Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Knox Co. swearing-in ceremony set

Newly-elected and re-elected Knox County officials will take the oath of office at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building. 

A reception with light refreshments will follow in the Small Assembly Room.

The event is open to the public. Those unable to attend can stream it live online at

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Knoxville signs new mulch contract

Photo: Nature's Best Organics
Knoxville leaders have cut ties with the green waste management firm at the center of a week-long mulch fire that broke out in 2012 and cost the city roughly $100,000 to put out.

Knoxville City Council earlier this month approved a contract with Nature’s Best Organics of Tennessee to dispose of residential yard waste such as brush, leaves, and grass clippings. The move is expected to save taxpayers at least $200,000 annually and provide more locations to process the waste.

The new company replaces Shamrock Organic Products, which had the contract for more than two decades.

City leaders said the 2012 fire did not play a role in the selection process.

Instead, officials said, Nature’s Best can provide three sites – as opposed to one – and will do the job cheaper.

In addition, the company will make its mulch in more rural, less dense areas where the smell won't affect residents, officials said.

“Really, the fire didn’t have anything to do with it,” said David Brace, senior director of the city’s public works department.

The contact went out for bid this spring because it was set to expire at the end of September. Three companies submitted proposals, with a vetting committee picking Nature’s Best.

Shamrock placed second and Kellems Excavating out of Maryville came in third.

Nature’s Best will begin work on Oct. 1.

“We’re excited about it and looking forward to doing business with the city,” said Blake Brian, owner of Nature’s Best.

He declined to comment further.

Randy Greaves, who owns Shamrock, also said little.

“There’s no story here – it’s just a bid,” he told WBIR 10News on Wednesday. “I did everything the city asked me to do – in spades. I was always in compliance. I did everything they asked. It is what it is.”


The city collects yard waste, like brush and leaves, set at the curb by some 60,000 households.
The debris is taken to a contracted processing site where it’s typically turned into mulch or wood chips. The idea, officials have long said, is to keep the waste out of the landfill and increase the city’s recycling rate.

According to the five-year contract with Nature’s Best Organics of Tennessee LLC, the company will use three facilities: an East Knoxville site on Rutledge Pike, a West Knoxville site on Joe Daniels Road and a central site on Proctor Street.

 The proposed rates are priced lower per ton than previous years. Depending on the site, the city will pay Nature’s Best between $18.84 to $23.84 per ton.

The current cost is $28.82 per ton, according to records.

In 2015, the city spent $833,850 on almost 29,000 tons, and $942,200 on 32,700 tons in 2014.

Under the new contract, the city estimates paying a little more than $652,700 per year.


On April 15, 2012, the mulch fire broke out at Shamrock’s 9-acre site on Ailor Avenue.

Officials have long suggested that the city “overwhelmed” the site with debris, most of it collected from a series of storms the previous year. The piled up debris caught fire on its own, a hazard of storing mulch.

Roughly 50 tons were dumped on the site at the time when the fire started.

The Knoxville Fire Department worked 24 hours a day at the scene. The city paid firefighters a combined $60,000 in overtime pay. The city also paid another $38,000 for water.

The air quality in the weeks following the fire was adversely affected and polluted water from the scene drained to Third Creek, killing more than 1,000 fish.

After the fire, the city made a number of changes.

It contracted with a second vendor to help if the debris built up too much; it required more monitoring and reporting; and it had Shamrock install a fire detection system and add cameras to the area.

City officials said they didn’t have any issues with Shamrock after the changes were made.

Nature's Best contract can be extended for three additional five-year terms before the city has to bid it out again.

Seniors invited to county picnic

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will host the 10th Annual Senior Appreciation Picnic on Sept. 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at John Tarleton Park.

The picnic will include lunch, live music by The Chilbillies, animal exhibits and a vendor expo.

The event is free to all Knox County seniors. Any senior planning to attend is asked to RSVP by Sept. 9 by calling 865-215-4007.

A limited number of event t-shirts will be available on Sept. 1, 2016 to seniors registering for the picnic at one of the County’s six senior centers, while supplies last. A list of centers and their locations can be found online at

Commissioner Ownby farewell speech

Jeff Ownby
(Outgoing Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby submitted his farewell speech to the ol' blog. I've included it below. In addition, outgoing Commissioner Amy Broyles submitted a speech to Knoxviews. You can find her speech right SMACK HERE.)

