Outgoing mayors often leave their successors with a “to-do” list. New mayors usually have a vision for what they want to accomplish, but often they start their terms dealing with what was left in the inbox. Knoxville’s next mayor has some complex, big projects coming down the pike. If the candidates are on board, fine. But if they aren’t, this may be the time to speak up – because the winner of the mayoral race will own them.
Here are a few things Mayor Madeline Rogero has initiated on her way out the door.
Tennova is giving the city a white elephant in the former St. Mary’s Hospital. The old hospital site is to be repurposed to house the headquarters for the police and fire departments. The city is planning to tear down the current Safety Building to make the site available for a science museum. It is a huge project with moving parts, and the real costs are unknowable. (Asbestos?) Should the next administration be locked into executing this plan or should it be postponed until the next mayor takes a look at other possibilities? The next administration will be spending an inordinate amount of time riding herd on tearing this down, moving that over, remodeling.
How far will the administration go toward building a baseball stadium next to the Old City? With a taxpayer subsidy? You want to bet the city budget that such a facility will attract enough spectators to cover the costs, or will it bleed the city budget? The Smokies play 70 home games a year. In its current location the team draws an average of over 4,000 fans per game. How many games do you plan to attend? But the Ice Bears hockey team, in the Civic Coliseum, draws over 3,000 on average. But the Ice Bears play 25 home games a year, not 40. The devil will be in the details of this project; should the new mayor and the city be locked into a deal?
Recode Knoxville, a revamp of city zoning laws, has been in the works for some time and is scheduled to be in place when the new administration takes office. The plan has been the subject of public hearings over and over and revamped several times. Property owners should be well informed. But we know that once provisions are in place, some people will still be surprised. When a neighbor puts a “granny cabin” in the backyard, all hell may break loose. Should Recode be put on hold until the new mayor and council take a look at it?
The Rogero administration has opposed the extension of James White Parkway to Gov. John Sevier Highway and instead has done some improvements to Chapman Highway. The parkway extension would get through-traffic off Chapman, which everybody acknowledges is a dangerous stretch of roadway. Should Knoxville’s new mayor push for finishing the parkway and have it provide access to John Sevier, or should the mayor make it an expensive road to get to a $10 million gateway to a wilderness?
LAMAR! ATTACKED! U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has been royally ripped on social media for joining the dozen Republicans who voted for a resolution to stop President Trump from using an emergency declaration to divert funds from other projects in order to build a wall at the Mexican border. The Tennessee senator swore an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution. Trump has made no secret of the fact that he is defying Congress’s sole authority to appropriate funds. That’s unconstitutional. I continue to be shocked by conservatives who will support Trump rather than the constitution. It’s wrong. And I don’t give a damn how many times President Obama did it, it’s still wrong.
KNOXVILLE’S LOSS: We mourn the passing of Knoxville attorney Arthur Seymour Jr., a fixture at planning commission, City Council and County Commission meetings on behalf of his clients. His personality and encyclopedic knowledge will be missed, and it is the community’s loss. A memorial service is planned for April 5 at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral.
MISNOMER: They keep calling it “Meet the Press.” Shouldn’t they call it “Meet Chuck Todd?”