Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Phase I of Cumberland Avenue project finished; celebration now planned

The city will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of Phase I of the reconstruction of Cumberland Avenue at 4 p.m. Jan. 6.

The event, which will be hosted by Mayor Madeline Rogero, City Councilman Nick Pavlis and other Council members, will take place in the grassy area just north of the Three Rivers Rambler depot, 2560 University Commons Way; parking available in the lot south of the depot.

Phase I of the reconstruction of Cumberland Avenue, between the Alcoa Highway ramps and 22nd Street, has ended – on time and under budget. Improving traffic flow was a key objective of the Phase I work. Synchronized traffic flow at Metron Center Way and a dedicated turn lane onto northbound Alcoa Highway have lessened decades-long issues with congestion.

Phase II work is underway in the section of Cumberland Avenue between 22nd and 17th streets. Scheduled to be completed in August 2017, the reconstruction will change the existing four-lane street on the eastern end of the corridor to a three-lane cross section with a raised median and left-turn lanes at intersections.

In both the Phase I and Phase II work, Cumberland Avenue sidewalks are being widened, and utility infrastructure relocated and upgraded, to create a more attractive, safer, pedestrian-friendly corridor.

County, state, clerk split account

Remember that $2.6 million unknown account that Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond found when he took office and the ol' blog broke the story?

You can read about it RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Well, a little update.

The state, of course, wanted a cut.

So, after almost a year of discussion, the state agreed to take $451K for what's called litigation taxes and some interest, and the county gets $1.2 million. The clerk's office will get the rest to cover salary.

Siler out of Knox Co. Commish race

Siler
Cheri Siler, who jumped into the local political arena not too long ago when she unsuccessfully challenged Richard Briggs for a state Senate seat, has "suspended" her campaign, for the Knox County Commission 2nd District seat, according to an email she sent yesterday.

She said:
To the citizens of the second district of Knox County:

It has been a dream and goal of mine to serve you as a county commissioner for Knox County.
After careful consideration, however, I am suspending my campaign for county commission effective immediately. 
My family comes first, and right now I need to focus on my role as wife, mother, and daughter to those who come first in my life.

Thank you for your understanding and your support.
Cheri Siler
With Siler out of the running that pretty much paves the way for her opponent, Democrat Laura Kildare to face the winner of the March 1 Republican Primary - either Michele Carringer or John Fugate in the early August General Election.

Note, however, that because Siler has withdrawn after the official deadline to withdraw her name will still appear on the ballot.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Commish rezones land for Midway

The Knox County Commission approved changes Monday night to property off Midway Road, clearing the way for a proposed business park site.

The commission voted to change the sector plan and zoning for the property, which has been owned by the Development Corporation of Knox County since 2006.

The Development Corporation previously tried to introduce a business park to this area several years ago, but the plan did not have enough support.

At the meeting Monday night, residents of the area surrounding the proposed site voiced their opposition to the plans.

“I was disappointed, and I'll tell you the reason is because they've asked for community input,” said Ed Reid, a resident of the area. “Every time, including tonight, lots of people show up opposed to it, and it means nothing to them."

Those opposed to the business park idea cited concerns that the land has sinkholes and runoff issues, and it would bring unwanted traffic to a rural residential neighborhood.

Representatives from the Development Corporation spoke at the meeting, and said the land fits the criteria for a business park. The representatives also said a new business park would help bring more businesses to Knox County and expand existing ones.

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Commission declines to waste time opposing Supreme Court ruling

More than a dozen people dressed in red showed up in support of same-sex marriage during the Knox County Commission meeting.

All this after a Knoxville man who identified himself to the board as Mark Rivera thought it would be a great idea to introduce a last minute resolution opposing same-sex marriage.

It went over like a lead balloon.

Because - oh, I don't know - maybe because the commission's opinion has no bearing on the United State Supreme Court's ruling in June that says same-sex spouses have a constitutional right to wed.

But, hey, if you got nothing to do . . . 

Commish rejects superintendent's contract, but it doesn't matter

Jim McIntyre
Knox County commissioners voted at their regular Monday meeting to reject the contract of Knox County Schools superintendent Jim McIntyre.

That vote, however, was only symbolic.

Nine of 11 Knox County commissioners voted not to approve the contract. Commissioners Sam

McKenzie and Amy Broyles voted to approve it.

"We're kind of making the rules up as we go along, unfortunately," McKenzie said after the vote.

In fact, the item never should've come to a vote, McKenzie said.

A long-standing agreement -- called a consent decree -- between Knox County Commission and the

Board of Education says commissioners can't tell the school board how to spend its appropriated money.

School board members voted last month to approve McIntyre's contract, so all the commission legally could do was pass it.

"That vote just came up two for, nine against. What does that mean? It means absolutely nothing," McKenzie said. "I think we are - in spirit - disregarding the consent decree, and I don't think this last process was correct."

The "no" vote Monday, therefore, was symbolic.

The move came after county law director Bud Armstrong last week declared the contract unenforceable.

RELATED: Law Director: Superintendent's contract 'unenforceable' 

State law limits superintendents' contracts to four years, and Armstrong said this new contract effectively adds two years to McIntyre's existing four-year contract.

RELATED: Sanger blasts Armstrong over contract notation; law director counters

Armstrong cited a 2001 opinion from the Tennessee attorney general on a nearly identical case. In it, the AG's office said, a school board may not extend beyond four years the term of its contract with the director of schools. To do so, the opinion says, ties the hands of future board members.

The law does, however, allow school boards to renew a superintendent's four-year contract. The opinion then goes on to differentiate between extending and renewing.

"Black’s Law Dictionary defines renewal as '(T)he re-creation of a legal relationship or the replacement of an old contract with a new contract, as opposed to a mere extension of a previous relationship or contract,'" the opinion says.

Read that full opinion HERE.

For now, McIntyre's board-approved, commission-rejected contract is set to go into effect the first of the new year.

McIntyre was at Monday's meeting but declined to comment on the results of the vote.

Friday, December 18, 2015

No one withdrew from 2016 primaries

The March elections are officially set, since no one officially withdrew.

The deadline for a candidate to have his or her name removed from the ballot for next year's local primaries was noon Thursday.

None of the almost three dozens who qualified to run for the open 13 seats did.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Arnett: $345K collected in taxes

Foster Arnett
Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr. told the county’s Audit Committee on Thursday that his office has collected $345,815 in outstanding hotel and motel taxes that had gone uncollected during the past two years.

He said he has about $130,000 left to go after.

The discussion comes more than six months after an internal audit report said at least a dozen local hotels and motels owed the county an estimated $476,000 from the past two years alone, and that four hotels alone could owe an additional $255,000 "for periods outside the audit scope."

County lodgings are expected to charge a 5 percent occupancy tax that is used to fund tourism-related operations and programs in Knox County.

Arnett’s office is charged with collecting the money.

The county clerk took heavy criticism from other elected leaders, including many on the Knox County Commission, after the audit report was made public. Since then he’s sent letters to hotel and motel owners and also met with them to collect the outstanding taxes.

“There’s just a few left,” he said. “There is one that is fairly huge, but there’s a little here and there (from other motels).”

Arnett said he spoke with one hotel owner on Wednesday and “we made it very clear what their deadlines are.”

“We are following the law and working very closely with the law department to send out notifications,” he said. “We’re on the right track, I think.”

State law prevents the county from releasing the names of those who owe money, although state leaders are looking into changing that.

