Three of the five Morristown Utilities Commissioners (Harold Nichols, Lynn Elkins, and Max Biery) met last week to select three candidates for the MUC seat currently held by George McGuffin. This is the SEVENTEENTH list MUC has prepared during the last nine months.
Two MUC commissioners (Gene Jolley and George McGuffin) did not attend.
The three nominees are Peter Cantwell, Buddy Jones III, and, of course, George McGuffin. McGuffin has held the current seat for 34 years. McGuffin could pull his name from contention now, but he won't. Keeping this MUC position has become much like a life-and-death power struggle for McGuffin.
Keeping McGuffin in place is also vitally important to the five councilmembers (LeBel, Senter, Garrett, Bivens, and Jinks) who voted in November 2011 to change state law for McGuffin.
The Five asked our two local state legislators (Rep. Don Miller and Sen. Steve Southerland) to push a bill through the state legislature to change the current appointment process that was put in place by 3,202 people (72%) in a 2001 MUC referendum.
BUT the five councilmembers would not agree to put their proposed MUC appointment changes on a referendum in August 2012 and LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE if a change should be made.
The two state legislators agreed to re-write the appointment process but they, too, would NOT agree to put their appointment changes to a vote OF THE PEOPLE in an August 2012 referendum.
In an incredible move, Sen. Southerland made changes to the local bill and sponsored the local bill but did NOT vote for it.
Rep. Miller took the bill to the House State and Local Government Committee and there publicly refused a request to consider an amendment to provide for a referendum to let the PEOPLE SPEAK and give direct approval or disapproval at the ballot box.
Meanwhile, McGuffin is keeping a low profile as he waits for the "McGuffin Law" to be signed by Governor Haslam and returned to city council so that the LeBel Five (Paul LeBel, Bob Garrett, Kay Senter, Chris Bivens, and Claude Jinks) can give final approval to put the McGuffin Law into effect.
Then, a short time after the McGuffin Law is in place, the FIVE who have chosen to override the 2001 referendum and WHO HAVE REFUSED TO LET THE PEOPLE SPEAK in a referendum in 2012 can officially appoint McGuffin to MUC and keep the good old boy system in place.
After all, politicians just need the people briefly at election time. After that, the special interests and money people take over.
The McGuffin Law overturns the appointment process that MUC, headed by Chairman George McGuffin, asked the council and the voters to approve in 2001. But when the law doesn't work for you later---even if it's a law YOU previously supported and that the PEOPLE overwhelmingly voted for--you just change it to what works FOR YOU.
What about the referendum? What about the people?
There are very few instances when a referendum is permitted in Tennessee--approval of a local Private Act is one of those instances.
What does it tell you when seven elected officials (LeBel, Senter, Garrett, Bivens, Jinks, Miller, and Southerland) unite to refuse to let the people speak through a $250 referendum?
We have reached rock bottom in the City of Morristown when seven elected officials oppose LETTING THE PEOPLE SPEAK IN A REFERENDUM.
Of course, you have to remember that four of these (LeBel, Senter, Garrett, and Bivens) also wanted to put public comments from the people at the end of city council meetings and to reduce the time allowed for public comments from three minutes to two minutes.
Thankfully, there are two elected officials--Mayor Danny Thomas and Councilman Gene Brooks--who show respect for the 2001 REFERENDUM results and who are willing to abide by the results of that referendum until proposed changes to the appointment process are submitted TO THE PEOPLE in a new REFERENDUM on whether to change the 2001 voter-approved MUC appointment process.