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County Charter Amendments in Plain English? October 25, 2008 12:06 pm

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Local Politics, Politics, Touchy Subjects
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Update Oct 29, 2008: My interpretation is now posted. Click THIS LINK to read the explanation of the Charter Amendments as explained by the County Law Director’s Office. If you are looking for a quick answer and want to vote my decision, vote (1) Yes, (2) Yes, (3) No, and (4) No.

I was just looking over the Sample Ballot for the General Election in Knox County, TN November 4, 2008. There are 5 potentially confusing choices that may leave many voters guessing. Has anyone put the Charter Amendment questions and the Liquor Referendum into plain English?

The questions are:

COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENT QUESTION 1
Question 1: Shall the Knox County Charter be amended as follows: The Knox County Charter Section 9.05 D is hereby amended to delete the phrase “Not more than sixty (60) days and not less than forty-five (45) days prior to the next general election next following its appointment” and to substitute the following language: “In accordance with Section 9.05E” and to delete only the first sentence of Section 9.06 E, and to substitute the following two sentences: Any and all proposed charter amendments to be submitted to the voters of the County shall be submitted to the Knox County Election Commission in accordance with state law. The County Election Commission shall submit any Charter amendments certified and delivered to it, in accordance with the provisions of this Section 9.05, to the voters of the county at the next regular State or County election following the delivery to the County Election Commission of the ordinance or petition proposing the amendment?

Update from explanation: This is a housekeeping amendment to bring our county into conformance with state law. In short, the amendment says, "Amendments can be added to the ballot."

COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENT QUESTION 2
Question 2: Shall the Knox County Charter be amended as follows: Section 9.05 of the Knox County Charter dealing with the composition of and the selection process for the members of a Charter Review Committee is amended by deleting Subsections D. and E. in their entirety and substituting the following: D. Within certain prescribed time periods, but not less than every eight years, a Charter Review Committee will review this Charter to determine the need for amendments. The committee shall be composed of 27 members with 1 member of the County Commission from each commission district to be nominated by the Commission, 9 non-commission members who are registered Knox County voters nominated by the Commission and 9 noncommission members who are registered Knox County voters nominated by the Knox County Mayor. Only 2 noncommission members shall be nominated from each commission district. The Commission shall vote upon each nominee individually. If the nominee does not receive a majority of votes, then whoever nominated that nominee shall nominate someone new. E. Proposed Charter amendments shall be submitted to the Election Commission in accordance with state law?

Update from explanation: This is also a housekeeping amendment. Apparently the current charter does not explicitly state how the composition of a Charter Review Committee (that is, who makes up the committee). I looked for the actual wording in the current charter but could not find it. So, as a matter of housekeeping, this question adds that language to the charter.

COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENT QUESTION 3
Question 3: Shall the Knox County Charter be amended [1] to reduce the number of commissioners elected by the people from nineteen (19) to eleven (11) so that each commission district will have only one (1) instead of two (2) elected representatives along with two (2) at-large commissioners elected in a County-wide vote so that seven Commission Seats shall be elected in the County primary and general election of 2010 for an initial extended term of six (6) years and every four (4) years thereafter while four (4) Commission Seats shall be elected in the County primary and general election of 2010 and every four (4) years thereafter; [2] to insure no person shall be eligible to serve as a member of the Commission who is employed in any other position by Knox County; [3] to adopt a nepotism policy prohibiting an elected or appointed official from recommending, supervising, or causing employment of his or her relative to an office or position of employment within Knox County government and; [4] to require elected or appointed officials to disclose, prior to voting, any conflict of interest in any matter and recuse him/herself from the discussion and/or vote on the matter?

Update from explanation: This question is actually two unrelated questions in one. The first half of the question is asking do we reduce the number of county commissioners from 19 to 11. Each commission district would be reduced from 2 representatives to 1. And 2 at-large commissioners who would serve county wide and not be bound to district. This is similar to the way the city government works. So if you feel the city’s representation of the people is effective, then that part of the question is a YES vote. If you feel the city’s government is ineffective, then that half of the question is a NO vote.

