Former Knox County Finance Director John Werner was on vacation when he got a call from Chief of Staff Mike Arms. Arms told Werner things were getting hot around the City County building amid allegations of financial misdeeds and he and Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale had discussed whether Werner might have to resign at some point. Werner said they could talk about it when he got back to town. A friend called Werner the next day saying he was sorry Werner had lost his job. What? Seems the friend read in the newspaper that Werner had resigned.
It sounded eerily familiar recently…
Cynthia Finch's lawyer, in a response to her leaving county government, said Finch had a meeting with Arms and agreed to take a couple of days off to think about the issues raised. Then Finch read in the newspaper the next day that she had resigned from her job.
Back Up Plan
Frustration with Knox County Commission's reluctance to put charter changes on the ballot has led to some discussion about a back-up plan. Commission candidates on the ballot to be elected in the August election might be encouraged to be sworn in immediately. They could then vote to put the charter changes on the ballot in November, and set up the issue for the general election. We don't know if any of the candidates have signed on to this plan or not.
The current commission will consider the charter changes at its meeting in April and could vote to put them on the August ballot. But at its last meeting commission voted down a compromise plan to form a charter review commission to draw up charter changes and take them to the ballot.
Meanwhile, a seven-page analysis of the charter changes by Law Director John Owings has been posted at politicalknoxville.com outlining potential legal problems with the wording of the charter amendments.
Knox County Commission, in an effort to provide more public participation, has been meeting for two days—starting on Monday and finishing in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
With the last two meetings ending after 1 a.m., commissioners will likely go to a new format. Start at 2 p.m., as before, recess for a zoning appeals meeting, and resume the meeting for any hot issues after business hours. This would prevent bleary-eyed commissioners from making decisions and making those decisions after media deadlines.
Help From Friends
Former TVA Chair Glenn McCulloch is running for Congress down in his native Mississippi and has an aggressive fundraising campaign underway. Employees of TVA would be prevented from campaigning for their former chair, due to the federal Hatch Act. But that doesn't mean they can't help.
A little (TVA) bird tells us McCulloch's financial disclosure forms turns up 10 names of spouses of TVA employees or people who served with McCullough and recently left the agency—including board member Skyla Harris, her husband, and former chair Craven Crowell and Congressman Zach Wamp.
Bye Bye, Black Box
So long to the Black Box Theatre, which for the last eight years has proven that innovative live theater can work outside of the UT-Downtown orbit. The Black Box, home to the local semi-pro troupe the Actors Co-op, has witnessed several local premieres, including the Co-op's own creation, Measured in Labor: the Coal Creek Project, an interpretive historical drama about the Fraterville mine disaster; the outrageous, and packed, Hedwig and the Angry Inch; a cutting-edge British play unseen elsewhere, The Weir; and, most recently, Sunset Limited, the rare Cormac McCarthy play that had debuted in Chicago and New York just a few months earlier. The Black Box's 70-odd seats were sold out most nights. Last month, the Co-op's Vaudeville Cabaret was almost as popular.
It had seemed an element to a newly visioned Bearden, which on a good night can seem almost like a little downtown, with good restaurants, upscale shops, an interesting variety of late-night bars, a bookstore, and this live-theater venue, all within easy walking distance of each other. You could make a night of it, and many did.
The Actors Co-op, frustrated with some maintenance and theft issues, and unable to come to terms with the rising rents in the self-named District, decided it would make more sense to return to its vagabond roots. In the ‘90s, the Actors Co-op was best known for performing in warehouses or vacant restaurants in the downtown area. Now it's going to be a regular at the Bijou, doing mostly family-oriented shows, but its next production will be the decidedly unfamily-oriented Marat/Sade on May 8-17, at Ironwood Studios on Jennings Street, just north of downtown.