Regulating neighborhood groups prep for Recode?

Frank CagleFrank Talk

Looking down the road, assuming Knoxville’s Recode is in place, it would seem to be inevitable that neighborhood groups will sometimes be at odds with the planning commission, the city, a developer or all three. One can see that increasing density in a neighborhood, for instance, might be opposed by the residents.

If you missed it I would encourage you to click on columns and go to Betty Bean’s interview with Carlene Malone on what’s wrong with the city attempting to regulate, reward or collect information on neighborhood groups. The most unsettling thing is that the city bureaucracy could bury volunteer groups with information requests and all that information is then a public record available for developers’ lawyers to peruse.

The question I would ask is why now? Is this effort to get control of neighborhood groups connected to potential fallout from the Recode process?

It appears the move to decide who is a legitimate leader of a neighborhood group “authorized” to speak to city council is for the benefit of council members. The “process” would slow down response time, it could prevent outraged homeowners from speaking if they aren’t “authorized” by a vote of the membership. Legitimate grievances could be stifled by process. Decisions could be made while neighborhood critics are holding a referendum.

A neighborhood group may become moribund over time if there are no issues. But a problem can arise overnight which requires quick action and neighborhood leaders may not have time to reorganize or take a vote.

And will grant money or city projects (sidewalks?) be awarded based on correct paperwork and going along to get along with a city department? Neighborhood groups will get a “grade” for complying with what the city deems “best practices.”

Shouldn’t a neighborhood controversy be resolved based on what’s right and not on whether a neighborhood group filed the right paperwork last year? Just because you got an “A” on your dotted “i”s and crossed “t”’s doesn’t mean you are right on a particular issue. And conversely, it doesn’t mean you are on the wrong side of an issue because you don’t have regular meetings.

I suppose, in the final analysis, it comes down to one question. Who benefits from neighborhood groups being graded? Somehow I don’t think it’s the neighborhoods.

And the leaders of a neighborhood association owe their allegiance to the neighborhood, not to city government. It’s something leaders need to think about before they start filling out forms.

What’s the score? The conservative Heritage Foundation has issued its scorecard on House and Senate members and the degree of each member’s conservatism.

For the Republicans, new Rep. Tim Burchett got a 100 percent conservative rating, to no one’s surprise. He joins Scott DeJarlais and Mark Green among House members and Marsha Blackburn in the Senate at 100 percent. Other Republican House members include John Rose and Phil Roe at 98 percent, David Kustoff (who dropped out of the race for the U.S. Senate) at 87 percent and Chuck Fleischmann at 85 percent. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander came in at 96 percent.

Among Democrats, Jim Cooper is at 11 percent and Steve Cohen gets a zero. “Justice Democrats” have Cooper on a list to be challenged in his next primary for not being progressive enough. He needs to work on getting his Heritage score down to zero to satisfy Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Cooper is a long-time incumbent. To give you an idea, he won his first House seat defeating Sen. Howard Baker’s daughter Cissy in 1982. His only loss was a Senate run against Fred Thompson in 1994. But if they beat him up badly enough, or even defeat him, look for the Nashville Republicans (there are some) to try and pick up the seat.

It’s getting serious: It’s been a month now and Knox area DirecTV subscribers are still without Channel Six, the ABC affiliate, due to a contract squabble between the satellite service and the owners of ABC stations in about 100 markets.

Football season is getting dangerously close and I’m gonna need my Sports Source to supplement Marvin West’s observations. I get a letter from DISH network about every week, I’m just saying.

Frank Cagle is a retired newspaperman and the former managing editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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