Jim Folts   Blount County Commissioner
“To stand in silence, when they should be protesting, makes cowards out of men” - Abraham Lincoln

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The Blount County Commissioners

Citizens for Better Government

The work has begun
On September 1, 2010 I took the oath of office as Blount County Commissioner. I was elected to listen to you and make your opinions known to our County government. Feel free to measure me against the issues we talked about in the campaign. A link to my campaign brochure is included in the left column of this page. Let me know how I am doing by emailing me or phoning me at the address and numbers shown in the left column.

To keep you posted, I will include a summary of each Commission meeting on this page. I will list the important issues covered in the meeting, as well as the results of each vote on those issues. You can also view the video of each meeting by using the link in the left column.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to earn your confidence.
September 2010 Report

Special Meeting - September 1, 2010 - What happened to the Sunshine law?

A special Commission meeting was called to select a Commission Chairman, Chair Pro Blount, and Nominating Committee for the various Committees and Commissions needed to make County government function. Although the Sunshine law states that any discussion of Commission business must be done in public, I was amazed to find that complete consensus on who should be the Chair and Chair Pro Tem of the Commission was instantly arrived at, and matched the "rumors" I had been hearing since shortly after election day. Though more than a third of the Commissioners were new and most had rarely, if ever, attended a Commission meeting, they seemed to know who was best qualified to be chair, without any public discussion. These kinds of backroom deals are wrong and should stop. Therefore, I voted against the machine choices for Chairman and Chair Pro Tem (Ken Melton and Gary Farmer). This meeting also saw Shawn Carter, the newly elected Commissioner from District 1, resign after just two hours in office. The Commission also appointed the entire Commission as Nominating Committee (didn't make much sense to me either).

Agenda Meeting - September 7, 2010 - Commission doesn't want information on qualifications of appointees?
The major purpose of this meeting was to nominate or confirm more than 40 candidates for the Commissions and Committees needed to make the government function. Unfortunately, aside from four appointments to the Board of Zoning Appeals, the Commissioners were not given any information about experience and qualifications of the nominees or appointees. How can any Commissioner possibly cast an intelligent vote, without information on the person's skills and qualifications for the job? I don't know of a business that would hire a person for a job, without such information.

I offered an amendment, shown below, requesting this information.
The County faces very serious problems this year, like a quarter billion dollar debt and a budget increasing at 2.5 times inflation, which according to our former mayor could lead to a 40% tax increase. We need to select the best-qualified person for every position. To accomplish this, we need information on the experience and qualifications of each nominee. In our packages, we have some good information on the qualifications of the nominees for the Planning Board, but nothing on the nominees for other Committees like Budgeting and Purchasing. Therefore, I offer an amendment to the motion, to require information on the experience and qualifications of each nominee we will be asked to vote on at the upcoming Commission meeting. Casting votes without any information on the nominees is NOT in the interest of our citizens.

Incredibly, the amendment was voted down. Burchfield, Carver, Caylor, Farmer, French, Greene, Harrison, Hasty, Helton, Kirby, Lail, Lambert, Melton, Moon, Samples and Wright voted NO. Only Commissioner Murrell and myself voted for it. Commissioners voting on important issues without any information, other than directions from the political machine, are the reason this County is in a mess. Hopefully, our Commissioners will begin to think for themselves before it is too late.

Despite the Sunshine law, with no public discussion about the qualifications of the candidates, there was complete unanimity, except for me, in the subsequent voting. I guess, with no information available on the candidates, and no discussion, it was divine inspiration that brought all the Commissioners to the same conclusions.

At this meeting, citizen Judy Dixon made an impassioned plea to the Commissioners for some justice in her zoning dispute with the Sheriff. Dixon's home once backed on a pleasant open field, zoned "Surburbanizing", a residential zoning designation. Then, out of nowhere, without obtaining the required building, zoning, grading or environmental approvals, the Blount County Sheriff built a "driving track" on the land. Before they knew what happened, the Dixons were being treated to flashing lights, squealing tires, sirens and grenades, sometimes late at night. Then to maximize disruption to the Dixons quiet retirement, the Sheriff invited 30 other agencies, from as far away as Kingston, to use the facility. But it doesn't stop there, now the Sheriff has applied for a rezoning of the land to "Regional", which apparently will enable the Sheriff to invite his friends from all over the state and region to come use the Blount County taxpayer funded facility. Meanwhile, the Dixons and their neighbors suffer. Citizens tell me they are sick and tired of a planning and zoning system that is routinely ignored by the 'connected few'. I agree.

Commission Meeting - September 16 - Commission votes for nearly 40 appointees with no information on their qualifications
(I was absent from this meeting due to illness. Thanks for all your calls and emails. I will soon be back to my old self.)
Following the folly set in motion at the Agenda meeting, the political machine Commissioners and some confused newcomers, barged ahead and voted, unanimously, to put 40 appointees into office without a shred of information on their qualifications to hold those offices.

In another insult to the taxpayers, the Commission was asked to provide the Sheriff with a larger parking lot at the "Justice Center". Maybe I am old fashioned, but I believe when you submit an annual budget, it ought to be good for more than three months. The parking problem at the Justice Center has existed for years. Did everyone just forget about it when the budget was being prepared? Less than three months into the budget, we are being asked for $60,000 to solve this problem. The occupants of the building, the Sheriff, Circuit Court Clerk and judges, have a total budget exceeding $23 million. $60,000 is less than 0.3% of that total. In these tough times, when our citizens struggling, I am sure the Sheriff and the other occupants can save 0.3% in other areas to pay for this parking lot. There is need for this budget increase, but it was referred to the Budget Committee anyway. Hopefully, if it comes back to the Commission for approval, some of the new members of the Commission will remember that they work for the taxpayers.