By Steve Hunley
Do you remember the old “Let’s Make a Deal” show with Monte Hall?  From what I understand, the show is still on in a different version.  The basis is hopeful contestants dress up in oftentimes weird costumes or eye-catching get-ups and then negotiate with the host.  The premise is the host will offer a contestant something of value, which the trader can then exchange for something else, presumably something of even greater value.

Presently, Knox County government is engaging in its own version of “Let’s Make a Deal” with a little bit of “The Price Is Right” thrown into the mix.  Mayor Glenn Jacobs is pushing hard to sell the Andrew Johnson Building, which is owned by the county.  The reason it is owned by Knox County is because it houses the staff and administration of our school system.  Host Glenn Jacobs has been telling us, as the public is the contestant whether we realize it or not, what a good deal this really is without knowing what’s behind Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3.  The mayor’s willing assistant, Commissioner Larsen Jay, pirouettes nicely to pose in front of the doors, which contain ever changing figures.

Now the unsuspecting public has another contestant in the audience from what I hear.  Top officials at the University of Tennessee are calling school folk to tell them just what a boon to the taxpayers it would be for us to sell the Andrew Johnson Building and move the school system to the old TVA Tower.  Mind you, the TVA Tower is such a bargain it has sat there unloved and unoccupied for 15 years.  How curious no eagle-eyed developer has spotted that bargain-in-waiting for all these years.  Some of the details of the alluring bargain to the taxpayers involve selling the Andrew Johnson Building for 23% of what the taxpayers’ have invested in it.  The developers who propose to buy the AJ are supposed to be getting a 25 year TIF, which means it would be at least that long before it ever returned to the tax rolls. Really! Putting the AJ Building back on the tax rolls was supposedly one of the prime reasons to rush the school people out the door in the first place.  Here’s where we get to “The Price Is Right,” as it’s certainly right for the developers.  Who wouldn’t want to buy property for a fraction of its market value?

The AJ is paid for and owned by you – – – the taxpayers – – – but by some warped logic, we are told there is a burning need for Knox Countians to move the school folk into the TVA Tower.  And yes, it’s been verified it would limit the access of many people in coming into the building; you see, it’s a federal building, which requires what is known as a “real ID” to enter.  If the board of education is to meet in that building, most regular folks aren’t coming inside for the meeting.  It’s been hinted that the University of Tennessee has offered to rent out the top six floors of the TVA Tower.  Perhaps that’s the reason for top UT officials to be calling around to talk about what a great deal it is for the taxpayers.  It’s been sitting there unused for 15 years; if it’s such a great deal why doesn’t the university snap it up and buy the whole building?  It’s not like UT can’t afford it.  Recently, the university had $1 billion or more in construction projects either ongoing or in the pipeline.  As we all know all too well, the university has spent millions alone on revolving football coaches and university presidents.

Nobody is clamoring for the school people to move, especially the school folks. Also nobody has presented anything resembling a good deal for the school system, Knox County,or the taxpayers.  It is the equivalent of moving your parents out of a home that is paid for to a condo complex with a mortgage and association fees.  You didn’t have a house payment and now, all of a sudden, you do.

Of course you can always go down to watch the show, dress up like a gift box, ballerina, or a tube of hemorrhoid cream and play “Let’s Make A Deal.”  If you do, bring your check book and prepare to get “zonked.”