November 2006

Ever wonder why?

Ever wonder why, when buying beer at the grocery store, the underage cashier sets the beer at the back of the groceries, rings up absolutely everything else, then calls for “code 7” (or whatever their secret passphrase is for someone old enough to ring up beer) while everyone behind you in line groans?

I thought I’d be kind today to the other Thanksgiving shoppers behind me, and put the beer at the very front of the groceries.  He looked at it, asked “is this alcohol?” and set it at the back.  I actually asked him, “wouldn’t it be faster to call for someone now, then continue ringing up everything else while we wait for them to get here?”

He said they were required to do it that way.  I happen to know that they’re also required to ask for ID, which he didn’t.

Suggestion for grocers: put some kind of identifier on the lane or lanes where the cashier is old enough to sell beer.  Then we won’t slow down the lines for everyone else.

BEP Review (again)

A few weeks ago, I groused about noted my suspicion that the BEP Review Committee scheduled its next meeting two days before Thanksgiving, when many are either out of town, preparing to leave town, or preparing for company… and thus, the committee might be able to do its work free of some of the public scrutiny.

It was obvious from the lack of “audience” seating in the room that they didn’t expect many to attend. I think they had to bring chairs from every office in the building.

Traditional plans were scuttled and rearranged, and I attended anyway — with company: a representative of the Chamber of Commerce, the schools’ finance officer (technically, Director of Business and Support Services), the city’s finance officer, the mayor, the city’s lobbyist, and our own State Representative. Kingsport showed up with a very similar contingent. All in all, the edges of the room were lined with folks from places with municipal school systems — the only exceptions being one person from Knox County, and one from Shelby County.

Presentations from the meeting should be on the web by tomorrow, and I’ll post them as soon as I have them. The primary topic of today’s meeting was to hear Comptroller John Morgan’s proposal for the State to assume full responsibility for funding education — no local match required. Local governments would still be free to augment funding, but there would be no such requirement, as there is now.

But here’s the part that got to me, and I confess that it didn’t fully sink in until after we’d left the meeting: at each meeting this Fall, a different funding mechanism has been presented. First, it was TACIR with their variety of formulas. On Oct. 11, we learned the details of the Peabody Alternative… followed by another look at the TACIR prototype. On Oct. 23, the committee reviewed all the options (including the Comptroller’s plan, which hadn’t been presented it detail yet at that point), followed by yet another discussion of the TACIR prototype.

Today, the Committee met again, and John Morgan presented his plan in detail. (Here’s the powerpoint he presented at TSBA; I’ll link to the updated version as soon as it’s posted to his website — probably tomorrow). Followed by yet another presentation about the TACIR plan — this time, their attempt to dumb it down so that ordinary mortals understand it.

(Do you see a common, repeating element here?  Think the committee might be a little biased in their agenda?)

We understood it. We still didn’t like it.

Finally, shortchanged on time because the building had to be evacuated for exterminators, Committee member Richard Kitzmiller (Kingsport Director of Schools) gave a brief presentation of his own — why the TACIR plan is overtly and deliberately harmful to municipal school systems, and why harming them is generally bad for education in Tennessee. He promised to post it on their website when he gets home, but I know that he’s not there yet. I’ll post that when it’s available, too.

The support for municipal schools couldn’t be any stronger in that room today. Still, I’m keenly aware (reminded again today by Rep. Hackworth) that the big cities combined with the west Tennessee delegation are a powerful force — and they want the TACIR plan. Simply put, they favor statewide consolidation, so that there is only only one school system in each county.

I will fight that bitterly, openly, and with many allies across this state. I will need your help, and the help of any legislators you know in other parts of the state. I will camp out in their offices, will blog their committee meetings, and make dear friends of those who buy ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.
Stay tuned.

Council inquires about court move

I was unable to attend last night’s Council meeting, but received the following brief from a friend who did go:

The comments from Jim O’Connor at City Council last night were interesting.  It came up when Beehan asked about the issue near the end of the meeting under New Business.

 O’Connor said the case load had grown to over 6000 cases a year and only 58% of these are from Oak Ridge.  The other cases are from Lake City, Oliver Springs, and all over the county.  He feels the case load should be adjusted to fit the facility or else the county should help in the cost of space.  The city gets none of the fees or fines levied in this court. 

O’Connor’s reply to Judge Murch’s letter was “…there was no more space available at the Municipal Building,” which implied to me that he is certainly no opposed to finding another place.   He agrees that the current courtroom is not secure.  He has a meeting with Gillenwaters either today or tomorrow.  Mayor Bradshaw said he could not attend that meeting because of a commitment at work.  Everybody who spoke was in favor of keeping the court in Oak Ridge.


Annexation suit dropped

Anderson County Commission last night voted to drop the lawsuit against Clinton over the citizen-initiated annexation near I-75; if Clinton accepts the settlement, the County will receive 12.5% of Clinton’s share of sales tax revenues, and Clinton will have to build a new fire station.

Even so, the growth that will occur will be healthy for both.  At the same time, Clinton does have the option to reject the proposed settlement, since the offer of tax sharing was one that Clinton had proposed months or more ago and was rejected.

However, if Clinton rejects the proposal, it goes back to the administrative law judges to iron out a settlement.

Knoxnews has the vote breakdown.

Can he do that?

State Sen. Steve Cohen was elected to serve as the new Congressman in the 9th District, replacing Harold Ford, Jr.  However, he said he intends to remain in his State Senate seat until after the election of a new Lt. Governor.

But the new congress is typically sworn in on January 2nd or so… before the State Legislature would convene to elect leadership.  Can he legally hold both a State and a Federal office at the same time?

It wouldn’t seem so, but I don’t know.  Do you?


