Upon examining the sample ballot from the General Election in Knox County, TN November 4, 2008, I found the questions of the Charter Amendments confusing. So I emailed the Election Commission and learned that they are not allowed to comment on the ballots. However, the County Law Director’s Office writes the questions so I called and spoke to a very kind and informative lawyer at the County Law Director’s Office. He also pointed me to today’s Knoxnews Editorial (which says vote yes to 3 and 4. I disagree.). The following is my interpretation of the Chart Amendment questions based upon his answers to my questions. Please see this earlier post or the sample ballot for the actual questions.
First we discussed the Liquor Referendum. 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. It’s a very straight forward question.
COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENT QUESTION 1
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
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 Google is failing me at the moment. So, as a matter of housekeeping, this question adds to the charter language that says:
a Charter Review Committee is "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."
There is no hidden agenda or far overreaching implication.
COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENT QUESTION 3
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
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.
That’s it. To review and my recommendations:
- (YES) Housekeeping
- (YES) Housekeeping
- (NO) Two unrelated questions: a) reduce the number of commissioners b) Instate a nepotism policy
- (NO) Change 4 elected positions to positions appointed by the Mayor