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Seven Days

Thursday, Nov. 22
In a gesture of Thanksgiving, Sheriff Tim Hutchison insists that the city of Knoxville pay $25 to the county for each person fingerprinted by the Sheriff's Department following a city arrest. That's $5 too much. The sheriff charges the general public only $10 for fingerprinting service without regard to where they live. So under the time-honored system of city-county double taxation for inside-Knoxville citizens, the city fee should be only $20. Do the math, Tim.

Friday, Nov. 23
A dispute erupts in Anderson County over whether judges are carrying guns in their courtrooms. Given the history of virulent contention within the justice establishment itself in that county, who'd blame them?
It's revealed that John Jay Hooker has filed suit in Nashville claiming something or other having to do with his never having been elected governor or senator or to any other substantial office of public trust. Stop yawning and pass the chicken.

Saturday, Nov. 24
Vanderbilt U. Who leaves Knoxville in a huff, vowing once more to find a football coach who can ... well ... you know.

Monday, Nov. 26
Another airline adds flights to Knoxville. What gives? Well, if people have to fly, why not here? We are a pretty low-priority target for terrorists—except those from Gainesville, and no one has suggested adding flights from Florida.

Tuesday, Nov. 27
Lead News-Sentinel story: Temperatures due to drop. Source: the National Weather Service. What, you mean it gets colder in wintertime?

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:
The BellSouth building on the corner of Broadway and Depot Street is never going to make anyone's list of Knoxville's most beautiful structures. Frankly, those blank windowless walls kind of give us the willies—what do they do in there? But if you look closely enough (which evidently not many people do, judging from the paucity of responses), you'll see that even that stony edifice has its touches of grace. Specifically, these carvings along the Broadway side of the building, across the street from the venerable Ray's Market. First (and, ahem, only) correct answer came from Elisanne MacHardy Mead of Knoxville, who says, "I've admired these works for months, as well as those on the adjacent building." For her admiration, Elisanne wins a decorative egg-shaped glass candle holder, just in time for the holidays. Candle included! Courtesy of the fine folks at Grey Goose Vodka.

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

Monday Dec. 3
5 p.m.
Andrew Johnson Bldg., 1st Floor
912 S. Gay St.
Work session
Wednesday Dec. 5
5 p.m.
City County Bldg., Large Assembly Room
400 Main Ave.
Regular monthly meeting.


Homeland Insecurity

For women's health clinics, anthrax threats are nothing new

The threat of anthrax is nothing new to Knoxville area reproductive health and abortion clinics, nor have those facilities escaped the current scare.

Since October, three area clinics have received anthrax hoaxes by mail and Federal Express. Each facility dealt with the threats using protocols they established several years ago. In early October, the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health received an envelope in the mail containing white powder that later tested negative for anthrax, co-director Corinne Rovetti says.

"We had just revisited the whole anthrax policy that morning, so it was very fresh in our minds," Rovetti recalls.

The letter was worded identically to missives received by the Knoxville and Oak Ridge Planned Parenthood centers, which do not offer abortion services. It read, "You've been exposed to anthrax. We're going to kill you all," and was signed by "The Army of God." The envelope bore the return address of the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Marshal's office.

Two hundred seventy-five other women's clinics in 17 states east of the Mississippi and the District of Columbia received the same letter, says Ann Glazier, director of the security group for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She says most envelopes were postmarked Oct. 11 or 12.

Rovetti says the KCRH employee who opened the letter promptly washed her hands, put the envelope in a plastic bag, and called the FBI and local police. Police arrived first, followed by the FBI and an Office of Hazardous Materials Safety (HAZMAT) team. The room where the employee opened the letter was sealed off, and clinic workers evacuated the facility's downstairs offices.

Five minutes after handling the letter, the clinic received a fax alert informing workers not to open letters addressed from the Secret Service and Marshal's Office. Rovetti describes this moment as the only time the employee lost her composure.

"She stood there shaking, saying, 'When did this come?'" Rovetti says.

The employee began Cipro treatment, which she discontinued when lab tests for anthrax came back negative one or two days later. Anthrax threats aren't new to the Center, Rovetti says. The facility received an anthrax-hoax letter in 1998.

Glazier says Planned Parenthood clinics also were sent their first anthrax threats in 1998, and crafted an anthrax-specific protocol in 1999. Planned Parenthood clinics received about 30 anthrax hoax letters in 1999 and 2000. This year abortion clinic anthrax scares have totaled more than 500.

"It's a tremendous jump and it's causing us great concern," Glazier says.

On Nov. 8, the Oak Ridge Planned Parenthood received a Federal Express package bearing Glazier's name and return address. The parcel contained a white powder that later tested negative for anthrax, and a letter reading, "You didn't believe us the first time. Why don't you take this home to your children?" The FedEx letter was also signed "The Army of God."

Planned Parenthood created procedures to deal with suspicious packages in the early 1990s, according to Jeff Teague, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee. The protocol was designed to handle anthrax, other biochemical threats, and bombs.

Oak Ridge clinic workers chose not to take Cipro because antibiotics can lose effectiveness when used over extended periods of time.

The Oak Ridge FedEx was part of 278 FedExes dropped to Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Federation (NAF) clinics on Nov. 7, Glazier says. Each package bore either a Planned Parenthood or NAF account number. She estimates that 132 packages were delivered and opened before the Federation put out an alert and Federal Express stopped deliveries on the parcels. All opened packages seemed identical, Glazier says.

