Thursday, July 31, 2014

Norman seeks costs to 'protracted nature and outcome' of Suttles' case

Awhile back, Knox County schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre fired Richard Suttles, a teacher. Suttles appealed, the mediator agreed with him (he did suggest a suspension), and then Jim asked the Board of Education to overrule the mediator.

The BOE refused.

Earlier this week, Knox County Commissioner Tony Norman sent the following letter to school officials, asking for the overall costs to the aforementioned mess:
Dr. McIntyre:

Given the extremely protracted nature and outcome (to date) of Mr. Richard Suttles’ case, I thought it would be in the best interest of Knox County citizens to have an accounting of all direct and indirect costs associated with this case since its inception in 2011.

The minimal direct costs would begin with all attorneys’ fees and expenses charged by Mr. Owings and Mr. Reams, as well as all stenographer/court reporter costs for all transcription services. Direct costs must also include the cost of Mr. Suttles’ classroom replacement, as well as his retroactive salary agreed on by the BOE.

The indirect costs would include a calculation of all staff time involved, times their salaries and benefits. Admittedly, this would be an estimation. I would also appreciate an estimate of the amount of time our BOE has spent on Mr. Suttles’ case, and given this case may not be over, you may also include the staff time and expenses since the rebuttal by the BOE at the July 2nd meeting.

I would appreciate if you would provide this information in an itemized/detailed format, and include any additional costs I may have overlooked that can reasonably be associated with this matter.



SPEAK responds to school 5-year plan

Students, Parents and Educators Across Knox County – or S.P.E.A.K. – has released its response to the school system administration's 49-page "Strategic Plan – Excellence for Every Child" that the Board of Education approved on first reading earlier this month and will take up again next week.

Look, I'm not going to get into all the nitty gritty about this 'cause I'm on vacation. But the administration's plan really didn't say a whole lot. The first 10-15 pages talked about a number of achievements, and then the rest mentioned vague goals – nothing concrete – about how to make local students smarter during the next five years. There also was mention of moving to a balanced school calendar, which isn't the same as a "year-round" school calendar. We reported about that RIGHT SMACK HERE.

The S.P.E.A.K recommendations are 73 pages long. Again, I'm not getting into this 'cause I'm counting all the money I won in Atlantic City. Heh.

You can find S.P.E.A.K.'s proposals RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

TCAP assessment results largely flat

The Knox County Schools met seven of eleven 2013-14 Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) which are the academic performance targets set by the Tennessee Department of Education, according to the data released today.

This has resulted in the district earning the achievement accountability designation of “Achieve – Not Exemplary.” The academic results did show considerable work still to be done in closing achievement gaps defined by language, race, and disability, although some progress was seen in closing achievement gaps defined by income.

Results on the TCAP assessment were largely flat, with a few promising increases in proficiency, but there were some areas where the district experienced declines.

“These somewhat modest results, which are inconsistent with the strong gains we have achieved the past several years, heighten concerns about Tennessee not having a fully “aligned” assessment in grades 3-8,” said Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of the Knox County Schools. “Our teachers have implemented Tennessee’s rigorous Common Core State Standards, while our children are still being assessed by a TCAP test that was not designed to measure learning under the new standards.”

Results on the high school level End of Course (EOC) assessments were largely consistent with the prior year.

You can read the entire press release, which includes highlights RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Check out performance charts by grade RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Initially a number of superintendents throughout the area where going to hold a news conference at Pellissippi to talk about these announcements, but it was canceled "due to scheduling conflicts associated with beginning of school activities in several school districts."

Commission now accepting BOE resumes

Knox County commissioners are accepting resumes until noon Aug. 8 to replace Indya Kincannon, who resigned from her 2nd District School Board seat.

They can be mailed, faxed, emailed, handed in, etc. to:
The Office of the Knox County Commission
Suite 603, City County Building
400 Main Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37902
Phone: 215-2534
Fax: 215-2038
The commission will hold a public forum to interview candidates at 4 p.m. or immediately following the board's work session on Aug. 18.

