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The Democratic Process, Part I

Tuesday night's City Council meeting found Mayor Victor Ashe in typical form—that is to say, high-handed and abrasive. During an early agenda item, one of the few that provoked discussion among the normally somnolent Council members, Councilwoman Carlene Malone and Councilman Gary Underwood actually seemed on the verge of having a reasonable exchange about the legislation at hand when Ashe broke in. "I'm not going to allow back and forth discussion," he said. "We can't have a running debate among Council members." Council members, of course, are prevented by state open meetings laws from having debates outside their meetings. Which raises the question—when are they allowed to debate? Malone, who's used to this sort of mayoral strong-arming, simply sank back with a sigh. "Well, that's democracy for you," she said.

The Democratic Process, Part II

When City Council got around to the most anticipated item on its agenda Tuesday, the Market Square redevelopment plan, Ashe immediately began imposing restrictions on what anyone could say about it. Noting that eight members of the audience had signed up to talk about the plan, and knowing that some of them would be asking for a postponement, Ashe said that under "parliamentary rules," speakers could only say whether they were for the plan or against it, not offer any opinions in between. "Remarks for deferral are only appropriate if there is a procedural motion for deferral," he said. In other words, members of the general public addressing their elected officials were being told they could not speak their minds freely. Malone, visibly annoyed, asked her colleagues to suspend normal rules and actually let people say what they thought—good, bad or indifferent. Councilman Nick Pavlis seconded the motion, which the rest of Council approved. Pavlis said, "I think if there's anything we've learned in the last four or five months on this Council, it's that we need to listen to people." Well, it's a nice thought...

The Medium Is the Message

Even though they seem to have dispensed with the amplified growling of the rabid attack dog, Neyland Stadium's Jumbotron proved as obnoxious as ever in the season opener against Syracuse. Some of the complaints we've heard were aesthetic: giant rotating Vols and an imperious, Atlas-like Phil Fulmer just looked corny and gave some Syracuse fans the idea that we're "trying to start a tradition or something."

However, some fans seated nearest the speakers were more than annoyed by the volume, which had them covering their ears and even sent a few from their seats. One retired engineer we know suspects UT may be in violation of OSHA noise standards and is planning to bring a decibel meter to the next game. Maybe he'll be called as a witness in a class-action suit by deaf hot-dog vendors.

However, the prominent advertising revenue the thing surely generates may be a tough foe for the home team. At least four times, the giant TV showed images of Vols training to the opening strains of The Verve's melancholy 1997 hit, "Bittersweet Symphony"—then abruptly cut it short in mid-bar, perhaps to avoid the opening lyric's unfestive observation, "You're a slave to money, then you die."

Tightening the Gucci belt?

Overheard in a Neyland Stadium skybox at the Tennessee-Syracuse game: "I feel like I'm eating Cove Lake State Park" (a reference to the state's announced budget cuts of several state parks). This from former Vol and present lawyer/sports agent Tim Irwin as he tucked into a massive plate of prime rib. Irwin could also have selected chicken in chipotle cream sauce, served buffet-style on all seven skybox levels, which also have popcorn makers on every level, hotdogs at halftime and ice cream any time. Watching an ugly football game like Saturday's is a grueling ordeal, so it's good to know that nobody up there was going to faint from hunger—or heat, either, for that matter, since, as one fan put it—"It's always 72 degrees in the skybox."

Private Enterprise

Attendees at the recent National Information Officers Association were royally schmoozed by a charter member and two-time president at a recent training conference in Clearwater, Florida. The former bigwig announced that he has retired from his job and started his own consulting business, which will be producing "reality-based" TV shows.

"I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to let me know of any ideas you may have for a reality-based television show.

By being a part of law enforcement, I know the value of positive media exposure, and that is what I am offering you. I have made a pledge to always showcase law enforcement and other emergency services in a positive light, and I am constantly looking for good story ideas for national cable audiences."

The letter was signed Foster D. Arnett Jr., Knoxville Police Department's former (and controversial) long-time flack.

Note to Victor

Speaking of reality-based TV, it's Wesson, with two s'es and an o, like the oil. So, if you are going to keep honoring our hometown Survivor winner at public meetings, learn to pronounce her name, OK? Folks are starting to cringe every time you call her "A great ambassador for our city—Tina Westin!"

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