Candidate Forum tonight at West H.S. – Briggs called “evil”

Commissioners Jeff Ownby and Amy Broyles are crossing the aisle to bring joint town hall meetings to the community and have their first one scheduled for 6 p.m. today at West High School.

The theme tonight: Campaigns and Elections.

Cheri Siler, the Democrat running against Republican Richard Briggs for the Tennessee state Senate 7th District seat, said that she plans to be there in a release that included this spooky Halloween-themed video:

Basically, it rehashes a lot of the issues from the Siler camp that have been discussed before.

The ad calls out Briggs for not debating Siler, and asks voters to vote against the “evil” that would be Briggs.

It will be interesting to see who (and who doesn’t) show up at the forum this evening.

As for the forum itself, Democrat Broyles and Republican Ownby have annonced that they plan to have a series of forums around Knox County, not unlike what Republicans Ed Brantley and Bob Thomas have done:

But the Republican/Democrat thing is somewhat unique here. Politically Broyles and Ownby are far apart. But they’ve become buddies via some health issues. We did a story on his health problems over the weekend, excerpted here:

He credited his wife and family for help getting healthy, and fellow commissioner Amy Broyles.

That last shout-out is of note because the Republican Ownby and Democrat Broyles often butt heads on political matters during Commission meetings.

“We can agree or disagree on issues, but at the end of the day we can walk off the stage and we’re friends,” Ownby said. “She’s been through it all herself, with her health issues.”

Broyles has seen her share of medical difficulty.

Under pressure from then-commissioner R. Larry Smith over travel in 2013, she shrugged off scrutiny in a meeting by saying, “since being elected to Commission, I have survived a shooting, two brain surgeries, a concussion, five cerebrospinal fluid leaks, viral meningitis, eight kidney stones, a tumor removed from my upper chest, a uterine hemorrhage and the beginning of menopause.”

Broyles said she and Ownby have bonded.

“Oh yeah,” she said, “over hospital visits.”


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Wanna fist-bump with Burchett?

Times are rare when you can see Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett shake hands with folks, but this is one of those occasions – constituent meetings with the mayor.

He’ll go to the fist bump as a default, but will shake hands with some of those folks who extend a palm. Here are the times and locations for upcoming constituent meetings, announced this morning:

Monday, October 27
11 a.m.-noon
Burlington Library
4614 Asheville Highway

Thursday, October 30
2:30-3:30 p.m.
Bearden Library
100 Golf Club Road

Monday, November 3
9:30-10:30 a.m.
Corryton Senior Center
9331 Davis Drive

Thursday, November 6
2:30-3:30 p.m.
Cedar Bluff Library
9045 Cross Park Drive

Wednesday, November 12
3:30-4:30 p.m.
Carter Senior Center
9036 Asheville Highway

Friday, November 14
4-5 p.m.
Halls Senior Center
4405 Crippen Road

Monday, November 17
11 a.m.-Noon
Fountain City Library
5300 Stanton Road

Wednesday, November 19
9:30-10:30 a.m.
Howard Pinkston Library
7732 Martin Mill Pike

Monday, November 24
9-10 a.m.
Strang Senior Center
109 Lovell Heights Road

Tuesday, November 25
2:30-3:30 p.m.
Karns Library
7516 Oak Ridge Highway

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Your Kiffin roundup

Your 13th House District Democratic state Rep. Gloria Johnson was the subject of an ad that compared her to Lane Kiffin – the heartbreaker, failer-upperer and former UT football coach who left in the cover of night.

According to Georgiana Vines, quoting Johnson, the ad supporting Eddie looks a whole lot like one from a couple years back when Johnson ran in 2012. (A touch of irony on prior accusations of plagiarism could be worth noting here.)

When sports intersects with politics, it usually ends up being ridiculous.

Meanwhile, John Adams riffed on the possible political, business and parenting uses for invoking Kiffin.

