Ear to the Ground

Whatâ’s the Question?

Have people been opposed to metro government or opposed to the form of metro theyâ’ve been offered?

A recent poll conducted by the News Sentinel and WBIR-TV had a surprising result, widely reported, that the majority of those surveyed in the county outside the city favored metro government. Does this indicate a huge shift in public opinion, given that in past elections metro government was soundly defeated outside the city?

What may have been overlooked in news stories was another question in the poll. Fully 85 percent of those polled preferred an elected (over an appointed) top copâ"in other words law enforcement under a metro government would be the responsibility of the sheriff.

The last metro government proposal to go down in defeat turned the sheriff into a jailer and process server and mandated that law enforcement be placed under an appointed chief.

Support Dwindling?

Mayor Mike Ragsdaleâ’s support on Knox County Commission seems to be dwindling. When Commission voted itself subpoena powers Monday night to investigate the mayor, only Commissioner R. Larry Smith spoke and voted against it. Commissioners Phil Ballard and Jack Huddleston, who have sided with the mayor on occasion, passed.

Commissioners Mark Harmon and Mike Hammond were absent.

The extraordinary powers require a two-thirds (13-vote) majority and the measure, proposed by Commissioner Lee Tramel, got 14 votes. Tramel and a visibly angry and indignant Commissioner Paul Pinkston said Commission needed subpoena power because neither Ragsdale nor any senior staff being questioned attended the special meeting to discuss the travel pay audit.

Sun Tzu Strikes Again

Tyler Harber, former aide and political operative for Knox County Mayor Ragsdale, has surfaced again, with his former employer claiming he has inflated his resume.

Public Opinion Strategies sent an e-mail around Washington political circles:

â“You may have recently received information regarding former Public Opinion Strategies (POS) employee Tyler Harber and his recent move to Wilson Research Strategies.

â“In his recent promotional releases regarding his move and in recent e-mails that have been forwarded to us, Tyler considerably overstates his experienceâ

â“Imagine our surprise when Tyler claims credit for literally every single POS win in the 2006 election cycle, including Senate races, Governorâ’s races, Congressional races and down-ticket races in which Tyler had absolutely no involvement.

â“The truth: âTyler worked for POS for a little more than one year, and was neither the lead strategist nor the lead pollster on a single project.â”

Harber, who often claimed ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu as his inspiration, ran local political campaigns and has said he didnâ’t do any work in his county job. He left town after a Sheriffâ’s Department investigation into stolen emails that appeared in Ragsdaleâ’s office.

Agee Goes Global, Again

Last spring, English radio producer Alan Hall and well-known poet/memoirist Blake Morrison were in town recording a documentary about the life of James Agee. They stayed in the St. Oliver on Market Square, and their journeys took them from downtown pubs to the Checker Flag, the beer joint and pool hall on Clinton Highway that stands approximately where Ageeâ’s father was killed in a 1916 car wreck. The finished documentary, American Legend: James Agee, will be broadcast globally this Sunday, Sept. 16, at 9:30 p.m. BST (which in EDT, we think, is maybe something like naptime). For those who donâ’t have regular access to BBC radio, see if you can tune it in at www.bbc.co.uk/radio3 .

Hall was also the producer, 12 years ago, of another BBC documentary with an Agee theme, Knoxville: Summer 1995. This new documentary is presented by Morrison himself, who has something of a literary rock-star reputation in the UK.

Better Safe Than Spunky

UT has always seemed a little skeptical of traditions that donâ’t have some direct bearing on UT sports, so quite a few people were looking forward to the rare freshmen-welcoming Torch Night ceremony to take place at Circle Park Tuesday night. This yearâ’s promised to be especially memorable, because Rita Sanders Geier, a civil-rights hero of the â‘60s recently appointed to oversee the universityâ’s efforts in encouraging diversity, was to have given the keynote address. But early Monday afternoon, there was some mention of a chance of â“inclement weather.â” Some universities might have forged ahead, showing the freshmen an inspiring example of school spirit. Others, perhaps concerned about delicate clothing, might have moved it to a sheltered location, or postponed it. To be on the safe side, UT canceled the ceremony altogether.

Chancellor Loren Crabtree announced that university administrators â“regret that incoming freshmen will not be able to take part in this campus tradition and hear Ms. Geier give the keynote address; however, the safety of students, faculty, staff, and invited guests is paramount.â”

We can see how a driving rain might make lighting torches problematic, but safety? From slipping in the mud, perhaps?

Weâ’ll be interested to see how UTâ’s stern new rain-safety policies affect football games, which tend to draw even more vulnerable students, staff, and faculty than torch nights.

 

Bug in Our Ear

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