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An angry donor to the Knox Charter Petition effort sent the letter he received asking for money to Knox County Commissioner Victoria DeFreese, who read it at a public meeting this week.

DeFreese said the letter soliciting $5,000 listed five reforms (not nine) including to "utilize $8.9 million in County fees more effectively each year." The donor was upset because the letter did not reveal the provision meant abolishing elected fee offices and replacing them with mayoral appointments. The name of the recipient of the letter was redacted, but he was reported to be angry about criticism he has received since being listed as donating to the effort. The letter directed the potential donor to the charter petition website for more information on the specific charter recommendations.

The letter was dated Feb. 1 and was sent by Tim Williams and Rich Ray, both of whom donated $5,000 to the cause. "Your contribution is needed to help underwrite this effort through August with a minimum budget of at least $300,000 … In an issues-oriented campaign such as this, there are no limits on the amount of contributions an individual can make. Additionally, there are no legal restrictions on corporate funds being donated for the charter petition campaign."

DeFreese read the letter as part of a speech at the Tennessee Conservative Union's annual St. Patrick's Day dinner.

Wilderness Coal

Timber companies are divesting themselves of huge tracts of timber. On the Cumberland Plateau, the state of Tennessee and the Nature Conservancy have been working with the companies to purchase thousands of acres of timberland to create wilderness areas and to connect with existing state parks for public use areas.

Confronting this good news on the environmental front is the resurgence of Tennessee coal mining. Higher energy costs, mechanization, and mountaintop mining are sparking a renewed interest in Tennessee coal. Though the coal has high sulfur content, TVA has installed scrubbers that might allow the use of Tennessee coal.

TVA doesn't use any Tennessee coal at present, but it owns the mineral rights in some of the newly acquired wilderness area. The agency will be faced with the decision in the near future to relinquish the mineral rights in the wilderness areas or to contract with coal companies to recover the coal for its coal-fired plants.

It may shape up as the biggest environmental battle of the coming decade.

A state House committee is poised to kill a bill next month that would effectively end mountaintop removal mining (see Metro Pulse cover story, Feb. 28), clearing the way for resurgence in state coal mining operations. In the meantime, the state Attorney General has ruled the federal government regulates coal mining in Tennessee and the state legislation would not be legal.


Bill Lockett came to the microphone at a public hearing last week to ask the Knox County Petition representatives some questions, a News Sentinel editorial in hand.

Lockett won the Republican primary to be County Law Director, and is unopposed in the August general election.

Lockett used the editorial as a guide to his questioning, referring to several bullet points from the article. At one point he stopped to observe to the petition representatives that he understood that the News Sentinel "did not speak for the group."

At that point the South Knoxville audience broke out in derisive laughter.

At the Hanging

The irrepressible Kyle Testerman's still got it.

The former mayor joined former mayors Victor Ashe and Randy Tyree at a ceremony hosted by current Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam to dedicate a new portrait gallery in the fifth-floor atrium of the City County building. All the portraits of former city mayors that can be found are on display.

Testerman, who is 73, looked around at the portraits and observed that the mayors were "well hung." He went on to say he was honored to be hanging in the gallery since he barely escaped being hung while in office.

When someone in attendance was queried to confirm Testerman's comment about the well-hung mayors he said it was true, but that the measure died for lack of a second.

Testerman was mayor for two different terms. He was first elected in 1972, then again in 1984.