By Steve Hunley

Ward Proposes Regional Mental Health Facility

As this is written, County Commissioner Kyle Ward is moving along his resolution asking for support from the State of Tennessee to help fund a mental health center for Knoxville.  Knoxville is the only city out of the four big cities in Tennessee which doesn’t have a mental health center since the closure of Lakeshore years ago.  If Knoxville and Knox County intend to truly deal with the problem of the homeless, a mental health facility is an absolute necessity.  All too often, homelessness has much to do with addiction and mental illness.

Ward is taking the first meaningful step in trying to address the problem by seeking the cooperation of the State of Tennessee.  State Senator Becky Duncan Massey, who has been very active on the front of mental health issues in the legislature, is all in on trying to secure state funding.  Ward has written a letter to Governor Bill Lee, with copies going all over the place, to bring attention to the issue.

Once again, Ward is being proactive on a topic that more and more concerns most Knox Countians and Knoxvillians.  While city officials talk about “affordable housing” and twiddle their thumbs, what they are actually trying to fund is a third bridge for the University of Tennessee.  Is that really as necessary as a mental health facility for Knoxville and Knox County?  Last I heard, the City of Knoxville was proposing to spend $20 million on a bridge for the University of Tennessee, which looks to be flush with cash as the building on the campus never seems to stop.  The sorority houses alone would be the envy of any billionaire entrepreneur.

Governments ought to prioritize spending of taxpayer dollars and clearly, the thing Knoxville and Knox County needs most currently is a mental health/treatment facility before we are overrun with mentally ill homeless people wandering about everywhere.

Some public officials have suggested we prod the homeless population together in an outdoor space reserved for them as a “safe space” – – – like some kind of prize herd of buffalo roaming the western plains.  Other cities have seen the homeless living in yards and neighborhoods, playgrounds and the like.  The problem is spreading from the City of Knoxville into the county.

A mental health/treatment facility is a big part of the answer to actually doing something about the homeless problem affecting our community.


Too Little, Too Late?

The daily newspaper is squalling about the proposed demolition of the old Sterchi house on Magnolia Avenue.  It’s as if the Sentinel, like Rip Van Winkle awoke after a drug binge, and discovered someone had bought the property and was proposing to tear it down and do something useful with the lot.  All of a sudden, there’s an effort to preserve the old mansion, largely because the new building is supposed to be a state parole office.

While the Knoxville News-Sentinel can caterwaul about the change affecting the “character and economic vitality” of East Knoxville, that seems like a pretty big stretch to me.  Originally, the home was to have been renovated and leased to the state.  That plan fell through when the second floor of the house was badly damaged by a fire, quite likely the result of vandals or vagrants.

Knox Heritage has finally appeared to investigate long after the body was not only cold, but quite nearly buried.  The spokesperson for Knox Heritage said the community complains the parole office plan was put into place “without any community input.”  If true, who’s fault is that?  State Representative Sam McKenzie has stumbled into action well after the fact.  Now that someone has paid $730,000 for the property and proposes to repurpose it and lease it to the State of Tennessee, a handful of folks don’t like the idea it would be a parole office.

Frankly, it doesn’t seem like a state office building is going to impair business along once-bustling Magnolia Avenue.  What the area desperately needs is anything that will give the area a sense of security and stability.  That would do more than anything to help any resurgence along Magnolia Avenue.


Governor Lee Calls Special Session

Governor Bill Lee has finally issued the call for the special session of the Tennessee General Assembly, as expected.  The General Assembly will go into special session on August 21 to consider public safety laws.

Some of the measures proposed by the governor should be passed by the legislature.  For instance, one piece of legislation recommended by the governor is to collect the DNA of all individuals at the time of an arrest for a felony, which is intended to strengthen the law in identifying criminals.  Even the most casual viewer of television realizes the importance of DNA in convicting criminals in many violent crimes.  It seems a former cold case, oftentimes decades old, is solved because of DNA evidence that wasn’t available at the time the murder or crime was committed.

Governor Lee is also recommending some changes to our state laws with regard to mental health, which certainly merit debate by the legislature.

Unfortunately, calling the special session is quite probably a political mistake on the part of Governor Lee.  It appears state Representative Gloria Johnson intends to use the special session to launch her campaign for the U.S. Senate against Marsha Blackburn.  Rep. Johnson has always had a flair for political showmanship and the special session will put her front and center in the cavern of the winds that is the General Assembly.  Rep. Johnson will use her time in the spotlight to gin up campaign contributions and clips to win her votes in Tennessee’s urban counties.  The Leftist media coverage will of course gravitate toward Rep. Johnson and the two Justins and paint the Republicans as unfeeling brutes.  There’s nothing new about any of it, but it will be a show worthy of a circus.