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LaMarche praises Sheriff’s Citizen Academy

Dear Editor:

My wife, Dot LaMarche, and I just completed the Sheriff’s Citizen Academy. This academy was the eighth class since the beginning of this program which Sheriff Hutchison initiated to further educate the public about the services of the Sheriff’s Department.

Together, we want to publicly thank Sheriff Tim Hutchison and his staff for providing us 12 weeks of an incredible learning experience.

We are deeply grateful for all the men and women who strive with great integrity to provide a safe and secure environment for our community.

If interested in obtaining more information about this program, please call Martha Dooley at 215-2432.


Louis LaMarche

Hornback rebuts Quigley

Dear Editor:

I must respond to Harry Quigley’s vicious personal attack on Knox County Mayor’s Chief of Staff Mike Arms. He states that Arms is not a credible source. I strongly disagree. Mike Arms has been a property owner for a number of years, an officer of the Bluegrass PTA (he was a leader in the effort to acquire the land and construction of the Lotts Elementary School), active in numerous community organizations like the Optimist Club, [and] an elected representative for six years. During the entire first term (four years) he was employed at SAIC, a private-sector firm in Oak Ridge.

Mayor Mike Ragsdale created the chief of staff position and eliminated other positions. The chief of staff is similar to the deputy mayor position that Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe staffed. It is similar to the position that Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam has filled with David Hill. It is similar to the position of deputy superintendent of schools held by Roy Mullins. The chief of staff position allows citizens access to their government in a more timely manner, thus delivering on the commitment to make government better every day.

Where is Quigley’s outrage over these other positions?

Quigley purports to live in the Halls community. A review of property records indicates that Quigley is NOT a property owner in Knox County.

Quigley talks about the $55-million-dollar renovation at Oak Ridge High School that he indicates is funded by sales tax. The facts are that a private funding source has committed millions of dollars to this project. Anderson County property taxes fund three school districts, Anderson County, Clinton city and Oak Ridge. This is the reason that a majority of the revenue for Oak Ridge School District is derived from sales tax collection in the city of Oak Ridge. They have state, county, local and a private benefactor contributing to the successful Oak Ridge school system.

Quigley refers to a comparative study of county budgets. This type of study is performed on a regular basis. This is and has been the role of the Government Efficiency Panel that has operated for more than two years at no cost to the taxpayers. Harry’s agenda is nothing more than the politics of destruction in launching personal attacks against anyone that doesn’t agree with his slanted views.

Quigley refers to the dependence on a property tax. Harry and I agree on this issue. That is the prime reason to support and vote for the wheel tax. Share the burden with those that do NOT own property like Quigley. He refers to increasing the sales tax. I suppose instead of paying nearly 10 percent sales tax as we currently do, Quigley advocates 15-20 percent in sales tax. That would mean that the working poor would double the amount they spend on food and clothing.

Quigley attacks Arms for making the point that Knox County has had only one property tax increase in the last six years. My belief on this issue is that Knox County has improved without additional revenue, delivering quality of life improvements in spite of the City of Knoxville and the town of Farragut annexing and taking all the valuable commercial property, thus depriving the county of sales tax revenue. While the City of Knoxville has maintained an aggressive annexing posture, they have raised property taxes on their citizens many more times and in much greater amounts. This year alone the City of Knoxville has raised the property tax 35 cents while Knox County’s equivalent property tax (were the wheel tax NOT approved by the voters on Nov. 2) [would] only raise the property tax 18 cents.

Quigley fails to mention that funding for our schools, libraries, jails, health department and air quality are all provided by Knox County tax dollars. These are the most expensive functions for government to operate and the City of Knoxville contributes zero dollars to these critical functions. The city’s tax rate is higher than Knox County’s, yet they don’t offer any of the above-mentioned services.

For Harry to know or foretell what the voters will do in 2006 is about as sure as many of his arguments — absurd.


Brian Hornback


Quigley questions realtors, Griess

Dear Editor:

A few realtors have blemished the image of the entire lot of Knox County realtors. [One realtor] has acknowledged donating $30,000 of the Realtors’ Assoc-iation purse to funding the propagandist campaign supporting the wheel tax. [Two realtors] are among [those] listed in an ad in the Sentinel of [Oct. 31], a false ad which suggests that the wheel tax represents “progress, fairness, and low property taxes.”

Citizens who have searched Google with key words “model county budget” and similar words such as “county revenue sources” have found that while property taxes comprise 60 percent of Knox County’s 2004 revenues, the national average of property taxes in county revenues is only 23 percent. In the no-income-tax state of Nevada, Clark County has a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, a balanced budget and a percentage of property taxes of county revenues at 25 percent. Property taxes in Knox County would require a two-thirds reduction to approach the national average. Based on these facts, it is obviously false propaganda to label Knox County property taxes “low.” Credibility of the Realtors’ Association is thus debunked.

Further undermining the realtors is use of the term “fairness.” The realtors have never explained why Knox County Commission has not followed the Oak Ridge model where a community of retired citizens on fixed incomes was sold on the need to renovate their high school at a cost of $55 million, then approved a half-cent sales tax to supplement a $17-million business community investment to fund the project.

A “fair” tax, or progressive tax, is best defined as one paid by those who have extra money to spend, the amount of extra money generally rising as income rises. A sales tax is the best indicator of who has extra money to spend and is thus truly a “fair” tax. It is shameful logic in the realtors’ ad which states, “The wheel tax is fair. It is spread over 400,000 vehicle owners. Fewer than half that many own property.” The realtors have never presented a survey or other evidence proving that vehicle owners have extra money to spend, nor have they demonstrated the incomes and net worth of property owners. Again, their reputation is tarnished by the use of kindergarten false logic.

West Knox [County] Commis-sioner John Griess, a realtor with Holrob, states in the [Nov. 3 News] Sentinel that “property taxes hurt home ownership.” Griess and the realtors argue that the 18-cent increase in the property tax base rate is a serious threat to real estate sales.

Had the wheel tax been defeated, the property taxes on a $200,000 home would have increased by $90 yearly. This fact and its true suggestion that $90 per year would NOT influence a decision to buy a home reveal the fear-mongering and false propaganda perpetrated by the realtors.

The realtors label the wheel tax as “progress.” Most dictionaries define progress as moving forward to a better state. New and improved schools, roads and other items do not represent a better state where the means of getting there are not publicly approved. Progress is as much a state of mind of the taxpayer as it is the erection of a new school.

Taxes must be acceptable or they do not reflect progress. It would be false logic to say the wheel tax is acceptable to Knox Countians based on the [Nov. 2] election results, because the willful, uncoerced choice of the voters could have been known only by their ability to respond to two separate questions: (1) should the wheel tax be increased, and (2) should the property taxes be increased? County Commission’s violation of the peoples’ absolute right to referendum will be remembered by the majority not as progress but as regressive Ragsdale government at its worst. The realtors must also bear this legacy.

Here is one way the public can serve justice on the realtors. When you list your home for sale, write in this clause on your listing contract: “At closing the listing realtor’s proceeds will be reduced by the amount of wheel tax incurred by the sellers and buyers in this transaction, that of the seller being [and] that of the buyer to be determined at the point of contract.” If you are the buyer and you determine the seller has not put this condition in his listing agreement, then insert the “wheel tax rebate” clause in your offer. In this manner, realtors will pay substantially for the false propaganda they have perpetuated.

In 2006, regardless of how many wheel tax rebates the realtors have paid, replace all commissioners and the mayor with candidates who sign a pledge to eliminate the wheel tax and lower the property tax.


Harry Quigley

Knox County


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