I first want to thank the people of the 4th District and Knox County for allowing me to serve you for the past 6 years, it has been my privilege and honor to do so. In my six years on commission I fought to try to keep Lakeshore Mental Hospital open. I knew if the hospital closed it would mean more mentally ill people on the streets or in our jails – and that is exactly what happened.

We need to build the Safety Center to take care of and help the mentally ill in our community get the services they need. I have always felt that the role of Government is to take care of the ones that can’t care for themselves. To me, that would be the mentally ill, our seniors, children, and our veterans. I have spent my time on Commission trying to help those that need it most be heard. I have fought for the students, parents and teachers to give them a voice for better Knox County Schools. I wasn’t the leader of the movement, but was glad to help give them a platform to speak from.

In the last six years this Commission and County Mayor Tim Burchett increased the schools budget by over 76 million dollars and paid down the County’s debt by over 90 million dollars during the same time period. We did this without raising the taxes of the citizens of Knox County. We also built 2 new schools (Northshore Elementary and Carter Elementary) paying cash for Carter Elementary. We approved the building of two new middle schools (Hardin Valley and Gibbs) and approved the expansion of several others, including Ball Camp Elementary and Pond Gap Elementary – all without raising taxes.

I have also worked hard in my district on such projects as the new guard rails on Lyons Bend Drive, which we have needed for years. I proposed and helped pass a resolution updating our Pet Ordinance, which mirrors the City Ordinance, to better take care of our four legged friends – protecting them from extreme cold and extreme hot weather.

In my six years on Commission, I have answered every phone call (or returned the call) of every citizen who ever contacted me – never asking where they lived, because I felt that I served the County not just one District. I know that my decisions and votes have not always made everybody happy, but they were always thought out and researched before making a decision. I believed and still do believe in growing this County with good development, good paying jobs and with companies relocating to Knox County. Our Home Builders and the Knoxville Chamber have done a great job in finding great Companies that have chosen to make Knox County their home.

I have made some good friends on Commission over the last six years. First, my total opposite, Commissioner Broyles. We may not have always agreed on issues, but personally she has been a great friend, and our friendship has grown over the last 6 years. I look forward to continuing our friendship. Second is Commissioner and current Chairman, Dave Wright. He has been a good leader for our commission (probably one of our best) and an even better friend. I will miss your friendship, Dave. Some of our new Commissioners, I wish I had more time with. Commissioner Smith and Schoonmaker, I wish you all the best. I have enjoyed your friendship this short time. To the ladies in the Commission Office, thank you so much for your friendship and for always taking care of anything I needed done.

I will still be involved in the community and will continue to be the voice for individuals and issues that need me. I love this community and want to see it continue to get better and better. I have made a lot of friends in the last six years and hope to continue to help them and be there for anybody that needs me.

I have also made some political enemy’s because my votes were my own – more independent thinking, and not always along party lines. I felt not everything is right or left, Republican or Democrat. Some would say I wasn’t involved enough, which is not true. I feel I was very involved and always tried my best to make this community better. I hope I left my district and our county better than when I found it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

UT football cancels city court

Ha ha, priorities.

Apparently, city court scheduled for Sept. 1 has been cancelled "due to conflicts with the University of Tennessee’s football home opener and anticipated traffic slowdowns in downtown Knoxville."

Soooo, if you were set to appear before Judge John R. Rosson Jr., you'll probably get a notification that your court date will be reset.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Local GOP sets up meet-and-greet with elected officials at new Trump HQ

The following Knox County Republicans plan to attend the Aug. 29 grand opening of the local Trump/Pence presidential campaign headquarters:

Congressman John J. Duncan Jr.; Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett; state Sen. Randy McNally; Knox County commissioners John Schoonmaker and Bob Thomas; state executive committee members Julia Hurley, Jane Chedester and Ken Gross; and incoming county Commissioner Michele Carringer.

The event will be held at 11134 Kingston Pike in Farragut. It runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Armstrong seeks acquittal or new trial in federal tax evasion case

State Rep. Joe Armstrong is asking that a federal judge toss his felony tax evasion conviction or at least grant him a new trial.

A jury earlier this month found the long-time East Knoxville Democrat guilty of filing a false and fraudulent tax return, but declined to convict him on two other charges - conspiracy to defraud the United States, and attempting to evade and defeat taxes.

