ear (2007-46)

Ear to the Ground

Coming Out Party?

Former Gov. Don Sundquist has been little-seen since leaving office and moving into his home in Townsend. Monday night he addressed the West Knoxville Republican Club. Club members had called around to get a good crowd and the meeting room overflowed with guests, many of them political candidates.

Sundquist took questions and urged the crowd to ask him anything, saying it wouldnâ’t hurt his feelings. But there were no critical comments; the former governor who angered many in his party because of his support for a state income tax got a very warm reception and two standing ovations. Sundquist said he thinks former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson will do well in the presidential race: â“He wears well. The more people get to know him the better they will like him.â”

Sundquist said he and wife Martha enjoy living in peaceful Townsend where â“things start slow and taper off.â” Chad Tindell, who got his start in politics as a driver for Martha Sundquist during the 1994 campaign, said the former governor looks â“10 years youngerâ” than when he left office.

City Hall Neighbor

Urban pioneers got some good news in the staff re-organization for Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslamâ’s second term. Bob Whetsel, a long time city department head, has been put in charge of North Knoxville development. The Whetsel family was among the first to move to the 4th and Gill neighborhood to renovate a house and help stimulate the rejuvenation of the neighborhood.

Whetsel has been director of Public Service for two mayoral administrations. He will now join the staff of Bill Lyons, Senior Policy Development Director and the cityâ’s point man on urban renewal. Whetsel will focus on expanding the notion of downtown to include close-in neighborhoods like Old North Knox, 4th and Gill, and Parkridge. He will also lead initiatives on Cumberland Avenue redevelopment.

Jim York, the long time No. 2 in the finance office, has been promoted to Finance Director.

Sam Anderson, Lyons, and deputy to the mayor Larry Martin will comprise the team reporting directly to Haslam. Margie Nichols, a senior director who recently left to join UT President John Petersen staff, will not be replaced for now.

Big Precincts the Key

Turnout is important in any election, but it makes a real difference in a city election. Incumbent City Councilman Joe Bailey won with 58 percent of the vote. But if you look at it precinct by precinct, challenger Ray Abbas either won, tied, or was within eight votes in over 50 percent of the voting locations.

But Bailey got big votes in West Knoxville, and Abbas won inner-city precincts where voting was light. For example: in Republican-leaning West Hills, Bailey won 282 to 95 But at the inner-city Democratic district of John T. Oâ’Connor Center, Abbas won 46 to 36. At Green School it was Abbas 51 and Bailey 32. Baileyâ’s huge lead was a function of West Knoxville Republicans voting and inner-city Democrats staying home.

The Bailey-Abbas race was the only contested race in the city general election.

Metro Difference

Fountain City Town Hall had a forum Monday for County Commission candidates in District 2. Democrats Amy Broyles and Cortney Piper were the only two candidates to attend to answer questions from the 50 or so members of the crowd.

Piper offered strong support for metro government and suggested a combined parks and recreation effort in the meantime to demonstrate how it would work. Broyles came out strongly against metro government, saying Knoxville isnâ’t ready for such a step.

The Republican candidate for District 2 is Chuck Bolus, who was appointed to the post then removed as a result of the Sunshine lawsuit.

â“Veteransâ” a Key Word

A word to the wise for political candidates:

It is considered bad form to participate in the Knoxville Veterans Day parade and not mention veterans. You know, Vote for Candidate Ron Paul is a nice sentiment. But veterans would be less offended if the sign said something about Ron Paul supporting veterans.

The parade Friday on Gay Street featured several political groups with signs but expressed some sentiment about the significance of the day. Those that said â“vote for candidate xâ” offended some veterans in the crowd.

Bug in Our Ear

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