Mon
Feb 26 2007
08:47 pm

County Commission deferred action on Mark Harmon's KNS lawsuit settlement proposal and on hearing any Tyler Harber debate. But according to Scott Barker at the KNS, there was this interesting development:

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve an expanded ethics committee to handle conflict of interest complaints.

Moore and Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale worked out the structure of the committee over the weekend.

Committee members will be Hammond, Pinkston, Kim Waller, Knox County Sheriff’s Office Mike Duncan, Frank Shanklin Sr., former County Executive Tommy Schumpert, the Rev. Ron Stewart, the Rev. Clarence Sexton and Criminal Court Clerk Martha Phillips.

Ragsdale's original nominees (rejected by the first County Commission vote) were Phil Ballard, Mike Hammond, Mark Harmon, R. Larry Smith, and Martha Phillips.

259
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Mon
Feb 26 2007
07:45 pm

Get your free copy at one of these fine establishments. (Not sure how up to date that list is, but add Atlanta Bread Co. in Blount County.)

52
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Mon
Feb 26 2007
03:52 pm

Commissioner Harmon tried to add a resolution to consider the Jack McElroy lawsuit. I had to step away and do not know the result of that vote. R. Larry Smith chided the Commission about discussing the Tyler Harber issue.

It has been all love and kisses so far giving recognition to Sheriff Hutchison, Mike Lowe, and Steve Hall.

Now the gloves have come off and they are discussing the Sheriff's Pension.

Developing...

50
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Mon
Feb 26 2007
03:47 pm

Here is the item I have added to the agenda today for Knox County Commission

Knox County Commission agrees to the following
proposal for the County Law Director to present to
Jack McElroy (Knoxville News Sentinel) and his
attorneys:

1) This agreement takes the form of a consent
agreement where Knox County Commission admits no
violation of Tennessee Open Meetings law, but in the
interests of public confidence, quick resolution of
disputes, and reduced legal costs agrees to a voiding
of the appointments that took place on January 31,
2007.
2) The appointees chosen for office that day will be
considered de facto office holders, just as those who
had to replaced pursuant to the Tennessee Supreme
Court decision were considered part of a de facto
government. Their official acts will be respected
under that de facto status.
3) To avoid the great difficulties associated with
commissioner voting privileges under this agreement,
Knox County Commission will interpret the Charter
passage "by the remaining commissioners" to mean that
neither those eight commissioners who had to be
replaced pursuant to the Tennessee Supreme Court
ruling nor the replacements selected January 31st,
2007, will be eligible to vote in this second
appointment process. Thus, only the remaining eleven
commissioners may vote in this second appointment
process.
4) This second appointment process will begin with the
successful completion of the law director's
negotiations with McElroy and his attorneys. No
sooner than two weeks after the law director informs
commission that these terms have been agreed upon, and
no later than four weeks after such notification, a
special called meeting of the commission will occur to
make the needed appointments.
5) The meeting to make the appointments will include
the following steps:
a. prior to the meeting, the voluntary submission
to the Knox County Commission office of resumes and
other deocuments by those seeking appointment to the
positions; this may take the form of candidates for
these positions simply indicating their desire that
previously submitted items should be considered.
b. The appointments meeting will begin with a
candidate statement period where persons seeking
appointments will have no more than three minutes to
make statements in support of their candidacies.
c. The candidate statement period will be followed
by a workshop-style discussion where the voting
commissioners will be free to discuss individual
candidacies or what combination of appointees would
best serve the overall interests of the county and/or
individual districts.
d. The workshop-style meeting will be followed by
votes on the countywide offices (sheriff, trustee,
register of deeds, and county clerk), then the
individual commission districts.
e. This agreement further recognizes the reality
that a voting group of eleven commissioners with a
majority set at ten quite likely could lead to several
deadlocked votes. These deadlocked appointments then
will be moved to the end of the agenda. Then by
unanimous consent, and only by unanimous consent, will
commissioners be able to vote on compromise slates of
candidates comprising two or more of the positions for
which a majority of ten could not be reached.
f. All these steps (candidate documents, candidate
statements, workshop-style discussions, and all votes)
shall be open, public, and in full compliance with
Tennessee's Open Meetings law.
6) The Commission further pledges in all future
business to be faithful to the spirit and letter of
Tennessee's Open Meetings Act.

204
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Mon
Feb 26 2007
02:55 pm

Betty Bean has a report on yet another KFD controversy that will likely make your blood boil. (I'm told that the firefighter in question had been out on two calls the day he got his pink slip.) Be sure to check out the accompanying photos on the front page.

(And while you're there on the front page, check out the latest new feature, "That's the way I heard it" podcasts by Emily Shane. Here's a pretty funny one.)

60
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Mon
Feb 26 2007
02:17 pm

We made a rare stop by Blockbuster over the weekend, and I noticed they had the Dixie Chicks documentary "Shut Up and Sing", which I had not seen yet. It was labeled a "Blockbuster Exclusive", but it has since been released for sale (on Feb. 20th).

