Shiny Happy City

Well, not exactly. Not yet, anyway. But here's how you think we should fix Knoxville in 2008

Knoxville: Could it possibly get any better? Oh yeah. You bet.

And as we begin a new year, let's pause for a moment to consider just how far we have to go before attaining civic perfection. In order to identify Knoxville's most-needed "fixes," we've solicited responses to the following question:

What should we change about Knoxville in 2008?

Many of the respondents are regular workaday citizens such as yourselves; others are folks whose names you may have heard a time or two before, local pols and business leaders and artists and musicians. Their answers reveal what we think our city most needs to accomplish in order to improve our quality of life.

Throw the County Bums Out and Institute Metro Government

Consolidation of the city and county governments would be the most significant change for the future of the Knoxville area; the hopeful result would be (1) to replace the dysfunctional Knox County government with something more positive like the City of Knoxville's government and (2) to realize the cost and efficiency benefits of a single local government.

Will Skelton, retired attorney

My top pick for much-needed change in 2008? Feb. 5 is our first, significant day of renewal for a new way of managing the affairs of Knox County. Inspired, informed, and engaged voters that day, and on another day in August, hold the keys to Knox County's stock recovering throughout 2008 and beyond. Too many choices. Good. It's now time for many to decide our direction, work with those men and women fairly elected, and bring a new, professional stewardship of public trust and tax dollars like we've never known, in recent memory.

Brad Hill, TakeBackKnox.org

Merge Knox County and city governments, hopefully leaving all but one or two of the county commissioners out of the mix.

Benny Smith, general manager, radio station WUTK-90.3 "The Rock"

In 1990, Knox County voters experimented with a new "home-rule" government. Home rule was intended to free the people of Knox County from having to go to the state legislature for authority to act. But there was no oversight, and no accountability. Too many political offices were created, and those political offices worked to build a political machine that controlled the ballot. Knox County political offices became bloated with employment of family, friends and political supporters.

Now, in 2008, the people of Knox County have an opportunity to exercise their right under Article 1 of the Tennessee Constitution to alter and reform Knox County government. To Knox County citizens, I say: "Take your government back; it belongs to you."

Here is how every Knox County resident can participate:

• Register to vote by Jan. 5 to be eligible on Feb. 5. For voter registration forms, go to the Knox County Election Commission site (www.knoxcounty,org/election/pdfs/registration).

• Every registered Knox County voter should take time to early vote or vote on Feb 5. Remember that 15 citizens gave three weeks of their time to serve on the Open Meetings Act jury that opened the door to your opportunity to take your government back.

• Vote for new people for the new Knox County government. Plenty of qualified new people are on the ballot. Vote for one of them and vote against the people, and their friends, who forgot that they represent you. It will take new people and new ways of thinking to create our new government.

• Remember what the old politicians, and their friends, did to you in the past. Don't buy into nice personalities, well-financed campaigns, or support from the old political machine. If you don't like what has happened to your government, these people are part of the problem.

• On Aug. 8, vote for the Charter Amendments to alter and reform your government to be more responsive to the people.

Herb Moncier, lawyer

The one thing that Knoxville needs the most is metro government.

If enough people say it loud and long enough, maybe it could happen someday, but 2008? Not bloody likely. But in the same way that Bush/Cheney have probably sapped Republican strength for the foreseeable future by their childish shenanigans, hopefully our county mayor, sheriff, and Commission have done the same thing for any chance the county government status quo has of regaining credibility for a long time to come. What has happened is sad, but it's been a long time coming, and surely the only way now is up.

Sorry, I tried to write only the first sentence, but couldn't stop myself.

Charles Barber

Get on the Mass Transit Wagon

What Knoxville needs is a comprehensive transit system, including light rail. Why does Knoxville need improved transit?

1. People seem to want it. As I recall, it was one of the things most commonly mentioned in the Nine Counties visioning process several years ago. As we know, nothing came of that.

2. With downtown increasingly attractive, being able to get there in 10 minutes from West Knoxville would increase visits. It might even reduce demand for free parking downtown.

