Ear to the Ground

CPA Commissioner?

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdaleâ’s worst nightmare may be in the offing. Retired CPA Lewis Cosby, who has been volunteering his time to investigate finances in the mayorâ’s office, is being urged to apply to be appointed to the Knox County Commission to replace Frank Leuthold.

Commission has proposed hearings on financial audits of Ragsdaleâ’s office spending on travel, a hospitality fund and lunches, airline tickets and hotels. Cosby, with his financial background and his examination of county records of late, would be a formidable addition to the Commission investigation.

Citizens for Home Rule head John Emison also may apply for the 5th District appointment, though he may face opposition from some members. Emison, who is running for the post in the upcoming election, has called for a ban on commissioners working for county government. He also wants to reduce the size of Ragsdaleâ’s staff.

Let Sunshine In

You just never know when a Sunshine Law violation may occurâ"it could be in a television studio. On Inside Tennessee this week, at WBIR, Commissioners Greg â“Lumpyâ” Lambert and Commissioner Mike Hammond were waiting to go on the show while the panel, hosted by Robin Wilhoit, interviewed attorney Herb Moncier.

When the commissioners took the stage, Lambert revealed the two had been discussing whether the county might be sued over the recent stormwater ordinance, an innocent, idle conversation, but Lambert said he wanted to â“cure the violationâ” by talking about it on television. It illustrates the problem commissioners have any time they just have a conversationâ"business is likely to come up.

Moncier said the on-air confession cleared up the violation. Hammond, Lambert, and Moncier appeared on both WBIR and on WATEâ’s program, hosted by Gene Patterson, on Sunday morning. Hammond said he would release his phone records at the time of new appointments for the time since the Sunshine Law decision came down, revealing everyone he had talked with during the period.

Meanwhile, Lambert has admitted discussing changes in the stormwater ordinance with fellow Commissioner Richard Cate before he offered amendments written by the Homebuilders Association. Cate has denied it. In addition to a possible sunshine suit to overturn the amendments, the city of Knoxville has threatened to sue because the ordinance violates an agreement between the county and city for stronger provisions.

Sheriff Tyree?

Look for former Knoxville Mayor Randy Tyree to announce soon that he will be a candidate for sheriff next year. Tyree ran against term-limited sheriff Tim Hutchison last year, and the margin was much narrower than expected.

The question in the next sheriffâ’s race, pitting Tyree against the once and future Sheriff Jimmy â“J.J.â” Jones, is whether the votes in 2006 were for Tyree or against another term for the long-serving Hutchison.

Jones was removed from his office as appointed sheriff as a result of the sunshine lawsuit but is the strongest candidate for the re-appointment process and should be running next year as an incumbent sheriff.

Rubikâ’s Tube

The white-marble kiosk at the corner of Market and Clinch, by the history center, was built to resemble the U.S. Weather Bureau kiosk that once stood on the same corner a century ago. However, this time, instead of anything so boringly useful as announcements, posters, schedules, or maps, a decision was made to modernize the concept: four video screens, one facing in each direction, show videos to all passers by more or less constantly.

Exactly what sort of videos to show, however, seems to have been a dilemma for its programmers. For the first year or two, when the thing was working, it tended to show favorite episodes of WBIRâ’s popular rural-themed human-interest show, The Heartland Series.

For the last several months, however, the kiosk has been showing the same short video, a 1982 TV crewâ’s coverage of the construction and installation of the giant Rubikâ’s Cube at the Worldâ’s Fair, and random motoristsâ’ reactions to it. Itâ’s narrated off-camera with an old-fashioned gee-whiz voiceover, accompanied by that rinky-tink piano-roll music that TV stations used to employ to tip us off that something was â“wacky.â” The piece lasts about a minute and 45 seconds. Then they play it again. It was interesting the first time we saw it.

By our count, that one Rubikâ’s Cube video is shown in downtown Knoxville about 823 times a day. Itâ’s been shown perhaps nearly 100,000 times, total, since its debut early in the summer. Itâ’s driving some of us mad.

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