ear (2006-49)

Lutherans On the March

O Tannenbaum

What’s on Cable?

Here Come De Judge

What’s Fair?

Bug in Our Ear

Lutherans On the March

The Wheel Ranch, on Fifth between Broadway and North Gay, has been, for about 20 years, our favorite downtown eyesore. But the owner is moving south, to do business at the old bowling alley on Chapman Highway.

The Lutherans won’t wait around. “Monday, we’re taking all that down,” Pastor Steve Misenheimer says. “The chain-link fence, the garbage signage—the only thing left standing will be the Beaman Building.”

That building, currently owned by Gene Monday , is also in the church’s sights. Misenheimer says the church also has tentative agreements with Monday to obtain the handsome circa 1920 apartment building facing North Gay. He says they hope to use the building for community-outreach programs, but may also rent to street-level businesses. If all goes according to plan, the eight old apartments upstairs will be refurbished to house both visitors—the church sponsors an urban exchange with kids around the country—and UT students associated with the Lutheran center there.

As for the Wheel Ranch property, Misenheimer says the church has plans to “develop it into a nicely landscaped area, with parking and period lighting—make it attractive as possible.” The church has been active in the complicated neighborhood of both upscale residences and homeless shelters.

O Tannenbaum

However, Public Building Authority horticulturist Chris Gallop assures us it’s not even sick. “It’s just dormant,” he says.  It’s an Asian tree known as a Dawn Redwood, which he describes as a “deciduous evergreen,” perhaps the duckbilled platypus of Christmas trees. It’ll turn green again in the spring. And it’s bigger every year. He says they’re known to grow up to 100 feet; it may someday rival the steeple at nearby First Baptist.

Every year, Gallop says, people say, “When are you going to cut that tree down?” He laughs. Not this year, anyway.

What’s on Cable?

We really think these are just vicious rumors. We don’t believe there could have been such a lapse in local government oversight. But we also suspect no one but the cable companies care, unless of course it were to be discovered that commissioners were getting free cable. Now, that would be news. But unregulated monopolies? Surely you jest.

Here Come De Judge

Thomas was the only Democrat in countywide elective office in Blount County. Local attorneys see the appointment as bittersweet. They think Thomas will be a worthy replacement for Wade, but they will miss him on the local bench.

What’s Fair?

But rather than have a permanent deduction, which matches other states’ residents’ ability to deduct state income taxes, the original bill had a sunset provision this year and the only thing on the table is to give it a two-year extension. Then it expires again.

How can there be such uncertainty, given that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is from a no-income tax state and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is from a no-income tax state (Nevada)? You would think the deduction could be made a permanent part of the tax code. (Not to mention that President Bush is from the no-income tax state of Texas.) So much for the clout of the government’s leadership.

The problem has been the popularity of the bill among the senators. Instead of just giving parity with state income taxes elsewhere, the bill has constantly been lit up like a Christmas tree with other tax proposals. The thinking has been: Why not load this baby up with some amendments to make various K Street lobbyists happy? That has weighted down a simple bill and made it a political pawn.

It should also be remembered that the fairness of sales-tax deductibility is a two-edged issue, with sales taxes being regressive, affecting low-income people more than others. The deduction blunts the impetus for tax reform that would include a more progressive graduated income tax, and taking it away should make more Tennesseans amenable to reform. Either way, a lot of Tennesseans are eager to see how it turns out.


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