In court records filed Monday by Armstrong’s defense team, his attorney noted that the jury’s verdict was “inconsistent.”

MORE: Renewed motion for judgment of acquittal or new trial

Lawyer Gregory P. Isaacs said the jury shouldn’t have found him guilty of filing a false tax return if it acquitted him on attempting to evade and defeat taxes.

Isaacs argued that courts in cases where a defendant is charged with both "attempted evasion" and "filing a false return," then prosecutors “must show some distinct facts between the two in order to submit both charges to the jury.”

“In this instant case, the United States did not show any differentiation in the factual basis supporting Court Two and Count Three, rather one narrative of alleged conduct premised upon identical evidence and proof,” Isaac’s motion filed in U.S. District Court states.

Prosecutors, who have said they will seek prison time for Armstrong, have not responded to the motion.

During his week-long trial, the government contended that the 14-term state representative used his position to buy state cigarette tax stamps before an increase was passed by the state Legislature. He then sold them for a profit – about $321,000 – but failed to report tens of thousands of dollars of the income on his 2008 tax returns, prosecutors said.

The government said Armstrong worked in conjunction with his Kentucky-based accountant to hide the money from the IRS by funneling it through one of his accountant’s businesses.

The accountant, Charles Stivers, had pleaded guilty for conspiracy to defraud the United States and prosecutors offered him leniency to testify against Armstrong.

In his motion, Isaacs said the District Court “should give significant weight to the impeachment” of Stivers including “his repeated inconsistencies and false statements.”

“Based upon the credibility of Mr. Stivers, the District Court should totally disregard all of his testimony, leaving insufficient evidence to establish Mr. Armstrong acted willfully,” the motion states.

As a result of his conviction, the Knox County Democratic Party picked Rick Staples to replace Armstrong in the November general election for the 15th District House seat. He faces independent Pete Drew.

Armstrong’s sentencing is set for Nov. 30.

Knoxville Center mall sold; could become retail, residential hub

The Knoxville Center mall has new owners who say they want to work with the community to figure out the future of one of East Knox County’s long-time landmarks and work to create a “thriving retail and residential hub” for the area.

Knoxville Partners, LLC announced on Friday that it purchased the 964,000-square-foot mall at 3001 Knoxville Center Drive off Interstate 640.

The announcement, made through a press release, said the partnership is between “two companies with extensive portfolios in the real estate construction and redevelopment in commercial, residential and mixed-use markets.

Sources have told WBIR 10news that Knoxville-based Henry & Wallace, which manages development projects, is one of the companies.

The news release did not say how much the partnership paid for the mall. The paperwork as of Monday morning had not been filed with the Knox County Register of Deeds Office.

The mall, which sits on almost 50 acres, was appraised at $31 million last year, according to the Knox County Property Assessor’s Office.

“Knoxville Partners, LLC has a long-term commitment to renovate and redevelop the existing mall and surrounding land,” company officials said in a statement. “With a commitment to recruiting new businesses, tenants, and entertainment pieces, their end goal will be to reinvigorate Knoxville Center into a thriving retail and residential hub for this community.”

The mall opened in 1984 as East Towne Mall and was owned, managed and operated by Simon Properties.

Simon, however, turned it over to WP Glimcher in 2014, but continued to manage it.

The new investors have long been interested in revitalizing the property and approached Simon four years ago, according to the news release. The investors then began negotiations with WP Glimcher in 2015 after the company announced its intentions to sell the mall.

Rebecca Everhart, who is with Henry & Wallace, told WBIR on Monday that the partnership would release more information at a later date.

“We’re trying to get our feet under us,” she said. “We want feedback from the community. Like any development it will take a while to turn around but they are committed.”

The company, in its news release, said officials plan to meet with current and potential tenants, community groups, surrounding property owners and political leaders to further discuss the property’s future.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett on Monday said he set up a meeting with those involved.

“I think it’s been underutilized and I look forward to seeing some more business growth in East Knoxville,” he said.

Knoxville City Councilman Nick Della Volpe recently put out a survey to community groups in the northeast quadrant and said the results showed people want to see things like more women's and children's clothing options, boutiques, and bakeries.

Della Volpe said he hopes the new owners come in with some fresh ideas to turn the mall around.
"If the new owners listen what's being sought," he said, "I think they're going to succeed wildly."

