“No permits, no problem” or “You don’t know what you don’t know”

Real quickly:

  • A local political blogger posted about a business on land that the county mayor owns.
  • It gets some attention, we do a story that went online.
  • Within the same day day the business owner calls and says, in short: oops.
  • Papers should be filed soon.

Floyd’s Garage

Angela Taylor is running her vintage shop in North Knox County, over off Amherst Road. With it being the physical location for her online shop, and presumably her first venture of the sort, she didn’t know what kind of paperwork should be filed. She’s been running the business since May.

Taylor said the circumstances weren’t ideal, but the end result of the story could be a little more interest in what she’s got going on at Floyd’s Garage. (IMHO, it looks like a nifty/groovy thing she’s got happening there.)

She takes consignment business, and sells vintage-y stuff that’s popular with the Pinterest crowd. The music events, with food trucks and classic car or motorcycle clubs is an effort to get people out of the house, she said.

“That was just an idea of mine to cross-promote,” she said. “There are a lot of people in the area who don’t have the opportunity to come out and experience the things that happen in downtown Knoxville.”

Oh, I tore a page out of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show for today’s blog post. And while this won’t make it into the print story, but the new word learned today is chattel. The thesaurus is not extinct, folks.

In completely unrelated items, I just realized that Pink Floyd popped up on my little trip out to Floyd’s (Pigs, specifically). With an interview from Tim Floyd Burchett today, that’s enough for a Floyd hat trick. Hope that shows up in my reporter stat line.

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Do a quiz to see how Dem/GOP/GDI you are … really cool

I took this quiz a few different ways to see if I wound up aligned with one candidate or another, so it’s legit.

What’s most striking is the detail used in the questions. If you click on the radio button for “More Stances” You end up getting more nuanced answers. For people who aren’t into politics, but want to figure out who you align with, this is good.

For the nerds out there who want to drill down into positions from candidates, you can go all the way to the source material upon which a candidates position was stated.

This may be one of the most useful tools for the independent or unsure voter. And at the end of the quiz, they don’t try to sell you something! Enjoy!

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Go vote! Knoxville early voting ends tomorrow

… in this low, low terribly low turnout election for Knoxville City Council. And the mayor.

But let’s be honest. This thing was over before it started. You heard it here first (or second, or third), incumbents will take the day.

Short story: I talked with a friend last night about a Council race in her neighborhood. The race from a challenger to unseat a well-known incumbent has misrepresented some information, according to what she relayed. That’s about all I can say on the matter, other than to make sure you know your candidates.

We’ve written on these city elections repeatedly in KNS, and it’ll be covered by our very capable city reporter, Megan Boehnke, on Tuesday.

Even with the turnout low, go vote. Because in these races, your vote is like having two votes (or something like that). I’m going to peg the over/under at 9 percent turnout. And take the under. Prove me wrong, please. Tomorrow is the last day for early voting.

One more story: I moved from one Knoxville district to another this year. Early voting is really good for those like me who have moved but not updated their registration information. So do that if  need be. I’ll be out today to cast a ballot.

Otherwise, wouldn’t it be great if Election Day were a national holiday? Wouldn’t that be cool – to go vote, have the day off and then have a long lunch or hang out with the family and watch returns come back? What would that do for turnout?

And while we’re in the election spirit, go check out this movie if you like irreverent comedy. It’s streaming on Netflix now, and hilarious:

From Paste magazine on Election:

Year: 1999
Director: Alexander Payne
A high-school election for student body president turns into a darkly comic satire on politics and sexuality in one of Alexander Payne’s uproarious takedowns of Midwestern values. The election turns into a struggle of wills between Matthew Broderick’s wormy high-school teacher and Reese Witherspoon’s overbearing know-it-all Tracy Flick, but resentful mediocrity doesn’t stand a chance against relentless ambition. With a hyper-capable schoolkid surrounded by hilariously flawed characters, Election could be Rushmore’s cynical classmate.—Curt Holman

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Big Brother was listening to you – kind of

We’ll stop far short of it being called Orwellian, but for a little while there, a government authority was recording your conversations.

