Mar 29 2006
06:39 pm

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?

OK, then.

LeftWingCracker's picture

All hell has broken loose in Shelby County!

Well, as it were, two of the plaintiffs were 20+ year members of the County Commission (the other is leaving to run for Harold's 9th district seat).

 Of those two, Cleo Kirk's lone opponent, former (appointed) State Senator Sidney Chism has been handed a seat by default as there was no other opposition.

 In addition, as Walter Bailey is no longer able to run for re-election, it was discovered that two of his three opponents have strong GOP ties, one of them having sat on the Shelby GOP steering committee from 2003-2005.  The other ran as a Gooper against Steve Cohen in 2004.

 Why, you may ask, did no one try to heave these Goopers before now? Because no one saw this coming and they thought Bailey would whip them.  Now, the Executive Committee is in an uproar, as some actually are trying to protect the Goopers.

 Stay tuned!~

RedDog's picture

Term Limits

In theory I don't support term limits but in practical matter I guess I can support them. As R Neal mentioned, if the voters support term limits why do they continue to re-elect the incumbents?

 But hey - on the bright side - if this gets rid of Sheriff Tim Hutchison I'm all for it (has there ever been an armed coup in a TN county?).

David B. Hamilton's picture

Yes.  Review the Tennessee

Yes.  Review the Tennessee Blue Book and find "Battle of Athens."

Rachel's picture

And another question is, how

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?

The difference is that cities and counties are entirely different legal creatures.  Counties were created by the Tennessee constitution, and its elected officials are mentioned in the Constitution.  Cities are created individually by acts of the legislature.

 I too think it's ridiculous that nobody ever challenged this ages ago.  I used to be a skeptic about term limits, but the results on Knoxville City Council are pretty damn impressive.  And God knows it's time for some turnover on Commission.

Car Guy's picture

Now here's a twist I was

Now here's a twist I was discussing on the phone earlier with another new-Bubba-blog reader earlier.

Moyers is saying that qualifying will only be opened up for a commission seat if there is no one on the ballot (ie Phil Guthe is unopposed, so if he's off the ballot, there's no one in the D or R primiary running). That's the easy way for folks to get on the ballot if qualifying is re-opened.

Here's the sticky situation: take the David Collins (R) race with Mark Harmon (D) as the challenger. If Collins goes off the ballot, only Harmon remains. Under what Moyers is saying, qualifying won't re-open for this seat (and, for example, the same would apply to the John Schmid/Mike Alford race in that Alford will be the only one on the primary ballot).

So, what do Rs do in the race with only Mark Harmon on the ticket? Well, they try to write someone in. Here's the rub (so stay with me): Tyree is running as a write in and (if I recall correctly) apparently needs 5% of the votes in the D primary to get on the ballot for the run off against Hutchison. The marquee race is Hall/Ragsdale race which will turn out lots of R voters across the county. Tyree only needs 5% of the D voters across the entire county to write him in, and since there isn't a county-wide contested D race, most folks will be voting in the R primary, so the D turnout will be low; that makes it easier for Tyree to get 5% of the entire D turnout.

Now stay with me here. Commission races are only run inside the district, not county wide, so they obviously will have a much lower number of people voting. So how can an R write-in candidate get 5% of county wide vote turn out that could perhaps reach 30K voters when the R commission write in candidate has a much more limited voter base to draw from, since they are only voted on within a single district? Ask Julie Tucker who could only get less than 1000 write-ins on a city wide basis last fall how hard that could be.

So that would make it easier for a D to try to write in than an R.

Now the caveat: I could be wrong on this, and folks should feel free to critique me. This whole thing is unchartered waters, but it sure could get very interesting. If I'm correct on this, this scenario could apply to any other commission race where only one person remains on the ballot assuming the Dirty Dozen get tossed off.

PS Who came up with the "Dirty Dozen" nickname? Was it someone on this board?

Bill Young's picture

Term limits

First,remember the Election Commission is constrained by state law;however,the problem is,there is no precedent with respect to removing candidates from the ballot in this manner.Therfore,the Election Commission is being advised by the State's Attorney General.The state attorney general believes...In commission district primarys where an incumbent candidate is/was running unopposed,IN THE PRIMARY, that is term-limited & removed from the ballot;the Election Commission can set a new filing deadline.That would be the seats now held by Jordan,Collins,Tindell,Cawood & Clark.I could be wrong!!

Bill Young's picture

Sorry,I left some folks out

Screwed up... those districts that would have new filing deadlines are:Jordan,Collins,Tindell,Guthe,Griess,Cawood & Clark

Car Guy's picture

upon further review . . .

After mulling it over some more, I would think it would having someone who is limited to running within a district have to get 5% of a county-wide vote would be unrealistic, somy guess is probably wrong, and one would have to get 5% of those D or R voters to write you in in your district primary.

Car Guy's picture

video of Mary Lou Horner on the situation

Also, R Larry Smith was on TV tonight saying he didn't want term limits in effect. He wanted to run against Horner. Of course, he wants Horner to stay in the race because if she's forced out, she'll probably throw her support to James McMillan.

Car Guy's picture

Today's special Election Commission meeting

. . . has been moved from the Small Assembly room to the Large Assembly room of the City County building. It starts at 4 pm. It may very well be televised on CTV.

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