April 1 Special Edition: Good News, Knoxville!

A round-up of good things happening to good people!

Only $137 Million, 22 Short Years to Pay Off Convention Center

The Knoxville Convention Center was a bargain when it first opened its doors in 2002—for just $160 million in taxpayer funds, the city received a gift that has delivered pretty much exactly what it promised.

"We were not built to make money," convention manager Mary Stephens-Bogert told the News Sentinel last week, after it was reported the center will again honor that pledge by losing another $1.3 million this fiscal year.

The debt that will remain at the end of June is $137.23 million, expected to be paid off by 2032. Wow! If you think you'll still be living then, consider all the cool ways we'll be able to learn about the debt we're still paying off from 30 years ago.

Tennessee's Employment Rate At Nearly 90 Percent

Despite a persistently tough national economy, here in Tennessee we've got an employment rate of 89.3 percent, and in Knox County that's 91.4 percent. More than nine out of 10 have found work!

"The economy will stagnate for years to come," says stubborn University of Tennessee economist Nicolas L. Endime, "and unemployment will probably hover around 10 percent."

However, other economic experts say that kind of glass-is-half-empty thinking is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place, and a new paradigm is needed: the employment rate.

"It makes no difference if you view it as the rate of employment or unemployment," Endime crankily insists. "Are you daft?"

Vols Favorite Football Team in East Tennessee, Survey Finds

A $500,000 survey by the UT Athletic Department yielded results that will be of special interest to many of those Knoxvillians who wear orange on certain Saturdays in the fall. By an overwhelming majority, demographic scientists claim, the UT Vols are East Tennessee's favorite college football team.

"Ninety-one percent of East Tennesseans can't be wrong," says Assistant Athletic Director Bob Bottom. "It's the Vols, by a landslide. Florida wasn't even a contender! Alabama, forget it. This is proof that East Tennesseans mainly like Tennessee."

The Lady Vols basketball team came in second, with 5 percent of the total—even though, as athletic department officials are careful to explain, they are not technically a college football team.

The Tennessee Titans came in third, though, once again, they're not technically a college football team, even if several of that Nashville-based team's players once attended college. In spite of that handicap, they edged out the Carson Newman Eagles, a distant fourth. According to UT officials, Carson Newman is a college in Jefferson County, which they add is several miles to the east of Knoxville.

No Complaints Yet About South-Side Overdevelopment

In the four years since Mayor Bill Haslam announced a major city-sponsored initiative to redevelop the southside waterfront, not one of the naysayers' predictions of gloom have come to pass.

No owner-residents have yet been forced out of their homes. A flood of yuppies to the new condos hasn't spoiled the honest, unpretentious character of South Knoxville. And according to Gay Street developer Oscar Silverstein, the competition from the southside condo market hasn't pulled the rug out from under the market for downtown condos. "To the contrary," he says. "It's hardly affected us at all."

Chief Operating Officer Frank Irwin emphasizes that the cost to the Knoxville taxpayer has been minimal. And somehow we haven't lost our asphalt plant, or our gas-tank farm, which are still as conspicuous as they ever were, providing jobs in the center city. "It's almost as if it didn't even happen," says a relieved Irwin. "It just goes to show that it doesn't pay to be pessimistic."

Librarians Get More Time for Personal Reading With New Library Hours

The county government is generously awarding librarians more time to explore extracurricular hobbies, graduate-school options, and writing projects by drastically decreasing the number of hours the library is open.

Starting in April, the main branch will be open from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and open from 1 p.m. to 2:44 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

County Commissioner Elle Idaritt, who initially proposed the new hours, says this is part of the county's long-standing mission to support its librarians. "With one of the lowest funding rates for libraries in the region, we have consistently encouraged library employees to follow their dreams: working on that screenplay that's been kicked around for years, finally reading Ulysses, or going back to school to become a paralegal."

Idaritt also says the new schedule will foster more opportunities for dialogue between the county's homeless population and non-library patrons.