Ear to the Ground: Who's Next

Who's Next?

Scott Moore's ouster from Knox County Commission removes a frequent critic of County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and reduces the anti-Ragsdale faction by one vote. The recent election removed several critics among the appointed commissioners (Elaine Davis, Victoria DeFreese, William Daniels). So how will commission vote on a replacement for Moore?

Potential appointee Lillian Williams is from a politically active family in North Knox County. She was in the group that went with Chuck Bowers to press District Attorney General Randy Nichols for an ouster suit against Ragsdale. Nichols referred the issue to a special prosecutor. Williams has attended every commission meeting for the past year and is current on the issues.

James McMillan, a farmer who ran for commission before, has been a vocal critic of county government for failure to enact comprehensive flood control regulations. He has had some harsh words for local government. It will be interesting to see whether it gets held against him when it's time to pick a replacement for Moore.

Chuck Severance is the son of former state Rep. Charlie Severance. More significantly, he is the son of Phyllis Severance, a widely respected and politically savvy political activist for many years. Phyllis Severance has accumulated more political IOUs than a Las Vegas bookie.

Ragsdale hates the first two candidates; if he has any influence left on commission, he will probably support Severance. The anti-Ragsdale faction will support Williams. Commissioners who support environmental issues and support more regulation of development will likely support McMillan. If you are scoring it at home look for Severance and Williams in the final round.

Moore does not appear to be planning to appeal the ouster decision, but commission will wait 30 days to pick a replacement anyway. This allows Moore to change his mind and also allow for extensive behind-the-scenes politicking.

Three Old Forts, One Long Park

The Legacy Parks Foundation luncheon in the ball-field grass at Caswell Park last Friday drew an estimable crowd that included former Sen. Howard Baker and Sen. Lamar Alexander, who both spoke, and Congressman Jimmy Duncan, among many others, most of whom were surprised to hear the announcement from Mayor Bill Haslam and Legacy Parks that a surprisingly realistic-sounding move was afoot to establish a 1,000-acre linear park across the ridgetops on the south side.

The park would span the eccentric cabin neighborhood known as Log Haven, off Cherokee Trail, and Ijams, the nature center east of Island Home, also linking with the new William Hastie Park. What would make the park unique among urban parks—rather than merely extremely unusual—is that it would comprise the ruins of three Union forts, two of them rarely seen by the public.

Fort Higley, partly on the Log Haven property, was threatened by condo development until, earlier this year, it was acquired for preservation by the Lindsay Young-endowed Aslan Foundation. Fort Dickerson, already preserved, has heretofore been accessible only by car, and a steep drive. Fort Stanley, on the east side of Chapman Highway, is another Union fort on densely wooded private property which has been seen by only a handful of Civil War enthusiasts. Legacy Parks has an option to buy that 22-acre parcel now, and is currently raising funds for that purpose.

Legacy Parks Director Carol Evans says the greenway project is a collaborative effort between Legacy Parks, the Aslan Foundation, the city of Knoxville, including Haslam and Councilman Joe Hultquist, and several historical groups under the umbrella of the recently formed Civil War Coalition. Some supporters say the effort came to seem urgent in the wake of the construction of a controversial ridgetop water tower near Cherokee Trail.

Though several pieces are already in place, Evans admits completing it as an approximately four-mile trail from Log Haven to Ijams is probably a 20-year prospect; several details, like how to cross Chapman Highway—whether via pedestrian bridge or a crosswalk—haven't been settled yet.

First-Name Basis?

An early voter told us about an unfortunate coincidence that may lead to some confusion in the presidential election, at least in the Knox County machines. This Tuesday, when one voter had finished voting and, upon the summary screen, saw the letters BAR, he assumed, reasonably, that his vote had been recorded for Bob Barr, the Libertarian presidential nominee who's one of the leading third-party candidates.

When he protested to an attendant that he'd he hadn't voted for Barr, he was told the summary page lists only the first letters of the candidate's first name. In this case, it was Barack Obama, who was indeed the voter's choice.

But, come to think of it, Bar is also the well-known nickname of President Bush's mother.

So we're all on a casual first-name basis now. Think of politics like a trendy restaurant.