to a $400-$600 bump. That will cost $3.5 million.

Hunnicutt says up-to-date on bill

Jason Hunnicutt
Jason Hunnicutt, a candidate for the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk’s seat, said he’s current on all bills from the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

Last week, we reported that Hunnicutt was facing civil action after the hospital had a summons issued for him.  It said he owed $486.64 and another $162 in court costs.

Hunnicutt, who says he still hasn't been served, faces Knox County Commissioner Mike Hammond and local attorney Steve Williams in the Republican primary. Incumbent Joy McCroskey opted not to seek re-election. No Democrats filed to run, so whoever wins on May 6 will begin serving a four-year term at the beginning of September.

He said he wasn’t sure whether the bill was paid before or after the summons, which he still hasn’t received, was issued.

“I don’t want to get into a nitpicking contest of the chick or the egg . . . but I’m glad it’s paid,” he said. That’s cool. Hunnicutt is a good dude and personally I don’t think he just said “the heck with that, I’m not paying it.”

The Paywall Paper, which never could figure out how to get a copy of the summons, talked to the hospital, which verified the bill was paid. I put in some calls, but haven't heard back. 

Anyhoo, I'm out.

Stokes release 'fun campaign' video

The Campaign for Billy "Pops" Stokes, who is running for the Div. I Circuirt Court Judge seat, sent over a note earlier, this morning, letting me know that supporters have put together a new video.

It said, in part, that "with the weekend coming up and campaigns always feeling the need to be so series, the Stokes campaign put together a little campaign video to lighten the mood. Most are Billy's grandkids.


You can find it below.

In the meantime, early voting runs through May 1. Stokes will face Krisit Davis and Ray Jenkins in the May 6 Republican Primary. No Democrats filed to run, so it's winner take all.

As always, send me your campaign stuff.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mayor Rogero unveils spending plan, proposes property tax increase

Mayor Rogero
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero on Thursday unveiled her proposed budget, a spending plan that she says meets the demands of increasing costs tied to personnel, pensions and services, but raises the property tax rate for the first time in a decade.

"I realize that a property tax increase places a burden on property owners,” Rogero said during her presentation at Christenberry Ball Park in North Knoxville. “But I also realize the burden we place on our residents when we cut police and fire service, when we let our streets and sidewalks deteriorate, and when we stop investing in our future.”

The mayor’s budget, if approved as is by the City Council, raises Knoxville’s property tax rate by 34 cent to $2.7257 per every $100 of assessed value. That equates to an $85 a year increase in city property taxes for a residential home with an assessed value of $100,000; $127.50 increase for a $150,000 home and $1,363.85 for a $200,000 home.

City taxes were last raised in 2004 under former Mayor Bill Haslam who increased them 35 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Every penny raises about $430,000 in revenue. The new tax rate is expected to bring in about $14.5 million.

Rogero’s proposed budget centers around a $200.5 million general fund, which covers much of the day-to-day operations. That’s up about $15 million from the current fund.

Some highlights include money for sidewalks and crosswalks across Knoxville; $1.2 million for public infrastructure improvements downtown; $300,000 for continued improvements in the Magnolia Warehouse District and Corridor; $500,000 to remediate blighted and chronic problem properties; $500,000 for historic preservation projects; $1 million for greenway corridors, and improvements to Lakeshore Park, Fountain City Lake and Ijams Nature Center.

One budget addition that garnered a loud round of applause from the hundreds who attended the presentation was a $250,000 allocation for restrooms near downtown’s Market Square.

"Downtown is everybody's neighborhood as it is the cultural and economic hub of our city and region," Rogero said.

In part, the mayor was forced to raises taxes to close a $10 million gap.

The budget now covers some $23.4 million in pension contributions – up $7.4 million from the current fiscal year.

It also includes an additional $1.7 million for a 2.5 percent raise for employees who make under $100,000 annually, a salary increase that is guaranteed each year under the city’s code.

Further it adds an extra $700,000 for increased health care costs.

The mayor said she plans to keep the city’s reserve at 25 percent of the budget – roughly $50 million for this year. It currently stands at $60.1 million, but she said at this point she will not dip into it to fund the budget.

She also doesn’t plan to add debt.

Last year the city issued $31.4 million in bonds to pay for four projects, including a Public Works Complex, demolition work at Lakeshore Park, Knoxville Zoo improvements, and construction initiatives to combat flooding problems on Prosser Road.

On Thursday, Rogero said the city is better off financially that “peer cities,” adding that Knoxville is in a very strong financial position.

"Despite occasional alarmist claims to the contrary, we are not about to fall off a financial cliff like some cities have," said Rogero.

The City Council will meet later this month to go through the budget. It must be approved by June 30, the last day of the current fiscal year.

Read the transcript to Rogero's budget proposal right here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mayor Rogero says city facing tight budget, rising pension contributions

Mayor Rogero
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year must somehow close a roughly $10 million gap tied to rising personnel and pension contribution costs, and yet also find ways to pay for capital improvement projects and reinvestment initiatives designed to enhance the city’s quality of life.

To do that, the mayor will more than likely be forced to either raise taxes, dip into the city’s reserve fund or cut services, she said.

Rogero will unveil her proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year at noon Thursday at Christenberry Ball Field in North Knoxville. The City Council will then hold budget hearings on May 21 in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building. The spending plan must be approved by June 30, the last day of the current fiscal year.

“We’ve had some challenges in addressing the budget this year,” Rogero said. “It’s no surprise we have a big unfunded pension liability . . .  and it’s something we’re obligated for and something we have to address.”

Residents in 2012 approved changes to the city’s pension plans, voting in a hybrid plan that combines a traditional defined benefits pension with a defined contribution component.

