Ear to the Ground: Liberal Examination

Liberal Examination

A film crew for Bill Moyers Journal, on PBS, has been in town. You can expect to see a program sometime this month on the shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. (The show airs at 9 p.m. on Fridays.)

Jim David Adkisson, 58, is accused of opening fire with a shotgun at the Sunday morning service at the church on Kingston Pike on July 17, killing two people and injuring six others. He is being held pending a $1 million bond.

The episode should be of particular interest to Moyers, one of the foremost liberals in America, given Adkisson's manifesto attacking liberalism and stating his desire to kill liberals for "ruining America." The Unitarian Universalist Association ran a full page ad in The New York Times Aug. 10 re-affirming the church's commitment to the liberal positions attacked by Adkisson.

Reluctant Showboat?

An offhand remark in a routine television interview led to state Sen. Tim Burchett's county mayoral campaign for 2010 to get a jump start—launched a couple of months before he was ready.

Those not enamored with the free-wheeling Burchett are looking for another candidate. The county's current financial condition, revealed in a series of scandalous audits, has left some people wishing for a strong financial hand at the helm going forward. Some business people are pushing Lewis Cosby to run. Cosby, a retired CPA and auditor, has examined the county books and has been a persistent critic of county spending and budget irregularities.

Cosby has some reluctance in running; he fears the charge will be made that his citizen audits will be construed as having had a political motive and hurt his credibility speaking out on the misdeeds of County Mayor Mike Ragsdale's administration.

Ragsdale famously called Cosby a "showboat" during one of his presentations to County Commission.

In, Out, Back In

Former Judge David Creekmore had been working in the Knox County Law Department for years, but left abruptly this summer. It may have had something to do with his support of his friend Bill Lockett for the position of law director, instead of his former boss John Owings.

Lockett confirms Creekmore will be rejoining the law department now that he has been sworn into the post.

Bring Debate to Locals

The newly formed Democratic Resource Center has proposed a series of surrogate debates to coincide with the three presidential debates and the vice-presidential debate.

Local Democrats and Republicans would provide four well-informed surrogates for the parties and hold the debates immediately preceding the national debates. The local debates would be in east, west, north and south Knox County, with a single moderator and last for 60-90 minutes.

Don Daugherty, chair of the Democratic Resource Center, sent the proposal to Corey Johns, first vice chair of the Knox County Republican Party. The Republicans have yet to respond publicly.

The national debates are at Ole Miss Sept. 26, Belmont College in Nashville Oct. 7, and Hofstra, Oct. 15. The vice-presidential debate will be in St. Louis Oct. 2.

The Paper Revolution

On Tuesday afternoon at 2:30, about 65 people sought refuge from the heat beneath the maple trees of the courthouse lawn. Some crowded on the 130-year-old courthouse's steps, as Don Parnell, affable real estate man, former Metropolitan Planning Commission head, and charter-amendment volunteer, led them in a cheer: "Orange! White! Orange! White!" The cheer wasn't for the forlorn Vols, who had lost their season opener late the previous night, but for the dramatic deadline of the controversial but apparently popular petition amendment effort, which commenced in June.

On cue, a postal-service truck pulled up on Main Street, and eight volunteers carried eight cardboard banker boxes up the steps, bearing tens of thousands of signatures: most of the 50,108 signatures on the white petition, and 51,276 on the orange petition. Parnell read part of the Declaration of Independence, words rarely heard on this lawn: "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed"—he stopped for enthusiastic applause, and got it— "that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it...."

The amendments, which would change the structure of county government, bringing some elective offices under the domain of the county mayor and reducing the size of County Commission from 19 to 11, are hardly short of a county-level coup. But the drive will only put the amendments on the November ballot, a gesture County Commission has twice declined to offer.

Parnell announced the numbers for each petition, more than twice as many as any petition in Knox County history. The total for each was more than 12,000 more than the apparent minimum required by law, but the verification process will surely turn up some attrition. Leaders seem confident they reached their once-unlikely goal. "Thank you all, and I think the results speak for themselves," Parnell said.

He emphasized that the signatures meant only "Yes, I want a chance to vote on these changes." He urged the public to study the issues before November.

The group collected about 5,500 more signatures in the final week. The last big push was on Boomsday. "The bad thing was that only one in a hundred were Knox County voters," says petition-drive leader Laurens Tullock. "The good thing was that there were 400,000 people there."

"Kind of feels funny that it's over," said an older woman as she left.