Wednesday, November 29, 2006
But when higher tax payments constantly hit you in the pocketbook, it's no longer amusing.
The spectre of much higher taxes for Hamblen Countians is just a few months away. East and West High need repairs and new construction.
How to pay for that work raises questions about the county's total debt and debt repayment schedule.
Can the county pay for the proposed school construction without raising taxes? Hasn't the debt from the last major school construction program (1998) been paid down some?
Well, let's start with a few basics.
How much does the county owe?
About $40 million. (And that figure does not include the hospital debt that the county is responsible for if M-H Hospital is at some point not able to make its debt payments).
What was the $40 million spent on?
Most of the $40 million was spent on two new middle schools and renovations to about 14 other schools in the 1998 school building program. Some of the debt was for other county projects like the courthouse addition and jail annex, etc.
Haven't we paid off at least some of this debt by now?
Well, the answer would be yes IF the county had been paying principal and interest on this debt for the past 8 years (like most people do with a car loan or mortgage).
But the county didn't pay principal and interest on this debt over the past 8 years.
Instead, the county made interest-only payments. The County Mayor, Trustee, and Commissioners that were serving in 1998 set up this "interest-only" payment plan.
So it's 2006, and the county taxpayers still owe that same $40 million.
Now there is a request for more borrowing---- $20 million (+ or -) for school construction and who knows what else.
And if you live in the City of Morristown, you've got all that county debt coupled with your existing city debt and a bajillion-dollar city sewer construction bill that just keeps climbing.
And if a new 200 to 500-inmate jail is tossed in there, just hold on to your hats and your pocketbook.
When former Commissioner Dennis Alvis took office in 2002, he said: "We've been robbing Peter to pay Paul and now Peter has left town." I'm not sure that Commissioner Alvis was aware of how true those words were.
You always hear that everything is "for the children." That seems to be especially true with the county debt.
I thought you were supposed to try and leave your children something--and debt is not that something!
I guess I didn't get the "borrow, spend it, and pass the debt on" memo.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Ron and I visited with our families. Our son Will and his wife Dr. Katie Kanipe-Noe live in town, and our daughters Jenny and Katie were home on holiday break from school.
The food was great---as always.
At Thanksgiving dinner, my family has a traditional meal of turkey, cranberry sauce, olives, tossed salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, lima bean casserole, pumpkin and assorted other pies, and other goodies.
We each have a food "assignment." I am in charge of mashed potatoes. I am not a great cook and don't pretend to be. I guess you could say I am very much cooking-challenged.
Despite my cooking deficiency, there are two things I can make that usually turn out very nicely---mashed potatoes and chocolate chip cookies.
Now about mashed potatoes. A good mashing after cooking gets you started right. But the real secret to great mashed potatoes is plenty of butter. Isn't that a shocker!
Of course, be sure you add "just enough" milk, salt, and pepper, too.
Mash to a creamy consistency and you've got a tasty side dish that goes well with just about everything.
Packaged foods are nice for convenience, but I never use mashed potato mixes.
There is no comparison between real v. packaged when it comes to this item!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Food will be a part of the celebration, but the simple act of family and friends gathering together is what makes this holiday so special.
A time to be thankful as we remember that we live in a wonderful country.
A time to be thankful as we remember those who are serving this country in other lands.
A time to be thankful for our family and friends!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY!
One charge. Two payments. And some of those double payments come out of your taxpaying pocket!
Click here to read about Tennessee legislators who have been billing and collecting twice for one expense. Nothing like an all-expense paid trip where you collect those expenses twice!
And who stops this kind of abuse? Well, the people in charge of regulating campaign finances say they don't check for double-dipping.
Individuals have to do the "regulating" themselves and then file a sworn complaint before the Registry of Election Finance will take a glance at double-dipping.
It's good that there are news organizations (like Channel 5) who have investigative reporters who expose no-bid contracts, inflated charges for road work, highway patrol ticket-fixing and donations for promotions, conflicts of interest, and now double-dipping.
Monday, November 20, 2006
A young man appeared at Lumpy's car lot on November 11th and drew a gun on the commissioner.
Lumpy then drew out his own gun and disarmed the suspect who fled the car lot and was apprehended some time later by Knox law enforcement.