3. Congestion and air quality, naturally.

4. Gas prices will only increase, so alternatives to the auto will soon be demanded.

5. It has to happen sooner or later, and it will be cheaper sooner.

As I read the interview with Mayor Haslam ["Haslam: A Self-Assessment," Dec. 13], I saw nothing about his plans to deal with transportation. He should be giving transit needs some attention.

Richard Jantz

Probably too far out, but I'd love to have more public transportation options. I live in Fountain City and work at UT Med Center. I have to be at work at 7 a.m. several days of the week. I can't get to work by 7 a.m. on the bus. I love using public transport in other large cities (Chicago, D.C.). It's inexpensive, clean, and tons of people use it. I tried to figure out a way to do it here, but it just won't happen with the bus service in its present schedule.

Shanna Overbey, R.N., B.S.N.

Clinical Trials Coordinator

University of Tennessee Cancer Institute

If Knoxville really wants to improve quality of life, the city needs to focus on improving public transportation! What they've done downtown is great, but unless more people can get around from the center, life in the center of the city will never improve. Just take a look, all the best cities in the world have great public transport! Knoxville needs to realize that free trolleys around the downtown area are great, but people live and work in different areas. I live on 5th Avenue, right near downtown. I work off Merchants Boulevard. If I wanted to bus, it would take me 2 1/2 hours to get there—it's a 10-minute drive! What about light rail, what about more buses? That's my suggestion, and I'm sticking to it.

Karissa Dunbar

Need more public transportation....particularly from neighboring commuter counties (Blount, Anderson, etc.). Can't believe we don't have a public shuttle to the airport from downtown/UT and West Knox areas!

Cheryl Walton

Down With Cars Altogether

I would like the Tennessee National Guard to begin installing and using IEDs and EFPs on the southbound lanes of I-75 at the Kentucky border to reduce the influx of hordes of Ohioans, Michiganders, and other Northerners fleeing the rust belt. Same thing on I-75 North and I-26 at the North Carolina border to keep the Floridians at bay. The invasion of these pests is the single worst change in the area in living memory. Hemlock woolly adelgids got nothing on these people. I see more OSU bumper stickers in Cedar Bluff than UT orange, and that is PLAIN WRONG.

Of course, I am just kidding (for any NSA analysts who may be reading this e-mail). What I would really like to see is the noncontiguous threads of greenway connected up to allow a real possibility of bike-commuting between the different corners of Knox County. Yee-haaa!!!

Greg Miller

More transit-, pedestrian-, and bicycling-oriented development, and less dependence on cars!

I've lived in Knoxville my entire life, and have visited many other areas of the United States, and know we could do far better as a city and as a county in having more sustainable, less car-dependent forms of transportation. There are a number of ways to push for this:

One is the form-based zoning that has fortunately been appearing in city planning decisions recently, which means that people can live, work, and play all in the same designated areas, instead of things being divided into "residential" and "commercial" blocks like they usually are; using planning like this would go a long way toward reducing peoples' need to drive everywhere.

Secondly, making a vastly more available, widespread, and intense public transportation system would be fantastic. We have a pretty good city bus service now, but it always seems to get second priority behind cars. Bringing buses closer to people's neighborhoods, making the bus stops more plentiful, and even—gasp!—possibly banning the use of automobiles in certain areas and replacing them with accessible bus service are all part of this.

Beyond that, of course, continuing the growing greenways system and having sidewalks and pedestrian right-of-way all over the place would help a lot. Many cities have been on this path for a while; see Portland, Boston, Asheville, and Curitiba, Brazil, just to start off with.

Geoff Trowbridge

One thing we must change about Knoxville in 2008 is to improve the experience for pedestrians within our urban core—and connecting out from it. The new pedestrian crossing signals with the countdown feature are a frustrating, dangerous waste when so many fail to give a predictable, relevant countdown from crossing to crossing.

Some signals properly count down to zero when the traffic light in the intersection turns to amber—when the traffic flow is about to change and threaten the crossing. But others have a short, inexplicable countdown in the middle of the traffic cycle, even where there are no turn lanes, arrows, or other conditions to warrant it.

