By Steve Hunley


More Merit Council Politics

The Merry-Go-Round that has become the former Sheriff’s Merit (Political) Council has finally held its hearing on the Martha Dooley case. Two former sheriffs were cross-examined; Tim Hutchison and Jimmy “JJ” Jones. Hutchison admitted he had given Dooley a car and gas card as part of her compensation package. Hutchison explained he could not offer Dooley the same salary she had received at WATE-TV; what did come out at the hearing was Dooley’s salary at the time was nothing, as she had been let go from the tv station. Dooley, who is still earning $106,000 annually as a counter clerk, wants her county car back, along with its maintenance done at the taxpayers’ expense and her gas card. Sheriff Tom Spangler took the perk away from Dooley because of the job that she has now doesn’t require her to be on-call.

According to WBIR-TV, Dooley was “reprimanded twice in the span of months for backing into other vehicles while driving her department-issued car. . .” That was apparently under the administration of “JJ” Jones. As the car is county property, no sheriff has the right to give it to an employee in perpetuity.

Despite a pointed legal brief from Knox County Law Director David Buuck stating the merit council had no standing to hear the Dooley case, two merit council members who are close political cronies of former Sheriff “JJ” Jones, Gina Oster and Jim Jennings, insisted upon hearing it in spite of the law director’s opinion. Jones is ignoring the will of county voters on term limits and is running against incumbent Sheriff Tom Spangler in the upcoming May 3 primary election.

Spangler has been seriously hampered in his attempts to clean out the sheriff’s office at virtually every step by the merit council as well as to recruit the proper number of officers to keep response times quick and effective across the county. The Knox County Commission had to give Spangler the right to recruit his own officers at a time when law enforcement recruitment has been at a low ebb. Prior to that, the merit council had been hampering Spangler’s recruitment efforts resulting in a shortage of much-needed new employees.


Surprise, Surprise!

Just a few short months ago several incumbents on the Knoxville City Council bragged about how superbly the city government was managed. That insistence was in spite of how the city government’s budget revealed it was spending more than it was taking in, which doesn’t seem like good business practice at all. And the council continued to spend money all the while on new programs.

The last property tax increase inside the City of Knoxville was a few short years ago and largely occurred to continue paying the defined benefits packages of retired employees. The city government also has cost of living raises, which Knox County employees do not enjoy.

Raising taxes during an election year is usually considered a mortal sin in politics, but having largely spent its “rainy day” fund, the city government has little choice but to cut back programs and spending, which likely will never happen. The alternative is, of course, to dip into the taxpayers’ pockets yet again.

There are elections in Knoxville next year when the Great Incompetent, Mayor Indya Kincannon, will once again face the voters. Raising taxes at a time when inflation is rampant and costing families an average of almost $300 more monthly seems politically charged. Folks are paying more than 40% more for gas and energy products since the advent of the Biden administration, which made America and Americans energy-dependent once again. Inflation is only going to get worse and may be even higher by next year. Indya boasts doing the “right thing” will get her reelected. The “right thing” isn’t taking more money out of the pockets of working people to pay for a city government that has been overspending for too long. The “right thing” to do isn’t calling for working people to pay more to live – – – and let’s face it, rents in Knoxville will go up, too, as property owners aren’t likely to eat the cost of the tax increases. That’s in addition to the addiction of Indya Kincannon, the Knoxville City Council and the Left to taxpayer-subsidized housing projects, which cost tens of millions of dollars and continue to be expensive. Not to mention those same subsidized projects are paid for by the very same working folks.

Compare the number of services taxpayers derive from the county government versus that of the City of Knoxville. Basically, the city taxpayers get garbage collection (which is contracted to a private business), as well as fire and police protection. Well, of a sort. It was Kincannon who initially withdrew police officers from schools.

The City of Knoxville doesn’t operate any schools, by the way. Knox County government is responsible for virtually everything one can think of from schools and libraries to the health department. Nor is the city government as well run as the county government from the standpoint of tax increases. The property tax has been raised four or five times, if not more, since the last similar tax increase in Knox County. That’s in addition to the City of Knoxville having annexed virtually every big sales-tax revenue producing areas outside the city limits. That took even more money away from schools.


