Friday, December 01, 2006

Tennesseans: Callous to corruption?

It seems that almost daily we Tennesseans hear stories of corruption in our local and State governments. Bloggers especially have chronicled these allegations in great detail, and of late the work of many bloggers on all sides of the political spectrum to expose "dirty dealings" in the workings of our government.

The story of the Tyler Harber Affair, a sickening expose of the level of corruption in Knox County government that uncovered the reality of a County Executive who was so obsessed with maintaining power that he sent his political hacks to tap into the e-mails of people who he thought were potential political rivals, was first picked up on by Betty Bean over at the Halls Shopper News. It was pressed hard by Terry Frank and myself in the blogosphere after the mainstream press simply ignored it, and it finally made it into the Knoxville News-Sentinel after Gene Patterson (a news man in the same class with Cronkite and Murrow) started to say something about it. Despite what some in the Knoxville City-County building may be saying, the story is not dead.

The evolving story of possible corruption involving federal grants in the City of Knoxville involving former Community Development director Renee Kesler reaches all the way to the office of Mayor Bill Haslam himself, where the Mayor allegedly helped arrange grants for organizations wich both he and Kesler were involved in, or where their friends were serving. The problem was that the grants were often not applied for in the proper way and funds were not dispersed in a way that could be considered above-board.

At the State level, Governor Phil Bredesen carried all 96 counties in Tennessee despite the fact that his Highway Patrol has been deeply embroiled in a scandal where promotions were given to those who contributed to his campaign, and my own State Senator was given the second highest-ranking post in the Senate in return for defying his Party and thwarting their majority in that body.

Do Tennesseans not care about corruption, or have we as a people become so callous to it that we simply ignore it and shrug it off? It permeates the political culture of this State within both parties and at every level of government well beyond the stereotypical "dirty politicians" tag, and for the most part, we collectively shrug it off. I don't think this is because people want bad government, but it may be because we have given up on expecting such a thing as a good government.



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