Knox Health Board: Life support extended

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

Knox County Commission, on a 6-5 vote Monday, deferred Commissioner Kyle Ward’s resolution to make the Knox County Health Board advisory only, shifting sole decision-making on masks and mandates to Dr. Martha Buchanan.


Commissioners on both sides must be hoping the pandemic ends before they have to take a final vote. And at the rate they’re going, that might happen.

The sad irony is that nothing would change either way.

Terry Hill

Commissioner Terry Hill has said this all along. And she skillfully maneuvered Monday’s vote with an assist from Commissioner Randy Smith. Voting with Hill and Smith to defer were Dr. Dasha Lundy, commission chair Larsen Jay, Richie Beeler and Courtney Durrett.

Durrett kicked off the discussion by moving to defer 150 days, until June. She said the health board discussion has dominated eight of 10 meetings and workshops since she joined the commission.

Beeler initially said “no one wants to delay” the vote. And he added: “If the health board in charge is such a great thing, then why are the (Covid) numbers so bad?” Beeler said behavior won’t change regardless of how the commission voted. But in the discussion of Durrett’s motion, Beeler said he would prefer a “two-digit delay” to a three-digit one.

Hill and Smith jumped on that after Durrett’s motion failed with only three votes (hers plus Lundy and Jay). “We have spent hours and hours and hours on this and what are we accomplishing?” asked Hill. “I know we have the same goal (she said generously), to bring people together. We are failing.”

After more discussion, the 90-day deferral passed and the meeting adjourned. It was only 10:23 p.m.

  • Sheriff Tom Spangler asked the commission for $1 million to build a 5,000-square-foot steel structure for video conferencing between judges and inmates. The commission deferred the request for 30 days, but commissioners seemed generally supportive. Spangler said the facility would be built adjacent to the Roger D. Wilson Detention Center on Maloneyville Road.  It would save on transportation costs to haul prisoners back and forth to the City County Building, he said.
  • John A. Emison, former Knoxvillian and president of Citizens for Home Rule, moved to Alamo, Tennessee, and got elected mayor. Today on Facebook there was a masked mayor, sitting alone in a boardroom, taking a vote by speaker phone. The vote passed unanimously and Alamo got its first liquor store. I resisted the urge to call Emison to ask if he annexed the guy on the promise of a liquor store.
  • Commissioner Justin Biggs had a resolution to congratulate Danny White for agreeing to a $1.8 million contract to become UT’s athletics director. It was a glowing resolution and Biggs is sending copies to many people. He offered to let other commissioners sign on as co-sponsors. And that’s when Commissioner John Schoonmaker said, “Maybe we should wait until he signs the football coach.”

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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