The board is expected to make a final decision the following week during its monthly voting session.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Harmon V Owen: Democratic executive committee election getting fun

Mark Harmon, a former Knox County commissioner who is seeking a spot on the state's Democratic Executive Committee and is no relation to the actor (that I know of), sent over the following television ad (I got a chuckle at the beginning):

In his email, Mark said that his opponent, Bill Owen, "thinks that donations to candidates are the key qualification for the Democratic executive committee. Yet, he has given the following to Republican candidates during the time he's been serving on the Democratic Executive Committee (source: RIGHT SMACK HERE, using federal campaign contribution data):

11/17/98 $750 McCain, John (R)
9/23/03 $2,000 National Republican Senatorial Cmte (R)
3/9/00 $1,000 Thomas, Bill (R)
2/24/99 $1,000 McCain, John (R)
10/17/95 $1,000 Quillen, James H (R)

Bill responded over at the hippie's site, saying:
Mr. Harmon has spent the entire campaign bragging about bringing "resources" to candidates. But the reality is he has never given any money-or any other visible resource- to the Tennessee Democratic Party. Yes, I guess the truth hurts his campaign, but elections are about choices and to date Mr. Harmon had chosen to be "Missing in Action" when it comes to contributing to Tennessee Democratic Nominees except in rare instances.
You can find Bill's entire statement, RIGHT SMACK HERE.

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

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.

South Knoxville Alliance to unveil 'Saturday South' campaign July 17

The South Knoxville Alliance, which is comprised of roughly 40 area businesses and organizations, will unveil its exciting new “Saturday South” campaign, designed specifically to promote the South Knoxville area, at an upcoming networking mixer, according to a release.

The event will be held on Thursday, July 17, from 5:00 pm- 7:00 pm at Labor Exchange (2623
Chapman Hwy.). The Alliance will present information and details regarding the “Saturday
South” campaign just after 6:00 pm.

“We’re excited to announce the details of the upcoming campaign, which is both promotional
and interactive,” said President of the South Knoxville Alliance, Rebecca Hussain in a statement. “Our event committee has worked tirelessly to create innovative ways through which we might promote our area, and this event is the first of many to come.”

In addition to the announcement, the mixer will offer area business and organization leaders an
opportunity to network and will feature a cocktail hour from 5:00 pm- 6:00 pm.

The South Knoxville Alliance was formed in 2013 and is composed of businesses within the 37920 zip code - South Knoxville, South of the River. The Alliance has joined as active business and civic leaders to strengthen the area by promoting the areas many assets to fellow Knoxvillians, visitors and guests.

Located just across the Tennessee River from downtown, K-Town South is one of Knoxville’s most unique districts - flush with various and sundry boutiques, a plethora of locally owned and operated eateries, and home of Ijams Nature Center and Knoxville’s nationally acclaimed Urban Wilderness. The Alliance further endeavors to promote the area - through marketing, events and festivals.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Burchett plans to get hitched again

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett plans to marry long-time girlfriend Kelly Kimball on July 26.

Both have been previously married. Burchett, 49, has no kids. She has three. He and Kimball, 41, have been dating for a couple of years. 

The couple is not asking for gifts. If anyone feels the need, they can make contributions to Honor Air, a program that flies WW II and Korean veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit their respective memorials.

Congrats to both of them.

Marble Alley project now under way

Photo by Brian Holt, WBIR
This morning, county and city officials held a groundbreaking over at Marble Alley. Here's the release:

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero joined site developers in a groundbreaking ceremony today for the long-anticipated, multi-million dollar residential development on the Marble Alley property in downtown. In addition to the mayors, developer Buzz Goss and executives from TDK Construction, several elected officials and community leaders also attended the event.

Goss, along with TDK Construction, is in the early stages of phase one of the multi-phase development. Phase one of the plan is for a large 200,000 square foot residential development.

"It is great to see work finally moving forward at the Marble Alley site. This project will help to encourage and support the continued redevelopment of Downtown,” said Mayor Burchett. “But the benefits of this development will extend well beyond the boundaries of our center-city. Our local economy, schools, parks and roads will all benefit from the people who choose to live at Marble Alley and the revenue generated from having this property back on the tax rolls.”

“We are delighted to begin construction on phase one of Marble Alley, which would not have happened without the support of Mayor Burchett, Mayor Rogero, County Commission and City Council,” Goss said. “I am confident that it will set a new and positive direction for Downtown and, at the same time, blend well with its neighbors.”

