This year, no one deserves more to wake up on Christmas Day to a stocking filled with coal than Knox County’s elected officials, according to Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson.
After the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in January that the term-limited Knox County Commission could not serve once their terms expired, commissioners voted to fill 12 soon-vacant commission seats with friends and family members. Among the new appointees were the son, wife, father, campaign treasurer and chief deputy of the council members.
The biggest lump of coal goes to Big Mikey himself:
Following the vote, it was revealed that Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale had threatened to withhold funding to districts of commissioners who did not vote for the mayor’s preferred candidates. The mayor and commissioners were later found in violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Act for the closed door vote-trading that occurred during the selection of the new commissioners.
In July, it was discovered that members of Mayor Ragsdale’s staff and county commissioners made questionable and unapproved purchases at taxpayer expense on county credit cards. This led to the resignation of the Knox County finance director, the mayor’s executive assistant and an administrative assistant. Among the dodgy expenses were a cruise and a $227 lobster lunch for three.
Santa may not be visiting the houses of prominent Knox County officials at any point in the forseeable future.
“The nepotism, waste and abuse of power by many of Knox County’s elected leaders earned them not only the Tennessee Center for Policy Research’s third annual ‘Lump of Coal’ award, but also likely earned Mayor Ragsdale and the County Commissioners a permanent place on Santa’s ‘naughty’ list,” said Johnson.
If there is one thing that I despise more than anything else in public life, it is attempts by people in government to make government less transparent. Nowhere does this phenomenon take place more than in local and city governments. Although reasonable people may disagree about what needs to be public knowledge and what does not, if a public official moseys off with the records from their entire time in city or county government instead of leaving all of those records behind for the benefit of public examination, it ought to send off bright red flashing lights about that person's real performance while in local government-let alone their suitability for higher office.
Apparently, taking the official records of his tenure as Mayor of New York isexactly what Rudy Giuliani didupon leaving Gracie Mansion. Keeping to form, Rudy hasn't been truthful with voters outside New York about his record on open government as mayor:
In a Republican presidential candidates' debate last week, Giuliani asserted: "My government in New York City was so transparent that they knew every single thing I did almost every time I did it. ... I can't think of a public figure that's had a more transparent life than I've had."
But the public record, as reviewed by The Associated Press, shows a City Hall that had a reputation of resistance — even hostility — toward open government, the First Amendment and the public's access to simple facts and figures.
The litany of questions Giuliani has faced in recent weeks about undisclosed business clients and furtive billing practices for police security during trysts with then-girlfriend Judith Nathan are reminiscent of the dozens of lawsuits filed by news organizations to obtain public records, of the numerous state Freedom of Information Law requests that nonprofits like the Coalition for the Homeless were forced to file, of access to City Hall steps denied to protesters.
At times, the number of working water fountains in city parks was hard to ascertain without making a formal request. Under Giuliani, it became more difficult to determine the number of complaints filed against the city's home care program, the number of firearms discharged by police and the number of inspectors in the housing and buildings departments. Even details about the city's recycling program were hard to come by.
DoesRudy Giulianireally believe thatRepublicanvoters in the heartland of America-the epicenter of conservative Republicanism-are going to tolerate attempts to pull the wool over their eyes in this way? From the beginning of this all-too-early Primary season, I've been consistent in saying that Giuliani's brand of so-called "Republicanism" may pass muster just fine in New York, but that once the folks out in the country really got a taste of what this man was about his campaign would begin to implode. Not only are his numbers falling, but the plummet comes as people are getting a taste of just how dictatorial a leader Giuliani can be.
In the name of heightened security, Giuliani all but cut off public access to the steps of City Hall, long a civic soapbox. New security cameras scanned anyone entering or leaving the building and kept watch on the grounds. Rules were eased somewhat after a judge found that the city had unfairly restricted access.
We have enough problems in this State with getting our public officials in both major political parties to keep the affairs of government transparent, open, and free. It is a daily battle for citizens who really are concerned about ethics in government to ascertain what is actually happening when the citizenry are not looking. In spite of those difficulties, I have never once heard of public officials in Tennessee closing off public access to a building where the business of a city or county government takes place.
If this is how Rudy runs local government, God help us if he takes the presidential oath.