KCS Superintendent's contract not enforceable, law director says

Jim McIntyre
Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre’s recently approved contract is not enforceable because it was an “extension” of an existing four-year contract – something not permissible under state law, according to the county’s top attorney.

Citing a Dec. 10 letter from the Office of the Attorney General, Knox County Law Director Richard “Bud” Armstrong said the school board cannot “extend” a contract for a school system’s superintendent beyond four years until it concludes.

In addition, Armstrong said, the school board cannot even “renew” McIntyre’s contract until it expires, which isn’t until Dec. 2017.

“Everything has to remain stable until it’s time to renew,” he told WBIR 10News.
Bud Armstrong

Armstrong’s opinion comes in the wake of the Knox County Board of Education agreeing on Nov. 30 to extend the McIntyre’s contract another two years from 2017 to December 2019. The extension also included a 2 percent raise, bumping his salary to $227,256.

The contract was sent to the Knox County Commission where officials are supposed to talk about it next Monday. Before it hit the commission desk, however, Armstrong wrote the word "not" before the phrase "legal as to form and correctness” on the signature page of the contract.

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Regal Entertainment's proposed move to waterfront jumps final hurdle

Regal Entertainment's much anticipated move from Halls to South Knoxville was approved Tuesday by its new landlord. It's a vote that's being called "a huge step" by board members.

The move from Halls to the South Knoxville waterfront was first announced in October. 

In a special meeting Tuesday night, the board of directors of the Industrial Development Board, which in the deal will serve as Regal's landlord, approved a resolution that allows the board to begin their oversight duties.

"The resolution tonight gave the IDB directors authority to go ahead and act as the landlord and enter into this lease agreement with Regal Cinemas," said Christi Branscom, chief operations officer and deputy to the Knoxville mayor.

Todd Napier, board member and president of the Development Corporation of Knox County, said the deal would've had trouble moving forward without the board's approval.

“Without the IDB board's approval there’s not the mechanism for all of these things to happen. For the receiving of funds from the city and the state," said Napier.

The affirmative vote secures the nearly $8 million Regal will receive in state and city incentives.

"It was a big step. There are still some negotiations going on and some detailed components of that," said Napier.

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

Eight bid to build middle schools

Eight developers submitted pitches to build two Knox County middle schools – one in the Gibbs community and the other in the Hardin Valley area.

The bids, called requests for proposals, were due noon Tuesday.

The county is seeking a “design-build team” that would construct and deliver on a ‘turn key’ basis the two schools, meaning both would be ready for students on opening day without county involvement.

“I’m very happy we received such a high level of interest from the private sector in building these schools,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “This amount of competition will help ensure that both the Gibbs and Hardin Valley middle schools are built to the highest quality, while also saving taxpayers’ money. I look forward to seeing construction begin sometime in the coming year.”

Rest of story and a list of the bidders, RIGHT HERE.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Law director questions legality of KCS superintendent's new contract

Jim McIntyre
So apparently at least one Knox County School Board member is upset that county Law Director Richard "Bud" Armstrong is questioning the legality of the school system superintendent's new contract/contract extension.

I'm not sure why.

Armstrong and other board members during the Nov. 30 meeting in which the board ramrodded the two-year extension through said that there could be some problem with the contract's language.

In fact, it was suggested that the panel should consult the state before approving it.

But, no, they didn't. Now the law director - who represents the entire county government (he tries to prevent us from getting sued and breaking the law) - has erred on the side of caution.

Here's what BOE vice chair Tracie Sanger, who voted to approve the contract, said in a released statement: 
"Law Director Bud Armstrong has hand-written the word "not" before the phrase "legal as to form and correctness" on the signature page of Dr. McIntyre's approved employment contract, which has now been posted to the County Commission's public meeting agenda. Making this change without consulting or informing the School Board is a serious breach of trust, and represents the worst kind of passive aggressive political games.  As the School Board's attorney, the Law Director should seek to better represent his client.  It is hard to believe in and trust an attorney that has such little experience, shows inconsistency with his opinions, and portrays the appearance of having a political agenda."
To reiterate: The school board on Nov. 30 ramrodded a two-year proposal to extend Jim McIntyre's
Richard "Bud" Armstrong
contract through the approval process. The 5-member voting bloc that typically votes whichever way the superintendent wishes opted not to take a breath and sit back and wait until the state weighed in.

I mean, seriously, it's not like this wouldn't get approved in January or February if the state said it was OK. McIntyre isn't going anywhere. He wants to stay. Holding off a few months would not have changed that.

This contract - if legal - would have gone through. (At least until next September when a new board comes in but that's a whole different story.)

Here's what BOE member Amber Rountree, who voted against the proposal, had to say:
"I think there were a number of legal questions raised at the contract extension that could've used more discussion, which is why I tried multiple times to delay the vote. With no looming deadline, the only pressing reason to vote for a 2 year extension at that time was due to the upcoming election cycle. The insertion of the language in Section 2 about the AG opinion also indicates there were further questions about some of the language. I feel it would've been in the boards best interest to postpone the vote so that we could have voted on a contract that had been fully vetted. My hope is the matter can be resolved quickly so we can turn our focus to working on our goal of Excellence for Every Child."
Now, the proposed contract will go to the Knox County Commission for a vote. Typically, these things are put on the consent agenda, which means they just rubber stamp them and move on. I doubt that happens next week. This will be discussed further.

At the end of the day, however, McIntyre's contract will more than likely be extended. I'm not sure what the big deal is. It's just not going to be this month.
By the way, in a letter to BOE members about Armstrong's move, McIntyre said: "I really have no idea what that means."

He has declined to comment further.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Elections: Balance of power to shift on school board next September

Jim McIntyre
Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre had a pretty good year.

The school system earned some fancy awards, test scores jumped slightly and the graduation rate increased, albeit a tad.

He even convinced his 5-member voting bloc to extend his contract, which already had two years remaining on it, for another two years.

Like I said, it was a pretty good year for him.

That’s expected to change in 2016, at least the final quarter of it.

When candidates seeking the four open seats on the Board of Education turned in their qualifying papers by the noon deadline on Thursday, the balance of power on the board shifted. Or it will when the members are sworn into office in early September.

For those who don’t know, McIntyre has enjoyed a 5-member voting bloc of Doug Harris, Karen Carson, Tracie Sanger, Gloria Deathridge and Lynne Fugate.

The other members? Mike McMillan, Terri Hill, Patti Bounds and Amber Rountree? Yeah, not so much.

Anyhoo, McMillan’s seat was up for re-election and no one challenged him. He’s in.

Doug Harris opted not to run again, and in comes Tony Norman, a former biology teacher, a former Knox County Commissioner, and someone who is NOT a fan of McIntyre.

To say these two have a frosty relationship would be an understatement. I’ll leave it at that.

Tony Norman
But no one challenged Tony. He’s in.

The balance of power in September will still be at least 5-4, but it won't favor the superintendent.

It’s a good thing he got that contract extension. The September 2016 board would more than likely would not have signed off on it.

Now, we’re not done here.

Tracie Sanger, who raised about $50,000 to run for a two-year spot on the board (she’s was filling in for Indya Kincannon who stepped down), also opted not to run. I’m told that it’s for health reasons and because she wants to spend time with her family. Fair enough.

Jennifer Owen, a former teacher, and not a McIntyre fan is seeking the seat. So, too, is Grant Standefer, executive director of the Compassion Coalition. From what I’m told, he is a fan.