The signals that count down to zero and then leave you standing there in awkward uncertainty are not only frustrating, but dangerous as well. When pedestrians learn to expect 10 or more protected seconds after counting down to zero, consider where this leaves them when they come to a crossing that is set improperly: smack in the middle when the light changes. This is dangerous and crazy-making, and it's so like Knoxville to install countdown crossing signals and then get the timing and details stupidly wrong.

Crossing signals should be uniformly set to give a countdown that enables each pedestrian to judge whether it is safe to cross in the time left. Duh! It's that simple.

Also, Henley Street should be dug below-grade between Clinch and Cumberland Avenues—creating a broad, landscaped, grade-level pedestrian connection along the Church Street axis—connecting downtown with the Convention Center and World's Fair Park. A natural rise in Henley at Church makes this a relatively easy improvement.

J. David Buckwalter

The key words are transportation and accessibility to this part of town (the Broadway/ Central intersection). If the corridors linking our part of town to Market Square, the Old City, and Gay Street were better nurtured and beautified, then people would feel safer, and have a better understanding on the connectedness of these places. In a broader perspective, people would grow a more expansive perspective. Attitudes about this part of town would likely shift for the positive, as the experience of traveling from one section of town to another improves. Ideally, changes to these corridors will be eco-friendly and encourage people to be on their feet. Improvements in transportation systems can include a bicycle taxi service and a better set-up for pedestrians. Again, if these corridors linking parts of our city were better nurtured and more accessible (even from the interstate), then people's perspectives would shift, allowing our town to evolve into an even better place to experience.

Sara Griscom, Gypsy Hands proprietor

And Get Rid of Those Traffic Light Cameras, Too

This is my pet peeve: I am really annoyed by those stupid red light cameras, because I don't know how many times I've nearly eaten it because somebody in front of me jammed on their brakes at a yellow light. I'd like to know how much revenue they generate, and whether accidents don't actually go up.

Derek Senter, DJ for WUTK's Funhouse radio show

Smarter Development & Better Attractions

How to fix Knoxville? We could start by getting serious about creating a roadmap for responsible development in our county, then sticking to it!

So many of our problems seem to stem from unchecked development. Allowing all the individual re-zonings and variances each month at MPC, BZA, and County Commission meetings with no entity taking responsibility for looking at the big picture seems to be the root of the problem. The haphazard method of approving development just about anywhere leads to overcrowded schools that result in contentious re-zonings; inadequate road infrastructure, which causes increased accidents on overtaxed roads; sewer overflows and poor water pressure in areas that were never planned for the number of homes that the utility infrastructure must service, and so on.

A requirement for rezoning or any deviation from the sector plan should be the creation of an impact study that examines whether the proposed development has adequate support infrastructure before the development is allowed to proceed.

Lisa Starbuck

The Civic Coliseum has served Knoxville since I was a child. For a small town, it has served well. However, the Knox County area has grown by several hundred thousand people since the 1950s, and it is about time to create a venue that would draw better shows, hockey teams, and concerts to Knoxville. The current entertainment tax would have to be revamped in order to get top draws here. The Knoxville Ice Bears have continued to have success despite the inadequate facility that they must use now. The rink is undersized and many of the seats don't allow a full view of the ice surface. A few big shows might help fill the convention center with the right timing. Also with a 21st-century design, people might fill the condos on the waterfront in the prettiest city on the Tennessee River. Let's get beyond Cas Walker-type thinking and keep this town on the upswing.

Allan Webb

I'm afraid that all of Knoxville (especially South Knoxville) will become another Turkey Creek (God forbid). Progress and development are OK within reason. It's even more palatable when the development is comprised of local businesses, which makes the center stand out. The last thing I want is another Turkey Creek! As it is, you can go anywhere in the U.S. and see the EXACT same collection of shops and restaurants. Terrible. Boring.

