Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Knox County Schools organize myriad of Sevier County relief efforts

Tragedy struck this week in the mountain towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and schools in Knox County are stepping up in a number of ways to offer support to our afflicted neighbors. Below is a list of some of the specific relief efforts being organized across the county.

· Blue Grass Elementary has asked their students to donate spare change for the Red Cross. One student brought in $300 of his own money to help the cause.

· Byington-Solway CTEC has organized a drive to collect items to help those that have lost belongings, including water, clothes and essential items like toothpaste and toiletries.

· Career Magnet Academy has organized a collection drive for water and snacks for the first responders. The first load was delivered on Nov. 29 and a second load will be delivered tomorrow, Dec. 1.

· Carter Elementary is collecting bottled water, Gatorade, lip balm, wool socks and cereal bars for first responders. They are also collecting diapers and wipes, cat and dog food for displaced residents. The items will be delivered on Friday.

· Cedar Bluff Elementary’s Nature Club is spearheading a collection of supplies and money/gift cards. The donations will be dropped off on Friday.

· Central High School’s P.E. Department is collecting donations for the Sevier County Animal Shelter to help care for the many displaced animals and pets.

· Christenberry Elementary: Encouraging students on Friday, Dec 2 to wear their favorite hat and/or pajamas to school and donate $1 toward those affected by the Sevier County fires. The school is also collecting new items to donate. All items can be brought to the school and staff volunteers will deliver them to local agencies directly helping those displaced.

· Corryton Elementary is having a collection on Friday, Dec. 2 for needed items such as food, water, toiletries, pet food, and more to be taken to Sevier County over the weekend.

· Dogwood Elementary staff is collecting supplies to be delivered at the end of the week.

· Farragut Middle is taking up monetary donations for the American Red Cross and collecting toiletry items and protein bars.

· Farragut High School SGA is taking up donations in first block classes.

· Gibbs High’s Criminal Justice classes have organized a schoolwide effort to take up bottled water, Gatorade, snacks, protein bars, eye drops, and more for first responders in Sevier County. The other students and members of the community have been helping with donations, collecting items and assisting in taking the items to Sevier County.

· Halls Middle’s Random Acts of Kindness Club is collecting donations and will deliver them to the Ford Dealership in Sevierville to distribute.

· Hardin Valley Academy is doing a schoolwide drive for items listed on WBIR’s website as needed for pets in particular, but is also collecting cash donations and water. The effort is being coordinated through the Planned Acts of Kindness Club.

· Karns High is requesting that students and staff bring needed items for the Gatlinburg Relief Fund.

· Karns Middle is collecting toothbrushes and toothpaste through its student council; the girls’ basketball team is collecting monetary donations; and the school has a hat day scheduled with earmarked for animal shelters and the care of animals.

· Northshore Elementary is hosting “Dimes for a Disaster” with a goal of raising $1,000 in support of relief efforts.

· Powell High is serving as a collection hub for the Powell community. The intent is to donate directly to Gatlinburg-Pitman High School to help displaced faculty, staff and students.

· Powell Middle is working with its PTSA to host a Food/Water/Supply Drive through Friday for the American Red Cross shelter in Sevierville, where many victims are currently staying.

· Ritta Elementary is conducting a money drive on Saturday, Dec. 3 during its holiday craft fair. Students are also being asked to bring in other needed items in the upcoming weeks.

· Sam E. Hill Preschool is making cards and collecting water and power bars for first responders as well as gathering games and activities for small children.
South-Doyle will be taking donations for Gatlinburg this Friday night at the first home basketball game. A case of water, pack of Gatorade, box of protein bars, a bag of dog/cat food or other needed items equal free admission into the game. All donations will be taken to the drop off point in South Knoxville.

· Sterchi Elementary is having hat day on Friday. Everyone who wants to participate can donate $1 with money raised donated to the relief effort.

· West High is collecting items for the relief effort with a special focus on the needs of first responders. It is gathering Chapstick, water, energy bars and gum. In addition, they are collecting donations of pet food, diapers and other items of necessity.

· West Valley Middle is hosting a donation drive through next Wednesday, Dec. 7 for the Red Cross.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Three essentials: healthcare, food and education focus of 'Inside Tn'

Stan Brock
It’s typically a political and public affairs program, but this Sunday’s edition of “Inside Tennessee” focuses on three charities in East Tennessee and three basics of life: healthcare, food, and education.

WBIR 10News anchor and the show’s moderator, John Becker, calls it perhaps the “most revealing” edition of “Inside Tennessee” this year.

“We cut to the core of the need across our community for the very basics of survival,” he said. “It is hard to overstate the influence these three charities have had on improving the lives of people across East Tennessee. I think our viewers will appreciate the challenges ahead and will be interested in the role Washington politics may play in shaping their future.”

The guests include Stan Brock, the founder of Remote Area Medical; Elaine Streno, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank; and Emmette Thompson, the executive director for Mission of Hope.

“(We) want to offer a glimpse into the lives of people on the frontline of topics that often take a political turn,” Becker said. “We spend some time talking about the influence of the November election and what they’re expecting in the coming Trump administration.”

For example, Becker noted, Brock offers his take on the one change lawmakers in Washington, D.C. could make the would open up more people to dental and vision care across the country.

Sunday’s guests will answer the question: Are we better off now than we were a decade ago when it comes to meeting the basic needs of people in healthcare, food, and education.

They’ll also talk about their biggest challenges ahead.

“We hope viewers learn a bit more about these homegrown operations, the influence they have on our community, and why they do what they do,” Becker said.

The 30-minute program, which was taped Wednesday, kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on WBIR 10News.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Take Hill to enter C.C. Building

Looks like if you want to enter the ol' Knox County Death Star you'll have to go through the Hill Avenue entrance, according to a memo sent out Wednesday.

