Knoxville City Council races are more interesting to reporters than voters. We write about them incessantly, while 10 percent or fewer of eligible voters bother to vote. Early voting starts Oct. 18 for the Nov. 7 election. Here’s one reporter’s read. Quotes are from Wednesday’s forum at the Fountain City Business & Professional Association meeting, moderated by R. Larry Smith.
District 4: “It depends on who votes,” said Harry Tindell with a smile. I suggested it’s worth a novel if he roars back from a literal tie for second place in the primary to win the runoff. Tindell said his campaign has rejiggered its approach to getting out the vote. We’ll see. Lauren Rider, who won the primary quite handily, didn’t attend the forum. She lacks Tindell’s name recognition but outscores him on recent community involvement. She should win citywide, but as someone said: “It depends on who votes.”
District 3: James Corcoran should win this one. He won the primary and is better known than his opponent, Seema Singh Perez. Corcoran is a lawyer and the youngest candidate, he says, at 38. Perez was born in India and grew up in Knoxville as the stepdaughter of former radio news guy Colvin Idol. She’s a social worker who would bring both personal and professional diversity to the council. Win or lose, she should stay involved. Corcoran lost his first race (for state representative to Martin Daniel).
District 6: Jennifer Montgomery won some votes on Wednesday. She presented well, while her opponent, Gwen McKenzie, was absent. McKenzie, an executive with CVS, won the 13-person primary and should win the runoff. Both candidates have a lot to offer and the loser should run for an at-large seat in 2019.
District 2: My bet for the closest race. Democrat Andrew Roberto, a lawyer, takes on Republican Wayne Christensen, the retired 20-year manager of Knox Youth Sports. I think Roberto will win; he’s younger and glibber.
District 1: Stephanie Welch is way ahead of Rebecca Parr in South Knoxville. Neither made Wednesday’s meeting.
Nick Della Volpe, Nick Pavlis, Duane Grieve, Dan Brown and Brenda Palmer are leaving the council – all victims of term limits.
City regs: Corcoran, Christensen and Tindell indicated support for lessening regulations on construction, while Roberto reminded the group that the regulations and inspections are there for consumer protection.
Tax incentives (TIFs and PILOTs): Not a big fan, said Corcoran. Roberto said the city’s investment of $50 million has led to “half billion dollars” of private investment. Montgomery advocated for economic development districts and incentives for affordable housing. Tindell said the city should use the “but for” test and “keep at least the revenue we have now.”
What would you do with a city surplus? Leave it in fund balance, said Christensen. Upgrade pay and benefits for police officers, said Roberto. We must look at what we need. With violence and the opioid crisis, we should beef up spending for social services and first responders, said Perez.