Monday, July 21, 2014

Halls greenway project now on hold

Well, this isn't good. The latest from the counnty:

A long-awaited greenway project in the Halls community is being slowed by state bureaucracy and a complaint by the Tennessee Clean Water Network.

Knox County was prepared to take ownership of property currently owned by TTC Halls, LLC in order to construct a portion of the Halls Park-to-School Link greenway and to protect an important wetland area.  Unfortunately, wetland mitigation work on the property required by TDEC has not been completed and TCWN has filed a letter of noncompliance with the TDEC Division of Water Resources.  That move effectively stops the greenway project, just as an important state grant deadline looms on Sept. 30.

“If Knox County accepts the property from TTC Halls, we will also have to accept responsibility for the wetland mitigation project and its related problems, costs and required monitoring over the next several years,” said Knox County Parks and Recreation Director Doug Bataille. “While we hate to not move this project forward, we also feel that it would not be in the best interests of the taxpayers to assume the responsibility for the mitigation project and any potential problems that may arise from it.”

The cost to fix the issues outlined in the TCWN letter is estimated to range from $20,000 to $75,000, but ultimately the final price tag cannot be known at this time.

Although the portion of the greenway that would cross over the TTC Halls property is just over 14 percent of the entire planned greenway, by state regulation no portion of the Halls Park-to-School link can move forward until the issue between TCWN, TDEC and TTC Halls is resolved.

“This greenway is an important and worthwhile project, and it’s unfortunate that the 85 percent of the greenway that isn’t mired in bureaucratic red tape can’t move forward because of these issues,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.  “I hope this problem can be resolved, and Knox County can continue to move forward with the planned greenway in a timely manner. In the meantime, I’ve asked Knox County Parks and Recreation to focus on completing Clayton Park, which will be a great addition to our parks system and should be open by the end of the year.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Turnout stronger than May's election

Well, early voting is off to a "strong start," according to Knox County's election stud, Cliff Rodgers:  administrator of casting votes.

Turnout at this point - 4 p.m. on Friday - has seen 2,000 folks casting ballots with three hours left in the day.

That's compared to 855 during the May county primary.

He said at this point, the town of Farragut has secured almost 500 signatures to get the "wine" vote on the November ballot. (half way there, since they need 782 signatures.)

Rodgers expects the pro-wine group to reach the magic number by late next week.

He said around then his team of petition counters will start counting signatures for Knoxville.

Early voting today through Aug. 2

Early voting for the Aug. 7 elections kick off today with a number of key local county seats up for final votes, as well as the primary for state and federal offices. Early voting runs from July 18 to Aug. 2.

In Knox County, there are ten locations to cast your ballot early: 
  • City-County Building 
  •  Love Kitchen 
  • 1543 Downtown West 
  • New Harvest Park 
  • 6510 E. Chapman Highway, Suite 6 
  • Carter Library 
  • Farragut Town Hall 
  • 314 Merchants Drive, Suite E 
  • Halls Recreation Center 
  • 7650 Oak Ridge Highway 
The polls will be open Monday through Friday from 11 am to 7 pm. On Saturdays, you can vote from 11 am to 5 pm.

For more information on the Knox County election, including a SAMPLE BALLOT, click RIGHT SMACK HERE.

For information on other county races, please contact your local election commission. You can find a link to those RIGHT OVER HERE.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Schools to study balanced calendar

Yesterday we reported about the county school system's proposal to move to a balanced calendar.

In the coming months, advocates will bombard us with all sorts of reasons and stats that shows why this will better educate students.

It might. I don't know. What I do know, however, is that if a student doesn't give a crap about learning, then shortening the summer and giving them other "enrichment" opportunities isn't going to make a difference.

That said, this is probably the new wave. I imagine in 10-15 years pretty much every school system in the country will be on a similar calendar. (It also should be noted that the current calendar is based on a more agricultural society in which the students would spend summers working the harvests - that's why they needed that long time off. We've obviously moved away from all that for the most part.)
Here's part of the story about what to expect, including link to the full story.

The Knox County Schools administration wants to look into shifting the system's traditional school calendar to a "balanced" one – a proposal that would shorten summer breaks, but provide more learning opportunities for students, officials say.

However, such a move – if done – is still a long ways off and would need buy-in from the public and the Board of Education.

"We'll have to have a lot more community discussion and dialogue before we move forward with this concept," said Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre. "We absolutely want to make sure we have a great deal of public dialogue and feedback and discourse on this idea."

