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Ear to the Ground

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Just Say No

Knox County Education Association president Gary Harmon found himself making a media splash this week after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving drug testing of Knox County teaching applicants. Harmon and school spokesguy Mike Cohen went head to head on the issue on MSNBC, and calls came into the KCEA office from radio stations as far away as L.A. The talkative Harmon agreed to all the interview requests but one—from the syndicated Ollie North show. "It was his assistant. She called and asked if I'd do the show. I said, 'With Ollie North?' She said yes. I said, 'No way.' She asked why. I said, 'I'm a man of a few standards.' She said, 'Ollie saw you on MSNBC, he asked for you personally,'" Harmon says with a laugh. "I said, 'Is this supposed to be warming my heart?'"

Making Danny Pay

Now that the mayoral race is run, it's two years till payback time for the youngest candidate, Danny Mayfield, the first-term City Councilman who stands for re-election in Y2K plus 1. Mayfield has probably tugged on Superman's cape a couple too many times not to be punished for his impudence. Election Commission Chair Mark Brown's name has been called as a potential candidate, although Brown disavows any such intentions. Other names in the wind are Howard Russell and Gwen Winfrey.

Happiness, Apathy; whatsadifference!

Speaking of the recent and barely noticeable city election, voter turnout was lower than snake-doo in a mudhole, and it was interesting to hear the TV pundits' take on the reason for that: Happiness.

Yup, both Channel 10's Bill Lyons and Channel 6's George Korda reckoned that nobody bothered to vote because, well, they're too busy living the good life. Voter satisfaction, they call it. You don't suppose such a grasp of the zeitgeist had anything to do with the fact that they both were formerly employed by incumbent Victor Ashe, do ya? Korda was Ashe's flack in a previous life and Lyons worked on Ashe's campaign web page.

Fade Away

The news came via email, and the subject line wasn't happy news: "V-roys Breakup News." Could Knoxville's most promising rock/country band really be calling it quits? The announcement from drummer Jeff Bills was straightforward on that score: "As to the heart of the issue, yes we are splitting up. Whether this is a temporary situation or something more permanent we don't know right now." But why would a band so good want to stop playing together? "What is known is that each of us has decided that [it] is in our best interests and wishes to move on to other areas of our lives right now." Look for an in-depth story on the situation in our next issue...

Sick Sycamores

Will the country music park downtown lose more shade trees? Two nearby sycamores have already heard the ballad-like whine of a city chain saw. Other sycamores have fallen up Summit Hill Drive near the Radisson and over on the corner of Market and Union streets. Maples have succumbed to the saw on Gay Street, but it's the sycamores at the corner of Gay and Summit Hill that shade the country music park. The sycamores are stressed by urban growing conditions, their roots crowded by concrete. This weakens the trees and makes them more susceptible to disease. Allen Graham, the city's horticulturist, says sycamores are struggling all over Knoxville. Along the sidewalks surrounding the country music park, it's clear some are dying. Many branches are bare and many leaves have long since turned a brittle shade of pre-autumn brown. Graham is giving the city's sick sycamores nutritional injections, but can't make any promises about their chance for survival.