At a doorway.

In three Knox County government buildings.

But not much farther than that.

Still, it was unsettling to a few people who would rather protect privacy. Or at the very least, not have a government entity peering (or listening) over your shoulder. Because hey, people are already being watched in the City County building and Old Knox County Courthouse. Video cameras in there aren’t a new thing.

So here’s the story that ran in today’s KNS on audio recording recently happening at entrances to the City County Building.

Jayne Burritt

Jayne Burritt

Property management director at the PBA, Jayne Burritt, who appears to be the likely successor to outgoing PBA director Dale Smith, installed the recording devices in an effort to be sure security screeners were doing their jobs right, and that people coming in who had complaints had a log of interactions.

Enter the law of unintended consequences. Burritt in her role has authority to run the buildings as she sees fit; and Smith isn’t a micromanager. But once Smith heard of the recording devices he was not warm to the idea. The mics are shut down until further notice.

A few attorneys we talked with yesterday weren’t pleased, either. Lawyer Arthur Seymour, Jr., in general, doesn’t like the idea of reduced privacy for the public.

“The security people are very nice … they do their jobs, they do it very professionally,” he said. “That’s a public building, but I always thought maybe we had too much security.”

Knoxville attorney Mike Whalen – who called after deadline yesterday – had this to say:

“The only thing I would say is I think we ought to be a little careful about giving up our privacy, even if it ain’t much privacy … especially if the reason to give it up is so tenuous that we can give it up and take it back.”

So is this an intrusion of privacy, or monitoring a public building? The PBA’s attorney is looking into it. Until then, speak freely at entrances to the buildings. The PBA is still watching, but it’s not listening – for now.

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Into the numbers: Detail on the county’s $4M surplus

Foster Arnett wants to move. Well, kind of.

In today’s KNS, we had a story on the county’s surplus. It’s a fairly typical thing – for good financial managers – to have a little coin left over at the end of the year. Chris Caldwell, the

Chris Caldwell

Chris Caldwell

county’s finance director, is one of these types who budgets conservatively under the direction of Mayor Tim Burchett.

When the books close on the year, then it’s time to see what’s left over. Here’s the full sheet: Summary of surplus spending.

Coming back to County Clerk Foster Arnett, he’s looking at a potential move with Halls and Farragut options involved. If so, then there’s $175,000 there to be spent on the move.

“The clerk is possibly looking to relocate two satellite offices,” Caldwell said. “This doesn’t mean that they’re going to relocate. They’re exploring the options. I’ve put money aside to use in case they do relocate one or both offices.”

This money set aside is like the $500,000 in hold for potential salary adjustments as the county moves its employees to a new pay grade system. Caldwell said that money would help bring county employees to a correct level after a salary survey. It may not all be used, but the money is there in case it’s needed.

Here’s the rest from today’s report. And this is from last year’s surplus, in case you’re itching for the greatest hits.

And while we’re talking greatest hits, here’s something to listen to while you peruse the spreadsheet:

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Karen Carson liked one part of Common Core, but the rest – nope

Got this email today from 14th District Tennessee House candidate Karen Carson, who wanted to clarify her position on Common Core, after today’s story. Her words:

I’m disturbed that you report that I” support components of common core”–I certainly do not!  I made it clear last night that in the past I supported common core for higher standards.  That support helped spur the development process of TENNESSEE Standards and that that is what I support.

This may sound nuanced to you but it is a critical component of this election cycle.

Specifically, she said she appreciated the part that allowed Tennessee students to really see how they stacked up against the nation in terms of education (for 3rd graders, in particular) – which then allowed the state to make its own decisions on how to improve schooling. And, as it turns out, it worked.