The Public Building Authority closed the Main Street entrance "to address an issue with the concrete near the entryway."

The closure will impact member of the public through at least Monday. 

That's not too bad, however, since the building is closed until then for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Smith wants back on Knox commission

Former Knox County Commissioner R. Larry Smith, a Republican, this morning said he's running for the at-large commission seat No. 11.

Ed Brantley currently holds the post. The election isn't until 2018.

"I have always strived to be responsive and effective to the needs of my constituents, and I feel my leadership in the community will help me to serve on the (Knox) County Commission another term," Smith said in a release. "As an informed business and homeowner, I am aware of many of the concerns that the citizens face and will strive to make good and responsible decisions. I will truly be a voice for the people from across the entire county."

Friday, November 18, 2016

Debate over whether to merge Knox Co. criminal, circuit court systems

Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond would like to put most of the county’s court system under one umbrella, a move that he says would help the offices “operate more efficiently” and “serve to once again generate excess fees” for local government.

His counterpart - Knox County Circuit Court Clerk Cathy Shanks - says the plan is "regressive" and the supposed financial benefits "are not realistic."

Hammond's proposal comes in the wake of a WBIR 10News investigation in late October that detailed the county Circuit Court Office's failure to turn over any money to the county coffers – for the fourth year in a row and the fifth time in the past six years.

MORE: Hammond's memo to the Knox County mayor
MORE: Shanks' memo to the Knox County mayor
MORE: No extra fees from Knox Co Circuit Ct Clerk four years running

As it stands, the criminal court clerk is responsible for the criminal, sessions and fourth circuit courts. The circuit court clerk oversees civil sessions and juvenile court.

Hammond's plan, which was detailed in a 2-page memo marked “confidential” and sent to Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett on Nov. 8, provides two options. WBIR obtained a copy of the memo under the state's open records law.

You can find the rest of the story HERE.

Hammond: Won't seek mayoral post

I was talking with Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond this morning and he said he will not run for county mayor.

There had been some rumors that he would.

Instead, Hammond said he will either run for criminal court clerk again or for the circuit court clerk's gig.

As it stands, Knox County Commissioner Bob Thomas and Knox County GOP Chairman Buddy Burkhardt so far have announced their intentions to seek the county's mayoral seat.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett is term-limited. His current and second term ends in the fall of 2018.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thousands of unemployed still waiting on TN Labor Department for help

Stephanie Ramirez
Stephanie Ramirez was prepared to dig into her retirement plan.

After 10 weeks without a job and no help from the state Labor Department, her 401(k) was a potential life preserver to keep her family afloat.

She was laid off in August and her husband, too, was about to join the unemployment line.

“I got really nervous because . . .  we are looking for employment but that assistance is there to help families just pay the bills and get along and find work,” Ramirez said.

As a last ditch effort, she reached out to her state representative, Roger Kane.

Two hours later, someone from the labor department got back to her. A day after that, her first unemployment insurance payment was deposited into her bank account.

“I believe I would not have received any benefits and so does Roger Kane’s office,” said Ramirez, whose family moved to Knoxville from San Diego 11 years ago. “But if (they) didn’t put a fire under them I probably really wouldn’t have a deposit today. I firmly believe that. That’s total speculation but no one was getting back to me about my claim. The timing is odd.”

Ramirez isn’t alone. She’s one of about a dozen people in the past few months to reach out to WBIR as part of its 10Listens program.

All say the same thing: They lost their job months ago and can’t reach anyone at the unemployment office. The department’s computer system isn’t that good and nor are the call centers. They haven’t received any money and they’re at wits end.

Check out the rest of our story RIGHT HERE.

City to deliver 60K new trash carts

In two weeks, contractor crews will start delivering the first of 60,000 new wheeled trash carts at no additional charge to Knoxville residences.

The new standardized carts are a key component to modernize and improve the City’s household garbage collection.

“Going to a citywide system that uses standardized trash receptacles increases the efficiency, safety, health and aesthetic aspects of residential garbage collection,” said Chad Weth, the City’s Public Service Director.

“The standardized carts translate into a nearly $2 million-a-year savings to taxpayers on garbage collection. Additionally, the carts allow our contractor, Waste Connections, to utilize trucks designed to hoist the receptacles and dump the trash into the back of their garbage trucks. This significantly cuts down on injuries and improves the quality of work for garbage collectors.”

The new 95-gallon trash carts are similar in size and appearance to the City’s existing curbside recycling receptacles, but the two carts will be differentiated by color to avoid confusion. The recycling carts are brown; the trash carts will be charcoal gray.

Rachel Butzler, the City’s Solid Waste Manager, said most U.S. cities have moved to collection systems with standardized carts.

“Residents should set out the new carts for garbage collection beginning Monday, Jan. 2, 2017,” Butzler said. “We think that people will find the wheeled carts to be easy to maneuver and large enough to hold a family’s weekly garbage.”

The day of garbage pickup is not expected to change, and residents should continue to take the cart to their usual collection location, with the handle toward the residence. It is critical that garbage carts do not block traffic, mail service or sidewalks or cause a safety issue. The new garbage carts will come with a flyer attached to the handle that will explain how to use the cart, how to handle bulky waste and what to do with old garbage cans.

The City’s back-door garbage service will not be interrupted. Back-door service is offered to those 75 years of age or older or those with a medical need. For a back-door garbage service application, residents should call 311.

For more details, call the City’s 311 Call Center or visit

Also, a new blog – CartSmart – has been created on the City’s website. Visit for updates on the collection of garbage and recyclables.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

KCS: New middle schools will change school student enrollment zoning

The construction of two new Knox County middle schools will require some "enrollment zoning changes" from existing schools, according to a letter sent to Knox County Schools parents Tuesday.

