Ear to the Ground

Gas It Up

So Mayor Mike Ragsdale and his staff get county-provided SUVs but still get travel pay. But it still takes $3 per gallon of gas to run the gas-guzzling four-wheel drive monsters. Well, actually it doesn't.

They pull up at any Pilot station and fill up with gas and charge it to the county.

The county has a contract with Pilot, primarily for sheriff's deputies, to avoid having to operate its own fueling station, and it prevents officers on patrol from having to return to home base should they get low on fuel.

Knox County Commissioners are planning to take away the â“travel payâ” which the mayor's office has acknowledged is a hidden pay supplement for the mayor and his staff.

Will You Take a Check?

The Knox County Democratic Party made $6,000 on its Truman Day dinner last weekend, even though Gov. Phil Bredesen had to cancel his appearance. Congressman Lincoln Davis , widely believed to be the leading Democratic candidate for governor in 2010, filled in as keynote speaker. At midweek the plan was to keep the legislature in session through the weekend to get Bredesen's budget and his cigarette tax increase passed, then adjourn for the year. Bredesen cancelled the Knoxville appearance in order to be on hand for last minute arm twisting. But House Republicans held up final passage, holding out for a capital budget plan for schools. The legislature finally adjourned Thursday night so the leadership could break out the rubber hoses and get members back in line for final passage this week.

Party treasurer Jeffery Gleason resigned just before the Truman Day dinner in a dispute with new party chair Don Daugherty . Daugherty had to write personal checks for up to $7,000 to pay vendors for the event until a new treasurer could be named to issue party checks. The checks require two signatures, the chair and the treasurer. The dispute centered on Daugherty's objection to past practice with the local party in which the chair signed blank checks and the treasurer then made them out and signed them. Gleason objected to an email from Daugherty that suggested if he didn't have time to meet and make out the checks, he should reconsider being treasurer.

The Democrats are planning a fall event to kick off the campaign and raise money for local offices next year. The party is in negotiation with a major Democratic presidential candidate to attend. At the Truman Day dinner Tennessee's own Al Gore won the straw poll going away with John Edwards in second. Without Gore on the ballot Edwards was the winner.

Campfield Opponent?

Tommy Prince , a former two-term member of the Knox County school board, attended a recent session of the â“Campaign 101â” course designed to recruit and advise candidates to get involved in local politics.

Prince, a Republican, said he is weighing a race against state Rep. Stacey Campfield next year. Campfield's often controversial stands on issues and confrontational style earned him an opponent in both the Republican primary last year and a Democratic opponent in the general election.

Prince said he is talking to potential supporters, and that he came to the workshop because he wanted to brush up on current campaign requirements and campaign tactics, since he left office in 2000. One of his primary interests is mental health treatmentâ"or the lack thereof.

Channel 8?

The May sweeps are in and WVLT, the local CBS affiliate, is the only local station to report an increase in total number of households 6-11 p.m. year-over-year.

The local TV race has been between WBIR and WATE, the two stations with the most viewers. But WVLT has been steadily increasing its share over time. Both WBIR and WATE lost households during the past year.

Amplification

In the print version of last week's â“Ear to the Ground,â” we reported that former Knoxville attorney and sometime candidate for public office Charlie Thomas was now teaching English in Guatemala. He does a little bit of that, but he says he spends most of his time coordinating volunteers for an effort to help endangered children rescued from extreme conditions there. These people, who had lived as scavengers in a Guatemala City dump, were the subject of a recent Oscar-nominated film called Recycled Life . Charlie also works with the human-rights organization Fundacion Nahual, which monitors the 1996 peace accords that ended the long civil war there.

Bug in Our Ear

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