Saturday, February 03, 2007

Campaign 2008 radio

I realize that it is an incredibly late hour for a post, but in addition to a very busy day today, I also had a great radio podcast this evening. Adam Graham was our special guest. In addition to being a friend of mine for a long time, Adam is quite experienced in grassroots politics in his own right. He is a former candidate for the State legislature in Montana, and currently serves as the Idaho State coordinator for the John Cox for President campaign.

Adam also serves as a GOP Precinct Captain at his home in Boise, Idaho. The topic of today's show is the 2008 Presidential Primary campaign and how it is already in full swing. We have a very frank and honest discussion about who the real contenders for President are in 2008, and the fight between the "establishment" and grassroots conservatives within the Republican Party. We discuss how the establishment has tried to "fix" the Primary system to favor establishment candidates, and how the fight for the soul of both parties will play out in the Primaries.

Oatney On the Air-February 3, 2007

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Knox County appoints criminal to Commission

It is lovely to know that Knox County Commissioners know what is best for their constituents. Indeed, they are so informed about the qualifications of the new Commissioners that they installed without public input that they installed a drug dealer involved in a notorious drug peddling gang.

He sold drugs to poor kids in housing projects at 15 and says that it was a "juvenile mistake," but now he represents the people of Knox County's First Commission District thanks to the enlightened minds of Knox County Government. He wasn't elected, and the people of his district weren't even allowed to voice their support or opposition for him or his opponents, but it is just a "mistake."

See what happens when the public voice is completely squelched in something like this?


Briley, Woodson, and blogger censorship

Today's radio show deals with the rediculous bill that was filed "by accident" by Rep. Rob Briley of Nashville that was aimed directly at bloggers. According to Briley, the whole thing was a mistake, and was really Senator Jamie Woodson's (R-Knoxville) idea. I let Woodson have it. I did leave the door open for Woodson to give her side of the story, however.

Note: My allusions to Woodson and other legislators having "a target on their head" if they support this bill is meant to say that they will be "targeted" come election time.

Oatney On the Air-February 2, 2007

UPDATE: Per Steve Mule's request, here is the anti-free press bill that Briley says he filed by accident and that Jamie Woodson reportedly asked him to sponsor.


The sunshine law

Those of you who read my work regularly know that in talking about the mess in Knox County I have mentioned the possible violation of Tennessee's sunshine law, and that I am sure backroom deals were made, probably in the hallway during recesses. At least one person who reads my blog regularly pointed out to me that I live in White Pine, and it is not the least bit uncommon for relatives or friends of Aldermen or the Mayor to find themselves in available city jobs, and that there was some agreement or deal was made to get them there. The point being, of course, that what happened at the Knox County Commission meeting Wednesday is not the least bit uncommon: When politicians have the chance to put their buddies in positions of benefit, they will do so.

There are a couple of key differences, though, between what happens in a town like White Pine and what happened in Knoxville on Wednesday.

The first is that there are about 2,000 people who live in White Pine, and that means that it is practically impossible for someone to get hired to a public position and not know someone in city government who could or would put in a good word for them. I would venture to say that it is impossible to get hired to any job in this town and not know someone who is a friend or a relative that may work in the same place or for the same company that you do-so the same would be true with hyper-local government.

The second is that while it is not impossible to violate the sunshine law in this town, it is extremely hard to do. You really can't go anywhere in town and discuss anything without being overheard. Of the five Aldermen in White Pine, I know three of them personally, two of them are people I would count as personal friends, and I have coffee with one of them nearly every morning except Sundays. I have been at gatherings that were by no means intended to be "public meetings" where town affairs were discussed-but they didn't violate the sunshine law since members of the general public were present and part of the discussion, and because no decisions were made. To violate the sunshine law in a town like this would take a deliberate conspiracy, a well-planned effort.

