Bug in Our Ear
Slow News Week
The Sunday and Monday that Katrina arrived, anxious family members of evacuees in Knoxville who didn’t have cable TV were frustrated at the lack of TV coverage of the approach of the hurricane and its early aftermath. Unlike coverage of important breaking news like the O.J. Simpson chase, there was little or no preempting of regularly scheduled programming or special network coverage during the evacuation and for a day or so after the storm hit. When at least one local TV station began running special-report-style “News Alerts”—they turned out to be chirpy ads for East Tennessee Nissan.
Usually, coverage and emphasis dwindles after the initial shock, but last week, it only grew. That Sunday, the approach of Hurricane Katrina and original evacuation of New Orleans was a page-four wire story in the News Sentinel . Monday morning, as the hurricane hit, it was front page, with moderate-sized headlines. Tuesday the type in the headlines grew bigger. Wednesday, it was bigger still. Thursday, bigger still.
We can’t complain too much. We didn’t know any better, either. When we went to press with last week’s issue of Metro Pulse , the notion that New Orleans “missed the bullet” was still going around, and The AP was still talking about a body count of 55.
The Boomsday Paradox
We could never figure it out. One day a year tens of thousands of people are delivered downtown, and downtown gives them nothing to buy except from the vendors down on Volunteer Landing. Meanwhile, the restaurants and stores of suburban areas pack them in for Labor Day sales.
This year, when Boomsday was held on Sunday, it was a little different. Things were open on Sunday, because some things are always open on Sunday now, and they seemed to do pretty well. And on Monday, the first non-Boomsday Labor Day in years, several downtown businesses were actually open. Well, we counted four or five restaurants open in the Central Business District, which seemed like a lot for Labor Day—plus a few retail stores on Market Square. Some restaurants did better than their weekday average.
Option for Voters?
If the referendum passes, it could encourage Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and school board members to try letting the voters decide whether to provide more school funding here. A sales tax referendum, which Ragsdale and County Commissioners would have to initiate, wouldn’t come in 2006 when they are up for re-election. Nor would it be opportune to hold one in the midst of city elections in 2007. But a re-elected Mayor Bill Haslam might collaborate on such a move in 2008 as a solution to his looming second-term budget crunch. Under state law, the city would be entitled to half the added revenue collected inside its borders while the other half must go to schools.
Whirling to the Rescue
While some helicopters have been fired on by looters, the Knox County whirlybirds have been spared. A department source says the biggest danger to helicopter crews is the large number of private, law enforcement and military helicopters flying about the city. Prop wash from large helicopters and navigating in urban landscapes without collisions are the greatest dangers.
Hutchison and his seven crewmembers are sleeping on the hangar floor at International Airport, and the only food and water available is what they took with them, according to the sheriff’s website.
Meanwhile, at the request of the local sheriffs in Mississippi, cruisers have been sent from Knoxville, Knox County, Blount County and Hamblen County with two-person teams in each to help establish law and order.
Redemption by Jack Johnson
Bug in Our Ear