More comments on race and diversity in Knox County and Knoxville

Sam McKenzie had some sharp words on racial diversity in Knox County last week, or the lack of it, when looking at magistrate candidates. Here’s more of what he said, on

Sam McKenzie

Sam McKenzie

appointments and other issues in race:

I think if you dug into the record, it would be pretty dismal in terms of how we’ve even made appointments. It’s a sad truth that very few commissioners outside the first (district) make minority appointments.

… going only by memory, it’s hard to recall any minority appointments from commission to boards – at least in the couple years I’ve been covering them.

McKenzie said he spoke with Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett on the matter:

I’ve talked to both the mayor and (chief of staff Dean Rice) about this and, in the past I’ve not made a big hairy, stinky deal about it … and I’ll try to work with folks and continue to work with people.

I’m just trying to tell people, let’s sit back and think about this, let’s think about where we are … the status quo is not satisfactory.

I think people view a still water as being ‘everything is OK.’ And I don’t think so. That would be a mistake, it that is just a common thinking. People aren’t happy with the way the county is being run from a diversity standpoint. I’m trying to be, I’m declaring a call, and to say ‘we’ve gotta start this process. We gotta start thinking along these lines.’

Robert Booker, a Knoxville civil rights activist and former director of the Beck Cultural Center, also had more to say:

My thing is history, and I look at the history of this county and try to compare what happened in the old days, compared to what happens today.

It amazes me that around 1887 or thereabouts we had three black people on the city council, and now we can only get one.

The appointment cycles – and the appointees – feed themselves for boards and commissions, according to Booker. That means that people tend to stick with those that they know for various appointments, and human nature tends to keep people from looking far outside their nearby circles. Booker explained it through the lens of someone appointing people today.

Everybody is in cahoots … because they’re just like us, they’re the people that we know, they belong to the same country club that I belong to, or he chaired a committee and I was pleased with the way he did it … we don’t know those other people.

Until we get to know the other people. And the other people have to know that appointments are available, to make applications.

And we did talk to the city, which had a few things to add. From an email with Knoxville’s communication staff. For the story we looked at current senior staff among both the city and the county, but city staff drilled down a little further:

Mayor Rogero’s first communications director was an African-American woman, Angela Starke. At the deputy director level, Dawn Michelle Foster was brought in as the No. 2 in the Office of Redevelopment, and Nate Allen was named KPD’s first African-American deputy chief last summer. Joshalyn Hundley works full-time as our Title VI coordinator.

KPD’s last cadet class was diverse, by gender, age and race. And Public Service Department has a program in place to identify job candidates and encourage diversity hiring.

There are other initiatives – a lot of attention to hiring a representational City work force at all levels.

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Sunshine week, E911 and the Sheriff’s rebuttal to an editorial

KNS had this editorial that called out Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones explicitly today:

Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones clouded discussion of Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act during a meeting of the Knox County E-911 board last week. With the advent of Sunshine Week, which focuses on transparency in government, a clearing of the skies is needed.

… read more here.

Today, Jones fired back on the Sheriff’s Office website:

It’s Sunshine Week and the News Sentinel wants its readers to know that it’s time for “a clearing of the skies.”  The editorial in Tuesday’s paper isn’t talking about the weather, but the Sunshine Law.  A law that the newspaper trotted out when it failed to cover sixteen months’ worth of E-911 meetings concerning a contract for a new digital emergency communications system.    The paper had obviously deemed the meetings not worthy of coverage until it was alerted by lobbyists and politicians who had a stake in the radio system.

The editors at the paper believe a “backroom deal” was brokered between Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch and me.  I hardly call it a backroom deal when the Police Chief and Sheriff of the third largest law enforcement agencies in the state cannot talk about the safety and security of their officers and citizens.

I am fully aware of the Sunshine Law and that’s why I contend there was no violation between Chief Rausch and me.  The newspaper, however, is clearly hiding behind the Sunshine Law to distract from its failure to report on an issue that affects the entire community.  I believe the law does need to be revisited when a major media outlet manipulates it to cover up its own inadequacies.