Today I had the honor of an interview with the man who I believe will be the next Senator from the 4th Tennessee Senate District, Church Hill attorney Mike Faulk. We discuss his reasons for running, his philosophy of life and politics, and his priorities for office.
(Note: I had some audio difficulties at the beginning of the show, but you can still hear Mike-just click and turn up the volume)
George Korda wrote a piece recently in the Knoxville News-Sentinel based on the reaction of callers to Knox County Commission Chairman Scott Moore's recent appearance on his show. Moore had agreed to appear on the program and Korda fully expected callers to grill Moore, one of the principle actors in the Sunshine Law violations of January 31. Korda pointed out that few of the callers had anything bad to say about Moore, and most seemed concerned with relatively routine matters of county business.
Liberal blogger Randy Neal of KnoxViews wondered if Knox Countians just have scandal fatigue. There may be something to that hypothesis, but I suspect that what is at work is something far simpler: People just don't care about local government. This is not some peculiar East Tennessee phenomenon, because studies of raw numbers from all over the country show that voter turnout in local elections is abysmal. For all of the discussion about how bad the situation is in Knox County, how many Knox Countians actually know who their Commissioners are? How many Americans know or care about who their local officials are (since I know you will ask, my three Jefferson County Commissioners are Randy Baxley, Tommy Musick, and Nina Snodgrass)? It took a scandal in the County Commission to get the people to pay the slightest bit of attention to their county government in Knox County-one that was caused as much by legal confusion as it was by official misconduct. If there were no controversy, people would pay no relative attention at all to local government-the government that most impacts their daily life in the here and now.
I wish that it were not the case that people didn't care about county government, but I fear that regardless of what happens in next year's elections, people will forget the lessons learned soon enough. When 2010 rolls around, many of the people who did vote in this year's special election in Knox County will not be voting-they assume that since no President of the United States is elected, they do not need to vote. It is a sad but true commentary on the apathy of the American voter.
As I have pointed out before, neither Republican nor Democratic Primary strategists should use national polls as their guidepost for determining strategy this early in the game. The early Primary and Caucus States are notorious for bucking the national polls and picking the candidate that is most popular with their people. One of the biggest ways that any candidate can help bring about a positive turnout for their campaign is to go and meet the people where they are.
In weeks' past, I have been critical of theFred Thompsoncampaign (which everyone knows that I support) for not keeping Fred visible in Iowa at a time when he really needs a boost. A good finish in Iowa-third or preferably higher-can keep Fred in the race. As late as this past Sundayon the air with Fabian StoryI discussed just how disappointed I have been so far with the Thompson campaign. I haven't been the only one to say that Fred's "handlers" have needed to turn the real Fred loose so that people in Iowa and New Hampshire can get a glimpse of the fired-up version of Fred. In the last few days, we've seen the "real Fred" come out, and it may yield results that few were expecting.
In the wake of a stellar performance at last week's Republican debate in Des Moines, Thompson is rolling across Iowaon the "Clear Conservative Choice-Hands Down" bus tour. He is meeting with folks in out-of-the-way places in little country precincts and small towns all over the Hawkeye State. In earlier appearances on television talk shows, Thompson appeared tired and unenthused-now he looks upbeat, happy, excited, and full of energy. This isn't a new Fred Thompson, but these are shades of the Fred Thompson we know and love-and I would rather see him arrive late than not come to the ball.
I want to take a moment to welcome a new blog to the roll here at The World. Television producer, writer, editor, former regular at the MetroPulse(I'll let that slide since they employ Frank Cagle), former Democratic operative and future Democratic candidate, the pride of Bell Buckle, Tennessee, and the former sage of the Palace of Westminster Katie Allison Granju has embarked on an important and worthwhile blogging project-Knoxville Talks.
It has always pestered the fire out of me that East Tennessee is the cradle of blogging in this State but the Nashville blogosphere (which, with a few noteworthy exceptions, is mediocre by comparison) got all of the attention because of the now all-but-dead Nashville is Talking. Because of Knoxville Talks, East Tennessee may soon be recognized as the heart of blogdom in this State that we know we are.
Welcome to the famous (or infamous) sidebar Katie!
