Ear to the Ground

Silent Running

Hey, did you know the city of Knoxville is having an election?

It will probably be the most expensive per vote election ever held since everyone seems to be focusing on the county primary in February and ignoring the city races. That's not good news for incumbent at-large City Councilman Joe Bailey , the only Council member who has an opponent.

Ray Abbas is running hard and working at it full time. He had to give up his job working for a non-profit in order to run. He has an extended family also working hard for him. His parents ran the market in 4th and Gill for 30 years. What has raised eyebrows is that some of Bailey's Council colleagues are said to be working behind the scenes for Abbas.

If turnout is low, and Bailey supporters don't bother to vote, a major upset could be in the making. But even if Abbas were to turn out more voters, both he and Bailey go to the general election for a second round. The top two finishers in the city primary are on the general election ballot. But it would be a major credibility boost for Abbas.

The primary is Sept. 25 and the general election is Nov. 6.

Anybody But Her?

If we had to pick one potential County Commission candidate the developers want to keep off Commission, it would have to be 2nd District candidate Cortney Piper . Piper is a leader of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, which sued KUB to force an extensive program to separate storm water from the sewage system.

The TCW Network is now threatening to sue developer Victor Jernigan over his 100-acre development on Washington Pike, in the middle of a complicated deal to be annexed by the city, widen Washington Pike and build a multi-use development. It's part of an effort to force Knox County to install a tough storm water ordinance equal to the city's more stringent regulations.

Piper is running in the Democratic primary against Amy Broyles , a liberal Democrat who is also no friend of developers. The winner will face off against Republican Chuck Bolus , who was appointed by Commission to fill out the term of term-limited Billy Tindell . One suspects Bolus, Commission Chairman Scott â“Scoobieâ” Moore 's former campaign manager, will have no trouble with fund-raising.

The Broyes-Piper primary race is one of the most spirited races thus far. Broyles ran against incumbent Democrat Tindell last year as an independent.

The Six Degrees of Merv

A few of the obituaries for show-biz tycoon Merv Griffin mentioned his long-ago acting career, which apparently peaked very early with his starring in the romantic lead in a movie called So This Is Love , in which Kathryn Grayson was the bigger star. The musical, now a nearly forgotten victim of fashion, purported to be a biography of Grace Moore , the opera singer and Oscar-nominated movie star from East Tennessee (though she spent most of her youth in Jellico, she lived on Knoxville's Randolph Street as a young child) who was killed in a 1947 plane crash. (She happens to be the subject of a small exhibit at Lawson McGhee Library.) The producers hired dewy young singer Griffin to be a semi-fictional love interest in the movie.

Griffinâ"he was barely 28 at the timeâ"came to Knoxville in late July, 1953, for two full days of ceremonies surrounding the gala premiere of So This Is Love at the Tennessee Theatre. Among the Knoxville events Griffin attended were a Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Andrew Johnson, the dedication of some â“musical stepsâ” at UT, a dance at Cherokee Country Club, and the ribbon-cutting of the Grace Moore Cloverleafâ"Knoxville's first modern expressway interchange, at Magnolia.

According to one story, his hosts put the young heartthrob up in the Farragut Hotel, almost adjacent to the theater, not the air-conditioned Andrew Johnson. The Northern California native was miserable in the Southern summer heat, and complained bitterly. It wasn't too long after that that Griffin gave up on acting, favoring jobs with air-conditioned offices.

Check My Account

Records are being compiled to assess the costs and problems associated with Knox County's effort to take over the school system payroll accounts, an investigation conducted at the behest of Commissioner Lee Tramel . The troubled program has had problems integrating the school system into the Lawson software system operated by the county.

One document quotes former Superintendent Charles Lindsey as saying the old system would give him instantaneous information about the school system's fund balanceâ"the amount of money available in the bank at any given time. The Lawson system requires a week to provide a fund balance total, according to Lindsey, and given that up to $10 million goes in and out of accounts in a given week the fund balance total would be off a plus or minus $10 million.

The effort to integrate the schools' accounts into the county has been â“suspended.â”

Bug in Our Ear

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