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Seven Days

Wednesday, Aug. 29
A judge finds that Fort Sanders landowner Jerry Hughes demolished six Victorian houses without proper permission, but declines to fine him for the offense. Mayor Victor Ashe calls it "a victory for all citizens concerned about historic preservation." True enough—a few more victories like that and there won't be anything to be concerned about. Which will reduce our stress levels greatly.

Thursday, Aug. 30
State officials announce they're closing 14 state parks because of budget cuts. They will still be open for dumping old cars and sofas, however.
Knox County school chief Charles Lindsey releases his template for making the school system "world-class." It neglects to mention which world.

Friday, Aug. 31
Knoxville is invaded by a strange race of orange people. Soon, even public officials turn orange. Efforts to quell the rapid spread of the affliction are futile. Fortunately, it appears to go into remission by Monday.

Saturday, Sept. 1
The Vols win their season opener against Syracuse, beginning the annual tradition of talking about a national championship. The talk, by custom, usually ends after the Florida game.

Monday, Sept. 3
Knoxville continues its tradition of celebrating the history of the American labor movement by detonating massive amounts of colorful explosives assembled by Asian children in dangerous sweatshops.

Tuesday, Sept. 4
For the second time in three years, Knoxville City Council passes a Market Square redevelopment plan. When Councilwoman Jean Teague suggests that current owners are "new kids on the block" who "haven't developed" their properties, her colleague Carlene Malone points out that the owners haven't been able to get tenants because of Council's lack of follow-through on the previous plan. "We have, not out of maliciousness but certainly not out of wisdom, destabilized Market Square," Malone says. And who says City Council never does anything?

Knoxville Found

(Click photo for larger image)

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:
"Make it warm and make it sweet just the way my life has been," sang Tom T. Hall. "Give me coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee/ And let me tell you you have found yourself a friend." Maybe that's why this wall painting on the side of a building on Jackson Avenue in the Old City makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. Especially when the roasters are working and the whole downtown smells like fresh java. One of the many respondents noted the mural was painted in the early 1990s by artists Jim Wyatt and Jeff Sturgeon as an advertisement for the JFG Coffeehouse that was housed in the building. That establishment is now known as Cup A Joe, but the painting looks and smells as good as ever. First right answer came from Tracy Luna of Knoxville, who wins a near-mint copy of this month's Vanity Fair (a newsstand value of $3.95!). Penelope Cruz is on the cover.

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

Monday, Sept. 10
City County Bldg., Room 549
400 Main St.
Reports are expected on the Seven Islands Project and on the department's cell tower policy.

Thursday, Sept. 13
1:30 p.m.
City County Bldg., Large Assembly Room
400 Main St.
Regular monthly meeting.


Fourth District
Tuesday, Sept. 11
7 p.m.
Plumbers & Steamfitters Union Hall,
1216 N. Broadway
Sponsored by local neighborhood associations, the League of Women Voters and Metro Pulse.
Moderated by Gene Patterson of WATE-TV and Jesse Fox Mayshark of Metro Pulse.

First District
Thursday, Sept. 13
7:30 p.m.
University Center, Shiloh Room
Cumberland Avenue and Philip Fulmer Drive
Hosts include the Historic Fort Sanders Neighborhood Association, UT Student Government
Association and League of Women Voters.


Filling Carlene's Shoes

Of all the City Council members vacating their seats thanks to new term limits, none will be missed more than the 4th District's Carlene Malone.

The blunt, feisty Malone has been a progressive and critical voice on an all too often complacent and acquiescent council. Although she's on the losing side of many votes, Malone has a way of firing up the grassroots folks against the establishment.

The race to replace her as representative of the 4th District—which includes the 4th and Gill, North Hills, Old North Knoxville, Holston Hills and Fountain City neighborhoods—includes two perceived front-runners: Rob Frost and Jim Cortese. In the city's election system, however, any of the five candidates has a chance of making it through the Sept. 25 primary. The two top vote-getters in the primary meet in the citywide run-off election in November.

Frost has one of the biggest war chests of any of the 30 Council candidates, with almost $20,000 raised as of Aug. 15 (Cortese has reported raising $8,300, second highest in the 4th.). Frost has signs planted all over the city, commercials on TV, and has been knocking on doors all over the district. However, he says this citywide campaign doesn't mean he's taking the primary for granted.