Expect big bucks to pour in for Standefer. Owen, in order to win, is gonna have to knock on a ton of doors. She’s definitely going to be outspent.

Now, Karen Carson also opted not to run.

So, in comes Lori Ann Boudreaux, Susan Horn and Reuben “Buddy” Pelot. Now, I’m told Horn isn’t in McIntyre’s corner and Pelot is. I’m not sure about Boudreaux. I’ve heard both about her.

Now, why is this important?

Well, because by September the voting bloc against the superintendent might very well be 6-3.

In addition, Terry Hill is expected to become the chair of the board. To add insult to injury, to rub a little salt in the wound, I wouldn’t flinch if Amber Rountree became vice chair.

Like I said, there’s a good chance it won’t be great year for the superintendent.

Now, all that said, the board can’t lose sight of what it’s supposed to do: Make the school system better for the students.

I have long said that I truly believe McIntyre does want to do right for the students.I do believe that.

But it’s going to take both him and the board working together to make that happen. And this time the board – not the McIntyre administration – is going to be driving the train.

Is that right? 

I don’t know.

But come September, we’re more than likely gonna find out.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Rogero inauguration set for Dec. 19

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero
The inauguration for Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero is set for 10:30 a.m. Dec. 19. In addition the city will host a swearing in ceremony for four City Council members and a city judge.

The event will take place in the Main Assembly Room of the City Council Building. The public is invited.

At that time, Rogero will deliver her second inaugural address. She, and council members George Wallace, Marshall Stair, Finbarr Saunders, Mark Campen, and Judge John Rosson will be sworn in.

A special called City Council meeting will follow at 11:15 a.m. in the Main Assembly Room for the selection of a Vice Mayor, Beer Board chair and Council representative on the Knoxville Transportation Authority board.

Free parking is available in the Main Street, Dwight Kessel and City County Building garages. A security checkpoint will be in place at the entrances to the City County Building garage, and all guests will be required to go through a security checkpoint to enter the City County Building.

Accessible parking is available at the City County Building. Anyone needing an additional disability accommodation to attend the ceremony should contact the City’s ADA Coordinator, Stephanie Cook, at scook@knoxvilletn.gov or 865-215-2034.

Dozens qualify for March primary

Almost three dozen residents qualified Thursday to compete in next year’s county and school board primaries.

What’s unusual this time around, though, is that many of those who met the noon deadline are Democrats.

That means – unlike many recent elections – the races won’t be determined in the GOP Primary.

As it stands, there are 13 seats up for grabs next year, including nine partisan county seats and four non-partisan Board of Education posts.

“There’s more Democrats in the County Commission races than we’ve seen in the past,” said Knox County Administrator of Elections Clifford Rodgers. “And, from where we sit, we’re glad to see participation from both parties. There’s a lot of interest.”

Rodgers said he expects a turnout of about 100,000 county voters in the March 1 primary, which also will feature the GOP’s presidential primary.

Full story RIGHT HERE.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Knox County Schools to receive athletic and academic gift from the Haslam family and Pilot Flying J

Knox County Schools will receive a significant gift from the Haslam family and Pilot Flying J to refurbish and modernize the football fields at the district’s 13 high schools over a 36-month period, according to a release.

The project is set to break ground in April 2016. Included in the gift will be an investment in academic support for the high schools based on proposals from each of the school principals.

“We are humbled by the generosity of Pilot Flying J and the Haslam family,” said Jim McIntyre, KCS superintendent. “This $10 million commitment is a tremendous opportunity to provide significant enhancements to high school academics, while also recognizing that athletics play an important role in the development of the whole student, and in the high school experience.”

Thirteen high schools will have artificial turf fields installed and other field improvements to allow for a variety of high school athletics to be played year round, as well as the hosting of community events.

Five high schools (Austin East, Bearden, Gibbs, Halls and South Doyle) with tracks that are currently due to be replaced will also receive necessary enhancements as a part of the field renovation.


“The Haslam family is proud to call Knoxville both our home and the headquarters for our company," said Will Haslam, Pilot Flying J. "We are excited about the many potential uses of these new artificial turf fields for a variety of different sports and community events through all seasons. It is a privilege for us to make this gift to Knox County students and student-athletes in honor of my grandfather, James A. Haslam II, and the more than 1,200 Pilot Flying J team members who live and raise their families here."

“This donation will help give our schools a great opportunity to become even more competitive in both academics and athletics,” said Jim Haslam II, founder and chairman of Pilot Flying J. “Athletics are an important part of the high school experience and this will help local students for many years to come. Our family holds a special place for academics and athletics in our hearts as both are important to developing youth and inspiring future leaders.”

Knoxville police revise moonlighting policy in wake of improper K-9 use

The Knoxville Police Department on Tuesday announced that it has changed its policies tied to employee freelancing after four K-9 officers were disciplined for moonlighting in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas and didn’t report their activities.


The move, discussed publicly on Tuesday, comes in the wake of a six-month long Internal Affairs investigation kicked off in mid-April after two officers complained to the city’s law department about “multiple violations of the secondary employment policy,” according to KPD Police Chief David Rausch.

Three of the officers – Darrell Sexton, Adam Moore and Richard Wallace – took police dogs to other states to perform drug searches on traveling circus trains, Rausch said. In addition, Lt. Doug Stiles authorized the actions, which were “outside the scope of services provided by KPD."

The officers used the dogs on four occasions in 2012 and 2013.

Also, Sexton took just under half an ounce of marijuana that was confiscated in May 2012 in Columbus, Ohio with him back to Knoxville to use in canine training. City officials said he never removed it from the trunk of his KPD cruiser and it was still there - three years later - when IA interviewed him.

Sexton then removed the drugs from his car and properly logged them with the KPD Property Unit.
Rausch stressed that none of his employees broke the law, but rather violated city and police department policies and procedures.

He said the officers never submitted the proper forms to moonlight, and failed to submit the proper paperwork to use the dogs.

The chief also said that “there was no intention to hide the drugs from anyone – the biggest issue we had with it was that it was never documented.”

Rest of the story RIGHT HERE.

Burchett to honor law enforcement by feeding them Vol Market hot dogs

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett wants to buy a chili dog and Stormin’ Normin sweet tea for law enforcement officers in appreciation for their service to our community, according to a spin release issued no doubt by Michael the bicycle rider Grider

Burchett is inviting all law enforcement officers, including KPD, KCSO, TBI, FBI, UTPD and THP, to Vol Market #3 on Western Avenue for lunch. The event takes place on Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

El Cheapskate is actually picking up the tab on this one. 

“Our law enforcement officers work hard every day to keep us safe, and they deserve our thanks,” Burchett said. “This is a very simple way to let them know that we appreciate what they do. Besides, who doesn’t like a Vol Market chili dog?”

Thursday, December 3, 2015

KCS BOE asks state to remove TNReady data from teacher evaluations

The Knox County Board of Education passed a resolution Wednesday asking the state to give teachers a break by not evaluating them on a new statewide test for this school year.

"It's our first year with TNReady," board member Amber Rountree said. "The state has already provided a grace period for our students, so I thought it was really important that, as a board, we needed to let our state legislators know, and the state Board of (Education) know we believe our teachers deserve the grace period as well."

Rountree presented the resolution in opposition of parts of the TNReady plan. Board members supported her efforts, but wanted a more simple, direct request.

"In this year of transition, the board would like the state to consider not including the results from TNReady in their evaluation," board member Karen Carsen said.

Carsen's version of the resolution, which was considered more clear and direct, passed.

