Publisher’s Positions

By Steve Hunley

City Elections: A Disappointing Turnout

The races for city council and municipal judge were set by the few voters who chose to participate in the City of Knoxville election.  Incumbent Amelia Parker will be challenged by developer Tim Hill; Judge John Rosson Jr. will be opposed by Tyler Caviness.  The general election promises to be somewhat interesting even though the vote will likely decrease.

Anybody with a brain ought to be appalled by the notion a mayor of Knoxville was elected by exactly 9,429 votes.  Only 16,645 residents of Knoxville chose to participate in the election this year, which is disappointing.  In a city of around 190,000 residents, it is absurd to say a mayor elected by 9,000 speaks for the majority of people, much less has a mandate.

To put it in perspective, during the last presidential election year, Mike McMillan was running for reelection to the Knox County Board of Education and won 7,700 votes in one of nine districts.  Races for the school board come dead last on the ballot.  The folks running the city like the fact so few people show up to vote.

So few people have any sense of what happened last time, much less before that.  Too many people are moving here and think the world began the day they arrived, and nothing ever occurred before that time.

Two years ago, Daniel Herrera and Erik Wiatr poured significant resources from the local Republican Party into a dismal “ticket” handpicked by Wiatr with disastrous results.  Herrera and Wiatr like to boast it raised the number of Republicans voting inside the city, which it did, but it also motivated and energized Democrats, who turned out in even bigger numbers.  That same ticket won around 43% of the vote, which was just two points less than Debbie Helsley won in her campaign for county mayor.

The leadership of Knox County’s Democratic Party has done much the same thing as Herrera by quietly aligning themselves with Tyler Caviness, a candidate for city judge, while two other Democrats, Mary Ward and Andrew Beamer, were running in the same race.

Of course, the city elections are non-partisan, although elements of both parties try and make them partisan.  The Tennessee General Assembly was right to cure several problems with the city’s way of electing members of city council, who should be elected from districts, not citywide.  State Representative Sam McKenzie, whose wife Gwen collects a check for sitting on the city council, praised the old system as being “diverse.”  Elections have nothing to do with diversity; all of a sudden, we hear a lot about “democracy” from Democrats when it is useful to them, but in a democracy, residents of districts are represented by those they elect from that district.  Does anyone imagine for a single moment that Gloria Johnson and Sam McKenzie would serve in the General Assembly were the legislative delegation elected countywide rather than from districts?  Vice Mayor Andrew Roberto’s argument that the council made decisions for the city, not for districts; by that same silly logic every member of both the Tennessee legislature and congressional delegation should be elected statewide and nationally, respectively.  The voices of people living inside districts elect folks so that their voices will be heard, as the needs of one district are not necessarily the same as another.  The concept isn’t rocket science by any means.



Jennifer Owen Files Complaint

Jennifer Owen, member of the Knox County Board of Education and a former teacher, has sent along an email received from Lynne Fugate’s city council campaign to Knox County Law Director David Buuck.  Owen is asking if the email is not a violation of board policy, as the Fugate email appears to have been sent through the school system.  That would be a violation of the policy adopted by the board, which prohibits politics in the school system.  Fugate touts herself as experienced and served eight years on the school board where she was a strong backer of then-superintendent Jim McIntyre.  McIntyre was roundly despised by teachers throughout much of his tenure and his imperious personality endeared him to few except for a majority of the board members like Fugate.

As she did on the board of education for McIntyre, Fugate is almost always a rubber stamp for Indya Kincannon.  Fugate told one political club it’s pretty much a sad fact of life the mayor of Knoxville must raise taxes every four years (it’s the city council that has to vote to raise them); she followed McIntyre and voted on the board of education to outsource the lowest paid employees, the school custodians.  McIntyre was paid handsomely by the same board he asked to outsource the custodians, earning more than the vice president of the United States and the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Either Fugate didn’t know what the board of education policy is or didn’t care.  Neither is a particularly good look for the Sequoyah Hills denizen.

Don Sundquist Passes Away

Former Governor Don Sundquist passed away in Memphis after a brief illness and surgery at age 87.  Sundquist was part of the Republican ticket that swept Tennessee in 1994 along with the late Fred Thompson and Bill Frist.  While he was a popular governor in the beginning, Sundquist proposed a state income tax in his second term, which was a spectacular failure.  That caused the former governor to be shunned by many inside his own party.  For a while there, Don Sundquist did not attend Republican events, but eventually, he showed up without a fanfare here and there.

Don Sundquist never lost an election, first winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 by beating Bob Clement, son of former Governor Frank Clement, in an upset.  The root of Sundquist’s success was that he was likable, hardworking and effective, as well as a good man.

Sundquist and his wife, Martha, made their home in Townsend, Tennessee, after his retirement, but recently moved back to West Tennessee.  At the time, the former governor said the cold and all too often icy winters made it difficult for he and his wife.  But Don Sundquist loved Townsend and his remains will be interred there after lying in state at Tennessee’s Capitol.

The Focus family wishes to extend our deepest sympathies to former First Lady Martha Sundquist and the late governor’s children.