editorial (2007-40)

The Sun Shines for All

Editorial

County government is ripe for real voter reform

The jury in Chancellor Daryl Fanslerâ’s court has decided that the Knox County Commission violated the stateâ’s Open Meetings Act at every turn in their Jan. 31 selections of replacements for 12 term-limited county officeholders. That means the appointments must be be righted by Commission, though it is not yet evident what the commissioners will do to redress the crime the majority committed in its back-hall dealings on that â“Black Wednesdayâ” eight months ago.

What they should do, if they have any respect for the voters of Knox County, is appoint caretakers to the county offices and Commission seats who will give assurances they will not run for those offices.

To do otherwise would be to invite further citizen resentment of the political maneuvering that theyâ’ve been guilty of conducting throughout this dismal year for county government.

When the state Supreme Court decided unanimously last year that the countyâ’s home-rule Charter was valid and that the term limits the voters had instituted more than 12 years before were also valid, the court made a statement that should ring in the ears of this Commissionâ’s arrogant majority.

That statement, carrying the full weight of the law, is that the people decide how they want to be governed and by whom in this state and in this county. Give the voters free and open choices on their officeholders, without conferring the advantage of incumbency on any appointees. The countyâ’s primary election next February should be the venue for determining the holders of all the offices that were term-limited.

Likewise, there will almost assuredly be a petition drive concurrent with that primary election campaign to submit to voter referendum in the August, 2008 general election a list of recommendations made through citizen forums by the Knox County - One Question group. Such a list may include reducing the size of County Commission from 19 to some less unwieldy number, such as 11, restructuring the executive branch to make most administrative officers appointive, rather than elective, with the mayor and Commission responsible for the appointments and, most importantly, establishing an independent office of Inspector General to conduct reviews, investigations and audits of all county offices to improve efficiency, accountability and responsiveness and to expose waste, fraud and abuse, including conflicts of interest and flagrant nepotism in county employment.

The government of Knox County should be returned to the voters from the hands of the career politicians and bureaucrats who have kept it in a stranglehold for their own benefit for decades.

However, such an ideal method of county government reform can only be realized if enough voters take enough time to understand the issues, determine their candidate preferences, and most significantly, go to the polls this coming February and again in August.

That means all of you who are registered or eligible to register. Voter apathy produces pathetic government. Donâ’t let it happen again. VOTE!

Can the Butts

Now that smoking is out of our buildings and back on the streets in force, the city should consider placing receptacles on downtown sidewalks for cigarette butts. The alternative is even more of a mess of cigarette ends littering the walks.

A clamor over the increase of dog feces downtown, with the rise in downtown residency and pets taken for their relief walks, brought the city to install and service pooper-scooper bins near grassy areas favored by pet owners. Cigarette butts may not be as smelly, but they are as objectionable since their filters biodegrade only very slowly.

Private employers, too, whose workers step outside for a smoke, should think about placing ready receptacles on their sites to contain smokersâ’ refuse. Some have done so already, and they should be complimented for thinking of the environment. The cleaner indoor air should make workplaces more healthy, but thereâ’s no excuse for allowing outdoor cigarette disposal to become more of a problem than it already is.

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