"It creates great stress for our teachers," Carsen said. "We know, in projecting, that because the test is so different that scores may go down, and we can deal with that at a student level at the local board level, but we can't deal with that at an evaluation level."

Although the board agreed to support their teachers, other aspects of TNReady are still up for debate. Rountree specifically said she did not agree with the TNReady assessment paying to 'lease' questions from a Utah test called SAGE.

Rest of story RIGHT HERE.

BOE extends Jim McIntyre's contract

McIntyre
Knox County Schools superintendent Jim McIntyre will lead the district through 2019.

That was the vote of the Board of Education Monday night, following nearly four hours of discussion and public comments.

It was a narrow 5-to-4 vote that approved the two-year extension of McIntyre's contract, from December of 2017 to December of 2019.

Board members received on the same day of the meeting a final revision to McIntyre's proposed contract extension, which board members had to review.

"This is absurd," board member Amber Rountree said, referring to the board's intentions to vote on a revised contract it had seen just that day. "Let's wait and get some clarity on these changes...It's not like we have a deadline looming above us tomorrow."

A number of board members expressed concerns about the contract clause that stipulates the board must pay the superintendent the remainder of his contract if it is terminated early.

"I think a one-year severance package is more than generous," Rountree said, supporting a pay-out period of 12 months, opposed to the remainder of the superintendent's contract.

Full story RIGHT HERE.

Carcello testifies before Congress

Carcello
UT professor and former county Audit Committee Chairma Joe Carcello testified in Washington, D.C., before the Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises, a committee within the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee.

Carcello serves several roles within UT's Haslam College of Business—department head for accounting and information management, EY and Business Alumni Professor, and cofounder and executive director of the C. Warren Neel Corporate Governance Center.

Carcello will be testifying on five proposed bills under the heading "Legislative Proposals to Improve the U.S. Capital Markets." Of the five witnesses, two are academics—Carcello and a law professor from Stanford University.

Carcello will encourage Congress to consider the needs of suppliers of capital (investors) rather than only the users of capital (companies).

"Efforts that focus on reducing regulatory safeguards may make it easier for companies to seek public capital but may fail in their intended purpose if they drive the suppliers of capital, the investors, from the market," said Carcello. "In the absence of sufficient regulatory safeguards, investors can currently withdraw from the market or raise the cost of capital to higher levels to compensate for increased risk, but neither outcome enhances capital formation.”

Carcello has testified before U.S. Treasury Department committees, working groups on the future of the auditing profession as well as a Congressional subcommittee on accounting and auditing regulation.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Arts & Cultural Alliance to host photography exhibition by Dean Rice

Dean Rice
The Arts & Culture Alliance will present a new exhibition of photographs by Dean Rice, the county Mayor's Office chief of staff and an avid photographer.

The event will take place from Dec. 4-23 at the Emporium Center. 

These photographs show the faces of Syrian children who now live in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in the desert of Jordan and children who are orphaned living in Amman, Jordan. 

“We talk often of instability in the Middle East, and today we struggle with balancing our national security interests with our humanitarian desires to help the helpless,” Rice said in a released statement. “Through these photographs, however, we see the faces that can bring lasting stability, peace, friendship and gratitude.”

Rice is a member of the national advisory board of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF). In the spring of 2015, he traveled to Jordan to visit the Zaatari refugee camp and meet with various Syrians in exile. The photographs of children in this exhibition are some of those he met. Rice is a Global Security Fellow with the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Nuclear Security and serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Tennessee’s College of Communication and Information. 

In 2013, Rice received the Society of Universal Dialogue’s Atlantic Institute "Peace Award" in recognition of his efforts to promote inter-cultural engagement and dialogue. His photographs and paintings have been displayed in multiple exhibitions. A permanent exhibition of his refugee photos is scheduled to open at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC in January, 2016.

The exhibition will be on display in the Emporium Center, 100 S. Gay Street, in downtown Knoxville from December 4-23, 2015. 

An opening reception will take place as part of First Friday activities on December 4 from 5:00-9:00 PM with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and chocolate fondue by the Melting Pot of Knoxville. 

The First Friday reception features music by Pistol Creek Catch of the Day from 5:00-7:00 PM. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM and Sundays, December 6 & 20, 3:30-6:30 PM. 

Please note, the Emporium will be closed December 24 – January 1 for the holidays. For more information, please contact the Arts & Culture Alliance at (865) 523-7543 or visit www.knoxalliance.com.

Ed & Bob to ring red kettle bells

The Ed and Bob Show continues, this time on Dec. 15 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the West Town Mall entrance near Camring Charlies where the two at-large Knox County commissioners will hold court.

They note, however, that this "night out" is a little different - they'll be ringing bells at the red kettle for the Salvation Army.

Folks are welcome to stop by and chat about concerns related to Knox County, or to say hello. But, it's also strongly encouraged to donate. To the kettle.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

City Council approves Regal deal

Knoxville City Council members agreed Tuesday to spend up to $9 million in support of moving Regal Entertainment Group to a vacant office building along the South Knoxville Waterfront.

The vote by council was unanimous to approve the money. Council Nick Della Volpe, however, expressed reservations.

"Economically, it's a little weak in terms of the return to the taxpayers for their money being taken from their taxes in this building," Della Volpe told 10News.

"They're basically going to pay taxes on the building to the Industrial Development Board, the IDB, but they're not going to pay rent for 10 years on 178,000-square feet," Della Volpe continued. "If they stay and don't buy the building, the next 10-year period from 10 to 20, they're going to $1 a square foot, and if they stay the third period, they're going to pay $2 a square foot. That's way below market rate."

More RIGHT HERE.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

City seeks new food truck ordinance

After 20 months of successful experience with a pilot program for food trucks, the City of Knoxville’s Office of Business Support is seeking public feedback on a proposed Mobile Food Unit (MFU) ordinance.

The proposed ordinance has been posted on the City’s website at knoxvilletn.gov/mobilefood. The period for public comment will run from Nov. 24 through Dec. 9. The City administration and staff will consider the comments and adjust the proposed ordinance as needed. The ordinance is scheduled to be sent to City Council for first reading on Thursday, Dec. 17.

Since the City launched its Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program in April 2014, 24 MFUs have completed the application and inspection process to operate in the City.

“Knoxville has really embraced food trucks,” said Patricia Robledo, the City’s Business Liaison. “The pilot program gave us all a great opportunity to explore best practices and evaluate feedback before adopting a permanent ordinance. This ordinance will provide vendors, customers and citizens with guidance and certainty on the safe and reasonable operation of Mobile Food Units.”

