Cannon County Commission Meets, Does Nothing
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The Cannon County Commission gathered at the courthouse for its regular quarterly meeting Saturday morning at 10.

A prayer was given by Rev. Demetrious Nelson from Auburn Hills Church of Christ. Christine Barrett, USAF retired, led a prayer.

County Court Clerk Bobby Smith called the roll. All 10 commission members were present.

A courtroom filled with citizens was in attendance, anxious to see what would transpire or to address certain issues of interest to them.

And that’s about it, folks.

Before Commission Chairman Bob Stoetzel could proceed with the agenda, Commissioner Clint Higgins made a motion to hold all the items on the agenda until the commission’s May meeting.

Commissioner Tony Neal seconded Higgins' motion.

Higgins stated the reason he wanted to put off the agenda was because he had not had adequate time to review the information sent out by Chairman Stoetzel regarding the topics to be discussed and voted on at the meeting.

Reading from the Tennessee County Government Handbook, Higgins said he should have received the information a minimum of five days prior to the meeting, which would have been Tuesday.

“It did not get it until last night (Friday) in the mail,” Higgins said.

Neal said he still had not received the information as of Saturday’s meeting.

A vote was held on Higgins’ motion. He, Neal and commissioners Kevin Mooneyham, Kevin George, Jimmy Mingle and Todd Hollandsworth voted in favor. Commissioners Mark Barker, Russell Reed, Jim Bush and Stoetzel voted against, and the motion to table the agenda until May’s meeting passed 6-4.

Saturday’s meeting then adjourned. Commissioners receive $50 for attending a quarterly meeting, which means taxpayers spent at least $500 for Saturday's meeting and received nothing in return.

Chairman Stoetzel expressed disappointment in the delay.

“We had a lot of business to take care of and some of it is time-sensitive,” Stoetzel said.

However, Stoetzel said he understood the reason Higgins and Neal proposed the motion and said he would do a better of getting the information out to commissioners in a more timely fashion in the future.

“There have been many meetings I have come to where I didn’t get information about what we were going to be discussing until just before the meeting started. I have felt there have been times when I didn’t have enough time to study things, so I have no problem with them doing what they did.”

Stoetzel also said he may look at calling a special meeting to address some issues between now and May’s monthly meeting of the commission. The May meeting is scheduled for the 8th – a little over three weeks from now.

One key issue commissioners must soon determine is whether or not to place a referendum on the ballot for the County General Electionin August to increase the local option sales and use tax. According to state law once a commission decides to call for a referendum on an increase, an election must be held within 90 days, Stoetzel said.

UPDATE:

District 5 Commissioner Kevin Mooneyham notified The Cannon Courier late this afternoon that he will give his $50 stipend for Saturday's meeting back to the county, and will encourage his fellow commissioners to do likewise. Commissioner Mooneyham also said he and Commissioner Mingle did not receive their meeting packet until Friday.

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Members Opinions:
April 14, 2012 at 3:09pm
Is it possible that this meeting was derailed on purpose to prevent a vote on some items that were on the agenda? Was it planned by certain members of the commission? We do have Sunshine Laws on the books, don't we? Come on folks,enough of the good old boy politics.
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April 14, 2012 at 4:14pm
minn, you will never witness a scenario, here or anywhere else, where politics is not involved in government. It doesn't matter if it is good ole boys, good ole girls or good ole whatever. That's just the way it is, and it will never change. Every commissioner, every elected official, every appointed official, is a politician first, and a servant of the people second.
April 14, 2012 at 5:12pm
Just more of the same, this decision was made before the meeting just like alot of the business decisions are.
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April 14, 2012 at 6:30pm
I would just suggest that instead of giving the $50.00 back that they just don't get paid if a special meeting is called.

I would also say that in all fairness, whether there was Sunshine Laws broke or not or if the decision was made prior to the meeting, the right decision was made to adjourn.

I don't want any commissioner from any district voting on tax dollars being spent without knowing exactly what they are voting on.