In Knox County, violating the sunshine law is very easy. All you have to do is exactly what the Commissioners did-call a recess, take the discussion into the hall, into the bathroom, or wherever in the building you might want to go. I have been inside the Knox City/County building numerous times, there are all sorts of unused rooms, semi-quiet places, and relatively empty hallways there where out-of-earshot discussion can be held. The citizens of Knox County got a glimpse of what the regular proceedings of government in Knoxville and Knox County are actually like. I would hazard to say that the sunshine law is violated in that building on a daily, if not an hourly basis. The worst part is that there is no way to officially prove that reality or punish the offenders.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Backroom deals and snow

Today's podcast is a continued reaction to the mess in Knox County, and a warning to our local weathermen to please stop trying to predict snow.

Oatney On the Air-February 1, 2007


Here's a shocker: Mike Ragsdale is right

Mark today down in history, folks, because something has happened today that you have never seen before on this weblog and may never see again: I find myself in full, complete, and absolute agreement with Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale.

At the swearing-in yesterday, he told the new Commissioners and others that:

"The people's faith in government has been shaken and somewhat stunned."

In this, Ragsdale is exactly right, though as Terry Frank points out, he is a fine one to talk about shaking people's faith in government.

The entire process wreaked of the sort of backroom deals that my Grandfather used to tell me about that happened in West Virginia when he was a young man. In those days, such deals were often brokered to keep local governments from collapse. People had an implicit knowledge that backroom deals were brokered, and in some cases, had an explicit knowledge of that reality. There are two key differences, though, between then and now.

The first is that back in the day, local leaders had enough respect for the people not to shut them up. People could be heard-they usually weren't listened to, but they were allowed to say their peace. Yesterday's Knox County Commission meeting hardly lived up to that standard. People who tried to state their opinion about what was happening to their government were simply told they were out of order-the same went for those brave enough to try and declare support for a particular candidate.

The second is the availability of information. The majority of people didn't care about local government before the age of information, and now that we are deep within that age, the majority still do not care, as unfortunate as that may be. However, those that do care have access to piles upon piles of information about how government works and what their rights are, and they can use the internet as a tool to fight the power. While citizens decades ago may have had little understanding of what was happening in government processes, the people at yesterday's Knox Commission meeting were energized and informed citizens-the truth cannot and should not be hidden from them.

The Commission disgraced Knox County in the eyes of the whole world and made Knoxville look like a backwater fiefdom.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

School of hard Knox

Today's radio show is my reaction to the proceedings of the Knox County Commission today. I'm glad I am not in Knox County anymore, and I think you can tell right away that I don't exactly give the process my unqualified endorsement.

Oatney On the Air-January 31, 2006


Knox Countians-I am sorry

The people of Knox County ought to know that I am sorry. I watched the Commission meeting and I saw how members worked to fix the process so that folks couldn't be heard. As much as I personally enjoy seeing anyone opposed to Mike Ragsdale get traction (and Tim Hutchison got it today), and I draw pleasure from the knowledge that Mike Ragsdale's panties are in a wad, people are right to question the validity of all of this after the way the Commission behaved today.

I want to remind people, though, that you get the Government you deserve. There was a local election in Knox County in August and you voted for these idiots (some of which won't be serving after today), and many more of you didn't vote at all. If you didn't, don't complain about the problem, you have no right to-you failed to perform your civic duty and exercise your franchise to begin with.


Knox County chaos!!!

9:14 a.m.

Scott Moore opened the meeting calling for nominations for Sheriff. All but one commissioner passed on making any nomination. No nominations were made from the floor.

J.J. Jones was the only nomination. He was elected with 18 yes votes and one "pass" (by Commissioner John Schmid).

9:23 a.m.

Jones is being sworn in immediately at the Commission meeting by Judge Dale Workman.

9:26 a.m.

Scott Moore next opened the floor for nominations for County Clerk. George Stooksbury was nominated. Commissioner John Griess nominated County Commissioner Billy Tindell. All other commissioners passed on making a nomination.

Nominations were taken from the public. Jeffrey Lawhorne was nominated.

Billy Tindell won the vote, with 14 votes. George Stooksbury received four votes.

9:33 a.m.

Because Commissioner Tindell was appointed Clerk, his position is now vacant, meaning he cannot participate in the rest of the day's voting on new appointments.

9:40 a.m.