Joanna Henning-Johnson

The City of Knoxville, the County of Knox, and the University of Tennessee needs to realize that for a huge percentage of the population visiting our city, the gateway is Fort Sanders. For two decades, the Fort has seen its Victorian mansions razed, burned, and blighted. The cheap apartments springing up are atrociously ugly. It's just going down and down and down. There is a tremendous amount at stake and the cure ought to be primary in the sites of these institutions. Making Fort Sanders a great neighborhood could make Knoxville a great city. The time for this change may have passed 20 years ago when the Fort wasn't a series of gravel lots where there used to stand houses turned into 14 apartments. But there are certainly things to be done now; 150,000 people every other Saturday in football season will notice.

Tim Glazner

It's All About Downtown

I would like to see the city take interest in possibly implementing deed restrictions on downtown residential developments. Specific to making condo living more affordable for us hard-working individuals who work downtown but can't afford to even purchase an efficiency or one-bedroom condo.

Jennifer Bell, Section 8 Home Ownership Coordinator

Knoxville's Community Development Corporation

I believe the one best thing the city can do to enhance the vitality and success of downtown Knoxville, as well as to enhance the concept of "city" for all residents of larger Knoxville, is to adopt explicitly in its planning process for downtown a set of principles and guidelines designed to improve and increase the amount of shared civic space. Community precedes commerce—always and throughout human history. Residential development and city services for residents must be the first priority.

Robert A. Loest, Ph.D., CFA

Senior Portfolio Manager

Integrity Mutual Funds, Inc.

Less manly meter maids and their ticket books penalizing people for supporting the city, get rid of the 100 block back-in restriction, have residents and business owners control locations of por-to-lays and construction dumpsters, and come April, please just rip up ONE side only of the sidewalks on the 100 block of Gay at a time, not both, especially with a one-year schedule.

Denise Stewart-Sanabria, artist and self-described "instigator"

No parking along Gay Street—it makes the city look like an overgrown hick town.

Edgar French

It seems any time there's a solicitation for public input about downtown, one topic that tops the list is making it more pedestrian friendly. It was true with Nine Counties One Vision, and it was made clear at the meetings that were held to create the current Downtown Design Guidelines. But little has been done to realize that goal.

As an example, after years of work and millions of dollars, Market Square—a pedestrian-only public space—doesn't have a single marked crosswalk leading to it on Union. Most crosswalks downtown where they do exist are faded. And many more are needed.

And despite the addition of new pedestrian signals, it seems little thought was given to making the intersections themselves more accommodating to pedestrians than vehicles. Traffic-light timing downtown should be determined with pedestrian crossing in mind, not efficiently moving automobiles.

To add to the momentum that is bringing more and more visitors to downtown, it's time the city concentrated on making it one of the safest places to walk in the city. It's a place where people should be able to park the car and feel comfortable walking anywhere without worrying about automobile traffic.

This isn't something that requires a lot of money. But it does require a change in thinking and in the attitudes of traffic engineers and others who shape the urban fabric. KPD could step up enforcement of moving violations (including speeding). And as for adding crosswalks? Paint's cheap.

Michael Haynes

We would be a lot better off without derelict building owners who allow their properties to fall into disrepair.

I love Knoxville. I have lived here my entire life. In a lot of ways it is a beautiful city, but I can sympathize with the many tourists that come here and see all these collapsing buildings in ill repair and think, "What a dirty, run-down town."

I know these problems cannot be solved overnight, but something needs to be done—perhaps stricter laws or penalties for the owners who allow this to happen.

Another thing that would be beneficial to downtown in particular would be a grocery store...maybe not the textbook traditional type grocer....I have in mind something like separate vendors in the same vicinity, i.e. a produce market, a fish monger, a butcher, a really great bakery, a shop devoted to sundries. I envision a French market place, run by local purveyors.

Manya Whitney-Miller

Tolerating Different People

There needs to be a little bit more civility, more ability to tolerate other people's opinions and beliefs with a more balanced attitude. And there needs to be a more civic-minded heart in Knoxville than what's been shown, particularly among the younger generation. I'd sum it up with my three C's—more civility, more civic-mindedness, and more community-oriented activity.

Jim A.H. Bell, attorney

What Knoxville needs is to be de-segregated!

