Monday, May 28, 2012

May 28, 2012 MEMORIAL DAY

In memory of those who gave the last full measure of devotion.
In honor of those who have served and those who serve today

God Bless the U.S.A.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24, 2012 McGuffin Itching for Council To Reject Twentieth MUC Nominee

MUC (Morristown Utility Commission) named three people this morning to its twentieth list of nominees for the Board seat currently held by George McGuffin. 

McGuffin, who has served on MUC for over 34 years, chaired the meeting at which he was dutifully nominated by his fellow MUC Commissioners along with two good people (Peter Cantwell and Jay Smith) who are window-dressing and throw-away nominees whose names are used to fill out the required slate of three.

McGuffin desperately wants to be re-appointed.  He has been mightily frustrated and  inconvenienced by having to go to the state legislature and get state law changed just to ensure that McGuffin finally gets back on the MUC Board.  The McGuffin Law went into effect on May 1, 2012. It overturns the local voter-approved MUC appointment process and puts the McGuffin Law appointment process in place .

For McGuffin, trampling on the little people and wiping out the 2001 referendum votes of 3,202 people has been a distraction and a bother, but the power is obviously worth it.

Harold Nichols is the McGuffin sidekick and business partner and MUC Commissioner who made the nominations this morning.  Nichols does a great job of keeping a straight face as he brags about the newest nominee Jay Smith and then says of Council: "We'll see what they do." 

Earth-to-Harold. The LeBel Five (Paul LeBel, Bob Garrett, Kay Senter, Claude Jinks, and Chris Bivens) will do just what McGuffin wants them to do and just what you and the other MUC Commissioners (Max Biery, Lynn Elkins, and Gene Jolley) want them to do. 

They'll reject the Mayor's nomination of anyone other than George McGuffin--just like they have done WITH YOUR BLESSING to the nineteen other nominees not named McGuffin! 

And then, bless your little heart,  the McGuffin Law will let MUC's next candidates go straight to the City Council. The LeBel Five will reappoint McGuffin, and all will be right in little Morristown.

For McGuffin and Company, those twenty rejectees are just throw-away nominees and stepping stones for McGuffin to walk on to get what HE wants---another five-year term.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23, 2012 City Council's Budget Discussions

Here are some video snips from the Morristown City Council's one and only public discussion of the city's $32 Million dollar budget. The entire public discussion and deliberation took less than 30 minutes before Paul LeBel called for a "vote"/"show of hands".

The meeting started with discussion of non-profits:

Discussion about whether or not to experiment with refurbishing a police car:
Cox still hasn't gotten around to reviewing the janitorial services contract which has been discussed and almost universally criticized repeatedly in past years:
Cox's proposed new hire of a director over sewer, streets, and sanitation was put in this year's FY 2012 budget (but never filled) and is again in the proposed next year's FY 2013 budget:
And a new police officer to supervise inmates performing litter pick-up and mowing weeds:
Kay Senter proposes an extra 2-1/2% raise for Tony Cox on top of the 2-1/2% that is in the FY 2013 budget and Mayor Thomas comments about taxpayer sacrifices:
Brief discussion of the ESG (energy) contract and wastewater treatment plant:
Finally, LeBel and Company decide that 30 minutes of public discussion on the City's 32 MILLION dollar budget is all that is needed. LeBel leaves the building. Jinks reminds Cox to put the extra raise for Cox in the budget. Bob Garrett leaves the table. The Mayor then leaves, noting that the "vote" has already been taken:

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21, 2012 LeBel Five Satisfied after 30 Minutes of Public Discussion on City Budget

Friday, May 18, was city council's first (and apparently only) meeting for public discussion of the City of Morristown's $32 Million dollar budget. It was a short discussion that ended abruptly with Paul LeBel's declaration that he was satisfied with the budget. LeBel called for a show of hands and five hands (of course) went up.

LeBel left the building to do other things, and sidekick Bob Garrett left the table to stand with "news"paper reporter Bobby Moore.

The meeting began with a brief discussion of non-profits. Paul LeBel had few comments about the budget with the exception of stating that he had voted against  the county's tentative plan to gradually reduce non-profit donations. [LeBel has two local government jobs: He is a Morristown City Councilman and a Hamblen County Commissioner]

After listening to 30 minutes of discussion about topics such as non-profits, giving Tony Cox an extra 2-1/2% raise over and above the 2-1/2% he and all other employees will get, not refurbishing a police car, stormwater debt, the ESG grant, and Lakemoore odors, LeBel decided he had endured enough. 