Rendering of Gibbs
In the letter sent to middle school parents and staff, Interim Superintendent Buzz Thomas said the construction of a new Gibbs Middle School and Hardin Valley Middle School could affect as many as 11 of the district's 14 existing middle schools.

Middle school zones that could be affected when Gibbs Middle School opens include: Gresham, Halls, Holston, South Doyle, Vine and Whittle Springs. Schools zones that could be impacted when Hardin Valley Middle School opens include: Bearden, Cedar Bluff, Karns, Farragut and West Valley.

The two new middle schools are expected to open in August 2018. Construction is already underway.

The district is holding four community meetings regarding the enrollment zoning changes: 
  • Nov. 28 at Farragut Middle School (Hardin Valley Middle)
  • Dec. 6 at Gibbs Elementary School (Gibbs Middle)
  • Jan. 17 at Hardin Valley Elementary School (Hardin Valley Middle)
  • Jan. 24 at Holston Middle School (Gibbs Middle)
A second series of meetings will be held in the spring to present a rezoning proposal, the letter said.

People can also submit comments to

Rendering of Hardin Valley
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is currently investigating the plans for the two new middle schools to look at possible discrimination tied to school closings or rezonings under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Construction of the two schools is budgeted around $58.4 million - $23.6 million for Gibbs and $34.8 million for Hardin Valley.

Former state Rep. Joe Armstrong to keep pension despite conviction

Former state Rep. Joe Armstrong will keep his pension despite a federal felony tax evasion conviction. 

Communications Director for the Tennessee Department of Treasury Shelli King told 10News on Wednesday that a review determined the benefits Armstrong earned while serving for more than 25 years state legislature were not subject to forfeiture in this case.

King previously told 10News "the maximum benefit it would be approximately, $2,400 per month based his years of accrued service, $28,900 annually."

A memo detailing the review revealed that the tax evasion offense occurred outside his official capacity as a state representative and therefore didn't constitute malfeasance in office.

PREVIOUS: State Rep. Joe Armstrong found guilty of filing a false tax form

RELATED:  State Rep. Joe Armstrong retires in wake of felony conviction

A jury in August 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.

Last month, a federal judge denied Armstrong's request to toss out the conviction or at least grant him a new trial.

His sentencing is set for Nov. 30.

One month after the conviction, Armstrong officially retired. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Two voter fraud cases going to DA

Knox County’s election administrator says he’s identified two potential voter fraud cases from last week’s election.

Cliff Rodgers told 10News on Monday night he’s turning the cases over to Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen.

It’ll be up to Allen to see if she wants to press charges thru a grand jury.

"I leave it up to the DA as to what they want to do," he said. "When I see an apparent violation of the law, I'm not sitting on it. I consider it voting fraud."

In one case, Rodgers said, a woman admitted she’d voted when she was a convicted felon, which is against the law. The woman told Rodgers on the phone she'd been convicted of a felony more than 20 years ago, but didn't think that was relevant to her voting in 2016.

Under Tennessee law, however, it's relevant.

In another case, Rodgers said a man voted in Knox County even though he’s lived in Loudon County more than a year. The man's wife acknowledged they lived in Lenoir City; the husband, however, was in the voting booth casting his vote at the time.

Under state law, you are required to vote in your county of residency.

Rodgers did not disclose the names of the two voters.

Such potential violations are felonies in Rodgers' view. Rodgers said he's turned over other potential fraud cases, although he didn't recall having one come up in the August election.

"Any time I get them I turn them over," he said.

R. Larry to run for office again

R. Larry Smith
Former Knox County Commissioner R. Larry Smith on Monday will announce his "decision to run for an office in Knox County during the 2018 election cycle."

The announcement will come at 10 a.m. at the 640 North Building.

There's a lot of county offices that will be up in 2018 - mayor, sheriff, clerk, register of deeds, etc. - but I'm guessing he will seek an at-large commission seat.

Right now Bob Thomas and Ed Brantley hold the two at-large seats. But, Bob is running for county mayor and I'm hearing that Ed has no interest in seeking re-election. Further, word going around is that if Bob does win the mayoral post then Ed would be his chief-of-staff.

That would leave the two seats open.

Of course, I suppose R. Larry could run for mayor.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Five KCS bus drivers to be honored

We report a lot when bus drivers screw up (and there's been plenty of opportunity there) that we'd be remiss to not talk about the good they do.

So, the Knox County Schools Bus Driver Safety Awards will be presented 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 17, at Ted Russell Ford (8551 Kingston Pike). The awards are sponsored by Ted Russell Ford and WIVK.

Five drivers will be honored and given a Certificate of Appreciation from Knox County Schools along with a $100 check from Ted Russell Ford.

These awards were initiated to honor the Knox County Schools’ bus drivers that do an excellent job in transporting our children every day. The five drivers honored each month have been graded with high standards by the Knox County Schools, the contractors, the Sheriff’s department and by school staff.

Learn how to properly deep fry a turkey without injuring yourself

I almost chuckled when I saw this release. But then I thought . . . you know, this is probably pretty serious. Especially if beer drinking is involved.

Soooo . . . from Rural Metro:
Everybody has seen, read or covered a story about someone being burned or a fire caused by improper use of a turkey deep fryer. 
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, lots of such fryers will be in use. Rural/Metro Fire officials will demonstrate the potential dangers and how to use a turkey deep fryer safely.
The demonstration will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday near the Fire Training facility on the west side of the facility at 10410 Gallows Point Drive.

