Follow the money.
Local political blogger Brian Hornback revealed yesterday that an ethics complaint has been filed with the Election Commission about Devin Driscoll’s campaign.
The allegations – of multiple contributions over the limits, failure to provide required information verifying who the donors are, inaccurate accounting and an oddly short period of receipt of donations are serious matters that may require Attorney Charme Allen to act.
Here is Hornback’s post:
Remembering that all three levels of Knox County government failed to protect our Northshore neighborhoods and it was only the courts that stepped in for us, we believe the judicial races are quite important.
No one better knows how our judges are performing than the attorneys who practice before them. Here below, are the results of the survey of the Knoxville Bar Association. (If this link works!)
The Big One!
The race for Knox County Commission Seat 11 At Large is the important one for those who believe that planning and budgeting for roads, sewers, schools and fire and police protection – before issuing building permits, is responsible governance.
Jesse Mayshark and his team at COMPASS, our in-the-know, dig deeper, online paper have done a great job of profiling the two candidates.
We hope you do yourself and your neighbors a favor. Read this article before voting.
In the interest of full disclosure we should state that Kim Frazier was an early friend to Northshore Corridor Association, knowledgeably and impartially guiding us through the difficult, complex processes of Knox County zoning when we knew very little.
Early Voting begins April 13th
(DownTown West and Farragut Town Hall near us, M-F 10-6)
Primary is May 3rd
You asked. Here’s our answer on the candidates.
Perhaps the most important lesson learned from our experience working to protect our neighborhoods the past three years is this.
Notwithstanding some excellent public servants, Knox County government has a long way to go to achieve best practices.
Good governance comes from ethical, qualified leaders whose genuine interest is service, not self enrichment. In Knox County there is a long history of scandals and a much too close network of family members and personal business interest promoters on the county payrolls. Isn’t it time for merit rather than connections?
The frequency of unnecessary lawsuits like ours (NCA) and the scandals that continue to plague county offices and officials are costly embarrassments, and they ultimately are our responsibility as voters and taxpayers.
We can stop the mistakes and conflicts of interest by replacing weak and conflicted leaders with stronger ones. In general, that means new blood.
The dreadful mess in which we Knox County taxpayers find ourselves as we stare down the massive shortfall in roads, sewers, and schools has been made necessary by the reckless issuance of building permits without diligent planning. Some of that comes from conflicts of interest, some comes from the lack of relevant education and experience by our commissioners and office holders.
Having closely watched the reckless waving through of multimillion dollar corporations (but only the favored) who petition the county for over-rides of zoning, but pay nothing in impact fees, and contribute almost nothing toward much needed sidewalks, parks and other improvements, we were more than surprised to hear Commissioner Larsen Jay telling listeners at the League of Women Voters/Board of Realtors candidate forum last week, the following:
(The sound system was poor so please forgive if we have misunderstood, but this is the understanding of our several attendees.) Per Commissioner Jay –
1) We should first say YES!!, then ask what is needed by any business with a proposition for the county
2) We should have a short list of preferred developers and offer them a streamlined process
3) Unless our ears tricked us, Mr. Jay also suggested subsidies (precisely for whom and for what, we are not certain).
Mr. Jay is in the camp of those who believe new single family homes net the county revenue. (In reality they bring the county around $8,000 each in new infrastructure costs, $5,000 to schools alone, $3,000 more for sewers, fire, police, etc).
We learned by yesterday’s headlines the county is re-assessing our homes. For a potential tax increase? Why is a tax increase needed if the stupendous new housing boom we are experiencing is filling the tax coffers? But we digress, except to say that if a candidate blasts from your television – NO NEW TAXES, who you gonna believe?
We must replace those on Commission whose employment and business affiliations influence their decisions. That’s another way of saying follow the money. In our opinion, county employees should not serve on County Commission. Neither should CEOs of development companies, nor presidents of their trade associations. Those whose livelihood is tied to the issuing of permits, or the rezoning of land (too often for private profit taking), or the issuance of county contracts should not serve on Commission.
Unfortunately, prior Commission decisions on rules have made it possible for those conflicts to occur. County Commission and Planning Commission are, as we have said before, conflict laden. We would add to that list, those who derive benefit from promoting those industries.
Let’s get new leaders who understand what conflict of interest means, who have the integrity to address the problems and who bring the skills and experience required to comprehend and address complex financial and legal issues. A great deal of money passes through Knox County’s coffers. That calls for serious education and demonstrated skills. Take a look at what two local reporters, both long in the know inside Knox County have to say about the two Republican candidates for Knox County Trustee.
News stories are courtesy of Sandra Clark, Betty Bean and Larry Van Guilder of KnoxTnToday.
The Knox County primary election is upon us! Early voting begins April 13. You have asked for guidance on the candidates.
Our interest is in races with a direct impact on the safety and health of our neighborhoods. County Commission seat 11 is hotly contested and land use is the big sizzle.
Long time community volunteer Kim Frazier and wife of Dr. Russ Frazier, who has just returned from volunteering in Ukraine, is pitted against wrestler/gym owner Devin Driscoll who seems to have a strong youth athlete following.
Mrs. Frazier is a long time advocate for neighborhoods, better schools and roads and Mr. Driscoll, heavily supported by the development community is said to be the face of a sports themed development in Farragut.
Ms. Frazier’s camp has alleged their signs are being repeatedly vandalized and stolen from private property and volunteers have filed police reports. Mr. Driscoll, when asked to intervene with his volunteers allegedly responded “Arrest ’em.”
