A Moment Of Stark Clarity,
Brought To You By Commissioner Don Miller
Submitted By Guest Commentator Joe Webb

In a rare, somewhat stark moment of unvarnished candor, Loudon County Commissioner Don Miller recently took local activist Pat Hunter to task for contacting the Tennessee Fire Marshal, suggesting that it was likely that the contact was what led to the Fire Marshal's insistence that safety conditions be addressed.
 
As reported by Mary Hinds for the News-Herald, and David Divelbiss at Topix, at a recent meeting discussing the requirement for a road to the portables at Loudon Elementary to facilitate emergency vehicles, "Don Miller took Hunter to task for speaking with the fire marshal ... adding her call might have 'triggered' the fire marshal to include all five portables in his assessment."
 
A small town county commissioner taking a citizen (the boss) to task for contacting the Fire Marshal (which she has every right to do) is unremarkable really. Take just about any pompous little toad with humble intellectual gifts and a Napoleon complex, then give them a smidgen of authority and such abuses of discretion will inevitably occur.  This event itself does not surprise me. It is annoying at worst, and mildly amusing at best and the activist in this case is plenty tough enough to take it with a smile.
 
The real story here is the attitude that Mr. Miller's comments reveal.
 
To the careful observer, it is suddenly and strikingly clear that your government - your elected officials are not at all concerned with doing a thing as important as life-safety right. They are concerned instead with not getting caught doing it wrong.
 
The legislative and statutory framework for protecting kids in buildings is apparently less important to Mr. Miller and his colleagues than their other political and budgetary priorities. It doesn't matter that an ambulance or fire truck might be delayed getting through a muddy field to render aid to a child. What matters is that someone notified the fire marshal and and now that pesky law thing will require them to spend money on safety for kids instead of funding more important things like their own pay raises, or platoons of non-value-added bureaucrats for the school board, or their cousin's job at the taxpayer's expense, or tax-payer funded boondoggles to Gatlinburg where they can sit around with their families, eating and pretending that they know what the hell they're talking about.
 
This incident describes better than I could in a year and a thousand pages how Loudon County, and especially its schools got in this condition.
 
It is this attitude on the school board that failed to deal decisively with the staggering incompetence of Headlee and Hemelright. - (getting it right might have meant taking a strong position which might have been unpopular and politically risky).
 
It is this attitude that failed to ask "is this expense really necessary does it support the core instructional mission of the school, or is it just nice-to-have item?" - (getting it right might have required extra work and study of cost issues and who needs that headache).
 
It is this attitude that decided "it doesn't matter that school buildings are collapsing and we're giving diplomas to functional pine cones so they can go to Roane State, take remedial reading, then get a job asking people if they want fries with this order. After all, according to Larry Proaps, Mr. Headlee has done a durn good job." - (challenging the 'career educators' on facilities issues and academic outcomes might be risky and politically embarrassing).

It is this attitude that focused on 'energy efficient' buildings while those very buildings were deemed unfit for occupation by students and staff - (working the right problem might not get me noticed).

It is that attitude that paid David Hemelright to travel around the state as the head of the Tennessee School Plant Manager's Association, while the schools he was being paid to maintain crumbled into literal death traps for students - (its just too hard to question everything the central office says is important).
 
It is this attitude that condemns all but the most exceptional children, from the most exceptional families to lives of intellectual mediocrity with no real hope of experiencing the outrageous joy and fulfillment that comes from exploring powerful ideas in mathematics and science and language and achieving deep fluencies in all three.
 
It is this attitude which should guide us all in the coming election.

This attitude should be hung around the necks of incumbents like a rotting albatross serving to identify them for removal on election day,  and serving as a constant warning to all who will follow in their positions: We are simple, decent, trusting people here in Loudon County, but we will not tolerate dishonestly, laziness, cowardice, or incompetence from those we pay to represent us in government.
 
Your vote matters! Before giving it to an incumbent (on commission or the school board), ask whether they have tried to do it right, or whether they tried to avoid being caught doing it wrong. I'm not a gambling man but if I were, I would bet that if you apply that test, you will conclude that the single incumbent that will pass is Freddie Gene Walker.

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6/25/08