incoming (2005-44)

‘Chicken Little’ Calling

Help with Your Hands

Let the Fat Lady Run

WUTK Still Fits

Condemn at Risk!

‘Chicken Little’ Calling

Those events are different animals because we know what to do to avoid tremendous losses of life and economy resulting from each of them, but, as a society, we refuse to take prophylactic measures.

For decades, we environmental scientists have been heralding incontrovertible evidence about the consequences of building in flood zones and on barrier islands, the consequences of draining wetlands and building on them, building up exurbs in fire-prone areas, and the folly of building on top of fault lines, below sea level, and in front of the dunes. We’ve also provided alternative development models that allow economic growth while protecting life and taxpayer investments. 

What have our civic leaders done with our warnings? Ignored them. What’s worse, we’ve been shuffled off to the margins, labeled and berated as “partisans” with “agendas,” Chicken Littles, mad scientists all, and all to the incessant drum beats from the real partisans, the Rush Limbaughs and similar, who have done such a swell job of propagandizing the citizenry to despise us and mock our warnings. So, go ahead and rezone that property on the San Andreas Fault for an elementary school or a nuclear plant. Qué será, será. In California parlance, that’s “Whatever!”

In Knoxville, our own city councilors and county commissioners ignore their own published policies stating that our government will protect our ridge tops and historic sites from development, for economic, social, aesthetic and environmental reasons.  Nevertheless, they’ve given the go-ahead to massive amounts of ridge-top stripping and development in South Knoxville along Chapman’s Ridge, above the river and in full sight of downtown.  They’ve done so above all calls for them to honor their own published policies. Policies-schmolicies. The citizens are told that these are “not enforceable” policies. Damn the long-term consequences, there’s tax money to collect two years from now.

Well, these ridge-top developments as proposed will be folly, just as building back the parts of New Orleans that are below sea level will be folly. I would ask any of your readers to take a look at any of the myriad pictures of rubble left in Katrina’s wake and ask yourselves as you look at the piles of pick-up sticks as far as the eye can see, do you see anything partisan about this? Do you still think we scientists have some self-serving agenda at stake here?

If you say, yes, well, you’re right to some extent. It is self-serving to want to spend public monies as effectively as possible, but it is not partisan. Following the massive floods on the Mississippi River in 1993 (the year of the “storm of the century”), some bright civil servants decided it was best that the federal government buy out development rights along the flood zone of the damaged area because they knew it would flood again. Floods have occurred there since, but the economic losses have been minuscule by comparison to those suffered in ’93. 

Why we continue to allow our tax dollars to pay for flood damages on barrier islands and places with similar probabilities of repeated catastrophic flooding is beyond me. We can avoid loss of life and much of the catastrophic economic upheavals associated with these assured calamities, but for some reason, we don’t.

L.C. Lorraine


Help with Your Hands

The question of whether or not we should subsidize the coastal inhabitants’ insurance is irrelevant if we continue to gamble in their casinos, eat the seafood they catch and process, and play on their beaches. As long as we expect the benefits of what they provide, we should be expected to pay for it in some way. But it appears that the debates over responsibility both fiscal and moral is doing its job of keeping the coast empty for any future disasters.

Because that is exactly what it is—empty. The streets are filled only by contractors carrying away garbage and the occasional police car. There are no dogs barking. There are no working streetlights. The only real population reinhabiting the area is the roaches. 

While we debate who failed where, the people in many parts of coastal Mississippi are still living without running water and electricity. They cannot begin the rebuilding process until they see their insurance agent and/or FEMA, and many are still waiting six weeks out. While others debate who pays for what, they are still living in tents in their front yards, surrounded by rotting garbage, waiting for their FEMA trailers.

Even when they have seen the proper authorities, rebuilding can’t begin until their house (if salvageable) is “mucked” out, a process that requires every cabinet, doorframe, drywall, carpet, appliance, and memento to be removed. Not only does this require emotional strength and raw muscle, but it requires a strong stomach. Nothing smells worse than the inside of some of these homes. A face mask, a continual supply of cinnamon chewing gum and nose full of Vicks Vaporub proved as vital as good gloves and sturdy boots. This isn’t a project that many homeowners can take on alone.

I learned that what people really need after any disaster is not money but a group of volunteers. They need faith groups and service groups to come in and help them. And this is another absence—the volunteers. Perhaps they, too, are caught up in a religious bureaucracy, but during our four days there, we felt incredibly alone. With the exception of a huge group from Carson Newman and Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse, it appears that faith groups have also moved on to new issues and concerns.

Our group of 60 cleaned out 20 houses and a church in four days. If every congregation in Knoxville sent one work team of 15 people for a similar four-day period, that’s well over 400 families that could be helped. I challenge everyone to try to do that. Stop waiting for the bureaucracy to solve the problems and prevent future ones. Turn our attention to those out of our immediate circle. Find a group of like-minded friends or believers and head south. Lives are rebuilt by finding hope, not by cashing an insurance check.

Stephanie Richter


Let the Fat Lady Run

I do not like the word fat. I think the focus should be on regular physical activity and on making nutritious food choices. Leave weight completely out of the picture! My 95-year-old Grandma’s sub-5-foot, elegant stature holds twice my weight, making her categorized as obese. But she is not unhealthy. Her sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure readings are all normal hallmark measurements used by your medical doctor to connote overall health.

So, how did Grandma manage to live to be 95? I think one strong reason is she walked everywhere. A stroll to the neighborhood grocer in North Knoxville was her norm. Many recent studies have shown that those who are the fittest live the longest no matter what they weigh. So, let the fat lady run if she wants.

As motor vehicles on the roadways get larger and more numerous, I feel I am losing my opportunity to live to be 95 years old, like Grandma. For one, I can’t hop on a greenway to go visit my favorite stores in town. Instead, I may literally be forced to practice my “wheelchair days” early, driving in the front seat of an automobile. But I will keep trying.

Anne Victoria


WUTK Still Fits

Molly Kincaid got almost everything right. However, I must chide her for giving Benny Smith a mere “100-watt grin.” Spend any time around Benny, and you’ll clearly see a grin of at least 1,000 watts. His energy and enthusiasm for a station that, back in my day, might have had 1,000 (or fewer) loyal listeners was infectious. Benny made us amateur students feel like true professionals. He expected us to have fun, but he also made us understand the very real obligations of running a station.  

As a result of my time at WUTK, I gained an appreciation for a more diverse base of music than what I had gleaned from the narrow station formats back in my hometown. The “Alternative” music boom of the early ’90s provided an aural buffet for those with open minds and ears, and WUTK played a little bit of everything that was fresh and new.  

In fact, one of my favorite memories of my days at WUTK was being allowed to sit in on an interview with a new favorite band of mine, King’s X. I couldn’t afford to go to their show that night, but, thanks to Benny and Dusty (sorry, Dusty, I can’t remember your last name), I got to meet the band members in person, which was even better. Plus, I managed to get Doug, Ty, and Jerry to sign my ubiquitous jean jacket.

Yes, I still have that jacket, and, even though it no longer fits my lifestyle (or my body), 90.3 FM still fits me just fine.

Todd  Gable


Condemn at Risk!

Joe Acree

P.S. Mr. Joe, in future editorials, how about laying off arcane legalistic nebularisms, like: “the ambit of constitutional and statutory constraints on what constitutes a public purpose.”

You mean armpit?

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

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