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Seven Days

Thursday, Oct. 4
A report from the Knox Teen Assessment Project reveals that Knox County middle school- and high schoolers are less likely to have sex, use alcohol or carry weapons to school than the national averages. Ten years behind again...or is it five?

Friday, Oct. 5
The front page of the News-Sentinel is headlined: "Construction snarls West Knox traffic." Are we talking about a slow news day here, or what? That head could have run any day in the last five years...or is that 10?
The state's human services chief reports that an investigation prompted by a new law has turned up 500 felons, including convicted child abusers and drug dealers, in the employ of day care centers across Tennessee, and that most were booted out of their jobs. And we wondered why those unemployment numbers have been creeping up.

Saturday, Oct. 6
Georgia defeats UT 26-24 in football, right here in Neyland Stadium, then the Bulldog players start a near riot by stomping on the midfield logo. It seemed natural. Just another part of the kicking game the 'Dogs had to themselves all day.

Sunday, Oct. 7
The shooting starts in Afghanistan. Pray for peace and justice.

Monday, Oct. 8
The specialist hired by Knox County Schools to unravel its scandalous overpayment of fringe benefits for ineligible employees quits, saying she never got the staffing to reform the system so she was going to work for the county, which has lots more employees in its benefits department. She should have understood that the County Commission takes much better care of the rest of its fiscal responsibilities than it does of schools' needs.
The city of Alcoa decides not to proceed with the establishment of an arena for the Knoxville Speed hockey team. All eyes in the metro area shift toward Sevier County so quickly you can hear the eyeballs click.

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:
Ah, the tears of a clown. When there's no one around. Well, not quite no one, obviously, considering how many people wrote to identify this sad face. It's part of a mural on the back wall of the building that houses Big Don the Costumier in the Old City. Big Don's owner Ramona Buttry informs us it was painted by her daughter Kim. It was touched up last summer by local artist Dan McCoig (whose work can also be seen in murals at Corky's and Little City restaurants). The first correct response came from Conner Bailey of Knoxville. For his effort, he wins a copy of The Darwin Awards II, another collection celebrating the assorted undignified ways people manage to remove themselves from the gene pool. Remember, don't try this at home.

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

Thursday Oct. 11
1:30 p.m. City County Bldg., Main Assembly Room
400 Main St.
Regular monthly meeting.

Thursday Oct. 11
6:30-8 p.m. Mt. Olive Baptist Church Intersection of Summit Hill, MLK, and Dandridge.
Sponsored by Solutions.

Tuesday Oct. 15
7 p.m.
City County Bldg., Main Assembly Room
400 Main St.
Regular meeting.

Wednesday, Oct. 17
7-9 p.m. West High School
Sutherland Ave.
Sponsored by 47E Precinct. General election candidates from all five districts will mingle with voters, then speak and answer questions.

Thursday, Oct. 18
7:30 p.m.
Laurel Theatre
Laurel at 16th St.
Sponsored by: Historic Fort Sanders Neighborhood Association, UT Student Government Association, League of Women Voters.


The Next Step

UT trustees approve "pedestrian-friendly" Master Plan

On Oct. 5, University of Tennessee trustees approved a Master Plan for campus development, sending it to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the State Building Commission for final approval. Meanwhile, many students remain ignorant of or confused about the plan.

In a recent random poll of 20 students, only eight had heard of the scheme designed to make their campus more pedestrian-friendly.

Of those, few could name its specific proposals, which include removing all vehicular traffic except emergency vehicles, and possibly public transit, from Andy Holt Avenue and Volunteer Boulevard between Cumberland Avenue and Circle Park. UT plans to eliminate surface parking by constructing new garages on the campus periphery.

A Campus Planning Advisory Committee designed the Master Plan to provide a unified schematic for campus development, accommodating needs over the next 25 years.

The committee, including Mayor Victor Ashe, acting UT president Emerson Fly, and Vice President for Operations Phil Scheurer, developed the Master Plan through consultation with Bullock Smith & Partners of Knoxville, Wilbur Smith & Associates of Knoxville, and Ayers/Saint/Gross of Baltimore. Marleen Kay Davis, dean of the college of architecture and design, chairs the committee.

Scheurer describes the plan as a long-term strategy, not a building contract. Each project must be individually approved and funded before implementation. The trustees made no financial commitments by approving the plan itself.

The board did, however, approve a capital outlay of $135 million for all the plan's state-funded projects scheduled for the next five years.

Implementing all master plan projects would cost the university $422 million over the next five years and about $1 billion over 25 years. (State funds would comprise a third of the five-year total and 43 percent of the overall total.)

A performing arts complex represents the largest single proposed outlay, $110 million over the next five years. Housing renovations and additions are the next most costly projects at $102 million over 10 years.

Construction on the Johnson Ward University Mall will begin next month and finish in fall 2002, making this project the first implemented. On Andy Holt between Volunteer Boulevard and Hess Hall, the plaza will feature greenery, an outdoor amphitheater, and a timeline of UT history. Student facility fees fund the bulk of the project.