That's when LeBel stopped the budget deliberations by saying that he was satisfied with the budget and ready to bring it to a council vote. He got an "I agree" from Bob Garrett and Claude Jinks.

Mayor Thomas stated that he thought council should continue through the budget document. LeBel cut off further discussion by calling for a "show of hands" on approving the budget and putting it to a vote at the next council meeting.

The LeBel Five (Paul LeBel, Bob Garrett, Kay Senter, Claude Jinks, and Chris Bivens) raised their hands.

Brooks asked if they can continue through the budget. Garrett says we had all kinds of time to go through it and adds "It's not show-off time for me, Gene, I've read it." 

Brooks says "you're a smart-aleck, Bob."  Tony Cox and Kay Senter smile at the exchange.

City Councilman LeBel, with other things to do, packed up and left.

Claude Jinks confirms that the Five are through by telling Cox to put it on the agenda and we'll vote on it.

Jinks also reminded Cox to change the budget to give him (Cox) an extra 2-1/2% pay raise over and above the 2-1/2% pay raise already in the budget for Cox and all other employees.

After all of the above (the vote by a "show of hands" and two councilmembers leaving the table), Senter then asks the Mayor what he wanted to talk about. 

Brooks comments that it is a shame when you can't sit down and go through a budget, and he asks "news" reporter Bob Moore to get it right in the paper this time.

Bob Garrett, standing by his buddy Bobby Moore, mockingly echoes Gene's words "this time."

Chris Bivens, who has already "voted" to approve the budget, then asks if there is something they need to discuss.

Mayor Thomas packs up his budget book and replies: "You guys have already voted and we'll let it roll at that if that's the way you want to do it, but I think it's very irresponsible not to go through the budget .... That's your job as a city official."

Chris, who has already voted and watched two of his buddies leave the budget table, then says to the Mayor if you have things marked, let's go through it.

The Mayor says, "I'm fine."

Bob Garrett, who can't contain his dislike and total lack of respect for the Mayor, then says of the Mayor: "He's irresponsible for walking out."  [Apparently, if you are a friend of Bob, like LeBel, you can walk out and that's OK. If you are the Mayor and you walk out only after five other councilmembers have "voted," two have already left the table, and the City Administrator is being told to put the budget on the next council meeting for a vote, then you are "irresponsible."]

The Mayor says to Chris: "You've already voted. Thank you, though."

City Administrator Tony Cox said he would put the budget on the June 5 agenda for first reading with his extra 2-1/2% raise ($3000) for the great job that he has supposedly done in building up the city's fund balance/rainy day fund?

Some councilmembers point out that the City was "broke" three years ago and now has $5 Million in fund balance.  Cox is getting all the praise and credit, but what did Cox do to put more money in the city coffers?

Cox's main contribution in "fixing" the City's finances and building up the fund balance was proposing a brand new $10/month garbage fee ($120/year) to take more money from the taxpayers and put it in city coffers. Not exactly a rocket science solution or evidence of brilliant management.

Cox proposed and council passed a new garbage fee in 2010 forcing residents to pay $120/year for garbage pick-up, a service which had formerly been provided through existing revenues/taxes.

The new garbage fee accounts for roughly $1.2 Million in extra revenue for the City every year. So it's really the citizens and taxpayers who have done a great job and have sacrificed to build up the city's fund balance.   Cox just came up with the way to take that money from the citizens.

For their part in building the city's fund balance, the citizens should be getting a "bonus" in the form of a reduction of the garbage fee instead of Cox getting a bonus for coming up with a new garbage fee to extract more money from the citizens.

Then Cox just happened to come in at a time when the City Center debt was just about paid off and those debt payments would no longer have to be made.  When the City Center debt was paid off, that freed up money to build the fund balance. But Cox had nothing to do with that.

Cox also benefitted from the cost-cutting measures put in place by interim City Administrator Lynn Wampler in the months before Cox arrived in February 2010.  Total disaster in FY 2010 was averted by Wampler--not Cox.  [One thing Cox did do was to continue some of Wampler's cost-cutting measures in postponing many equipment purchases and capital improvements again in FY 2011.]

Finally, Cox came in when sales tax revenues were starting to increase as a result of a slowly-improving local economy.

The City is better off today than it was when Wampler or Cox came in. But when you're broke--like the City was--there is no way to go but up. 

When you solve the City's financial mess by taking more money from the residents (whether you call it a fee or a tax), that is not evidence of brilliant management. It's just evidence of making the taxpayers pay for prior mismanagement and for the complete failure of council to do its job of oversight. 