If you haven't seen it yet, do so at your earliest convenience. It covers a lot of ground, including free speech, the current political climate, the creative process, the music business, and the lives of three lovely, talented and strong women.

At the end of the documentary they are kicking off their 2006 concert tour to promote their new album "Taking the Long Way". There's a scene where they turn down a $26 million guaranteed sponsorship for their tour because they wanted to control their message (which is mainly the music) and be flexible to make adjustments as necessary. Natalie Maines says in another scene "we have to figure out what kind of artists we are." One of the final scenes shows them telling the band it might be rough and they will have to cut some corners. (Ed. note: The Wall Street Journal predicted financial disaster.)

Since then, their 2006 tour ranked as the 25th overall moneymaker, grossing over $23 million. They were #6 on the Top 10 Country Tours and they aren't even a country act any more. As it turns out, they didn't have to leave much on the table to stick by their principles and do it their way.

And of course, everyone knows about their five 2007 Grammy awards, including Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Country Album, and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group.

"Taking the Long Way" is currently #2 on Amazon and #8 on the Billboard Top 200 (after debuting at #1 and staying on the charts for 39 weeks reaching triple-platinum status.) It was #3 on SoundScan's Top 10 Country Albums of 2006.

Topics:
48
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Mon
Feb 26 2007
09:22 am

Concerned citizens picketed the Knoxville News Sentinel on Saturday in support of Don Williams (bio). According to a participant, KNS security ran them off. More on the controversy here.


Bill Poppen supports Don Williams (photographer unknown)
click image for larger view...

174
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Sun
Feb 25 2007
11:48 pm

While Al Gore was cutting up with Leonardo DiCaprio it became clear that he will not run for President. He seemed very happy at the Oscars. Say what you will, he is much more popular than George Bush.

Next stop Nobel Peace Prize.

45
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Sun
Feb 25 2007
10:41 pm

Please sign this petition and/or email/write your state senators and house members asking them to support Gov. Bredesens Heart of The Cumberlands Project. Some state law makers (Ron Ramsey) are opposed to the idea of doubling the size of Frozen Head State Park (Morgan County) and protecting and conserving 124,000 acres in Morgan, Scott, Campbell, and Anderson Counties. I would bet that Ramsey has not even seen this amazing piece of land before unless it was in a picture. But anyways I am not going to preach, but I am taking this petition and a massive letter campaign to Sen Ramsey and the House and Senate Members soon, on behalf of my county and everyone who enjoys this amazing place in East Tennessee that I am lucky enough to call home. Please help me by just quickly signing this form. IF IT ASK YOU FOR MONEY, JUST CLOSE THE PAGE, IT IS SOME POP UP PROBLEM. SORRY. tHANKS FOR YOUR TIME AND HELP.

This petition is to ask your state lawmakers to approve Gov. Bredesen's budget proposal for his Heart of The Cumberlands project. Some state lawmakers who have probably never even stepped foot on this land, (Sen. Ron Ramsey)are opposing this project. This project would preserve 124,000 acres in Morgan, Scott, Anderson, and Campbell Counties. The land is valued at $150 million but the state will only pay around $82 million. The land will be protected and used for recreation and conservation uses. This project would double the size of Frozen Head State Park in Morgan County. Preserving land may not sound like much of a use to some folks, but this project will bring in a large amount of tourism and recreation dollars to these small areas, which in turn could be used to improve the local education systems in these already lagging behind areas. Which I assume means that some state law makers are against the idea of improving the welfare of rural areas. If nothing else, this land has some of the most amazing natural areas left in the United States that have not been tampered with by humans in some shape or form. It would be a shame to let a few state lawmakers let it go to private timber companies to destroy and make a quick buck. We have a duty to protect areas like this so that we can pass them on the future generations, and for everyone to enjoy, not for one timber company to reap financial gains from. Thank you for your time.
"If we human beings learn to see the intricacies that bind one part of a natural system to another and then to us, we will no longer argue about the importance of wilderness protection, or over the question of saving endangered species, or how human communities must base their economic futures – not on short-term exploitation – but on long-term, sustainable development. "
- Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day

"I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use our natural resources, but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."
- Theodore Roosevelt, speech, Washington, D.C., 1900

Nicholas Bishop
Morgan County Commissioner
P.O. Box 352
Sunbright, TN 37872
nbishop3@utk.edu

(link...)

86
like
Sun
Feb 25 2007
11:43 am

HB2100 would establish a non-profit "Tennessee Broadband Access Corporation to facilitate the deployment of broadband technologies across the state."

HB2103 requires "the department of economic and community development to establish a ConnectTN program to bring statewide broadband expansion."

HB2099 "Expands the membership of the Tennessee Broadband Task Force to include a representative of the department of education and requires the task force to submit an assessment of the state of broadband deployment on an annual basis."

Why this is important is discussed here.