"[The mall] will provide a high quality environment for students and be emblematic of the pedestrian environment we're trying to provide," Davis says.

Under the plan, those using the new bridge from the agricultural campus would meet a T-junction at Volunteer Boulevard. One of the bridge's five lanes will be dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists.

Even as the advisory committee seeks to improve the pedestrian atmosphere, it advocates increasing parking by more than 3,000 spaces.

According to Scheurer, construction is underway on a 1,400-car garage at 11th Street and Cumberland Avenue due to open in fall 2002. This project, along with the mall, a black cultural center, and a $20 million fitness center, has already received approval and funding.

The master plan also calls for building or expanding garages on Lake Avenue and Neyland Drive in the next 15 years. Mary Lynn Holloway, director of Parking Services, says visitor parking comprises most of the increase and the most urgent need.

Proposed internal transportation will connect parking garages, dorms, the agricultural campus and The Hill to KAT's orange line at a transit hub. "We had to agree to the transit hub to satisfy the city," Scheurer said at the trustees' finance committee meeting.

The advisory committee solicited feedback through its website and over 30 public forums. Davis says the committee has prioritized the community's ideas of designating bikeways, protecting historic preservation, and enhancing campus security. "I feel like we responded to those concerns in the final phase," she says.

However, Scheurer says the Master Plan must do more to accommodate bikes. "We haven't done enough with that," he says. "We have not devoted the time to it that we need."

Scheurer says that for the last six months he has worked with Knox Heritage and the Historic Fort Sanders Neighborhood Association to accommodate historic preservation. Fort Sanders association president Randall DeFord calls the negotiation "on-going."

"The master plan calls for the demolition of quite a few historic houses, so what we're hoping to work out with the university is some way of saving those buildings," DeFord says.

Over the next 10 years, UT plans to build a sorority/fraternity complex on Terrace Avenue, the same street where in 1998 it tore down a historic house to build an 800-car garage. Scheurer says the university will find new homes for all its functions on Terrace Avenue.

UT's police department will relocate its headquarters to the 11th Street garage and compile "an overview of best practices" for garage security, according to Scheurer.

Students and staff expressed mixed reactions to the proposals, despite Student Government Association president Bradford Bricken's statement to the trustees that "we as a student body are very pumped up about the Master Plan."

Of 20 students polled, 12 say they support the Master Plan, six say they do not support it, and two are unsure. Supporters praise the plan for alleviating the dangers pedestrians face on campus, and for creating an internal transportation system. Detractors dislike the inconvenience of not being able to drive on Volunteer and Andy Holt Avenues, and fear difficulties moving in and out of dorms. Scheurer says traffic patterns may be changed for moving days.

Ray Mowery says reduced vehicular access may keep staff from patronizing Ray's Place, a snack shop on The Hill that he manages for the state Department of Human Services' division of Service for the Blind. "Without some amount of input in it, and without anyone to explain the implications of it, I have grave misgivings that it would adversely affect my business," he says.

Staff and students also voice concerns about what UT might remove to make way for new buildings. Mike McKinney, professor of geology and faculty advisor for Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville (SPEAK) says the plan might endanger SPEAK's native plant garden. He argues that in the past, UT has shown little regard either for cultivated plants or for historic sites, such as Cherokee burial mounds.

"It's amazing how college administrators think more buildings make a better university," McKinney says.

—Tamar Wilner

Vine Wars

Kudzu continues its devastating creep

My sister got the word in early September, and the word was scary.

Kudzu. Sneaking up the steep, wooded, ivy-covered slope on the east side of her wedge-shaped Fountain City yard.

It had been quietly strangling the trees behind a rental house over on the other side of Fountain Drive for several years, but somehow this summer, it stealthily jumped the street and started up the hill toward Jeanette's house, climbing and covering hemlock and hardwood along the way. I went over one afternoon to take a look, and there she was, armed with work gloves and sharp, pointy pruning things, swinging on a vine over Fountain Drive.

The vine snapped and she fell on her butt just as I parked my car. Someone less sensitive than myself would probably have guffawed, but her grim desperation made me stifle my reaction to a discreet giggle.

She'd been pulling and chopping and swinging for about a week, and seemed to have her small patch of devil weed pretty much under control. She'd been whacking it off at the knees, so to speak, and pulling the remaining vines down from the trees, as best she could, warily noting the ominous-looking, hairy seed pods.

Wondering how extensive the problem is, and whether her kudzu combat efforts were going to be enough, I checked with Knoxville Public Service Director Bob Whetsel, who confirmed our observation that this has indeed been a bad summer for kudzu.

"How big a pain is it?" I asked.

"Not as big as making sure the garbage gets picked up," he said, "But I've had a lot of conversations about it late this summer. Golly, it's just everywhere."

