Odds & Ends of This & That, XII

Odds & Ends of This & That, XII

 

Clerk’s Loan Needed

I don’t think there’s any doubt our county, state, country and world have changed a lot since the advent of the COVID-19 virus.  It’s almost impossible to find anyone or anything left untouched by the coronavirus.  Charlie Susano, Clerk of the Circuit, Civil Sessions and Juvenile Courts, is asking the county commission for a loan of $1.5 million to keep paying his employees and keep the doors open.  One way or the other, the Tennessee State Supreme Court is going to mandate the doors remain open as the offices have a constitutional responsibility to the public.

The presiding judge of the General Sessions Courts, Geoff Emery, has penned a letter stating the obvious: that the employees in Susano’s office are all essential to keep the doors open and the offices and courts functioning properly.  And let’s be very clear about another thing: Susano and his staff collect millions of dollars in fees yearly.  They just aren’t allowed to keep enough of them to avoid taking a hit during a pandemic.  Susano and his staff have turned over $2 million alone that go to the school system and the sheriff’s department.  The clerk’s office collects a myriad of litigation taxes that go to support everything from school debt to mediation services.

Susano isn’t asking for a handout; he’s asking for a loan to draw on until court filings return to normal.  The COVID-19 has affected individuals and families across the globe and yes, it’s affected how our government functions, too.  The county commission should approve the request and allow our courts to go about their business and collections will rise.

 

Reopening Our Schools

The Knox County School system has a plan for reopening our schools.  That plan was approved by a vote of the board of education on a motion made by board member Mike McMillan.  McMillan pointed out what should be obvious to folks: there are no absolutes as we move forward save for trying to keep the children, faculty and staff as safe as possible.

First of all, full disclosure: I was a member of the task force appointed by the members of the Knox County Board of Education who considered how to reopen our school system.  I think the leadership of Jerry Askew made all the difference in the world.  I think the recommendations of the task considered all the opinions that were laid before us.  I also happen to believe the path taken thus far by superintendent Bob Thomas to be the best approach to a very difficult situation.

I think Thomas did a really good job of going through the 27-page reopening document and explaining it.

I am certain there are numerous things that will come up in the days ahead which nobody thought about.  I am equally sure folks are going to have a difficult time agreeing about everything.  We may have passed the time in America where we operate by consensus of opinion.  Still, I have to thank my colleagues on the task force for their hard work and especially to Dr. Jerry Askew who did an awesome job.

 

 

The Form of Form Letters

As the meeting approached, members of the board of education began receiving a steady stream of form letters via email, which were purportedly the result of a suggestion on Facebook.  As far as the number of form letters received, it wasn’t a lot, but the message was similar, if not identical.  The intent was clearly to try and put off the start of the school year, or perhaps just keep the schools closed until there is a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.  Others wanted to start school after Labor Day.

The content of the form letters varied slightly, but the correspondence was, so I am told by board members, heavily weighted from teachers or the spouses or parents of educators.  Some carried specific demands, such as simply giving teachers more sick days or holding them harmless in the event they have to be quarantined , meaning they wouldn’t have to use any of their own sick days should that be the case.  There was a demand that Superintendent Bob Thomas get with superintendents across the state to insist Governor Bill Lee raid the “rainy day” fund for $300 million for a variety of purposes, some of which had to do with delivery of services to special education students.  The rainy day fund is somewhere between $1.3 and $1.5 billion, depending upon who one listens to, but perhaps the bigger point is some estimates of Tennessee’s revenue shortfall next year may be as much as $1.5 billion.  Depleting the rainy day fund may not be the wisest course of action when we have no idea how the revenue will come in or if it will come in, but these giants of public policy probably never gave that a thought.  Most of them would likely support hiking taxes for ordinary citizens when they haven’t missed a check and haven’t worked for the better part of five months.

Also, buried in some of the form letters were teachers insisting wearing a mask must be mandatory, most of whom were apparently unaware Knox County’s Board of Health had already voted to require the wearing of a mask in those buildings owned by Knox County.  I can’t imagine that edict wouldn’t apply to school buildings.

Some teachers wrote to the board they wanted the support of board members if they decided to walk off the job should they determine there was a risk to their own health or that of the children.  It was never quite clear in the correspondence I saw just who would make that determination.  The superintendent?  The board?  Or a handful of teachers.  I presume by “support” they meant remaining on the payroll until somebody decided the health emergency had passed.  Of course what they were suggesting is illegal under Tennessee state law.  Had board members tendered that support, they probably were subject to being ousted from office.

Apparently, those sending the form letters don’t realize board members are elected to represent individual districts; they aren’t elected at large.   The letter-writing campaign was organized hastily a couple of days before the board met last Wednesday.

The debate at the school board meeting began with Jennifer Owen starting the discussion with Mike McMillan later in the meeting making a motion to approve the reopening of the schools.  Ultimately, McMillan’s motion was approved 9-0 by the full board.  It didn’t look to me like board chair Susan Horn or vice chair Virginia Babb much wanted to vote on a plan.

There were some thoughtful speakers during public forum and some of the usual suspects who think the board could not possibly function without their advice.  In the end, the board made the best choice it could to move forward.

 

New York Times Gesture Just That

Bari Weiss, the journalist hired by the New York Times to allow readers to better understand the perspective of Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, has resigned.  Weiss, no conservative, resigned her position as an opinion writer and editor, saying she had been bullied and reviled for her personal views.  The radical leftists had never accepted her and evidently, neither did much of the Times staff.  Weiss wrote a letter of resignation to A. G. Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, stating since she had been hired, the newspaper had become more stridently ideological.  Weiss wrote at the Times “truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”  In her letter to Sulzberger, Weiss wrote that the Times was heavily influenced by leftists on Twitter.  “As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space.  Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions.  I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.”

Weiss wrote the once great newspaper has now become “the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people.  This is a galaxy in which, to choose just a few recent examples, the Soviet space program is lauded for its ‘diversity’; the doxing of teenagers in the name of justice is condoned; and the worst cast systems in human history include the United States alongside Nazi Germany.”

Bari Weiss complained that “other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action.”  “They never are,” Weiss sadly explained.

Unfortunately, the New York Times has slid down the sewer with most of the rest of the mainstream press.  The “Gray Lady” is tarnished beyond all recognition.

 

 

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