Ear to the Ground

Uncovered Discovery

Long-languoring plans to establish a new Discovery Center, a much more elaborate children's museum than the one in Chilhowee Park, are closer to coming to fruition. The city administration is advising City Council to give serious consideration to a proposal to set the Discovery Center down in the old Convention-Exhibition Center fronting on the World's Fair Park beneath the Holiday Inn. The matter would have go before City Council for approval of that use for the city-owned facility.

Long, Hot Summer

The Knox County Commission's Second District is turning into the hottest race of several scheduled next year. The seat, held by Democrat Billy Tindell since 1972, was filled with a Republican appointee when Tindell was term-limited. The Democrats are determined to get it back by defeating Commissioner Chuck Bolus .

Amy Broyles , who ran against Tindell last year, is making a determined effort and is already campaigning hard for the job. She started campaigning back in February. She is being opposed for the Democratic nomination by Courtney Piper . Broyles has accused Piper of being Tindell's candidate to defeat her as payback because she ran against Tindell last year.

There have reportedly been some very harsh words exchanged and party leaders are concerned about splitting their ranks. Both women are expected to be campaigning at the Democratic Family Cookout, a free event scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. at Victor Ashe Park. The menu is hot dogs and a covered dish dinner.

Piper, an executive with the Clean Water Network, is reported to be having very good results in fund-raising. The first financial reports are due July 16.

When the state Supreme Court upheld term limits the Knox County Commission appointed eight new commissioners and four countywide officeholders in a wildly controversial meeting Jan. 31. Bolus was sworn in early and was the only new commissioner to vote on picking the last seatâ"breaking a tie between County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and Commission Chairman Scott â“Scoobieâ” Moore to appoint Moore's candidate, Lee Trammel . Bolus was Moore's campaign treasurer. Trammel, a sheriff's deputy, used to work with Moore at the sheriff's office.

Looks Good on You

ABC's Extreme Makeover is going local, My Fair Lady style. Micha , from Morristown, is the new Eliza Dolittle . The 30-year-old is legally blind and has a severe overbite; she has trouble eating and speaking. With the help of the doctors and dentists on the show, Micha will be transformed. She's seeking to escape prejudice against her because of her looks. In addition to surgery, Micha will receive elocution, etiquette and dance lessons from stylist Lawrence Zarian . She will also get to meet her idol, Regis Philbin . We won't ruin the surprise about what exactly happens, but the show's not called Extreme Makeover for nothing. Catch the show July 2 at 9 p.m. on ABC.

On to No. 2

Between golf outings, audits and re-computing its taxes, Knox County government is still finding time to redevelop downtown. With the sale of the old News Sentinel site for an office tower approved this week, look for another huge project to pop soon.

Possibly as early as July the county may go forward with a request for proposals for the current parking lot on State Street once planned for the Justice Center and then Universe Knoxville. That will be two major projects downtown developed by county government.

The county remains a major property owner downtown resulting from the property purchased for the never-built Justice Center. This week Knox County Commission approved the sale of the old News Sentinel site on State Street for a mixed-use office tower. Now that Knox County has approved a tax break for the downtown office tower, it is Knoxville City Council's turn.

The sale included a financing plan that suspends 20 years worth of increased property tax in a tax increment financing arrangement. The developers are now expected to turn to the Knoxville City Council to seek a similar deferral of city taxes.

The city obtained the Sentinel site when the paper moved to its new plant. The city then swapped it to the county for the property on Gay Street being developed into the new Regal Riviera 8 movie theater.

Water Shortfall

The drought has cost TVA hundreds of millions of dollars in lost hydropowerâ"the cheapest kindâ"but you ain't seen nothing yet. TVA's annual revenues may really take a hit in August, when the agency usually gets well. That's when places like New York City get really hot and power usage peaks. TVA can usually turn the water loose and shoot the power to the northeastâ"and charge up to 300 to 400 percent of the usual market price. It's a nice chunk of change to help the bottom line.

But this year, with a double-digit rain deficit, the agency hasn't been able to fill the reservoirs as in past years. They have to release some water, for navigation, and they have to release some to cool the stream bed for the fish.

The agency hopes July will be a really wet month and get the lake levels back up to normal levels. It's a bottom line issue for deciding rates next year.

VP Fred

Sally Quinn , in a column this week in the Washington Post , suggests Republican senators go to President George W. Bush and ask him to get Vice President Dick Cheney to resign and replace him with Fred Thompson .

Quinn suggests removing the toxic Cheney and replacing him with Thompson, good old Fred that everybody likes. She says it would rejuvenate the Bush administration and give the Republicans someone who can beat the Democrats next year.

She offers no evidence that anyone in Washington shares her view.

Meanwhile, Thompson was in Nashville on Tuesday for a fundraiser and to open a national campaign office.

Déjà vu Again

If you happen to find yourself in Des Moines this summer, drop in the photographic studio of Bill Nellans . The successful commercial photographer has a couple of framed shots hanging on his wall that he says have caught the attention of several visitors who have offered to buy them. They may look very familiar. They're pictures he took several months ago of the spontaneous art and graffiti that materialized on the plywood nailed to a vacant building on Wall Avenue, near Market Square. Nellans' shots are apparently of the original batch, which most agree was the best; he was especially taken with the wistful oil work of Knoxville artist Cynthia Markert . He may exhibit his photos in a show there in September.

The original plywood panels were removed for safe-keeping and are currently in storage in a house in Fort Sanders. A second batch, which also included some of Markert's work, was painted over by volunteers in a well-meaning if ill-advised graffiti-cleanup effort a few months ago. There's more, generally swamped lately with band posters, and though some say it doesn't measure up to the original, it's still more interesting to look at than many art shows we've attended.

The fate of the vacant four-story Victorian-era building, part of the West property confiscated by the Treasury Department and allegedly soon to be auctioned, is still unclear.

Bug in Our Ear

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