Still, the city isn’t expected to see any savings for decades.

In the meantime, the budget that Rogero will present on Thursday has to cover some $23.4 million in pension contributions – up $7.4 million from the current fiscal year.

The budget also must include an additional $1.7 million to cover a 2.5 percent raise for roughly 1,600 employees, a salary increase that is guaranteed each year under the city’s code.

And, the city needs to find another $700,000 for increased health care costs.

In addition, Rogero noted that “inflationary costs” tied to buying equipment, supplies “and quite a bit of purchasing that we have to do to run a government this size” also have jumped.

“On the capital side there are many projects that people want in our city – things like greenways, sidewalks and bicycle facilities, road improvements, intersection improvements, street paving, garbage pickup – all the different types of things that we provide to the city,” the mayor said. “So, we look at the operating side and the capital side . . .  and from there we look at what is realistic and try to establish a budget around that.”

You can read the entire store right here.

Waggoner says campaign gaining momentum, touts big turnout at BBQ

Bobby Waggoner
Got this today from the Bobby Waggoner for Sheriff campaign. Waggoner is running against Sam Hammett and incumbent Jimmy "J.J." Jones in May's Republican primary for the seat. No Democrats filed to run, so the winner will be decided next month.

The sheriff earns roughly $140,000 annually and is in charge of about 1,000 employees and a $70.3 million budget. 

As always, send me your campaign stuff for publication.

Here's the release:
This past weekend, nearly a thousand Knox County citizens turned out to attend a BBQ at the Brasfield farm in Karns in support of Candidate for Sheriff Bobby Waggoner. The event provided BBQ, live music, demonstrations from the local K-9 unit training facility, and several activities for children ranging from pony rides, a train ride, and a water walk.
Those in attendance included Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, County Commission Chairman Brad Anders and several candidates running for other elected offices in the upcoming primary. Though parking was provided in a large field that had been cleared for the event, overflow parking had to be accessed to accommodate the large crowds.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Previous county lobbyist contracts

Amy Broyles
On Monday, Knox County Commissioner Amy Broyles asked the board to postpone a discussion to talk about hiring a lobbyist to keep it informed regarding what goes on in Nashville.

Previous blog post right smack here.

Anyhoo, she noted that the county in the past had a number of contracts with firms and wanted board members to look over them.

Well . . . here ya go:

The county in September 2008 signed an agreement with Pratt, Pratt and Rice. Yes – that Dean Rice, the emperor of the Death Star, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s chief of staff. Heh. (Burchett wasn’t elected until 2010 by the way.)

The contract, which you can find right smack here, paid out $1,665 per month ($19,980 a year).

In July 2009, the county entered into a one-year contract, which you can find right smack here, with Farris Mathews Bobango that paid $3,750 per month ($45,000 a year).

I’m not sure how much each company actually received, but Burchett took over in September 2010 and I’m pretty sure that was the end – if it didn’t happen earlier – to any county lobbyist.

In the meantime, Broyles actually wants a lobbyist for the board only, rather than one who represents the commission and the administration.

Superintendent talks school budget and Commission goes on the attack

Jim McIntyre
Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim “Slim” McIntyre met with the commission (sitting as the finance committee) on Monday to talk about the budget.

Not a whole lot of new info. Or any. But there was some good back-and-forth by Commissioner Mike Brown that we can get to in a minute.

First off, though, Mac said the school board approved a $432.3 million spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. That’s up $12.5 million over the current one (or about 3 percent).

He said it was “tightly aligned to educational priorities,” and was a “no frills” plan within no new instructional initiatives.

He said the budget emphasizes three priorities:
  • It will sustain the “educational improvement efforts we’ve put in place,” such as Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s early reading program (which the county actually covers).
  • It will cover opening new Magnet Career Academy at Pellissippi State
  • It will “enhance teacher salaries” by 2.5 percent (which isn’t necessarily true because he didn’t propose a budget that actually had the funding to pay for salary increases).
Mac noted that funding the raises would cost about $6.2 million and it will require the community “to stretch a little bit.” (The school system didn't budget for $4.5 million of it.)

He said officials needed to “reallocate resources to make the budget work,” and that some central office positions would be cut through attrition. He didn’t expect any layoffs.

Mac said they were working to preserve teacher and teacher aide positions.

It’s an “educationally focused and student centered” budget,” he added.

When asked whether teachers would get a raise if the commission couldn’t find the money to pay for it, Mac said the budget does include a step increase that amounts to “a 4 to 5 to $600” range based on the step.

Mike Brown
Overall, the commission seemed fairly unimpressed, especially board member Mike Brown.

He said that Mac has placed teacher priorities “at the bottom of the list.”

“If a general on a battlefield doesn’t feed his troops, he’s liable to get shot in the back,” Brown said.

He reminded Mac that he just asked the community to “stretch it,” but wondered “why doesn’t the school board stretch it?”

Brown noted that all county departments have been asked to trim spending but “it’s always with the school board: ‘Give me more, give me more, give me more.’”

He also took issue with the Parthenon Group’s so-called “smart study” plan, which cost taxpayers at least $180,000. He said UT probably could have conducted it for $800.

He said the money paid to the Parthenon Group could have “gone a long way to fund teacher raises.”

Brown also asked Mac whether the school system would cover raises if commission wouldn’t appropriate the funds, but the superintendent wouldn’t give a straight answer.

Instead, Mac said he wanted the commission to first look at his proposed budget.

Said Brown: “Wish in one hand and pour sand in the other (and see which one fills up first).”

Commissioner Tony Norman also suggested that more than teachers would get raises.

He also said that Mac claimed that “there were no new initiatives.”

But, he said the superintendent wasn’t “responding to the teacher concerns” that were raised in recent months during long and, often testy, school board meetings. One example, he cited, was the teacher coaches.

