Seema Singh has called out developer Randy Boyd on a labor agreement for the proposed downtown baseball/multi-use stadium.
Boyd has said construction wages will be at least $15.50 per hour, but he won’t put that in writing and he won’t sign an agreement with the local construction unions. According to a News Sentinel story on Oct. 13, organizers from the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Central Labor Council, Knoxville Building and Construction Trades Council, Iron Workers Local 384 and LiUNA Local 818 were hoping for a written labor agreement. Boyd’s full statement: Response statement
Singh, running for re-election to Knoxville City Council, is opposed by Nick Ciparro. In a statement on Oct. 18, she said, “As a city council member, one of my jobs is to try to make sure community development projects funded by city taxpayers actually benefit the community, at least as much as they are benefitting the project developers.”
Knoxville City Council, along with Knox County Commission, must approve the agreement that will obligate both entities for debt repayment of some $65 million. Developers hope sales tax generated by project will cover most of debt, leaving the city and county each responsible for about $250,000 the first year with decreasing amounts each year and ending with the 10th year.
In this 7/30/21 article, KnoxTNToday.com asked council candidates whether public money should be put into the stadium project. Most said it was too early to be sure. Most seemed supportive.
Singh says since city government will be asked to sign legally binding documents to repay the borrowed money, the developers should likewise sign binding agreements on labor issues such as wages, safety standards, using local contractors and subcontractors, and implementing U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship programs.
She ended with this: “I know a great deal of good intention and hard work has gone into these proposals, from the developers as well as from the labor organizations, but also from members of the Sports Authority, supported by the hard work of city and county staff. Through it all I hear wonderful talk of good jobs with benefits and a better economy for our city, because of all this collective effort.
“Let’s get all of this wonderfulness in writing and signed by all of the parties, and you will have my vote.”
Ciparro is running on the so-called Republican ticket – five challengers all trying to oust incumbent members of the council. His platform calls for respect and support for law enforcement and public safety as Priority No. 1. He pledges no increase in property taxes and wants to “prioritize spending on essential needs.”
It’s hard to see a minor league baseball stadium as an essential need for Knoxville. Yet these Republican candidates are more likely than the incumbents to cheer for the “economic development” aspects of the project.
Singh has made her position clear. And she has signaled she’s not scared to stand against the powerful.
Interestingly, the election is Nov. 2 and the city council vote on the stadium will come later in November. Win or lose, the incumbents will cast that vote. Any challenger who wins won’t take office until January.
Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.