KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Knox County commissioner has pleaded no contest to public indecency nearly a year after he was accused of engaging in oral sex in a park.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/199eDTh ) that Commissioner Jeff Ownby was fined $500 plus court costs for the misdemeanor charge on Friday.
He must also serve six months of supervised probation and is banned from being within 100 yards of the North Knoxville park he was arrested in.
Knoxville police arrested Ownby and another man during a prostitution sting on May 24, 2012. Ownby, who is married, has maintained that the incident was a one-time indiscretion.
Ownby rejected calls for his resignation following his arrest.
The Tennessean reports that the Tennessee Firearms Association plans to give away a Bushmaster AR-15 on Monday, subject to a background check for the winner of a drawing that Executive Director John Harris says has already pulled in more than 10,000 contestants. The promotion started on April 8, more than a week before the U.S. Senate voted down a proposal for expanded background checks that was promoted by the president and supported by 90 percent of Americans, according to most polls.
While Harris said the promotion had been planned for a while, the association’s website (main website HERE, gun giveaway page HERE) says the goal is “to advance the effort to resist Barack Obama, the federal government and even a few in Tennessee state government who are determined to destroy your 2nd Amendment rights!!” Supporters don’t have to give money to the association to enter the drawing, but they’re encouraged to “chip in a few dollars to help support the promotion and TFA!!!”
Linda McFadyen-Ketchum, a Nashville gun control activist, said the timing of the promotion is disturbing…. “just four months after Newtown and in the middle of our country’s debate about gun safety is in-your-face insensitive… We have to balance the right to bear arms with the right to be safe. A gun giveaway right now inflames emotions and does not help us achieve that goal.”
…If thwarting federal legislation is the point of the giveaway, (former state Rep. Debra) Maggart said it makes little sense, because Tennessee’s mostly Republican congressional delegation reliably supports the Second Amendment. So do the Republicans who make up a supermajority in the General Assembly, she said.
“This may illustrate perfectly what I’ve been saying all along: They create these issues to raise money. That just stokes the fire to frighten folks.”
Maggart gave Harris credit for “good marketing,” however, after the political backlash against the Newtown massacre led many gun owners to fear it would be tougher to buy an AR-15. The gun actually became more expensive in some places, according to national reports.
“He’s playing into the fear that’s out there that the gun lobby has helped create,” she said.
Harris, an attorney, said many of the state’s Republican politicians aren’t as reliable as Maggart thinks they are. He said Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, Tennessee’s two GOP senators, are “not soundly, consistently pro-Second Amendment.” He called the so-called “guns-in-trunks” bill passed by the General Assembly this year “an abomination” and “a disaster” because it doesn’t explicitly protect people who keep their guns in their cars at work from losing their jobs.
From Chas Sisk:
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey may have a lot of clout around the state Capitol. But by one measure, House Speaker Beth Harwell appears to have greater pull.
For the second consecutive year, the representative from Nashville’s upscale Green Hills neighborhood managed to upset Ramsey, a farm boy from rural Sullivan County, in a milk-off Tuesday between the leaders of the state Senate and House of Representatives.
The event highlighted Agriculture Day, an annual event in which the Department of Agriculture, Tennessee State Fair and other farm-oriented groups set up shop in the corridors of Legislative Plaza.
Harwell went into the contest the underdog, despite having beaten Ramsey in a goat-milking contest a year ago. That event was marred by allegations that Harwell had been helped by a House member who surreptitiously poured a little extra milk in her pail. Smartphone video confirmed those suspicions.
Full story HERE.
School board elections could become partisan contests under legislation filed by two Knoxville legislators who say they were acting at the behest of Knox County commissioners.
Current state law calls for nonpartisan school board elections. The bill (HB420) filed by Rep. Bill Dunn and Sen. Becky Massey, both Knoxville Republicans, authorizes county commissions to convert to partisan elections instead by a two-thirds majority vote.
Dunn said the idea was initially proposed by Commissioner Larry Smith in a conversation at a recent Knox County Republican meeting and was subsequently endorsed by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. Massey said “a number of other constituents” had also supported the idea.
Both legislators said they also support partisan elections for school board members, though Massey said she does not plan to push forward with the bill unless the Knox County Commission passes a resolution of support.
“I personally like partisan elections,” she said in an interview. “It gives the voters a base to know a candidate’s core philosophy.”
Dunn voiced similar sentiments.
“It gives people more information,” he said. “It gives them kind of an idea what a person’s philosophy would be, whether more liberal or more conservative.”
Those who do not wish to be categorized as a Republican or Democrat, Dunn noted, can still run as an Independent.
Dunn and Massey both said the measure was not aimed at anyone now serving on a school board.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Environmental groups are asking a committee of the State Building Commission to prevent use of a gas drilling technique at a forested tract owned by the University of Tennessee.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/VW0TqC ), the Southern Environmental Law Center asked, on behalf of a half-dozen environmental groups, that fracture drilling, or fracking, not be allowed in the Cumberland Research Forest.
A letter to the commission’s executive subcommittee states UT is dragging its feet on public records requests and asks the panel to defer action on drilling until the public is better informed of university intentions.