Mac said “I think we have in a variety of different ways listened to our educators,” and noted that there is now a committee comprised of officials and teachers “that’s been very productive.”

The two then got into it, but at this point, I’m bored typing.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Another candidate faces legal action

Jason Hunnicutt
Another Knox County candidate who is running for the criminal court clerk’s seat is facing civil action.

Records show that a summons has been issued for Jason Hunnicutt, a prosecutor who works in the county’s District Attorney General’s Office. The action was brought by the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, which says he owes the operation $486.64 and another $162 in court costs.

Hunnicutt faces Knox County Commissioner Mike Hammond and local attorney Steve Williams in the Republican primary. Incumbent Joy McCroskey opted not to seek re-election. No Democrats filed to run, so whoever wins on May 6 will begin serving a four-year term at the beginning of September.

On Friday, Hunnicutt told 10News that “all my bills are paid.” When asked why the hospital would seek money from him, he said that in the past he had disputed a bill regarding emergency room services “because of the deductible, but it’s been paid.”

His court date is set for May 7.

Earlier this month, WBIR 10News first reported that the federal government has levied tax liens against at least two judicial Knox County candidates and a civil judgment was issued against a third.

Records show that one of Hunnicutt’s opponents, Steve Williams, owes a combined $24,562.89 in taxes from 2003-05. Records show that Williams didn't pay federal unemployment taxes for his business, individual income taxes and he faced penalties for failing to file the correct information.

Williams said he's paying off the tax debt and he owed about $16,000 at this point.

He said his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, and that the medicine she needed was expensive.

Also, Blount County's Tennessee Endoscopy Center in May 2013 received a judgment against him for $2,368.58.

A civil judgment also was issued against Clarence "Eddie" Pridemore, a Republican attorney who will face Daryl Fansler, a Democrat and incumbent for the Chancellor, Part II seat in the August general election.

GE Monday Bank in May 2011 received a judgment against Pridemore for a Lowe's credit card debt totaling $3,709.66.

Further, records show that Patti Jane Lay, a Republican seeking the circuit court judge Div. IV seat, owes a combined $58,069.11 in individual income taxes from 2000 through 2003. The federal lien was filed against her four years ago, according to records in the Knox County Register of Deeds Office.

One lien is against her and husband, John Baugh, for $46,700. The other is against her for $11,300.

Lay called the liens "a clerical mistake" that "involves a partnership return prepared and filed by someone else that contains other individual's tax information."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Commish candidate Smith sets up site

Well, better late than never. Looks like 3rd District Knox County Commission candidate Randy Smith got his website up and running this weekend. You can find it right smack here.

Randy, a Republican, is running against Billy Stephens (who I believe does not have a website). No Democrats filed, so the winner will be decided next month. Early voting is currently taking place until May 1.

As always send me your political stuff.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

BOE member's pal destroys newspapers, then brags about it in public email

Well, this is certainly an interesting development. Well, not really. It's election time and silly season is in full gear.

Cari "Mean" Gervin on some campaign shenanigans (yes this was absolutely political), and the ridiculousness that follows local elections:
You might remember the name Kristi Kristy from a couple of months ago, when she filed an ethics complaint with the Knox County Schools Board of Education because board member Mike McMillan had forwarded an email that Kristy had sent to board member Pam Trainor with instructions to send it to the entire board, which meant it then became public record -- anyway, it was a mess. Kristy eventually withdrew her complaint, which makes sense because McMillan didn't do anything wrong to begin with. Now, however, it looks like Kristy might be the one on the wrong side of ethics -- and, possibly, the law. 
You can find Cari's complete story, and - wow - it's been a talker recently, right smack here.

In addition, someone over at the hippie's blog, posted a link - right here - regarding newspaper theft and why it's not a good thing to destroy them even if they're free. And apparently - right here - you will find some federal case law regarding newspaper theft.

Davis releases ad, stresses values

Just got this one in from the Kristi Davis camp. She's running against Billy Stokes and Ray Jenkins in the May 6 Republican primary for the Circuit Court Judge (Div. I) seat. No Democrats qualified, so it's winner take all next month.

Here's what her camp had to say (video below):

Kristi Davis released her first campaign advertisement today, focusing on her life-long connection to Knox County and the values she would bring to the bench.

“I am very excited to be able to get my message out to the voters of Knox County. My campaign has tremendous momentum, and being able to speak directly to the voters will keep the campaign moving forward,” said Davis.

Check out her website right smack here.

Early voting began on April 16 and runs through May 1.

Brooks endorses Jenkins for judge

Ray Jenkins
OK, so everyone gets one free post for an endorsement. Heh. This one is from the Ray Jenkins camp. Ray is running against Billy Stokes and Kristi Davis for the Circuit Court Judge (Div. I) seat in the May 6 Republican primary.

There are no Democrats, so it's winner take all next month. Early voting started Wednesday and runs through May 1.

Representative Harry Brooks (R – Knoxville) today announced his endorsement for Ray Jenkins for Knox County Circuit Court Judge.  Brooks says Jenkins’s wide breadth of experience with a proven track record of successes qualify him as a strong candidate for the position.

“Ray Jenkins is the best person for the job,” said Harry Brooks, four-term state representative and chairman of the House Education Committee. “He is a constitutional conservative with experience as a lawyer, a community leader and a business leader. We have been long-time friends and he has had impressive successes in every position he has held.”

In addition to successful stints in business and politics, Jenkins has a wide variety of legal experience, representing all levels of clients from Fortune 500 companies to families and everything in between. 

These experiences have prepared Jenkins to be Circuit Court Judge, as these judges have a heavy role in the general jurisdiction of a variety of legal matters.

