Last Friday's Knox County mayoral debate was a mostly humdrum affair, with the top-billed Republican primary contenders reiterating their strengths (Tim Hutchison: executive experience; Tim Burchett: isn't Tim Hutchison) and taking just a few veiled swipes at each other (Burchett: we don't need public officials who are always in court over one thing or another; Hutchison: well, I don't know how they do things in Nashville, but...).
About two-thirds of the crowd cleared out before Democrats Ezra Maize and Michael McBath took the stage, to repeat their own familiar mantras. But the answers to one question did provide at least one novel perspective. Asked about the role of the arts in the local economy, Burchett and Hutchison made the usual Republican noises about how the arts are great but not really a place to spend public dollars, and McBath repeated his call for lowering the entertainment tax. Maize, however, took a conceptual step sideways. Noting that he didn't want to reinvent the wheel, he said, "All of us know that Pigeon Forge is right down the street, where a lot of the arts, artsy things are available and take place. People drive right through here to Pigeon Forge ... and that's where a lot of the arts events take place."
He has a point. Take this weekend, for example. Pigeon Forge has the Black Bear Jamboree Dinner and Show, the Magic Beyond Belief Theater, and of course the Dixie Stampede. In Knoxville? Some festival named after an Italian guy.