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  The Year in Review


ARK Finally Sinks

Faced with state funding cuts that stripped AIDS Response Knoxville of more than 60 percent of its funding, the 13-year-old service agency announced it will close sometime early next year. ARK denied initial reports about its demise, but later confessed to going down with the ship. For the next six months, the Knox County Health Department will assist former ARK clients as the Tennessee Department of Health takes bids from agencies interested in grant money previously allocated to ARK.

On the Cat and Dog Front

"The Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley is about people and animals sharing and enriching each other's lives," writes HSTV Executive Director Vicky Crosetti in her year-end letter to supporters. Like two other animal welfare groups in Knoxville, the HSTV appears to be in full, fundraising swing, shaking money trees in its effort to enrich the cause of animal welfare. Competition for dollars from donors remains fierce, but the open spat between the HSTV and Knox County Humane Association seems to have quieted.

Teeth gnashed and backs arched last spring when the Humane Association took its gripes about the HSTV to the City/County Building. The Humane Association vowed to dethrone the HSTV as the county's top animal welfare group. With no shelter and little funding, it quixotically aspired to compete with the HSTV for the county's contract to run the local animal shelter.

But now, six months later, Humane Association founder Summer Henry says, "It would be a real stretch to be able to do that this year."

Some in the animal welfare community report that members of the Humane Association have begun to defect to other groups. The Association's critical obsession with the HSTV and Crosetti have turned off some supporters. As one observer notes, "Vicky Crosetti—that's the only two words in the language they know."

Meanwhile, the Animal Foundation of East Tennessee has made quiet progress setting up its own spay and neuter clinic. The group recently leased space in Downtown West and hopes to begin offering no cost and low cost services.

For the HSTV, the decade's end offers some perspective on how far animal welfare has come in Knox County. Since 1989, the adoption rate from the HSTV has more than tripled. And this year, the number of animals coming into the shelter reached an all-time low.

HSTV Board President Mark Siegel says his group's "spay/neuter policies and programs continue to show positive results. The number of unwanted and abandoned animals coming to the Humane Society has been reduced by 1,000 animals annually in the last three to four years thanks to these policies."

TVA's Title Fight

Here's the media blow-by-blow of TVA front office fisticuffs:

First jab: George Prosser, the TVA's inspector general, raises questions about his federal agency's upper management, including provocative inquiries regarding a $30 million trust used to establish the Center for Rural Studies.

Counter punch: TVA Chairman Craven Crowell places Prosser on paid leave to await the outcome of an FBI review. The feds look over alleged misappropriations appearing on Prosser's past expense accounts. Questionable items include $4,000 spent at golf resorts, $300 on liquor, $530 at a Mississippi hotel with a casino, and $9,000 at restaurants.

Quick upper cut: Sen. Fred Thompson steps in, vows to pass a law to change the way TVA appoints its inspector general. The Senate eventually passes a bill that requires the U.S. President—not the TVA board—hire the agency's inspector general.

Return roundhouse: Sen. Thompson sics the General Accounting Office on the TVA. Among other embarrassments, the GAO report reveals a doctored memo used to smear Prosser, who remains on paid leave.

Will The Underground be a Suds Survivor?

In 1999, The Underground dance club didn't age. It underaged.

Or so says the Knoxville Police Department and the Tennessee Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. In April, an undercover Knoxville police officer told the Knoxville Beer Board that The Underground was routinely serving underage patrons. The officer's testimony resulted in The Underground losing its local beer permit. Then from April to August, the bar closed its doors.

But when UT students returned for the fall semester, so did The Underground. It re-opened, serving wine, mixed drinks, and a new breed of malted beverage not regulated by the Knoxville Beer Board: super beer. While Beer Board Chairman Nick Pavlis spoke out about The Underground slipping through a loop hole in state law, the state's liquor cops were building their own case against the club.

ABC officers eventually conducted a sting at the club. Then on Nov. 18, the ABC Commission in Nashville suspended The Underground's liquor license for six months. While on suspension, the club hopes to win back its city beer permit. That way, when The Underground eventually re-opens, beer lovers can sip both regular brew and the extra potent super beer. However, winning back a lost permit isn't always easy, especially if there is no change in the ownership of the offending club. The Underground has announced no such change.

Hey, Where's Our Street?!

The mayor's office kept lazy mapmakers on their toes this year not only adding new streets, but changing the names of famous old streets. Proudly defying the controversy that whirled around an earlier name change—short, leftover Yale Avenue renamed Peyton Manning Pass—the city renamed longer, much-more-conspicuous Stadium Drive as Phillip Fulmer Way, in honor of the current football coach. To even things up on the literary side, the city renamed contiguous Fifteenth Street as James Agee Street, in honor of the Pulitzer-winning author who lived near it, back when it was called Fifteenth Street. However, the city lost some points with literary folks again when they renamed Mulvaney Street, the childhood address of another Knoxville literary hero, Nikki Giovanni—whose most famous essay is called "400 Mulvaney Street." It's now "Hall of Fame Drive," we assume because there's a hall of fame over at the south end of it.

In the brand-new 2000 edition of the Tennessee Handbook, a guide for tourists now in bookstores across America, all three streets appear under their old names. In Europe, we hear, there are laws against whimsical street renamings, and we're beginning to understand why.

Living Wage Defeated

A coalition of labor and progressive groups lobbied City Council to adopt a living wage ordinance—agreeing to pay all their workers at least $9.50 an hour or $19,000 plus benefits (the amount the advocates say is needed to support a family). The ordinance would also require all city's contractors pay at least that amount. But City Council was turned off by the idea, not wanting to impose wage requirements on contractors. It was defeated 7 to 2, with council members Carlene Malone and Danny Mayfield voting in favor of it. (Councilwoman Jean Teague told proponents to move to another city when they booed her "no" vote.) However, advocates haven't given up. They plan to give the measure another try next fall.