"They all appear to be sent by the same individual," says Scott Nowinski, FBI special agent and spokesperson for the Knoxville FBI field office. He says the FBI is examining whether the same individual sent both the letters and the FedExes. He notes the challenge of identifying mail hoax suspects.

"If people are careful when they're mailing things it's difficult to catch them," he says.

Glazier says Planned Parenthood's experience has helped the nation deal with anthrax threats.

"The knowledge Planned Parenthood has gained about domestic terrorism has certainly helped law enforcement tremendously," she says. She argues that many Americans have difficulty understanding the idea of domestic terrorism, but the public and government must seriously address domestic threats. She says Planned Parenthood has lobbied Congress for years to recognize violent abortion opponents as terrorists.

Women's health workers have worried that Attorney General John Ashcroft would derail the judicial task force set up under President Clinton to address terrorist threats to clinics, Rovetti says. But she says she feels encouraged that the U.S. Marshal's Office and Department of Justice have met with leaders of the National Abortion Federation to discuss domestic terrorism issues.

She says she hopes the recent anthrax threats to women's health centers, government and the media will focus public attention on the dangers abortion clinics face in fulfilling their mission.

"It is a reminder of the stresses we regularly live under," she says.

—Tamar Wilner

A Gay Old Street

Should Gay Street have historic protection?

Are you ready for "historic Gay Street"? The Metropolitan Planning Commission at its November meeting unanimously passed a resolution authorizing MPC staff to conduct a feasibility study for an H-1 Historic Overlay or NC-1 Conservation Overlay for Gay Street between Clinch and Jackson Avenues. Commissioner Mike Edwards requested the resolution. Which might seem odd, considering that Edwards is a developer by trade—chief operating officer of the massive Turkey Creek development in far West Knoxville—as well as a likely mayoral candidate. Recent adoption of an NC-1 Conservation District in Fort Sanders launched a firestorm of contention over property rights. Developers tend to shy away from anything they think will limit their options for a piece of property. So touting historic zoning might, at first, seem like political suicide. But according to Edwards, avoiding tension and controversy was his main motivation.

"Downtown is small," Edwards explains. "And within that small area much of it is taken up by areas not available for development: government offices, churches, relatively new development that's already occurred. When you look at the balance, a significant proportion appears to be of historical significance." With downtown redevelopment such a hot-button issue, he felt the timing was right. "It is a lot better," says Edwards, "to have the conversation before something happens rather than when we're in the middle of it."

It's a lesson that was, perhaps, hard learned. As the former head of the Public Building Authority, Edwards was involved in several major downtown projects that drew criticism from preservationists. From Justice Center plans that called for demolition of the landmark S&W Cafeteria to the "unobtrusive glass covering" that figured into early redevelopment proposals for Market Square, Edwards knows that tempers flair and public passions are stirred when development collides with history. Nor would history be the only thing protected by "having the conversation now." Edwards believes developers could benefit as well. "I hate this business of changing the rules of the game once someone's in the middle of it," he says, reflecting in part on the now defunct Worsham Watkins plan for downtown redevelopment that was launched during his tenure at PBA.

For the moment, MPC is merely conducting a study. But according to MPC Executive Director Norman Whitaker, the information gathered could be the first step towards the adoption of an actual zoning overlay. That, however, is outside of MPC's authority. "The most obvious people to initiate it would be the property owners," says Whitaker. "But the city government also has the authority." Such a move, says Whitaker, might very well be in the city administration's interest. The city department of development's newly adopted downtown residential incentives are highly dependent upon federal tax credits available to restoration projects within National Register historic districts.

"That historic register status is very vital from a financial standpoint," says Whitaker—and nearly all the proposed overlay study area is currently listed on the National Register. But the National Register listing only provides incentives such as tax credits. There are no restrictive safeguards or protective zoning, which an H-1 or NC-1 overlay could provide. As Whitaker explains it, "once a [National Register] district is established, it isn't a guarantee that it'll always be there. Too much demolition or insensitive rehab and you could lose it. So there's a public interest there beyond just aesthetics."

In many ways, tax credits and overlay could work together as both carrot and stick. But, despite Edwards' desire to avoid a flap, the thought of a "stick" doesn't necessarily sit well with some downtown redevelopment players—even those who've made a habit of munching on the carrots. Buzz Goss, architect on both the Emporium and Sterchi projects that are spearheading the city's new residential incentives program, has done numerous tax-credit preservation projects. Yet he's wary of the thought of an overlay.

"I agree that we need to be proactive and some sort of overlay is appropriate," says Goss. "But I just want to be careful about how we go about it. Doing this NC-1 or H-1 without a comprehensive view of downtown is possibly setting yourself up for trouble down the road." Adding that tax credit projects are already subject to review at the state and federal level, Goss worries that local requirements will complicate the process. "If it starts muddling the process and adding another layer of bureaucracy," Goss speculates, "I don't think it'd be beneficial at all. [Downtown redevelopment] is already difficult enough as is." He also fears an overlay could become bogged down in aesthetics and design details. Whitaker feels that fear is unfounded, pointing out that "anyone who complies with the requirements for a tax credit deal would be meeting or exceeding the standards that go with an H-1."

Instead of an overlay, Goss favors a less restrictive but more comprehensive master plan for all of downtown. "How a building should define the street, the public spaces, sidewalks and such—a master plan would be addressing those kinds of issues," says Goss.

—Matt Edens

November 29, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 48
© 2001 Metro Pulse