It's so sad to see the racial segregation in east/west Knoxville.

Nancy Williams

Up With Arts & Culture

With the unfortunate announcement that "Broadway in Knoxville" will cease operations in a few months, my hope for 2008 would be a transformation of our community's support for Knoxville Opera, the only remaining non-UT musical theater producer in our city. A significant increase in individual, corporate, municipal, and foundation support would allow the company to expand its offerings to include musicals, which I believe would be deeply appreciated by our community.

Brian Salesky, General Director and Conductor, Knoxville Opera

Knoxville needs The Museum of Mythic Creatures. In a city with a flagship university that boasts the largest adult male centaur specimen east of the Mississippi River, and a region that has a remarkable biodiversity as well as frequent reports of "skunk apes," the museum would strive to include all known mythic creatures. Consider the wildly successful "Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids" exhibition held recently at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The Museum's educational programs would be actively engaged with our city's youth through workshops on topics such as "Making Mythic Creatures Through Old Stuffed Toys" and with aspiring business leaders on "Lessons from the Marketing of Bigfoot." Additionally, the museum would expose visitors to the latest techniques in creative taxidermy as well as interactive displays with holographic projections. With this new addition to the cultural and intellectual landscape of Knoxville, the Knoxville Convention Center will turn a profit and our downtown hotels will be brimming with guests. In summation, this would be Knoxville's answer to the Museum of Creation just up the road in Petersburg, Ky.

Beauvais Lyons, Professor of Art and Director of the Hokes Archives, UT School of Art

I think Knoxville needs a children's museum downtown in the Daylight Building, similar to the one in Charleston, S.C. It's interactive and loads of fun for kids.

Mahasti Vafaie, Tomato Head owner

Knoxville needs to keep its momentum going. There's a lot of positive energy in our community now and the future possibilities are exciting. At long last, it seems that the essential role that arts and culture plays in the healthy economic development and quality of life of any city is being increasingly acknowledged in Knoxville. There continues to be an enormous growth potential here.

Also, the upcoming development of South Knoxville and the waterfront is incredibly exciting, as long as wise and thoughtful decisions are made. We need to look at the strong examples set by other river cities like Chattanooga, Austin, and Richmond to ensure that our riverfront serves to enhance and support the vitality of our community.

Great things are happening here. Knoxville's a great place to be right now.

Ashley Capps, AC Entertainment

Check out cities, even little Chattanooga, where the arts have been given a primary focus. We don't have to recreate the wheel. Cities all over the country have done it. Let's just do it!

A vital, well-supported arts community (supported by business, government, education, and media, along with the usual philanthropists and art enthusiasts):

1) attracts successful, high-quality corporations and businesses with employees who demand strong culture as a part of their lifestyle. These are the kind of businesses whose resources support the quality of life for the entire community.

2) attracts tourism, which supports the economy, encourages entrepreneurial endeavor and business, supports education, additional resources for schools and the development of the creative mind which is essential to navigate change in both personal and political venues.

3) supports families, values, entertainment, and just plain old fun.

4) brings vitality and life to abandoned areas of the city.

5) presents the Knoxville mind, a joyous, interesting conduit to the WORLD MIND.

Lynda Evans, artist and curator of The Body Sacred, an exhibit that featured works focused on the human form

I would like to see a return to the golden days of the World's Fair, with places like Annie's, Piccolo's, and Union Cafe. These were times where the whole world did not cater to the college crowd—more sophisticated, elegant times, and lots of jazz, even a gorgeous baby grand at Piccolo's.

The other thing would be to get the New York Times boxes back on the streets. There were five in the past when downtown was a ghost town. Now with the multitudes of loft dwellers downtown, there is not one New York Times box downtown. There is something so backwards about all of this!

Cynthia Markert, artist

My main recommendation is to capitalize on the growing success of WDVX. I truly think Knoxville can become the Americana music capital of the nation. With continued financial and promotional support from the city government and private sector, I think it is possible. It can help Knoxville establish an identity as something other than the home of UT.

