Ear to the Ground: Job Bank

Job Bank

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe is expected to be back living in Knoxville come spring. President-elect Barack Obama has notified all non-career foreign service ambassadors (translation: political ambassadors) that their services will no longer be required after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. Some presidents take their time filling plum ambassadorial posts, but the smoothly efficient Obama transition team is wasting no time. Ashe has been ambassador to Poland since being appointed to the post by his friend and Yale college classmate President George W. Bush.

There isn't any speculation on the fed grapevine at this point as to when the incoming president might replace U.S. Attorneys. The office in Knoxville is being held by Russ Dedrick, a career federal prosecutor who has been acting U.S. Attorney three times in Knoxville between presidential appointments. Dedrick got the permanent position when the previous U.S. Attorney was elevated to a federal judgeship. He was also acting U.S. Attorney in three other jurisdictions during his career.

Should the U.S. Attorneys be fired, as is usually the case, Dedrick has over 30 years of service and can retire. As to local Democrats who might be in line for the job, the two most prominent are Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols and Knoxville Vice-Mayor Mark Brown. Brown, who supported Obama's election, would be a groundbreaking choice as a black U.S. Attorney in Knoxville.

RINO Hunters

Conservatives have spent years trying to get Republican control of the state House of Representatives. Having accomplished that goal, a new group has been formed to help elect conservative Republicans and eliminate RINOs. That would be "Republicans in Name Only," the moderate Republicans in the House who are not sold on the conservative agenda.

The group is attempting to find 15 founding donors good for $20,000 each for each election cycle ($10,000 annual) and other donors to achieve a $375,000 annual budget. The acting chair of the group is Steve Gill, a Nashville radio talk show host. A founding document prepared by the group lists major Republican Party donors like Lee Beaman, A.J. McCall, Jimmy Wallace, and James Peach. Legislative members on the list include Republican state Reps. Frank Niceley, Donna Rowland, Glen Casada, and Bill Ketron, among others.

The group has a list of 18 conservative positions having to do with opposition to a state income tax, Second Amendment protections, pro-life, traditional marriage, pro-business, repeal of the Hall Income Tax, strict border enforcement, and pro-drilling for energy independence.

The poster boy for the RINO hunters is state Rep. Steve McDaniels, proposed to be Speaker Pro Tem in the incoming Republican leadership. McDaniels was a co-sponsor of the income tax and a supporter of Democratic Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, but has pledged to vote for the Republican speaker, a vote the Republicans need to get to a 50-vote majority.

Retirement Jitters

Local teachers, University of Tennessee faculty and staff, and state employees may be a bit unnerved by the volatility of the stock market lately. Their $31 billion pension fund has dropped $6 billion to $25 billion as of November.

Officials say current obligations can be met and if the market turns around in the coming months it will only be "paper losses." But if the market stays down next year, more contributions may have to be made by state government and members to keep the fund solvent.

Pension funds at DOE, TVA, and city and county government have also suffered major losses, though they are not expected to cause problems in the short term.

Huge losses in the state pension fund could be an issue as the legislature meets to hire a new state treasurer, expected due to the Republican takeover of the House. The state treasurer is elected by members of the House and Senate in joint session.