Sidewalk issue won’t go away

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The fate of the much-publicized effort for a new sidewalk in West Hills along Sheffield from Wesley Road over to Vanosdale is not good for this year’s city budget as both Mayor Rogero and Vice Mayor Duane Grieve (who represents West Hills) are not supporting its inclusion in the budget.

This is a case where term limits work against the voters who no longer have a voice in the political future of Grieve or Rogero. They leave office respectively in 2017 and 2019.

Both say there are higher needs for other sidewalks. What they do not say is that this special list is prepared by city bureaucrats who use an inflexible system that is often flawed. Rogero and Grieve seem unwilling to review or revise this list.

For example, one sidewalk ahead of Sheffield (which Grieve cites) is the already existing sidewalk along Kingston Pike from Concord Street to Western Plaza (where this writer lives) as a higher need with a $2 million cost.

This is a flimsy excuse for inaction since that sidewalk has been there over 55 years and does not need to be rebuilt, let alone for $2 million plus. Kingston Pike residents are not seeking a new sidewalk.

The West Hills residents are educated, intelligent and determined citizens. Council member George Wallace has helped himself with these residents by sending the mayor a letter urging consideration of it. Former Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis has said he favors money to design it. Rogero was asked by letter in October 2015 to back the sidewalk, but she never personally answered the letter.

Grieve upset some constituents when he commended council member Nick Della Volpe by email for his comments critical of the Sheffield sidewalk campaign in a reply to state Rep. Martin Daniel’s email of support. Grieve had not intended for his email to become public, but it did.

My guess is that this will go into the City Council elections next year when one or more candidates to replace Grieve make sidewalks and Sheffield Drive in particular his/her issue. That candidate may also outline a plan for a serious citywide effort to build sidewalks, a need not supported adequately in the mayor’s budget.

The city really does not have a meaningful plan to resolve the requests for 135 miles of sidewalks. At the low rate the city is funding new sidewalks, it would be 75 years before this list was turned into reality. A future mayoral candidate, who is serious, may advocate creating a sidewalk building program similar to the road paving program this writer started in 1988 after voters approved a sales tax hike.

Now some 42 or more miles a year are repaved annually (divided equally among the six council districts so all parts of Knoxville are treated alike). Every mayor following me has continued this program and even increased it from time to time. Sidewalks are urgently needed across the city at a time when many neighborhoods feel more funding goes to downtown Knoxville and the questionable Cumberland Avenue construction, which has more than a year to go.

■  Knox County Commission is likely to have at least two women serving after the Aug. 4 election. Amy Broyles, the commission’s only female, will be replaced by a woman as both candidates for her seat are female. The Democratic candidate for the Sam McKenzie seat is Evelyn Gill.

That district tilts toward the Democrats although those precincts that are largely African American voted for Rick Staples over Gill in the March primary. Gill carried the precincts that were mostly white and also supporting Bernie Sanders for president by a large margin. The Republican candidate, Michael Covington, has yet to demonstrate he can win over Democrats in this campaign.

Democrat Marleen Davis is running a credible race against Hugh Nystrom in District 4, but she is running in an overwhelmingly GOP district and Nystrom is a very popular candidate without political scars.

■  FedEx CEO Fred Smith spoke at the Haslam Business School graduation on Friday, May 13. Smith also spoke over 14 years ago in Knoxville at the dedication of Ruggles Field at Lakeshore Park off Lyons View Pike.

Also this past weekend, state Econimic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd spoke at the UT graduation for the College of Engineering, and First Lady Crissy Haslam gave the graduation address the same day to the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.

■  Clinton (county seat of Anderson County) may have its own Member of Congress after November as Trey Hollingsworth, 32, son of Joe Hollingsworth, was nominated May 3 with 34 percent of the vote in the Indiana GOP Primary for Congress after moving there in September 2015.

His father has been an active Democrat in Tennessee. He spent $1.7 million of his and his father’s money to defeat two state senators and the state attorney general. He relied more on media than personal appearances where he knew few voters personally.

■  Almost a year after their terms expired on June 30, 2015, Mayor Rogero has replaced three MPC commissioners including vice chair Bart Carey, former Vice Mayor Jack Sharp and Michael Kane.

The three new members include a former City Council member, Charlie Thomas, along with Gayle Bustin and Pat Phillips. They must be approved by the state Local Government Planning Commission in Nashville, which is almost automatic. They will serve the remaining time in the normal four-year term had they been appointed in July 2015, which is now three years and one month. Thomas is a strong advocate of greenways.

Rogero has declined to explain why it took her 11 months to name these three persons to MPC. This column mentioned it on three occasions including three weeks ago.

■  This column erred when it stated UT-K Provost Susan Martin had a five-year term. She is an at-will employee. Her resignation as provost takes effect Aug. 1, and she will return to teaching as a professor of classics on Jan. 1, 2017, after a sabbatical.

■  Over 100 individuals have now applied to replace Margie Nichols as vice chancellor for communications at UTK.

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