Vote now in the 2013 Lump of Coal Award poll

November 25, 2013 12:37PM

Santa’s making his list, and we’re making ours. Over the past year, a number of government and other entities have been very naughty. In response, the Beacon Center is giving you the opportunity to send them a lump of coal for their misdeeds. Below are our staff picks for the four finalists for the not-so-coveted 2013 Lump of Coal Award. Between now and Monday, December 16th, cast your vote for the finalist who has been the biggest Scrooge to Tennessee taxpayers over the past year. Once voting is complete on the 16th, we will announce the winner and send them a big fat lump of coal for bahumbugging the principles of individual liberty and limited government. Hemlock Semiconductor Hemlock Semiconductor, which makes components of solar panels, represents one of the largest corporate welfare catastrophes in Tennessee’s history. After it received more than $250 million in handouts from state and local taxpayers, Hemlock announced that it would shutter its Clarksville plant before construction even finished. Citing a volatile market and Chinese tariffs, the company laid off 300 workers. While taxpayers were able to stop or recoup much of the subsidies awarded to the company, $95 million will never be seen again. As a result, Hemlock is a finalist for the 2013 Lump of Coal Award for its well-executed rendition of “Take the Money & Run.” Department of Labor & Workforce Development In March, the Comptroller of the Treasury released one of the most shocking audits in recent memory. It found that the state Department of Labor & Workforce Development had made $73 million in overpayments from the state’s unemployment fund over the past six years. Among the erroneous payouts were checks to several dead Tennesseans and currently employed state workers. Of the misspent funds, the department was only able to recoup a paltry $15 million. In addition, the department faces ongoing scrutiny for truly unemployed Tennesseans’ difficulties in even getting through to apply for benefits. Rather than buckle down and do their jobs, department officials thought it would be a great idea to blow $250,000 on a conference in Nashville late this summer. Because Tennesseans were literally dying to get unemployment benefits, the department is a perfect candidate for this year’s Lump of Coal Award. Metro Nashville Public Schools A recent Beacon report found that Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) spends just 44 percent of total funding on instructional expenditures. Instead of directing funding into the classroom, the district is pumping more and more money into its central office, doubling per-pupil administrative spending over the past decade. When it was called on the carpet for these misplaced spending habits, district leaders and school board members threw up a red herring, blaming local charter schools for their fiscal woes. Those public charter schools receive just a portion of overall per-pupil funding (the rest remains with and is reinvested in the traditional public schools), having to raise much of their financial support from private donations. Yet charter schools consistently score high marks for educating students. More recently, MNPS has threatened legal action against the state, a move that could mean thousands of Nashville’s children will be prevented from attending a quality charter school of their choice. This appalling “look over there” diversion tactic may have worked with some in the local media, but it doesn’t distract us from naming MNPS as one of our finalists for the 2013 Lump of Coal Award. 23rd Judicial District Task Force, Cheatham County, Dickson County, and Humphries County There are four entities in Tennessee that deserve special recognition for an alarming practice that turns the Constitution on its head. The 23rd Judicial District Task Force, Cheatham County, Dickson County, and Humphries County have become quite skillful at “policing for profit,” whereby they take cash, cars, and other private property and force the owners to prove it was not related to a crime. That’s because this practice treats the property—not its owner—as the “defendant,” skirting constitutional protections. They then buy lavish equipment and vehicles with the proceeds, as noted in an in-depth documentary by Nashville’s NewsChannel 5. These entities claim they are getting drug money off the streets, but as the NewsChannel 5 investigation revealed, they often let drugs pass right under their noses, waiting to seize the cash proceeds later. Even worse, innocent victims are frequently ensnared in the game, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time with a lot of cash, which by the way is no crime. Victims typically spend months trying to retrieve their property, and sometimes to no avail. Here’s to these three counties and one judicial district seizing a big fat Lump of Coal this Christmas season.   [polldaddy poll=7593373]