The flip side is the lobbyist written SB1933 that eliminates local control of cable franchises, regulates local franchise fees, restricts or eliminates customer service and quality standards, provides state regulation of local public right of way for the benefit of cable companies, restricts or eliminates local build-out requirements, and allows cable companies to create statewide franchises. Why this is a bad idea is also discussed here.

114
like
Sun
Feb 25 2007
11:42 am

The Tennessee Minimum Wage Act is back (HB0062), after being killed last year by 11th hour Republican parliamentary trickeration. It would set the state minimum at $6.15 per hour.

Joint resolution SJR0047 introduces a constitutional amendment to require a minimum wage in the state. There is currently no such provision. The amendment would set the state's minimum wage at no less than the federal minimum wage and give the state legislature authority to raise it and expand coverage to more workers.

The flip side, though, is HB1576 that would prohibit local governments from passing "living wage" ordinances. I have mixed feelings about this one, but it ought to be up to local governments.

46
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Sat
Feb 24 2007
03:11 pm

A baby is deprived of oxygen just after birth. If the baby can get aggressive medical now, her chances for a more normal life improve. If not, the drain she will place on her parents and the social service systems in decades to come will be enormous. The services she needs are not covered by the meager services provided by TennCare. Her own medial providers convince the parents to hire a lawyer; this is the only way the baby can obtain the resources needed now, resources that will yield huge savings later.

47 Million Americans don’t have health insurance. Millions more are at risk for loosing coverage. We are at the bottom of industrialized nations in regarding to healthy life expectancy and infant mortality, yet we spend twice as much per person as other developed countries. The total cost of American health care: $2.2 trillion.

Universal health care will be the domestic issue of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Read more after the jump...

Continued...

57
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Tom Humphrey has this legislative roundup.

The lede is about a stupid and illegal bill that would require drug testing of anyone receiving public assistance. Even though he knows it is prohibited by federal law, the sponsor (Knoxville Sen. Tim Burchett) wants to send a message that people should be getting a job instead of laying around smoking pot on the taxpayer's dime. It's hard to argue with that, and I'm sure it will have wide appeal among the folks back home even if it is illegal (and how much would it cost and who would pay for it and how prevalent is the problem?), so I don't have much to say about that.

But the second item is about a measure that would require driver's license testing in English only. According to the article, the bill's sponsor (Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro) says it's "the first step in protecting the sovereignty of our country." Say what? But I guess that will play well back home, too.

Have these folks considered that there are lots of legal immigrants right here in Tennessee? Yes, it's true! They're among us! Some of them are Japanese who work for Denso right here in Blount County. There are Iraqi expats in Nashville. Oh, yeah, there are some Mexicans, too. Some of them here illegally, but plenty here legally. And some of these people don't speak English!

The article notes that the tests are currently given in Spanish, Korean and Japanese. What exactly is this bill supposed to accomplish besides "protecting the sovereignty of our country"? I guess it will help ensure more unlicensed and uninsured motorists on Tennessee roads.

217
like
Sat
Feb 24 2007
10:01 am

The shocking and distressing Appeals Court decision allowing the US to detain 'suspected terrorists' without charges, without access to lawyers, and without an end date seems to have passed virtually unnoticed. But here's some reason for hope: Civil rights, human rights, and the rule of law are being protected in Canada. Since this reminder is so close at hand, maybe someday the United States will restore the rights that we claim to be protecting.

From the New York Times...

108
like
Sat
Feb 24 2007
09:44 am

Jim Gray has been fired from his job at the County Clerk's office. Besides supporting an opponent of term-limited County Commission candidate Billy Tindell who is now his boss as County Clerk, Gray apparently screwed up by not being related to anyone on County Commission.

259
like
Sat
Feb 24 2007
09:36 am

Lee Tramel threatens the KNS. The Editor and Publisher respond.

192
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Stacey X has introduced a series of interesting bills regarding housing and real estate.

HB983 (PDF format) completely redefines "blight" and severely narrows the current definition. The change eliminates "dilapidation, obsolescence, overcrowding, lack of ventilation, light and sanitary facilities, deleterious land use, or any combination of these or other factors, [that] are detrimental to the safety, health, morals, or welfare of the community" as elements of blight. It also specifically excludes loss of property value to surrounding properties as an element of blight, and restricts "blighted areas" to a single parcel.

HB1649 (PDF format) would limit damages for improper variances from zoning or building codes to the local government that approved them. Developers would be held harmless and could not be named as a defendants.

HB778 (PDF format) prohibits a local government from condemning blighted property and transferring it to another private entity. Instead, it allows only repair or demolition, with the property owner being charged for the costs by way of a tax lien. And if I read it correctly, the owner of the blighted property would have two years to get their condemned property back. (The bill appears to have a defect, though. It defines "economic development" as a legal term for the purposes of the statute, but the term is never used or referenced in the text of the statute.)

57
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Lost Medicaid Funding

To date, the failure to expand Medicaid/TennCare has cost the State of Tennessee ? in lost federal funding.

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