Ronnie Collins, president of the Alice Bell/Spring Hill neighborhood association, said he remembers the mall thriving and packed with crowds more than 25 years ago, but he has seen a decline in the last seven or eight years.

Collins said he will be a part of a small meeting with the new owners to discuss ideas, which he believes is a step in right direction.

"These people are reaching out from the first day," he said. "That makes me feel real good and real positive about the way things are going to happen around here."

The partnership said ideas and comment can be sent to

Ex-manager accepts $800K from Knox County, MPC over federal lawsuit

Knox County and the Metropolitan Planning Commission will pay a former MPC manager $800,000 to resolve what she alleged was a job retaliation case.

Dee Anne Reynolds of LaFollette filed the complaint in June 2015 in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

Attorney David Burkhalter said the case was resolved Monday when his client accepted the defendants' "offer of judgment," presented earlier this month.

Private attorneys Benjamin Lauderback and Emily Taylor, on behalf of the MPC, and attorney Jeffrey M. Ward, on behalf of the county, presented the offer Aug. 8, according to records.

Reynolds formerly was MPC's finance manager and had worked there 12 years until being fired in June 2014.

She alleged she was fired by former MPC Director Mark Donaldson in retaliation for standing up for Elizabeth Albertson, an employee who complained she was a victim of sexual discrimination and unequal pay.

Reynolds was part of the MPC's management team.

She alleged that Donaldson became increasingly hostile toward her as she pressed Albertson's case.

In October 2013, according to Reynolds, she received a "trumped up written disciplinary warning" from Donaldson. She alleges he acted to retaliate against her for supporting Albertson.

Burkhalter said the county and MPC "swept under the rug" Albertson's complaint.

He said Reynolds never did anything wrong.

"She never should have been fired for doing the right thing," he said.

Donaldson left the agency in August 2014 amid growing pressure by some community groups seeking his termination.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Caldwell is 'administrator of year'

During today’s Knox County Commission meeting, Knox County Finance Director Chris Caldwell will be presented with the “Public Administrator of the Year” award from the East Tennessee Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration. 

The society “is the largest and most prominent professional association for the advancement of ethical practice of public administration,” according to a letter to Mayor Burchett from former Knox County Law Director Joe Jarret.

“Since 1984, ASPA has promoted a commitment to the highest standards of professional and ethical practice by public servants,” the letter states. “Chris was chosen above other nominees due to the high ethical standards and professionalism he maintains through his service to the citizens of Knox County.”

Jarret is immediate past-president of the chapter and will present the award. He is currently a lecturer in Political Science at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tennessee.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Trump, Clinton setting up shop here

The Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton presidential campaigns are opening up offices in Knox County.

The local GOP announced that officials have set up a Trump/Pence headquarters at 11134 Kingston Pike in Farragut. It will be ope from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

"The Frost family has graciously given us the space," the local GOP noted on its Facebook page. "The only materials we have right now are signs which are $2 each."

The campaign is eventually expected to get buttons, bumper stickers, T-shirts, caps, whatever, soon.

The Clinton campaign will open shop a week from Saturday at the local Democratic Party headquarters at 311 Morgan St. in Knoxville.

The party will hold a kickoff at 2 p.m. on Aug. 27 and include buttons, shirts, yard signs and bumper stickers.

Staples picked to replace Democrat Armstrong in state House race

The Knox County Democrats last night picked Rick Staples to replace state Rep. Joe Armstrong in the race for the 15th District House seat.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you should know that Armstrong was recently found guilty of filing a false tax return, which is a felony, which means he's no longer in contention for the seat he's held for 28 years.

Anyhoo, it came down to Staples, who's lost two local races, Armstrong's wife, LeTonia, and former Knoxville Mayor and City Councilman Dan Brown.

Staples will take on independent Pete Drew in the November general election.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Knox Co. leaders sworn in Sept. 1

The recently elected (and re-elected) Knox County officials will take the oath of office at 9 a.m. on Sept. 1 in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building.

A reception with light refreshments will follow in the Small Assembly Room. The event is open to the public.

Political newcomers on the County Commission include: Michele Carringer, Evelyn Gill, Hugh Nystrom and Carson Daily. In addition, John Schoonmaker, Brad Anders and Dave Wright won re-election.

