letters to the editor

Endorsement for County Commission told

I’m writing today not as a spokesperson for Northshore Corridor Association but as an individual who has learned much about our elected body in Knox County. District 5 Commissioner John Schoonmaker is being challenged in the upcoming Mar 3 primary.

I’ve watched John Schoonmaker represent West Knox County with complete integrity and sincerity. I would say John is one of the most qualified and knowledgeable commissioners serving today. He has a passion for what he does and takes time to thoroughly research everything that comes before commission whether it’s in his district or not. John asks the hard questions that some aren’t willing to and goes the extra mile to do his homework, not just relying on what he’s been told. He endures much frustration for us.

John’s opponent, although young, carries some name recognition. However, this opponent appears to have aligned himself with some key real estate developers who repeatedly challenge our county’s zoning laws. While certainly not all developers are bad, and our county needs growth, but John’s opponent seems to be endorsed by developers who have become known for less that appropriate uses of our remaining land. They are often backed by large corporations with little investment in the future of Knox County. And they have put great effort into high-density development of our remaining land while showing little regard for neighboring subdivisions, traffic congestion, safety, schools or smart use of our infrastructure dollars.

This is not a personal judgment of John’s opponent, who may not even fully understand why he is being supported by those developers, but instead is a necessary position we must take — to ensure that a proven and experienced leader like Schoonmaker remains in a position to defend intelligent development of what little remains of our land and to protect our existing neighborhoods, roads, and schools. Knox County is currently 88 percent built out according to MPC.

Commissioner Schoonmaker has consistently been on the right side of smart development. He’s lived in District 5 for the past 35 years. He’s been a member of the West Knox Homeowner’s Association for the last 25 years and has served as their President for 12 of those. He was also Chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals for 6 years. He was appointed to his current seat when it was vacated by Dr. Richard Briggs who went on to the State Senate. John fulfilled that term and was elected to the same seat in 2016. He currently serves as Chairman of the Finance Committee for Knox Co and is a member of the Legislative Committee.

I can’t vote for John myself since I’m in District 4, but I have personally contributed money to his campaign. John has not asked for my endorsement nor is he aware of this letter. My endorsement is based upon how much I believe in the results I’ve personally seen John deliver. I’m proud of what he’s done for West Knox County, and I hope you are too.

My neighborhood action group has spent over $200,000 just making our local government adhere to its own laws and regulations, with no avenue for any recovery of those expenditures. Through the process it’s become obvious the place to stop these problems and abuses is at the ballet box. And so that we don’t forget that every vote counts, recall that Mayor Jacobs won his seat by just 19 votes. With that, I hope you’ll take the time to educate yourself about the candidates, and along the way reflect on the positive impact that John has made throughout our county.

Bryan Spears

Pair of preferences in Commission primaries

Over the past 18 months I have worked with a large citizen team across Knox county trying to protect our neighborhoods from the impact of over development without adequate infrastructure planning. We have learned much about the operation of Knox County government.

Booming residential development is overwhelming Knox County’s infrastructure and creating large long-range un-budgeted costs for taxpayers. Meanwhile, developers complain that zoning discourages development and makes it too costly, and they are pressing the planning commission and county commission to relax or remove our zoning ordinances.

This past week, schools were closed again due to dangerous road conditions after heavy rains overwhelmed our drainage systems. Streets flooded, known flood prone areas flooded again, mudslides once more went into our storm drains and waterways and residents whose homes flooded before have found no relief since last year’s floods. Like last year, at least one citizen was killed.

Adhering to good planning and requiring developers to respect our zoning regulations could have prevented much of what we have suffered.

That is why I will be voting this week for John Schoonmaker and Scott Broyles for Knox County Commission.

I have seen Commissioner Schoonmaker working tirelessly to uphold our zoning ordinances and protect our neighborhoods, our schools and our county budget. He is a knowledgeable commissioner who does his homework and, most important, stands up for the citizens — even when it is unpopular and he is under pressure.

I will also be voting for Scott Broyles who brings integrity and the right experience to Knox County. Scott is a former Memphis beat cop who has built a successful career in homeland security in aviation.

Today Knox County is forced by budget to schedule major road projects out to the year 2034. The state’s plans are all the way out to 2040. Likewise, schools are underfunded and many are at or near capacity. Still, County Commission is approving the rezoning of property to permit more projects at even greater densities, without an overall county vision and without a plan to fund the infrastructure the new developments make necessary. This shifts the long range costs of development to the taxpayers. It is a perfect storm.

Knox County is property tax dependent. Politicians seeking to tout low taxes have depended on property taxes without developing other revenue streams. Developer friendly commissioners use this to justify rezoning and the removal of ordinances.

Change is needed to Knox County processes. Neighborhoods, citizen taxpayers and those wishing to develop Knox County land must all be treated fairly. We must have good people of integrity in leadership to do that.

John Schoonmaker stands for what is best for the long term health of Knox County, even when it hurts. We must send him back and we must give him strong smart fellow commissioners like Scott Broyles

Until now there have been some protections in place, the Knox County Growth Plan - forced upon Knox County by past abuses that brought lawsuits and forced the state to put laws in place - a mandated county Growth Plan (which has been ignored, by-passed and allowed to languish). Now, those who control and benefit from unregulated development seek to undo even that!

