Thursday, February 22, 2007

The never-ending chaos in Knox County

Chaos would seem to be the new rule for public service if you live in Knox County. Eight Commissioners and constitutional officers were ousted on January 31 when the Knox County Commission appointed their replacements since they were term-limited and had been replaced by vote of the Commission.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel, in its pious concern for
Mayor Mike Ragsdale the community filed suit against the Knox County Commission for violating the "sunshine law," legally known as the Open Meetings Act. If a judge rules that the County Commission did violate the Open Meetings Act, then Knox County Government would revert to its state prior to January 31, 2007, and Commissioners and constitutional officers (including the Sheriff and clerk) would need to be reappointed.

The KNS is right to call the Knox County Commission for its violation of the sunshine law-the violation did happen and that means that likely the results of the Commission appointment fiasco on January 31 will be overturned. I don't think there is any doubt, however, that the newspaper has motives of its own here. For the News-Sentinel, nearly everything that Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale does is gold, and this suit further enhances the buddy-buddy relationship between Ragsdale's office and East Tennessee's supposedly unbiased major metropolitan newspaper.

Mayor Ragsdale's reasons for wanting a special election, or at the very least a "redo" on the Commission appointments, has less to do with his concern for the desire of the people of Knox County to have public input into their government and more to do with his desire to keep people more friendly to the Sheriff's office off of the County Commission. Now the News-Sentinel says that it will drop its suit if the Commission reverts to government pre-January 31. A new fix is in-this time it appears to be a blatant attempt to engineer things so that the other side in the power struggle (the Knox County Mayor's Office) gets their way.

The scandal over term limits in Knox County has already made East Tennessee a political laughing-stock akin to Louisiana in the 1930's. Neither side in this struggle has the interests of the people at heart-the sentiments of the public are merely used as pawns in a political chess game in which both sides will use whatever means necessary to obtain and then maintain power. Those left hurting are the people that these so-called public servants are supposed to serve.



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