By Steve Hunley

Taxpayers owe a debt of thanks to Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs for sending a letter to Susan Horn, Chair of the Board of Education and taking a bold stand against waste and for student safety.  The topic of the mayor’s letter was to “tell the district what every parent already knows: armed law enforcement officers are a necessity in schools.”  Jacobs pointed out he had allocated $3.1 million in the county budget for “additional positions focused on social and emotional needs” of students.  Jacobs told Ms. Horn and the board members “I simply cannot ignore that physical safety is absolutely critical in keeping our students safe at school.”  The mayor said he was “deeply disturbed that any governmental body would even consider removing law enforcement from any of our schools.”  Mayor Jacobs said he supported every citizen participating in the process but also stated he was opposed to “paying an outside consulting firm” to lead the discussion.  Jacobs reminded Ms. Horn and the board members they were elected from each of the nine districts comprising Knox County.  Mayor Jacobs stated what is obvious to rational people: “the most reasonable course of action is for constituents to share their concerns and ideas with school board members so that the board can engage in thoughtful discussion and make well-informed policy decisions” and “not pass the responsibility to a third party at taxpayer expense.”  Mayor Jacobs is exactly right.

That same opinion was voiced the most vociferously by the “honey badger” of the board of education, East Knox County’s Mike McMillan.  The board member pushing the hardest for a facilitator was Daniel Watson, who represents the Third District, but apparently thinks he is the at-large member of the board. McMillan argued the board is elected by their respective districts and have charged them with setting school policy.  McMillan pointed out the board has sat for literally hours and half the night at a time listening to people voicing their opinions.  It is ridiculous and disingenuous to believe public meetings are the only way to encourage a dialogue between elected officials and their constituents.  People are free to contact their public officials at any time via telephone, text, email or letter.  And those interested enough, do so.  Last week McMillan also spoke the unspeakable, saying the problem of violence surrounding schools seemed to be occurring in one area of the county.  McMillan noted there are 95 counties that make up Tennessee and if there was a problem occurring only in Nashville, it made little sense to change state law for the other 94 counties.  Mike McMillan suggested allowing Evetty Satterfield, who represents the Austin–East area on the board of education, to lead the way in having conversations with the folks in her community, as well as school officials and proposing a plan that will work for Austin–East High School.  “One size does not fit all,” McMillan said in an interview, “and we need to be cognizant of what the Austin–East community needs in a way that works for them and protects the students, faculty and staff best.”  McMillan said the idea of hiring an outside party to serve as a facilitator was little short of foolish and agreed with Mayor Jacobs it was a literal waste of taxpayer dollars.  “I don’t need someone to facilitate a conversation between me and the people who elected me,” McMillan said.

The situation was made worse when City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon abruptly sent out a letter stating she was withdrawing the 14 KPD officers that have been posted in schools.  Evidently, Kincannon did so without consulting any member of the city council.  Indya’s apologists in the local news media have tried to revise history, saying the Great Incompetent merely wanted to start a conversation about policing inside the city.  That’s just not true.  Anybody who can read can look at the letter Indya sent and determine otherwise.  Indya and her council just passed a budget – – – and keep in mind the City of Knoxville, unlike Knox County – – – spends more than they take in, so what did the Great Incompetent and her minions do?  They spent $50 million more that they don’t have.  At least not yet, but you can bet Indya and her council will be back next year to pick your pockets to pay for the extra spending by increasing city taxes.  And just what were they spending money on?  Why, social justice and social welfare programs, don’t you know!  Knoxville is investing in solar power!  Wowee!  Indya and her council aren’t doing a thing to encourage more recruits for the KPD or making them a priority.  Only Gwen McKenzie has the strength to say she is an advocate for the police and believes in safe communities protected by the police.

Thank you, Mayor Jacobs, for stepping up and leading on this important issue.