Just when people here in East Tennessee thought the flawed appointment process of January 31 for Knox County's vacant term-limited offices had been remedied by the ruling of Chancellor Daryl Fansler and the decision of theKnox County Commissionto wait until after the County Primary on February 5th to appoint new officeholders (to allow for maximum transparency), some of the loudest whiners over the flaws in the original process now want the Knox County Commission toappoint new officeholders immediately.
The 12 elected offices have been vacant since Oct. 5, when Fansler ruled the officeholders occupying those seats had been appointed in January in violation of the state's Open Meetings Act. The January appointments had been required after the state Supreme Court upheld the county charter and its previously unenforced term-limits provision. The Supreme Court ruling forced out anyone who had served more than two consecutive terms.
Fansler removed the appointees immediately and ordered the seats to be filled again, this time through a process open to the public. Commissioners have voted to wait until after the Feb. 5 primary before making appointments, in order to give voters some say in the process.
Joining Cain in the motion demanding more immediate appointments are Don Daugherty, a resident of the 5th District and chairman of the county Democratic Party, and Judith Mallory, a resident of the 2nd District.
The local Democratic Party in Knox County was among the loudest of public complainers over the process of January 31, saying (with much of the rest of the citizenry) that the process reeked of backroom dealing and corruption at the highest level. WhatKnox County Democratic PartyChair Don Daugherty and his compatriots seem to be saying now is that they want whatever they believe will give them a political advantage.
Daugherty and the Democrats were against appointments without public input before they were in favor of them. Perhaps they were in favor of secret agreements before they were against them and now support them once again. Whatever mental disorder the Knox Democrats seem to be suffering from, they need to make up their minds about just how open they want their government to be. At this point in the game, no method that is used to appoint replacements is going to be a perfect method. Waiting until February 5th seems to be the most logical way to insure that the voice of the people is taken into account-unless these "citizens" just want another secret deliberative process.
Best Tennessee political consultant: Chip Saltsman, guru supreme of the Mike Huckabee Presidential campaign and former political advisor to Senator Bill Frist.
Best Campaign of 2007: Ron Ramsey's election by the Tennessee Senate as the first Republican Lieutenant Governor since Reconstruction. Some may ask how we can call this a campaign when the vote was held among 33 Senators-easy, Ramsey criss-crossed the State and put pressure on former turncoats, and ultimately secured a single Democratic vote (Rosalind Kurita) to insure that his elected majority would count.
Ron Ramsey is elected by the Senate as Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate.
Best Political Saga of 2007: Fred Thompson for President. Whatever happens to the Thompson campaign at this point (and Fred is campaigning on the ground in Iowa this week), the Thompson effort was a home-grown Tennessee grassroots effort all the way. Begun with a few phone calls and nurtured in the Tennessee blogosphere, the idea of Thompson running came out of nowhere in March. It has consumed Tennessee conservatives since that time.
Best Political Ad of 2007: Clement Commitment. Bob Clement lost the race for Mayor of Nashville, but really put Karl Dean on the defensive with this doozy of an ad.
Whether you agree with my picks or not, cast your vote for the Best in Tennessee Politics 2007.
For a very long time now, local radio talk show host Terry Frank and myself haveboth been reportingabout the allegations of Tyler Harber. Harber is a former political operative forKnox County Mayor Mike Ragsdalewho was placed on the Knox County payroll so that he would be available to work as one of Ragsdale's political henchmen-his real job was to find whatever dirt he could on Ragsdale's "enemies" so that Ragsdale could use that information against those who were opposed to him-most of these are fellow Republicans.
Harber first stated his case in aseries of reports in the Halls Shopperto controversial reporter Betty Bean. Ragsdale's reaction to the reports was to simply call Tyler Harber "a troubled young man" and to dismiss the reports as rubbish. The Knoxville News-Sentinelcompletely ignored the Harber story, and it became the province of the local blogosphere alone. I strongly suspected that may be the case when I became aware of the story's existence several days before it broke in Halls-and my source was not Ms. Bean. The only person connected with the mainstream press who dared to write anything about the Harber Affair wasWATE-TVnews anchorGene Patterson, whowrote of it onhis blog. Even then, the story didn't appear on television for quite some time after the blogs and the Shopper put it in print.