“Now UT has started behaving like an oil and gas company, and saying, ‘We’re just going to do what we want,'” said Renee Hoyos, director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, one of the groups represented in SELC’s letter sent to subcommittee members. “I don’t think UT is doing its due diligence by acting this way. It’s a university and it needs to hold itself to a higher standard.”
UT is asking to solicit bids to lease part of the 8,000-acre tract in Morgan and Scott counties. The university said it would use revenue from leases to fund studies into the environmental impact of fracking.
The drilling technique is used to extract oil and gas from shale. A well is drilled vertically and then horizontally, and water and chemicals can then be pumped into the well to fracture the rock and free the minerals. Because the shale lies at shallower depths in Tennessee than elsewhere, drillers often use nitrogen rather than water to extract the gas.
The committee meets Thursday, and UT has requested a waiver of appraisals to assess the value of the land and its mineral deposits.
In a prepared statement, UT officials said they delivered the requested public records last week but that it took seven weeks to prepare them. Officials noted the scope of the request, inclement weather and holiday university closings.
KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) — A challenger to state Rep. Tony Shipley for the Republican nomination in House of Representatives District 2 says he will not contest the election.
According to the Kingsport Times-News (http://bit.ly/ObMQXK), the unofficial results showed incumbent Shipley with an 11-vote victory over Ben Mallicote in the primary earlier this month.
The count certified Tuesday showed Shipley with a 10-vote margin: 3,405 votes compared to Mallicote’s 3,395 votes.
Shipley’s win was thanks to absentee ballots.
Mallicote said in a statement to his supporters that he decided not to contest the election because he didn’t think he could make a case strong enough to compel the State Executive Committee to reverse the outcome.
Shipley, who is seeking a third term, will face Democrat Bruce Dotson in the November general election.
News release from League of Women Voters:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville-area high school students dominated the TN Redistricting: Map It Out! contest, sweeping three of the four winning categories.
John Overton High School won in the category for Best High School Map. Michael Earhart, a senior at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, took top honors in the Best State House Map and Best State Senate Map categories. Nashville resident Dave Rosenberg won the Best Congressional Map category.
The winners in each category received $1,000 from the League of Women Voters of Tennessee, which sponsored the nonpartisan, statewide contest, designed to educate residents about the redistricting process.
The League recognized the winners at an awards ceremony held at the First Amendment Center.
Participating educators were awarded a cash stipend for leading their students in the redistricting contest.
“The League of Women Voters of Tennessee congratulates all of the winners of TN Redistricting: Map It Out!,” said Margie Parsley, president of the League. “I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the contest. I am especially proud of the 150 students from across the state who took the time to draw maps, either in groups or as individuals. Although the contest has ended, the League will continue to educate the public about the redistricting process.”
The Tennessee General Assembly must propose new electoral districts every 10 years to reflect shifts in the state’s population and to comply with the nation’s “one man, one vote” law. In a recent telephone poll of registered voters conducted by Vanderbilt University, 72 percent of those surveyed said that it was important to place communities and cities in the same district as much as possible when redistricting.
The contest received a total of 20 entries from all corners of the state. Each map was judged on the following criteria:
o Compactness. Are all parts of the district within a close geographic area?
o Community Preservation. Are counties kept intact as much as possible?
o Population. Is the variance from the ideal population as small as practicable?
o Competitiveness. Are there districts that could be won by either party?
Contest judges included:
· The Honorable Mischelle Alexander-Best, a former judge of Division XI of General Sessions Court in Shelby County who currently serves as a public defender. She is a teacher at Lemoyne-Owen College and Strayer University and has more than 15 years of teaching experience. Alexander-Best holds a Bachelor of Science Degree and a Juris Doctorate from Memphis State University (University of Memphis).
· Dr. Bruce Ralston. Ralston is a professor emeritus of geography at the University of Tennessee and specializes in transportation and geographic information science. During his career, Ralston has developed software for and served as a consultant to the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development, the Southern Africa Development Conference and the World Food Program. He holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.
· Dr. Carrie Elizabeth Russell holds a bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College in Memphis, a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. She currently serves as a Public Law course teacher and a political science lecturer at Vanderbilt University. Before earning her Ph.D., Russell worked as a judicial clerk for Tennessee’s 20th Judicial District.
To request an electronic version of the winning maps, please send an email to email@example.com. A complete list of contest rules and judging criteria can be found at www.tnmapitout.org.
From the League of Women Voters:
TN Redistricting: Map It Out! is well under way. The contest already received the first map submissions. Do not forget to submit your maps before the deadline on October 24 at midnight.
If you have not already signed up, click here: www.tnmapitout.org to do so.
Again, the League strongly encourages contest participation by students and their teachers, and is providing a $250 stipend to the first 20 professors or teachers whose students submit a plan that meets contest criteria.
REMEMBER: Cash prizes totaling $4,000 will be divided among winners in the following categories:
Best Overall State House Map
Best Overall State Senate Map
Best Overall Congressional Map
Best Map by Tennessee Middle School
Best Map by Tennessee High School
Best Map by Tennessee College or University
And, all the instructions for submitting your map can be found at www.tnmapitout.org under the “Rules” tab on the website. So, do not miss your chance to be a part of this contest and earn a cash prize.
Thank you –
President, Tennessee League of Women Voters