Given the firestorm surrounding county government and the public's suspicions about anything out of the ordinary, they wouldn't pull another stunt, would they? During the Christmas holidays?
Criminal Court Clerk Martha Phillips has had health problems for a long time and courthouse sources say she may not be able to continue in office. Should she resign before Dec. 13—that's next Thursday—her office could be put on the ballot and the voters could select a replacement in the February primary and then the August general election. She was re-elected last year.
Should she wait until after Dec. 13, the office will be filled by County Commission appointment until 2010. Would they really appoint one of their members to the post after the qualifying deadline? Really?
Say it ain't so.
Can't Throw ‘em Out
So what is the mood of the people when it comes to the upcoming county elections? Sharon Cawood has announced that she will not seek election to County Commission in District 6 (Karns/Powell). She was considered a strong candidate to keep the seat for the Democrats in the majority Republican area. It's a 14-candidate field and Cawood said there's a lot of confusion among voters with whom she talked. She said voters want to throw out all the incumbent Commissioners, not realizing the incumbent Commissioners who were sued for Sunshine law violations are not on the ballot.
Cawood said she will ask to be appointed to serve until August as a caretaker. She was appointed last January to replace husband Mark, who was term-limited, but those appointments were voided by the court.
Democrats see Charles Connatser as a strong contender for the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, former radio host and anti-tax advocate Lloyd Daugherty has picked up a petition. Daugherty, a long time Powell resident, has been a frequent critic of County Mayor Mike Ragsdale. Chuck James, a former school board member and a Ragsdale ally, is expected to enter the race. That would pit Daugherty and James as the two best-known names in the race and set up a real battle between the factions currently on County Commission. Both James and Daugherty have been friends and supporters of the Cawoods. Sharon said she will most likely remain neutral in the race.
Angry 4th-Commission-district voters continue to agitate for a legal solution.
The 4th District (centered in Bearden) lacks a County Commissioner since both seats were term-limited and both appointees were removed by the Sunshine lawsuit.
The legal efforts may be moving on two fronts. This is the situation as we go to press:
• There is a bipartisan effort to go into Chancellor Darryl Fansler's court and ask him to order County Commission to make appointments. The effort has been slowed by coordination between clients and pro bono attorneys to get the paperwork together.
• Meanwhile, a group of Sequoyah Hills residents are raising money and consulting an attorney about going into federal court to seek relief.
Time is of the essence, given the holidays and then the looming county primary in February.
Knox Lit in the Media
Have a look at the December Harper's magazine, which includes a 17-page long feature called "Enter the Ford." It's a series of previously little-known outtakes from James Agee's autobiographical novel, A Death In the Family. The new edition of the novel, edited and completely reordered by UT Professor Michael Lofaro, presents several interesting new scenes of Knoxville, ca. 1915, including a long one of Chilhowee Park during a carnival, that's funny, poignant, and a little horrifying. It's included in the Harper's piece.
Also, kudos to Knoxville fiction writer and UT creative-writing head Michael Knight, whose new book, The Holiday Season, which comprises two holiday-themed novellas, got a positive review in this week's New York Times Book Review. Floyd Skloot, who is either a critic or an old MAD Magazine character, described Knight's "understated prose" concerning a "quietly volatile world of tight Southern communities and families, a world defined by festering resentments, fumbling relationships, affairs, divorces, sudden furies."