Ear to the Ground: Where's Gene?

Where's Gene?

Local DISH Network subscribers lost WATE, the Knoxville ABC affiliate for 36 hours Friday and Saturday. Young Broadcasting had been in a dispute with the satellite television provider over fees and DISH took down Young stations across the country at 7 p.m. Friday. An agreement was reached over the weekend and the Knoxville station was back up on Sunday morning.

DISH has 52,000 household subscribers in East Tennessee.

The situation was not lost on competitors. DirecTV ran radio commercials urging consumers to switch to their satellite service, which didn't take away the local network affiliate.

Waiting for a Ride

Knox County has a cost in transporting prisoners downtown for court and in transporting suspects to jail on Maloneyville Road, and would like a downtown intake center. But the problem for the city of Knoxville, which doesn't have a jail, is losses in manpower.

City police who make an arrest often park on Hill Ave., in front of the lower level of the City County building. They can put the suspects in a city van for transport, unless it is on a run. In that case, they have to sit and wait for the van to return and take the suspect out to the county jail. Some nights are so busy the officers have to take the prisoner out to East Knox County in their cruisers, which takes them out of service for at least an hour. The time spent sitting on Hill Ave. or driving to East Knox County is time lost—potentially hundreds of man hours; and each shift with numerous arrests reduces the officers available for patrol or to answer calls. Lost man hours figure into a $400,000 city cost for transporting prisoners.

County officers have the same system, waiting for a transport van or driving to the jail. This is especially burdensome for arrests in deep west Knox County, or, in the city's case, the western portion of the city limits, which extend to Farragut.

Taking Stock

The tumbling stock market may affect the Tennessee governor's race.

Millionaires able to contribute to their own campaigns have been successful in recent years: Gov. Phil Bredesen, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. Former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist spent $3.7 million of his own money being elected in 1994.

But the tumbling stock market which has decimated IRAs, 401ks, and pension funds have also drastically reduced the wealth of rich families heavily invested in the market.

Republican gubernatorial candidates have been waiting to see if Frist will decide to run for governor. If he does, they freely admit it will clear the field. No one thinks they can match Frist for campaign funds. But if Frist has been hit hard by the stock market crash, he may not want to spend the money.

Candidates expecting to do fundraising in the usual places—Belle Meade, Sequoyah Hills, Germantown, and Signal Mountain—may find wallets closed as traditional donors pull back due to market losses. Candidates with good mailing lists of small donors may not be at as much of a disadvantage in the near term.

Job Hunt

Some evidence that former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist will run for governor of Tennessee lies in Chip Saltsman's pursuit of the Republican National Committee chair. Saltsman is close to Frist and was expected to run his campaign for president in 2008. When Frist decided not to run, Saltsman ran the campaign of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and the unknown former governor was the last man out before U.S. Sen. John McCain secured the nomination.

Should Frist be elected governor he might be positioned to run for president in 2012 and his old buddy Chip would be at the RNC, prepped, plugged in nationally, and ready to step in and run a Frist presidential campaign.

Or, it may be that Chip just needs a job.