Rating the Class of ’17

Sandra ClarkGossip and Lies

Five newbies joined the Knoxville City Council two years ago, replacing term-limited incumbents. Let’s score them, based on Tuesday’s vote on Recode Knoxville.


Gwen McKenzie (District 6: East Knox) – Solid performance. She voted yes, and probably meant to all along. McKenzie asked good questions, and not too many. She was particularly knowledgeable of zoning for group homes, an issue that impacts her district.

Andrew Roberto (District 2: West) – Top of the class. He voted yes, but only after getting an amendment on “granny houses” that satisfied (or maybe mollified) his constituents in West Hills. As a lawyer, he was able to draft and defend complex amendments.

Lauren Rider (District 4: North) – Solid performance, representing a tough district. Her constituents range from Carlene Malone in Fountain City to Nick Della Volpe in Holston Hills, along with the historic areas of Fourth & Gill and Old North where her family lives. Rider has been involved in improvements to Broadway, juggling the interests of homeowners and businesses. She voted yes.

Seema Singh (District 3: Northwest) – Weak performance. Showed ignorance of parliamentary procedure, asking Rogero at one point if she could amend a motion that had already passed. Singh was upset by the council’s adoption of Roberto’s amendment. She seemed more concerned about housing for homeless and low-income people than her own district.

As we wrote yesterday: Her voice broke as she explained her vote: “In one fell swoop a well-to-do neighborhood found a way to opt out. The map itself has lost a lot of multi-family housing. It feels like the same old thing. People who do well want to preserve what they have and we have given in to that. And we’re not making spaces for people who aren’t here tonight, who don’t have much.

“West Hills choosing to opt out really upsets me. It’s not fair to the rest of the city.”

But Roberto’s amendment applied citywide. It’s an option available to any neighborhood where residents take time to go through the process.

Stephanie Welch (District1: South and downtown) – Solid performance. She successfully amended the draft to apply hillside/ridgetop protections consistently to all development, overcoming objections from veteran council members George Wallace and Finbarr Saunders who wanted less restrictive regs for commercial development. Welch was solidly pro-Recode, yet she voted for Roberto’s amendment. Politics is about compromise, she said.

Notes
  • Carlene Malone showed why a lot of us love her. The former council member attended most meetings, actually read Recode and made positive suggestions for improvements to the document. She didn’t win every fight, but she stood there fighting. Salute!
  • Mayor Rogero secured first-reading approval on a zoning code that could change the face of Knoxville, depending on the outcome of this year’s elections. An Eddie Mannis win could roll back many Rogero initiatives, while an Indya Kincannon win could equal a third-term for Rogero.
  • Congratulations to our friends at Weigel’s who opened their 68th store this week, expanding into Kingsport. The store has eight gas pumps and all the bakery and made-to-order food items available at the newer Knox-area stores.

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