JULY 31, 2012 – Looking back, it is apparent the election of 2008 was a turning point in Knox County governance. To the surprise of many, all the charter amendments proposed that year passed and have been implemented.
The current County Mayor, elected in 2010, appointed all the traditionally elected officeholders in county government, and the County Commission has been shrunk to 11 members, two of them elected countywide (i.e., from West Knox County).
The upcoming metro government referendum seems to stand a much better chance than normal. Without the elected fee officers and the traditional courthouse machine as a counterbalance, the pro-metro forces have their opposition decimated. With a smaller commission they also have fewer opposing voices.
Since County Mayor Brad Hill was elected, there has been little opposition to the metro concept. He and Knoxville Mayor Laurens Tullock have been in talks about how to best accomplish the merger. Sheriff Randy Tyree, facing a recall because of the lawlessness run amok in Knox County, has agreed to be a jailer and turn over top-cop duties to the new metro police chief. "I just need a job," said Tyree. The top-cop issue has been the most contentious in past metro government elections. Without a sheriff to put 1,000 employees in the field against it, metro has a chance.
Trustee Gary Drinnen said the metro merger would not cost the county any money and would actually save, according to his projections, $8 billion.
The current structure of county government is also conducive to a merger. Since the trustee, register of deeds, and other offices are appointed, as are city department heads, combining the departments will be relatively easy. Every employee has been guaranteed a job in the new set-up, complete with pension benefits, ensuring they will not be campaigning against the measure.
Combining the 11 members of County Commission and the nine members of City Council yields a metro council of 20 members, without any elected officeholder losing his or her job. The metro mayor will act as chair of the metro council, thus totaling 21 members. Hill and Tullock are expected to work out the chief executive issue with three rounds of rock, paper, scissors. The loser will be chief of staff.
Pro-metro forces are also benefiting from the jihad against county government, which has been going on since 2007. The reputation and efficiency of county government has sunk so low, most people just want to get rid of it. Prisoner 86743 at Maxwell AFB in Alabama, known to his friend/cellmate/chief of staff as Mike, said he has been cleared of any responsibility for the public's disgust with county government. This was confirmed by Dwight "Baghdad Bob" Van de Vate, former spokesman for the mayor, who currently stands at Fifth Avenue and Gay Street holding a sign which says "Will Obfuscate for Food."
Disgust with county government has also increased since voters were convinced in 2008 not to vote for anybody who knows how to run any county departments.
The News Sentinel ran a four-page supplement last week with a petition and instructions on how to recall two county commissioners who have publicly voiced opposition to the merger. The newspaper explained it is not calling for the commissioners to be recalled, they just want the people to have the right to vote.
Commissioner Paul Pinkston, one of the subjects of the recall, said he wasn't concerned about the petition or the metro government vote. He said the people of South Knoxville would be gathering at the Shoney's on Chapman Highway next Friday morning to vote articles of secession and to have a really nice breakfast buffet. The Free State of Greater Seymour will go its own way, apparently with the blessing of the Knoxville political establishment. Knox County will attempt to retain the new Baptist Hospital, Cherokee Bluffs condos, the waterfront development, and the King Tut restaurant, but otherwise no objection is being raised.
A secession effort in Powell was snuffed out. The insurgency was crippled when Powell residents got together and tarred and feathered Commissioner Greg "Lumpy" Lambert and mailed him to Clinton.