The ordinance makes several significant changes to the pilot program, including the following:
  •  Reduction in Permit Fee and Renewal Fee. The pilot program included a tiered permitting fee system; MFUs operating only on private property paid $200 annually, and those operating on private property and in designated zones in the public right-of-way paid $400 annually. Under the proposed ordinance, all MFUs will pay $200 annually and the renewal fee is only $50. The City believes that $200 is a fair fee that covers the costs of administering the MFU program and coordinating and monitoring the activity of MFUs within the City.
  • Addition of Temporary Permit. Under the pilot program, any unit operating within the City had to pay the same permit fee regardless of where the vendor was based. Oftentimes, in addition to local vendors, events use vendors from outside of the City. Additionally, some local vendors desire only to operate at one or two events within the City per year. Therefore, the City is offering a temporary permit for MFUs as part of the proposed ordinance. The temporary permit costs $75, is valid for three consecutive days, and can only be used by a vendor or unit two times during the same calendar year. Vendors applying for a temporary permit must adhere to the same regulations as vendors holding a regular permit. This temporary permit allows single-time or infrequent vendors to operate their MFUs while ensuring that those MFUs are just as safe for the employees, customers, and citizens.
  • Expansion of Allowable Zoning Districts. The pilot program allowed MFUs to operate only in commercial and form code districts. The proposed ordinance allows MFUs to operate in more districts: Commercial Districts, Industrial Districts, Office Districts, Open Space Districts, and Form Based Code Districts. The only restrictions to operation in these districts apply to property within a certain distance of residentially zoned property, but these restrictions can be waived with permission from certain property owners.
  • The ordinance allows MFUs to operate in residential districts only as part of a special event that is sponsored by a neighborhood association, by a homeowners’ association, or by the City of Knoxville or another governmental entity (such as the Knox County Health Department or the Transportation Planning Organization). The expansion of the zoning districts gives MFUs flexibility in reaching customers, while also minimizing impacts in those areas where residents could be affected.
  • Addition of Appeals for Permit Revocation. Similar to the pilot program, the proposed ordinance provides that a permit can be revoked if (1) an applicant obtained the Unit Permit by knowingly providing false information on the application; (2) the continuation of the vendor’s use of the Unit Permit presents a threat to public health or safety, or if the vendor otherwise presents a threat to public health or safety; or (3) the vendor or MFU violates regulations of this Article or any other City of Knoxville ordinance. The proposed ordinance provides a process by which the permit revocation can be appealed and reconsidered by a three-member board of City staff.
  • Reduction in Insurance Policy Limits. In addition to requiring proof of other types of insurance, the pilot program required vendors to obtain commercial liability insurance with limits of $2 million with an aggregate limit of $3 million. After evaluating these limits, the City has reduced the limits to $1 million/$2 million in the proposed ordinance. These requirements are referenced in the ordinance and can be found on the MFU Permit Application.
There are other, minor changes throughout the ordinance. All of these changes are a result of feedback the City received during the course of the pilot program.

“I really appreciate all of the vendors working with us to develop this program,” Robledo said. “We have all learned a lot, and the ordinance reflects that.”

Superintendent McIntyre's evaluation summary puts focus on the positive

A composite of Knox County Superintendent Jim McIntyre's evaluations - put together by the 9-member Board of Education - paints a pretty picture of the KCS leader.

Interestingly enough it leaves out a whole lot as well.

As noted RIGHT HERE the board members' evaluations told two different tales - one good, one bad - of McIntyre.

This one is fairly glowing and leaves out most of the negative. You can read it - RIGHT SMACK HERE.

"In short, under Dr. McIntyre's tenure, and working with our excellent teachers, students have made significant academic progress, and a solid foundatin and culture of learning is in place," it notes.

The report cites a number of recent achievements, including slight bumps in test scores and the graduation rates.

It does note that KCS needs to remain docused on the number of third graders rading at or above proficient level.

And it does say McIntyre needs to do a better job communicating with folks.

The 6-page summary was put together by BOE Chairman Doug Harris.

Again, check it out.

McIntyre is asking the board to extend his contract by two years during a special called meeting on Monday. My guess is that he gets it, or at least one additional year.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

BOE members' evaluations tell two different tales of superintendent

The leader of Knox County Schools is seeking a two-year contract extension. Whether he gets it is largely dependent on what the school board members think about him, and their evaluations tell almost two completely different tales: Dr. Jim McIntyre is either a leader or he’s not.

He’s steadily improved communications among staff and personnel or he hasn’t. Increased graduation rates and test scores are good, or they don’t mean anything.

The 9-member school board turned in their evaluations on Monday. McIntyre completed his own last week. The board will talk publicly with the superintendent about them during a called meeting on Nov. 30.

“I take the performance evaluation process very seriously,” McIntyre said in a statement. “I appreciate the School Board members’ feedback, and always seek ways to improve and enhance my leadership so that the Knox County Schools can continue to provide an exemplary education to the children of our community.”

You can read each board member's evaluation RIGHT SMACK HERE.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Commish candidate Ashley fires first shot in campaign against Anders

John Ashley, who is running for County Commission to represent the Northwest Knox, Hardin Valley, and Karns areas against 6th District Commissioner Brad Anders, sent out a release on Friday.

I talked to him briefly. He's a Knoxville native, married with two children. He's 36, works for a payroll company, and said he wanted to run because he doesn't think "we have proper representation for someone listening to the community."

He said Brad has his own agenda and it's "time for someone to step up and listen to what the community wants."

"We're being too reactive - we need someone who will make decisions and not pass on votes."
 
In his press release, he noted a reprimand Brad received back in the summer of 2013, but then asked me not to include it to; instead, he wanted to focus on more current issues. Er, OK.

Here's the rest of the release.
Then this year (2015) alone two instances have come up to question the current commissioner’s decision-making abilities.  Elected officials are put into office to make tough decisions on issues that are facing our county.  They are elected to make those tough decisions.  

The rezoning proposal was dismissed before anyone could take a stance, given the opportunity I would have taken a stance to stop the rezoning.  The dismissal was wrong and done without the communities input.   There was no strategic plan for the placement of the proposed building to be built.  I believe as a leader you step up and take your place when something is not right.   

More recently the Knox County E-911 Board has spent nearly $40,000 on a study that concluded the $8.9 million proposal by the Harris Corp., which was recommended by the board and a private consulting group appointed by the board. Your commissioner declined to vote because he didn’t feel the initial bidding process was “clean”. We are spending our tax dollars for a decision to be made.
I think it is time we start getting some accountability and answers to these questions. What really happened in 2013? Where does the current County Commissioner stand if the rezoning issue arises again?  What will he do when it comes time to vote again on the 911 communication issue and the same result is the Harris Corp. recommendation?
The rezoning John mentioned was tied to the proposed land swap at Nicholas Ball Park that would have potentially led to a new Walmart.

I'm not sure what he's complaining about. The deal is dead.

In regards to the E-911 board vote, yeah, Brad is going to be answering that one for a long time to come.

Anyhoo, send me your political/election stuff for publication consideration.

I'm out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

No surprise McIntyre seeking two-year contract extension through 2019

Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre is seeking a two-year extension on his contract.

His current deal, which expires in December 2017, pays him $222,800 annually. He also receives $800 per month for travel expenses and almost five weeks of paid vacation.

McIntyre will ask the Knox County Board of Education during a special called meeting on Nov. 30 to extend it through December 2019.

This is a smart play by McIntyre and similar to the one he did several years ago. Four seats are up for election next year and that doesn't bode well for him.

Here's why:

Right now, he generally is on the favorable end of a 5-4 voting bloc.

Of the four seats who typically vote against him on major issues, only one seat is up - Mike McMillan's 8th District post. McMillan is not expected to lose.

Now, that means three of the five seats that vote in the superintendent's favor are up.

Doug Harris has said he's not running. Tony Norman, a former Knox County commissioner and long-time thorn in McIntyre's side, is running for that seat.

Tony has a better than great shot of winning.

Guess what? Yep. You got it. 5-4 the other way.

And that's not counting the fact that there's two more seats in that bloc McIntyre could lose.

Karen Carson isn't running, so that seat is wide open. Incumbent Tracie Sanger is, but she's not expected to walk right on it.

So, in March, we'll more than likely know the makeup of the new school board. But, those members won't get sworn in until September 2016. That gives McIntyre about 15 or so months on his contract.

