By Steve Hunley


Lest you think otherwise, this column is aptly named for there are all kinds of odd things going on in our community and you ought to know about them! Here we go for this week:


Public Banned By Public School System

Mike McMillan, East Knox County’s member of the Board of Education, is on a tear. The Central office staff has been working feverishly to have a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020. Apparently any old graduation ceremony will do. The announcement was made with the same kind of fanfare as another worldwide tour by Madonna. The Central Office Staff heralded their plan to have the graduation exercises take place in the stadiums of each high school, attended by the principal, the six or seven assistant principals larded into the system, and the teaching staff. Who is not invited? Mom and Dad, Mamaw and Papaw, uncles, aunts and cousins. “It would be difficult to conceive of a more terrible plan,” McMillan groused. “The school bureaucracy is NOT a substitute for family.”

The graduates would be greeted by the waiting school bureaucrats, handed their diploma and are to march straight to their car or a waiting car and zoom off to safety.

The school system tried to blame Dr. Martha Buchanan, head of the Knox County Health Department, for excluding family. Only problem is Dr. Buchanan never said Mom and Dad couldn’t attend, leaving the decision up to the school system about social distancing. “Good Lord,” McMillan sighed, “there’s enough room in the football stadiums where they are having the graduations for social distancing, requiring masks and any other precautions that might be necessary.”

Only the public school system would herald a plan that excludes the public.


Flip-Flop Richie

Running without opposition has caused County Commissioner Richie Beeler to soar like a hummingbird bird. It’s also given him room to do some flip flops and change his mind. Beeler’s first notable flip flop was when he went from opposing Knox County’s sale of the Andrew Johnson Building and the school system’s move to the TVA East Tower to supporting both. Closer to home, now Beeler has started a verbal brawl with residents inside his own district over a re-zoning issue. Rezonings can be highly contentious, very emotional and have a pretty long shelf-life in politics. Communities can hold onto to their resentments for years until they become red hot. After a promise to support area residents, Beeler has abandoned constituents in favor of the developer and the home folks are pretty peeved about it. Richie Beeler tried to play the man-of-the-cloth card and referred to how hard he’s prayed about it. Some folks feel a man-of-the-cloth ought to be a little more true to his word.


Justin Biggs Is Essential, Just Ask Him

Commissioner At-Large Justin Biggs collects – – – count ‘em – – – TWO county paychecks. One is from his part-time job as a Knox County Commissioner and the second from his employment in the Knox County Trustee’s office. As Mayor Glenn Jacobs requested fellow officeholders to furlough some employees to save money, those same officeholders designated certain employees as less essential than others, which probably wasn’t easy to do, politically or personally. Rumblings from the courthouse indicate Justin Biggs went up in flames when he was designated as non-essential by Trustee Ed Shouse. Biggs has big ambitions, one of which is to succeed the term-limited Shouse as trustee in a couple of years. Biggs grew up in the shadow of his father, Eddie Biggs, who was one of many chiefs inside the sheriff’s department before he retired after the election of Tom Spangler as sheriff. Justin Biggs is essential, just ask him. However, obviously, Trustee Ed Shouse doesn’t agree.


Taking One for the Team

Sheriff Tom Spangler must have had a little fall-out from the furlough issue as the sheriff’s department is laying off some courtroom bailiffs. Originally the sheriff’s department seemed to take the same line as the school system – – – every employee was essential – – – but announced late last week bailiffs would be laid off as courtrooms were empty. It is true most courtrooms were empty, but it is also true the Tennessee State Supreme Court is busy preparing for the re-opening of courts. Some courts are functioning on a limited basis and the Clerk’s offices are daily resetting cases for the future. It looks like the bailiffs took one for the team.


Spend It All Indya

Could the attitude of Glenn Jacobs and Indya Kincannon be more different? Probably not. Jacobs has been furloughing his own employees and asking other county officeholders to do the same to save money. Kincannon, the beneficiary of a tax increase inside the City of Knoxville by her predecessor Madeline Rogero, is giving a bonus to firefighters, cops, and others who have been on the frontlines during the Corona virus. Of course most of the employees working hard on the frontlines were those in medical-related fields and the IT Department of Knox County and the Health Department have done yeoman-service for the taxpayers. Kincannon is also planning to boost contributions to local charities like United Way with the taxpayer’s money. The varying attitudes of the county mayor and the city mayor may well come down to experience. Jacobs is an entertainer and businessman who has some respect for money while Kincannon, despite her frequent bragging about her degree from an ivy league college, has not run so much as a peanut stand. During her stint on the Knox County Board of Education, Kincannon dutifully followed Jim McIntyre across the street every year to ask for more money. So be sure to thank Indya for making a charitable contribution in your name next time you see her.


The Money Trap

Speaking of asking for more money to spend, the school system will almost surely have some hard choices to make at budget time and they should. Jim McIntyre never hesitated in the larding of the school bureaucracy that was the hallmark of his reign. For instance, McIntyre hired the teacher coaches with one-time money that became a recurring annual expense for taxpayers. Glenn Jacobs will have some hard decisions of his own to make while the school system will almost certainly receive generous special funding from the feds. As noted previously, the proposed free-spending of other people’s money by folks like the Knox County Education Coalition, may put the county mayor in a bad spot. It shouldn’t and we have yet to see the end of coronavirus and its effect on local, state and federal budgets, as well as the economy. Nor can we truly count the cost to working families who have suffered job loss as bills continue to pile up.


Get Ready For Ovi

State Representative Rick Staples has yet another challenger inside the Democratic primary. Ovi Kabir, one-time president of UT’s student body and a contestant on the “Big Brother” TV show, has published a platform that was decently plotted out.

A first-generation American, Kabir’s candidacy drew a lot of media attention and he attracted a social media audience as big as Matthew Park inside of about twelve hours. Political observers wonder if Kabir’s candidacy might end any hope Park has of winning the Democratic nomination in a district that has a large minority population.

Matthew Park has a platform worthy of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and while Ovi Kabir is no conservative, his positions on issues are actually thoughtful and articulate. Kabir seems to have thought his out and prepared his own; they don’t smell like leftovers from AOC’s table.