By Michael Covington
KNOXVILLE, TN (Jan 14, 2020) – County Mayor Glenn Jacobs held a special call meeting of Knox County Commission on Monday night. At issue was whether or not Knox County Schools should be moved to the TVA complex in a deal involving a 40-year Knox County lease with the federal government.
The County Mayor presented a compelling presentation that choked the life out of the opposition in the process. He rolled out lawyers, the Chamber of Commerce, the head of the University of Tennessee System, the county finance director and a whole host of others to bear witness to the viability of a deal that includes a $400,000 annual gain.
Commissioner Gill asked several questions but none that challenged the deal. Vice-Chairman Carringer posed no questions. Randy Smith posed a question simply for clarification of the ‘Real ID’ provision. Chairman Hugh Nystrom oversaw the presentation and posed no questions. John Schoonmaker had a question about the UT portion of the lease but didn’t lay a glove on the ‘Jacobs Plan’. Between them, Commissioners Anders and Dailey asked a single question thus signaling that they acquiesce in theory. Beeler appeared to be taking it all in.
Charlie Busler tried to mount an attack on the presenters and Jacobs by suggesting that Knox County taxpayer sovereignty was being compromised because visitors to the TVA complex would not have the freedom to roam the halls of the building. Jacobs countered that visitors aren’t allowed to do that now so what difference did it make. It wasn’t Busler’s best effort that was made worse by his microphone reverberating every time he spoke. Attendees in the gallery snickered at his frustration.
Noticeably, Justin Biggs preferred to sit with a seat between himself and fellow at-large commissioner Larsen Jay. That may be a good thing as Jay had gone on record late last year asserting that the Biggs led effort to pursue East Towne Mall as a viable consideration was ludicrous. Worth noting, the Mayor’s presentation included all viable alternatives to the TVA deal and East Towne Mall wasn’t mentioned. Looks like the costly study Biggs wanted is also dead.
When Commissioner Biggs was recognized to speak, he called on Superintendent Thomas to weigh in on the presentation. As many predicted, Thomas took a swig of that good ‘Tropical Punch’ flavored Kool-Aid and sang the praises of the plan as though he’d been with the program all along. Even Jacobs admitted that he was against the deal initially but got with the program.
Covington’s takeaway: In my humble opinion Jacobs knows how to win. He not only won the debate over the TVA contract but also choked the life out of the opposition in the process. This deal appears to be as good as it gets. But there’s something slightly nebulous about how perfect the deal is. And yes, one wonders if there is some hidden imperfection in what we’ve been sold but not one county commissioner effectively made that case; not one. Absent a better case from the opposition than I saw tonight – this is a deal waitin’ to be done.
Michael Covington is the moderator of the East Knoxville Community Meetings scheduled monthly at the Burlington Branch Library. You can make a comment below; or to [email protected].
“East Knoxville is the weft thread from which the tapestry, that is Knoxville, is woven.”