When the story festered for several days and then weeks in the blogosphere and the mainstream press began to examine Harber's allegation that he had hacked into internal Republican private e-mails to spy on potential Ragsdale foes, the Knox County Mayor's Office said that Harber did this on his own and that Ragsdale and his minions had nothing to do with it. When Harber persisted in saying that Ragsdale and his deputy Mike Arms put Harber up to hacking e-mails and ultimately obtaining the medical records of Tennessee Conservative Union President Lloyd Dougherty and Vice President Kelvin Moxley, Ragsdale and his supporters proceeded to say that Harber never tells the truth.
The issue is not whether Harber is ethically challenged-there is little doubt that he has a history of being less-than-trustworthy. The issue at-hand is that if any of Harber's allegations are true, it would raise the question of whether Mike Ragsdale should stay in office at all, not merely whether he is qualified for higher office. Many of Ragsdale'ssupporters are well-meaning, but they are ignoring the fact that Ragsdale's administration has shown itself to lack moral rectitude and good judgement. If Mayor Ragsdale is as innocent as he claims, he should welcome every opportunity to investigate these allegations. A clean Ragsdale would come off smelling like a rose. Instead, Ragsdale and his supporters have spent considerable time trying to dodge questions over Harber and concern themselves with Tyler Harber's ethics rather than their own. This is a pattern for Ragsdale: When he comes under scrutiny, he doesn't deal with the charges against him, he plays agame of dodge and deflect.
Former Hamblen County, Tennessee Commissioner Linda Noe (R), Tennesseans for Immigration Reform and Education media spokesman Wayne Dollar, and yours truly join Republican political operative Fabian Story for a roundtable discussion of Presidential politics, local politics, and the state of Congress.
Pelosi opposes torture when it looks good politically
Most readers who are familiar with my work and the stances that I have taken know that I have consistently opposed the unconstitutional provisions of the PATRIOT Act and the means of torture that are presently being used against America's enemies. I haven't opposed these things because I want to give any aid and comfort to our enemies at home and abroad, but rather because I believe that giving that kind of power to your political friends can eventually lead to your enemies acquiring those powers and using them against their opposition-you (conservatives read: that means Hillary, Obama, or any liberal can use the police power of the federal government against us for the crime of actively opposing them). There is nothing to prevent any government from using extraordinary powers to quash their opposition if the precedent for the use of those powers, however well-intentioned it might have been, is already on the books.
I have also warned that the opposition of the Democratic Leadership to these practices is disingenuous at best. They would use these same powers if they had control of the White House, and their present attitude is one of mere political posturing. To hear House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talk about these matters, we might be compelled to think that she is an ardent defender of the Constitution and of the sovereign rights of the people. The reality seems to be something different, because in 2002,Pelosi was in favor of waterboarding and other forms of government-sanctioned torture:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included future-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.
Pelosi declined to comment directly on her reaction to the classified briefings. But a congressional source familiar with Pelosi's position on the matter said the California lawmaker did recall discussions about enhanced interrogation. The source said Pelosi recalls that techniques described by the CIA were still in the planning stage -- they had been designed and cleared with agency lawyers but not yet put in practice -- and acknowledged that Pelosi did not raise objections at the time.
When Pelosi has the Speaker's Chair, she objects to anything and everything the administration does regardless of whether it is good or not. Now that it is to her political advantage to oppose torture, she opposes torture-it makes her and the Democrats look good politically.
Doesn't it give you such confidence to know that we have such a cowardly so-called "leader" second in line for the Presidency?
And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he passed from thence, to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him: Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another? And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me. And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind? But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings. But what went you out to see? a prophet? yea I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee. Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a man greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Both history and Scripture tell us that John the Baptist-the man Christ in his own day said was the greatest man ever born of woman-was not a popular figure with the political establishment of his time. Herod Antipas wanted to shut John up because he knew that the things John said were true, and he could not bear the thought that he might answer to God for his actions.
Certain of our political leaders are not unlike Herod. Truth does nothing but expose their inadequacies, but they would rather shut their opponents up than face the truth. In Herod's case, certain women in his life led him around and told him what to do about John. Herod had no spine.
A conservative journal of social, cultural, and ecclesiatical affairs grounded in a realistic Catholic Christian worldview. It is my hope that this site will be a reflection of Christ,the teachings of His Holy Church, and of the basic vision of a Christian social morality.