Here is an article by astute, long time political scene reporter, Betty Bean printed in KNOXTN News. Like us, she is curious why so much money and paid expertise is being poured into the campaign of a candidate, who, like our Mayor, is a former wrestler with no prior civic experience.
This one concerns us, but draw your own conclusions. How much is a candidate worth and why are home builders spending more than $100,000 (as of last January, surely more by now) to elect him? Why would a community volunteer decide to go pro and largely self-fund her campaign?
Did you ever work with a salesman that gave you all the facts you needed – but only after you inked the deal? Sometimes timing is everything.
After recent experiences a few Knox Countians are asking some questions. Us too.
Is information useful if it isn’t timely?
Is it really “available” if it is hard to get and the cost is out of the reach of average citizens?
Recently, when a community group wanted solid information to intelligently participate in county processes, they report that the requested information not only took weeks to get, but it cost hundreds of dollars. We wonder who knows that far in advance all the right questions to ask. Whose citizen/volunteer crown is stuffed with hundreds of folding bills?
Another citizen group is still waiting for information requested at least weeks ago, this time through a commissioner well known for his fiscal vigilance and ability to drill down into a spread sheet. They wonder if the sloggery is just coincidence or foot dragging. We all recognize there are many excellent public servants in the county offices who work hard. We do not wish to disparage them. We just want information when we need it.
The county sheriff’s department was successfully sued last year when a request for information was impeded and/or denied.
It’s no coincidence and no insignificant matter that citizens in our nation and state have demanded and gotten freedom of information and open meetings laws. Governments do not run well in darkness.
Is it a coincidence that just days from the start of early voting,
in an administration not free of scandals, getting Knox County information is like pulling logs off the river bottom? A number of county incumbents are running for re-election. One wonders, was there a secret handshake sealing a vow that no bad news should cross the threshold of any County office before the election? (humor)
The county information atmosphere seems to have moved from snail’s pace to glacial after an engineer/economist presented an analysis in January showing that, rather than increasing the county’s revenue, as commissioners have claimed, newly built subdivisions are actually costing, not returning revenue.
The analyst’s figures showed that the fiscal impact on schools alone, was around $5,000 annually per dwelling unit, and when other infrastructure essentials, like roads and sewers were added in, the figure rose to the around $8,000 – and he pointed out that those costs were perpetual. There were literally red faces in the room that night.
Several citizens who attended the recent public events and asked county representatives fiscal questions report that their queries were uniformly answered with a strong an emphasis on “other” county revenue sources such as county service fees (document recording fees, permits, licenses) and bond revenues. The citizens we talked with felt it should be pointed out that bonds are debt, not income and that just as with personal credit card debt, the county pays interest. Bonds are also accompanied by handsome, some say eye-watering, fees that are associated with the issuance or restructuring of municipal debt.
It is Knox County election time. How can citizens hope to make educated decisions on how well their government is being run if they cannot readily access the facts?
The issues we address affect the whole county and beyond. Many people beyond our immediate area do not know we exist. Would you help us reach them?
Knox County will elect new people to represent us starting this month with early voting. It is our goal to bring you “inside baseball” information as it comes to us. Stay tuned and share.
Former Knoxville Mayor, Victor Ashe in his column for the Shopper News last week sounded an alert, that maybe not all is well with our Knoxville Mayor’s well packaged new plan, Advance Knox. Mayor Ashe is concerned that the initial meeting for Advance Knox was held behind closed doors. Knox County has an embarrassing history with that (please search Black Wednesday, New York Times, if you are not aware). Not all the players have changed since then.
Mayor Ashe also told us the price tag of Advance Knox is a million dollars. Let’s use those dollars wisely and show up at the meetings -tonight at Hardin Valley Middle School and tomorrow night at Northshore Elementary where the consultants will record our views. At a price tag of upwards of $50,000 per public meeting we should certainly work to get our money’s worth.
Also last week, Hancen Sale, a very young man with a very long title and on the payroll of the Board of Realtors, appeared on the Realtors’ behalf before the County Commission. He presented an alarmist report on Knoxville’s housing crisis. The press covered and ran with it, likely primed by advance press releases.
There’s no denying it’s a red hot seller’s market and housing affordability is a major concern. However, those who have combed the report’s stats suggest a major caveat.
The baseline for the report is the Covid years, certainly major statistical anomalies. People were working from home, many others homebound due to illness or trying to avoid it, homes could not be shown for sale, and a time when our schools were closed and businesses shuttered or struggling.
Should we base important decisions on such of data? Those who have lived through boom bust cycles understand that a significant overnight hike in interest rates, the very thing the Federal Reserve is already discussing may put the brakes on and turn the boom to bust. They ask what then will happen to the thousands of apartment units already adorning the slopes around Knoxville. If history is a good teacher, therein may lie the answer to affordable housing. Facing huge mortgage payments and a dwindling pool of capable high rent payers, will the absentee investor owners then turn to the subsidy programs of the federal government? Worse, will some of those go into default and sit neglected for the years it takes lenders to foreclose and eventually remarket?
For close observers the most interesting part of Mr. Sale’s presentation came at the conclusion by way Commissioner comments. Both Mr. Jay and Mr. Smith showed they were well pleased with what to others may have looked like a dog and pony show designed to gird the effort to gut zoning and allow the build-out of Knox County’s remaining land. Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, is enduring advice. A message crafted by an industry spokesperson should always be viewed with a discerning eye. All information needs context.