Blount County Resident Mark Pulliam Describes How the Public Library Is Being Overtaken by the Homeless

Apr 25, 2023

Live from Music Row, Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Mark Pulliam, a retired attorney and Misrule of Law blogger, to the newsmaker line to discuss how the Blount County Public Library is becoming overrun with homeless people.

Leahy: On the newsmaker line right now is Mark Pullium, who writes at the Misrule of Law. He’s with Blount County. Hey, Mark. I want to get to the craziness, absolute craziness of the Blount County Public Library. But before I do that breaking news, Joe Biden has announced he’s running for reelection.  And Mark, I want to play this clip for you. You probably read George Orwell’s 1984.

Pulliam: Yes. It was predicting the future.

Leahy: Yes. Where they had Big Brother and where war was peace and peace was war.

Pulliam: That’s where we are. Listen to this. We got the first 60 seconds of Biden’s announcement. It’s a three-minute video clip. We’re just going to play the first minute of the audio just released about an hour ago. I want to get your reaction to it.

(Joe Biden clip plays)

Freedom. Personal freedom is fundamental to who we are as Americans. There’s nothing more important, nothing more sacred. That’s been the work of my first term, to fight for our democracy. It shouldn’t be a revolution to protect our rights, to make sure that everyone in this country is treated equally and that everyone is given a fair shot at making it. Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms, cutting social security that you’ve paid for your entire life, while cutting taxes for the very wealthy, dictating what healthcare decisions women can make, banning books and telling people who they can love, all by making it more difficult for you to be able to vote.

Leahy: Well, Mark, are we in 1984? Is that the Orwellian government telling us peace, war, and war is peace?

Pulliam: It’s unbelievable that this type of mendacity can pass as political rhetoric in a presidential campaign. Freedom? This is the guy that wanted to force Americans to stay home and require vaccines they didn’t want—equal treatment. We’ve never seen such a two-tiered standard of justice in America, persecuting these January 6 protestors while rioters go free in cities across America.

And the idea that the worst president in American history is not just a failure, but his foreign policy is a failure. Every cabinet post is held by one of the most incompetent people ever to hold that position. Mayor Pete, Kamala Harris, Merrick Garland that he can say, I deserve to be reelected. His record is so bad he had to throw Susan Rice under the bus, who was the architect for many of these failed policies.

What’s scary is that critical thinking has gone into such a decline. And people have become so enamored of the lies that they are fed from the mainstream media that this type of deceitful rhetoric actually, people aren’t outraged, people aren’t shocked, and I think a certain strain at least listens to it. And that’s why he puts it out there because he knows that the bar has been lowered so much that you can spout demagoguery and people will listen.

Leahy: I saw one commentator who said, we’ve gone from a land where we were looking for an exchange of ideas to now predominance of feeling. And that really is what that little campaign reelection video is about. Speaking of craziness, I really can’t believe this, and yet I can, is it true as you write that the Blount County Public Library up there in Maryville has now been turned into a homeless shelter?

Pulliam: They’re trying to turn it into a homeless shelter. And I have been speaking out against this since it started in December 2020 when the library invited a homeless agency to set up their headquarters in the library and give them this office space rent-free. I immediately started waving my arm, saying, wait a minute. I’ve seen this movie.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve lived in San Diego, I’ve lived in Austin, I have traveled around the country, and I’ve seen many major cities. The first place that the homeless people take over, if you let them, is the public library. Why do you want to let this camel get its nose under the flap of the tent?

And I tell you, it’s sometimes eerie living in East Tennessee. I feel like a time traveler in a science fiction story that comes back and starts warning people in the present about terrible calamities that await them.

I know this because I’ve been to the future, and people look at me like I’m crazy and say, oh no, that could never happen. And I know that it can happen, and it has happened and will happen. And so this arrangement where this homeless agency called  A Place to Stay has been conducting outreach activities from its rent-free office in the library.

This arrangement has been extended and extended, and then it continued even when, for six months, this written arrangement lapsed without anybody even noticing. I finally made my second appearance before the board of trustees for the library last week to renew my concerns, and it finally attracted coverage from the newspaper, which wrote it up.

And this is a library that costs $2.5 million a year to operate. And the board of trustees is not elected. It’s appointed by the three entities that fund the library, but I just cannot believe how resistant people are, and this is a county that’s overwhelmingly Republican. In our county commission, all 21 members are Republican. Why?

There is so little concern about the possibility of homeless people taking over the library and once they take over the library, it becomes virtually unusable for patrons who are trying to actually read and study and have a quiet and safe place to reflect. It’s one of the many things about East Tennessee that I sometimes have to scratch my head.

Leahy: When you spoke to the board of trustees and said, look, you can’t let this library become a homeless shelter. How did they respond to you?

Pulliam: The board of trustees, I think, because they are all appointed, some of them are more progressive, so their attitude is that homeless people are members of the public so they are entitled to use it just like anybody. Some people were saying, in fact, homeless people pay taxes. They have the attitude that homelessness is like getting a cold.

It can happen to anybody anytime for any reason. And then you have some people who are Republicans and Christians, and their attitude, well geez, we have an obligation to help these people. And I don’t deny that people in need of help should receive help, but not in the library by the library.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Mark Pulliam” by American Institute for Economic Research. Background Photo “Public Library” by Abby Chung.