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Knox County residents polled for ‘better government’ ideas

Group No. 6 had plenty to say about changes they feel are

necessary for Knox County government.

“I’d like to see some limited consolidation of city and county agencies … for better use of the tax dollars,” said John Schoonmaker of Concord, one of eight in this mini group of concerned citizens among seven such groups divided from among approximately 100 citizens at Bearden High School Tuesday, May 15.

They met under the banner of “Knox County One Question,” recently formed by concerned citizens from across the county seeking answers to one central question: what changes, if any, are needed in Knox County government as initiated by ordinary Knox citizens?

Schoonmaker gave an example of his consolidation idea: “The City of Knoxville has golf courses, the county has golf courses, and they’re both being run by independent companies as management companies. Combine the golf courses together under one management company.”

However, Schoonmaker added he was against “wholesale, across the board” consolidation of city and county government.

But Mark Jones of Bearden added, “I think we need unified government.”

Regina Block of Farragut referred to various Knox County politicians and leaders when saying, “because of some of the personalities involved, some real issues aren’t even being discussed. … They seem to have the same agendas, and really things that are not important to the rest of us.”

Upon a suggestion of two-year terms limits for county officials, Schoonmaker added, “you’d be campaigning a hundred percent of the time, plus the cost of the election.”

Block disagreed: “If we know that there’s going to be elections, maybe they’ll be more apt to do their jobs,” she said. “If they’re not doing their jobs I don’t want them elected, anyway, if all they’re going to do is campaigning.”

Responding to an anti-term limit suggestion emphasizing how valuable experience is lost, Block countered: “I don’t think experience is the only thing that makes a good program. … You have to get the experience; he didn’t just come into office knowing everything.”

Schoonmaker also suggested cutting county commission from 19 members to 10, with the fifth district (Farragut area), “the largest,” having two representatives. “They [fifth district] also generate twenty-five percent of the property taxes,” he added.

Debra Van Meter of Bearden said she’s like to see “the various sector [zoning] plans be enforceable.”

Among other comments and suggestions from group No. 6:

• the “experiment” of unifying Knox County and City of Knoxville schools “has been an unmitigated failure,” citing “numerous educators” as a source.

• more qualification knowledge made public about newly-hired Knox County teachers.

• why is the school board elected and the superintendent appointed?

• to make better use of “experience,” have county commission “appoint” the sheriff to six-year terms, with commission powers to “impeach” if necessary.

• more citizen involvement in different commissions and boards.

• the title “county mayor” is a problem because it “confuses the taxpayers” compared to city and town mayor titles. Go back to the title “county executive, or something different.”

Knox County One Question is being aided by the Baker Center of Public Policy at The University of Tennessee, which has outlineed current functions and structures of Knox County government for easier citizen consumption.

The public input session met at four other Knox County high schools between May 14 and May 22.


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