Not enough provisional ballots for Johnson to beat Smith for House seat

Johnson, left, and Smith, right
UPDATE: Tennessee state House candidate Gloria Johnson has conceded the race for the District 13 seat to Republican incumbent Eddie Smith.

"I'm very glad every vote was counted," she told WBIR 10News Monday afternoon. "I conceded earlier today and called Eddie Smith."

PREVIOUS: Statistically, it doesn’t appear that Gloria Johnson can beat Republican incumbent Eddie Smith to regain the 13
Election officials this morning began counting the provisional ballots that were cast in the race. Of the 597, only 86 came from voters in District 13.

Smith defeated Johnson during the Nov. 8 general election by 154 votes, according to the unofficial final returns. He led by 50.35 percent to her 49.65 percent.

Although the outcome of the election appears set, officials will continue to count the provisional ballots, which Cliff Rodgers, Knox County administrator of elections, said could take another week.

“We’re extremely pleased that we’re able to announce before lunch how many . . . provisional ballots were in that district,” he said. “This helps narrow the focus.”

Elections officials will still have to investigate whether the provisional ballots count. For example, was the voter really from the district and was the person actually registered to vote?

The difference in this year’s race was even closer than the last time they competed, when Smith won by less than 200 votes.

The two squared off in November 2014 when Johnson held the 13th District office and Smith challenged her. Smith ended up winning by less than 200 votes. More than 13,000 ballots were cast in that contest.

Some 22,000 ballots were cast on Nov. 8.

Haynes' official resignation letter

Dear SEC Member,

I wanted to let you know that after much thought, I have decided that I will not run for re-election to be the Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

I have enjoyed the challenge of leading our party through an extremely important election that had more twists and turns than I could have ever imagined. It has been an absolute honor to represent our Party.

On election night the Tennessee Republican Party picked up two seats that were previously held by Democrats. These victories make Republicans more dominant than ever before in the history of our Party! I am thrilled that you gave me the honor to lead us to these successes.

It is not by mistake that we have low taxes, a balanced budget, unprecedented economic growth, and the fastest-improving education system in the nation. All of this is due to the fact Republicans are governing this state responsibly—and you have been an integral part of these achievements. Thank you for your efforts!

I look forward to the new opportunities and challenges that have been presented to me. It has been an honor to do this job and I will always be grateful for those who work so hard to allow us to be the strongest political party in the state. I have no doubt that our Party's success will continue well into the future.

I look forward to seeing you at our December 3rd State Executive Committee meeting.

Best Regards,

Ryan Haynes

Friday, November 11, 2016

Knox officials to count provisional ballots beginning Monday morning

Smith, to left, and Johnson, on right
Knox County elections officials on Monday will begin counting and investigating the almost 600 provisional ballots cast countywide.

They’ll start at 9 a.m. at the Old Courthouse on Main Street.

From what I understand, they have to get the job completed in two weeks, and it’s going to possibly take two weeks to do it.

They’ll first weed out the ballots cast in the 13th District state house race, in which incumbent Eddie Smith, a Republican, edged Democrat challengers Gloria Johnson by 154 votes.

Then they’ll have to investigate whether the votes should count. (i.e. were the people registered to vote, blah, blah, etc.)

Johnson, who acknowledges that her chances of winning are slim, said she wants everyone to know that every vote counts.

The county’s election commission will certify the election on Nov. 28.

'Inside Tennessee' to focus on presidential race aftermath

A super panel of local Democrats and Republicans on Sunday’s edition of “Inside Tennessee” on WBIR 10News will touch on election night 2016 and the aftermath of the presidential race.

The group includes Democrats Dennis Francis,Don Bosch and Billy Stair, and Republicans Susan Williams, Elaine Davis and Lance Baker.

The subject? Breaking down an election in which Republican candidate Donald Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to become the nation’s 45th president.

Panelists note that all but three counties in Tennessee went to Trump with some 2.3 million citizens statewide voting. Knox County had a record turnout with 184,000 residents casting ballots.

The 30-minute political and public affairs program, which was taped Wednesday, kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Sunday on WBIR.

Anchor John Becker serves as the show’s moderator.

Veterans, thank you for your service

Haynes won't seek GOP chair again

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes doesn't plan to seek re-election during the Dec. 3 meeting of party officials.

Haynes held the seat for about 18 months.

“I feel like we set out what we accomplished to do,” Haynes told WBIR 10News Friday morning. “We have a lot more Republicans elected in this state than ever before and that’s good enough for me.”

Haynes noted that “we faced a lot of distractions along the way but kept the focus.”

“I’m really proud to have done the job and happy to see how it all shook out on election night,” he said.

Haynes told WBIR that he plans to stay in Knox County where he has a home and at this point plans to “enter the private sector and looking forward to that and seeing what the future holds.”

When asked about rumors that he might run for Knox County Mayor in 2018, Haynes declined to give a definitive answer.

“I think there are a lot of people out there who would be extremely qualified to run and I’m looking forward to seeing those names come out,” he said. “There are a lot of people very well suited for that job.”

Presidential write-ins skyrocket in 2016; names serious and silly

The 2016 presidential election could go down as "the year of the write-in vote" in Tennessee.  The names submitted include the serious, bizarre, and silly.

In Knox County a total of 3,837 voters wrote in a name for president, more than seven times the amount submitted in the 2012 presidential election when 528 voters wrote-in a candidate.

Even Governor Bill Haslam was so dissatisfied with the major parties' presidential nominees, he wrote-in a candidate Tuesday rather than vote for fellow Republican Donald Trump.

Haslam declined to say who he picked, but jokingly conceded “my person did not win.”

So, who did Haslam vote for?

Maybe the governor voted for science fiction's Buck Roger.

Perhaps Haslam could have cast one of the five votes for "Giant Meteor."