Newcomers to the Board of Education include Jennifer Owen, Susan Horn and Tony Norman. Mike McMillan won re-election.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Knox County expects $2.2M surplus

Some 2,000 Knox County government employees and members of the Sheriff’s Office are set to receive a $500 bonus thanks to an expected $2.2 million in surplus revenues and savings as local leaders officially close the financial books on last year’s budget.

In addition, surplus monies will cover 400 bullet proof vests for deputies and $200,000 for the Knoxville Volunteer Rescue Squad.

The Civil Sessions Clerk will receive $70,000 for equipment and software maintenance and the Karns Volunteer Fire Department will pull in $75,000 to fulfill equipment needs.

The county also is prepared to give the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley $100,000 and the health department $135,000 for records remodeling and signage.

"By operating in an efficient manner, we are able to use these surplus funds for one-time expenses,” Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said. “This surplus was possible thanks to the hard work of our employees, and I'm happy we are able to offer them a one-time bonus as a show of our appreciation.”

As the county closes its books on the recently wrapped up fiscal year, the administration says it expects between $2.2 million to $2.5 million in surplus for its general fund, which covers much of the government’s day-to-day operations.

The money comes from an uptick in tax collections and overall departmental savings.

The county plans to spend most of it on a number of items that officials say will benefit the courts, emergency personnel and the health department.

The county also plans to use some $50,000 of the surplus to build a park in Karns for those who are disabled and $282,000 at the Foote Mineral site in southwest Knoxville for a park and horse trails.

“Thanks to their work and a fiscally responsible approach to government, we are able to also better protect our deputies by purchasing life-saving vests, purchase needed equipment, make facility improvements and support various emergency services,” Burchett said. “And best of all, we've been able to do this without raising taxes and while also reducing the county's overall debt."

The Knox County Commission will talk more about the surplus during its meeting on Monday.

Rest of story HERE.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Harrington to oversee schools' PR

Knox County interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas has hired former KNS business reporter Carly Harrington to serve as the school system's new director of communications and public affairs.

She replaces Melissa Tindell, who recently stepped down. Carly starts Sept. 1 and will earn $90,000. (If I'm not mistaken Melissa pulled in around $95K to $98K.)

To put that in perspective, the county's communication director earns $76,000 - after six years on the job.

And a teacher makes around $40,000.

In a letter, to school board members, Thomas says Harrington was recommended by Mike Cohen (himself), Amy Nolan (Knoxville Chamber) and David Keim (ORNL).

I actually worked with Carly for awhile over at the Sentinel. She's a good pick. 

In addition, Thomas announced that Sara McElfresh will serve as the school system's new open records coordinator.

"Sara's job will be to promptly and accurately respond to all requests for public records," Thomas wrote to board members in an email sent last Thursday. "As you know, this has been a challenge for us."

Heh. He's not kidding about that one.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Dems to name Armstrong replacement

The Knox County Democratic Party next week will nominate a candidate to replace long-time state Rep. Joe Armstrong on the November ballot.

Armstrong, who was found guilty of felony tax evasion on Monday, can no longer run for the House seat he's held for 28 years.

The party will meet at it's Morgan Street headquarters at 6 p.m.

Whoever gets the nod will face independent candidate Pete Drew.

As it stands, at least three folks are interested in the 15th District seat, including former interim Knoxville Mayor and current City Councilman Dan Brown; former City Council and school board candidate Rick Staples; and Joe's wife LeTonia, who is a lobbyist.

Things are getting a little interesting from what I understand some factions within that district's political community are starting to build.

On one hand you have Letonia and some folks just flat out don't want a dynasty. On the other hand, you've got Rick, who has already lost twice. So, there's the argument that maybe the voters don't want him holding office. And then there's Dan, who is definitely an all around good guy and was a very competent mayor, but a few folks have privately questioned whether he would be up for the frequent back-and-forth drive between Knoxville and Nashville.

That said, they all have good qualities. 

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Parents scramble for money to reopen Powell Elementary School playground

With a new school year underway, parents at Powell Elementary are scrambling to raise as much as $12,000 to get the school’s playground up and running again.

The move comes after inspectors told school officials in early July that the playground’s mulch was no good and suggested shutting it down.

