Ear to the Ground

End of an Era

A couple of weeks ago the Knox County Commission passed a resolution honoring a guy who ran the city of Knoxville's garage for 28 years.


Jack Barnes ran a political machine from inside city government. His friends included Congressman Jimmy Duncan , Gov. Don Sundquist , state Sen. Tim Burchett and most every other Republican elected to office. When he threw a lunch at the Kerbala Temple it was a command performance for officeholders. Barnes met President George Bush seven times and attended his inaugural.

He solidified his machine and earned rank-and-file favors by using resources at his command to take care of the personal vehicles of underpaid policemen and firemen, not to mention the occasional politician. He provided workers to hold political rallies, move furniture, string banners and go door to door. Police chiefs and fire chiefs over the years were often frustrated by Barnes' influence within their departments.

Barnes' political patronage tradition was frowned upon by new Mayor Bill Haslam , though Jim Haslam , the mayor's father, often called on Barnes to deliver for political candidates he supported. Barnes was quietly eased out into retirement last February with no announcement, no fanfare and no ugly scenes. He was accused of doing what he has been doing for decades, but since Barnes has more info on local and state politicians than the Washington Madam has on Congress, he was allowed to retire with no questions asked.

Gone Fishin'

We suspect four Knox County commissioners could have chartered a plane and gone to the Bahamas without the public knowing about it.

But Commissioner Greg â“Lumpyâ” Lambert is the last guy you would expect to keep a secret. His father has a house in the Bahamas, and Lambert tried to organize a trip with political allies Lee Tramel , Chuck Bolus and Ivan Harmon splitting the gas to charter an airplane to get there. The plane belongs to a guy in the construction business. The four met at the Calhoun's on Bearden Hill to discuss the trip. A story then appeared in the News Sentinel about a possible Sunshine Law violation. The commissioners suspect they were ratted out to the News Sentinel by someone in County Mayor Mike Ragsdale 's administration.

A source in the mayor's office tells us that four county commissioners having lunch together at a Calhoun's on a weekday is â“pretty much self reportingâ” given the controversy that has surrounded Commission of late.

Lambert now appears to be short three passengers for his fishing trip. If you want to go, pony up $600 for gas and you could spend some quality time with Powell's most famous nicknamed citizen.

Diplomatic Lunch

Ambassador Victor Ashe , a former mayor of Knoxville, will be the featured speaker at a Baker Center luncheon Aug. 8. The event will be at Calhoun's on the River, Neyland Drive, between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Reservations need to be made by Aug. 1 by calling 974-0931. The cost is $15 to non-members of the Baker Center.

Ashe will be discussing his experiences and the latest in Poland-U.S. relations. Ashe recently announced his intention to retire from the post, but has been asked by the Bush administration to stay until the end of the president's term.

The embassy had a lot of guests during June, including President and Mrs. Bush, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and media magnate Rupert Murdoch , not to mention Metro Pulse Senior Editor Barry Henderson and his wife Leslie , who was Mayor Ashe's last director of development.

Premier Costs $5

The city of Knoxville is beginning to charge people to play tennis at Tyson Park.

It now costs you $5 to get a court at what is billed as a â“premierâ” court to distinguish it from other city tennis courts. Tyson is a popular park, located between the University of Tennessee and Sequoyah Hills, and the courts are usually crowded.

A $5 fee gets you the court for an hour and a half. The fee is to help pay for staffing the courts 10 hours a day through the spring and summer months to maintain concession stands and rest rooms. There are a total of 62 tennis courts throughout the city. Thus far, this is the only one that has a charge. Tyson gets the most usage, followed by West Hills.

He Didn't Look It

Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana , who took Notre Dame to a national championship in college and the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles in the NFL, was in town this week to stump for better understanding and control of high blood pressure.

Diagnosed with high blood pressure himself at age 46, Montana can rattle off the figures: one in three American adults and half of Tennesseans aged 55-64 have high blood pressure; one in nine deaths in the United States each year are attributable at least partly to the condition.

It is manageable through a regimen of medication, diet and exercise, the Niners' indomitable comeback kid says. In Knoxville for the first time ever, Montana submitted to 17 interviews in one day here on a tour sponsored by a pharmaceuticals firm whose name he doesn't mention in a brief discussion of his mission. He does say that more information is available at www.bpsuccesszone.com , but he says to â“start with your doctor and do what he or she tells you to do.â” Just like working for a coach.

Bug in Our Ear

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