This isn’t the first time that there has been a clarification of this sort in this short election cycle. Not long ago we reported that her opponent, Jason Zachary, is ready to discuss the gas tax. He took that to mean he supports the gas tax – which he does not, which we clarified. He is, however, interested in having an infrastructure discussion insofar as it involves spending some surplus money on roads. Carson, in rebuttal during Wednesday’s debate, noted that there are a lot of interests who want to have a piece of the state’s $500 million tax collection surplus – again, more nuance from her.

These candidates are indeed folks who use nuance to communicate and are very particular about their words. We reporter types just try to get the information out without obfuscation, and simply. Sometimes it’s just better to let candidates speak for themselves, but it’s important also to provide the appropriate context.

I talked with former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe yesterday, who said he couldn’t name a winner from the debate, but noted that Carson is more wont to use nuance in describing her position, while Zachary is taking a few more hardline stances. Ashe and I agreed that may be the difference between an experienced office holder (Carson), who would likely know that positions can shift from an election to issues faced in office, in comparison to Zachary, who has extensive experience in running for office – he had that congressional campaign and carried Farragut, after all.

In general, people bend words to support their reality – and politicians especially so. And, generally speaking, Carson and Zachary align on most issues, except for Insure Tennessee.

ICYMI, here’s a video from last night’s meeting:

This race will have a low turnout, to be sure. There were three views on the Youtube video today, supporting that point. There were more than a dozen officeholders in attendance at the debate last night, and most of the gathered had some kind of stake in either candidate.

Despite our coverage, the interest is casual in West Knox to name a replacement for the final year of Ryan Haynes vacated term. As Ashe surmised, it may come down who knows either candidate and will show up. While Zachary carried Farragut against John Duncan Jr. in the congressional race, Carson has been elected to local office – the school board – several times. Elections are a form of a popularity contest at all levels, but this may just come down to who knows more people – and if they show up to vote.

This is a primary, really, but no Democratic candidate has stepped up for the general election, so the winner of this GOP primary will end up unopposed for the upcoming election.

It’s worth noting, as well, that Democrats can vote in primaries in Tennessee – so this race isn’t just among Republicans, for Republicans, by Republicans. It just so happens to be in a really GOP-heavy section of the county. But Democrats, you too can have a voice in this election.

Today is the final day of early voting. The election is Wednesday. Vote early, vote often.

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Learn more about your government with the state Blue Book

From a release:

Nashville, Tennessee – (August 3, 2015) – The Secretary of State’s office is proud to announce a new online resource designed by Tennessee teachers. 15 lesson plans and teaching aids based on the Tennessee Blue Book are now available.

In March, seven teachers from across Tennessee formed the Secretary of State’s Blue Book Curriculum Task Force to create lessons that align with the state’s current social studies curriculum standards, and allow teachers to quickly use the Blue Book in civics or government classes from elementary through high school.

“The Tennessee Blue Book serves as a powerful textbook for our state’s educators. Tennessee’s students and teachers will benefit from the task force’s dedicated work,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

The Blue Book, considered the definitive almanac of Tennessee state government, is produced every other year by the Secretary of State’s office. The Blue Book contains a wealth of information about the governor, state legislators, state legislative committees, administrative departments of state government and the government’s structure. It also contains information about local governments, the federal government, state history and much more.

One example, Your Representatives in Government & How You Can Be Involved created by Addison Pate of Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School in Davidson County, teaches how a citizen locates information about their representatives, what actions their elected officials have taken, and how citizens can play an important role in the decision making process.

All of the lesson plans, including information on obtaining hard and digital copies of the Blue Book, can be found at: sos.tn.gov/products/executive/blue-book-lesson-plans.

The task force consists of Erika Ashford, Ridgeway High School in Shelby County; Cindy Bellamy, John Adams Elementary School in Sullivan County; William Freddy Curtis, Cannon County High School; Rebecca Marino, Cleveland City Schools in Bradley County; Addison Pate, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet High School in Davidson County (formerly of Ravenwood High School in Williamson County); Gordon Sisk, Karns High School in Knox County; and Lain Whitaker, St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Shelby County.

The 2015-2016 edition of Tennessee Blue Book is scheduled to be published in January.

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