Jenkins expressed appreciation for Representative Brooks endorsement and said, “The support of Representative Brooks means a great deal coming from a legislator of his caliber. He has done a great job for Knox County and for Tennessee,” he said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to serve Knox County and to apply the law to real people in real situations in our community.”

A Knox Co. native, Jenkins is a graduate of Tennessee Tech where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Jenkins took an analyst position with the Navy in Virginia after graduation, returning to his home state three years later for a job with the Air Force at Arnold Engineering Development Center where he continued to work while attending law school at the Nashville School of Law. 

Check out his website, right smack here.

BOE candidate responds to editorial

Tamara Shepherd
The Paywall Paper, which is always predictable in its election endorsements, endorsed Terry Hill for the Dist. 6 Board of Education seat.

Hill by the way apparently supports creationism being taught in high school. Good, Lord. Heh. But I digress.

Anyhoo, last week one of her opponents, Tamara Shepherd sent the media and some other folks her thoughts on the endorsement. I meant to post this awhile ago, but like other things, I was working on some scoops. Heh. (I should mention that the other two candidates in this race are Bradley Buchanan and Sandra Row-Your-Boat-Cliff.)

Here's what Tamara had to say:

This morning’s endorsement by the Knoxville News-Sentinel of my opponent Terry Hill was not unexpected and that they offered the comments they did on my own candidacy is fine with me, too.  Really, I appreciate the contrast they drew between Ms. Hill’s candidacy and my own.

I think that this level of discontent among teachers, parents, and students calls for solutions and I'm pleased to tell you that I've spoken with several prospective constituents who've told me--as recently as at the Concerned Citizens forum last Thursday night--that I am the *only* candidate in this race they've heard actually suggest any.

Yes, my position that it is now necessary to sue the State Board of Education over a faulty teacher evaluation model is "extreme." However, given that this law may be changed by only the legislature or the courts AND given that we have waited over three years to see it changed by the legislature, it is not unreasonable to now turn to the only other remedy available to address the problem. In fact, teachers have now beaten the BOE to the draw and begun filing their own lawsuits, which TEA assures they will continue to do.

I therefore continue to challenge my opponents to tell me how they will address the problem--and they'd better not answer "with a Teacher Work Group," because that's a fantasy. A Teacher Work Group is unable to change a state law, period.

And yes, I have called for Dr. McIntyre's dismissal (and I did so again in this morning's Inside Tennessee segment, if you watched). What I said in my response to the Metro Pulse questionnaire is this:
“He has used Knox County Schools as a conduit for the experimentation and profit of others whose interests are not the school system's students and teachers. He has farmed out the district's strategic plan to the Chamber of Commerce, its employee compensation plan to Battelle for Kids, and its resource allocation plan to The Parthenon Group. It is not clear why these plans were not produced internally by system staff and it is doubtful that the system can afford to repeatedly pay such costs going forward.”
You will note that at least two of these actions--to have delegated the KCS strategic plan and to have delegated the KCS "resource allocation" plan--were not the result of any state or federal mandate to do so, but were the result of Dr. McIntyre's independent decision to do so. Really, he was likely able to have deviated as well from Tennessee's promise in our RttT grant app to use an entity like Battelle for Kids, had he chosen to do so.

I therefore continue to press that these and other of Dr. McIntyre's policy and procedure decisions (like excessive testing, too) are NOT rooted in state or federal mandates but are instead rooted in his own vision for "corporate reform" locally, contrary to the vision it appears teachers and parents embrace.

So again, I appreciate this opportunity afforded me by the KNS to distinguish my candidacy from that of Ms. Hill’s, I do not shrink from my assertion that it's time for someone to offer viable solutions, and I'll be asking voters to discern who it is that's offering them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Burchett says no to all pay raises

Mayor Burchett
I meant to put this up yesterday when we first reported it, but I was out of town working on a big scoop. Heh.

WBIR's John Henry talked to Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett about the school system's request to fund a 2.5 percent increase for teacher pay raises, which would cost about $4.5 million.

There's all sorts of stuff to say about this, but, really, I think everyone sees that the school board is trying to use teachers as political pawns in a financial game of tug-of-war. (I'm all for teacher pay raises by the way.)

Burchett notes that the school system could find money in its own budget to pay for the raises. (He's also said he doesn't plan to give general county employees raises, either.)

That's an interesting point. The school system's budget includes funding to tack on two additional days to the school calendar, an odd move since a state study recently said there's no proof that a few extra days really helps students (read: It doesn't).

Anyhoo, certainly something to think about. Here's John's story:
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett is reacting to Knox County Schools' proposed budget.

The Knox County Board of Education approved a $432 million budget Monday night.

The school system made way for a 2.5 percent raise for teachers, but in order for that raise to happen, the board must receive more money from the county commission.

Mayor Burchett questioned why the school board failed to reorganize the budget to make the raise happen without having to ask the county for more money.

"There simply isn't enough revenue to fund the school's request this year. Of course we can't dictate how the school administration spends its money, but out of the $427 million in revenue that the school system is expecting, surely they could find 2 or 3 percent of that to fund the raises," he said.

Under the current board budget for raises, the school district needs another $4.5 million.

County commission must ok the budget. They have until the end of June.

18 workers get $143K in sick leave, now McCroskey wants in on the fun

Embattled Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey is seeking as much as $10,000 from the county for unused sick leave she accrued before taking office more than five years ago.

The request stems from a county policy that took effect last July. So far, 18 employees have been paid a combined $143,140.

Another four workers, including McCroskey and her chief deputy, Janice Norman, have submitted payment requests. Norman, who joined the county in 1968, said her last day is Aug. 29, and McCroskey is leaving Aug. 31.

