Misrule of Law Blog Creator Mark Pulliam Talks About Blount County’s Efforts to Evolve into a More Hipster-Like Community


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 retired attorney and blog creator of Misrule of Law Mark Pulliam to the newsmaker line to discuss his recent piece addressing the Blount County’s government’s efforts to change the demographics from less middle-class to a more hipster-like community.

Leahy: We welcome on our newsmaker line. Our good friend from Blount County here in Tennessee by Knoxville, Mark Pulliam. Mark is a retired attorney and a conservative blogger. Got a great Christmas gift for us at Miss Rule of Law. Part Eleven of Trouble in Paradise. Good morning, Mark.

Pulliam: Good morning. And Happy New Year.

Leahy: Happy New Year. I saw that this was published on Christmas Day. What a nice Christmas gift for us. The subtitle of your article at Miss Rule of Law. What is the hidden agenda for proponents of growth in Blount County?

Tell us about it? Well, first, for those of our new residents of Middle Tennessee, tell everybody where Blount County is and where it is in relation to Knoxville and what’s going on there.

Pulliam: Blount County is directly south of Knox County, so it’s in between Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. And for many years it was a rural county. It’s now turning into an exurb. I think certain people would like it to become a suburb of Knoxville.

And so we’re going through some growth and some change, with a lot of farmland now being slated for development into residential subdivisions and Amazon warehouses coming to town and so forth. And that’s creating a lot of contention in the community about what direction do we want this county to go.

And I think the same situation is true in many areas of Tennessee. I think Blount County, once you get outside of the urban centers and there’s just a handful of urban centers, most of Tennessee is similar to Blount County in terms of its demographics and geography.

Leahy: So what are the consequences? What are the demographic changes? What are the economic things going on? Is there something untoward about all these economic development czars who are trying to fix Blount County?

Pulliam: Well, I think there is. So every county has an economic development agency. In some places, they’re called an Industrial Development Board. The state of Tennessee has a very fancy and well-funded Department of Economic and Community Development.

And people have traditionally criticized these efforts as crony capitalism, picking winners and losers because what they do is use taxpayer money to have subsidies to bring companies to either the state of Tennessee or to a particular county with backroom deals where property taxes are baited and free stuff is handed out.

And it’s never enough transparency about what is going on and whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. And it’s the same thing happening statewide with bringing Ford Motor Company to West Tennessee and bringing Oracle to Nashville.

So this is a very common problem throughout Tennessee. But what prompted me to write this and to actually post it on Christmas Day to my wife’s consternation, (Leahy chuckles) is that the head of the economic development agency in Blount County, a guy named Brian Daniels wrote an article in a magazine published by our local newspaper.

And in this magazine article, he discloses what I think a lot of proponents of economic growth never say out loud. And that is they’re not only just trying to bring business to Tennessee, but there’s also nothing wrong with business in the abstract, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with jobs in the abstract. But the real agenda, and he said this in his article, is to change the demographics of Blount County.

Leahy: What’s wrong with the demographics of Blount County?

Pulliam: Well, that was my point of writing this. Is there nothing wrong with the demographics of Blount County or the demographics of Tennessee, for that matter?

What makes Tennessee a red state, a patriotic religious state is a fact that we have so many traditional values and middle-class people living here.

And it doesn’t hurt to have a lot of retirees who pay property taxes but don’t make any economic demands on the education system. And Brian Daniels, in this article, came out and said, we have too many retirees and not enough hipsters.

Leahy: Now, you’re not like anti-hipster, right? (Laughs)

Pulliam: I fled the hipster capital of America, Austin, Texas, because they’re very destructive. I don’t mind a good IPA, but they vote terrible. It’s a terrible voting block. And you look at what’s wrong in all the major cities in America. Portland, Minneapolis.

Leahy: Too many hipsters.

Pulliam: Too many hipsters.

Leahy: But now what if a hipster-like decides I’m a hipster? But I hate Portland. I hate Austin. I’m moving to Blount County. Isn’t there an opportunity for hipster redemption?

Pulliam: Well, there is. But just like businesses should settle where they settle for their own reasons, hipsters should settle where they settle for their own reasons.

What we don’t need is social engineers or would be social engineers orchestrating an influx of hipsters and consciously intentionally changing the demographics of the community because they don’t like it.

Blount County, like a lot of areas of Tennessee, is inhabited mainly by Bubbas. People who drive pickup trucks, et cetera. And there’s nothing wrong with them. They are a flyover country. What America used to be. Overwhelmingly Bubba.

Leahy:  Not to oversimplify it. Are we pro-Bubba and anti-hipster? Is that it, Mark?

Pulliam: I think that sums it up.

Leahy: Okay. Hey, look. Hey with us here. I want to bring Andy Ogles, Mayor Murray County in now. Andy, you and I have had some discussions about this in Blount County. The guy who this Brian Daniels fellow who’s the President and CEO of the Blount Partnership.

Blount by the way, is spelled B-L-O-U-N-T. He says there are too many retirees. He wants more hipsters, fewer above us. You and I have talked about this. You’re Mayor of Maury County. What’s your reaction to Mark’s story here?

Ogles: Well, I don’t really understand the comments about too many retirees, because in reality, as the chief executive officer for Maury County, I’m responsible for building schools. And the great thing about retirement communities is you have an influential demographic.

They spend money in your local economy, and I don’t have to build them a school because they’re retired. And so actually, if I were going to change the demographics or try to skew the demographics, one of the demographics I would want to attract to Maury County would be more retirees, not less.

Leahy: Now, that’s good common sense. Mark Pulliam, have you had a chance to engage with Brian Daniels who wants fewer retirees in Blount County, and make arguments like that with them?

Pulliam: I just want to say Hello to Andy and happy New Year to you.

Ogles: Good morning, my friend.

Leahy: We got 30 seconds for your response here, Mark.

Pulliam: I’ve exchanged some emails with Brian Daniels, and we’re not exactly on the friendliest of terms. Tell Ron DeSantis in Florida that retirees are bad for the economy.

Ogles: Yeah right. Exactly.

Leahy: There you go. Hey, Mark Pulliam, you got to come in studio again. So great having you on here. Thank you so much.

Pulliam: All right.

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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 “Mark Pulliam” by Mark Pulliam. Background Photo “Blount County, Tennessee” by Brian Stansberry. CC BY 3.0.
















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