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Seven Days

Wednesday, Aug. 30
Knox County Commissioners Diane Jordan and Frank Bowden demand an apology from flack-cum-hack George Korda for comments about affirmative action on a local TV politics show. Bowden and Jordan admit they didn't actually see the program in question, which raises an interesting question: If even local politicians don't watch local political shows, who the heck does?
Knoxville-bred Hollywood bad boy Brad Renfro is arrested in Florida for trying to steal a yacht without untying it from its moorings. David Keith was never this much fun.

Thursday, Aug. 31
BWX Technologies joins with Bechtel National under a federal contract to manage Oak Ridge's Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. The resulting company goes by the name BWXT Y-12 LLC. How 'bout just KA-BOOM?

Saturday, Sept. 2
An hour before game time, while Vol Navy boats cruise by on the river, the only occupants of Cherokee Park in Sequoyah Hills are a group of teenagers in expensive clothes clustered around a picnic table, blithely smoking a joint. None of them is wearing orange.

Monday, Sept. 4
Another Boomsday comes and goes. Boom boom boom. Once upon a time, children, it was called Labor Day. Ask your grandparents.

Tuesday, Sept. 5
City Council refuses to de-annex an elderly widow in a wheelchair who lives on a fixed income of $15,000 a year and says she didn't understand that she'd have to pay more taxes when she agreed to be annexed. In related news, it was revealed that City Council doesn't like children, cute puppies, or rainbows.

Knoxville Found

What is this? Every week in "Knoxville Found," we'll print the photo of a local curiosity. If you're the first person to correctly identify this oddity, you'll win a special prize plucked from the desk of the editor (keep in mind that the editor hasn't cleaned his desk in five years). E-mail your guesses, or send 'em to "Knoxville Found" c/o Metro Pulse, 505 Market St., Suite 300, Knoxville, TN 37902.

Last Week's Photo:
Everybody loves a sumo. That's all we can conclude after the record-breaking volume of (mostly correct) responses to last week's photo. Of the many who identified the inflatable Japanese wrestler at Wheels Auto Sales on Chapman Highway, the firstest with the mostest was Alecia Reynolds of Knoxville. (Special mention to Mary Beth Tugwell, who wondered, "Does a big fat sumo man in briefs really help sales!?" We don't know, but we're fixin' to hire one to find out.) For her quick eye and equally quick email, Alecia wins her very own inflatable dinosaur. Kind of a small one, really, with sort of a pensive expression, but we do what we can...

Meet Your City
A calendar of upcoming public meetings you should attend

Mayor's Night Out
Thursday, Sept. 7
5 p.m.
Weston Place
2900 Lakebrook Blvd.
The mayor and his department heads will be available for personal interaction with constituents. Come be part of democracy in action.

Green Party exploratory meeting
Monday, Sept. 11
6:30 p.m.
Foundation for Global Sustainability
2743 Wimpole Ave.
Local Greens are trying to find candidates for local office.

Knoxville City Council
Wednesday, Sept. 13
12:30 p.m.
1511 Laurel Ave.
Council will finally vote on the proposed NC-1 protective overlay for Fort Sanders at this special meeting. MPC and the Historic Zoning Commission have recommended the overlay. This, one can hope, is the last step.


Holiday Inn or Out?

Uncertainty hovers over downtown hotel

Every day the sword of condemnation hangs over downtown's Holiday Inn Select has to be damaging to its operations in many different ways. Yet it's been six weeks since City Council authorized the hotel's condemnation, and the city has neither proceeded to do so nor commenced negotiations.

In the meantime, a Holiday Inn spokesman, James Beach, reports that "we've got people jumping off a sinking ship. Two or three senior management types have left and others can be expected to follow." As for future bookings, Beach says, "The phone is not ringing over there. Who wants to book even a wedding reception, let alone a convention into a hotel that may not be there?"

The irony is that for the next few years the city needs the Holiday Inn to stay in business more than the hotel itself does. Both of the major events booked to date in the city's new convention center—the Junior Olympics in 2002 and the American Bowling Congress in 2003—are dependent on the Holiday Inn's 293 rooms. The same goes for any other major convention prospects, at least until the prospective opening in 2004 of a new, 417-room Marriott Hotel that is a cornerstone of Worsham Watkins International's proposed downtown redevelopment plan.

So why is the city threatening to drop the sword on the Holiday Inn at this time, and why is it allowing the blade to dangle? Ostensibly, demolition of Holiday Inn is needed to make way for a new visitors' center and to relieve traffic congestion in the vicinity of the convention center. But suspicions continue to abound that the real impetus is getting rid of competition as a condition for obtaining financing for an elegant new Marriott.