County leaders, however, say the neither should be eligible, based on the ordinance that established the policy to pay for unused sick leave. Some officials also took McCroskey to task, saying her attendance in recent years is already suspect at best.

The ordinance was approved by the Knox County Commission last spring. At the time, its sponsors, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Commissioner Amy Broyles said they created it to increase productivity and reward long-tenured workers.

For the complete story, right smack here.

Early voting today through May 1

How about a little something to get the blood flowing this morning, the first day of early voting, which runs through May 1. Click right smack here for a list of early voting locations. Get out there and write my name in the ballot. Heh.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Register of Deeds candidate Wiser writes letter to 'Mayor Tim.' Heh

So, uh, er, heh. Donald Wiser, who is running as an independent for the Knox County Register of Deeds seat, sent out an email today to a bunch of local leaders, the county mayor, the media and your mama. (Kidding on that last part.) Anyhoo, like I've always said: Send me your election stuff and I'll post it.
Wiser will face Sherry Witt, a Republican and the current Register of Deeds, in the August election.

You know, sometimes I comment on these things and even call people out when they make mistake or they're completely inaccurate. But, I'm just going to let this sucker speak for itself. Unedited.

The email subject line was "Open Communication to Mayor Tim." 


Honorable Mayor Burchett:

I have documentation from the Election Commission that Ms. Witt and Mr Jones have been elected to their office in two consistent elections. Now they have taken out petitions for a third term, solicited signatures of Knox County voters ,and had their name in nomination in violation of the Charter of Knox County and the will of the citizens. Term limits have been under attack by the Tim Hutchinson/Scott Moore group since its enactment with this gang armed with an  A.G. opinion term limits didn't apply to them. Then came BLACK WEDNESDAY!
Jones has had a hard time with the truth as we've discussed at best' or might be his disdain for the will of Knox Countians: he has decided his first term did not count[ Jones needs to read the Campbell Co. bondman's Courts  statement of law about A.G. or Law Director opinions] The only ones to benefit from this cavalier decision is Jones himself, and his close friend, the current Register of Deeds. Jones as you should recall tasted one of K.C.S.O.s' Finest [also a State Representative] with sneaking into a Bill an amendment removing the Sheriff and close associate Resister of Deeds from term limits. If you remember, we talked, and you took the right action: you kill the bill in the Senate which made us proud[also income tax] that you believe in the will of the people as C.B. taught you.
Tim, you ran on a platform of being a Stewart of the taxpayers money, transparency and increase  accountability. Now is the time for you to purge the deadwood in your office and clean up your own backyard. Thank you for the school in Carter and any help to stop busing of school kids but while you have been kissing babies and cutting ribbons the foxes have been robbing the chicken coop. We the people have a right to know the involvement of office holders under your  purview;

1.Involvement with Buumgartner by A.G. and Sheriff:
  a. Join with News-Sentinel  and the parents to investigate and have the T.B.I. Report made public.
  b. Answer, Who, What, When, and How. To paraphrase Fred Thompson during Watergate, What did [they] know and when did they know it. The source of Richards drugs needs to be known [history has shown a police agency is a great source. No Chain of Command in the drug section answering directly to Jones]..
2.The Police pension that Jones along with a Register of Deeds aid conspired to award this benefit to many undeserving ex-sheriff,lawyers,at least five ex commissionaires many voting for Jones and Witt on BLACK WEDENDAY, and who knows who else. Remember Herb told you so.
3.You have knowledge about the abuse of vehicles in the Sheriffs Department even talking about the black Mustang that uses 7$ a gallon gas[after denying now test driving].

4.Why is  Knox. Co. allowing a Office Holder that didn't pay his child support, pays no property tax, after a golf trip over seas [ who paid for this] along with A.G.,Mental Health official, and a D.U.I. Lawyer who's kin works the same try to sell a concept for a non-feasible program at $17,000,000 and a building. Who is it for the intoxicated, the drug addicted, or mental ill and who will decide. Maybe this person can receive bonus as large as the tourist bureau or maybe a job after retirement.

5.The Police is to protect our children but this sheriff must have a problem . We know he was a dead beat Dad according to past reports of the Knoxville News-Sentinel now one of his Officers is charged with sex crimes involving a 13 year old  which  brings to mind a K.C.S.O. Officer  assigned to be one of the very few to  patrol in our neighbors that was fired for sex and authority crimes with a child while working an undercover assignment in our schools by the previous sheriff but rehired by Jones. This individuals daddy  working there is alleged to be doing chores for Jones[ laundry, grocery shopping but not the quart of vodka]. The fired Officer was placed on diversion by the same A.G. that took the trip overseas with Jones.

Tim I know my great friend C.B. Placed in your heart to do right so make him proud.                       

Donald M. Wiser

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jenkins reception set for Monday

Mario Azevedo II and John D. Lockridge Jr will host a reception for Ray Jenkins, who is running for the Circuit Court (Div. I) judge seat, at Doc’s All American Grill tomorrow (Monday, April 14) from 5-7 p.m.

The event is open to the public.

In a prepared statement, Azevedo said “Come out, have a cocktail or two, some good grub, and meet Ray Jenkins, a gentleman I think should be the next judge of the 1st Circuit Court for Knox County. He comes from a family with deep roots in the legal community and has practiced law in and around Knox County for the last 15 years. He's former chairman of the Knox County Republican Party, a selfless public servant, family man, and an all-around great guy. Come meet him, show your support, and don't forget early voting starts on the 16th of April!”

Jenkins is running in the Republican primary against Billy Stokes and Kristi Davis to replace retiring Judge Dale Workman, who is retiring after 24 years on the bench. No Democrats are running.

