So now that the first shockwaves are reverberating throughout the Knox County government, two-thirds of the county commissioners are facing removal, Sheriff Tim Hutchison's lawyers are most likely burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how to dodge this latest bullet, and lawyers all over Knox County are preparing lawsuits that will disrupt the upcoming elections, one question comes to mind.
When is a law a law?
If term-limits were enacted by the voters nearly twelve years ago (overwhelmingly, by 75% of the voters, for all elected officials), why haven't they been enforced? Because there have been lots of lawsuits and lots of rulings saying the law doesn't apply here or there or to this office or that office?
So why hasn't anyone put any of that energy into asking the voters to either change the county charter to eliminate term limits or make them enforceable? Talk about allowing the courts to legislate from the bench. But I guess it's OK when it benefits mostly Republicans.
But this isn't a partisan issue. It's about the "rule of law". Unfortunately for voters, vagueness and confusion about "the law" generally benefit the powerful and the politicians, not the people.
If our legislative bodies can't legislate and the voters can't approve the legislation and the courts can't back it with the force of constitutional law, then what's the point?
What you have right now looks more like a system of institutionalized anarchy than a government. It's like a good old boy Banana Republic republic.
But voters share some of the blame. Why would they enact term limits, then continue to vote the same officials into office election after election, well beyond the very term limits they enacted, and never question their own dysfunctional behavior? (That will probably be some clever lawyer's argument at some point.)
And another question is, how is it that the City of Knoxville's term limits for mayor and city council are enforceable, but term limits for Knox County officials aren't? Seriously, I don't know. I haven't read either the city or the county charter or studied all the lawsuits and court decisions. Maybe some smart lawyer out there can explain it to me?
But I'm guessing not. And that seems to be the problem. Nobody can seem to interpret these laws, even when a court spells it out. There's always one more lawsuit, one more challenge, one more attempt to obstruct the will of the people.
The message to voters, as usual, is don't worry your pretty little heads about it. We know what's best for you. So just move along now and let us adults sort it all out. Hey, how 'bout them Vols?
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