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Daugherty warns of Knox County ‘Armageddon’

The “Russian Czar” looms in Knox County?

A handful of political “elite” with at least $147,000, seeking to change Knox County politics through charter amendments that would allow for unelected power, are using bias publicity from “downtown media” to aid their ballot-box chances.

That was the central charge, as echoed by featured speaker Lloyd Daugherty, president of the Tennessee Conservative Union, and others during the monthly Concord-Farragut Re-publican Club gathering in Papalinas Italian Restaurant Thursday evening, Oct. 9.

“We stand at Armageddon and battle for our hometown, our home county, our way of governing and our way of life — it’s that serious,” Daugherty said. “It’s going to be a tremendous, tremendous disaster, I think. This is just as important as the presidential race, if not more important.

“I’m just mad … this is an absolute coup by the self-appointed political elite in Knoxville,” he added. “We call it metro sometimes, sometimes we call it consolidated government. We’ve always beaten it.”

Daugherty said “consolidated” has less to do with improving government efficiency than with “consolidated power.”

He labeled Knox County government “shadow government” that works behind the scenes and away from voter scrutiny. “But they’ve never been very good at electing people, especially commissioners, city councilmen and district offices,” Daugherty added. “They’ve had to find some way to negate and bypass that grassroots support.”

The TCU president said charter amendment timing is ominous, given Knox County “has possibly the most corrupt county executive we’ve ever had [Michael Ragsdale], at the very least the most mismanaged, [with] irresponsible spending that we’ve ever had.

“We’re talking about taking a mayor and not just increasing his power, we’re talking about making him a Czar … and go to the early Russian government,” Daugherty added. “We’re talking about giving him almost total control. It goes far beyond just him appointing people — he can do what he wants to with these offices. He can take it totally out of the will of the people.”

Newspaper and TV media have allowed amendment proponents to have their say with limited rebuttal, broadcast or printed, Daugherty said.

“It’s time for us to stand up and say that, ‘Jack McElroy doesn’t pick our county commissioners, Herb Moncier doesn’t pick our county commissioners, Lawrence Tullock does not pick our county commissioners, the Knoxville News Sentinel doesn’t, Channel 10 doesn’t.’”

While emphasizing his belief that the Sunshine Law — which requires elected officials’ meetings be open to media and the public — is “legitimate” and “needs to be enforced,” Daugherty said the News Sentinel “decides they’re going to make policy rather than report a policy.”

He mocked proponents’ claims that such amendments are about “the balance of power” and “checks-and-balances,” saying the bottom line of proponent activists is, “’We’ve got to make you stop voting for your county commissioner, and we’ve just got to do away with some commissioners.’”

Mike Mitchell, GOP club member who is an outspoken anti-charter amendment spokesman — having debated on TV, “roundtable” and community meetings — said it was a “David versus Goliath” battle: amendment proponents have raised $147,000 primarily from “four people.”

Daugherty responded, “They-’ve got a lot of money, but we have the issue because they can no longer just step at a table, one-on-one, and lie about what this does.”

One of the main concerns expressed at the meeting was Knox County Commission would be shaved from 19 representatives to nine — with the Farragut-area (District 5) trimmed from three to one.

The motive, Daugherty said of reducing to nine commissioners, was to “isolate” races so big money would be a bigger influence on elections.

Fifth District Commissioner Frank Leuthold said he would rather be one of 19 rather than one of nine because “with nine, two people can mess up the works.”

Also with bigger districts, hard work will be a less successful election asset — and money more important — “because you can’t be everywhere, you can’t meet everybody,” Leuthold added.

Daugherty announced TCU was joining the fight to defeat these amendments.

Mitchell labeled the News Sentinel, WBIR-TV Channel 10 and other countywide Knox media “downtown media” that needed to improve on leveling the field of discussion.


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