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

Good luck to all the candidates.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Board to talk about hiring lobbyist

Amy Broyles
The Knox County Commission during its work session in a couple of weeks will talk about whether the board needs to hire a lobbyist to keep it informed of the comings and goings in Nashville.

The proposal, spearheaded by Commissioner Amy Broyles, is designed to make officials more aware of laws that can affect local governments. Broyles said the position would probably earn $30,000 to $40,000 annually.

“There’s so much stuff going on in the state that’s affecting local government and there’s a lot to keep up with,” she said. “If we had a lobbyist who was an employee of the commission they could keep us up to date on the issues going on at the state level.”

Broyles said years ago the county had one, but it caused problems when the administration and the commission didn’t agree on an issue. (This person, by the way, would work only for the commission.)

suggested that the proposal probably wouldn’t pass.

“There are some people on the commission who want to be better informed and there are some who are fine with the way things are,” she said, adding that maybe someone would have a better idea.

“That’s fine with me but I want to feel like we’re doing everything we can,” she said.

Commission Chairman Brad Anders said he, too, would like to bring in a lobbyist, but only under certain conditions.

“It would have to be a monitoring contract – not a heavy contract – but something to monitor the bills going forward and how they affect county government,” he said.

Anders, though, added that the proposal would have to be given to Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett to include in his annual budget, and it’s probably too late to do that for this year.

Speaking of Burchett, I asked him about the proposal and, as expected, he was against it.

He said to get a decent lobbyist "you have to get into at least the $40,000 range or you'll end up failing."

"You can pay your third cousin $20,000 but they'll probably spend it in some bar in Nashville and you'll never know what's going on," he added

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Finance dept. wants commission to create rules tied to reserve funds

Chris Caldwell
Knox County finance officials have long said that they don’t want to use reserve funds on reoccurring costs, like employee raises.

Now they want it in writing.

The county’s finance team has asked the County Commission to create a formal policy that sets the rainy day fund at 25 percent of the county’s general fund – the account that typically covers much of the day-to-day operations.

Right now that would mean setting the floor at $40 million, which would cover the county for four months if things went bad – real bad. (The fund now sits at a just over $50 million.)

Top county finance guru Chris “Money Bags” Caldwell said the county has long kept “an informal policy,” regarding how it would use reserve dollars, but its external auditors recently suggested that officials should set it in stone.

The bond rating agencies also like when local governments do this, he said.

The timing, however, is interesting. The school system is asking the county to foot the bill for teacher raises, since it supposedly doesn’t have the money. (And not to mention that Gov. Big Bill declined to give raises, so that throws things even more out of whack.)

Since, the county isn’t going to raise taxes to cover any salary bumps, the only other place to go is the reserves.

Put it in writing that you can’t mess with the rainy day account, and the commission has a semi-easy out for why it won’t support raises and why the responsibility should go back to the school system to fund.

Caldwell, though, says it’s all a coincidence. I’ll take him at his word. He’s always been a standup guy.

Attorneys for ex-Trustee Mike Lowe, former employees back in court

Mike Lowe
Attorneys for ex-longtime Knox County Trustee Mike Lowe and two of his former so-called ghost employees were in court Thursday to finalize trial dates and provide all parties with an update on when each side will get the information it's requested.

As it stands, Lowe will go to trial on Dec. 1; Ray Mubarak's will begin Nov. 5 and Delbert Morgan's will start on Aug. 18. The trials could last up to two weeks each.

Assistant District Attorney General Bill Bright noted that the dates have been changed a number of times because of "the massive amount of information" involved in the case. The defendants were initially set to go to trial in late 2013, and then later this summer.

On Thursday, he told Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steven Sword that his staff has turned over most of the data requested by the defense attorneys, but still has to provide and verify some cell phone records, and secure an expert witness.

He suggested that it would be a "very quick" turnaround.

Attorneys for the defendants declined to comment after Thursday's status hearing on the case.

Rest of the story right here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rehab or raze: Feasibility study to determine Civic Coliseum's future

Knoxville leaders are looking into whether to renovate or raze the city's antiquated Civic Auditorium and Coliseum.

The downtown performance arena is home to a number of sports teams, including one of its main tenants, the Knoxville Ice Bears professional ice hockey team.

The arena has also featured thousands of world-class acts since it opened in 1961. During the past five decades, it's hosted circuses, theatrical productions, musicals, comedians, and major concerts, including the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder.

"We get people from all over to come to these shows," said Greg Mackay, director of public assembly facilities for the City of Knoxville. "It's the one place people are drawn to."

Although the 50-year-old facility has a lot of history, Mackay says it also has some major problems.

When it was designed in the 1950s, for example, musical performers stacked their speakers on the floor. Now they hang them from the roof trusses, which aren't strong enough to hold them.

Mackay added that other issues stopped the city from investing in a new wooden sports floor that would allow the coliseum to host volleyball and basketball competitions."We're having trouble because we don't know where to store it [the sports floor]," he said. "We can't store it downstairs because we have a leaky basement and the humidity would warp the wood."

Mackay also said that the concessions and bathrooms are in dire need of updates. And, officials would like to improve the acoustics and install LED lights in the auditorium. The outdoor plaza is also deteriorating with large cracks in the pavement.

If the city is willing to spend the money, Mackay says most of the current problems can be fixed. But before anyone sinks more cash into the old building, the city wants a professional to conduct a feasibility study to determine if the investment is worth it.

"We're going to get some outside experts to look at the condition of the building and tell us should we do a minor renovation, should we do a large renovation, or maybe it's time to build a new one," said Mackay. "Before we start making a piecemeal fix, we want to look at the big picture and decide what we're going to do."

Check out the full story right here.

