By Steve Hunley

Lord have mercy! Mayoral candidate Indya Kincannon has just let go of a press release announcing, if elected, she will create an Office of Innovation. Don’t you reckon it’s finally time somebody thought of that? I suppose it would not be nice to point out then-superintendent of schools Jim McIntyre did the very same thing; start an office of innovation, that is. I reckon nobody inside the City of Knoxville can be faulted for not knowing that. McIntyre wasn’t exactly very successful in his innovations, but he sure did wear Google out. McIntyre earned his title of “The Great Googler” because he was constantly searching for things other school systems did and proposing to try them here. McIntyre was oftentimes in such a hurry he didn’t even bother to find out how the experiment in Cucamonga turned out; what did he care? McIntyre was like a frog on fire, jumping from one thing to the next big thing. The really important thing in his mind was to give the appearance he was doing something. Evidently McIntyre sees some of himself in Indya, as he’s contributed $350 to Kincannon’s mayoral campaign. Indya has been innovative in who she has taken money from in her quest to be elected mayor, not the least of which is conservative libertarian professor and blogger Glenn Reynolds. Reynolds expresses the kind of views that would cause Gloria Johnson’s Farrah Fawcett-hairdo to collapse or cause Rene Hoyos to faint dead away. Glenn Reynolds would be anathema to the hardcore progressive Kincannon claims to be as she’s running hard for Madeline Rogero’s third term. Still, a thousand bucks is a thousand bucks and to my knowledge, Indya took the money and hasn’t returned it. Reynolds is a law professor where Kincannon’s husband is the Dean, so the donation, hefty as it is, probably has more to do with the personal than the political.

Indya also kind of ripped off the “innovation” idea from mayoral candidate Marshall Stair who proposed something similar as I recall. The new innovation maybe in recycling ideas and claiming them as one’s own.

Kincannon has certainly been innovative in stretching her experience and qualifications as far as they will go; were they rubber bands, she would be in danger of putting her eyes out. Kincannon’s political experience was ten years on the Board of Education where she was less than an innovator and much more of a rubber stamp for McIntyre.  Kincannon loyally followed Jim McIntyre wherever he wanted to take the school system and she’s already had to apologize to teachers for not having been sensitive enough to their needs. To say the least, McIntyre—and much of the board who followed him—were positively loathed by teachers. Kincannon steadfastly supported one of McIntyre’s bigger Google searches, which was the so-called “Balanced Calendar.” Without digging up that dead horse, the most interesting aspects of that proposal were how many school systems across the country had tried it and already abandoned it. Maybe The Great Googler didn’t bother to read that far, but it was interesting to see McIntyre propose something that wasn’t popular with the public or the teachers. Nor could McIntyre put his finger on a price tag for curious county commissioners. McIntyre merely said it would cost somewhere between $2 million and $20 million.  Yes, you read that right. That was certainly an innovative approach to try and wrangle money from a tight-fisted commission. Of course it didn’t work, but Indya and her allies on the board of education stuck to McIntyre like they were glued together.

McIntyre was a pioneer in that kind of accounting and he overspent his budget two years, thinking the mayor and commission would “make up the difference.” Kincannon was one of those board members who voted to spend an unexpected $14 million tax windfall in a single night.

Kincannon blazed a trail of innovation by sending her own children to schools outside the district she represented on the board. No Whittle Springs Middle or Fulton High School for those privileged youngsters; they went to West Knoxville for schooling.

Indya has certainly shown diversity in one respect by taking campaign cash from anyone who will give it. That is likely in part due to the job given to her by Mayor Madeline Rogero, who tasked Kincannon with making sure appointments to boards and agencies in the City of Knoxville were diversified and there is yet another example of innovation at work.

Indya and her Office of Innovation will likely bring that same spirit from the school system to the City of Knoxville. Of course one of the results of the Office of Innovation in the school system was the discovery the money for a $450,000 kitchen at Karns was a bit off. In the end, taxpayers shelled out $900,000 for that kitchen and even got the district attorney involved. Of course the school system had ignored warnings from the state comptroller’s office, another innovation of efficiency in a system that spends three quarters of a billion tax dollars per year.

We likely cannot begin to grasp what wonders of innovation Indya Kinncannon might yet produce. In my opinion, they will continue where Rogero leaves off. They are sure to include more bike lanes, curb protrusions, automobile lane reductions, homeless shelters in every neighborhood and more mixed-use HUD apartment developments anywhere she can find a vacant lot.