The three-to-five story residential facility is a $15-20 million planned investment. It will include 238 units, a 350 space parking garage, a courtyard and resort-style pool, and fitness and lounge facilities. Other phases of the development ultimately call for a mixed-use space that will include commercial retailers.

In the 90s, Knox County acquired the property from private property owners in order to build a new downtown justice center. That center was never built. Since that time, there have been several ideas for the property, including a downtown planetarium.

Judge Wimberly releases second ad

The good folks trying to get Judge Harold Wimberly re-elected just sent over another TV campaign add, his second one so far. The ad, called "Blind Side," focuses on Wimberly's 27 years of experience on the Circuit Court (Div. 2) bench.

Check it out:

Wimberly, a Knoxville-West High School and University of Tennessee graduate, stood for election in the office of Circuit Court Judge in 1988 and has been re-elected three times. During his tenure he has been known as a champion of children’s rights, During his term of service, overseeing more than 600 adoptions and has placed over 1,000 children into homes, according to a release.

He faces Bill Ailor in the Aug. 7 general election.

As always, shoot over your campaign stuff for publication consideration.

Elections: Campaign sign confusion leads to minor Knox County conflict

Signs along Maryville Pike
Jim Matheny and I did a story last night regarding campaign sign laws. We used a recent "skirmish" between a resident and candidate to illustrate a problem. Needless to say, the candidate probably lost a few votes.

Here ya go:

As of Tuesday, Knox County voters are 30 days away from the August election. That means lots of campaigning and some arguments over campaign signs.

Although they're intended to help a person running for office, in at least one local race a sign more than likely cost a candidate some votes.

Late last week, South Knox County resident Stacy Davis said she was upset to discover a political sign on her property along Maryville Pike, a state highway. The sign was for 13th District State House candidate Jason Emert. Emert faces Eddie Smith in the August 7 Republican primary with the winner squaring off against incumbent Gloria Johnson, a Democrat, in November.

"When people drive by, people know this is our property. And then they see a sign for someone I barely even know, and (I am) not sure I would support who did not even ask permission to put it there" said Davis. "We pretty much never put up signs."

Davis said she believes the tree line between her home and the highway could cause someone to honestly mistake the edge of her property line. So, Davis contacted Emert, made him aware the sign was on private property without her permission, and asked him to remove it.

Davis said Emert initially declined, telling her that it was in the right-of-way and that he could put his sign there.

"He [Emert] left the sign, making sure I knew he was within his rights to do that and it would be a violation of law if I tampered with it," said Davis. 'I can understand the intent of the law because that way utility poles can be erected and street signs can be placed without having to ask everyone. But I'm quite sure the law was not intended for politicians to put their signs wherever they wanted."

Emert is, in fact, within his legal rights to leave the sign in place because it was on the right-of-way of a state highway. In Knox County, candidates cannot put signs on private property without the owner's permission. However, signs can be placed on the right-of-way as long as they do not interfere with visibility to create a driving hazard. Signs cannot be larger than 32 square feet without securing a building permit.

WBIR 10News looked at the laws regarding political signs. While there are many rules and regulations, they are pretty much unenforceable and carry no penalties if candidates or their campaigns violate them.

Nonetheless, Knox County Administrator of Elections Clifford Rodgers said politicians can "avoid a lot of the drama" by getting the property owner's permission before they post a sign.

The rest of the story RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Broadway Bridge project costing TDOT millions more because of damages

Broadway Bridge
Last week, Jim Matheny and I discovered that the state spent way more for a sliver of land than it was worth.

Here ya go:

A state project to rebuild the small bridge on Broadway Street will cost the Tennessee Department of Transportation millions of dollars for damages to a neighboring company.

The state paid Smith & Hammaker Enterprises more than $5.6 million for a roughly a half acre sliver of land. The property is located beneath and beside the bridge at the northern edge of downtown Knoxville along the Norfolk Southern Railroad line.

But records show the entire 3.6 acre property has an appraised worth of only $1.26 million.

TDOT says it got a fair shake at half the expense of its other option.

Spokesman Mark Nagi said officials weighed whether to buy the entire lot and then relocate the company or buy a piece of it and then "cure (the) damages from project impacts." Nagi said engineers eventually modified the bridge redesign to minimize the cost.

The $5.6 million price tag for the property includes more than the cost of the land. It also includes construction costs.