The citizens foot the bill, and the politicians take the credit. The politicians pat themselves and their buddies on the back and pass out "extra" raises to someone whose major contribution to building up city reserves was to propose a new way (garbage fee) to take money from the citizens!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16, 2012 Citizens for Accountability Posts Video of Full Council Meeting of May 15

Click here and you can view yesterday's Morristown City Council meeting from start to finish.  On the Citizens for Accountability site under the title Videos from the May 15 City Council Meeting, click on "read the full story" and you will be taken to the two-part video set.

Or you can go to the CFA site by typing in your browser.

Some questions that the videos will answer:

Did a majority of City Council vote to make the bonuses and longevity pay (that they have been taking for years) part of a new pay ordinance that takes effect in May 2015?

Did a majority of City Council vote to get bids for cameras to televise their meetings for the citizens and taxpayers?

Did a majority of City Council vote to reject the NINETEENTH person submitted by the Mayor from an-MUC provided list of candidates for the "McGuffin" seat on MUC?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012 Morristown City Councilmembers "Officially" Give Themselves Extra Pay in New Pay Ordinance

Today, the City Council will have a second and final reading on a new pay ordinance to replace the old pay ordinance that ties councilmembers pay to that of county commissioners.  Currently, councilmembers get $400/month just like county commissioners plus councilmembers can join the city insurance plan just like commissioners can join the county insurance plan. The Mayor gets an extra $300/month for a total of $700/month, and the County Commission Chair gets an extra $350/month for a total of $750/month.

In addition to their salary, councilmembers have also been giving themselves a Christmas bonus. The Christmas bonus has been a $50 check plus a $25 pay supplement plus longevity pay of $5/year of service.  County Commissioners do not give themselves a Christmas bonus or supplement or longevity pay.

Currently, the largest Christmas bonuses go to the City Council's senior members Kay Senter and Claude Jinks. Senter's "bonus" is around $170 and Jinks's is around $160 or so.

Gene Brooks, who was elected to Council in 2009, has returned all his Christmas bonuses/pay supplements/longevity pay to the City (taxpayers). Gene also obtained a legal opinion on this type of "extra pay" from senior MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) attorney Sid Hemsley.

Hemsley opined that Christmas bonuses and extra pay for the Mayor and councilmembers were not authorized.  Public money, of course, has to be spent for a public purpose.  An elected official's  salary for doing his job is for a public purpose. But just what is the "public purpose" in an elected official voting to give himself a bonus?

Like Brooks, Mayor Danny Thomas, who was elected in 2011, returned his Christmas bonus to the City (taxpayers).

After Brooks got the MTAS opinion, he asked that all the other councilmembers return the Christmas bonuses that they gave themselves. That didn't happen.  Instead of returning the bonuses to the taxpayers or stopping the practice, the other councilmembers decided to keep the bonuses and change the council pay ordinance to include all the extra pay that they have been taking.

When you want to keep that bonus money and you get to make the law, just change the law to suit you!

And changing the law to suit them is this Morristown City Council's specialty---from Councilman LeBel's takeover of the Mayor's Office by soliciting signatures from other councilmembers (Senter, Garrett, and Bivens) outside a public meeting, to the McGuffin Law, and now, changing council's pay ordinance to make sure those Christmas bonuses keep coming in.

Brooks and Mayor Thomas were the only ones to vote against the new "bonus" ordinance on first reading on May 1.  Senter, Jinks, Garrett, LeBel, and Bivens voted to pass the new "bonus" ordinance.

The Five also indicated that they would keep taking the bonuses/extra pay for the rest of their terms while they wait for the new pay ordinance to go into effect in May 2015. 

Yep, the current pay ordinance doesn't provide for any type of bonus/supplemental pay/longevity pay but the five councilmembers have been taking that extra money for years and they are going to keep taking that extra money until the new pay ordinance that does provide for supplemental pay/longevity pay--that won't be called bonuses any more--goes into effect.  It makes perfect sense.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 14, 2012 McGuffin Describes the "McGuffin Law" As MUC Prepares Its NINETEENTH List of Candidates

George McGuffin, 34+ year member of the Morristown Utilities Commission (MUC), is tickled to death that the McGuffin Law passed its last step and received final approval by FIVE councilmembers on May 1.

The McGuffin Law changes the appointment process for MUC Board members from what 3,202 voters approved as part of the 2001 MUC Referendum Question to an appointment process that McGuffin, local State Rep. Don Miller, local State Sen. Steve Southerland, and five councilmembers want in 2012--WITHOUT A REFERENDUM.