Now Sheriff Tim Hutchison is saying that the individual that Lumpy disarmed is a suspect in an earlier Knox County murder.
Read the full details about Quick Draw McLumpy in today's News-Sentinel article. The article includes praise for Lumpy from Sheriff Tim Hutchison and Hutchison's comment that Lumpy's quick response that day may have saved his life.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Question: Who was Hamblen County named for and when was Hamblen County established?
Answer from JCS: Hezekiah Hamblen. 1870.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Burchett staked out the warehouse and caught the youths on Wednesday, Nov. 15. See previous post.
Read the follow-up story in the Knoxville News-Sentinel here.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Today's question has a decidedly local (Hamblen County) flavor.
When was Hamblen County established and for whom is it named?
E-mail answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Yesterday, State Senator Tim Burchett nabbed four youths in connection with a break-in at a warehouse where Burchett keeps old motorcycles and parts.
Three motorcycles and a camera had been stolen previously, so Burchett had been staking out the warehouse on his own.
Saying he is sick and tired of crime and of being a victim of crime, Burchett was armed yesterday and nabbed four young people at his warehouse on Amherst after they had allegedly broken into his warehouse.
Burchett held the four at bay---and fed them chocolate chip cookies---until officers arrived. Burchett said he would press charges because he figures the parents only punishment might be to take away the kids' "Gameboy" for an afternoon.
Click here for the full story in today's Knoxville News-Sentinel.
One official who has looked at the file---and read every word---says that it contains nothing connected to the suit filed by Sgt. Farmer.
The attorney for Farmer maintains that the file still might be important because it may show a pattern of corruption and political retribution connected to Cooley and the THP.
Whether Cooley's file does or doesn't have a direct connection to the Farmer case, just the fact that the THP and Cooley are in the news again is not good for Gov. Bredesen. All this may lead to Cooley's resignation---at last.
Click here to read the N-S article. Click here, here, here, and here for my previous posts on Cooley and family.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I blogged on this story back on February 26, 2006 in State Conflicts of Interest: Money and Influence
COOLEY (PART I)
In the politically correct way of starting the ball rolling to get rid of someone tainted with scandal, Gov. Bredesen is quoted in a November 9th article in the Nashville Tennessean as saying that Dep. Gov. Dave Cooley is considering returning to private life though the governor would love to keep him.
The Tennessean article notes that Cooley has been a "controversial" figure during Bredesen's first term but Bredesen has stood by Cooley for four years.
Cooley has been a controversial figure during Bredesen's first term. He had a speeding ticket fixed with help from a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer, and he was involved in the politically charged promotions process at the patrol. Throughout the controversies Bredesen stood by Cooley, but there has been speculation for months that Cooley would leave after the election.
Cooley said Wednesday that he has not made a decision on his future but hopes to make one after getting some rest and talking to his family and the governor.
After less than a week of "rest" and "talking," another Tennessean article pops up. Guess what? Scroll down to Part II!
It looks like Cooley's real reason for thinking about resigning may be related to a federal hearing in Knoxville this morning concerning his infamous ticket-fixing episode.
Cooley is probably not "resting" and "talking" today because the ticket-fixing deal was only one of many instances where Cooley used and abused his office for personal and family gain. Click here for my February 11 post about Dave and Melanie and their actions. And here for another post on February 26.
What prompts all this?
Well, it seems that the TBI case file of Deputy Gov. Dave Cooley's fixed ticket investigation will be the topic of a federal hearing in Knoxville today.
A former Tennessee Highway Patrol officer, who is suing Cooley, the department and several of its former top leaders, wants access to the file. Bryan Farmer, a former lieutenant, claims in a federal lawsuit that he was harassed and forced from the department by the Democratic administration because he supported the Republican party. His attorney, Arthur F. Knight, wants to review the file to search for evidence that may bolster Farmer's case.
The state is withholding the file, claiming it is not a public record. State law says TBI investigative files are closed and not subject to inspection, except in a few narrow exceptions. One of those is in the face of a subpoena or court order. Cooley said last week he is considering leaving his position as Gov. Phil Bredesen's top deputy to return to the private sector.
Connect the dots....