Or did his vote go to Dolly Parton?  She received three write-in votes, but we know she's not interested in the gig.  Parton tweeted on election day, "I've been told a few times I should run for President, but I think there are enough boobs in the race already."

The governor himself was a popular write-in candidate in Knox County, with various spellings of his name garnering a total of 123 votes.

Those are just a handful of the 758 unique names Knox County voters took the time to write in as presidential candidates on Tuesday’s ballot, according to an 18-page list that local election officials provided to WBIR 10News.

FULL LIST: The list of write-in candidates submitted in all of Tuesday's races

The catch?  Almost none of them counted.  Write-in candidates must be certified prior to the election to be eligible for Tennessee's 11 electoral college votes.

There were only eight certified write-in candidates, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office:  Darrell L. Castle, Cherunda Fox, Tom Hoefling, Kyle Kenley Kopitke, Laurence Kotlikoff, David Limbaugh, Evan McMullin, and Marshall Schoenke.

Castle got about 120 votes; Hoefling got around a dozen; Kotlikoff neared 10; Limbaugh got three; and Fox, Schoenke and Kopitke received nada.

McMullin pulled in more than 1,300 votes, making the former CIA operations officer and independent candidate from Utah the big write-in vote winner.  But he still lost.

Zombie-buster Rick Grimes has routinely received write-in votes in recent years, earning him the same obligatory status as other candidates who almost always make the list:  Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck, Goofy, Snoopy, Peyton Manning, and Chuck Norris.

Former professional wrestler Ric Flair received three votes from people who apparently wanted to "Make America Woo Again."  If only Flair could have gotten one more vote, he would have had the figure-four.

As usual, there were many names just too lewd, crude, and rude for online news and television broadcast.

There were also names of television broadcasters.  Some folks kindly wrote in votes for WBIR 10News reporter Mike Donila and anchor Russell Biven.

The write-in list goes on and on, ranging from historical figures, cartoon characters, to burnt toast.

The bottom line is thousands of people wanted a candidate other than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  Well, except for one voter who wrote in "Hillary and Trump."

The next local election – it’s a city primary contest only – isn’t until August 2017.

Expect the fun to continue then.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Local government closed Friday

Knox County Government offices will be closed Friday, Nov. 11 in observance of Veterans Day. This includes Knox County Solid Waste Convenience Centers and Knox County Library Branches.

For a complete list of observed County holidays, please visit

Johnson seeks ballot info in tight state House race against Smith

Tennessee State House candidate Gloria Johnson has sued to get information about provisional ballots still being counted from Tuesday’s election in Knox County.

The Knoxville Democrat is seeking through an injunction in Knox County Chancery Court to get the names and addresses of those who filed provisional ballots from elections administrator Cliff Rodgers. Attorney John Eldridge filed the paperwork Wednesday afternoon.

Johnson seeks to notify the 597 people who filed provisional ballots that they have until 4:30 p.m. Thursday to submit proper identification to ensure their ballots are valid.

The ballots are the last  that need to be counted – and Johnson argues they’re key to her 13th District  race.

Republican incumbent Eddie Smith beat Johnson by 154 votes in early and election-day returns.

The only thing left to count are the provisional ballots, which include submitted forms from voters who may have lacked proper ID while voting Tuesday.

Election officials say it could be days before the provisional ballots are finalized.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Next Ed & Bob Night Out on Nov. 16

These guys are gonna run out of restaurants.

Knox County At-Large Commissioners Ed Brantley and Bob Thomas are headed out to the Halls area for their next Ed & Bob Night Out in Knox County.

Ed and Bob will be at E. B.'s Eats & Treats, 4620 Mill Branch Lane, Wednesday, November 16th from 5p to 7p to meet the people of north Knox County and listen to their concerns.

The two feel that going out to the citizens eases the strain on those who, because of work, commitments, financial situation or the distance to the City-County Building, cannot attend regular commission meetings.

All elected officials, media and public are welcome to attend. This is not a commission meeting. There is no agenda. There will be no votes taken; however, it is obvious where's there are "Eats & Treats" and Ed and Bob will be eating them!

Knoxville City Council delays vote on distance rules for bars, churches

The Knoxville City Council decided on Tuesday to delay a decision on revising a city ordinance that requires churches and places receiving a beer permit to be located at least 300 feet apart.

The council approved the measure on first reading with a 6-3 vote at its Oct. 25 meeting.

PREVIOUS: Changed ordinance would bring churches and breweries closer together

During Tuesday’s meeting, councilman Nick Della Volpe suggested the council postpone the second and final reading until their next meeting on Nov. 22 in order to give more time for public feedback.

"I think in fairness, there's no urgency not to have it put off for two weeks so that people can digest this," he said.

After hearing from members of the public in support and opposition of changing the ordinance, the council voted 5-4 to postpone their decision until the next meeting.

The council did approve a resolution changing the name of Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Park to Sharp’s Ridge Veteran’s Memorial Park.

That free doughnut you got with your ‘I voted' sticker was illegal

Your favorite restaurant may have technically broke the law.

From Krispy Kremes, to Chuck E. Cheese, BurgerFi, Firehouse Subs and others you can score delicious freebies by proudly displaying your "I Voted" sticker on Election Day.

But those stickers really shouldn't be able to get you anything for free. Those deals are breaking federal election law -- regardless if the intent is to encourage civic engagement or not.

“The basic line on this is in an election where a federal candidate is on the ballot, you cannot give anyone any reward -- anything of any value -- for turning out to vote,” said Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine told the New York Times. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a civic pride thing or if it’s not about any one candidate.”

So how can these big companies and restaurants continue to offer deals every four years?

Hasen told the newspaper that companies are rarely, if ever, penalized for it.

