State Sen. Doug Overbey, who is looking at a 2018 race for governor, says he “has strong reservations” on philosophical grounds over indexing the proposed gas tax increase without legislative action as recommended by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Indexing gas to the Consumer Price Index would place a gas tax increase on automatic pilot. This appears contrary to what most principled conservative lawmakers would favor in terms of voting each time a tax increases. It appears this provision will be dropped if the gas tax has a chance to pass.
The first week of February, I visited Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,300 miles east of Chile, which owns the island. It had been on my bucket list for years. Two other Knoxvillians who have previously visited Easter Island are Will Skelton, active greenways advocate and retired attorney, and Jeff Chapman, well respected director of the McClung Museum on the UT Knoxville campus.
Getting there is part of the adventure, as one flies to Santiago, the capital of Chile, overnight and then flies five hours west over the Pacific to the island, which is partway to Australia from Chile. There are daily flights to the island from Santiago. Otherwise, one goes by ship, and they are infrequent.
Those who had worried that the first female chancellor at UTK, Beverly Davenport, would be serious about diversity can rest easy based on her appointments to the first significant committee she named – the search committee for the new athletic director to replace Dave Hart. She shredded diversity with her six appointments.
The six include only one woman and no African-Americans, but two male trustees and the brother of a third trustee who is the chair of the UT board. Two are neighbors who live three houses apart on Lyons View Pike in West Knoxville on either side of the neglected historic UT-owned Williams House. The woman is Donna Thomas, who works for Hart and will help choose the person she will be working for.
City Council member and former mayor Daniel Brown turns 71 on Christmas Day. Brown, the first black mayor of Knoxville, might run for state representative against Rick Staples in 2018 in the Democratic primary. Staples was chosen as the Democratic nominee by 14 people without a primary and prevailed Nov. 8 over former state Rep. Pete Drew, who ran as an independent.
Staples needs to win a seriously competitive race to consolidate his political standing.
Beverly Davenport, likely to be approved as UT Knoxville chancellor by the UT Board of Trustees in a week, certainly knows how to cut herself a great salary deal at $585,000 a year plus $20,000 in annual housing allowance plus $20,000 in expenses plus $87,775 in annual bonus (likely to be approved, too) for a total package of $712,775 a year if it all comes together.
Some suggest she is taking a pay cut as it is less than the $615,000 she is making as interim president of the University of Cincinnati, but that is a different position from the Knoxville job, and while UT did not reveal what she made as provost, a quick check on Google shows that her salary was $200,000 less than her salary as interim president at UC. In other words, she really got a huge pay raise by coming to UTK.