Nominations next began on filling the Register of Deeds position. Commissioner Harmon nominated Scott Emge. Commissioner Ballard nominated Sherry Witt. No nominations were offered by the public.

Sherry Witt was appointed with all but one vote going her way. Harmon voted for Emge.

9:44 a.m.

Next up were nominations for Trustee. There was only one nomination. Craig Leuthold nominated Fred Sisk.

Fred Sisk was appointed.

10:08 a.m.

Richard Cate was appointed to Commission seat 4A.

Several rounds of voting are underway to fill seat 4B, which had more nominations than any other position thus far.

10:13 a.m.

The final round of voting for seat 4B is down to Lee Trammel and Scott Davis. Neither has yet received a majority of 10 votes to close the deal. Voting rounds continue.

The commission meeting is underway and the Commission is voting on whether to move the voting on seat 4B to the end of the agenda. This requires a 2/3rds vote as it is an amendment to the agenda. The vote ties and 4B is still to be voted on.

The vote for Fourth District Commissioner continues in a 9-9 tie with two abstentions. Another round, another tie Davis 9, Trammel 9.

Another round of voting for 4B. Another 9-9 tie. Chairman Moore asks for a two minute recess that I suspect may go quite a bit longer.

Commission reconvenes and a motion is made to amend the agenda to allow three minute statements by each of the candidates. Requires a 2/3rds vote. At 10-8, it fails.

Again, a vote on the question of the 4B seat. Another 9-9 tie.

Another move to amend the agenda to move this to the end of the agenda. This time, it passes with a 15-3 majority. 4B will be voted on after the 9th District is voted on.

First District-Josh Jordan is appointed to replace his mother.

Second District-After three ballots, there are four remaining candidates and a tie for who has the least votes (3) with no candidate reaching a majority. The commission recesses.

Another round of voting after the recess-Diane Jordan disappears and is fetched from the hall during roll call. Chuck Bolus is selected with 11 votes.

District 5-Frank Leuthold is selected overwhelmingly

District 6-Sharon Cawood is selected 15-2 over Howard Phillips.

District 8-Jack Huddleston's name is placed in nomination on this ballot. Jack Huddleston receives 17 votes and is selected.

District 9-I wish Rob had not dropped out this morning, he might have won out. Tim Greene is appointed with 17 votes.

District 4B-Commissioner Lambert raises the point that any members appointed have the right to be sworn in-there is a lengthy discussion, but at the end, no one comes forward to be sworn after Chuck Bolus is sworn in for the 2B seat earlier in the meeting. Lee Trammel is appointed with 12 votes.

The whole process stunk to high heaven, and no matter which side you are on, it shakes your faith in Knox County Government. It makes me glad I am now a Jefferson Countian.

I have to give some real credit to KnoxViews blogger Randy Neal, he has the best blow-by-blow coverage that I have seen in the local blogosphere all day.


Today's the day in Knox County

This morning is the morning that the Knox County Commission will replace eight term-limited Commissioners, as well as the County Clerk, County Trustee, County Sheriff, and Register of Deeds. All of these positions are normally chosen by the voters, but will instead be filled by the Knox County Commission.

This crisis is not a recent development, but began last March when the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld a term limits amendment to the Shelby County Charter as constitutional. As the only other county in Tennessee with a Charter form of government, the ruling also applied to Knox County. Five of the term-limited county commissioners sued to have the Knox County Charter declared invalid. Chancellor John Weaver did so, but the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned Weaver's decision, leaving both the County Charter and term limits in place.

For those who don't know the whole story, you can follow my blog beginning March 29, 2006, You'll get the lowdown on the whole situation as well as my short-lived candidacy, which I suspended in order to move to Jefferson County.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Method to the madness in Knox County

Today's radio show is a blunt take on the term limits situation in Knox County. I deal very frankly with why it is (or why it may be) that the Knox County Commission insists on using a swift appointment process to replace term-limted officials in the wake of the Knox County Charter being ruled valid.

