Letter: Explain Yourselves!

For those who haven't yet tuned in to the apparent march by Knoxville City Council to approve zoning for a new Tennova hospital on Middlebrook Pike, you might want to know that things are going as usual, which means that area residents and taxpayers are getting ready to have another developer-friendly, environmentally questionable building project forced upon us despite heavy public opposition.

Councilmen Nick Della Volpe, Daniel Brown, and Mark Campen: I'm mystified that each of you went on the record as supporting area residents and voted against rezoning the property at an earlier meeting but then refused to even vote on discussing 16 residents' written appeal of the approval of Tennova's use on review at the Jan. 21 City Council meeting. Changing your mind is certainly your prerogative, but I believe each of you owes residents and taxpayers an explanation of what swayed you—either individually or collectively—to do an overt, puzzling reversal on this controversial item that was on the meeting agenda.

Do you not realize or care that this looks highly suspicious, given the overall trajectory of this issue from inception to now? In the name of transparency—if not integrity—remember that you were elected to serve in the public interest. Please step up and shed some light on your thought processes with regard to the Tennova zoning matter.

At the same meeting, Councilman Duane Grieve spoke strongly in favor of the hospital, as he has previously. The proposed Tennova site is in his district, and he has been reminded repeatedly that constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to this unnecessary and speculative development. Nevertheless Grieve has steadfastly supported Tennova, whose parent company has now been acquired by a corporation that has demonstrated questionable practices. Councilman Grieve, please explain whose wishes are more important than those of your constituents, and state what your interest in this new development project is.

This isn't the first time the Knoxville City Council or Knox County Commission has ignored the wishes of area residents and taxpayers, and it certainly won't be the last if concerned citizens don't assert themselves. The Tennova measure is, unfortunately, just the latest example of the way Knoxville works. The good old boy system, political patronage, and the financial interests of developers too often trump the wishes of the common man when it comes to how our resources are allocated.

Over the long term, forcing questionable development projects on our public without adequate opportunity for comment, debate, and consensus is fostering the continued underachievement of this city and county, especially when it comes to the prudent development of our very limited historic zones, wildlife habitats, and other areas that beg for heightened due diligence.

To date, Knoxville City Council has ignored all opposing arguments, both legal and otherwise, and has refused to add any conditions to the approval of Tennova's use on review. As one frustrated resident stated, "With this non-vote, our City Council and mayor have pissed off three parts of town in less than a year. East Knoxville, watch your back!"

Is this the reputation you want, City Council? Or is it the reputation you have earned and continue to cement with actions such as squelching debate on a questionable new hospital?

Is it too much to ask that those who we voted into office listen to the voices of the citizens whom they were elected to represent rather than the voices in their heads—whether those voices be developers, corporate entities, or cronies who might stand to benefit from an unneeded, unwanted project?

To learn more about developments to date with the proposed new Tennova hospital, visit Friends of Middlebrook on Facebook. Better yet, contact your City Council representative today to voice your opposition and request an explanation of his or her position on the matter.

Alesa Grant