Perhaps had Bob used UPS to mail the information then Clint could have delivered it to everyone in time! HA!
April 14, 2012 at 7:54pm
If I understand correctly, the qualifications of serving as a county commissioner are very minimal. Must be a certain age and live in the district they represent. Right? Most likely the greatest qualification that is not written anywhere is the person's desire to serve their fellow citizens and make Cannon County a better place to live. I would hardly call these individuals "politicians." In fact, I bet most would take offense to being called that name. The office is open to anyone in each of the districts desiring to serve in such a capacity. I think we need to support these officials rather than attempt to crucify them every time something happens we don't fully understand. We elected them to the office. They represent our voices on the county commission. Given what they earn for their service, it is a wonder any of them "volunteer" for these positions.
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April 15, 2012 at 3:53pm
Here are the qualifications for Commissioner and County Executive:

Commissioner:

Any county resident who is at least 18 years old, and who is not otherwise disqualified from holding public office.

No educational or experience requirements apply to the office.

County Executive:

A qualified voter of the county; at least 25 years of age; and a resident of the county for at least 1 year prior to the date of filing a nominating petition for election to such office.

No educational or experience requirements apply to the office.
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April 15, 2012 at 4:19pm
Well I don't have any problem with the qualifications of those currently in office. Different things make people qualified to hold office, such as their life, work, educational and community experiences. I was simply pointing out that politics is involved in local government, because that is what I hear and observe. There must be a reason the phrase "small town politics" was coined.

Perhaps doing this would help: Monthly meetings are special called meetings. The number of agenda items is limited to around 5. New business is limited to quarterly meetings. A cutoff of 14 days before a meeting to place an item on an agenda is established. Information packets are mailed 10-12 days prior to meetings.
April 15, 2012 at 10:47pm
Kevin, To paint them all as "politicians" as in your statement, "Every commissioner, every elected official, every appointed official, is a politician first, and a servant of the people second." is a bit unfair and demeaning of our elected officials. Yes, some may be politicians. But their first objective is to serve honorably in the office they have been elected to. Most of our county officials are not politicians. They are just average folks seeking to make the county a better place in which to live or to raise their families. Most are hardworking, tax paying, law abiding citizens and we are lucky they take enough interest in local government to want to participate in it. A bad apple may surface every once in a while but to call them all bad sounded a bit extreme. I firmly believe small town politics is far more honest than big town politics where the stakes and pay off opportunities run much higher. In Cannon County our officials are more able to serve honorably without such temptations to sway them. Says much about small communities where transparencies are more easily maintained among neighbors.
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April 16, 2012 at 5:06am
Bonnie, I didn't call any one of them bad. I didn't say anything demeaning about anyone. I simply stated they are, first and foremost, politicians. A person becomes a politician when they first ask someone to vote for them, and if they are elected they make political decisions based in part on what their constituents do or do not want.

The best example I can give you of my point is that were it not for political pressure the county commission would not currently be discussing the topic of zoning. Whatever ultimately comes out of the discussion will be the result of politics and political pressure.

minn's question was whether politics was involved in the decision to cancel Saturday's meeting. Just as politics takes place within in our national and state legislatures, it also takes place within our local legislative body. Politics determines who serves as the commission chairman. Politics determines which items are placed on the agenda for a meeting, and sometimes which ones are not. Politics plays a role in the interaction between the legislature and the executive branch. Politics determines what taxes are collected and how much. Politics determines where and how much money is spent on government services. To one degree or another, politics is involved in everything. To state that does not imply anything bad is taking place, only that it is one factor to take into consideration when wondering why something happens which involves government.
April 16, 2012 at 5:39am
Kevin, I understand. Politics may be "one factor" but not always the only factor. And not always the predominant factor. Common sense or extenuating circumstances may also play into making such decisions. These are not always political. The term politician has become so battered in our era that it no longer carries with it the honor of the past. Usually when used, it is a negative in today's world. Personally, I believe we have far too many politicians and not enough statesmen or honorable people of conscience serving in our government at the national and state levels. Our local officials are far more honorable and accountable as they face their constituency everywhere they go and on nearly a daily basis. We know them personally. They are our neighbors. We attend church with them. Our children go to school with their children. We know their desires and best wishes for Cannon County. They cannot escape such scrutiny as Cannon County is a very small place in this country. If asking for a vote qualifies one as a politician, then you may be correct. I still doubt any current official wears such a title comfortably. I believe they think of themselves more as a public servant. Ask them and see what they think. It may be interesting to learn.
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April 16, 2012 at 6:24am
Bonnie, some time ago I opined that commissioners have not only the most important but the must difficult responsibilities in the county. I believe they all view themselves as public servants first and politicians second.

