Knox Commission votes to examine size of body

4:43 PM, Nov 19, 2012   |    comments
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Despite several declarations of support, Knox County Commissioners voted against a proposal to expand the size of the body.

Instead they voted to create a committee to examine the issue.

Commissioner Dave Wright put forth a charter revision to create three additional commission seats, bringing the number to 15.

The move comes two years after reducing the number of commission seats from 19 to 11.

This is the county's first 11-member commission, elected in 2010.

January 31, 2007 brought the now notorious "Black Wednesday" commission fiasco.

Commissioners appointed 12 replacements to county offices vacated by term limits, and the move was later determined to have violated Sunshine Laws.

A lawsuit overturned the appointments, and indirectly resulted in a smaller Knox County Commission.

But Wright says that decision was more a reaction to the people serving. Wright feels the need remains for more representation.

"Whenever this charter amendment was offered, the people who were offering it actually want to go to nine commissioners, one from each district," says Wright. "I think at that time people were primarily against the people sitting in those seats, not the seats themselves."

He says the size of commission diminished, but the workload did not and now the people are being underserved.

Several commissioners say they agree with Wright, but would prefer to take the time to study the issue before it could go before voters two years from now.

"I agree with every word that commissioner Wright said," says Commissioner Sam McKenzie "This was a throw out the bums out after Black Wednesday."

But McKenzie says the ordinance doesn't go far enough, and they need more time to gather public support.

Commissioner Amy Broyles expressed similar support.

This is the first commission whose district seats align with school board posts and Commissioner Mike Hammond noted that the effort they expended to make that happen could be wasted.

"I think we owe it to our citizens to let them know what that would look like. Where would these seats come from? What geographical area would this represent?" asked Hammond.

If the commission does decide to add more to their ranks, the public would also need to vote on the issue, which will not happen before 2014.

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