Candidates facing financial issues

The federal government has levied tax liens against at least two judicial Knox County candidates and a civil judgment was issued against a third.

Records show that Patti Jane Lay, a Republican seeking the circuit court judge Div. IV seat, owes a combined $58,069.11 in individual income taxes from 2000 through 2003. The federal lien was filed against her four years ago, according to records in the Knox County Register of Deeds Office.

One lien is against her and husband, John Baugh, for $46,700. The other is against her for $11,300.

In addition to Lay, local attorney Steve Williams who is running for the criminal court clerk's seat has tax issues that he's addressing.

Federal liens filed in 2008 and 2011 show that Williams owes a combined $24,562.89 in taxes from 2003-05. Records show that Williams didn't pay federal unemployment taxes for his business, individual income taxes and he faced penalties for failing to file the correct information.

A civil judgment also was issued against Clarence "Eddie" Pridemore, a Republican attorney who will face Daryl Fansler, a Democrat and incumbent for the Chancellor, Part II seat in the August general election.

GE Monday Bank in May 2011 received a judgment against Pridemore for a Lowe's credit card debt totaling $3,709.66.

Click right here for the full story and the candidates' explanations.

Vols move game for Boomsday to create big Labor Day weekend celebration

Just got this in from the good Visit Knoxville folks:

The University of Tennessee Volunteers and Visit Knoxville's Boomsday Team Up for a Spectacular New Labor Day Weekend Celebration.

The Vols' season opening game with Utah State is moving to Sunday, August 31st at 7:00 p.m.  As a result, Visit Knoxville will hold the 27th Annual Boomsday Festival on Saturday, August 30th. The festival will expand down Neyland Drive and feature special programming celebrating Knoxville and the Big Orange. Playing on Sunday provides the opportunity for the game to be broadcast on ESPN's new SEC Network.

"This will be a unique and exciting weekend for our city and our state," said Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones. "With Boomsday on Saturday and our season opener on Sunday, the atmosphere and energy in Knoxville will be unrivaled. We're also excited about being one of the schools featured on the first weekend of SEC Network football telecasts, and we are looking forward to this tremendous opportunity."

The 2014 season opener will mark the seventh time Tennessee has played on Sunday. The Vols are 3-2-1 all-time in the previous six games. The last Sunday contest for Tennessee was the season opener on Sept. 5, 2004, a 42-17 win over UNLV that marks the only Sunday game to date in Neyland Stadium history.

"Holding Boomsday on Saturday in partnership with the University gives the opportunity to provide Vol fans and visitors alike with a truly memorable holiday weekend," said Kim Bumpus, president of Visit Knoxville. "Events like this stimulate our local economy and highlight all that Knoxville has to offer. We look forward to celebrating this great city all weekend long."

Boomsday 27 will feature more music than ever before. The Knoxville based Black Lillies will headline the event on the main stage with other local artists performing a variety of music from jazz to country and bluegrass on a total of 3 stages.  The famous Pyro Shows fireworks will blast off at 9:00pm and broadcast live on WBIR.

Admission to this year's event is $20 per adult (children 12 and under free) and includes access to a programmed and secured fireworks viewing along Neyland.  Your admission grants full access to all performances, a family-friendly kids area, new food vendors, shopping and much more. There's even a VIP area for Veterans (who can attend Boomsday for free with Military I.D.)

Boomsday tickets go on sale in July.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Knox Veteran Congregation Initiative

The above video was put together regarding the faith-based initiative to work with veterans who are returning home from war zones. I blogged about it yesterday.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

No bidders for Cumberland project

Plans to overhaul the Cumberland Avenue Corridor are now on hold after no one bid on the project’s first phase, a $4 million redesign from Alcoa Highway to 22nd Street that was supposed to take six months to finish.

Now, though, Knoxville leaders say they will reassess the bid documents they issued in order to bring in a developer, and figure out why no one submitted a proposal. The project went out for bid in early March and the deadline was today.

“We’re disappointed that the project will be delayed but hopefully we can get the issues taken care of,” said Jesse Mayshark, the city’s communication director.

Mayshark said at this point officials didn’t know how long it would take to rebid the proposal.

The Phase I work included installing new underground stormwater and gas lines to support new commercial and residential developments in the area. The project also was supposed to add and widen sidewalks, resurface the road and bring in new, higher-performing traffic signals.

Officials, once Phase I was completed, immediately planned to being the larger, second part, a $13 million initiative that would redesign Cumberland Avenue from 22nd Street to 16th Street. That work includes new underground utilities, new signals, new sidewalks, the addition of turn lanes and new median. It also includes new landscaping, benches and pedestrian-scaled lighting.

In early March, city officials noted that the proposed $17 million investment into the corridor so far has already leveraged more than $100 million in investment from private developers.

A look at state, Farragut contests

Farragut Mayor Ralph McGill won't face opposition in his bid for re-election.

However, incumbent Alderman Bob Markli, who represents the town's North ward, will.

The deadline to qualify to run for state, federal and offices in the Town of Farragut was noon Thursday. That means elections officials can start putting together the official ballots for the Aug. 7 state and federal primaries, and the Farragut - which features non-partisan races - general election.

Here's how it's looking:
  • Markli will face John Underwood for the Farragut Ward I seat, and Ronald Pinchok will take on Ron Williams for the South ward position currently held by Jeff Elliot who opted not to seek re-election.
  • In addition, four of the nine state senate and house seats in the local Legislative delegation will face opposition either in the primary, the general or both contests.
  • District 13 state Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, will face the winner of the Republican primary – either Jason Emert or Eddie Smith.
  • District 18 state Rep. Steve Hall, R-Knoxville, will face Martin Daniel in the May primary. No Democrats qualified to run.
  • State Rep. Joe Armstrong, a Democrat who represents the 15th District, will face Charles Drew, an independent, in the general election. No Republicans qualified to run.
 At the last minute, Mike Alford turned in his petition to run for the 7th District state Senate seat, currently held by Stacey Campfield, a Republican. In addition, Republican and Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs also is seeking the seat as is Cheri Siler, a Democrat.

