By Steve Hunley

Most of the time it began with out of state consultants hired by Mayor Rogero to research ways to “make Knoxville better” in Rogero speak and almost each time very expensive multi-million dollar projects or vast changes in the Knoxville zoning and codes were recommended. Those solutions often had a common denominator: increased population density.

According to the army of out of state consultants hired by Mayor Rogero on Recode –  the destruction of 60 years of zoning codes and the case law established over time, moving the Knoxville Police to old St. Mary’s, moving Regal from Halls to where the Baptist Hospital used to be, tearing down and creating a new Civic Coliseum, a $10 million dollar upgrade to the Civic Coliseum when the tear down idea died, selling Knoxville Police headquarters for $1, and tens of millions of dollars on TIFS and PILOTS for mixed-use apartments were all things the city had to do…there is much more of this long, long list of things out of state consultants hired by Mayor Rogero have brought down upon taxpayers but to save a lot of time, let’s cut to the new stuff you may not know about.

Let’s examine the two new things from out of state consultants hired by Mayor Rogero and our own Knoxville-Knox County Planning staff have come up with. First new idea is to move the Tennessee Valley Fair somewhere out of Chilhowee Park, then with our fair gone the city should spend between $80 million dollars to $100 million dollars to “upgrade” the Chilhowee Fair grounds. By upgrade they have higher density mixed-use apartments in the scheme.

Is there nothing mixed-use apartments can’t do? How did Knoxville survive for 228 years without this special type of urban zoning which makes Knoxville look like New York City? With all the problems that come from northern urban environments being forced into southern suburban neighborhoods. City residents did not ask for mixed-use apartments but the out of state consultants told us “everybody else is doing it.” And just like Asheville, North Carolina wants to become Austin, Texas and just like Austin, Texas is trying to become San Francisco the madness has come to Knoxville to be something we will never be and never wanted to be.

So what happens to those folks who live next to Chilhowee Park? Will they get gentrified so more of the much coveted mixed-use apartments can be built? Does this mean that some of them could lose their homes in the name of “progress?” Is this acceptable to the people of Knoxville? Creating a problem and then providing an expensive solution for taxpayers is a hallmark of the Rogero administration.

In The Knoxville Focus September 22nd edition we had a Publishers Position called, “How Knoxville makes affordable housing worse” which reported, “What Mayor Rogero did not say is that how Knoxville does affordable housing actually makes affordable housing worse. The way Knoxville does affordable housing is actually corporate welfare for businesses that specialize in getting grants, Tax Increment Financing, Payment in Lieu of Taxes, from the city of Knoxville and then HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) grants and payments. Then fifteen years later the cycle starts over as the HUD agreement has run out and instead of renewing for another HUD period, the business owner remodels and reopens with higher, market-rate rents forcing people out of affordable housing and creating the need for the next round of corporate welfare. Does that seem to be a reasonable way to provide affordable housing? Exacerbating the problem while claiming it is being solved.”

This gentrification war in Knoxville is no different. The vision of this Rogero “make Knoxville better” is a war on lower middle income people and the poor. Don’t worry though; Mayor Rogero has a solution suggested by out of state consultants and backed by Knoxville-Knox County Planning and its Executive Director Gerald Green; Permanent Supportive Housing, like the Ten Year Plan that failed under Mayor Bill Haslam. The Ten Year Plan failed because it would have cost over $110 million dollars. It would cost a whole lot more today.

So the trajectory the city is on is to create homelessness and then fix it with the most expensive solution possible, suggested of course by out of state consultants and our own planning commission.

The latest land grab for Permanent Supportive Housing (the old Ten Year Plan) is to take city park land from neighborhoods like is happening right now to the Parkridge community as the city breaks promise after promise to change part of Caswell Park to non-park land so it can be gifted to Volunteer Ministries for Permanent Supportive Housing.

Sadly there is the second new big idea from our own Knoxville-Knox County  Planning staff which makes no sense at all. In a planning commission “study” it is claimed that Knoxville has too much parking available. It was parking that revitalized downtown Knoxville and now our ace team of planners want to take parking away? Our Planning Commission has suggested that this “excess” parking be converted to parks and of course mixed-use apartments. See a trend here? Taking park land and parking for mixed-use apartments in HUD speak is called “land recycling.” HUD believes that automobiles are bad for cities and that walking, biking, and buses are better for the environment. Mayor Rogero was the HUD grant writer for Mayor Haslam. Indya Kincannon was the HUD grant writer for Mayor Rogero. They both see the world through HUD lenses. Maybe that is the problem? Think about the number of small business that will be wiped out if voters allow this scheme to go forward. Think of the small businesses that were sacrificed on Cumberland Avenue and now Magnolia Avenue with these ridiculous Rogero road reductions.

You need to understand something very important. This gentrification cabal of Mayor Rogero, city council, appointed city law director, appointed planning commission members, and employees of the city and the planning commission have a stated goal that is in writing in various city documents to double the population of the city of Knoxville and reduce the carbon footprint of the city by 80% by 2050.

Can you believe those two goals are possible together? Or do you think a new more realistic course must be charted for our city? Ask yourself this, will you co-operate with this new vision of planning that reduces parking so you have to walk several blocks from your car to do your shopping or get a meal at your favorite restaurant? Or will you find shopping choices and restaurants that have parking next to them even if you have to travel outside the city?

Do you sometimes feel like a lab rat in a social experiment created by the city administration, out of state consultants and our own planning commission? We’ve been told to make Knoxville better we have to accept news ideas like Recode and mixed-use apartments everywhere. In this new vision to make Knoxville better it seems innocent people and businesses get hurt and all of us have to accept new draconian ideas that reduce our choices and our freedoms.

This Knoxville mayoral election is absolutely crucial to the future of our city. Candidate Indya Kincannon is running as the third term of Mayor Madeline Rogero. Kincannon says in her candidate video that, “We’ve taken our city to the next level but there some people waiting to have their turn. I want to make sure we remain affordable with a high quality of life for everybody.” Kincannon enthusiastically supports Recode, housing for the homeless in every neighborhood, HUD mixed-use development and all that it will bring. Does Kincannon support the old adage, “to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs?” Her mentor Madeline Rogero does. Recode, the road reductions and bike lanes everywhere have proved that already.

The other mayoral candidate, Eddie Mannis, has a people-centric vision in his campaign, “Our Knoxville must be people-focused. Knoxville has to be a city that recognizes that people are at the heart of everything we do. Customer service has been central to my career both in business and as a community leader, and as mayor, I will strive every day to deliver on the expectations of all of our citizens.”

Knoxville voters will choose the future of this city. Here’s hoping they will choose wisely.