I have a habit of striking up conversations while waiting in line. A couple of weeks ago, while waiting to pay for ‘my daily cup of joe’, I happened to notice the gentleman in front of me. He had a bit of a nervous tick, and seemed to be in a terrible hurry, but, yet, wasn’t dressed as if he had somewhere particular to go. His accent lacked a certain Southern drawl.
It was intuitively obvious to the casual observer that he just “wasn’t from around here.” After I remarked on the weather and UT’s desperate search to find a new head coach, the gentleman quickly let me know that he was a recent Ohio transplant. I asked him what he thought of Knoxville, to which he replied: “It’s the biggest little city I’ve ever been to.” (Incidentally, this is also Reno, Nevada’s motto.)
I put my money down, and headed to the office, but I just can’t get that statement out of my head. In April of this year, CNN Money ranked Knoxville #8 on its list of Fastest Growing U.S. Cities. As the community, along with our elected officials, works to revitalize downtown and the outlying areas, create green space, and expand our cultural horizons, the momentum driving our city is almost tangible. Simultaneously, however, tough decisions must be made. Do we increase our property taxes to fund education? Which roads do we build? How do we fund this vision while still maintaining a cost of living index well below the national average? What premium (both literal and figurative) do we place on quality of life?
Knoxville has been blessed with tremendous visionaries who now, more than ever, are making critical decisions that will inevitably shape the future of Knoxville. It brings to mind the famous Knoxvillian James Agee who wrote: “Isn’t every human being both a scientist and an artist?” It’s a terribly tricky thing to balance art and infrastructure, price and progress. However, I believe it’s a balance that can be achieved through transparent public dialogue and collective reasoning.
As these difficult decisions continue to be made, I would encourage you to let your voice be heard by contacting your elected officials. Contact information for Knox County commissioners can be found here http://www.knoxcounty.org/commission/, while City Council members can be found here http://www.cityofknoxville.org/citycouncil/members/.