Live from Music Row Monday 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 Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs to the newsmaker line to discuss his position on OSHA vaccine mandates, football, and getting mental health help for Tennessee’s veterans.
Leahy: Joining us now on the newsmaker line, the mayor of Knox County, Glenn Jacobs. Good morning, Glenn.
Jacobs: Good morning, Michael. How are you?
Leahy: Good. I got two fun questions for you. I don’t know if you saw yesterday, Andy Ogle’s, mayor of Maury County, sent out an email to all his 500 employees saying we will not comply with the OSHA mandate if the Supreme Court upholds it. I’m willing to go to jail he says. Our question for you. You’re like 6’9 or so? Will you be his bodyguard if he goes to jail?
Jacobs: (Laughs) I’ll probably be right there with you.
Ogles: Amen, brother.
Leahy: Well, yeah. I mean, that does pose the question. What will you do? Have you thought about this I guess first as mayor of Knox County? I think the Supreme Court is going to rule that OSHA’s mandate for employers with more than 100 employees is unconstitutional and illegal. But if they rule otherwise, what are you going to do?
Jacobs: Yeah, I’m not going to comply. There are some issues also with state law and the state would have to alter some of the things that they’ve done, I guess, because currently, it’s actually illegal in the state of Tennessee for a governmental entity to require COVID vaccines to work there. So it’s a bigger issue than just at the county level. Actually goes to the state level as well.
Leahy: But I guess under the supremacy clause, if the Supreme Court were to find incorrectly that it was constitutional then the conflict between the state and the feds would be resolved to the advantage of feds, I guess asterisk, then you got the problem of compliance and enforcement.
Jacobs: Right. Exactly. And then, of course, the problem with the supremacy clause is it only applies to the powers that the federal government actually has. (Leahy laughs) You’re right. It depends on what the Supreme Court does. And, of course, everything is so messed up now, but traditionally, public health has been a power of the states and not the federal government. And certainly in this situation where I agree with you.
I think the Supreme Court probably will vote five to four actually against the mandate. But you have the president now using a regulatory agency OSHA to pass legislation. I wouldn’t agree with legislation anyway, but rightfully it belongs with Congress, not with the executive. And that’s really the core of the issue. Separation of powers. Can the president just unilaterally say, hey, I’m going to do this and enforce it through a regulatory agency?
Leahy: Yes, very good. Let me just switch gears a little bit to something a little bit more fun. Although the prospect of Andy in jail, I suppose, would be amusing to everybody except for Andy and his family.
Ogles: Yeah, I appreciate that by the way.
Leahy: We will put a fund to bail you out. I will visit you during visiting hours. Andy. I know, but I don’t think he’s going to come to that. You played college football at now it’s Truman State. At the time, it was Northeast Missouri. You had a tryout with the Chicago Bears.
You’d injured yourself. You had an injury your senior year, which means that you had a very brief tryout with the Bears. The doctor looked at you and said, go home. Which was kind of a tough day for you. Last night, did you stay up and watch the Georgia-Alabama game?
Jacobs: Man, I didn’t, actually, although it was in the SEC Championship game basically, I didn’t. But I saw the score today and I never bet against Nick Saban and I guess the Bulldogs looked really well last night.
(Leahy, Ogles, and Jacobs discuss football)
Leahy: What are the big things on your agenda for 2022 as mayor of Knox County?
Jacobs: Well, we were just able to finally sign a lease for our new career trades. Our building trades career academy, really excited about that. Should be getting that kicked off probably in August.
Leahy: So that’s going to be in August? Are you inviting Mike Rowe to come to the grand opening? (Jacobs laughs)
Jacobs: He has an open invitation.
Leahy: The Dirty Jobs guy.
Leahy: I’ll see if I can get him to come. What do you think?
Jacobs: Yeah, that would be great. We’d love it. Actually, that’s something that’s vitally important. I think that Tennessee does a good job with our technical colleges, the TCAT, but anything that we can do to encourage the trades and get more people into the trades, there are tremendous opportunities. Now, I think Andy would tell you that mental health is a big issue across the state. So we are working on some things to hopefully address that as well.
Leahy: Let’s talk about mental health. When you say that now and Andy’s shaking his head. Yes. With all this craziness of COVID-19 people wearing masks and people getting mental health is like taking a dive. What are you seeing in Maury County, Andy?
Ogles: I think last week or the week before, one of the things we’re seeing in Maury County, our veteran service office is one of the go-to places in Middle Tennessee. Have a great crew in there. And we’re seeing a lot of our mental health issues with veterans. And it’s really become an issue. Obviously, 22 veterans, that number that you see out there when it comes to the suicide numbers for veterans, it’s become a real issue.
And so I’m like the mayor there that we’ve really got to step up as a state and get the resources to the counties because we’re better suited to administer some of these things at the local level. We know what our needs are, but it’s an ongoing issue. Like I said, what we’re seeing here in Maury County is the veteran community.
Leahy: Now, what are the big mental health issues up in Knox County? And what kind of programs can the county do get involved in to address those?
Jacobs: The estimates are about a quarter of the homeless across the country are veterans, which is an absolute shame and something that we certainly have to do more with addiction and mental health and homelessness. They’re like a terrible triad. They’re all tied together.
So one of the things that we’re looking at is years ago, the state closed down The Lakes, was a mental hospital here, and never replaced it with anything. When we say someone is incarcerated and they have mental health issues, they have to go all the way down to Chattanooga or over to Jackson, Tennessee. So we’re working with hospitals here to start an urgent behavioral healthcare center where people can get checked in and get the help they need.
Hopefully, maybe it’s something that I don’t want to say, simple as it’s something like leveling their medication out or something more so than that where they have to get a referral to go someplace else. But at least you get them off the streets and what’s happened now, unfortunately. And this is one of those things that I guess we have to deal with is our jail has become the largest mental health facility in East Tennessee.
Leahy: Andy is shaking his head. Yes, that’s the case. Why is that?
Jacobs: Because we don’t have any place for them. They cause issues generally not violent crimes, but whether it’s loitering, whether it’s homelessness, whether it’s whatever. We just don’t have any other place to put them.
So they end up in jail where our jailers are not trying to deal with them and shouldn’t be dealing with them. We’re not doing them any good, either. So this is hopefully an opportunity to divert them away from jail and get them into more productive programming and hopefully eventually to more productive lives.
Leahy: Last question for Glenn Jacobs, the mayor of Knox County. Glenn, what are you coming down Nashville from Knoxville and coming in studio with us?
Jacobs: Hey man. Just give me a shout. We’re trying to work it out last week, but unfortunately, the snow stirred out, and caused that not to happen. But I’d be glad to come down anytime.
Leahy: Well, we’re going to get our biggest chair possible and put it in the studio. (Ogles and Jacobs laughs)
Ogles: Not to mention I may need a bodyguard.
Leahy: Glenn Jacobs, thanks so much. Come back again soon.
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