As for leaving the Holiday Inn twisting in the wind, the city's finance director Randy Vineyard says, "We're still awaiting certain information that we've requested from the hotel's attorney, Joe Conner." But he goes on to allow that, "Mr. Conner has represented to us that they would have an interest in having the Holiday Inn stay open so as not to create a void of rooms."

Conner, for his part, is, "hopeful we can work something out. It all depends on the terms of the deal. If it takes care of our employees and fairly compensates Mr. Haney [Holiday Inn owner Franklin Haney] then we'd have to consider it. But there's nothing on the table."

When Haney announced plans for upgrading the hotel to a Crowne Plaza earlier this summer, he repeatedly placed a $25 million value on the property. One would have to suppose that his idea of fair compensation is rising every day that he's left to operate under a cloud of uncertainty.

—Joe Sullivan

Hotels, Part II

The Hilton thickens the plot

Amid all the furor over the condemnation of the Holiday Inn Select and the hoopla over a prospective new Marriott, there may be yet another entrant in the downtown hotel sweepstakes. The owner of the Knoxville Hilton is understood to have initiated discussions with city officials about a 200-room addition to that 317-room hostelry. The addition would be built in the block to the east of the Hilton that's presently a surface parking lot with, lo and behold, a pedestrian bridge linking the two buildings.

It's not clear whether the Hilton's owner, Cleveland-based Boykin Management Co., is looking to upstage the Marriott as a convention center headquarters hotel. But it is understood that Boykin is seeking tax incentives from the city to facilitate the addition.

The city's director of development, Doug Berry, denies participating in any discussions with Hilton officials but adds that, "As far as I'm concerned, we'd welcome a good faith dialogue on an appropriate expansion plan." As for tax incentives, Berry says, "I can see no reason why we wouldn't be open to any conversations." Such openness would go a long way toward dispelling suspicions that condemnation of the Holiday Inn is really aimed at clearing the way for the proposed new Marriott.

—Joe Sullivan

Dry Land

Why aren't there liquor sales outside the city?

To those who wonder why Knox Countians who are agitated about city annexations don't work to establish legal liquor sales in the outside city limits to pre-empt one of the most talked-about motives for "voluntary" annexation, the answer is simply:

It's not that simple.

Given, liquor license seekers have literally applied to be annexed solely for that purpose, as such licenses are currently not obtainable unless the property is in a city. So why doesn't the county opt for authorization to license legal liquor?

Well, even assuming that Knox County outside the municipalities of Knoxville and Farragut has achieved the voting sophistication to hold a successful "local option" referendum to enable liquor sales, the county itself doesn't have the right to its own liquor sales, according to its new law director, Mike Moyers.

That's because, Moyers says, the current state law governing liquor licenses prevents their issuance in any county except inside the municipalities within that county. There are special exemptions, but none of those could be brought to apply in Knox County, he says.

And besides, Moyers adds, most annexations, even of the voluntary sort, are not sought or accomplished for the purpose of obtaining a liquor license. It's just that those attract more public attention than others, often because of a vocalized anti-liquor sentiment on the part of some neighbors (as in a recent case in Halls).

It would not take an act of Congress to authorize liquor sales outside the city, but it would take an act of the General Assembly.

Ben Atchley, the senior state senator representing a part of Knox County, says the subject has not been mentioned to him. But regardless of whether the legislature could remedy the prohibition of liquor sales outside city limits, Atchley says, "It would have to come as a result of a vote of the people," meaning a new referendum. "We couldn't do a special exemption countywide," Atchley says, "the way we could do it for a specific location." The latter reference to location was to explain how the Hilton Hotel at McGhee Tyson Airport and the airport itself, both set upon City of Knoxville-owned property in Blount County, received legislative blessing for liquor sales on their premises.

Likewise, state Rep. Joe Armstrong says the issue of countywide access to liquor licenses hasn't come up in the annexation debate as it has reached him.

"Certainly I'm not opposed to allowing the county to have liquor licenses if that would allow the county to keep more tax revenue and reduce the contention over annexation," Armstrong says, but he has perceived no groundswell of constituents pushing in that direction.

The advent of state-imposed Urban Growth Boundaries, due to take effect next July unless Knox County succeeds in its court challenge to their constitutionality, will likely render the question of voluntarily submitting to annexation to secure liquor licenses practically moot, according to Moyers.

He says the Urban Growth Boundary will establish a limit within which the city can annex virtually at will, but outside which voluntary annexations would have to be approved by both the City Council and County Commission. He deems Commission approval unlikely.

—Barry Henderson

September 7, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 36
© 2000 Metro Pulse