Reader: vote ‘Yes’ for Amendment I
This letter will present factual information n the Knox County Charter Review Committee and its endorsement of Amendment 1 to the Charter, which is on the November ballot. Several Letters to the Editor have been submitted by one citizen of the committee referencing what he refers to as a “core group” of “paid advisors and elected bureaucrats.” I am also a 5th District representative to the Charter Review Committee and would like to present you with the facts.
First, this committee is comprised of 27 members, which include nine County Commissioners, nine citizens appointed by the nine County Commissioners and nine citizens appointed by the Mayor. Quick math shows that 18 members or 67 percent of the total membership are “controlled” by the County Commission and 33 percent named by the Mayor.
So, I cannot understand how this “core group” is “working under direction of the Mayor.” The simple truth is that Amendment 1 was approved by a 15 to 9 vote of the committee (three members absent). Quick math again shows that 63 percent of the committee endorsed this Amendment. A conspiracy theorist may call this a “core group,” but in a democracy we call this a super majority.
The proposed Amendment 1 allows the Mayor to appoint the County Attorney with confirmation by the County Commission. It also allows the County Commission and the School Board to each appoint its own attorney. This action allows these three policy-making bodies of Knox County government to have independent individual legal counsel. Please note this does not mean that each attorney would have a large staff with multi-offices in the City County Building taking up space and building up pensions. In fact, it is the opposite.
It is interesting to note that since the Knox County Charter became effective in 1990 the number of County Commissioners has been reduced from 19 to 11 while the size of the Law Director’s office has gone from 5 to 19. We do not need the equivalent of a law firm in the County offices at taxpayer expense of $2.3 million annually and an additional budget line of $400,000 for outside legal support.
That is why 90 of the 95 counties in Tennessee appoint County Attorneys versus electing. That is why Hamilton County (Chattanooga) has a County Attorney with a budget of $1.14 million in 2020 (half of Knox County’s budget). That is why 12 counties surrounding Knox County (Grainger, Blount, Hamblen, Jefferson, Cocke, Roane, McMinn, Anderson, Sevier, Loudon, Campbell and Claiborne), having a combined population of 712,000, have combined County Attorney budgets of less than $2 million. That is why now is the time to vote “Yes” for Amendment I.
Some politicos may say the elected Law Director is the people’s lawyer in county government. I say look no further than the overwhelming voter mandate by the citizens of Knox County to impose term limits in Knox County government. Those elected at that time have refused to recognize the voice of the people for 13 years. The elected Law Director also did nothing for 13 years to recognize the vote of the people.
Finally, the Tennessee State Supreme Court acknowledged the voice of the people and ordered term limits in Knox County government … so much for the Law Director being the people’s lawyer.
Let’s end this expensive taxpayer-funded office and let our Mayor, County Commission and School Board have independent legal counsel at a greatly reduced cost to our citizens. Vote ‘Yes” for Amendment 1.
Mike Arms, Member of Knox County
Charter Review Committee