Here's the deal.

If the board flips - and Tony Norman is involved - there's a good chance the board will then move to get rid of McIntyre. It's an easier pill to swallow if you have 15 months on your contract than if you have two years and 15 months on your contract.

Remember: If they get rid of him, they're going to have to pay him something. I doubt it will be the full amount - I don't care what the contract says - but it will be something. It won't be cheap.

Now, as for Nov. 30? My guess? The school board hems and haws, people complain, blah, blah, blah, and the board - no surprise - in a 5-4 vote renews his contract.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Trump in town tonight, but not asking for help from state or local GOP

Republican presidential candidate and real estate billionaire Donald Trump is running in a traditional party with what many would describe as a nontraditional campaign.

Trump is scheduled to speak in Knoxville at 7tonight at the Knoxville Convention Center, but he is reportedly not using help from the county and state GOP.

Ryan Haynes, the Tennessee GOP chairman, and Buddy Burkhardt, the Knox County GOP chairman, said they both found out about the event through the Internet.

"I found out through Facebook, which obviously is a very non-traditional way of finding these things out," Haynes said. "A lot of the campaigns have contacted us directly when they're coming to town."

Full story RIGHT HERE.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Knox Sheriff: E-911 radios safe

E-911 Center
Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones on Thursday addressed what he said are misleading accusations about the safety and reliability of the county's decades-old emergency radio system.

Twice this year, the Knox County E-911 Board has declined to approve an almost $9 million contract that would replace E-911 communication operations.

The bidding process took nine months and officials expect to restart it in January. Then, it could take another year to get something new in place.

Some officials say they are upset and disappointed about the board’s failure to move on the contract.
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, an E-911 Board member, said: “Our first responders in the field are relying on increasingly outmoded technology, which puts them and the general public at risk. I hope the board can work quickly to identify our next steps in a way that is transparent and responsive to the needs of our public safety agencies.”

But, the area’s top cop disagrees. He says local emergency personnel and Knox County residents are safe.

“We all know that it needs to be upgraded, and we all know that there needs to be some changes but it isn’t like the public is in jeopardy or any officers are in jeopardy,” said Sheriff Jones. “There are replacement parts – the radio system is not in shambles.”

MORE: Letter from Motorola sent to E-911 Board members

He added: “There’s been so much representation that this radio system is on its last leg, smoking, dying, getting ready to implode, and that’s just in fact not true.”

At issue is the E-911 Board's quest to replace the current emergency broadcasting analog radio system with a 20-channel digital one that would also meet a number of federal recommendations such as allowing multiple responding agencies, such as police, fire and medical, to communicate amongst themselves.

Harris Communications won the bidding process earlier this year, but the board has declined to sign off on a contract.

Jones on Monday was one of five E-911 Board members who voted against supporting Harris. Instead, he and others on the board want to hook onto the state-operated system that uses Motorola Solutions equipment – the same equipment that has served the E-911 Center for more than 25 years.

He called joining the state system – Tennessee Valley Regional Communications System that is based in Chattanooga – “the wave of the future.”

“Criminals don’t know any boundaries,” he said. “If they’re breaking into your house on Alcoa Highway, it could be Blount County, Knox County or inside the city limits, so me being able to communicate with another agency, to me, is ideal and that’s where I want to go when we start talking about this again. I want to be part of a state-wide system where we can talk to any other agency when we need to, to do our jobs on a daily basis."

When asked whether the long wait to put a new system in place would be an issue, the sheriff said he wouldn’t put his personnel on the streets “with a system that didn’t work.”

Jones also turned over a letter from Motorola’s vice president to WBIR 10News that detailed the current system’s performance. The letter was sent to all E-911 Board members and sheds more insight into why some board members don’t appear worried about a breakdown.

“The system performance is measured by a percentage of reliability. Since initial installation in the late 1980s this reliability factor has been measured at 99.99983 percent, which is higher than both the current and proposed contract require,” wrote Motorola’s VP Randy Johnson.

Johnson added that – despite reports to the contrary – the county has a “substantial inventory of spare and replacements costs at no charge (for) Knox County.”

“The system is in no eminent danger of failure,” Johnson told board members in the letter.

On Monday, E-911 Center officials also downplayed several cases in the past couple of months in which radio system circuit boards blew, forcing emergency dispatchers to communicate with emergency personnel via handheld radios.

Again on Thursday, Jackie York, a communications unit supervisor, said it was still “business as usual” for a few hours, except dispatchers used radios rather than hand-free headsets.

“It’s just the matter of doing basically the same thing in a different way,” she said.

She said the overall operation also has enough back up parts, so that the “operations of Knox County continue on without interruption.

“We can still talk to officers and we can still talk to the public,” she added.

E-911 Board members meet again in January to discuss the re-bidding process.

MPC signs off on business park

The Metropolitan Planning Commission on Thursday approved zoning for a proposed business park off Midway Road.

The MPC is a recommending body. The proposal will now go to the Knox County Commission in December.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

City closes on purchase of former State Supreme Court site from state

The City of Knoxville formally closed today on the former State Supreme Court property on Henley Street, buying it from the state. The city now plans to start the bidding process for the 1.7-acre property, for commercial or residential development.

City Council voted in August to purchase the property, which occupies one square block of downtown real estate, for $2.47 million. The State Supreme Court relocated to the Post Office building on Main Street in 2003.

“This is a big piece of the downtown grid. Our first step will be to commission a marketing study for the site, to assess its potential for mixed-use development,” said Dawn Michelle Foster, Director of the City’s Office of Redevelopment. “Then we will have a public process to discuss the property, which will help us shape our Request for Proposals.”

The goal is to issue an RFP in 2016, so that redevelopment of the site can begin as soon as possible.

In the near term, the City will continue to operate the surface parking lot adjacent to the State Supreme Court building. The Public Building Authority will oversee the lot, which will be open for paid parking during weekdays and free parking after 6 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends.

The Office of Redevelopment is also planning next steps for City-owned properties on West Jackson Avenue between Broadway and Gay Street, which include the sites of the former McClung Warehouses. Last month, City Council approved an application for a brownfield cleanup grant for those properties from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal is to get the properties ready for redevelopment.

The timeline on issuing a Request for Proposals for the Jackson Avenue properties is dependent on several other factors. The state Department of Transportation will be closing a section of Broadway between Jackson and Depot avenues in the near future for the complete reconstruction of the Broadway Viaduct. TDOT will be using part of the Jackson Avenue properties as a staging and storage area. Meanwhile, the City is moving forward with streetscape work on West Jackson, and the aging Jackson Avenue ramps at the Gay Street intersection are scheduled for upcoming reconstruction as well.

“Realistically, we can’t begin redevelopment of the West Jackson Avenue sites until these crucial infrastructure projects are finished,” Foster said. “So we’re probably looking three years out. But in the meantime, we hope to complete any brownfield remediation, and work toward an RFP that can be ready to go when the time is right.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

County taking bids for two schools

The bidding process to build two Knox County middle schools – one in the Gibbs community and the other in the Hardin Valley area – has begun.

The county late Tuesday night posted its “request for proposals” on its purchasing department website.

Developers have until Dec. 15 to submit their bids.

The county wants the developer to build a school for 1,200 students in Hardin Valley, at the north corner of Conner Creek; and a school for 800 students on the property just west of the Gibbs Elementary School on Tazewell Pike.