"We are paying the property owner to demolish part of their building. In this case, we have to have two parts of that building demolished and there are damages for the property owner," said Nagi. "The majority of the money was paid as damages, whereby the property owners could, if they chose, modify their property and building to remain at their current location."

The state needs the land for right-of-way purposes once the bridge, also known as the Broadway viaduct, is replaced.

In the meantime, that leaves more work for Smith & Hammaker, a document and information and management company that bought the property for $2.35 million in March 2005.

The rest of the story RIGHT SMACK HERE.

(Josh Flory over at the Property Scope had a report in which he focused on the business aspect of the deal connected to Smith & Hammaker purchasing the Fort Hill building. You can find it right HERE.)

Hilton Knoxville sells for $25M

Hilton Knoxville (courtesy of Hilton)
Broke this last week, but forgot to post it here.

Hilton Knoxville has a new owner, and one with plans to invest more than $2 million into upgrades that include doubling the size of its Starbucks and creating a spruced up beer garden that features live music and food.

The Buccini/Pollin Group, a development and management company based out of Delaware, finalized the purchase of the 317-room downtown hotel last week for just over $25 million. The W. Church Avenue hotel, one of the largest in the area, will keep the Hilton brand.

Its new owners told WBIR 10News on Tuesday that they want to "add to the civic life of the city," and "continue to polish this great gem of an asset."

"We are long-term owners and operators and look forward to investing in this hotel . . . and we're going to be here employing people in the community and growing here (and) attracting business to this community that may not be here currently," said Dave Pollin, co-president of The Buccini/Pollin Group. "And, by making investments in this hotel, we think it can be an even better resource for the city."

Pollin said that during the next year the new owners plan to invest a little more than $2 million into a series of renovations that include upgrades to the ballroom; "selective investments" to the guest rooms, like replacing furniture and converting bathtubs into showers only; and replacing the outside patio with a beer garden.

"There's a lot of people who really enjoy being outdoors and in a climate like Knoxville, so we're going to give them a new place to play, to live, to work and to have meetings," he said. "Today it's really just a patio, but we're going to add some energy to it. We're going to add some design to it, some new finishes and we're going to take it in a new direction, so the people of Knoxville will have a new place to come and be social."

Pollin added that the Starbucks inside the hotel lobby also will undergo a "complete rebuilding," and officials plan to more than double its current size

The overall construction will create about 50 new jobs, Pollin said, and then the hotel will hire about 20 new workers.

It currently employs 125.

The hotel, which has changed ownership a number of times since opening in 1981, was initially built to help serve the 1982 World's Fair.

The rest of the story RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July 24 Forum set for two BOE races

The League of Women Voters of Knoxville/Knox County and the Knox County Education Association will hold a moderated forum to inform voters about candidates running for the local Board of Education seats in the Aug. 7 election, according to a release.

The four candidates - two each from the 1st and 6th districts - are expected to participate in the July 24 forum. It will beheld from 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. in the Lawson McGhee Library Arts Room (basement level), 501 West Church St.

 Matt Shafer Powell, Director of News Content and Executive Producer at WUOT, will moderate.

 Incumbent Gloria Deathridge will face Marshall Walker for the Dsitrict 1 seat; and Terry Hill and Sandra Rowcliffe will square of for the District 6 seat.

For more information, click RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Ownby released from Medical Center

Jeff Ownby
Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby was released from the UT Medical Center today.  He's been there since last Wednesday after suffering a pancreatic attack.

At one point, he was in critical condition from what I understand.

In a news release, Ownby credited "the skill, hard hard and wonderful care of the doctors and nursing staff at UT" with his quick recovery.

Ownby said he looks forward to resuming his commission duties after a brief respite will remains available to his constituents by phone.

"I want to thank everyone for all the well-wishes and prayers, and hope to be back in the saddle in a few days," he said.

Voting registration deadline looms

Today is the deadline for Knox County residents to register to vote before the state primary and country general election.

The early voting period will last from July 18th through August 2nd, and Election Day is August 7th.

For information on how to register and a look at the sample ballot, head to the Knox County Election Commission's website RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Fansler campaign releases first ad

Chancellor Daryl Fansler's re-election campaign just released its first ad, according to a release just sent over. It features Knox County resident Brandi Clark, who adopted her two children with the good chancellor's help. You can find it below.

