Jan 30 2006
12:03 pm

Unlike the public they serve, *Self-Important Politicians have not been kept out of the City-County Building parking garage since Sept. 11, 2001. Now, according to a News-Sentinel story, the SIPs have a report by an ATF agent claiming the garage is vulnerable to attack even now, with the general public excluded, because a car-bomber could drive right through the wooden parking gate.

There is no mention of whether the report addresses the likelihood of such an attack, but Ragsdale and the boys clearly feel they are on Osama's radar. Actually, Ragsdale invokes the Atlanta and Kingston courthouse shootings, which had everything to do with handling of prisoners and nothing to do with bombings, but in the WMD era, it seems the magnitude and credibility of a threat is not as important as just the whisper of possibility. Here's a whispered hint: Cas Walker got in a fist fight during a city council meeting. Tommy Burks was murdered by a campaign opponent. KCSD had a high-speed chase with Tyler Harber last year. Perhaps the people most likely to do something violent and asinine are the other SIPs still granted access to the parking garage. Maybe the wisest approach is to wall up the garage entirely to be reopened in a million years as a wondrous cavern of stalactites and stalagmites.

Also not discussed in the newspaper report is the relationship between the ATF agent who wrote the report, Bernard Waggoner, and current KCSD assistant deputy Bobby Waggoner and recently retired judge Brenda Waggoner. I'm sure it's just a coincidence. The odds of nepotism or an inside job in the Knox Co political climate are so small as to be dismissed entirely.

Michael's picture

The ATF findings were not

The ATF findings were not just about cars crashing the gate, but that there's no restriction on pedestrians entering the garage either.  I could walk in there wearing my dynamite vest through the Walnut entrance and no one would bat an eye.  I think everybody knows that this is about a few people wanting to keep their convenient parking over any concerns of safety.  If you'll recall, the original reasoning had to do with the 911 center being located in the building.  It has long since moved.


Number9's picture

I thought this was about

I thought this was about reducing the number of people that come to City Council and County Commission meetings.

Why don't we move those meetings to the new Convention Center which is barley used?

KO's picture

Was "convenient parking"

Was "convenient parking" ever a problem before public access was restricted?  I never had a problem finding a space to park when the garage was open to staff and the general public.  Even if it were a legitimate justification, couldn't that issue be addressed by allocating parking spaces to government staff while keeping a certain amount available to the public, perhaps with a one-hour time limit or something like that?

Good point about Cas Walker, "Low Tax," Tyler Harber, etc.  The whole shutdown is pretty ridiculous.  Watch out for Al Queda!

R. Neal's picture

Has Carlene Malone heard

Has Carlene Malone heard about this?

rikki's picture

She is quoted several times

She is quoted several times in the article.

R. Neal's picture

Sorry, bad joke.

Sorry, bad joke.

Rachel's picture

Was "convenient parking"

It took a report to tell them that the "no public parking sign" was unlikely to deter genuine terrorists (or just pissed off people?)?? Sheesh.

Was "convenient parking" ever a problem before public access was restricted? I never had a problem finding a space to park when the garage was open to staff and the general public.

Although I generally scoff at the "it's too hard to park downtown" b.s. (it's easy - and cheap - to park close to pretty much anything these days), parking close to the City County Building really is a problem. This is mostly because all the spaces along Main have temporarily been appropriated for bus lanes.

I think it's particularly a problem for the disabled.

Convenience aside, the taxpayers paid for the damn garage. Take the measures you need to take to make it reasonably safe, and then open it back up to its owners.

S Carpenter's picture

My take on this is that the

My take on this is that the continued closure is being justified for oversimplied reasons and that opening the garage up would be a little complicated but the right thing to do.

First, the security justification:

At courthouses, important things happen and a lot of people go there. Security consultants have two reasons why the City/County building is at risk: 1, important things happen there and 2, a lot of people go there.

But, my chickenlittles, the formula is incomplete. Risk of harm calculation requires consideration of probability. It's the most important part of the equation but they never talk about the probability of the event. Yes, it would be awful if it were targeted. But fact is, it's not likely it would be.

The biggest reason why the garage stays closed is that it would be complicated, not impossible, to re-open it. If I were guessing, the cost to screen the public folks who would pay to park would be big.

There are four levels of parking (L3, L4, L5 and L6). Getting into the building once parked in the garage requires you to enter on either end of the building - so that's two elevators a floor. Elevator stops include L3, L2 and M so you can't have just 2 metal detectors at the top or M level. Each parking level would have to be screened at both ends. Four parking levels times 2 entrances is 8. If two deputies are required at each metal detector, that would be 16 personnel from what times, say 7 to 7 everyday but weekends.

That would be a lot of money and I'm guessing they can't figure a way around metal detectors at each of the entries.

I do believe that the public should have parking access to their local assemblies, courts, records. Maybe they could make everybody come up to the M level. They'd then have to walk to the center of the building and take that bank of 'vators back down to L2 and L3. That would require less than the 16 people I was speculating about above.

My last thought hopefully ties my two main points together. The problem isn't that someone is going to drive a car bomb into the garage, but everybody that comes up the elevator will have to be screened coming into the building.

rikki's picture

That makes much more sense.

That makes much more sense. They want to feed everyone through a manageable number of metal detectors.

If I remember correctly, they used to have metal detectors outside each individual courtroom, each manned by two officers. Is that still true?

Perhaps they could restrict some elevators to business floors, behind the security perimeter, and have the elevator(s) servicing the parking garage manned by an officer who makes sure the cab always stops at M, where passengers disembark, pass through security, then get back on to continue to whichever floor they are headed. If you do it right, your equipment and manpower needs are determined by the number of elevators, not the number of floors.

Car Guy's picture

They did have detectors

They did have detectors outside of some courts (ie 4th Circuit (domestic relations) and the criminal courts, but with the check point at the Main St. entrance, that's the only one, and by the bathrooms on M, a metal detector collects dust.

And none of the courts in the old courthouse (except for child support) have metal detectors.

Car Guy's picture

Well, the Kingston shooting

Well, the Kingston shooting occurred OUTSIDE the courthouse, where there is no screening.

What about the shooting in NY INSIDE the municipal building where a non-screened employee snuck a gun in (because they didn't have to go through metal detectors) and killed folks? The logic for keeping the CC building closed is far from perfect.

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