Henley Street Pedestrian Bridge Improvements Nearing Completion

Crews will be installing new interior and exterior lighting to the Henley Street pedestrian bridge next week.

The night-time work will require temporary lane closures next week on Henley Street and closure of the pedestrian bridge from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., beginning the evening, Nov. 16. The bridge and lanes will reopen early Nov. 21.

The work is part of a $2.7 million infrastructure upgrade that is improving the experience of pedestrians approaching World’s Fair Park and the Knoxville Convention Center from two sides.

The project also will better connect Fort Sanders, World’s Fair Park and downtown while providing covered access from area hotels and parking garages to the Knoxville Convention Center.

The first phase – improving the area from University of Tennessee Conference Center to World’s Fair Park Drive at the Candy Factory – will be completed by the end of this year. A prominent piece of the Phase I work is the pedestrian bridge improvements.

The renovated Henley Street pedestrian bridge, first constructed for the 1982 World’s Fair and then modified in the 1990s during the construction of the Knoxville Convention Center, now features a frosted glass roof. Perforated stylized metal panels replaced the original metal cage fencing.

Also part of the Phase I work: The Clinch Avenue Viaduct over World’s Fair Park is getting a new look with Streetscape additions. Bicycle lanes were added on both sides, benches were added, and the viaduct will be landscaped.

In early 2016, Johnson & Galyon will begin working on Phase 2, which includes installing a new canopy at the intersection of Locust Street and Clinch Avenue and a new canopy over the sidewalk next to the Hilton garage.

A shout out and thanks to veterans

Photo: Getty Images
Veterans Day is today, a day set aside to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

A number of area businesses are offering free or discounted food and services to veterans to say thanks. In most cases, a military ID or proof of service may be required.

Please check out WBIR 10News throughout the day for more coverage of Veterans Day.


Shops
  • Frank’s Barber Shop- Free haircut. Call ahead. 
  • Great Clips- Free haircut for military and veterans. Non-veterans can get a coupon to give to a veteran. Coupon is valid until the end of the year. 
  • Legend's Custom Cuts in Maryville- Free haircut for veterans with an ID.
  • Sports Clips- Free haircuts.
  • Studio Visage- Free haircuts with Studio Level stylists. 
Events
  • Knoxville Veterans Day Parade- Begins at 10:45 a.m. on Gay Street honoring veterans of U.S. armed forces. We will stream the parade on WBIR.com, 10News2, and MeTV.
  • Dixie Stampede Pigeon Forge- Sevier County Hospitality Associations salute America’s Heroes with a complimentary lunch on Thursday from 11:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m. Cost is $15 for members, $20 for non-members and walk-ins. 
  • Pigeon Forge’s 25th Annual Winterfest Kickoff- Salute to Veterans Parade begins at 4:00 p.m. on the parkway.
  • Tennessee State Parks is offering one free night of camping and/or a complimentary round of golf with appropriate identification. Veterans and active military are always eligible for camping discounts in state parks.

Food
  • Applebee’s- Free meal from special menu. Beverage and gratuity not included.
  • Calhoun’s- Free meal from complete menu starting at 11 a.m. 
  • Carrabba’s- Free appetizer of your choice.
  • Chili’s- Free meal all day from select menu. 
  • Golden Corral- Free meal from 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. 
  • IHOP- Free red, white and blue pancakes from 7:00 a.m. -7:00 p.m. 
  • Little Ceasar’s Pizza- Free pizza or $5 HOT-N-READY- Lunch Combo between 11:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.
  • LongHorn Steakhouse- Complimentary “Texas Tonion” and non-alcoholic beverage.
  • Menchie’s- Free 6 oz. frozen yogurt.
  • O’Charley’s- Monday only veterans receive a $9.99 regular priced meal from a select menu featuring six entrées. 
  • Olive Garden- Free entrée from select menu with soup and salad with proof of service and a 10 percent discount for families. 
  • Outback Steakhouse- Free “Bloomin’ Onion” and a non-alcoholic beverage. Also receive 15 percent off your purchase from Nov. 12- Dec. 31, 2015.
  • Perkin’s Restaurant and Bakeries- Free “Magnificent Seven” meal, beverage not included. 
  • Red Lobster- Free appetizer and dessert from select menus. Red Robin- Free “Tavern Double” burger with “Bottomless Steak Fries” as well personally signed “Thank You” cards from the staff. 
  • Shoney’s- Free “All American Burger”.
  • Starbucks- Free tall brewed coffee for active duty, veterans, and their spouses.
  • Texas Roadhouse- Free lunch from special menu from 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. dine-in only. 
  • TGI Friday’s- Free lunch from select menu from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  • Twin Peaks Restaurants- Free meal from select menu

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

KCS improves playground standards

If you saw our critical investigation in 2014 on lagging school playground safety standards, Knox County Schools has made a lot of positive progress in the last year. 

We followed up with a trip to several schools and found improvements. As we said last year, there are lots of things schools should do that are already done at most public parks. 

 It's good to see KCS responded to the report by making some changes for the better.

The story RIGHT HERE.

Monday, November 9, 2015

County kills Ball Park Walmart plan

A proposed plan to build a Walmart Neighborhood Market on a piece of Nicholas Ball Park is dead after Knox County withdrew its request to rezone a portion of the land.

The county, under the plan would, swap an 8-acre piece of the park in exchange for a 100-acre piece of land in Hardin Valley. Gusto Development would then need the property rezoned from agricultural to general business.

That’s not going to happen.

“We’re just not going to do that – we’re not to swap it,” said Knox County Communications Director Michael Grider. “It was pretty clear the Ball Camp community wasn’t interested in moving forward.”

The Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission was set to talk about the proposal this month, but officials agreed to postpone the discussion until early next year as they sought more input from the West Knox County neighborhoods.

Instead, the county withdrew its petition to the MPC on Thursday, Grider said.

The plan would have cut out two of Ball Park’s soccer fields and a parking area.

E-911 Board declines radio contract

The Knox County E-911 Board on Monday declined to sign off on an almost $9 million contract to replace the county's antiquated emergency radio system. Again.

The 11-member board voted 5-5. Panel member Brad Anders, who is also a Knox County commissioner, declined to vote, saying he didn't feel the initial bidding process was "clean."

Now, the board is expected to start the whole process over when it meets again in January.

At issue was months of debate that started when a selection committee picked Harris Communications and then the board refused to award the company an almost $9 million contract.

Instead, a number of members suggested the county should stick with Motorola Solutions, which has served the E-911 Center for more than 25 years.

Then members started talking about joining a state-operated system.

The board in mid-September agreed to pay Blue Wing almost $40,000 to determine the best direction to take the system.

The review concluded that the state option is at least $934,467 more costly during the course of the systems’ 11-year life cycles.

Further, the report noted, the county would not charge a radio system user fee of $28 per radio, per month, under the state system.

The lost revenue during the lifecycle adds up to almost $2 million.

Officials with Motorola Solutions - the equipment the state system uses - disputed much of the findings and said Harris actually would cost more money. In a handout provided to board members, Motorola questioned why the county wouldn't charge a user fee, and suggested that the Blue Wing report was tainted because it used "incorrect data and left out additional costs."

In the end, the vote to hire Harris failed.

Board members Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, E-911 Board Chairwoman Linda Murawski, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, and Knoxville Fire Chief Stan Sharp voted in favor of the proposal.

Board members Ken Knight, Russell Frazier, Bill Cole, Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones and Daron Long voted against Harris.