The proposal is a small part of the administration's 49-page "Strategic Plan – Excellence for Every Child" that the school board approved on first reading earlier this month and will take up again in August. The plan is filled mostly with a series of goals and aspirations, and school leaders say it's the blueprint they want to use to better educate students and improve the overall system during the next five years.

One of the ways to do that, the plan notes, is to avoid "the trap of passively agreeing to 'do school as it has always been done,'" and, instead, to challenge "traditional assumptions and conventional wisdom so we can craft learning environments that prioritize improving student achievement."

The plan suggests examining how the current "school schedule and the academic calendar may be used to maximize" student learning.

Still, there's a lot that has to happen before anything changes.

First, the school board has to approve the overall strategic plan during its Aug. 6 voting meeting.

Then, the administration has to further research the concept and hold a series of public meetings for more input.

Finally, the BOE would have to approve the balanced calendar.

Also, since the administration has set the schedules for this upcoming year, which starts in August, and for the following one, it wouldn't implement any changes until the 2016-17 school year at the earliest.

You can read the entire story, which includes fancy charts, video, pictures, etc., RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Judicial candidates hitting the TVs

Circuit Court Judge Harold Wimberly (Div. 2) has released his third television ad (this guy is on a roll) entitled "Dear Mr. Judge." (Naw, I'm not kidding.)

Anyhoo, you can check it out below. Wimberly, a Democrat, faces Bill Ailor, a Republican, in the Aug. 7 general election.

Leland Price, who faces Scott Green for the Criminal Court (Div 2) judge seat in the same election, also has released his second television ad. 

You can find that below

As always, send me your election stuff for publication consideration.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Properties with Potential: Firm to study 4 downtown areas to develop

As the core of downtown Knoxville continues to thrive, city officials want to make sure some key property on the periphery is not left on the outside looking in.

The plan?

Bring in the Urban Land Institute, a non-profit Washington, D.C.-based research center on land use, to provide input about four prime areas: World's Fair Park, the Civic Auditorium and Coliseum, the Supreme Court site, and the area where the McClung warehouse buildings once stood.

"We think it's very important that we get a fresh set of eyes to look at where we've come in the last decade and what steps we need to be taking over the next several years to enhance that development," said Bob Whetsel, Director of the Office of Redevelopment for the city. "As we've said for years, downtown Knoxville is everybody's neighborhood, and everybody comes here from all around.

"When people come in for Boomsday, they're going to come into downtown," he added. "When people come in for UT football games, they're going to come in for downtown. People all around the area book the Convention Center for uses, so we think all this works together."

The City Council is expected to sign off on a $125,000 contract with the ULI next week. If approved, the organization will send an advisory panel of national consultants to Knoxville from Oct. 5-10.

The panel will investigate the sites and conduct a series of interviews with more than 100 stakeholders, including business owners, nearby residents, developers and groups with key interests in the downtown area like Knox Heritage.

On Oct. 10, the panel will also deliver a community report about its findings, and then a few months later give the city a more detailed written report.

You can read the rest of our story, which we broke last night, RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Work to begin on Karns senior center

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Knox County Commission Chairman Brad Anders and others will break ground at the site of the soon-to-be constructed Karns Senior Center on Wednesday, July 16 at 10:30 a.m, according to a news release.

The center will be located on the Knox County Sportspark property at 8050 Oak Ridge Highway at the intersection with Karns Valley Drive.

The 8,000-square-foot center is expected to cost $1.2 million.

Fansler releases 2nd television ad

Well, the good Chancellor Daryl Fansler is on a roll, releasing his second television ad in the last week or so.

You can find it below:

Fansler faces Clarence Pridemore, who has refused to debate him, in the Aug. 7 general election.

Fansler began practicing law at Bond, Carpenter, & O'Connor before co-founding what is now Stokes, Williams, Sharp and Davies in 1989. He was elected as Knox County Chancellor, Part II, Sixth Judicial District, State of Tennessee in 1998, and subsequently re-elected in 2006. Over the course of his career, he has presided over 25,000 cases in Knox County Chancery Court.

As always, send over your political stuff for publication consideration.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Price campaign releases first TV ad

Leland Price, who is running for the Criminal Court (Division III) judicial post, has released his first television ad, according to his campaign.

Price, a Democrat, faces Scott Green, a Republican, in the Aug. 7 county General Election. Price currently serves as a prosecutor in the Knox County Attorney General's Office. Green, a former county prosecutor, now has his own law firm.

The ad is mostly comprised of testimonials from the Christian and Newsom families.

You can find it below:

As always send me your political items for publication consideration.