We must go to the ballot box to retain our ethical and diligent county commission friends, like John Schoonmaker who represent us with great integrity. And we must add good new people like Scott Broyles, who will be fair-minded and bring good new ideas for healthy, balanced growth. I hope you will join me in strengthening Knox County Commission with the right people.

Diane Montgomery, West Knox County

Farragut, Knox County voters should be active in Primary

I didn’t always think so. Up until about 5 years ago, the concept of voting seemed like something that was outside of my bandwidth. Then my kids’ elementary school exceeded capacity forcing my oldest child into a portable classroom with an unpredictable heat and air system, and my youngest to eat lunch in his homeroom. Then guess what … voting mattered to this Mom, and I am here to tell you why it should matter to you.

First of all, voting is your voice, and in most cases the only voice that you, as a citizen of Knox County, will ever have in regards to the issues that effect you on a day-to-day basis. Schools, roads, parks, taxes, land use, conservation, programs and services….your local government and those officials elected to represent you controls it all, and sometimes not just at your financial expense through taxes, but at the expense of your quality of life.

After deciding to dedicate a great percentage of my time to community advocacy, I have learned that with one yay or nay by an elected official, my circumstance, and yours, can change instantly. And the real kicker is that a very small percentage of eligible Knox County voters are choosing these decision makers. With over 460,000 residents, around 1 out of 10 exercise their right to vote. Here is the state of our county, in 2018, 89 precincts throughout Knox County reported a dismal 81,195 votes in the general election and an even more discouraging turnout for the primary with only 49, 652 voters. So if you are not voting, I can assure you that those political action committees and industry specific groups, like the development and real estate communities, are and they should be, because they have a lot to lose or gain depending on their political influence.

When I began my journey all those years ago to bring a new middle school to my community, I had no idea the power held by the people that I had to convince nor did I realize the power that my voice and vote had on them. They needed me just as much as I needed them, and I quickly realized how this all worked, and why certain groups engaged in the political process and why I should to, and so should you.

I’m not asking you to spend dozens of hours reading over government meeting agendas and proposed land use applications like I do every week, but I am asking you to be informed, know your candidates and support an individual who shares your beliefs, understands your community’s needs, and has experience! I don’t mean volunteering at his or her kid’s school experience, although extremely important, I mean boots on the ground, deep in their community’s issues type of experience. Anyone can talk the talk, but an invested candidate will have spent a significant number of hours involved in programs or services in their community, attending public government meetings, and will have been engaged somehow in the process that they hope to become a part of. If they haven’t, then their political aspirations are just that and there are already too many of those types filling seats.

So, this election, use your voice and vote, and let’s send our elected officials the clear message that individual citizens do, indeed, have influence. Your vote can make all the difference. And spoken like a true politician, “trust me” on me that.

Kim Frazier, West Knox County

A call to look at the record concerning 5th District County Commission race

Per the upcoming Republican Primary for Knox County, I would encourage you to join me in supporting the re-election of our Commissioner John Schoonmaker. I first met Commissioner Schoonmaker in 2003 when he was leading as President of the Council of West Knox County Homeowners and I was President of my neighborhood’s HOA. Commissioner Schoonmaker has been active throughout our district, which includes Town of Farragut for decades and was active (as he is today) with the Concord-Farragut Republican Club when I was its multi-year president. Commissioner Schoonmaker has supported the Farragut Gun Club and 2A initiatives since its inception and been quite active in supporting Knox County Schools at all levels including when I was leading the charge to replace (successfully) its superintendent.

Commissioner Schoonmaker has a proven track record in support and voting/being against taxes as he will NEVER support a tax increase. Commissioner Schoonmaker is one of the most knowledgeable elected representatives we have in dealing with financial matters and being pro-business while simultaneously being a leader in practicing professional public administration, understanding constitutional theory and upholding ethical practices. Commissioner Schoonmaker and I are currently working together on the Knox County Charter Review Committee and his extensive knowledge is invaluable on this very high profile committee.

Most importantly, Commissioner Schoonmaker has the dedicated time to serve as a commissioner as it literally is a “full time job”. I like and respect his opponent, Mr. Clayton Wood, through my recent conversations with him as many of my friends speak highly of him through his church and not for profit activities. I believe Mr. Wood would be an excellent future Republican commissioner / representative once he becomes more engaged in our district, gains knowledge of its critical issues and past history, and builds a track record working with its local conservative groups and officials. With that being said, please vote for the re-election of John Schoonmaker as our Republican/Conservative Commissioner.

I would also like to thank our Knox County School Board Member (and its current Chair) Susan Horn for an excellent 4 years as she has accomplished much during her tenure and met many unforeseen challenges that were not even on the horizon when we worked on her first election in 2016. Although Susan does not have an opponent in the upcoming primary, please support her for her reelection and the next four years.

Per the Knox County Charter Review Committee, we have had two meetings to date to be sworn in by a judge, elect our committee leadership, review “sunshine” provisions, and do some housekeeping items. We will be diving in to the Charter over the next month to present our initial recommendations for its first two sections at the next scheduled meeting of March 9th at 5:30 PM at the Main Assembly of the City-County Building.

Bill Johns, Farragut