Knoxville in Quality of Life Quotient

In terms of crime,

Knoxville

was ranked 229th out of the 362 cities

considered

, leaving us languishing in the bottom 40 percent of the country. We fared even worse when considering traffic—240th out of 362, with fully two-thirds of cities studied faring better than

Knoxville

. Two other areas not mentioned by Ms. Mallernee also saw

Knoxville

fail to shine. The quality of our public schools found us listed in the lower half of the country. Worse still, when Expansion Management looked at what they termed "spouse employment" —essentially, the chances of both spouses finding acceptable jobs in a particular city—

Knoxville

only just missed landing in the bottom 20 percent of all cities surveyed!

so

essay made my friend Vicki laugh

I asked him about the story that had caused some to walk out, wondering if he had done it to deliberately stir a Southern crowd a bit,

the

Not So Fast, MP !

In her recent article "We Like to Call It Home" (March 24), Ellen Mallernee congratulated Knoxville on its inclusion "among 50 other five-star cities" in the seventh annual Quality of Life Quotient published by Expansion Management magazine. A quote attributed to Amy Nolan (spokesperson for Mayor Haslam) suggested that, thanks to the article Knoxville, had been "put...on the radar screen" for companies looking to relocate or expand their businesses.

I have to wonder whether Ms. Mallernee actually visited the magazine's website, whose address she mangled so thoroughly in the article? The website can actually be found at www.expansionmanagement.com , and a quick perusal of its contents shows Knoxville in a rather less attractive light. Firstly, the list did not include only 50 five-star cities; had it done so then Knoxville would have failed to make the list by some distance. Expansion Management awarded five-star ratings to the top 20 percent of the 362 "Metropolitan Statistical Areas" it considered. This resulted in a total of 72 five-star cities. In terms of total points scored (less points being better), Knoxville was in 65th place overall—still a commendable result at first glance, I'll agree.

Ms. Mallernee noted that the magazine cited "low crime rates, affordable housing, education and traffic" as reasons for Knoxville's inclusion. Unfortunately, looking at the data shows otherwise. Knoxville's position was swayed largely by our relatively low property costs and good standard of living (where the city brought home 30th and 33rd place finishes respectively).

In terms of crime, Knoxville was ranked 229th out of the 362 cities

considered, leaving us languishing in the bottom 40 percent of the country. We fared even worse when considering traffic—240th out of 362, with fully two-thirds of cities studied faring better than Knoxville. Two other areas not mentioned by Ms. Mallernee also saw Knoxville fail to shine. The quality of our public schools found us listed in the lower half of the country. Worse still, when Expansion Management looked at what they termed "spouse employment" —essentially, the chances of both spouses finding acceptable jobs in a particular city—Knoxville only just missed landing in the bottom 20 percent of all cities surveyed!

Ms. Mallernee concluded her article by noting that, although both Bristol and Johnson City earned top-10 mentions, Knoxville was the only Tennessee city to receive a five-star rating. This may be true, but let's not rest on our laurels (and let's not waste time knocking the achievements of other Tennessee cities that technically beat us in at least one area.). We cannot gloss over the fact that our city —fine as it may be in many aspects—has significant problems with crime, traffic, education and employment. We simply must fix those problems if we want to make a noticeable echo on the radar screens of companies looking to expand or relocate.

Losing It with Sedaris

David Sedaris is a valuable man. The author spoke at the Tennessee Theatre last week. He picked out a 17 year-old girl to introduce him and was amazed at how coolly she did it. I thought it was a gag, that she was a plant. But his astonishment said otherwise. Anyone who does something so odd as to pick a complete stranger to introduce him is immediately likable; we all love it when someone does something unusual that's fun. It endeared Mr. Sedaris to the audience from the outset.

He read several stories, including a very touching one about travel that wound up as a clever homage/bitch session regarding [his partner] Hugh. The essay made my friend Vicki laugh so hard I was afraid she'd have an old-fashioned attack of the vapors.

Then he read a story about a cab driver in New York. It was funny too, the audience rolling with laughter. But when Mr. Sedaris talked about a certain magazine his sister Amy had found, some people in the audience walked out. Now, having lived around here so long, I knew the subject matter would trigger a knee-jerk animosity in some. I expected a few to walk when he talked about what the girls did with the horse.

I hung around after and got my first edition copy of Barrel Fever , signed by Mr. Sedaris. He was friendly and at ease, a major change from the man at the podium. Though his voice had sounded casual when he'd been speaking earlier, he had nevertheless seemed nervous; eyes almost always on his notes, grinning in a reflexive way during applause, as though he were somehow embarrassed by the approbation.

I asked him about the story that had caused some to walk out, wondering if he had done it to deliberately stir a Southern crowd a bit, the impish act of a reluctant speaker. But no, Mr. Sedaris had been genuinely puzzled by people leaving. He had just thought it was funny, this magazine of nonsensical sex, and wanted to share the joke.

That's when I realized that I'd missed the joke as well. Gotten caught up in the unusual frankness of it and missed the punch line in the process—too embarrassed about those leaving the theater to relax and enjoy the humor that had been Mr. Sedaris' sole intent that I'd experienced my own knee-jerk reaction, my own version of walking out—I'd just done it in my head rather than with my feet.

Let's hope we get more chances to hear kind-hearted, open-minded people like Mr. Sedaris speak. I doubt I'm the only one who benefits from their example.

© 2005 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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