Make of that what you will. Jones has taken to his website as a means to communicate missives through the E-911 reporting.

It’s worth nothing that Jones was reluctant to talk to KNS last week after the meeting.

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See the renovated Oakwood School, eat some ‘cue, benefit Mobile Meals

UPDATED – This is happening Thursday, this next week. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will be there, and so will a few commissioners.

And I have on good information that there will be some good North Carolina style barbecue there, which delights this N.C. boy to hear.

From a release:

FIRST LOOK AT OAKWOOD TO HELP MEALS ON WHEELS

WHAT:     Fundraiser for Knox County Mobile Meals

Preview/first look at renovated Oakwood School, which will now be a senior living center

WHEN:     Thursday, March 26, 2015 from 11:30-1:00
WHERE:   Oakwood Senior Living, 232 East Churchwell Ave., Knoxville, TN  37917

WHO:        Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett

Dover Development GM Rick Dover

Knox County Commissioners

If you’re interested in attending and want to get a $7 sack lunch of barbecue (all proceeds go to Mobile Meals), call 524-2786.

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Rogero, Broyles support TN Economic Council on Women in the face of a big cut

Madeline Rogero and Amy Broyles, in separate interviews, support the work of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, which could be killed if a senate committee doesn’t support its funding – about $300,000 a year. The group studies issues affecting women such as wage inequality, violence on women, child care, education and so on – though its supporters say that women’s issues are everyone’s issue.

Amy Broyles

Amy Broyles

This economic council is the group that Broyles was ripped by then-commissioner R. Larry Smith (who later apologized) – for attending a few years ago. Both Broyles and Rogero have attended annual conferences for the Economic Council on Women.

Broyles had plenty to say about the issue. Her response to the matter, via email:

This is tremendously disappointing, but not terribly surprising – and there is some irony in that the TECW was established under a Republican administration.

Women make up 51% of the state’s population, yet are woefully underrepresented in elected offices, appointed positions, and corporate boards. Although women in the state of Tennessee do the same work as men, the wage gap persists. And until those disparities are successfully addressed, the TECW is needed.

There is not another group or organization anywhere in the state doing the kind of research the TECW does. Each year it focuses on one particular issue, studies it in depth, and reports back to the state on the impact of that issue. The results benefit all residents of the state, not only women. For example, in 2013 the TECW produced a study that showed our state looses close to one billion dollars each year due to violence against women. These studies are valuable not only because they highlight a particular problem, but also because they make recommendations for solutions.

Their website contains a wealth of information on a number of topics vital to anyone interested in creating an economically strong, healthy state for everyone. There is research on women’s healthcare, political participation, wages and earnings, job training, women-owned businesses, violence against women, and other important and timely issues. The TECW has twice produced a county-by-county, targeted report on indicators that affect not only women’s lives, but the lives of families and children. We can now see where we’ve been, where we’re trending, and where we need to make course corrections.

Healthcare, education, job training, affordable and quality childcare – these are not just women’s issues, they are everyone’s issues.

The TECW’s latest efforts have produced a unique and highly valuable online tool called the Women & Work Information Hub  (www.womenandworktn.com), “an online collection of information and guidance designed to enhance workforce skills, find a new career, start or strengthen a business, or grow ideas into products throughout Tennessee.” The site, however, isn’t only for women – men will also find it useful, as it provides “a single point of entry to resources from multiple agencies and regions.”

The fact is that if the women of a state do well economically, the entire state does well economically. This is because women tend to have more purchasing power than men, even though the wage gap persists. Women tend to make most of the purchasing decisions in a family, from which breakfast cereal or jeans to buy, to where to stay on vacation, to even major purchases such as houses and cars. If the wage gap were closed, and women had more financial resources available for themselves and their families, imagine how much stronger our state’s economy would be, how much more revenue we would have with which to work.

The failure to extend funding for the TECW is a step back for the entire state.