No one filed to run against 5th District state Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, or Knoxville Republican state representatives Ryan Haynes (14th District), Harry Brooks (19th District), Bill Dunn (16th District), or Roger Kane (89th District).

Also up this year are three state executive committee seats for the Republican and Democratic parties. These boards are essentially an organizing system for the parties, and chose the state directors of their respective parties. A man and woman from each senate district is selected to make up the overall committee.

The election for the seats is set for Aug. 7.
  • For District 5, Julia Hurley, a female Republican, will take on Melissa Browder. No one will challenge Richard Dawson, a male Democrat. Dixie Damn and Mary Hickman will vie for the female seat. Leon Shields and Scott Smith will square off in the Republican race.
  • In the 6th District, neither Republican Ted Hatfield nor Republican Jane Chedester will face an opponent. However, Cameron Brooks will face Michael Daugherty for the Democratic seat. Sylvia Woods, a female Democrat, also does not face competition.
  • In the 7th District, neither Republican Ken Gross nor Republican Karen Brown will have an opponent, nor will Kim Webber, a Democrat. However, Democrats Bill Owen, the incumbent, will face Mark Harmon, a former Knox County commissioner will vie for the seat.

'When War Comes Home' forum set

Just got this in from the Knox County Mayor's Office. I believe we'll have a report about it later today:

The Knoxville Regional Veterans Mental Health Council and the Veteran Friendly Congregation Initiative are hosting a forum for local clergy from all faiths to learn about the needs of area veterans and the services that are available to them.

The forum, titled When War Comes Home, is open to faith leaders from Knox and surrounding counties. It will be held Thursday, May 1, at the L.T. Ross Building on Western Avenue from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. 

“In Knox County, we do a good job of serving our veterans, but there’s always more that can be done,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett during a news conference announcing the forum. “Right now, there are heroes in churches, synagogues and mosques across the country who have just returned from war.  In Knox County, these congregations have an opportunity to say, ‘What else can we do for these heroes?’”

“Many of our veterans coming home today have invisible wounds, such as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), anxiety and depression, all of which are tough to diagnose,” said Vietnam veteran and forum organizer Freddie Owens. “Veterans are five times more likely to speak to their pastors about their own mental health issues than they are to seek help from the Veterans Administration, and this forum will help area religious leaders address those issues.”

Religious leaders wishing to participate in the When War Comes Home forum can register for the event at

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Third candidate plans to enter Briggs vs. Campfield state senate race

Well, if you’re into conspiracy theories – heh – then here’s a good one. Did Stacey Campfield get a third person into his re-election bid in order to split up the “anybody but Stacey” vote? We’ll see.

A Rocky Hill resident today said he plans to turn the 7th District state Senate race into a three way contest in August.

Mike Alford, who drives a tour bus for entertainers, today had a friend pick him up a nominating petition to challenge incumbent Stacey Campfield and Richard Briggs in the Republican primary.

He has until noon tomorrow to return the petition and secure 25 signatures from residents who live in the district and who are registered to vote.

Alford said he planned to mount a serious campaign but acknowledged that “a mutual friend of his” and Campfield actually picked up the petition for him.

He said he told the senator that he plans to run.

“I want to throw my name out there on the ballot as an option,” Alford said.

He added: “My biggest issue right now is two of them: I disapprove of Stacey’s campaign to take public notices away from the newspapers. The other issue . . .  is that I don’t think the hospital being planned in the backyard of the West Hills neighborhood should be put there.”

Alford unsuccessfully ran for a County Commission seat in 2006 and sought a board position in 2008 when officials were trying to appoint new members in the wake of the Black Wednesday controversy. 

He said at the time he was against red light cameras and the wheel tax. (Right smack here for his note to commissioners back then.)

Campfield, a former state representative, won a special election in 2010 to replace Tim Burchett when he took over as Knox County mayor.

When asked about the potential for another opponent, Campfield said “it’s a free county, so everyone who wants to run can.”

Briggs, a heart surgeon, a retired combat veteran, and Knox County Commissioner, said his campaign anticipated that someone else would get into the race, but declined comment further.

The winner of the Republican primary will take on Cheri Siler, a Democrat, in the November general election.

Knox officials working on program to help vets returning from war zones

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and members of the Knoxville Regional Veterans Mental Health Council will hold a news conference tomorrow where they plan to talk about a proposal to help better prepare leaders in the faith-based community to help serve veterans who are returning from war zones.

The plan will more than likely lead to a forum held in May as part of the Veteran Friendly Congregation Initiative. 

Tomorrow's announcement will take place at 10:30 a.m. Redemption Church, 3550 Pleasant Ridge Road. Those attending, including the media, are asked to park in the church's main parking lot.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Broyles joins NACo gov't institute

Amy Broyles
Knox County Commissioner Amy Broyles was accepted into the National Association of County’s Leadership Institute, according to a news release.

The institute, the release notes, “addresses the challenges and directs the potential of local elected officials to forge positive, sustained change in their communities.”

“Participants gain a broad perspective about themselves as leaders, about the issues facing their communities, and about how to engage broad networks of interested parties to develop solutions to difficult challenges facing their communities,” the release states.

The program is designated for elected officials with at least three years of experience at the policy level in county government. The Tennessee County Services Association nominated her. Each state can pick only candidate, but no more than 30 are selected nation-wide to participate.

You can read the entire release – it’s pretty interesting – right smack here.