Election Day sees record Knox turnout

Tuesday capped what has proved to be a record turnout in Knox County elections, according to county election officials.

At least 190,000 voters cast ballots - and that number could top 200,000 before all votes are counted, according to officials.

Few problems were reported Tuesday. Early voting, which ended last week, saw some 135,000 people cast votes in Knox County. Another 6,000 or so absentee and paper military ballots must be counted as well, a task that's expected to continue until at least midnight Tuesday.

Election Commission board member Bob Bowman said Tuesday was "probably the smoothest we've ever had."

It helped that so many people cast early ballots, he said.

Bowman credited the county's 725 election workers who helped at polling places Tuesday.

"A vast majority of the returns should be in by 10:30, but the absentee and military ballots will take until about midnight"

Tuesday marked the end of a long and contentious road to the White House for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In addition to the presidential race, there are a number of important local and state issues on the ballot across East Tennessee.

In most counties, the polls were open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., except for those in the central time zone, where the polls closed at 7 p.m. You can check with your local election commission to confirm the hours where you live. You will be able to find election results here.

Smith declares victory, Johnson won't concede in tight state House race

Johnson, left, and Smith, right
With all Knox County precinct returns counted, state Rep. Eddie Smith led Democratic challenger Gloria Johnson by 154 votes, unofficial final returns showed.

With more than 22,000 total votes counted, Smith led by 50.35 percent to Johnson's 49.65 percent, according to Knox County Election Commission returns.

The difference in the race was even closer than the last time they competed, when Smith won by less than 200 votes.

But returns from neither provisional ballots nor absentee ballots have been released. Absentee ballots were to be counted by 11:30 p.m. or midnight Tuesday. And provisional ballots may not be known until Wednesday.

"We know this much so far," Smith said Tuesday night at GOP headquarters at the Crowne Plaza. "We won early voting and we know we won election day, and I know this, we have great people at the election commission who are working extremely hard."

Trump wins presidential election after winning Tennessee, Knox Co.

Republican Donald Trump has  been elected the 45th President of the United States after taking the red state of Tennessee, and has scored more than half the vote over Democrat challenger Hillary Clinton in Knox County after almost all precincts have reported.

With early voting results tallied, the Manhattan billionaire has secured about 59 percent of the vote among Knox County residents with the former Secretary of State receiving about roughly 35.5 percent.

So far that amounts to 98,463 early votes for Trump from Knox County voters and 58,581 for Clinton.

Tennessee has voted for the Republican presidential candidate since 2000.

"It's impossible for him to lose in Tennessee and Knox County," said Dennis Francis, a Democrat, former member of the Knox County Election Commission and a local political commentator. "The only person who could beat him is Peyton Manning. I'm just trying to be realistic about it."


In 2012, Republican challenger Mitt Romney easily defeated President Barack Obama in Knox County with 63.60 percent of the vote to Obama’s 34.4 percent. That amounted to 109,707 votes to 59,399.

Statewide, Romney defeated Obama with 59 percent of the vote.

Four years prior – in 2008 – Sen. John McCain beat then-Sen. Obama 60.73 percent to 37.73 percent. The vote count amounted to 112,999 for McCain and 70,203 for Obama in Knox County.

Statewide, McCain won with 57 percent of the vote.

Even Tennessee school students this year picked Trump over Clinton.

In the first-ever statewide student mock election, Trump received 53.1 percent of the votes compared to Clinton’s 34.3 percent, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State.

Roughly 166,000 students from 479 Tennessee schools participated. That included students in preschool through high school took part from public and private schools, along with home school associations across the state.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Thank you for your service! 2016 Veterans Day free meal deals

Veterans Day is Friday, Nov. 11, and that means restaurants and businesses are offering deals to say "thank you" to our past and present military members. Here are a few offers you can take advantage of!

Be sure to bring proof of service or military ID and make sure your local store is participating before you go.

  • Applebee's:  Veterans and active duty military members can receive a free meal from a limited menu on Veterans Day.
  • Back Yard Burgers:  On Veterans Day, all veterans and active duty military who present their military ID or are in uniform will receive a free Back Yard Classic Burger.
  • Calhoun's: Veterans get a free meal from a limited menu at all Calhoun's locations on Veterans Day with proof of service.
  • Chili's: On Nov. 11, veterans and active duty military can receive a free meal from a limited menu with proof of service. The menu includes the Oldtimer with Cheese, Soup & Salad, Chicken Crispers, Chipotle Chicken or Margherita Flatbread.
  • Chipotle:  Buy a small burrito, bowl or salad and get one free from 3 p.m. to close on Veterans Day. The offer applies to veterans, military and military spouses.
  • Denny’s:  All veterans and active duty military are invited to Build Your Own Grand Slam at Denny’s on Veterans Day from 5 a.m. to noon. You must show proof of service.
  • Golden Corral: On Monday, Nov. 14, from 5 to 9 p.m., Golden Corral offers a free sit-in “thank you” dinner for Military veterans, retirees, and active duty members. 
  • Hooters: All veterans can enjoy a free entrée from the Hooters Veterans Day Menu by presenting a military ID or proof of service at any Hooters location nationwide on Nov. 11. 
  • Hurricane Grill and Wings:  Veterans and active military personnel can get a free beverage and entrée from a limited menu with proof of service on Veteran's Day.
  • IHOP:  Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 11, retired and active military members can get a free order of Red, White and Blue Pancakes at participating IHOP locations. Some locations will include eggs, hashbrowns and bacon or sausage with the offer. 
  • Krystal’s:  Veterans and active military can get a free sausage biscuit from open until 11 a.m. on Veterans Day with proof of service.
  • Mimi's Cafe:  With the purchase of any non-alcoholic beverage, veterans and active duty military get a free meal at Mimi's Cafe on Nov. 11. Meal choices include Grilled Chicken & Fries, Chicken Chop Salad, Brioche Cheeseburger, and Farmhouse Tacos.
  • O’Charley’s:  Every O'Charley's location is offering veterans and active duty service members a free meal on Nov. 11. The chain also offers a 10 percent military discount all year long.
  • Olive Garden:  Veterans can choose a free entrée from a special menu featuring six Olive Garden favorites on Nov. 11 with proof of military service.
  • Red Robin:  All Veterans and active duty military members will get a free Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak fries on Veterans Day with proof of service. No purchase is necessary. 
  • Shoney’s:  Any active or retired military member can get a free All American Burger on Veteran's Day at participating Shoney's locations. 
  • Texas Roadhouse: Veterans will get free lunch at any Texas Roadhouse location from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 11. The offer includes any of 10 menu items and a free beverage. Must have a military card, VA card or discharge papers.
  • Twin Peaks:  All Military men and women past and present enjoy a free menu item from Twin Peaks' Annual Veterans Day Appreciation Menu. Present valid military ID to receive offer.
 Click RIGHT SMACK HERE for deals on appetizers and retail

