incoming (2005-39)

Cultivate a Garden

On Pat Robertson

Filling a Louisiana Need

New Tax Makes No Sense

Cultivate a Garden

My wife and I recently moved from Philadelphia where we and thousands of other visitors spent many days enjoying the beautiful gardens at Longwood and Winterthur. A botanical garden in Knoxville could be an asset the entire community could get involved with, including gardening classes for local gardening enthusiasts, field trips for school children, “ask an expert” days for homeowners, educational opportunities for University of Tennessee agriculture students, and of course visiting and local tourists. 

Potential sites for the gardens include the old UT dairy farms across the Alcoa Highway Bridge or Fort Dickerson Park in South Knoxville.

As with the gardens in the northeast, a conservatory would allow for year-round activities. Initial funding could come from private and corporate donors (such as HGTV), city/county government, and UT. Perhaps the gardens could even become the “state botanical garden” of Tennessee and receive state funding. 

After the initial capital outlay, the gardens would likely be self-supporting with ticket sales and facility rentals (wedding receptions, etc.). 

Unlike many other proposals for Knoxville attractions, I believe a botanical garden would be a vibrant addition to our South Knoxville redevelopment.

Nicholas Anderson


On Pat Robertson

Dear Steve: Trust me, there are many of us out there who are shaken to the core against what Mr. Robertson said in support of assassinating world leaders. (And of course, it was interesting to see Rev. Robertson at first deny that he said it, then say he was sorry he said it.) 

I know that the folks in my church here at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) heard me go on a bit of a rant that Sunday following Robertson’s comments. Of course, since I am not anywhere close to being a recognized public voice of Christian leadership, let me quote from one who is. His name is Jim Wallis, author of the recent bestseller, God’s Politics: Why the Religious Right is Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.  

In response to Robertson’s comments, Wallis says, “Robertson is an embarrassment to the church and a danger to American politics. It’s time for Christian leaders of all stripes to call on Robertson not just to apologize but to retire.” 

While more conservative Christian leaders were less blunt in their assessment of Robertson’s ability to lead, I have heard nothing in support of what Robertson said. And, of course, from the more progressive side of Christian thinking, where people like me stand, we wondered why Robertson stayed in power after his accepting responsibility for God sparing his part of Virginia as a hurricane veered away from his Christian kingdom (of course, pity the folks north of Robertson who did get slammed. I guess God didn’t like them like he did Pat?)

All this to say: People of faith are always going to get embarrassed by public leaders of faith, whether they be Religious Right zealots on the far extremes, or far leftists who love the public eye too much to criticize the political left. However, please know that there are many Christians out there who agree with you, that Jesus left a pretty good idea of how to treat people. But then again, see where that got him?

Rev. Scott Rollins


Filling a Louisiana Need

In the face of disaster, upheaval, unimaginable pressure, and an almost total redefinition of the city’s self-concept, Baton Rougeians wanted escape, a brief evening (well, OK, when taking into account LSU fans’ unparalleled dedication to tailgating, an entire day) of familiarity in an otherwise overwhelming crisis. And nothing resonates with pure Baton Rouge-ness like a hard-hitting, helmet-popping, beer-soaked, profanity-laden barnburner against a top-ranked SEC opponent under the lights of Tiger Stadium. It’s not classy, but it’s true. Baton Rouge needed this game. 

The city may have mostly escaped the devastating winds and biblical floodwaters suffered by New Orleans and the rest of the demolished coast, but it too has had its core shaken, its identity imperiled.  Baton Rouge, especially in difficult times, is LSU football, and to let the season reach October without  a home game would have been simply unacceptable, regardless of the inconvenience.

LSU canceled one game and relocated another; it was time for the city’s heart to return to its rightful place in Death Valley. This was not about home field advantage or revenues; it was about restoring a city to itself and showing new residents what it means to live in Baton Rouge. The LSU administration’s insistence that the game not be moved to Knoxville stemmed from the people of Baton Rouge who wouldn’t see a penny in profits, but would instead gain what they needed most of all: normalcy.

Jessie Abernathy


New Tax Makes No Sense

From a government perspective, new housing is good news. A growing population means a larger tax base. People who buy homes tend to be productive citizens. And homebuilding is one of the driving forces in the American economy. If the economy is sluggish, the Federal Reserve Board usually cuts interest rates, in part to promote more homebuilding and buying. In this area, over a quarter of the cost of a new home goes to taxes, fees and permits—right down to the sales tax on the purchase of materials.

In his [Sept. 22] Insights column, Joe Sullivan endorses the idea of levying a tax on new houses, as if somehow these homes—as opposed to all the homes built over the last 200-plus years—need to contribute more. He cites the need to build more schools and says such a tax might collect more for Knox County than the recently approved wheel tax.

His reasons don’t add up. First, the wheel tax is the kind of dependable, ongoing revenue stream government needs: You pay it every year. A development tax is a one-time collection.

Second, the fastest-growing segment of our population doesn’t create a need for schools. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of school-aged children in Tennessee will actually drop by 2025, while the number of residents over the age of 65 will almost double. Suppose a couple finishes raising their kids, become empty nesters and move into a new, smaller house. They’d have to pay a higher price to help build schools. Meantime, a young family with kids buys their old house, adds kids to the school system, but pays nothing because the house was already there.

Finally, Mr. Sullivan makes it sound as if homebuilders oppose these taxes simply because they affect their industry. Actually the cost is ultimately passed along to the homebuyer, who usually finances the purchase. In the end, a $2,000 tax may cost the homeowner $5,000 or more over 30 years. It is the economy and the consumer who will suffer.

A development tax simply doesn’t make sense. If government needs more money (which many would be prepared to debate) it needs to find a tax source that is broad-based, fair and recurring. A development tax meets none of those criteria.

Mike Stevens, vice president

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