And then there’s the other unprintable stuff, NSFW category for Kiffin:

Comic Bill Burr rips into Lane Kiffin and gives h/t to Knoxville in his Sept. 1 podcast. If you’re into comics and don’t mind hearing the language, worth a listen. Roll up to the 9:20 mark for the Kiffin-UT-Alabama-SEC stuff.

And if you’ve just crawled out from a pink marble slab here in East Tennessee, here’s what Kiffin-haters have been enjoying, Kiffin’s Krimson Korner, on Tosh.0. Also NSFW.


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Brown goes cruisin, Ownby drops weight and other Commissioner tidbits


Knox County Commissioner Mike Brown just got back from a Mediterranean cruise that included stops in Italy and Spain and other spots in the Hinder Sea.



But travelling isn’t his thing, he said. And after his first cruise, he said he’d never do another again.

“I’m a homeboy,” Brown said.

He’s got a house to look after, and one for his sister, too. And the barn. It’s common for the South Knox County Commissioner to field phone calls while he’s standing in a field.

Nonetheless, he embarked earlier this month from Rome and ended up in Paris.

“Other than Rome we didn’t see that much where we landed,” he said. “We toured a winery in the mountains, a leisurely half day there tasting all the wines, and I found out that black olives – you can pull them off the tree and eat them – but they don’t taste right.

“There were beautiful views, it reminds you of home a lot,” Brown said. “We saw Vesuvius, that destroyed Pompeii, and Sorrento for a couple of hours, a lot of monument stuff, and took a zillion pictures.”

Of course, he said, laughing, “I’ll never look at them again.”

Brown, 74, isn’t as much of a homeboy as he says, though. He’s traveled to Australia, England and has had a place in Mexico for a while, where he said he liked to relax.

Jeff Ownby’s making weight



In July Commissioner Jeff Ownby nearly died of a pancreatic attack. Since then he’s changed his diet and dropped weight – enough that his suits fit very loosely a couple months later.

“I lost about 33 pounds since July 2,” he said. “The first eight days were because I had to.”

It wasn’t hospital food, though, it was a fight for life.

“You don’t realize how close you are (to death) until you wake up three days later in the ICU and doctors are telling you and your wife that you almost died,” he said. “It kind fo scares you and it motivates you.”

Getting hitched

Recently elected North Knox County Commissioner Charles Busler is getting married. Again.



He’s a widower – his wife died two and a half years ago after 44 years of marriage.

Then, through friends, he met a nice young woman. She’s divorced and has been single for the past 11 years.

He said they both had some common ground, and hit it off.

“We’re both in our 60s,” Busler said, “And we’ve experienced a lot.”

The wedding date is Dec. 27, he said.

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Knox Schools: bring on internal audit of nutrition program

At a quick glance, this Thursday release makes it appear that Knox County Schools is requesting Knox County’s internal auditor, Andrea Addis, to review a KCS department.

Only Knox County Commission (via its audit committee) can do that. Which the schools release mentions, “Any work conducted by the Internal Auditor would need to be authorized by the Knox County Commission.”

Look more closely, and the release appears to be KCS Superintendent Jim McIntyre rolling out the welcome mat:

I appreciate the Internal Auditor’s willingness to potentially work with us to take a hard look at the financial operation of our School Nutrition Department

This item is already on Knox County Commission’s agenda for discussion in Monday’s work session. And this audit has been on the way for weeks.

The news release appears to be a response to outfall from issues in the office of schools nutrition director Jon Dickl, who was placed on paid administrative leave Sept. 11. Neither he nor the concern bringing this audit request forward are explicitly named in the release. (We’ve been trying to get someone from the school system or elsewhere on the record over what the concern is for some time.) We do know that accusations of misuse of gift cards in his office is one issue in question, Larry Elmore, a certified public accountant with Knox County external auditor Pugh CPAs previously said.

But this last line is worth noting, giving an indication of how circumstances in the nutrition could have risen to bring about an audit:

 By statute, the food service budget and fiscal management are separate from the school system’s general operating budget that provides for the daily operation of the school system.

