Knox county juntasBy now the entire State of Tennessee (and likely a good part of the outside world) is aware of yesterday's Knox County Commission meeting in which an ethics debate raged on and on, with Knox County Mayor Mike "I'm Squeaky Clean and You're Not" Ragsdale declared Commissioner Paul Pinkston "the poster child for nepotism." Pinkston succeeded his own brother and his wife and son work for Knox County.
Nepotism is a real problem in government not only in Knox County, but in many county governments in Tennessee and across the South (and the Union at-large). The problem with Ragsdale raising the issue in the self-righteous way in which he did toward Pinkston is the fact that he is trying to pretend that he is not ethically challenged and is using the very real problems of the Knox County Commission to deflect attention away from the improprieties in his own office-everything from spending taxpayer money on lobster lunches at Regas, to the ever-present allegation that Ragsdale's agents hacked into the personal e-mails of some of his intra-Republican political opponents with his implicit blessing. Ragsdale is not only far from clean, his hands are filthy dirty.
It was doubtless with that reality in mind that Commissioner Greg "Lumpy" Lambert said:
“We’ve got to have a real committee with no politicos,” Lambert said. “We need a clean, independent body. This Ethics Committee is not snow-white folks. There are some politicos.”
I understand what Lumpy meant, but the "average" person may not. Lumpy was trying to let it be known in a way that was entirely too diplomatic that the Ethics Committee has too many Ragsdale flacks, and that body is most likely to take whatever action Ragsdale wants. While I believe that this supposition is likely true, the Knox County Commission is itself lacking in legitimacy, with many of its members appointed in a process that lacked public input or scrutiny. It would have taken very little on the part of the Commission to allow for the public to speak on January 31 when the appointments took place-just a few hours of the Commissioners' time. Their unwillingness to give it meant that however well-meaning they might have been as individuals, every one of them collectively has perverbial blood on their hands.
Because of the catastrophe of January 31, we can rightly say that Knox County does not have any entity that can rightly be called a legitimate government. Its County Executive governs only to advance his agenda, his seeming opposition to nepotism and cronyism existing only in an attempt to exorcise governing bodies of his personal and political opponents. County Commissioners take actions to bring the executive branch to scorn in a never-ending back-and forth. Political parties in Knox County are not Republicans and Democrats, but pro-Ragsdale, pro-Sheriff, or anti-both. Knox Countians are not governed, but dictated to by opposing juntas vying for power. The only thing which likely keeps the whole business from degenerating into shooting in the streets is the overarching threat of State or federal intervention, which is likely what keeps the various factions from engaging in Brooks-Sumner-like behavior.
When the Wikipedia entry for Knox County details not its beauty and history, but the corruption of its government, this is a signal that the whole place is becoming famous for corruption. Knox County, Tennessee is diseased beyond immediate cure.