“When I heard that Chancellor Fansler was up for re-election, I felt compelled to tell my story on his behalf,” said Clark in the ad. “For adoptive families like mine and others that might go before that court, it is crucially important that we re-elect experienced and qualified judges to the bench.”
Eight years ago I tragically lost my only two sons, ages 9 and 5 to a house fire. I was devastated and never knew I would have children again.

Until destiny brought me together with Kalli and Bentley.

I have been blessed with the privilege of adopting two wonderful children.

Chancellor Fansler helped make this possible in such a gentle and caring way.

He worked with us, he cried with us. He created a life for all three of us.

I can’t imagine anyone else behind the bench.

To adoptive families like mine, this vote matters, so please, on August 7th, vote a good man back to Chancery Court.
Fansler, who holds the "Part II" seat, 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 re-elected in 2006. Over the course of his career, he has presided over 25,000 cases in Knox County Chancery Court, including those of adoptive families.

He faces Clarence Pridemore in the August election. As always, send over your campaign stuff for publication consideration.

County taking applications for magistrate spot; Deadline July 18

So, ever since Mike Hammond announced that long-time chief of magistrates, Richard Major, would serve as his top staffer when he takes over the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk's Office in early September, folks have been eying the soon-to-be empty seat.

And already there have been quite a number of applications, according to some folks in the local legal arena.

So, if you're interested, check out the ad - RIGHT SMACK HERE - on the Knoxville Bar Association's website.

Or read below:
  • Qualifications – Licensed attorney residing in Knox County, Tennessee
  • Term – Anticipated term to begin September 2, 2014
  • Duties – Include, but are not necessarily limited to, issuance of arrest warrants, search warrants and mittimus. The judicial magistrates also issue forfeiture warrants and conduct jail arraignments by means of video. The judicial magistrates have the duty of determining whether or not probable cause exist to issue an arrest warrant when a crime is alleged to have been committed.
  • Contact Person – Please send resume’ by July 18, 2014 to Donna Corbitt at:
Donna Corbitt
Judicial Court Administrator
Room M-70, City-County Building
P.O. Box 2404
Knoxville, TN 37901
(865) 215-2370 FAX (865) 215-2403
The local judges will weed through the applications and then send a number of picks over to the Knox County Commission, which is expected to vote on the matter during its August meeting.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Demo work set for Lakeshore Park

The 1.5 million demolition work will begin at Lakeshore Park on Monday, as crews raze nine surplus buildings that were once part of the state of Tennessee’s Lakeshore Mental Health Institute campus, the city announced in a new release today.

During the next nine months, nine of the largest buildings at Lakeshore Park will be taken down.

A patchwork of antiquated utilities – water, sewer, gas and electric lines – that in some cases predate World War II will be upgraded starting later this year.

In addition to the demolition and utility work, the City is renovating the historic Lakeshore Administration Building – a $1.1 million project that restores 14,115 square feet of space. This building was constructed in 1884 and overlooks much of Lakeshore Park.

All combined, the City will be spending about $5.2 million this year on infrastructure, demolition and other improvements at Lakeshore Park, setting the stage for private fundraising and implementation of an ambitious park master plan over the next two decades.

“We’ll really be able to start building this park up once these obstacles are removed,” said Joe Walsh, the City’s Parks and Recreation Director. “We’ll have a blank canvas to work with.”

The City’s infrastructure and demolition work will leverage grants and private fundraising by the nonprofit Lakeshore Park Inc. as pieces of the sweeping park master plan are put into place over the next 20 years.

For example, one of the planned park improvements outlined in the master plan will be a near doubling in length of the Lakeshore Park Greenway, from 2.25 miles to over 4 miles.

The City’s current round of work will remove unsafe buildings that attract vagrants and trespassers, with utility services at the park to be modernized in the coming year. But aesthetic improvement – creating open, natural areas in Lakeshore Park – is another big part of why the City is investing in these projects.

Five former state-owned buildings will remain at Lakeshore Park: Two cottages, the Administration Building, the chapel and a central services warehouse.

You can check out the Lakeshore Park master plan or see the results of a survey of more than 500 park users on their redevelopment preferences RIGHT SMACK HERE and HERE.