MUC has submitted EIGHTEEN lists of three MUC-approved candidates to Mayor Thomas for the past 9-10 months.  Mayor Thomas has submitted one of those MUC-approved candidates to the City Council for approval or rejection. All EIGHTEEN have been rejected. Why?  Their last name is not McGuffin.

EIGHTEEN people have been rejected by City Council to keep anyone else from taking the "McGuffin seat" on MUC. The MUC-appointment process that was approved by the people in the 2001 MUC Referendum has been changed for McGuffin.  State Law has been changed for McGuffin.

In the video above, McGuffin presides over Thursday's (May 10th) special meeting of the MUC Board at which time MUC selected its NINETEENTH list of three candidates to submit to Morristown Mayor Thomas.

Harold Nichols, a current and/or former business partner of McGuffin, nominates Terry Brimer, Peter Cantwell, and for the NINETEENTH time, drum-roll please, George McGuffin.

McGuffin starts the meeting by reading about how the voters made changes to the MUC Private Act  IN A REFERENDUM in 2001. Then MUC Manager Jody Wigington steers him to the section about how the FIVE councilmembers amended and overturned the 2001 voter-approved appointment process on May 1, 2012. 

[The FIVE councilmembers who have been party to rejecting EIGHTEEN people and who have snubbed the PEOPLE and changed state law in order to force the appointment of the ONE and ONLY PERSON they want (McGuffin) are Paul LeBel, Kay Senter, Bob Garrett, Claude Jinks, and Chris Bivens.]

Finally McGuffin adds that Mayor Thomas' nomination of Randy Harville, who was on the EIGHTEENTH MUC LIST, was rejected by Council (5-2) on May 1 under the new McGuffin Law and that MUC will send another list to the Mayor.

McGuffin then explains that the newly-ratified McGuffin Law provides that MUC has to "send the Mayor three names today and if he follows suit (and dares to refuse to appoint Me/McGuffin) he has done for eighteen times, then we'll have one other time that we have to send names to him and then it will go directly to city council."

Gene Jolley, a current and/or former McGuffin business partner, says "Just one more time after this one?"

McGuffin says "That's the way I understand it."

General Manager Jody Wigington then makes an interesting comment about City Council having the right to make the decision after the third rejection of the Mayor's nominee. "I guess they could choose to do it that day or not."

Probably "not" that day.  The McGuffin Law says that MUC has to provide a full list of three candidates to the Council after receiving notice that a nominee from the third list submitted to the Mayor did not receive a majority vote.  

After the five Councilmembers get through rejecting every person in Morristown who isn't George McGuffin (well, twenty of them), MUC will have to announce a meeting at which a full list of three candidates will be named to submit directly to the Council.  That list, like the twenty before it, will include George McGuffin.

Then LeBel, Garrett, Senter, Jinks, and Bivens with the blessing of and thanks from the irreplaceable George McGuffin can officially put McGuffin back on the MUC Board.

After overriding a referendum (without a new referendum), after rejecting TWENTY PEOPLE (17 under the old appointment process and 3 under the McGuffin Law) and after changing state law, a key part of the Morristown power structure will remain in place.

The-powers-that-be will be happy once again.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 13, 2012 Happy Mother's Day

Motherly words we all have heard (or said!)

I want to thank you, Mother,
for your patience...
your encouragement...
your strength...
your generosity...
your unswerving love...
and for those six little words
that helped me through
so many trying times...
"...because I said so, that's why!"

Happy Mother's Day

Friday, May 11, 2012

May 11, 2012 Evelyn Bryan "Mama Bird" Johnson Dies at 102

Evelyn Bryan Johnson has died at the age of 102.

Known as "Mama Bird," she is in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Mama Bird took up flying in 1944, and then began teaching and teaching and teaching others to fly. [She gave another Tennessee legend (former Senator Howard Baker) his private flight test.]

The article in the Sentinel is here.

A very nice article about her accomplishments and induction into the Aviation Hall of Fame is here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

May 9, 2012 Longtime Councilman Jinks: "Change (Overturning the People's Vote in the 2001 MUC Referendum) Is Progress"

Lots of bizarre things are said at City Council and never reported by the local "news"paper.

The video above chronicles one such moment. 

At the end of the May 1 meeting, longtime councilman Claude Jinks gave a closing lecture on the theme of "change."  Claude's lecture was apparently an attempt to justify his vote earlier in the meeting to "change" the MUC appointment process that 3,202 people put in place in the MUC referendum of 2001! 