Oatney On the Air-January 30, 2007


Davis and Quillen

An interesting comment exchange has arisen over at Kleinheider's about my comments yesterday regarding Congressman David Davis. Nothing I said, of course, was intended as a personal slight at Davis or even as a political attack. It was intended to remind Davis that at this point in his Congressional tenure, he serves at the pleasure of the Republicans of the First District, he does not owe his election to the White House, as many freshman Republicans do. He owes a certain independence to his District that other members of Congress may not be able to afford.

Sure enough, the discussion led to the inevitable comparison to the late Congressman Jimmy Quillen, one of the longest-serving members of Congress in history:

I suspect David Davis doesn't care one bit about "original fire and brimstone." Because he is in a safe seat, Davis cares about proving his loyalty to party leaders instead of to voters. After several terms of doing leadership's bidding and not rocking the boat, Davis will be rewarded with membership and influence on key committees. He'll then be able to bring back all the pork to which the First District has grown accustom. It is Jimmy Quillen model of congressional representation. The First District wouldn't have it any other way.

Jimmy Quillen didn't give a hoot about party loyalty, if you want to be real about things. He cost
Winfield Dunn the Governorship in 1986 after convincing a lot of people not to give their support to Dunn. His reasoning was because Dunn refused to lend his support to opening a medical school at ETSU. Dunn lost and ETSU got their medical school-the James H. Quillen College of Medicine.

Another commenter wrote:

Assuming Davis gets past 2008. He is not universally loved up there. I don't expect him to have "years." Jimmy, on the other hand, was liked by the progressives up there as well as the conservative. Davis is loathed in by people in both camps.

Quillen was one of the rare sorts that went beyond "go along to get along." Jimmy Quillen did what he thought was right and he didn't particularly care who he made angry doing it. Party Leadership? Who were they? He had more power at home than he did in Wahington-and that was the way he liked it.

Quillen was "before my time" in the sense that I was still just a boy when he retired from the House. However, anyone who knows anything about Southern and Tennessee politics knows Jimmy Quillen's name and who he was. I don't say what I do in defense of Jimmy Quillen as a Congressman, because if I had been in his shoes, I would likely have conducted myself very differently.

However, few can argue that Jimmy Quillen loved East Tennessee and he spent his life proving that to the people of the First District. The one-time newspaper copy-boy who never went to college became a self-made millionaire, and when he died, nearly all of his fortune went to fund scholarships at East Tennessee colleges and universities so that a lot of East Tennessee kids could have the opportunity that he never did. Jimmy Quillen was a very flawed Statesman, but was a Statesman nonetheless.

I think the people of the First District are hungry for a Congressman upon whom they can place that moniker with pride.

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The power struggle

I watched with some anticipation the television special on WBIR last night called Term Limit Turmoil, not expecting to get any further answers about the Knox County Term Limits crisis, but merely saw in confirmation the reality that the fight over how these Commissioners will be appointed is a power struggle between those who support Sheriff Tim Hutchison and those who are the lemmings for Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale.

One of the reasons that I am glad that I no longer live in Knox County is that if I did, I would be compelled both by good reason and political sense to take a side in all of this, and it doesn't matter which side you take, neither is fully right. The Sheriff's party, the side which has apparently won over the Commission, is absolutely right to want to appoint the new Commissioners as soon as humanly possible. I believe they rightly understand that Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale is an astute politician, but is a localized dictatorial demagogue, and would use any drawn out process to his political advantage. Like dictators of old, Ragsdale knows how to work the democratic emotions of a crowd. If it is the Commission's desire to put a check on Mike Ragsdale's power, they must act in the manner in which they are about to do and appoint these replacements very quickly indeed.

The flip side of the coin, of course, is the lack of public input on the choice of Commissioners who will govern them. This is a travesty of the system that the General Assembly could act to correct, and could do so in a way that allows the Commission to check the County Mayor anyway. The ideal solution would be for the Commission to appoint temporary replacements at tomorrow's meeting, and then for the General Assembly to authorize a special election-a move that would allow for the people to ratify or reject the Commission's choices.

I was disappointed that I did not see Rob Huddleston on the video vignettes of Commission candidates last night. Rob wasn't the only candidate who didn't have a video, and my guess would be that he had a scheduling conflict.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Some straight talk for my Congressman

In today's radio podcast, I have some frank and honest words for my Congressman, David Davis of Tennessee's First District (R).

