Murk on the Waters
More than Market Square
Accentuate the Positive
One might ask why he didn’t manage his Mecca better since Larry Waters is the definition of a career politician; he has served as county mayor since 1978. During that time, under his direction, Sevier County has never had a 10-year plan, a five-year plan or any other plan to follow. Mayor Waters has overseen one of the largest growth-at-all-costs booms that the state has ever seen and has done so without any plan at all. It was only recently that Sevier County formed a “planning commission,” and that is in name only. As any traveler knows, without a good road map, you eventually get lost.
Sevier County is starting to burst at the seams from uncontrolled, unplanned and unregulated growth, our infrastructure is a mess, and now Larry Waters wants to run for Congress. There are many of us in Sevier County who would love to see him leave, but we realize that electing him to Congress would only be further proof of the Peter Principle.
James J. Wilson
More than Market Square
Where was the representation for the other places? We, at the Downtown Grill & Brewery, have been here for quite a time. We may not have been here since the foundation was made for Preservation Pub or Tomato Head; however, we were here before the Phoenix rose from the ash—so to speak.
We have endured the painful nights of no traffic on Gay Street. We had nights where the only patrons we had were our own employees. We rode it out. If you build it they will come, correct? We have worked hard to break away from the stigma of past places. Maybe we’re not perfect but we have achieved momentum.
We watched the gem of Sapphire become uncovered. We welcomed our neighbor in and have still helped them (as they us) to get more of a polish about them. We watched Gregg [White] spread his “fins” and dive into the waters of sushi. He has earned a niche much like we all did. It wasn’t easy. It was made with blood, sweat, tears, devotion, laughter, perseverance, and possibly based on some experience.
My only concern is that if we are going to support a downtown, then it should be an entire downtown. It should be all the merchants and all the “risk-taking entrepreneurial spirit(s)” that come together as a downtown. We should invite guests to this area for an entire package. If they know there is more and more to do down here, then they will come. If as a patron we only perceive there to be one or two things to do, then why go? However, offer them more than one thing to do—more than one thing to do in a day and keep them coming for more. I believe this to be the goal of any entrepreneur.
I spent nearly 11 years working in the west side of Knoxville. I was recruited to come to the downtown area to open a brewery. I was leery of downtown. There was nothing down here. Now, I am not going to badger my West Knoxville counterparts. However, it is no longer my cup of tea (or pint of beer, as the case may be). There was not much of togetherness. It was “dog-eat-dog.” Perhaps because there is so much near one another. I fell in love with downtown. I did so because of the camaraderie. I did so because of the “down” home feel (excuse the pun). I hope that we are not getting to the point that we forget that we are all downtown. I hope that as more of us open up places down here we welcome one another. I hope that we pull together to create a common goal—a common destination. A destination that I, as a patron, will want to go to—even when not working.
Accentuate the Positive
Some people are not pleased with the two-blocks-north move of VMC, loft developers and dwellers not included, of course, to the former KARM site. Now, acquiring the crumbling 5th Ave. firetrap and making it a safe and secure place for those who choose to pay part of their way seems to have added fuel to the negative fire. Most who aren’t pleased with these ministries tend to show up for public forums, are the most vocal, have a nice roof over their heads, and motivate journalistic “contributors” to undercut a positive vision of others through slanted Op-Ed pieces. It helps when one takes the time to listen to those who are making a difference on the front-lines, such as the folks at VMC.
Like it or not, we will always have destitute men, women, and children in our city, no matter what our non-profit service level. Imagine the public tax burden for services without these local non-profit ministries. Like it or not, the Volunteer Ministry Center has offered thousands of our least fortunate the opportunity to get healthy again, find work, find a place to live, and move on with a more productive journey here or back where they feel at home. The other ministries on Broadway fill other voids, like overnight stays and religious services, that VMC does not even provide.
Ginny Weatherstone, the VMC staff and board, and dozens of volunteer counselors spend seven days a week making our downtown a more livable place than it would be without them. You either get that or you don’t. Those who focus on the negatives, and there are quite a few of you, are those who wouldn’t darken the doors of any facility such as VMC and join hundreds of others in ministries that serve this vulnerable segment of our society.
I imagine these same folks being irritated more about receiving a grande Mocha instead of the venti they ordered, than he or she would be about another soul being snuffed out or one literally left under a bridge to die. Harsh critique? Maybe, but it’s just a matter of priorities that drives each of us to serve not only those we love most, but also those we just don’t know at all.
No one knows what the future will hold or if the Ten-Year Plan is the cure. What I do know, after years of being educated about the ministry of VMC, is that most hand-ringers are apathetic and spoiled to the point that they don’t bother to understand the suffering eased and success offered by those who volunteer their time and energies or who are vastly underpaid for helping others rebuild their lives.
Both of our mayors have been the first two executive political leaders of this region to not only support, but take the lead in offering a strategic hand-up to those who want it. VMC and other non-profits are stepping up as well, in concert, to give this plan a shot. The journey has been challenging so far, and we should not expect the road to smooth out anytime soon. However, it certainly beats doing nothing, a lack of interest, a lack of cooperation among agencies, and a failure to lead. Please educate yourself about this plan, which is available at: http://www.cityofknoxville.org/development/homeless10yrplan.pdf Learn more about the VMC plans for the future at: http://www.vmcknox.org/h/campaign.html (which has been improved further thanks to the 5th Ave. Motel acquisition). Discuss the past progress and exciting challenges to come with Ginny Weatherstone and the like, and let’s compliment all of the remarkable progress we are making downtown. There’s a great deal of positive work to be done and those who are stepping up need our encouragement and support now more than ever.
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