Catching up with commission

Larry Van GuilderAs I see it

Responding to the threat of COVID-19 continues to dominate the thoughts of many elected officials. Knox County Commission’s April 27 Zoom meeting was no exception.


Dr. Martha Buchanan set the tone, briefly elaborating on the joint city-county plan to ease into reopening the economy on May 1. The decision was based on data, she said, adding that new cases in the county are not rising.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said the task force which crafted the plan tried to be as “business-friendly” as possible. However, Commissioner Larsen Jay fears that businesses like event planning face “catastrophe” as the phased reopening guidelines remain in place. The plan calls for a minimum of 28 days in each of the three phases, each less restrictive, if benchmarks such as a decline in new cases are met.

Sheriff Tom Spangler delivered good news and bad. First, he praised Buchanan and thanked her for her cooperation and assistance. Spangler was also pleased to report a drop in prisoner headcount by 400.

“As of today,” he added, the department has “zero cases” of COVID-19 in lockup and has devoted over 2,500 hours to cleaning.

But the sheriff took great exception to anonymous trolls who say the jails are overcrowded and dirty. He ended his comments on a high note, praising the men and women of the KCSO for their devotion to duty.

For a brief, shining moment it appeared Commissioner Charles Busler had deserted his party and joined forces with the county’s sprinkling of liberals and Bernie Bros.

Busler described his dealings with cable companies on behalf of some constituents as an “unbelievable” runaround. He said the county should require cable companies to provide internet service to all residents who wanted it as a provision in their franchise agreements.

Hmm. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign featured a “high-speed internet for all” component driven by government grants and technical assistance to build publicly-owned cooperatives. Is the commissioner secretly a Bernie Bro? Say it ain’t so!

In other commission news, Commissioner Justin Biggs is among the nearly 400 county employees who will begin an eight-week furlough on May 8. Biggs’ day job is in the Trustee’s office.

Biggs is philosophical about his situation, saying he “looks forward to some time off.”

Finally, during the zoning segment of the meeting, Commissioner Richie Beeler took note of the scarcity (as in none) of District 8 residents on the Knoxville Knox County Planning Commission. Beeler said, “A much longer discussion needs to come out of this.” He has a point.

Larry Van Guilder is the business/government editor for Knox TN Today.   

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