Read the full text of today's November 15 article for more background on how Cooley's first act under Bredesen was to push to get his wife hired by the Department of Safety. And then she pushed to get her brother hired on. And then the ticket-fixing. And campaign donations for promotions. And then...
Conflicts of interest and personal and family gain are the driving forces behind far too many elected officials. In fact, they have become such a staple of government that the public---and elected officials--- just nod and go on.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I took the red trees all in a row picture in the parking lot next to Taco John's about a week ago.
I took the sunrise shot on Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11th.
Knox County Commissioner Greg "Lumpy" Lambert made news as a result of his "quick" handling of a potential robber at his car lot.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
In four days of fighting, Easy Company had 40% casualties.
American soldiers raise the Flag on February 23, 1945.
November 11 is Veterans Day.
Let us never forget.
The American Soldier
It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
So often we see people running for office, and they have strong convictions, and we vote for them, and we hope against hope that these are people who will actually do what they say and remain true to their campaign statements.
And time after time, we are disappointed. Once in office, candidates too often forget and abandon the principles and promises that got them elected because it is so much easier to go along than to stand up and remain faithful to the people who elected them.
Sadly, elected officials often know what is going on around them, but they prefer to look the other way---perfect examples on the national level are the Mark Foley (Republican) scandal and the Sandy Berger (Democrat) scandal.
And there are plenty of examples on the local level [see my posts (I-IV) of June 25] where officials know what is going on, but they will not authorize an investigation or even ask a question.
I will have much more on the local situation in future posts--because Hamblen County is rapidly moving toward a huge tax increase due to fiscal mismanagement, cover-ups, and waste.
But I digress. Back to the Contract with America. To me, the framework of the Contract with America is a stated plan--and a good one-- for an open and accountable government. And these conservative principles are good general guidelines on the state and local level as well.
FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-
In looking back at the 2006 election, the Republican problem was one of forgetting conservative principles and wandering in a political wilderness, worrying about the next election instead of worrying about the country.
Republicans were punished not for their conservative principles, but because they abandoned their conservative principles and instead became tied to pork-barrel spending, personal scandals, no-bid contracts, political lobbying scandals, huge budget deficits, and an overall lack of accountability.
Basic conservative principles, the eight guiding principles of the Contract with America, were forgotten.
But with every cloud, there is a silver lining.
Republicans can return to the values, commitment, and passion that are embodied in the conservative cause or they can continue to wander aimlessly and wonder what happened.
And, no, the conservative cause is not the sole possession of Republicans. Democrats and Independents who believe that open, honest, and accountable government is best can, and do, advance conservatism.
Republicans don't "own" conservatism by any means, but over the years more Republicans than Democrats (especially at the leadership level) have been identified as conservatives.
In the final analysis, probably no one belongs totally and completely in a conservative or liberal box.
Many of the Democrats who won on November 7 tended to be more moderate and far less "liberal" than the Democrat leadership as exemplified by Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, and others.
The 2006 election, on the national level, may be signaling a shift in the parties and in people. Liberals are becoming more moderate, and some of these moderates even show certain conservative tendencies at times, such as when they come out in favor of 2nd amendment rights and fiscal restraint.
Time will tell whether the newly-elected moderate Democrats are able to effect change in the liberal Democrat leadership or whether the Democrat leadership whips the new Representatives and Senators into the liberal mold.
Time will also tell whether the Republicans, after somber reflection, decide to return to their conservative roots and once again stand as a party of principle or whether the Contract with America was just so much fluff.
My prediction and my hope is that all Republicans will again stand on principle. And I salute those who never abandoned their principles.
I want to know where the parties really stand. And I want to see actions that match the words.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
A message was sent and it was heard-- by the President, by Republican leaders, and by Republicans everywhere who were listening.
Irap was certainly part of the message.
In response, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigned today and will be replaced by former CIA Director Robert Gates.
The other part of the message, in my opinion, lies in a general failure of the Republican Party and many of those who call themselves "Republicans" to stand on principles.
The Republican revolution of 1994 with its well-thought out and clearly expressed ideals of fiscal responsibility and less government slowly went by the wayside during the past 12 years as the power of office became intoxicating.
Some of the leaders of the Republican revolution became less concerned with government service and more concerned with self-service.
Unfortunately, the 1994 Republican Contract With America became little more than meaningless words.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This is true in all times and of all political groups.