Oatney On the Air-January 29th, 2007


David Davis can reach out to the choir in Jefferson City

Former Johnson City Mayor Vance Cheek Jr. has a post up chiding Congressman David Davis for being a bit too soft on the President where Iraq is concerned. Vance was gentle by design, I think-after all, he was one of Davis' Primary opponents. I will be more blunt, perhaps, than Vance has been. The people of the First District did not send David Davis to Washington to be President Bush's lackey (or anyone else's, for that matter). If Davis feels the need to cozy up to the White House to cover his rear so that the Party will help him in some way, he should know that from a political point of view it is unnecessary.

David Davis presently occupies the safest Republican seat in the nation. The national Republican Party is aware of this, and so are the Democrats. The national party spends little on the seat, and the Democrats historically do not try to compete here, as it is a waste of their time: The First District is blood-red. It was blood-red before David Davis came along , and it will be blood-red long after Davis is gone. Unabashed support for the President will not play well here-people are aggrivated with the President, and these aren't raging liberals, they vote Republican. Davis' remarks sound not as if they are his own thoughts, but came out of a White House press release.

Davis is not dependent on the White House for the maintenance of his seat, but on the overwhelmingly Republican voters of the First District. In our district, the General Election is a formality-the real election is the Republican Primary. Knowing that, it would not be hard to unseat Davis in 2008-all it would take would be a single Primary opponent (not two or three, but one), since 78% of the District voted for someone other than David Davis this last Primary. Davis won only because he had ten other opponents, not because he was an overly popular candidate.

David Davis can be redeemed, however, and it would not be hard to do. Give us some originality, some straightforward original fire and brimstone. Talk to us about runaway federal spending and what you would like to do about it. We'd like an honorable way out of Iraq, give us your original thoughts about how to do that, Congressman. Tell us about David Davis ' conservative vision, not someone else's. Davis has the chance and I will be listening.

David Davis will be the featured speaker at the Jefferson County Lincoln Day Dinner February 17th. Mike Faulk has graciously invited Nicole and I to be his guests at this important event, and as of today, we plan to be there. Mike is also inviting other area bloggers, and if everyone he has invited actually shows, it will be a regular East Tennessee conservative bloggers' convention: Rob Huddleston, Terry Frank, Vance Cheek Jr., Brian Hornback, and myself have all gotten invites. Stacey Campfield may also get an invite if the protocol of asking Frank Niceley and Coach Roach should clear, and it likely will. Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey will be there as well, so it will be the closest thing to a love-in we have in the GOP all year. David Davis gets to convince the blogging community that he is still a bona fide, and Cheek, Faulk, and I are especially important-we are his constituents. David Davis, preach to this choir!

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Huckabee is in

Mike Huckabee made it official on Meet the Press this morning, he will run for the Presidency. I do not share Huckabee's newly-former infatuation with President Bush, but Huckabee does not strike me as a warmonger. I think if Huckabee were elected, he would likely look for an honorable way out of the situation in Iraq.

Huckabee's pro-life credentials are solid-he is a Baptist minister, after all. Unlike our current Chief Executive who talks the pro-life talk, I have no trouble at all believing that Huckabee would walk the pro-life walk. He would not merely be a pro-life president in name, he would take concrete action, and Congress be damned. He would continue to give us strict constructionist judges for the federal bench.

After all of these plaudets, you might think I am about to endorse Mike Huckabee. His words to Tim Russert certainly did him no harm in my eyes, but I am not prepared yet to take that step. The campaign season hasn't even begun yet and I am not certain that all the candidates have declared, and there is at least one candidate (Ron Paul) who is probably the best option, but will he survive Iowa and New Hampshire? He may not make it that far.

The race for the Republican nomination just got very interesting.


Sports Final

Today's radio show is the Sunday Sports Final with guest co-host Matt Daley. Among the topics are last week's NFL Conference Championship Games, and the issue of labor relations in sports.

Oatney On the Air-January 28, 2007


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