Thu
Jun 22 2006
02:53 pm

We now have people that want to do away with the Knox County Charter because they think that less government is better government and it is such a pain and a difficult duty to have private acts passed in the Tennessee Legislature that dumb ideas like the "Jobs Now Program" or the 5 million dollars to a Blount County industrial park would be impossible to do with private acts. According to this line of thought doing away with the Charter is a good thing.

That is muddled thinking. Home Rule is a great advantage and we need to keep it. Keeping government local is what Home Rule and the Charter is all about. We have the right to control the laws of our County. That is why we need the Charter.

The charter is not the problem. The Weaver ruling is the problem.

This whole issue could have been fixed in a single day. Weaver could have suggested that Knox County hold a Charter commission meeting. Add one phrase, Constitutional Offices are defined in the State Constitution. Send the amended Charter to the Secretary of State. We are done.

But nooooo, that's not the way we do business around these parts. Let's put every Knox County taxpayer at risk, risk the bond rating, have hundreds of lawsuits, drive everybody crazy, and at the end of the fools errand declare victory and stop to admire and reflect upon the imaginary leadership of the County Mayor and County Commission.

An excellent analysis of why Weaver’s ruling is flawed can be found here.

Why should Weaver’s ruling be overturned? There are many reasons. One of the most important is that of severability which means you do not throw out the baby with the bath water. The legal definition of severability is, “A clause in a Charter that allows that any portion of the Charter deemed to be unenforceable does not affect the validity of the rest of the Charter.”

The Jarvis decision to have this Charter fast tracked to the Tennessee Supreme Court is the right decision. Weaver’s ruling must be appealed as soon as possible and overturned. It must be overturned because it is a bad ruling. What ever popularity the Weaver ruling had it has lost any appeal when people now understand how the Charter actually benefited them. Whether you like or dislike Adult Book Stores or Strip Clubs most people in Knox County do not want one next to their home. The same could be said for a Methadone Clinic or a Homeless Shelter. Do you think people now understand the value of the Charter? The Charter allows a more local input into local ordinances.

When you vote this August exercise manual term limits. Say to these incumbents who ignore the law and sue to invalidate the Charter, “I got your term limits right here” and vote for their opponent. They do not deserve to serve.

Johnny Ringo's picture

I wish it was that easy

This whole issue could have been fixed in a single day. Weaver could have suggested that Knox County hold a Charter commission meeting. Add one phrase, Constitutional Offices are defined in the State Constitution. Send the amended Charter to the Secretary of State. We are done.

Unfortunately its not that simple. The Charter can only be amended by referendum. The Charter Commission can only be convened by proclamation of the County Mayor or by vote of the Commission, exactly as has been done now. But after the Charter Commission makes its recomendations, they must be voted on, and its way too late in the game to get a Charter amending resolution on the August ballot. So an amendment can't be accomplished before November.

An appeal has its advantages and attractions, but again time is an issue. There's no assurance that the Supreme Court would exercise its "reach down" authority here, especially since it refused to do so in the Bailey term limits case. So the appellate route could conceivably take far longer than the amendment approach favored by Mayor Ragsdale.

The certification suggested by Judge Jarvis can potentially speed up the process, but even there under the fastest track available under the law, no decision could be handed down by the Supreme Court until at least 50 days after it receives the certification from the Federal Court. And as Bbeanster has suggested in another post, the extensive evidentiary record created during the three-day Jordan trial may not be available to the Supreme Court if it accepts certification of the Charter issue in the adult bookstore case. Whether or not that is a good thing is open to debate.

The advantage of the approach suggested by Ragsdale is that, if Weaver grants a stay of his decision, Knox County could conceiveably never be without a Charter. If so, then the ordinances you cite may never be invalid, and the negative results you fear may never materialize. On the other hand, if Weaver refuses to grant a stay, then all the County has lost is a week or so, and can still pursue an appeal.

So whether you prefer to overturn Weaver or fix what he says is wrong with the Charter, nothing is going to happen quickly enough to prevent the August election from going ahead as planned. What happens after that depends on whether the Charter is fixed, the Weaver decision overturned or upheld.

Rachel's picture

What I want to know is: 

What I want to know is:  how can a county commission illegally constituted under an invalid charter approve a new charter commission?  Seems like we could chase our own illegitmate tails into eternity here.

Good for Jarvis, I say.  If we can get the TSC to wrap this thing up sooner rather than later, I'm all for it.

jcranks's picture

looks to me

looks to me like those county commissioners want to reek havock on the county in order to get metro goverment rolling and screw us all!

Number9's picture

The August election is not

The August election is not the issue. Not having a Charter is the issue. I understand there has to be a referendum even for a very minor change to the Charter.

In the event that the Charter has to be amended the great concern is that the filing deadline for a referendum in the November Election will be missed.

Is this as complex as some have said? No, it is actually very simple.

Weaver ruled the Charter had two key deficiencies. Constitutional Offices were not defined and the Secretary of State did not receive the Charter.

Weaver's deficiencies are minor. I do not think his ruling is valid. But for the sake of argument let's stipulate it is. Let's look at what Weaver could have done and what Weaver should have done for the welfare of the people.

Weaver did not have to invalidate the Charter. He could have issued an instruction to County Commission. Put in the one sentence that fixes the Constitutional Offices definition issue. Send the Charter to the Secretary of State and file to have a referendum in November.