"It's going bad and it will be bad by the time this school year is over, so it needed to be replaced before this school year started," said Randy Smith, who works in the county's Risk Management Department. "The mulch eventually breaks down and turns to dirt.”

Since then, work crews have removed all of the old mulch, but school officials and parents are trying to figure out how to replace it and who should cover the costs.

Typically, the area’s various student-support organizations raise funds for playgrounds and the equipment. But, officials with the Powell Elementary School PTA say at this point they can’t afford it.

“Our operating budget is not even near what we need to fund the mulch and do the other things we do for our students,” such as family engagement activities, Halloween festivities, movie nights and staff appreciation events,” said Melissa Hammond, the school’s PTA president. “If we expend what this will take, we will have nothing left to do those other things for our school.”

Hammond said the organization each year budgets between $1,700 and $3,000 for the playground, which usually includes bringing in “a load or two” of mulch to top off what is already there.

Over the years, however, the mulch hardened and created a dangerous surface.

Replacing all of it will require at least four loads – maybe more – and cost between $10,000 and $12,000.

Rest of story right HERE.

Officials: Despite deaths, crashes, school buses safer than cars

(Monday and Tuesday on 10News at 6, why despite school bus safety problems, experts say children are safer on their way to school when riding the bus.)

 Parents of roughly 21,000 Knox County school students rely every day on bus drivers to safely get their children to and from school.

But a recent study commissioned by Knox County Schools found in the last half decade the school district has double the number of crashes it should for a district of its size.

And in the past three years alone, more than 60 bus drivers were to blame for some 120 wrecks.

That includes the three lives lost in the December 2014 accident that killed two elementary students and a teacher’s aide.

As a result, some officials believe, ridership has dropped.

Still, local, state and federal leaders also maintain that the bus – not a parent’s car – is the safest route to school.

“They’re bright yellow, they have a known route, a trained driver, you have side wall strength, you have roof strength, there are flashing lights, they are designed to be observed,” said Kris Poland, a senior biomechanical engineer who investigates crashes for the National Transportation Safety Board, including the one in Knoxville. “People know how to act around them in most cases.”

About five children die every year inside a school bus compared to 37,000 deaths inside cars, according to federal reports.

Still, school officials, investigators and those whose family members died on the afternoon of Dec. 2, 2014, say buses can be safer.

For rest of story and video, click HERE.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Elections: Fun with the write-ins

Voters might not have turned out last Thursday night, but phony baloney write-in names were certainly plentiful.

Walter the Bulldog? Mickey Mouse? Foghorn Leghorn?

You name it – from the funny, the serious, to the truly absurd – those few voters who did hit the ballot boxes had fun.

Or, maybe they just wanted to make a statement.

Some suggested Mickey Mouse for a state Senate seat, others felt Morris the Cat, James T Kirk, John Q Public or Flavia could do the job.

RELATED: The Write-In List

Heck, one person thought putting WBIR’s Mike Donila down for the South Knoxville county Commission seat was a good idea.

Someone also put “Donila the Thrilla” down for law director as well. (Attorney Don Bosch got a vote for that seat, too.)

Heh. I promise – it wasn’t me.

Or not.

“Anyone But” made an appearance, and so, too, did “Anyone Else,” Snow White, Abe Lincoln and Trumpisafascist.

Then there were other picks for Obama, Hilary, Trump and Bernie, too.

Oh yea, can’t forget Bill the Cat.

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe garnered a few votes, as did Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond, and local rogue blogger Brian Hornback.

In addition, county Clerk Foster Arnett, UT Football Coach Butch Jones and . . . Batman made appearances.

None of these aforementioned names counted, of course, since they weren’t registered with the Knox County Election Board.

In the meantime, the November general election is just around the corner.

Expect the fun to continue then.

State Rep. Armstrong guilty of filing false tax return; Democrats seeking replacement for November election

Joe Armstrong
Four days after winning the Democratic Primary, a federal grand jury found long-time state Rep. Joe Armstrong guilty of filing a false and fraudulent tax return.

The jury, however, declined to convict the veteran lawmaker on two other charges: conspiracy to defraud the United States, and attempting to evade and defeat taxes.

Those two offenses carried stiffer penalties - each as much as five years behind bars. Filing a fraudulent tax return, which is a felony, carries up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

"We certainly think there was enough evidence to convict him of count one and count two but we’re very pleased with a conviction on count three," said Assistant U.S. District Attorney Chuck Atchley. "It’s a felony. He’s now a convicted felon."