Read below, the full KCS release:

RELEASE NO. 14-136

October 16, 2014

KCS Asks Internal Auditor to Review

Nutrition Department Financial Operations

The Knox County Schools (KCS) is requesting that the Knox County Internal Auditor’s Office conduct an audit and provide an independent risk review of the KCS School Nutrition Department.

Knox County Internal Auditor Andrea Addis has been apprised of the school district’s request that her office conduct a financial audit of the school system’s nutrition department as well as providing an independent risk review of that department’s financial operations. Any work conducted by the Internal Auditor would need to be authorized by the Knox County Commission.

“This is a needed step to ensure that the school system’s food service department has a sound financial operation,” said Mike McMillan, Chair of the Knox County Board of Education. “While the department receives an annual financial audit, this review would examine the daily financial management of the department. Pending the Commission’s approval, I look forward to receiving the auditor’s report and to sharing it with the Board of Education.”

“I appreciate the Internal Auditor’s willingness to potentially work with us to take a hard look at the financial operation of our School Nutrition Department and identify any weaknesses in the department’s processes and internal controls,” said Superintendent Jim McIntyre. “I think this is a prudent and necessary action in light of the ongoing investigation into allegations that have been made about the KCS food service director. If the Commission agrees, we will work with Ms. Addis in the coming days to develop a complete project scope of services, and I look forward to initiating the work as soon as possible.”

The Knox County Schools School Nutrition Budget for Fiscal Year 2014 is $27.5 million. The department receives no local or state funding but operates on revenues received from the sale of meals as well as reimbursements from the federal government for meals provided to students of limited economic means. By statute, the food service budget and fiscal management are separate from the school system’s general operating budget that provides for the daily operation of the school system.


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Siler posts new video on Youtube

Democratic candidate Cheri Siler’s latest video for her run against Republican Richard Briggs for the TN State Senate 7th District:


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This is tough.

It not a good thing when a venue for public forum shuts down.

Or – and this is what I appreciated most – snark from a staff of smart, nimble reporters.

A day later, even as others dance on the grave MP on Twitter (yes, it happened), and elsewhere in the blogosphere, I’m ranging through emotions.

Foremost among them is a sincere feeling of hurt for people who have lost their livelihoods. Good journalists KNS and at MP were told they don’t have a job yesterday. And while their tireless, selfless, donated time went underappreciated by many, what they did  on their best days amounts to toil.

As a friend says, “it beats workin’ for a livin’,” and some are in news for the glory – to see their bylines in print, or be a conversation-leader. There are the chest-thumpers out there, the ones who delight in saying they got it first, etc. Despite the braggadocio we see from the dark corners of news, most of these people who were laid off were working hard for something they believe in: speaking truth to power, discovering the odd corners of East Tennessee that make it unique, or simply giving readers a little bit of fun and something to do.

I can’t speak for my organization. I could’ve gotten the ax yesterday. And this just the latest staff reduction I’ve witnessed in a career that’s seen hiring freezes, attrition, furloughs and layoffs.

Any working journalist these days seems to have a story of going through their first layoff. Sadly, it’s not a unique experience. And while auto workers and textile plants have seen them for decades, newsrooms have only been cut in the last decade or so. What the rest of the world accepts as a fact of life we still view as novel.

If there’s a veneer of a silver lining left, it’s that yesterday the community showed their support of the power of story, whimsy and journalism that appeared in MP. And, frankly (sadly), their love of free stuff. What we do isn’t easy, but it’s not digging ditches. Every day we see and hear from some of the most passionate people out there – for better, or sometimes, for worse.

Passion is what keeps most of us going in journalism. Hopefully, the passionate readers here will find something in the stories that other reporters in the community bring forward. Hopefully the passionate reporters here will work harder to uphold the Fourth Estate, find those golden stories and entertain readers in the void left by the death of our community’s alt-weekly.

Hopefully the people who lost their jobs at KNS and MP yesterday will follow their passion here in the community or elsewhere, both professionally and personally.

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