The Charter Commission should do as little as possible to the Charter. Don't monkey with with is not broken.

But Noooo, this is a chance to be progressive. Very progressive. Is this the chance to implement Metro Government? If I were going to try to con the people with Metro Government here is how I would do it. I would put a supposed "firewall" in place to assure the people of Knox County that the debt of the City of Knoxville could not come to them.

Then I would use the old "Urban Services fee" con game to assure the people of Knox County that their property taxes would not go up. The idea of the Urban Services fee is that the services provided by the City of Knoxville like garbage collection and Police Services and whatever else the City of Knoxville does has a value and is provided only in the City limits. The area covered by the Urban Services fee.

I would have a lot of grey haired grandmothers on television talk about how it would be easier to have everything in one place; how one government would reduce duplication and increase efficiency. I would make sure they were from Halls, Karns, and Farragut. I would have young hip people wearing hip clothes talking about the future and parks and stuff. It's the new Knox County. They would all have very white teeth and smile a lot.

Your thinking, that sounds great where do I apply? It changes nothing but reduces duplication and increases efficiency.

Haaaaaaa. Then you are so screwed. If you are poor or a minority or live in a rural area you just lost your representation. If you live in the County every crazy idea to rebuild downtown Knoxville or the South Knox Waterfront or to build the new transit station, library, planetarium, solar electrical plant, tourist destination is now funded by every sucker in Knox County.

Because just like the Charter someone will find a way to tear down the "firewall" and increase the "Urban Services fee" area until every single fool in Knox County pays for it.

Sweeet.

Anonymous's picture

I suppose your

I suppose your contempt for Ragsdale knows no boundaries.

Ragsdale charged the committee with fixing the charter deficiencies Weaver had ruled: Defining a few offices (already defined in the State Constitution), clarifying term limits, and filing the right paperwork...nothing more and nothing less.

Not sure why you're making such a mess about Ragsdale. It seems like you are both on the same side of the charter argument...

Don't let the facts get in the way, though. Carry on... 

Andy Axel's picture

The last thing I want to see...

...is Number9's "term limits."

[shudder]

____________________________

"The iPod was not developed by Baptists in Waco." -- G.K.

talidapali's picture

I just want to know if the

I just want to know if the charter is invalid can we get the wheel taxes we paid back, since they would seem to be invalid too...??? 

and what about all those property taxes that we have paid since the eighties...can we get a refund on them too?

"You can't fix stupid..." Ron White

jay's picture

Wheel tax hang up??

I don't understand people's obsession with the wheel tax. In my opinion, they didn't go far enough. The should have a wheel tax for all first vehicles then double it for any additional vehicles. We're drowning in pollution while TDOT continues to build more roads.

We need to discourage driving and encourage telecommuting, carpooling, bicycling, and public transportation.

The wheel tax should be a double payback for the valley - funds for education and enticement to other forms or transportation.

Paul Witt's picture

There's something about the

There's something about the wheel tax for just about everyone to hate.

As for me, I don't like the fact that every car in the parking lot here at work is taxed exactly the same.  No matter how big of a gas guzzle or fuel efficient, no matter how expensive or cheap, no matter how new or old... same tax.

Bbeanster's picture

Every car in the parking lot at work?

Depends on where you work.
If it's in the City County building, there's no wheel tax paid on those $45K Taho SUVs. Nor do they pay to park in that garage, come to think of it. And I believe they have a Pilot card to gas up those roadhogs, which as per WATE, costs $72@...

I opposed the wheel tax because it is regressive as hell. It was sold on that basis. Think about how many times you heard Ragsdale, Arms et al say "One of the things we like about this tax is everybody pays." This was based on a presumption that poor people don't pay property taxes, which of course is false, unless landlords aren't in the bidness to make money and don't pass along such costs as taxes.

Old Hickory's picture

Start Digging Beanster

Beanster,

If you want to see the expanse of this waste on the Sixth Floor, just start dropping freedom of information requests down on Ragsdale's clan and look for 1099s issued for the value of the use of a car in employment, 1099s for personal use of the car or fuel provided in the employment, billing records and account summaries for the Blackberries/cellphone/PDAs provided to the Ragsdale clan, look at the nice mortgages BB&T hold for John Werner and Mike Ragsdale (that's the county's primary depository institution) and the big houses involved.  Look at the salaries and pay raises going into effect July 1, such that each member of the Ragsdale gang makes in excess of $100,000 apiece (Werner's already enrolled both of his kids at Webb +/- $30,000 per year and he can't understand why the State won't release any surplus money to Knox County for the Knox County Public School System).  They don't pay a wheel tax, they make 4 times the average wage of a Knox County citizen and we have to buy them cars and gas, and for what?

We don't want princely servants, we want public servants.  Working for Knox County and for Mike Ragsdale should not require us to foot the bill so they can live the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Billy Haslam at $1 a year is the best bargain going and the other guys on the Sixth Floor should take a cue from they guy who can live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, but chooses not to.

 

tennesseevaluesauthority's picture

Thanks, I needed the laugh...

Old Hickory said: <<Billy Haslam at $1 a year is the best bargain going and the other guys on the Sixth Floor should take a cue from they guy who can live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, but chooses not to.>>

Thanks, man. That's the best laugh I've had all day.

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