David Myers

Keepin' It Green

I believe that everyone in the city of Knoxville is trying to go green but the city itself is struggling. I have seen some cities allow free parking and no road taxes for people who have electric cars. (No, I do not have one.) The city is not making it easy for us. I believe that Knoxville should have a clear bus and trolley system. Too many going three to five different ways. It is a struggle to get across town.

So, the answer would be not to go green but to make the push to get greener (any way we can)!

Russell Hembree, Director of Program Development at Camelot Care Center

Have a greenway or wide sidewalk located on every creek, every river bank, and beside any road that is possible, including all interstate highways running through Knoxville. Connect every school to its surrounding neighborhoods and connect all neighborhoods together into a network. All parks will be connected into a system that reaches east-west from Farragut Town Hall to Holston River Park. Connect Fountain City Park south down First Creek to its mouth on the Tennessee River next to Gateway Center. Connect Loves Creek to House Mountain along a creek/ridgeline greenway. Have high green ways on all the ridges of Knoxville for the citizens to practice running or just looking. Every library, church, civic building, recreation center, theater, grocery store, restaurant, newspaper office, every building. And along these greenways place picnic tables, water fountains, and trash cans at all the fabulous and inspiring views of Knoxville that we have not seen yet. Free bikes for all the children of Knoxville to ride to Ijams Nature Center to see the new pair of whooping cranes. Everyone who wishes may walk or ride their bike to work or school every day.

My favorite quote: "The visionary is the only true realist."

Donna Young, Knoxville's greenways coordinator

Keep building and connecting greenways across Knoxville. Great progress has been made and more progress is desirable for improved quality of life.

Victor Ashe, former mayor (1988-2003) and current U.S. Ambassador to Poland

When In Doubt, Ask a Musician

Club shows should start on time, and people should get used to it, therefore show up on time. Other than that, I dig this place...

Tim Lee, The Tim Lee Three

We should allow open containers of alcohol in the Old City and Market Square. You know—like it used to be.

We should add a more populist element to Knoxville radio. And if adding some rational middle-ground to the Republican overkill isn't an option, can we at least get rid of Sean Hannity's syndicated ignorance? It's more disturbing than Rush Limbaugh because Rush Limbaugh at least admits that his spin cycle is about the money, whereas Sean Hannity seems to actually believe his own bullshit. Of course, getting rid of Rush Limbaugh would be alright too.

We should get rid of all the meth labs around town—they're just tacky. You know?

We should start declaring city rights and working with the rest of Tennessee to push for sensible state rights. We don't actually seem to have many rights at the federal level anymore and it's not like we're all a bunch of paralyzed mutes, incapable of doing anything about it on a local level. In other words...

We should start learning from Denver, Colo.

We should expose the Al-Qaeda terrorist cells that thrive in Turkey Creek and outlaw the Hummers that protect them.

No, really.

Arrison Kirby of El Deth Records

My wish for Knoxville in 2008 is that people would place their bets on not a sure thing, like go to restaurants and galleries that they wouldn't normally go to, go see a band they've never seen before—something that the pathway's not so obvious to.

Leslie Woods, Appalachian Gothic chanteuse

I'd like to see downtown Knoxville much more accessible to different cultures and art genres, commerce suitable for the common man, and less—or perhaps none—of that homogenized, pseudo-upscale night life.

Science O'Mega, hip-hop group Fluid Engineerz

More direct flights out of TYS, and get a giant bronze statue of me erected in the Square, ASAP. That reads funny, doesn't it? Take it however you like.

JAW, guitarist/lead singer of The American Plague

OK, after giving it a lot of thought I have decided on two things that I would like to try and change in Knoxville in 2008.

First off, I would like the entire state of Tennessee to reverse the smoking ban in restaurants. How in the sam hell am I supposed to eat a delicious steak, polish off a tall cool Budweiser, and NOT be able to smoke a wonderful stogie??

Secondly, I would like the city government to legalize gambling. I'm talking casinos. I'm talking live tables, dealers, free drinks, the works. It would help energize the local economy, stimulate job growth, and make me one happy SOB.

