incoming (2006-01)

Candy Fact and Fiction

Crystal Ball of Crisis

In Patriot Actuality

Candy Fact and Fiction

The mayor and others from his office have been consistently saying the city cannot afford the “$10 million” it would cost to renovate the Candy Factory. In 2002 the Public Building Authority commissioned a thorough assessment of the cost to completely renovate the building in its current usage. The assessment prepared by Cockrill Design pegged the cost at $3.2 million, which could fairly be said to approach $4 million today, less than half the $10 million the mayor claims.

The issue of the Candy Factory does not stand in isolation. At the same time the city is saying it cannot afford to renovate the Candy Factory, it manages to find around $4 million in public funds to help build an eight-screen movie theater downtown. You don’t have to turn too many pages in Metro Pulse to see that there are already over 85 movie screens available to the citizens of Knoxville.

Think about that: The city cannot afford to renovate a place of true community involvement, creativity and synergy, representing all manner of artistic, dance, theater and craft groups as well as a rich abundance of social, spiritual, cultural and political creativity. Yet at the same time, the city is able to afford equivalent public funds to support a private enterprise venture that already exists in abundance and serves only passive consumption. What’s wrong with this picture?

In the six months between July ’04 and January ’05, the Candy Factory Calendar of Events records 168 different groups who used the shared community meeting spaces, not even counting the many groups who have/had designated spaces in the building. Some of the groups used the space only once, while many used it multiple times, often weekly or monthly. A review of the list reveals use by at least 13 church groups, 10 medical- or support-related groups, eight arts and crafts groups, 12 dance and theater groups, and eight sports and fitness related groups. The broad diversity of groups using just the community meeting spaces is truly amazing and inspiring.

The city’s recently-offered list of alternative meeting places for all these groups cost from $20 to $35 an hour and are scattered all over town, mostly in public schools and community recreation centers. There are only two “free” spaces listed—in the already overcrowded and limited facilities at the downtown and Fountain City libraries (county-run facilities). Scattering these groups destroys the sense of community, connection and synergy that exists in a community civic and creative center like the Candy Factory.

The question of whether the city should provide “free” meeting space for community groups is a misnomer, as the users, being taxpayers, already pay for it, using community meeting space that is similar to other public usages that don’t involve an hourly charge. We don’t charge students by the hour to use schools or citizens by the hour to use parks, greenways, sidewalks, streets or most community recreation facilities. Is community meeting space really so different? Doesn’t it contribute to the health, vitality and well-being of the community in similar ways?

As for the proposed tax increment financing that has yet to be approved, good luck in making any sense of the explanations the city offers. Here is a simple way to look at it: Developer pays the city $1.6 million for the Candy Factory, and over the next 15 years they pay no taxes on the building and land. In KCDC’s new redevelopment plan for World’s Fair Park, they figure the expected impact of the tax concessions to be about $72,100 per year to the city and about $86,450 per year to the county. Over 15 years this amounts to about $1.1 million for the city and $1.3 million for the county. Simply put, the developer buys the building and land for $1.6 million, and over the next 15 years the taxpayers of our community credit $2.4 million back to the developer.

According to the article, the mayor says negotiations for any community use of the building are out of the city’s hands. In a recent conversation with a member of City Council, I was told that the tax increment financing package could be made contingent on whatever the city chooses to make it contingent upon. With $2.4 million in tax credits on a building and land purchased for $1.6 million, the city should have plenty of room to negotiate.

The Metro Pulse article indicates “the city’s stance is that the building is being underutilized and is draining public funds.” The mayor’s office and the city must be confused; they must have been looking across the park at the Convention Center, mistaking it for the Candy Factory. Let’s hope City Council has better sense and recognizes which building serves the community richly and which is underutilized and drains the taxpayers.

If a couple of acres and substantial community amenity in any other park in town was being sold off to developers to build condos, the local neighborhoods and citizens would be up in arms. The World’s Fair Park and amenities don’t relate to any particular neighborhood that will rise up to protect it. However, as Donna Doyle, my favorite Knoxville poet, is fond of saying, “When it comes to the Candy Factory and World’s Fair Park, we all live in the neighborhood.”

J. David Buckwalter

Crystal Ball of Crisis

Production from any given oil field follows a bell curve, with annual volumes increasing until half the oil in that field is depleted, then declining thereafter. Thus the term “Peak Oil.” A host of petroleum geologists and industry analysts now agree that the global oil supply may be topping out. But the demand for oil is increasing globally, especially from developing countries such as India and China. Some of these individuals say 2005 will be our last year for cheap oil. Others predict a widening supply-demand gap following 2007.

In 1956, Shell Oil geologist Dr. Martin King Hubbert accurately predicted that American oil production would peak in 1970. He also predicted that global production would peak in 1995. Ten years later, Hurricane Katrina just gave us our first real taste of what to expect in the future.

The website www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net is more than a little disturbing. It’s terrifying to anyone strung out with mortgages, real estate debt, credit cards and especially “National Debt.” Other oil sites include www.oildrum.com , www.culturechange.com , www.cera.com and www.dieoff.org . Our country and our way of life “based on oil” are approaching an economic tsunami that will only grow worse with the passage of time. Some say two decades before things get bad. Another predicts five years. Some say it’s already started.

Given time, our government will develop new energy sources. But beginning around 2008, folks may start losing their hats and their canes before this mess is put behind us. That will also be a time to make profits for those positioned for the coming real estate bust.

We better stop listening to those who tell us we must not drill in ANWAR, Florida or California. This situation is far more critical than national politics or political egos. It goes to the very heart of who we are, and how we choose to face our future.

Larry Henry

In Patriot Actuality

Ben Franklin also said “The cat in gloves catches no mice.”

Joe Eschman

 

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