Fourth ex-Knox Co. Trustee worker pleads guilty to felony theft

More than four years after surrendering to authorities, a former Knox County Trustee’s Office employee accused of stealing thousands in taxpayer dollars pleaded guilty to felony theft.

Rhonda Jan Thomas, whose trial was set for Monday, was initially charged with two counts of theft between $10,000 and $60,000, which prosecutors say happened between Aug. 1, 2008 and Jan. 30, 2009.

On Monday, she pleaded to one count and paid the full amount of restitution - $18,000.
She faces a Jan. 12 hearing to determining the length and manner of her sentence.

"We are very pleased that Ms. Thomas submitted to the charged offense and that the full amount of restitution has been returned to the taxpayers without the expense of a jury trial," District Attorney General Charme Allen said.

Knox County prosecutors say that because she has a clean record prior to her April 2012 arrest, they expect her attorney to ask for diversion, which – if she say out of trouble – would allow the judge to wipe her record clean.

Prosecutors are expected to oppose such a move.

In the meantime, the state Department of Corrections will conduct a pre-sentencing investigation on
Thomas. When that’s complete, prosecutors in the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office will determine whether to seek prison time for her.

Thomas, 47, was arrested a day after former Knox County Trustee Mike Lowe and several of his employees were. She and Johnny Haun – another employee who turned himself in – worked together but not in conjunction with Lowe.

The Trustee’s Office for years was dogged with controversy and rumors of theft and political patronage. The accusations culminated in late April 2012 when a grand jury that met in secret indicted Lowe and a number of his former co-workers on multiple felony theft charges.

Named were so-called “ghost Employees” Ray Mubarak and Delbert Morgan, who each were accused to getting paid for doing little or no work.

The charges against Lowe, Mubarak and Morgan stem from a state and local investigation that launched roughly six years ago and covered a span from 2004 through 2008.

Lowe and Muburak, an office clerk, each received a year in jail. Morgan, a field auditor, got 30 days and was ordered to pay back $200,000.

Lowe pleaded guilty to two counts of felony theft in March 2015 and was sentenced to 10 years of supervised probation, one year in jail and ordered him to pay restitution of $200,000 to Knox County.
Lowe served about six months since he received credit for good behavior.

In addition Johnny Haun and Rhonda Jan Thomas also faced theft charges, but officials said those two worked in conjunction with each other but independent from Lowe, Mubarak and Morgan.

Haun has a Nov. 30 plea deadline. His trial is set for next February.

UT Knoxville chancellor candidates come from Georgia, Ohio, New York

The University of Tennessee has released the name of the third finalist seeking the Knoxville chancellor position: Alexander Cartwright, the provost and executive vice chancellor for the State University of New York.

Cartwright, whose name was released publicly Monday morning, is scheduled to visit the campus Thursday and Friday where he will meet college leaders and students.

Resumes: Cartwright, Davenport, Whitten

The announcement came as university leaders meet with Beverly Davenport on Monday and Tuesday. Davenport is the interim president of the University of Cincinnati, holding the role since July.

Prior to that she served as senior vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost.
Last week, officials met with Pamela Whitten, the University of Georgia’s vice president for academic affairs and provost since 2014.

The next chancellor will replace Jimmy Cheek, who will serve until his replacement takes over and then play a role in higher Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the university’s College of Education Health and Human Sciences.

Cheek, who announced in June that he was stepping down, earns $447,500 annually.

Election rules about identification

If you're heading out to vote in the Tuesday election, you'll need to make sure you have an appropriate ID with you.

Following changes to Tennessee voter ID laws back in 2013 to prevent fraud, people are required to bring a photo ID with them to vote.

There are several accepted forms of ID, including drivers licenses, U.S. passports, military and government IDs, and handgun permits with pictures.

Student ID cards from state universities are not acceptable, and the law applies only to those voting in polling places.

For people without photo IDs that wish to vote, it's not too late. The State Department of Homeland Security has a quick same-day method to get one free of charge.

All you need to do is visit one of the driver service centers across the state to obtain one. People must be able to prove U.S. citizenship by providing their birth certificate or social security card, plus provide two proofs of Tennessee residency such as recently postmarked bills or a bank statement.

If you have a government-issued license that isn't a photo ID, then all you need to do is convert that to a photo license at a driver service center.

The nearest driver service center to Knoxville is just off I-40 at the Strawberry Plains Pike exit 398 at .

