General Motors executives have scheduled a June retreat at the Blackberry Farm resort in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and it has local limo companies scrambling. Seems the company needs about 40 vehicles, but they all have to be GM products—so no Lincoln Town cars and no Crown Victorias, often used as cars for hire. The vehicles of choice are likely to be Suburbans.
Local drivers say that in the age of YouTube, car executives can't afford to be seen using other vehicles. When other car companies have been in the area for meetings they make the same request.
We wonder if Blackberry Farm will need camouflage covers for its Lexus fleet.
There may be an effort from County Commissioners to install a Civil Service system for county employees to prevent political patronage and nepotism. One commissioner has asked the City of Knoxville Civil Service department for information and another has asked the county law department to research the legality and the process of putting it in.
The commissioners are not acting in concert, but were contacted independently by local citizens who favor the concept. The theory is that Civil Service will bring an end to political hiring and firing and end nepotism within county departments.
The city civil service department has sent a packet of information to County Commissioner Elaine Davis, at her request, for use as a model.
Commissioner Victoria DeFreese has asked the county law department to research the issue and bring forward an ordinance for consideration by the Commission agenda committee.
Can You Spare $5,000?
The Knox Charter Petition drive is gearing up after being rebuffed by County Commission. A fund-raising letter and an eight-page analysis of the amendments went out in mid-May asking for a $5,000 donation.
The letter points out there are no limits on contributions for issue elections and there is no bar to corporate contributions. It also provides arguments for—and against—each of the charter proposals.
The amendments, if passed, would leave the county-wide offices of mayor, sheriff and property assessor. Other offices would be appointed by the mayor and approved by County Commission and commission would be able to remove an officer by a two-thirds vote. The analysis stresses these appointments would be made by the next mayor and that current Mayor Mike Ragsdale is term-limited. The analysis describes the Trustee, County Clerk and Register of Deeds as "frontier era" offices unneeded for modern government.
The End of an Experiment
When Larry Frank became the new library director in 2003, one of his most obvious, and surprising, innovations at the main Lawson McGhee Library, on Church Street, was a library cafe. Named for legendary library director Mary Utopia Rothrock, who probably wouldn't have approved of it, the cafe offered Coke, coffee, and snack machines and a few cafe tables. Enabling it was a suspension of the once sacrosanct and universally understood rules about eating and drinking in the library.
But now it's all over. The official word is that they needed the space for the Friends of the Library bookstore, and that does seem a worthy addition—a used-book shop in a part of town that lacks one, and it's all for a good cause. But some librarians remark that a second motivation for ditching the cafe was that it had become a sort of all-day salon and dormitory for hoboes. The change came with a clean sweep: Food and drink is no longer allowed in the library.