Republican Glenn Jacobs and Democrat Linda Haney spoke to members of the East Knoxville Business and Professional Association, meeting June 21 at Zoo Knoxville. The election is Aug. 2 and early voting starts July 13.
If size matters, then this race is over. Glenn Jacobs is a mountain of a man, a truly imposing physical figure. But we need to scratch below the surface. There is a substantial difference between them, beyond mere size or party affiliation. It has to do with the respective roles of business and government driving future development. Let’s take a peak under the hood.
Jacobs spoke about the creation of jobs as the No. 1 opportunity and objective for the next mayor. That entails improving the education of the civilian workforce, including not only college preparation (it’s not for everyone) but better technical education to equip our young people with tools to get good-paying jobs to support themselves and their families.
He would work with business to create and attract job opportunities here. Both have to work together, but business ultimately creates the jobs, not government.
Jacobs’ background includes both professional wrestling and management of his own insurance business. When asked, he believes in creating more jobs in the inner city and spoke of working with a local internet security company as well as Randy Boyd about possibly creating a computer programming learning center near Austin-East High School – to assure some of those jobs of the future are available to black youth. He also spoke of his concern about the opioid epidemic, stating we must work to avoid it tearing up our community. When asked about taxes, he thinks there should be room in a $820 million-dollar budget to do things more efficiently; he does not like adding to the tax burden.
In response to questions, Jacobs said he recognizes that the city is part of the county and that the fate of the city and the county are tied together. Both entities need to work hand-in-hand to meet not just local competition, but competition from surrounding states and even from far-away places like China. Jacob noted that there are over 100 cities in China with more than one million people, and they will be a factor in competing for jobs in the future.
Haney stated that education is the No. 1 priority for this community. Education accounts for over 63 percent of the county’s budget and we need to provide the best schools for our children, even if we must raise taxes to meet that obligation.
In response to questions, Haney said she would not look to taxes first, but admits it is a necessary resource for investment in our community. She said that people need and want their schools, roads and parks to be good, and those things cost money. So, she would not promise to not raise taxes if needed. Progress may cost a little money but we need to make Knoxville, city and county, a great place to live, she said.
She indicates she has been meeting with community groups, including a recent meeting at the Beck Cultural Center, and says that community needs more assistance in terms of schools and labor apprentice training for good-paying jobs. Her background is in the labor union arena, and she believes that we can do more in working with the trades to prepare young people.
In response to questions, Haney agrees that the city and county have to work together. She has spoken with the city mayor about such ongoing cooperation. She would like to see some county involvement in KAT or other transportation into the county, as that will help access to jobs. She believes one of her assets is that she likes people and has a “great connection” with those she talks to along the campaign trail.
Both candidates urged citizens to vote in the upcoming election.
Patrick King, the leasing agent for Knoxville Center mall owner Henry & Wallace, said owners are working on what amounts to a 5- to 10-year plan as they face retail changes that affect the shopping mall business nationwide. They are pursuing a mix of uses, including residential and office, and also several entertainment ideas. Out-parcel development is needed in the sea of asphalt that surrounds the mall.