Frost is pushing his experience as a real estate attorney, neighborhood activist and historic preservationist as the qualities that put him above the competition. A 4th and Gill resident, Frost is renovating his second house there. He says his work as a lawyer has given him experience in doing tax credit projects—the kinds of things that the city could benefit from as it tries to redevelop downtown and its older neighborhoods. As a neighborhood activist, he boasts that he helped 4th and Gill become the model of urban redevelopment that it is by getting the city to enforce its codes.

Although he places great value on revitalizing downtown, Frost says he doesn't necessarily favor making big investments on tourists. "It's my desire to make Knoxville a better place to live, work and play for the people that are here....not necessarily for the tourists who are in town for a few days and leave."

He favors using federal tax credits, adaptive building codes and local tax incentives to encourage renovation of historic buildings, as well as old homes in urban neighborhoods. "You can make an iffy project profitable," he says.

Jim Cortese, a tree specialist and 4th and Gill resident, echoes many of the same themes that Frost does, including neighborhood and historic preservation.

Cortese says one of his first priorities is downtown revitalization, although his emphasis would be more on residential development, and less on tourist attractions. He'd achieve this by advocating tax incentives and flexible building codes.

"If we've got a building sitting vacant, it's basically a drag on the downtown," he says. "If we can have some kind of tax rebate or forgiveness, that would help developers to afford building."

In the neighborhoods peripheral to downtown, he advocates infrastructure investments, improving curbs, gutters and sidewalks to make them more attractive. "I moved to 4th and Gill when it wasn't cool, in 1979," he says. He wants a crackdown on speeding in neighborhoods, and favors speed bumps and traffic calming devices. (He pointed to a traffic circle at Luttrell that Frost helped establish, as an example). He supports giving neighborhoods more control over development that occurs there, pointing to historic overlays as a way to do that.

Cortese also supports the arts, and wants the city to take a greater role in promoting them. He also advocates more greenspace, walking trails and more trees—his specialty.

Chief among candidate Don Ault's concerns is changing the city's development patterns, which he says have been dictated by developers and cars. And he worries about the environmental effects these patterns have. "When you plan the streets ahead of a developer, you can control the traffic 20 years down the line. If you let the developer plan, 20 years later you're building the streets," says Ault, a marketer and hotel builder.

"They used to plan streets in city development. They stopped doing it when suburbia took over in the '60s," he adds. "We're letting development go out blindly, and going in afterwards and fixing it."

To that end, he favors requiring developers to pay more of the cost for new road construction, exerting more control over where that development will be and trying to retrofit old neighborhoods by making them more connected. He also supports mixed uses for neighborhoods, and a trolley system, which would connect neighborhoods to each other and downtown.

Ault supports the proposed planetarium/museum complex but doesn't believe the focus of downtown revitalization should be tourism.

A painter and classic car restorer, Albert Baah says his biggest goal is to improve the city's quality of life by improving the neighborhoods, schools and expanding the city's economic base. Baah says he'd use tax incentives and zoning to bring in new business (mindful that neighborhood wishes trump all others).

Although he says downtown will never be what it was, it's important for it to be redeveloped. He thinks the planetarium is a step in the right direction.

"I like to see citizens have more input into decision-making in the area. I don't like special interests coming in to take over the neighborhood," he says. "I've seen so many [special interest groups] with different agendas. If it's not to benefit an area, I'll be against them. Nobody's going to push me to make a decision if it's wrong for the neighborhood."

A retired firefighter, Richard L. Hickey says economic development is his primary concern. "I think we need to grow in the business and industry sector. Over the past 40 to 50 years, Knoxville's had ample opportunities to grow, and it just seems like we've struck out. We rely much too heavily on homeowners as far as tax base is concerned."

He says economic growth is achieved by recruiting new businesses. He doesn't believe the downtown needs a major attraction for redevelopment. He does believe the city's police, firefighters and public works employees should be better taken care of.

Joe Tarr

Editor's Note: A friend of a number of Metro Pulse employees and contributors, Rob Frost plays on this paper's softball team.

September 6, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 9
© 2001 Metro Pulse