What's important, however, is how they are viewed by the public. For example, I believe the county would have building codes were it not for politics ("We don't want the state telling us what to do.") because I think most people when presented with all the facts would favor having building codes.

If and when there is a vote on zoning, and if it fails, I think you will be looking at those who voted against it and wondering whether they voted no based on political pressure ("I don't want anyone telling me what I can or can't do on or with my land"), or because they didn't think zoning served the best interest of the county.
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April 16, 2012 at 9:21am
LOL Bonnie you and Kevin are starting to sound like me and Kevin. Good stuff!

I like some of the ideas you present Kevin concerning the agenda of a Commissioners meeting and packets being mailed, but not all.

If you limit the agenda items to 5 then you spend all your time determining which 5 you put on the agenda or you put too much power in one individual to make the choice of which 5 gets placed on the agenda.

New business can become old business real quick or you lose out on things if you say they can only be discussed on a quarterly basis. That is proven by the way it used to be done.

I will agree that there should be a time limit on when items can be placed onto the agenda. If the commissioners want to stick to the 5 day rule then they should not be asking Bob to discuss items not on the agenda or asking him to place items on the agenda one week in advance of the meeting.

I don't think politics played as big of a role in bringing about the discussion of zoning laws as much as I think three rock quarries and a hole in the ground right in the middle of town caused it.

Actually, I think politics kept it out of discussion for a lot of years even when people like me were screaming about it.
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April 16, 2012 at 10:09am
Corey, I was sure you would not like some of the ideas. Sometimes even great minds do not think alike!
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April 16, 2012 at 11:54am
Well, it isn't that I don't like them as much as I think some of them would be counterproductive to what needs to be done.

Limiting the agenda is not a bad idea, I just think limiting them to 5 could create a log jam and I guarantee someone would decide that it would be more political to determine which 5 were placed vs. which ones were not placed on an agenda.

New business sometimes can't wait so all new business on a quarterly basis would also create another log jam. That meeting might take three hours if you had enough “new” business to discuss. Plus for example if a fire truck needs to be fixed then you just can't wait that long.

I think it is simple:

1. Unlimited items on the agenda.
2. Agenda items must be submitted 7 days prior to the scheduled meeting or they will not be placed on the agenda for that meeting.
3. Mail the agenda / packet to each commissioner so that it reaches their address a minimum of 5 days prior to the meeting.
4. Other business should be utilized for the public and not for the commissioners to place an item on the agenda because they didn’t meet the 7 day rule.
5. A citizen should be recognized by the chair before speaking / asking a question on an agenda item or during the other business section.
6. The citizen should not be allowed to speak for an unlimited amount of time. The commissioners / chair should agree on a specific time and if necessary buy a stop watch and hold the citizen to that time frame. Otherwise the meetings get totally out of control.
7. Stick to the agenda! From what I have seen so far this year the agenda gets lost on tangents, innuendos, statements that cannot be verified or denied, politics, high levels of testosterone and "that ain't the way we have done it" attitudes. STICK TO THE AGENDA!
8. Lastly, and most importantly, be nice. Whether you are a citizen, a commissioner or whatever this is a professional meeting that should be conducted in a professional manner. We have business that needs to be reviewed and decisions that need to be made and we cannot lose sight of that.

The minute we do is the minute that the meeting becomes ineffective and a waste of taxpayer money!

P.S. Thanks for the "great mind" compliment, but as I am sure many will agree, I am far from great. Inquisitive would be how I describe it!
April 16, 2012 at 9:38pm
The idea of conducting monthly commissioner's meetings was to deal more effectively with items and issues that were of a more time sensitive nature. I agree with Cory that limiting to agenda items to only five will stiffle the effectiveness of the monthly meetings. The 7 day advance notice for adding items to the agenda also sounds reasonable as does sending the agenda out to the commissioners 5 days in advance. Insuring the agenda is not just filled with obscure items and accompanied by back up materials necessary to understand the items being placed on the agenda is also important. Even the agendas printed in the Courier are difficult to decipher for the average person. They may not always reflect the magnitude of the item being described.
April 18, 2012 at 7:57am
Kevin, this is not meant as a reflection of the Courier as I know you print the agenda as it is presented to you by either the county executive or commission chairman.

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