As you are probably aware, the Knox Charter Petition group will now take it to the streets. The group is launching an effort to get the 40,000 signatures needed (times two) after County Commission this week voted against sending the proposed amendments directly to the voters.
UPDATE: I asked Knox County Elections Administrator Greg Mackay "who pays the $80,000 cost of verifying the petitions, taxpayers or the petition organizers?" He said "taxpayers." So the County Commission just voted to charge taxpayers $80,000 to have their voice heard. That's a lot of lobster!
From the Knoxville News Sentinel:
"Anytime a group of commissioners decides to turn down restrictions on nepotism and conflicts of interests, it's disappointing and disheartening," [political consultant Gary] Drinnen said. "It sends a very strong message that the County Commission is interested in business as usual."
According to the article, it will cost the Knox County Election Commission approx. $80,000 to verify the signatures.
I'm not sure I agree with all the proposed changes, but I fail to see what is wrong with simply letting Knox County voters decide.
From the Knox Charter Petition website, here are the proposed changes some members of Knox County Commission do not want before voters:
• Consistency Amendment: Seeks to resolve any provisions of current and future charter amendments that may conflict with other provisions of the charter
• Commission/Employment Amendment: If enacted, would bar Knox County government employees from serving on the Knox County Commission
• Referendum Amendment: Seeks to lower number of signatures required for referendum petitions from 15% of total number of registered Knox County voters to 15% of those who cast a ballot in the last gubernatorial election (Note: this was the only amendment County Commission decided to put before the voters. It does not come in time to help the current petition drive.)
• Nepotism Amendment: Would add a clause to the charter that would expressly prohibit nepotism in the county government's hiring policies
• Inspector General Amendment: Would eliminate the office of Internal Auditor and create the Independent Office of Inspector General
• Restructuring of Executive Branch: Would require mayoral appointment and Commission approval of the County Clerk, Register of Deeds, Trustee, and Property Assessor
• Restructuring of County Commission: Would eliminate eight Commission slots, leaving one for each of the nine districts plus two "at-large" commissioners elected countywide
• Conflict of Interest: Legislative Amendment: Outlines an official, legally binding procedure for county lawmakers to follow in the event of a conflict of interest on a vote
• Conflict of Interest: Administrative Amendment: Outlines an official, legally binding procedure for nonvoting county employees to follow in the event of a conflict of interest
According to Knox Charter Petition, the changes "are the result of several months of the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy's research and the public's input, all part of the Knox County - One Question project." A series of public forums was held and the proposed amendments were citizen-driven through an open process.
We all understand the concept of our representative republic form of government in which legislators make the laws, and the efficiency and order it provides by not having a popular vote on every single issue. The foundation of that law, however, is the Constitution, or in this case the county charter, and there is a longstanding, fundamental principle that The People decide what goes in it.
Some Knox County Commissioners do not seem to get this, and you have to wonder why. Looking at some of the proposed amendments may provide the answer.
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