Out of the mouths of babes and children come the words to make us laugh away the gloom:

JACK (age 3) was watching his Mom breast-feeding his new baby sister. After a while he asked: “Mom, Is one for hot and one for cold milk?”
MELANIE (age 5) asked her Granny how old she was. Granny replied she was so old she didn’t remember any more. Melanie said, “If you don’t remember you look in the back of your panties. Mine say five to six.”
STEVEN (age 3) hugged and kissed his Mom goodnight. “I love you so much, that when you die I’m going to bury you outside my bedroom window.”
BRITTANY (age 4) had an earache and wanted a painkiller. She tried in vain to take the lid off the bottle. Seeing her frustration, her Mom explained it was a childproof cap and she’d have to open it for her. Eyes wide with wonder, the little girl asked: “How does it know it’s me?”
SUSAN (age 4) was drinking juice when she got the hiccups. “Please don’t give me this juice again,” she said, “It makes my teeth cough.”
D.I. (age 4) stepped onto the bathroom scale and asked: “How much do I cost?”
MARC (age 4) was engrossed in a young couple that were hugging and kissing in a restaurant. Without taking his eyes off them, he asked his dad: “Why is he whispering in her mouth?”
CLINTON (age 5) was in his bedroom looking worried. When his Mom asked what was troubling him, he replied, “I don’t know what’ll happen with this bed when I get married. How will my wife fit in?”
JAMES (age 4) was listening to a Bible story. His dad read: “The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned to salt.” Concerned, little James asked: “What happened to the flea?”
TAMMY (age 4) was with her mother when they met an elderly, rather wrinkled woman her Mom knew. Tammy looked at her for a while and then asked, “Why doesn’t your skin fit your face?”
The Sermon this Mom will never forget…. this particular Sunday sermon… “Dear Lord,” the minister began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. “Without you, we are but dust.” He would have continued but at that moment my very obedient daughter (who was listening!) leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little girl voice,
“Mom, what is butt dust?”
Thanks for sharing, TS.

Of interest: the IDB

Following the blowup when the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board decided (and then un-decided) to grant a million-dollar tax abatement to a local health club after it was already constructed and open, someone must have realized that it would be a good idea for the IDB to have a website and make a few things public.

Little details, like the membership of the IDB (appointed by Council) and the matrices showing who’s eligible for what, are now online.  I would have put the matrix documents in PDF form to make them easier to print, but at least it’s there and available to the public.

Tax incentives are a necessary evil, but one that must be used judiciously to bring in investments of a specific nature that meet specific needs.


Gamma Nov. 18Bear with me for a brag moment; on Saturday, the ETSBOA Jr. Clinic performance was held at Carson Newman College. Gamma made the “blue” orchestra — the more advanced of the two — and performed stunningly. At least it sounded that way to me, although the rational side of me knows that there’s no way in the world I could pick out the sound of one viola in ten, amidst all the other instruments as well.

Oak Ridge schools were well-represented in this event, in which students are selected via a grueling tryout of scales, a prepared piece, and a sight-reading segment. Yeah, the orchestra is not a mandatory program, but it’s one that has paid off over the years. Early music instruction has been shown to boost academic potential through the creation of new neural pathways… the improvements show up in everything from math scores to improved reading and written expression.

My piano teacher always tried to tell me that music and math are closely related; I thought she was full of it until I had to learn binary, octal, and hexadecimal numbering in college.

Music is simply a graphic expression of octal numbering.

* * *

On the way to Carson-Newman, I tweaked the WordPress PHP code that controls this page, so that the address for the memorial fund remains in the sidebar. I wasn’t sure until today that it would work, but it did. If you’ve followed this story and wondered what you could do to help this family through an extremely difficult time, there’s an option.

* * *

Saturday evening, we dropped by a 50th birthday bash for one of the rare, lucid contributors to the Oak Ridger Forums (Regular Guy). RG hasn’t posted anything in the longest time, but I know now he’s been trolling lurking (thanks for the correction, Joel) since he made mention of the treatment I’ve received there lately.

Truthfully, I’ve been stopping by there less and less frequently. For a couple of years now, I’ve thought that it was a reasonable way to answer questions and address issues about the school system, but I’ve almost concluded that it’s dominated by a few trolls who aren’t really interested in the truth.

That’s a shame. This city deserves better, and that forum was at one time a pretty good place for discussion of public issues.

* * *

Just a few minutes ago as I was finishing up a pot of chicken and dumplings for supper, I heard John Kerry complaining that the Republicans hijacked his “joke gone bad” (stay in school or you’ll end up in Iraq), then just moments later, ran across a story in the Commercial Appeal where Democrat Charlie Rangel is proposing to reinstate the draft.

Trying to make Kerry’s bad joke come true? This seems like an incredibly bad idea — with the all-volunteer military, we’re served by those who choose to do so. I can’t imagine how bad it would be if they took those who didn’t want to go, and aren’t up to the task.


A memorial fund has been set up for the family of a young mother, wife, artist and community activist, who was taken from us more than a half-century too soon.  BJ was bright, funny, but most of all a giving, caring individual.

To donate, send a check to:

Barbara J. Kilpatrick Memorial Fund
C/O ORNL Federal Credit Union
P.O.Box 365
Oak Ridge TN 37831

Anyone who visits here often has surely been alerted to the story, as painstakingly detailed at Atomictumor.

As a footnote, say “thanks” if you get a chance to John McKittrick, President of ORNL Federal Credit Union, for staying at work until 6 p.m. on a Friday evening to get this done.  It was 5 p.m. when I first spoke with him, and he really went the extra mile by making it happen today instead of waiting until Monday.


After yesterday’s encouragement and hope, the flame has gone out.  I’m so sorry.

« Prev - Next »