Yes, Jinks thinks it's good to "change" and overturn what 72% of voters  supported in 2001!  After all, why should Jinks or Senter or LeBel or Garrett or Bivens care what those 3,202 people thought!

Later in the same meeting, however, Claude opposed any "change" to the MUC Board when Claude voted to reject Mayor Thomas' EIGHTEENTH appointment to the MUC Board.  Click here.

Claude was for change before he was against change. 

Did Claude's lecture and the contradiction get reported? No.

Why is this self-proclaimed man of the people against "change" on the MUC Board? Well, as one person pointed out at the meeting, Claude's daughter-in-law Jackie Jinks works at MUC where George McGuffin is a THIRTY-FOUR YEAR member and chairman of the Board.

McGuffin wants to stay on the MUC Board, and it is McGuffin's seat that is up for appointment right now. 

Claude, the man of the people, supports McGuffin. Claude is so devoted to McGuffin that he voted to change the appointment process that was put in place BY THE PEOPLE in a referendum in 2001.   Then Claude voted over and over again for months on end to reject the Mayor's appointment of anyone except McGuffin to the MUC Board. Finally on May 1, Claude voted to change state law for McGuffin.

Claude let the people vote on the MUC appointment process in the MUC referendum in 2001, but Claude refused to let the people vote on the McGuffin Law changes to the MUC appointment process in a $250 MUC referendum in 2012.

It is one thing to support McGuffin or anyone else. It is the height of arrogance, however, for an elected official to vote to overturn a referendum in order to change state law and get what you and your friend (McGuffin) want. 

But that is exactly what councilmembers Jinks, LeBel, Garrett, Senter, Bivens, Rep. Miller, and Sen. Southerland did. They refused to LET THE PEOPLE SPEAK on the McGuffin Law in a $250 referendum.

Jinks, LeBel, Garrett, Senter, and Bivens wouldn't spend $250 to LET THE PEOPLE SPEAK in a referendum, but they voted on May 1 to spend $1,000 to sponsor the 18th hole at a proposed Frisbee Golf course!

The local "news"man didn't report Claude's contradictions or his family link to MUC.

No surprise there. What and how the "news"man reports on meetings and officials all depends on who you are and where you rank on his and his boss' list.

The "news"man absolutely loves to use spin and in some cases outright false statements to criticize Gene Brooks. But his new specialty is using his "news" articles to go after Mayor Danny Thomas who did the unforgivable in 2011 by defeating the "news"man's friend Frank McGuffin, son of George of MUC fame, in the Morristown mayoral race.

Now if Brooks or Thomas had given a lecture on how good and necessary change is while voting against any change on the MUC Board, the "news"man would have been all over it with a three-part series using words such as flip-flopping, inconsistent, contradictory, self-serving, conflict of interest, and on and on.

Claude, however, gets a pass because Claude is on the McGuffin side which the "news"man supports. Not a peep about conflicted Claude.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

May 2, 2012 Randy Harville Rejected by The Five (Councilmembers)

MUC (Morristown Utilities Commision) sent three names (Randy Harville, Peter Cantwell, and George McGuffin) to the Mayor.

Mayor Thomas submitted one name (Randy Harville of Holston Gases) to the full Council..

Five councilmembers (Paul LeBel, Bob Garrett, Kay Senter, Claude Jinks, and Chris Bivens) quickly rejected Harville at yesterday's council meeting. Mayor Thomas and Councilman Gene Brooks supported Harville's nomination.

Randy Harville thus becomes a part of Morristown political lore--joining the seventeen other people who have been nominated to the MUC Board only to be rejected by a majority of city councilmembers.

Harville is in good company--but just not good enough to sit in the MUC seat reserved by LeBel, Garrett, Senter, Jinks, and Bivens for George McGuffin.

One MUC Board member (Lynn Elkins) showed up at yesterday's council meeting. She got to see Harville's rejection.

She also got to see five councilmembers (above) who like Elkins have been carrying water for George McGuffin take the last step in the process of changing state law for McGuffin.

Before rejecting Harville, the same five councilmembers voted to ratify/approve a new state law (the McGuffin Law) that changes the MUC appointment process that was put in place by 3,202 voters in a 2001 referendum.

The McGuffin Law, that was sponsored and ushered through the state legislature by Rep. Don Miller and Sen. Steve Southerland, overturns the current 2001 voter-approved appointment process and will soon let the five officially put 34-year Board member George McGuffin back on the MUC throne for another five years.

After all, no one else in all of Morristown can sit in the "McGuffin" seat.