Government with no heart, or brain

By Victor Ashe, Shopper News columnist  /   The Tennessean 

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) endured a public relations nightmare when it mistakenly sent a bill for over $3,000 to the family of Hannah Eimers in Loudon County, who was killed in a car accident hitting a guardrail.

TDOT Commissioner John Schroer

While it may not have achieved the United Airlines record of bad media for removing a passenger from a flight, many saw TDOT as insensitive and slow to react. TDOT Commissioner John Schroer, a former mayor of Franklin, Tenn., failed to call the father to apologize. He disappeared. Ultimately, after intervention from state Reps. Jimmy Matlock and Jason Zachary, Gov. Bill Haslam called Hannah’s father, Steve Eimers, as did U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan and U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

Haslam is very good at consoling when citizens have suffered a tragedy. Clearly. he was not at fault in the improper billing. However, he was poorly served by his commissioner who failed to recognize what a serious problem it was and failed to call immediately. Schroer also fails to recognize the culture problem facing TDOT. Government is often slow to admit error and certainly to say, “We erred and are sorry.”

Schroer tried to revive the James White Parkway extension over the objections of Mayor Madeline Rogero and to the detriment of the urban wilderness in South Knoxville.

 Editor’s Note: Who gave permission to the Tennessee Department of Transportation to make such a billing? The Governor and legislators of Tennessee, the very people consoling the family after the fact. If the atrocity had not come to the attention of the media would anyone have blinked an eye at the offense.  

UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport has purchased the brick home at 2733 Kingston Pike at Lindsay Place, across from historic Crescent Bend (built in 1834). She will not move into the house until major renovations are completed. It is close to the UT campus and Neyland Drive.


Two weeks ago, the legislature passed legislation to end abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. House Speaker Beth Harwell presided during the vote of 68-18, but she did not vote. Thirty minutes later, she asked to be recorded as voting for the bill.

Harwell is a bright, intelligent person. One of the main criticisms against her has been that she is often indecisive. This was a classic case in point, in which she hoped she would not be seen as voting for the bill on the initial roll call but could be recorded later for it, making those opposed to abortions happier. This episode allows this have-it-both-ways image to continue.

Harwell did this on the recent gas tax, too, where she was against it before she was for it.

The rest of the week did not get better for Harwell and the GOP leadership, which had a meltdown on Thursday, May 4, when enough Republicans sided with Democrats to add several amendments to the state budget. Harwell was powerless to stop it.

This never would have happened with Speakers Ron Ramsey, Ned McWherter or Jimmy Naifeh. Harwell’s inability to quell this revolt generated questions as to whether she is up to the job of speaker, let alone being governor. It had to be the worst week she has had during her seven years as speaker.


Register of Deeds Sherry Witt, who is running for County Court Clerk next year, turns 58 on May 18.


South Knoxville city council candidate Stephanie Welch turns 44 on May 19


Former state Rep. Wayne Ritchie hits 53 May 19.


Retired UT football coach John Majors reaches 82 on May 21.


City Councilman Nick Della Volpe is 69 on May 22.


Della Volpe has only another seven months on city council.

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