About a year ago, I was sharply criticized by a former colleague for missing a Commission meeting to attend the TECW’s yearly Summit. I believe his comment was along the lines of “how are women’s issues going to help Knox County?” The response from the public, both women and men, was swift and harsh. Even state organizations weighed in on the importance of educating ourselves on so-called “women’s issues.” I can only hope that the Senators who voted against extending the funding for the TECW receive a similar response from the residents of Tennessee, who see the value in the work the TECW produces, and can convince the Senators to take another look at what they are loosing, and the hardship it will bring to the entire state – women, children, and men.

RogeroRogero had some comments too, though they were a tad more concise:

The Tennessee Economic Council on Women’s research and advocacy are irreplaceable,” Mayor Madeline Rogero said. “One of its recent reports determined that domestic abuse and sexual assault cost the state nearly $1 billion annually. The Council also addresses such problems as human trafficking and wage disparity.”

“Just look at its website, www.tennesseewomen.org. Tennesseans can find many tools, but two unique clearinghouses for resources and information stand out. The Women & Work Information Hub helps job seekers, start-up business owners and existing businesses. The Violence Against Women Resource Center connects victims with those able to help.”

“The Council’s No. 1 goal is to strengthen Tennessee by providing its women with the tools they need to be successful. It’s hard to argue against continuing its proven good work.”

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Burchett’s constituent meeting for today (3/5) postponed

From a county release:

Due to inclement weather, today’s constituent meeting with Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will be postponed and rescheduled for another date. The original meeting was to be held today, Thursday, March 5 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Fountain City Library, 5300 Stanton Road. An updated meeting advisory will be sent out once the new date and time has been set. A current listing of upcoming meetings can be found at: http://knoxcounty.org/news/news.php?id=429.

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J.J. Jones blames media for E-911 review

I’d explain the letter, but it’s probably best to just read it yourself.

Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones appears to be upset that the public and the county’s top elected officials are interested in the process used to select a bidder for the county’s E-911 system.

He uses words like collusion, political, etc. Just go ahead and click the link.

By the way, Jones has repeatedly declined to speak with us on his position. Presumably, he’s not happy with the recent actions from Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero.

The letter is in .pdf image form, which makes it nearly impossible to copy text. Otherwise, I’d just paste it in here.

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Burchett’s comments on E-911

We got this release yesterday, but I didn’t post immediately because Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett has been pretty accessible while the E-911 issue has been percolating. That means that he’s been providing comments along the way.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero tends to take an approach that considers many angles, and is carefully thought out.

There’s an academic paper on the comparisons in political styles that I’ll never write, but maybe someone in a poli sci department will handle someday.

That said, here’s his release from Tuesday:

Mayor Burchett to seek clarification on E-911 board chair, public vote on radio contract

Knoxville, Tenn. — During the next meeting of the Knox County Emergency Communications District board, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett plans to seek clarification on the appointment of a duly-elected chair and see the E-911 radio communications contract discussed publically and put to a vote.

“There is too much uncertainty about the position of chair and the fact that, after 18 months of work on the radio communications RFP process, the awarded contract was never discussed or voted on in a public meeting,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “I will attend the next E-911 board meeting to see that a new chair is properly elected and to move that the awarded contract for E-911 radio services be approved so there can be open discussion and an up-or-down vote. It is my hope that, this time, a member of the E-911 board will second the motion in order to allow for discussion.”

After a thorough RFP process overseen by the Knox County Purchasing Division, Harris Communications prevailed as the highest scoring bidder seeing to provide emergency radio communications services to the emergency responders operating within Knox County. Motorola Solutions – the current radio provider – and Tait Communications also responded to the RFP.

Approximately 20 years ago, the Knox County Emergency Communications District entered into an agreement with Knox County Government to provide financial-related services, which include the procurement process.

“I want to commend Knox County Purchasing director Hugh Holt and his staff for the professional work they did in overseeing this process,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “The Knox County Purchasing Division is one of the most highly-respected procurement offices in the state, and they serve the Knox County taxpayers well.”

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