All posts by Victor Ashe

Siler needs GOP votes to win

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

While there is focus on the Richard Briggs challenge to state Sen. Stacey Campfield in the August Republican primary, there is also a Democratic candidate, Cheri Siler, an educator who lives in Fountain City.

Local Democrats say she is a credible candidate and a viable alternative to Campfield if he wins the primary. If Briggs wins, Siler has a much tougher contest in November as he does not have the Campfield negatives.

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When Frank Barnett met the queen

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Most everyone knows that our current governor, Bill Haslam, lives in West Knoxville on Sherwood Drive. However, very few people know that another governor (now retired) also lives in Knoxville less than a mile from the Haslam home. He is Frank Barnett, 80, former lieutenant governor and then governor of American Samoa (1975 to 1977) who lives on Orleans Drive in the Westlands.

Barnett attended Bearden Elementary School when he grew up on Lonas Drive and graduated from old Knoxville High. He graduated from the University of Tennessee and UT College of Law.

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Vodka as foreign policy

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Bob Gilbertson, owner of Bob’s Package Store on Winston Road in West Hills, has removed Russian vodka from his store in protest of the Russian occupation of Crimea. Gilbertson was interviewed on Fox News from the University of Tennessee’s Communications Building last week.

Gilbertson said he was tired of Russia being a bully in its region and undermining freedom. Wonder if any other package stores will join Gilbertson in his support of freedom?

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Greenway project drags

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The First Creek Greenway, announced by Mayor Rogero in her first budget in 2012, still has not been built two years later as she prepares her third budget. Perhaps no one at city hall is really pushing it, so little delays become long delays and people spend time on other issues.

New city press spokesperson Eric Vreeland says the greenway is actually ahead of schedule with a completion date of December 2016. Surely he jests, but actually not.

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Catching up with Chris Woodhull

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Former City Council member Chris Woodhull has moved to the Chattanooga area, where he lives in Lookout Mountain, Ga., although he maintains his domicile here in Knoxville.

Over coffee recently, Woodhull, 54, told this writer that he continues to host “Improvisations” on Friday nights for WUOT; he started doing it before he left council in December 2011. “I grew up with jazz,” he says. He comes to Knoxville weekly to tape the show on the UT campus.

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Pension surprises

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The five re-elected members of City Council are in their final four-year term; they’ll have served eight years by 2017, when their new term expires. They will be the next-to-last council members to receive a city pension as the new charter limits pensions to persons who worked 10 years or more. With term limits, no one will serve on the council or as mayor more than eight consecutive years.

This means Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis will be eligible to receive $153.28 a month upon concluding his current term as he will be 63 then. Brenda Palmer, Duane Grieve and Nick Della Volpe will be eligible for $171.04 a month as each will be 65 or older when their terms end in 2017.

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UT Athletic Board goes silent

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The UT Athletic Board is meeting behind closed doors after years of being open. The News Sentinel has gone to great lengths to criticize this change.

It is apparent that the university went to great lengths to ensure nothing comes out of the meeting that suggests remotely what is happening. No minutes are taken, and no reports are written. Clearly, they have had legal advice on how to avoid disclosure.

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Rogero to offer budget options

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Recently, Mayor Rogero held a budget retreat with City Council at the Convention Center, outlining budget issues as her staff saw them.

She said she would present a 6 percent cut in one city budget and another budget that would fund the increase for the city pensions, cost-of-living raises and infrastructure projects. The second budget would entail a city property-tax increase, but the mayor was silent on the specific amount.

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City tax hike looming?

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

More than one member of Knoxville City Council has told this writer they would not be surprised if Mayor Rogero recommended a property tax increase in her budget this year. My guess is that the mayor has not decided and would surely try to avoid a tax increase the year before she runs for her second and final term in office.

The one-time bonus of $8 million to the city from the state’s Hall income tax awhile back makes a tax hike harder to explain this year.

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