The second half of the question regards a nepotism policy which obviously prohibits family from supervising or influencing employment of a relative. It also says that no person drawing a paycheck from Knox County would be able to serve as a commissioner. For example, a Knox County school teacher could not also be a Knox County Commissioner.

This is a tough question simply because the first half has to weigh between less overhead in our county government versus less representation. And the second half has to do with eliminating the good ol’ boy network in our county government (again, my interpretation, not the County Law Director’s Office). However, you cannot vote NO to half and YES to the other half. Your vote is either FOR or AGAINST.

COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENT QUESTION 4
Question 4: Shall the Knox County Charter be amended [1] to take away from the people the ability to vote for the County Trustee, County Clerk, and Register of Deeds by changing these elected offices to administrative offices appointed by the Mayor subject to Commission approval effective September 1, 2010; [2] to take away from the people the ability to vote for the County Law Director by changing this elected office to an office appointed by the Mayor, subject to Commission approval, and subject to removal by two-thirds of the Commission for fraud or malfeasance, effective September 1, 2012; [3] to give the Mayor the power, with Commission approval, to create or eliminate major departments of county government and to appoint all department directors, subject to removal for cause by two-thirds of the Commission; [4] eliminate the office of County Auditor and put in its place an Inspector General to be appointed by the Commission for a six (6) year term, effective September 1, 2010; and [5] adopt a conflict of interest policy requiring elected and appointed county officials to disclose their personal interest in any matter requiring an exercise of discretion and to recuse himself/herself from participating in the matter?

Update from explanation: Right now, the positions of County Trustee, County Clerk, Register of Deeds and County Law Director are all elected positions. If you live in the county, you get to vote for the people who hold those positions. This question proposes that those four positions will no longer be elected. Instead the Mayor will appoint those positions.

LIQUOR REFERENDUM
[ ]For legal sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises in Knox County.
[ ]Against legal sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises in Knox County.

Update from explanation: There are not overreaching implications of this question. Either we want to be able to have liquor by the drink served in bars and restaurants in the county, just like we do in the city, or we don’t.

To review and my recommendations:

  1. (YES) Housekeeping
  2. (YES) Housekeeping
  3. (NO) Two unrelated questions: a) reduce the number of commissioners b) Instate a nepotism policy
  4. (NO) Change 4 elected positions to positions appointed by the Mayor

Please post your thoughts in comments. I will be looking for an explanation online and possibly adding my own interpretation.

Michael Silence’s poll says the Amendments won’t pass.

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Comments»

1. gk - October 25, 2008

I too have been looking for an explanation of the Charter Amendments in plain english – with no luck so far. I’ll keep searching, but I hope you post again with anything you find.

2. Morgan - October 26, 2008

Well these are biased I guess, but:

http://www.knoxaccountability.com/

http://www.knoxcharterpetition.com/

I still don’t feel I really understand what they are talking about…but I went out to dinner with an old teacher of mine who I really like and respect and her husband is one of the county commissioners and he said to vote yes on 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 didn’t seem to have a huge effect either way. So I did that but honestly am still confused. I feel a little bad for not researching it more but I voted Obama and for the other democrats running, so I don’t feel TOO bad. I honestly didn’t know what the county commission even did until he told me.

3. Morgan - October 26, 2008

Oh and the liquor one is just so there can be bars in the county, outside of city limits. As of now you can’t sell liquor by the drink outside the city limits and I think the rural folks deserve to get just as wasted as us city folks. That way the serious drunk rednecks can stay out of town to do their drinking and driving and whatever else they do.

Just kidding. But actually I think if you live in the city limits you don’t get to vote for it anyways…I am not sure it came up on the screen for me.

4. Number9 - October 28, 2008

http://www.saveknox.org/

Has the timeline and both Charter Amendments explained.

5. Doug McCaughan - October 28, 2008

Thanks for the link! I contacted the election commission to get information and learned that they are not allowed to explain or comment on the ballot. I was referred to the Knox Co. Law Director.


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