Live from Music Row, Wednesday 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. – guest host Aaron Gulbransen welcomed Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs to the newsmaker line to discuss the county’s record-sized budget that doesn’t raise taxes.
Gulbransen: On our newsmaker line right now, as I call him, Tennessee’s favorite mayor, Knox County Mayor, and good friend of the show, Glenn Jacobs. Good morning, sir. How are you?
Jacobs: Morning, Aaron. Thanks for having me on.
Gulbransen: Thank you for getting up. We appreciate it. But I tell that to every guest because as the coffee hits me it’s increasingly aware of how early it is. It sounds like a big price tag, but you’ve managed to propose a record-size budget in Knox County that doesn’t raise taxes one iota and gives the police a very healthy raise, which is a nice thing.
Jacobs: Yes. So our budget for the first time exceeds a billion dollars. But the reason for that is population growth and inflation-adjusted for inflation and population. The budget’s actually flat over the last 10 years and our debt has actually dropped almost 12 percent.
Unfortunately, when we look at dollars, we’re just like everyone else. Our dollars don’t go as far as they used to, so it takes more of them. That is a big number, but to keep it in context. It’s flat compared to where it was 10 years ago if we take those factors into place.
And yes, we’re able to give the sheriff’s office an eight percent raise, which if the budget’s proven would be the highest single-year raise that they’ve gotten in the history of Knox County. Since I’ve been mayor they’ve gotten 25 percent, including this budget, salary increase as well as $6,000 in bonuses. And that includes the COVID year when we froze salaries for everybody.
Gulbransen: And I know that you were a very strong supporter back and you backed the blue. That’s been a very big priority for you to make sure that they continue to be as well compensated as they can be year after year.
Jacobs: Yes, it’s a really tough job, especially now. I think things are different in Tennessee. We appreciate our law enforcement here. We appreciate all our first responders in public safety, but when you look at what’s happening around the country, it’s more difficult than it ever was.
In many places, the police are viewed as the enemy, and you have to defund the police movement, and that’s just completely ludicrous. So one way that we can show our appreciation is by trying to pay them more. And I think that’s important.
Gulbransen: I appreciate it as the grandson of a police officer. The 2020 insanity certainly drove me crazy with the defund the police movement. And I always appreciate when you see elected officials doing what they can for police in the county.
Of course, with some of your radical legislators out there who like to spew some anti-police rhetoric, it must have gotten interesting every now and then, especially around 2020 with the police bashing.
Jacobs: (Chuckles) Yes. A couple of years ago my budget was called racist because we fully funded the sheriff’s request. And I was like, I didn’t know that a budget could be that. But you’re exactly right. That’s a small minority of people here in Tennessee. They’re loud, obviously, but that’s not how the overwhelming number of people in our state think and view law enforcement.
Gulbransen: That’s one major issue you’re achieving success with by assisting, appreciating, and funding the police. What is your favorite thing that you’ve either done this year for Knox County? That sounds weird to say, actually.
Jacobs: It’s true though.
Gulbransen: Do you have a favorite thing you’ve accomplished thus far other than supporting the police?
Jacobs: Yes, sir. And this will be coming to fruition within the next couple of weeks when I first came into office and had this idea of an apprenticeship center. It’s basically a technical school for the building trades. And it’s taken us a while, ironically, because of issues with supply chain and labor.
But nevertheless, the state gave us a million dollars, they actually gave it to the trade association that we’re working with to renovate a building here. It’s almost up and going. They have 20 people signed up for the first class. I’m over the moon about that. That’s so exciting.
Everywhere you look, of course, we have labor shortages, especially in the trades and that is such a wonderful opportunity for people. Just look at what’s available and the money that can be made. It’s a great career.
And then, if you have some business knowledge and some entrepreneurship skills, you can start your own business. And man, plumbing, electrical, welding, whatever, it’s really the sky’s the limit on what you can do. I’m really excited about that, and it’s great to see it finally come to fruition.
Gulbransen: I would be neglectful if I didn’t point out that we here at the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition, because of the wonderful conservative work and effective work you do in Knox County, did give you an award as a defender of freedom as well as your national advocacy when you go to defend conservatism and all the media.
That being said, we’ve done a lot of talk thus far, and we’re going to do a lot of talk the rest of the show on the border. What do you see out in Knox County? Because essentially, every state in the union at this point in time is a border state. So are you seeing issues arising out there?
Jacobs: Anecdotally, no one talks to us. The State Department doesn’t talk to us. The feds don’t talk to us. Under the Trump administration, there was a line of communication that we literally talked to people on Trump’s staff in the White House. That doesn’t happen anymore with Biden, and it hasn’t happened since he came into office.
I’m sure you saw the story about a plane full of unaccompanied minors from wherever that landed at McGee Tyson Airport. I found out about that on the news just like everybody else that did. I got some pictures from friends of buses stopping in downtown Knoxville, and folks getting off with baggage and don’t know where they’re from or where they’re going.
Don’t know if they got back on the buses or not. Made inquiries. Congressman Burchett can’t get an answer. Senator Blackburn can’t get an answer. Senator Hagerty can’t get an answer. That’s my biggest issue.
No one is talking to us from the federal government. And it really does, it really is a federal issue when they decide they are going to put people someplace and they don’t even tell us. That’s the most frustrating thing possible because I don’t have an answer. And I wish I did.
Gulbransen: Unfortunately, it sounds like they’re basically playing partisan politics by not talking to Republican elected officials when they’re doing things like that, which is a shame considering we’re talking about a national security issue and a number of other things.
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 Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Glenn Jacobs” by Glenn Jacobs. Background Photo “Knox County City Government Building” by Brian Stansberry. CC BY 3.0.