Dave Dammit, bassist for American Plague

I feel that more money from the UT football/sports machine [should] go toward the world-class UT jazz program.

Carlos Fernandez, Altru Music

I wish more folks would go out and check out the music scene in 2008. There's nothing like seeing a great band you haven't heard, and we have a great bunch of bars/clubs hosting original live music every night of the week, so there is really no excuse.

Don Coffey, Superdrag drummer and producer at Independent Recorders

I hate to be predictable, but what I'd like to see is for everything to go non-smoking. I've only played non-smoking venues since the end of 2004. I got tired of running and working out, then playing a smoky club and not being able to breathe the next day during a five-mile run. If more places went non-smoking, that would give me an opportunity to play some of the venues I used to play all the time again.

Michael Crawley, singer/harmonica player

No smoking whatsoever in public places! I'm an ex-smoker, and ex-smokers are the worst. I'm allergic to it now. Because of smoking, I mostly only play private parties now.

Detroit Dave, guitarist

I'd like to see music return to the Strip. Original live music, no covers. It's sad the way the frozen-drink joints and the karaoke have replaced live music. When that stuff moved in, you could hear the death knell. Kids are told what they like now instead of figuring it out themselves. There's a sleeping giant here in Knoxville now, and I want that sleeping giant to wake the fuck up.

Carl Snow, guitarist

Food: More and Better

My New Year's resolution this year is to get out of my house and reacquaint myself with Knoxville's restaurant scene—really get to know every nook and cranny. This task has all the charm and appeal of a wheat-grass crash diet. Now, I've been gone for a few years, and since I've been back I've been laid up in my SoKno foxhole with a toddler in arms. But from where I sit, the scene looks a little less interesting and vibrant and diverse in 2008 than it did 10 years ago in 1998. There are exceptions, to be sure (Nama, Taste of Thai, I Love New York, and the always fabulous Tomato Head). But mostly it looks like growth in the market has come in the form of freeze-n-thaw family-style restaurants and fast-food joints. Where are the restaurants serving fresh, local, organic food? Where are the authentic ethnic eateries? Where is the flavor? Where is the LOVE? If I could change anything in 2008, it would be that there would be a veritable plethora of interesting, fabulous, flavorful restaurants (a pho house, a Pakistani, an Ethiopian, a nouveau soul, an organic vegan, a Caribbean, etc.) opening in Knoxville. Make that South Knoxville. 37920. With delivery. Thank you.

Bonnie Appetit, former Metro Pulse restaurant critic (and current WIFE OF THE EDITOR!!!)

I thought of two things: a cooler August, and for Taste of Thai to move downtown.

Tony Lawson, program director at WDVX

Knoxville needs a real farmer's market like the ones in Asheville and Atlanta, something that's located more toward the center of the population (west Knoxville) so as to not be preordained to failure as the previous one. Knoxvillians (as all other humans) would do well to buy and eat locally grown organic produce.

Claudette Rumroad

And Then There's Knoxblab

We dared to post our question on the merciless online community known as Knoxblab, and certainly did get some earnest responses. (Go to knoxblab.com and search "How would you improve Knoxville?" as a thread title for those entries.) But here are the distinctly Knoxblab-ian suggestions:

Monorail.

Gnaw Parker

Robots made from guns.

metulj

I have no idea why, but the image of gigantic rock-'em, sock-'em robots, poised all pre-contretemps on either side of the Sunsphere, as if ready to knock its block off to get at one another, leapt into my mind and I think they would improve Knoxville.

SnM

Declare war on Blount County and invade. We need some excitement 'round here.

MaryvilleRockWriter

Ice cream.

Randall

* Require all cats to wear wigs.

* Bathhouses, or Brothels—whatever your taste.

* Make use of the trolley lines that are buried underneath the pavement (Broadway, et al). & Amtrak, Amtrak, Amtrak.

* Absorb County guvment with the City government, and not the other way around.

* Convert churches to discos.

Freshly Cracked Pepper

Make everyone take a correspondence course.

Apeville

A World's Fair!

Tardisrider