He checked off the areas in danger of being engulfed by the viney green plague: The First Creek Bike Trail, Holston Gasses, the Gay Street Bridge, Fort Dickerson Park, the downtown end of Riverside Drive next to the new condo development, Colonial Drive near Fountain City Elementary School.

But just because nobody alive today can remember a kudzu-free environment doesn't mean that things have always been this way. A look at the kudzu literature shows that the weed was introduced into the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Japan's exhibit included a beautiful garden featuring a broad-leafed vine with sweet-smelling purple flowers that caught the fancy of American gardeners, particularly in the Southeast where the mile-a-minute stuff was said to make an acceptable forage for cattle and goats.

During the Dust Bowl days, the U.S. Department of Agriculture promoted kudzu for ground cover and erosion control, and a well-known columnist for the Atlanta Constitution became a sort of Johnny Appleseed of kudzu, talking up the weed and even traveling across the Southeast proclaiming it the successor to cotton as "king" of the South and starting Kudzu Clubs dedicated to its cultivation. He was reportedly very disappointed when the federal government ended its kudzu love affair in 1953.

Dr. Stephen Garton of the University of Tennessee's Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Systems agrees it's been a good year not only for kudzu, but for any water-craving plant. He says Jeanettte has been taking the right approach to kudzu fighting. But come next spring, she will have to deal with the fact that it spreads not only by seed pods, but via underground "storage areas" that send out shoots in all directions and can only be eradicated with multiple applications of herbicide.

This dual means of reproduction—seeds and underground tubers—combine to make kudzu "a highly successful plant," Garton says.

Most likely Jeanette's kudzu was delivered by birds. "It's adapted to going through the bird's intestine—and it comes out almost encased in a little packet of fertilizer."

So the plant will go dormant during the winter, but, Freddie Krueger-like, it will be back.

"What your sister should to is wait till it next year and apply something like Round Up," Garton says, "two, maybe three or four times to get rid of it."

Our (relatively) cold East Tennessee winters give us a measure of kudzu relief, compared to Florida and south Georgia, where its growth is even more rampant, Garton says. And farther to the south, farmers have learned to live with it.

"Kudzu is a part of managed agriculture in South America, in areas that are heavily grazed. It's found a niche there where cattle, having nothing else, will eat it. Those are some lean and mean South American cattle, brought up on kudzu.

"In a sense, we've learned a lot from the kudzu lesson, when we introduce plants into this country that can impact the native landscapes...We have to be careful about what we plant—when we take a plant into cultivation, we remove it from its competitors, and so it has a chance to become a nuisance. There are lessons to be learned, and kudzu is an extreme and scary example of those lessons—The Plant That Consumed The Southeast."

Meanwhile, back in Fountain City, my sister is using all the weapons at her disposal to ensure that her kudzu patch doesn't become The Plant That Consumed Jeanette Bean's Yard. There is one method, however, that we can safely recommend against. No matter who says it's a good idea to hitch up kudzu vines to a 1990 Honda Accord, don't try it.

—Betty Bean

Music and Heritage Festival Rolls On

The first Knoxville Music and Heritage Festival concluded last weekend with several successful events. Friday night, 400-plus blues fans grooved on Market Square to the first-ever Knoxville all-star blues revue. Meanwhile, over at the Bijou, more than 200 people turned out for a concert rendition of Samuel Barber's libretto "Knoxville Summer 1915," an adaptation of the James Agee piece. The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra also performed a new work by local (and not just local) legend Donald Brown, based on the same prose.

Saturday, the first Knoxville Neighborhood Tournament pitted teams from five neighborhoods—Old Sevier, Old North Knoxville, Downtown, 4th and Gill, and Island Home—against each other in racing giant inflated balls around Market Square. The neighborhoods were judged on their handmade flags, on the block parties they had in the preceding weeks, on their neighborhood spirit, and finally on their ball-rolling skills. Added all together, it meant victory for 4th and Gill—Knoxville's first official Champion Neighborhood. The other teams all vowed revenge next year.

The day concluded with a six-hour literary pub crawl orchestrated by our own Scott McNutt and Jack Neely. Styled "a drinking club with a literary habit," the party responsible for the Agee Amble and the Suttree Stagger in recent months committed the ultimate outrage in plotting their latest outing during a major Vols home game. They kicked off the event at Manhattan's at 2 p.m., early in the third quarter of the Tennessee-Georgia game. But belying the truism that nobody will come to a downtown event during a Vols game, the crawl drew a full house of 70 people, some of them from as far away as Kentucky and, yes, Georgia. They heard a range of volunteers read, and in some cases, act short pieces from Knoxville's pantheon of influential writers: James Agee, Cormac McCarthy, Nikki Giovanni, David Madden, Joseph Wood Krutch, Frances Hodgson Burnett, George Washington Harris, and others.

All in all, a good time for everyone. Plans are already under way for next year's festival (or they will be, as soon as this year's organizers recover sufficiently).

October 11, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 41
© 2001 Metro Pulse