Atchley said he will seek prison time for the lawmaker.

In addition, the prosecutor said, Armstrong "still owes the taxes and he’s still going to be accountable for the tax laws."

Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips sent a Nov. 30 sentencing hearing.

Armstrong and his attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, left immediately after the verdict was announced.

In a released statement, Isaacs said: “State Rep. Joe Armstrong wants to thank all of his family, friends and constituents for their prayers and support throughout this process. Representative Armstrong is evaluating all of his available options at this time.”  

Armstrong faces an independent challengers in the November election, but that's not going to happen, according to state officials.

Secretary of State spokesman Adam Ghassemi said the felony conviction automatically disqualifies Armstrong from seeking re-election. He said the Democratic Party now has until Sept. 29 to nominate another candidate for the Nov. 8 general election.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said the party is already looking into a replacement.

“As we have said from the start, this is a legal matter that is best left to our justice system," Mancini said ina released statement. "The justice system has now ruled and we will take whatever appropriate action necessary to remove Rep. Armstrong from office and replace him on the ballot in November.”

Armstrong spent most of last week in U.S. District Court on trial.

Rest of story HERE.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Susan Horn wins last open BOE seat

Susan Horn
In the only contested school board race, Susan Horn defeated Reuben “Buddy” Pelot, garnering just over 61 percent of the vote to represent the 5th District.

The board of education seats are non-partisan.

Horn will join Tony Norman and Jennifer Owen as new faces on the 9-member school board.

Norman and Owen defeated opponents in the March primary and were not in contested races Thursday. Norman (3rd District) and Owen (2nd District) replace Doug Harris and Tracie Sanger, respectively. Neither of the incumbents sought re-election.

Horn and Pelot were the top two vote-getters in a three-way March contest, so they squared off again. Karen Carson, the sitting incumbent for the seat, also didn’t run again.

In addition, 8th District incumbent Mike McMillan retained his seat after no one filed to challenge him in March.

The school board in the upcoming year will be tasked with hiring a new school superintendent to help oversee the system. Jim McIntyre and the current board reached an agreement to pay him one year’s salary of $227,000 to step down in early July.

Knox Co. Commish down to 1 Democrat

Evelyn Gill
The 11-member Knox County Commission will be down to a lone Democrat when officials are sworn in later this year.

Republicans on Thursday evening almost completed the political sweep during the general election, with only newcomer Evelyn Gill defeating Republican Michael Covington and independent Tyrone LaMar Fine in the Democrat-heavy 1st District that includes Lonsdale, Fort Sanders and Holston Hills.

Gill secured a little more than 67 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns, and will replace Sam McKenzie who opted not to run.

"We add diversity to the board of county commission, not only as a woman, not only as a minority, but I'm excited to get in and start work,” Gill said. "We have to move to the center in order to get the work of the first district done. We have to build consensus. That's the nature of what our democracy is about, but we also have to make sure that the voices of the first district are heard. That is what they put me in office to make sure of."

The board’s other Democrat – Amy Broyles – also chose not to seek re-election for her 2nd District seat. In that race, Republican Michele Carringer narrowly defeated Laura Kildare with 51.35 percent of the vote for that seat. The difference was 75 votes.

“I’m so humbled and so honored to be able to stand up here and tell you that the republicans have taken district 2 from the democrats tonight,” Carringer told the crowd of Republicans who gathered at the downtown Crowne Plaza Thursday. “I want to say my opponent ran a good race, and I wish her well in her future.”

Gill and Carringer join Hugh Nystrom and Carson Daily as new faces on the board.

Nystrom easily handled Marleen Davis in the 4th District race to represent part of west Knox County; and Daily beat Democrat James Hamilton and independent Tom Pierce with more than 58 percent of the vote to represent the 9th District in south Knox County.

“Marlene Davis really gave me a great run in this general election,” said Nystrom, who secured almost 58 percent of the vote. “I was not able take a break this summer.”

Nystrom called the primary and general elections with his opponents “civil, good races.”

“I hope to be a humble servant that listens well,” he added.

In addition, incumbent John Schoonmaker defeated Democrat Sheri Ridgeway in the 5th District with almost 76 percent of the vote, and incumbent Brad Anders beat Donna Lucas, a Democrat, for the 6th District seat with almost 66 percent of the vote.