In Maryville, the driver services center is located off the West Lamar Alexander Parkway at 318 Home Avenue. In Oak Ridge, residents can head to the center at

Deathridge named to TSBA Board

Knox County BOE member Gloria Deathridge, who represents the 1st District, has been appointed to a one-year term on the Tennessee School Board Association’s Board of Directors.

The appointment to serve as one of four at-large members was confirmed at the board’s meeting on Nov. 5, during the TSBA convention that was held over the weekend in Nashville.

Deathridge was first elected to the Knox County school board in September 2010, and served as vice-chair in 2013. She was re-elected to the school board in 2014.

TSBA is a non-profit, private service organization whose mission is to assist school boards in effectively governing school districts. TSBA provides school board members a collective voice in matters of legislation and public education concerns.

Superintendent Search panel formed

Knox County BOE Chairwoman announced the three members of the Superintendent Search Committee: Tony Norman (District 3), Susan Horn (District 5) and Amber Rountree (District 9).

The committee will be tasked with making recommendations to the full board related to the superintendent search process and selection.

Rountree will serve as chair of the committee.

The school board authorized the creation of the search committee at its meeting on Nov. 2, giving Bounds discretion to appoint no more than three board members to serve.

The committee is expected to meet prior to the next board meeting in December.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Almost half of active Knox County voters have cast ballots so far

Pretty impressive. So far, 48 percent of registered active voters through the end of business yesterday have voted. That's 116,284 of the county's 239,340 active voters.

(Note, there are 63,956 inactive voters on the rolls but the election commission doesn't know at this point how many of them - if any - voted.)

Outcome to Smith-Johnson race might not be known on election night

There's a good chance that next Tuesday we might not know who won the 13th District state House race between incumbent and Republican Eddie Smith and Democrat challenger Gloria Johnson.

That's because of the provisional ballots, which could play a deciding factor in one of the most contentious local races this cycle.

The last time these two faced on in 2014, Smith won by just under 200 votes.

"It was a very close race and it was a midterm election, so we didn't have that many people voting,” Johnson told WBIR 10News. “This time, hopefully, we'll have a lot more people voting."

If the race comes that close this time around, Knox County might not know who actually won until weeks after the election.

Provisional ballots are paper ballots that are used when officials have questions about a voter's eligibility. Those votes go to a separate pile to be investigated, and then – if the voter is determined to be eligible – counted after Election Day.

After the 2012 presidential election, the county issued 396 rejection letters for provisional ballots for a number of reasons, including identification problems, failure to register or because the person who voted was a felon.

Chris Davis, assistant administrator of elections for Knox County, said the county no longer has records of how many residents voted through provisional ballots. Under state law, the county only has to keep the records for 22 months.

However, he said anecdotally, “We know from election to election that more than half of the provisional ballots won’t be counted.”

Though more than half of all provisional ballots are usually ineligible, those votes could make all the difference for races as close as this one.

"Votes matter. People staying home can affect an election, and people choosing to skip a portion of the ballot can affect an election," said Smith.

Open burning ban in effect for Knox

Due to severe drought conditions, Knox County Air Quality Management issued a mandatory immediate ban on open burning in Knox County Tuesday.

This ban includes people holding open burn permits, who are asked to postpone burning until further notice. New applications for permits have been suspended until the ban is lifted.

The ban includes campfires, bonfires and any other type of outdoor open burning.

"We sincerely appreciate the public's cooperation during this ban, which will remain in effect as long as conditions are unsafe for burning," AQM Director Lynne Liddington said in a statement. "We will notify the community as soon as we're able to lift the ban."

People may call 865-215-5900 or email with any questions about the open burning ban. AQM is a division of the Knox County Health Department. 

League of Women Voters to hold meeting on land use Nov. 10

Want to know more about how big decisions affecting your neighborhood are made?

The League of Women Voters on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. will host a meeting on local land use planning and regulation.

The meeting, which is free and open to the public, will feature Gerald Green, director of the Knoxville/Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission.

 He will speak for 30 minutes, followed by 45 minutes for Q&A.

The meeting will be held at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC), 2931 Kingston Pike, Knoxville. Free parking is available in the church parking lot.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

City to beging leaf pickup Nov. 3

The Knoxville Public Service crews will kick off leaf collection on Thursday.

City residents can rake or blow leaves to the curb for crews to collect.

On average, crews collect more than 6,000 tons of leaves each year. Workers from the Public Service Department shift from brush collection in order to address leaf collection full-time for 12 consecutive weeks.

“The next two months are the most demanding for our staff, who work hard to provide the most convenient services to homes in Knoxville,” said Chad Weth, Director of the Public Service Department. “We establish an aggressive schedule in an effort to get as much done before Christmas as possible.”

The City currently has 20 trucks and 60 staff members that work on leaf collection routes for an estimated 60,000 households.

Once the thousands of tons of leaves are collected, they are hauled to Nature’s Best Organics, where they are composted to be reused as mulch.

To make sure your leaves make it off your yard and into the City’s trucks, rake your leaves into one continuous row within 5 feet of the curb. That allows the suction devices on the City’s trucks to vacuum up leaves most effectively.

A few very important tips for residents:
  • Do not rake leaves into the street. Passing cars likely will scatter and crush the leaf pile before it can be vacuumed up by a Public Service crew.
  • Do not to block drainage ditches, mailboxes, sidewalks, etc.
  • A long, thin row of leaves is better than a short, wide one.
  • Also, please don’t mix brush into leaf piles. The City will not pick up mixed piles of leaves, brush or other refuse because the leaf collection equipment is designed to vacuum up leaves and can be damaged by brush.
Collection schedules vary, but residents can call 311 to receive a general timeline for when their house will be serviced next. Or they can visit and type in their street address. For general information, visit