KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Knoxville News Sentinel is asking a judge to decide whether the county must hand over emails it requested under the state’s open records law.
The records relate to Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s campaign finance disclosure problems that he has blamed on his ex-wife.
The Knox County Law Department earlier this month refused to release some of the emails, claiming that they were personal and not subject to the open records law.
In a petition filed Thursday in Knox County Chancery Court, New Sentinel Managing Editor Tom Chester asks a judge to review 13 of the emails to determine whether the county can legally withhold them.
The News Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/S0nu1N) two of the emails are from state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey to the mayor’s chief of staff. Three are from former county Finance Director Burton Webb’s county email account to his personal email account.
One is from county Communications Manager Michael Grider to himself. One is from developer John Turley to the mayor. There also is one sent from a private account to Commissioner Jeff Ownby that appears to be about Commissioner Amy Broyles.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville has broken with a decades-long tradition of backing Democratic candidates for president and given its endorsement to Republican Mitt Romney.
An editorial (http://tnne.ws/PcEWUV) published Thursday expressed disappointment with the campaign tone set by Romney and President Barack Obama and the lack of clarity on what either would do if elected.
It faulted Romney for straying from the positions he held as governor of Massachusetts and Obama for pursuing health care reform instead of the economy.
The editorial urged Romney, “Be the man who governed Massachusetts, and you’ll reunite America.”
Of Obama, the paper said, “it’s clear whatever shaky bridges were burned in the push for health reform only emboldened Republicans to oppose his subsequent economic proposals. That has rendered much of his presidency ineffective.”
The newspaper’s editorial page leans left and has endorsed Democratic candidates for president since 1972, when it backed George McGovern.
The paper endorsed Obama in 2008, and the Democrat won in Nashville. But John McCain won Tennessee by a landslide with 57 percent of the vote.
Note: The News Sentinel earlier broke tradition by deciding not to make an endorsement in the presidential race. Editor Jack McElroy discusses the reaction in a blog post.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Knoxville News Sentinel has ended a decades-old tradition of endorsing presidential candidates, saying it no longer has any special access to the candidates.
Editor Jack McElroy said in a column (http://bit.ly/WpA2Ec) published Sunday it was a difficult decision.
“Citizens can find plenty of opinions about the presidential candidates to weigh against their own, and there is no shortage of community dialogue — far from it,” McElroy wrote. “The News Sentinel also has no special access to the candidates, and, in this age of global Internet and 24-hour news, we have no sources of information that every other citizen does not have as well.”
The tradition of endorsing a presidential candidate dates to the paper’s beginnings in the 1920s.
Until 2008, the newspaper’s presidential endorsement was decided by its parent company, E.W. Scripps Co. Most went to Republicans, including in 2000 when the paper backed George W. Bush over Tennessean Al Gore. In 2008, the newpaper’s editorial board endorsed John McCain.
McElroy said the editorial board sees strong reasons for endorsing candidates in local races, including sparking community dialogue and using a newspaper’s special access to candidates to help inform voters. That rationale no longer applies to the presidential contest, he said.
The paper will continue to endorse candidates in local races
In Sunday editions, the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Memphis Commercial Appeal jointly reported the launch of Politifact Tennessee, which is designed to check the veracity of statements made in the course of state political and governmental doings.
Excerpt from News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy:
Today, Tennessee joins the PolitiFact network. The News Sentinel and its sister paper, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, have launched PolitiFact Tennessee.
The project has both print and online components. Each Sunday and Monday, the News Sentinel will publish new Truth-O-Meter rulings, complete with details of the evaluations.
Then, during the week, other rulings will appear on the Tennessee portion of PolitiFact.com.
Among the first batch of comments to scrutinized by the Tennessee Truth-O-Meter are U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen’s claim that the Republicans have “never done anything” to lower the budget deficit, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s remarks about the 100-watt incandescent light bulb and state Sen. Stacey Campfield’s assertions about the cost of drug tests.
Researching the Truth-O-Meter rulings is a team of veteran Scripps journalists: Zach McMillin in Memphis; Steve Ahillen in Knoxville; Richard Locker and Tom Humphrey in Nashville; and Bart Sullivan and Michael Collins in Washington, D.C.
Bill Adair, the creator of PolitiFact, is personally overseeing the Tennessee launch, as he has the launches of all PolitiFact sites.
Note: Commercial Appeal Editor Chris Peck on Politifact, HERE.
House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are urging citizens to submit proposals for changing the boundaries for state legislative districts, while the Tennessee League of Women Voters is holding a contest for plan submissions.
But there almost certainly will be a big disconnect between any plan that the Republican-controlled Legislature will approve and any plan likely to win part of the $4,000 in prizes offered by the League for the best plans submitted.
The League’s rules declare a preference for “competitiveness” in districts, meaning those districts are not stacked with voters deemed to prefer one political party over the other. League President Margie Parsley says she doesn’t think districts should be designed with incumbents in mind.
But Republican legislative leaders acknowledge that incumbent wishes will be a factor in drawing the lines for state House, state Senate and U.S. House Districts, and so will the partisan makeup of voters in a given area.
That would be in accord with past practice when Democrats controlled the Legislature. Accommodation of incumbent preferences and partisan packaging has made for districts of strange shapes in the past and probably will in the future. That would violate the League contest rules calling for “compactness” of districts where possible.
To illustrate what districts might look like without partisan makeup and incumbent protection in mind, the News Sentinel has put together sample maps. They were drafted by Steve Ahillen, data and Sunday editor, using widely available software.
(Note: Sample congressional map HERE; House and Senate maps HERE)
The News Sentinel is challenging the sealing from public view of documents that could shed light on the relationship between a disgraced former judge, an addict in a drug court program he oversaw and a pill supplier under his legal thumb.
Attorney Richard Hollow on Monday filed on behalf of News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy a petition that challenges a decision to keep under wraps documents related to former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner.
The documents were filed in the case of Christopher Gibson, the felon who confessed supplying the ex-judge hundreds of prescription painkillers. Gibson’s court file is scrubbed of any mention of documents believed by the News Sentinel to have been filed in the legal fight over whether Baumgartner should have been compelled to testify in the June 9 sentencing of Gibson on charges he violated his probation by having a gun in his Gap Road house.
However, the documents have twice been referenced in court – first by attorneys at Gibson’s sentencing hearing and next by Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood when, last week, he ordered the investigative file on Baumgartner to be turned over to suspects in a January 2007 torture slaying over whose trials Baumgartner presided.
Rest of the story HERE.