Briggs, Campfield to appear on Inside TN; third candidate Alford weighs in

Mike Alford
So, this Sunday's edition of Inside Tennessee will feature incumbent 7th District state Senator and his Republican challenger Richard Briggs. (Tune in at 9:30 a.m. on WBIR-TV 10News!)

Good stuff.

In the meantime, the third "candidate" - Mike Alford - was not able to appear, since, he told us, he would be out of town.

He did, however, submit the following statement:
I would like to express my sincere apologies to you and your viewers for not being able to appear on your program. It is important that voters get to see all the candidates and hear their views. I hope to get the opportunity again before this election.

Tenova CEO’s went directly to the state of Tennessee evading our local laws, bypassing MPC, our local government, and with no notice to the public; had a zoned scenic section of Middlebrook Pike re-zoned in order to build a hospital.

Senator Campfield sponsored a bill(SB0655) allowing them to proceed with their plan. Dr. Briggs is an employee of Tenova and if I’m not mistaken served on their board in some capacity.

I am certainly for progress and creating jobs in Tennessee but when the proper process is completely bypassed, it gives the public the impression there was more to gain than jobs for someone.

This very incident is a prime example of the importance of Public Notice. I will work hard to preserve citizen’s access to public information, abide by our Sunshine Laws, and will protect the integrity of public notices by keeping them in print.

My vast experience in the transportation industry has given me the knowledge to provide traffic calming initiatives. I will do my due diligence to help resolve the congestion providing a smoother passageway through Knoxville in the I40 – I75 corridor while reducing the negative environmental impact.

I am the only Republican candidate in the 7th district that is a true Tennessean. I grew up; worked, lived, and raised a family in this great state and my wish is to keep it great. I will not accept any PAC money for my campaign. My promise is to represent the constituents with honesty and integrity. My goal is to limit the intrusion of government on our day to day lives.
Looks, let's face it, Alford is on the ballot to take votes away from Briggs. Campfield's own guy - sporting a "Campfield" T-shirt - picked up the guy's nominating petition and Alford even signed Campfield's own petition. (It also hurts Campfield more than Briggs that Alford appears first on the ballot.)
Anyhoo,  since we'll be featuring the others, I felt it fair to at least give Alford a mention.

It also should be noted that the winner of the Aug. 7 primary will face Democrat Cheri Siler in the November general election, although, let's face it: She has about as much of a shot of winning as Alford does - no matter how the local bloggers and alt-weekly writers attempt to justify a way for her to win.

I'm out.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ownby not interested in vice chair

Jeff Ownby
As I noted some time ago, there’s some behind the scenes politicking taking place as a couple of commissioners vie for the Knox County Commission chairman’s seat.

You can read that bad boy RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Anyhoo, I also noted that Commissioner Amy Broyles is interested in the vice chair seat.
There are now rumors going around that Jeff Ownby, too, wants the gig.

That’s not the case. I talked to Jeff earlier today and he says he has absolutely no interest.

“I don’t know where that rumor came from, and frankly I’d be shocked if I was nominated,” he told me.

As it stands, there really aren’t a lot of choices and I suspect Broyles has a good shot, provided the board does not appoint any one of the four newcomers (which I don’t expect to happen).

Subtract the new guys and you’re left with Ownby (he says he doesn’t want it); Richard Briggs (he’s running for office and if he wins would have to step down); Mike Brown (don’t think he wants it); Brad Anders (doesn’t want it and is interested in chair).

You’re also left with Broyles (she wants it); Sam McKenzie (probably too busy with his job and out of respect probably wouldn’t challenge the only other Democrat – Broyles – on the board for it); and Dave Wright (who wants the chair seat, but if he lost to Anders would become a viable candidate).

Knox Law Dept brings Wigler on board

David Wigler
This is kind of interesting. The Knox County Law Department recently hired local lawyer David Wigler to serve as an attorney in the office.

Wigler, a former partner with Herb Moncier, is well-known and well-respected in the Knoxville legal arena.

He's also represented officials and governments around the area. I've covered a couple of his cases, including the accusations he filed on behalf of Brad Mayes against Natural Resources Recovery of Tennessee, its parent company, Natural Resources Recovery Inc., and the owner, Sid Brian.

Also on behalf of Mayes, he filed a defamation lawsuit involving Knox County Solid Waste's director. 

I've been told that all his cases connected to Knox County have been cleared and/or dismissed. I was also told that he is most knowledgeable in Section 1983, civil rights and prisoner lawsuits. (There's been at least one of them filed, so that's good for the county.)

Anyhoo, congrats goes out to Wigler.