Jones, an advocate of joining the state system, said it is "the wave of the future," and that "if we do this standalone it seems to me we're an island in the middle of the ocean."

He also said he didn't want "a blue light special."

"These men and women are putting their lives on the line every day," he added.

Shortly after the vote, the board quickly adjourned without talking about the next step. Members, though, said they expect some discussion during the next meeting, which is in January. At that point, the board will probably restart the bidding process, Burchett said.

"We'll follow the process and that end result is what we'll have," he said.

Anders, who declined to vote, said he was concerned that prior to the bidding process,  E-911 Center Executive Director Bob Coker met with Harris officials to talk about sole sourcing the project. He questioned the transparency of such a move. He wants what he called a "clean" process the next time.

Friday, November 6, 2015

MTSU POLL: Carson leads presidential field in Tennessee; many unsure

Republican candidate Ben Carson has the current presidential field’s best numbers among Tennessee voters, although the biggest slice of the state’s electorate remains undecided, the latest statewide Middle Tennessee State University poll shows.

The poll began by asking, “Of all the candidates currently running for president, can you please name the one person you would most like to win the election?” The question offered no specific candidate names. The poll’s sample of registered voters responded:
  • Carson (R): 19 percent
  • Hillary Clinton (D): 16 percent
  • Donald Trump (R): 14 percent
  • Bernie Sanders (D): 5 percent
The field’s remaining candidates posted in the lower single digits.

“Carson is leading his closest Republican rival, businessman Donald Trump, by a significant margin, and both Carson and Trump have better favorability ratings than Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton,” said Jason Reineke, associate director of the statewide poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

“Notably, though, about a third of state voters can’t or won’t say whom they would prefer. That’s to be expected, given that even primary voting remains a long way off.”

Carson and Trump both surpassed Clinton in follow-up questions separately gauging support for each candidate becoming president, with 51 percent supporting Carson, 35 percent for Trump, and 25 percent for Clinton.

The poll randomly surveyed 603 registered voters statewide Oct. 25-27 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Breakdowns by party

A retired neurosurgeon who has risen to GOP frontrunner in recent weeks, Carson was the top choice among self-identified Republicans, with 33 percent of responses, followed by “Don’t know” with 29 percent and Trump with 22 percent.

Clinton led among Democrats, with 44 percent naming her, followed by “Don’t know” with 25 percent and Sanders with 16 percent.

Among independents who did not identify with either of the two major political parties, the most frequent response was “Don’t know” (38 percent.) Carson was the choice of 16 percent of independents, while Clinton and Trump were named by 12 percent each.

Support for Carson surged, though, among independents who identified as ideologically conservative, with 25 percent of these respondents picking him. Trump garnered 15 percent of this group, while 33 percent were undecided. Margins of error are larger for subgroups of respondents like political partisans.

More oppose than favor most top candidates

Carson was the only candidate who remained in positive territory in “net favorability” — +28 — when the percentages opposing or strongly opposing his presidency were subtracted from the percentages favoring or strongly favoring his presidency.

On the Democratic side, Clinton had the lowest net favorability score of all candidates at -37, while Sanders was comparable at -33.

But favorability deficits were not limited to Democratic candidates. Among the Republicans, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush scored -26; Trump came in at -12, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz scored a comparable -11, while fellow U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio scored -7 points.

Some respondents did not give an opinion one way or the other, or refused to answer the question.

“Some of these are frontrunner effects,” said Ken Blake, director of the poll. “Since Carson is in the lead, people who support him are going to be reluctant to say they could accept anybody else. There are also, of course, partisan effects. Republicans have an advantage, and it would be surprising to see net favorability for any Democratic candidate in a red state like Tennessee.”

Reineke added that it’s also important to note that voters in Tennessee are more decided about some candidates than others.

“People are more opinionated about candidates like Clinton and Trump — 89 and 82 percent have an opinion about them one way or the other, respectively,” Reineke noted.

“But only 61 percent each stated an opinion one way or the other about Cruz and Rubio. So, Cruz and Rubio have an arguably easier task of creating a favorable impression among undecided voters, while Clinton and Trump would have to convert voters from opposition to favorability to make up the difference.”

Methodology

Interviews for the poll were conducted by Issues & Answers Network Inc., which completed 603 telephone surveys among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters aged 18 and over.

Data was collected using Tennessee statewide voter registration sample with a mix of 60 percent landline and 40 percent cell phones. The average interview length was nine minutes.

Quotas by gender and geographic region were implemented to ensure the sampled respondents were representative of Tennessee’s adult population. U.S. Census Bureau data were used to determine the gender distribution each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions: East, Middle, and West. Data was weighted on age to ensure that it was representative of Tennessee registered voters

The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 for the entire sample percentage points, meaning that we are 95 percent confident that the actual result lies within 4 percentage points (in either direction) of the result our sample produced. Subgroups have wider margins of error.

Thanks to MTSU for the release. There will be more coming out next week about other topics tied to the presidential races.

Knox Co. Election Commish seeking help in 2016 for three elections

The Knox County Election Commission is seeking poll workers to help run three elections next year.

The commission will host five orientations in mid-November for those interested.

“While we have a great group of experienced election workers, we need many more new workers to staff all of our precincts in what promises to be a busy year for voting,” said Knox County Administrator of Elections Cliff Rodgers. “We’ll use these orientation sessions to highlight the work our workers do and why having new workers is crucial to the administration of elections.”

The county has 85 precincts in 71 polling places and will require hundreds of trained officials, Rodgers added.

The elections will be held March 1, Aug. 4 and Nov. 8.

Rodgers said he expects turnout for the November election, which will include the presidential race, to approach 200,000 voters.

Those interested in helping will be paid for working on the election days and taking the training classes. Workers can earn $10 or $15 an hour for training, depending on the nature of it, but they are not paid for the orientation class; $10 an hour for early voting ($15 an hour for officers); $15 an hour for nursing home work; and on election day, $135 for workers and $175 for officers.

Officers, who earn slightly more, must have "sufficient experience," Rodgers said.There are no unpaid volunteers.

The orientation session are:
  • Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. Bearden Branch Library, 100 Golf Club Road
  • Nov. 17 at 10 a.m. John T. O Connor Senior Center, 611 Winona Street
  • Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. Howard Pinkston Library, 7732 Martin Mill Pike
  • Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. Cedar Bluff Branch Library, 9045 Cross Park Drive
  • Nov. 23 at 6 p.m. Fountain City Branch Library, 5300 Stanton Road
For more information or to sign up for one of the orientation sessions, please call Brian Hall at the Election Commission at 215-2480.

McIntyre turns in self-evaluation

Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre has turned in his performance self-evaluation, and it's quite glowing.

But, I mean, what do you expect? It's not like he's going to criticize himself.

Still, he just couldn't help taking a shot at "one or two" school board members. Heh.

We broke it down/summarized the self-evaluation RIGHT HERE, but you can read the entire 8-page memo RIGHT HERE.

On the surface, McIntyre has a lot to stand on.

The school system has earned a number of accolades during the past year and the graduation rate is up, albeit slightly.

(You might that McIntyre at one point uses numbers/increases from the the time he was hired in 2008 until now, but it's immaterial. The review is for 2014-15 - not 2008 through 2015 - but I digress.)


Anyhoo, the school board in the coming weeks or months or whenever will talk more about the evaluation and members will give their input.

It will certainly be interesting as McIntyre claims that "district leadership is carefully listening to and supporting our teachers and staff . . . ."

I'll leave it at that.

You can decide.