Ear to the Ground

Family Bonds

The Regal Riviera Stadium 8 opened on Gay Street this week, but it would not have been possible without a complicated financing plan involving over $4 million in 40-year bonds; not a hot investment vehicle, but some public-spirited citizens stepped up.

We understand that three of the major investors have the last name of Haslam . To demonstrate to the other investors his faith in the project, we hear Mayor Bill Haslam coughed up about half the total. The mayor confirms that he bought â“a substantialâ” sum of the bonds, having said that he would purchase all those that went unsold, and that his family participated. He says he doesn't recall the exact dollar amount. The bonds aren't backed by the city or its taxpayers.

Regal is providing the equipment and will operate the theater and various city and state funds made up the rest. The package also included tax credits and tax-increment financing funds. The city already owned the State Street Garage, without which the project would not have been feasible.

Helpful Guide

When the new stormwater ordinance came before Knox County Commission on Monday, commissioners did not have the list of last-minute suggested amendments from the county engineering department. While Commission waited for a clerk to run off copies of the amendments to distribute to Commissioners, attorney John Valiant , representing the Home Builders, came to the podium. Valiant already had a marked-up copy of the amendments and proceeded to advise the Commission on the contents and which provisions the Home Builders wanted to change.

Commissioner Greg â“Lumpyâ” Lambert also offered amendments to weaken the ordinance. During that debate, Commissioner Frank Leuthold quizzed Valiant about some of the provisions. At one point Valiant referred to â“ourâ” amendments. Leuthold looked puzzled and asked if they had copies of the Home Builders suggested amendments. Then it dawned on everybody that Lambert's amendments and the Home Builders amendments were one and the same.

Lambert was successful in amending the ordinance to allow plastic and metal pipes instead of requiring concrete pipes in road rights-of-way. The minimum fine for a violation was also reduced from $1,000 per offense to as little as $50. Both amendments were proposed by the Home Builders.

Lambert carried the amendments because it would not have looked good for fellow Commissioner Richard Cate to do it. Cate was a lobbyist for the Home Builders Association before he was appointed to Commission.

Show Time

Retired CPA Louis Cosby answered questions from Knox County Commission at a meeting Monday concerning his examination of the county's finances. Cosby cited a litany of management failures he laid at the feet of County Mayor Mike Ragsdale .

During one peroration, he whirled to face Ragsdale, who had said a tad too loudly, â“What a showboat.â” Cosby asked Ragsdale what he said and Ragsdale denied saying anything.

When Cosby left the meeting, he and Chief of Staff Mike Arms had a heated discussion in the lobby of the City County Building and then went outside for a 20-minute discussion, mostly nose to nose.

Cosby has demanded an apology from the mayor. The former county auditor told Commission he was through with his examination of the books. His report will be turned over to the state Comptroller's office. Cosby said Tuesday that if he did not get an apology, he might reconsider his decision to drop the matter. Cosby has a website, www.knoxexpenses.com , where comments from the public on his findings have been piling up.  

Court in Session

The death of Criminal Court Judge Ray Lee Jenkins puts the office on the ballot in the already tumultuous county election next year. Appointed Judge Ken Irvine will be the Democrats' candidate to fill the seat permanently.

The courthouse buzz has Sessions Court Judges Chuck Cerny and Bobby McGee eyeing a run for the Republicans. Likely only one of them will pull the trigger.

Irvine lost to Jenkins in the election last year and had been appointed by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen to fill in for Jenkins when his health forced him to step down. Jenkins' health could have been at issue in last year's election but Irvine refused to make it a big public issue.

Should Irvine hold the seat he would make it a clean sweep for the Democrats on the Criminal Court. He would join fellow Democrats Judge Richard Baumgartner and Judge Mary Beth Liebowitz .

Bug in Our Ear

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