Way To Go, Frank

State Senator Frank Niceley’s bill to establish a residency requirement for candidates running for the United States Senate and the U. S. House of Representatives has passed the Tennessee State Senate. What controversy there is surrounding the bill centers around the herd of candidates vying for the new Fifth District Congressional seat. The state legislature dismembered the district long occupied by Democrat Jim Cooper and created a district designed to elect a Republican. The bill was quite nearly unanimously approved by the State Senate, drawing overwhelmingly bipartisan support. Only one member of the Tennessee State Senate did not vote for the bill.

Niceley’s bill holds congressional candidates, as well as those running for the United States Senate to the same residency requirements, state lawmakers must meet. Those requirements require one to have been a resident of the State of Tennessee for three years “immediately preceding the election.” A few of the candidates seeking the 5th District House seat either don’t meet or just barely scrape by the residency requirement. Morgan Ortagus, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, only moved to Nashville last year. Nor does Ortagus live in the district she aspires to represent in Congress, although present law doesn’t require one to live in the district.

Robby Starbuck, a former music video producer and fellow carpetbagger, moved to Tennessee in 2019 and may just scrape by the requirement. Although Starbuck, whose legal name is Newsome, says his family closed on a home in June 2019, public records indicate a Franklin home was purchased in August 2019.

Knox County has seen its share of folks roll in and ready to run the government. Christine Cruz was selected to chair the Knox County Republican Party’s Credentials Committee despite never having voted in a Knox County GOP primary. If the Republican State Executive Committee would enforce its own bona fides, the legislation, which is sponsored by Representative Dave Wright in the House, wouldn’t be needed.


Sad State of the Union

Joe Biden gave his first State of the Union speech last week and it is about what one would expect. Biden referred to the Ukrainian people as the “Iranian people” causing Kamala Harris to apparently mouth “Ukrainian” behind him.” As West Virginia U. S. Senator Joe Manchin sat with Republican colleagues, Joe Biden merely doubled down on progressive policies. Never once during his speech, with a war raging in Ukraine, did Biden mention defense. Biden’s progressive energy policies are actually helping to fund Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine as the United States is spending $1 billion per day in purchasing oil and gas from Russia.

The Left in this country long ago divorced reason and have since lived happily with delusion. Biden repeatedly referred to his hugely expensive “Build Back Better” program, which is dead in the U. S. Senate. “My plan will not only lower costs to give families a fair shot; it will lower the deficit,” Biden insisted. There isn’t a sane person in the country who believes that statement. The Congressional Budget Office has already determined Biden’s scheme would increase the deficit by $3 trillion from 2022 to 2031 while the Infrastructure Plan will add another $256 billion to the deficit.

Biden never seriously addressed the kitchen table issues facing most Americans presently. Biden can babble about his firm stance against Russia while the United States continues to buy 595,000 barrels a day from the Russians. Using our country’s oil reserves is like raiding one’s savings account because one decided to quit one’s job to save money. Never forget, before Joe Biden came into office, America was not energy-dependent upon any country; we were actually exporting energy. Joe Biden stopped that on the very first day in office. Joe Manchin, perhaps the last Democrat in the United States Senate who is not insane, said he wanted to ban Russian oil and see our country energy-independent once again. As he probably suspected, Joe Biden said not a word about that.

Nor was there any mention of the thirteen heroes who gave their lives to help evacuate folks during the Afghanistan fiasco engineered by Biden. One of those was from my own community of Gibbs, Ryan Knauss. Biden barely mentioned “flag-draped coffins” of American soldiers and Congresswoman Lauren Boebert shouted, “13 of them.” Not surprisingly, Biden avoided the topic of Afghanistan altogether.

Biden had the audacity to say, “We need to secure the border and fix the immigration system.” That produced some chants of “Build the wall!” It is Joe Biden who bears the responsibility for the flood of illegals pouring across our border, which he opened during a pandemic. At the end of his speech, Biden reached the climax of his speech while mindless Democrats jumped to their feet, hollering and hooting, and ended it with “Go get him!” Nobody knew just what that meant then or now.

Joe Biden’s claim our country is stronger now than we were a year ago is, at best, wishful thinking; at worst, it is a diabolical lie. The legacy of Joe Biden’s first year in office is out of control inflation and rising costs for working families, open borders and a rising tide of crime against law-abiding citizens.