Also, incumbent Dave Wright handily beat Donald Wiser, an independent, for the 8th District seat in East Knox County. Wright secured almost 80 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns.

Nystrom is the only board member to unseat an incumbent. In March he beat fellow Republican Jeff Ownby. Mike Brown, who represented south Knox County didn’t run again.

Daniel wins 18th District House seat

Two weeks after a now infamous shoving incident, incumbent state Rep. Martin Daniel of Knoxville defeated three GOP challengers to move on to the November general election.

In unofficial but complete returns, the 18th District House member garnered 35 percent of votes cast.

Steve Hall, who Daniel beat in 2014 to claim the seat, got about 25.5 percent of votes cast, James Corcoran got 25.3 percent and Bryan Dodson got 7.5 percent, returns show.

Martin Daniel, Bryan Dodson, Steve Hall, and James Corcoran

Daniel will face Democrat Brandi Price in the general election.

"I’m really gratified that the voters have approved what we have done over the past two years and weren’t distracted by all the things that didn’t matter,” Daniel told 10News.

"That all had little to do with my representation of the 18th District. The voters saw through all the obstruction, the fog and the distractions. I’m really happy about this.”

Daniel spoke from home. He did not join Republicans on Thursday night at party celebrations at the Crowne Plaza.

Daniel said he will spend the next few months preparing for the general election.

Rest of story right HERE.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Knox Co. early voting numbers in

Early voting for the Knox County general elections and the state and federal primaries wrapped up Saturday with a little more than 13,153 folks casting ballots.

The total breakdown: 11,977 voted early plus another 1,176 absentee so far. 

That means about 405 more residents voted during the past two weeks than voted early four years ago.

As of July 8 - right before early voting - Knox County had 226,702 active voters. In other words, something like 5.8 percent of active voters actually voted so far.

According to the county elections office, some 9,147 voted in the Republican primary; 3,749 in the Democratic primary and 207 in the general election. 

Election officials expect another 13,000 to 14,000 to show up on Thursday to vote. That's about what they had four years ago.

Armstrong to testify in his defense

Joe Armstrong
The federal criminal trial for state Rep. Joe Armstrong – accused of tax evasion – begins Tuesday morning and the Knoxville Democrat is expected to testify in his own defense.

During a 30-minute hearing on Monday, attorneys for both sides hammered out a number of details before U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Phillips.

Among them:
  • Attorneys will get up to 45 minutes for opening arguments.
  • The 12 jurors will be selected from a pool of 65 to 70 East Tennessee residents.
  • Witnesses more than likely will testify only about the facts of the case and probably not touch on Armstrong’s character.
  • The case will last about a week.
  • Prosecutors can force Armstrong’s wife to testify so long as they don’t violate the marital privilege of confidentiality.
Prosecutors allege the longtime East Knoxville Democrat used his position to buy state cigarette tax stamps some 8-10 years ago before an increase was passed by the state Legislature. He then sold them for a profit, they allege, and failed to claim tens of thousands of dollars of the income on his taxes.

The government alleges he had help from his accountant and an unindicted co-conspirator.

The defense counters that Armstrong used a tax preparer and had no intent to defraud the government.

Armstrong, who is charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government and tax evasion, has continued to serve in the state Legislature while his case is litigated in federal court.

He is up for election this year but faces no opponent in Thursday’s primary.

KCS media relations policy change?

Well this is interesting:

Knox County Schools interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas is recommending the following paragraph to the BOE’s media relations policy:
The school system has a responsibility to provide information to the public, including members of the media, as appropriate. Therefore, the principal of each school shall be responsible for developing a public relations and outreach program for his or her school and shall promote programs which both involve and engage parents and the community in the life of the school and the success of students.
Glad to see the individual school given some autonomy on how to promote themselves. It's about time.

Rep. Duncan to speak at Center City Conservatives Republican Club

U.S. Rep John J. Duncan, Jr. will speak at the Center City Conservatives Republican Club during its monthly meeting on Aug. 25.

Club members will begin gathering at 5:45 p.m. at the Shoney's located at 4410 Western Avenue in Knoxville. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

The groups Facebook page is RIGHT HERE. You also can follow on Twitter RIGHT HERE.

As always, shoot your political stuff my way for publication consideration.