It applies to Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Communists, Tories, Laborites, whatever. This is not a slam on Republicans. It is simply a statement of fact about anyone or any party having absolute power, and it applies to the politics of all countries.
The best thing that can happen now is that the wake-up call will result in self-examination and serious reflection on the part of the political parties in America. Hopefully, true statesmen will come forward to replace the politicians---of which we have far too many.
I heard a friend today describe the difference between politicians and statesmen.
The politician is always thinking of the next election. The statesman is always thinking of the next generation.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
-President Calvin Coolidge
He was nicknamed "Silent Cal," but his words here speak eloquently to the importance and to the duty of exercising our precious right to vote and to be heard.
"Early voting" has been heavy.
If you didn't vote early and decided to wait until Election Day, this is it.
Please vote--rain or shine!
Friday, November 03, 2006
John Kerry's remarks about the U.S. military have sparked a firestorm of comments and a belated apology from Kerry himself.
The Nashville Tennessean ran into a firestorm of comments itself after it ran an editorial supporting Kerry on Nov. 2. The Tennessean, like Kerry, followed up with an apology on Nov. 3.
A lot of people have seen the picture shown above of U.S. soldiers holding a banner, mockingly asking "Jon Carry" to "halp" get them out of "Irak."
If you click on the links shown below, you will not only see the picture again, but you will also be able to read some background about the soldiers who created the banner that has become the picture seen around the world.
More about the Minnesota soldiers and banner holders can be found here and here.
The response from Tennessean readers was "swift" (no pun intended) and critical of both Kerry and of the paper.
Click here on Truth in Kerry's Remark to read the Nov. 2 editorial and the numerous online comments (8+ pages of reader comments) that appear at the end of the original editorial.
Today the Tennessean is explaining its poor choice of words in a follow-up editorial.
Click on Sometimes Words Can Fail Us to read the Tennessean's Nov. 3 editorial apology--an apology/explanation that is followed by letters to the editor that were sent in response to the original Nov. 2 editorial. There are also more online comments at the end of the letters.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I picked a card that had been designed by a young Tennessee student. Then I picked a message, signed it, and sent it. I encourage others to do the same.
Just go to http://www.letssaythanks.com/ and follow the directions. Over 3.7 million messages have already gone out!
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
In official and unofficial Election Reports handed out on Election Night, there were numerous mathematical oddities and conincidences as described at the Election Contest trial in September.
Ultimately, a Special Master (former Criminal Court Judge Eddie Beckner) was appointed. Beckner examined the machines and also reviewed the absentee and paper ballots cast in the District 1 race (Osborne-Lebel) and the District 4 race (Reinhardt-Sexton).
Subsequently, the vote count and the winners in both races (Lebel and Sexton) were left as originally reported.
Now an appeal has been filed by Bobby Reinhardt with the Trial Court and with the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
In addition, a direct appeal has been made to the Tennessee Supreme Court, seeking an immediate, quick, and final ruling on interpretation of state law regarding the conduct of early voting.
Reinhardt states that T.C.A. 2-6-104 is "plain and unambiguous."
2-6-104. Voting machines for early voting.
(a) A county election commission may use voting machines for early voting. The county election commission shall choose one (1) of the following options for its method of early voting.
(1) Place all races on a machine ballot;
(2) Place some of the races on a machine ballot and part of the races on a paper ballot; or
(3) Place all races on a paper ballot.
In early voting, votes in the District 4 race were cast partly by machine ballots and partly by paper ballots (with two paper ballots being cast).
Chancellor Corlew noted the problematic wording of the statute and said that he "recognized that the interpretation of T.C.A. 2-6-104 is a matter on which reasonable minds can differ...."
The Chancellor chose not to throw out the two paper ballots cast during early voting in the Reinhardt-Sexton race, saying that the voters who cast the paper ballots during early voting would have proceeded to vote by machine (had they not been given the paper ballots) and thus the results of the race would have been the same.
Reinhardt maintains that the statute is "plain and unambiguous" and that only one interpretation of the statute---as currently written--- can be reached. As a result, Reinhardt wants the two paper ballots cast in early voting in District 4 to be discarded as "having been illegally cast" and the District 4 election declared either void or a mathematical tie.