By Steve Hunley

Demolition Debbie

Debbie Helsley, candidate for city council, wants to start tearing down neighborhoods inside Knoxville.  That’s the inference in a social media post last week by Helsley’s campaign for city council, which featured a drawing of Europe with a few tall buildings and all kinds of multifamily properties.  In contrast below was a landscape of America with a few skyscrapers surrounded by single-family homes; a 5-year-old child could spot the difference.  According to Helsley’s post, “In Knoxville, we’ve made housing like duplexes, fourplexes, and mixed-use multiplexes illegal in too many parts of our city.  On City Council, I’ll fight unnecessary regulation to rebuild our city and work to make Knoxville affordable for all.”

Those “unnecessary regulations” to which Helsley’s campaign refers are called zoning laws.  For instance, industrial uses of property are not allowed in residential areas and so on.  Bars and strip clubs aren’t allowed next to schools.  The bottom line is the Left doesn’t believe in single-family housing and when did the Left ever think any regulation was bad?  Naturally, everything in Europe is far superior to anything in the United States of America, which is why we’ve had to save democracy for them twice now.

Of course, Debbie Helsley lives in a spacious single-family home all by herself.  If she means what she says, why not seek to turn her house into a nice fourplex?  Lead by example, Debbie.  Nor is Helsley right that multiplex housing is banned in too many locations inside Knoxville.

Tearing down neighborhoods and “rebuilding our city,” as Helsley puts it, is going to cost a ton of money, to make “Knoxville affordable for all.”  The Knoxville City Council took a first step in supposed affordable housing by increasing the property tax by 40%, which had the effect of raising rents and mortgages for tens of thousands of residents.  Driving up rents and mortgages doesn’t really make things more affordable for everyone, especially in the midst of the worst inflation this country has seen in 40 years.

Meanwhile, the city government spends millions on a bridge to nowhere for UT and took $9 million of property off the tax rolls.  Still, the very same people bankrolling such projects and blabbering about “affordable housing” haven’t done a thing in the world to make living affordable for anyone except perhaps themselves.  Retirees from the city government enjoy some of the best pensions around, paid for, in large part, by the taxpayers, most of whom don’t have such good pensions.  The city government continues to tax and spend.

If homeowner associations and neighborhood organizations still exist inside the City of Knoxville, Demolition Debbie Helsley should be Public Enemy Number One as she seeks to change zoning laws and turn over single-family homes for wreck and ruin.   Demolition Debbie’s vision to make housing affordable for all will be a paradise for developers and landlords.


City Elections Changed By Legislature

The Tennessee General Assembly has just passed legislation changing general election law inside the City of Knoxville. Presently, there are three at-large districts that are elected citywide. There are six other seats that, at least in theory, are supposed to represent specific districts. In the past, candidates from the primary election move into the general election and are forced to run citywide, meaning the choice of the district in the primary can be overturned in the general election.

City of Knoxville officials have howled that to be so rude as to make district representatives actually represent districts is disenfranchising the rest of the city. That is not only a bogus argument, but a silly one. First of all, every voter inside Knoxville lives in a particular district; secondly, every voter can vote in the three at-large races for city council. The notion that folks in Sequoyah Hills should be able to pick who represents the residents of Vestal is patently absurd on the face of it. One size does not fit all and why should the folks in Bearden select the council member from Mechanicsville? Should Shelby County and Memphis have veto power over who we select for our own congressmen from East Tennessee? Of course not.

In fact, electing all city council members citywide has diluted the influence of people living in neighborhoods. Is every neighborhood exactly alike? Not at all. Is the crime rate the same in every neighborhood? It is not. Is the infrastructure the same in every corner of Knoxville? Not hardly. Neighborhoods and homeowner associations are put at a distinct disadvantage when facing bad zoning fights or issues particular to a certain area. Council members can afford to ignore their own constituents by making up the votes needed in a different area of town they don’t represent as a district representative.

Of course, the truth is the “people” are conspicuously absent in selecting their members of the city council. The vote has been spiraling ever downward in recent years and it is not an uncommon occurrence when a candidate for the Knox County Commission or Board of Education receives a bigger vote than all the candidates running in a council race citywide. Electing representatives from a district should encourage participation by voters.

The members of the General Assembly deserve praise from the people of Knoxville and Knox County.


More Leftist Hypocrisy

The Justins — Jones and Pearson — were barred by the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives from carrying child-sized caskets onto the floor in their latest stunt to make a point about gun violence. Now if those legislators against aborting babies right up to the moment of birth were protesting by carrying coffins made for children inside the chamber, I wonder if the folks on the Left would still be oohing and aahing? Probably not so much.

Good Job, Larsen

Kudos to Commissioner Larsen Jay who developed a program to allow local high school students to participate as “junior commissioners.” Anything that encourages young people to participate in local government in such a positive way is a good thing. Several other communities across the country have picked up the idea. Jay deserves praise for an innovative idea and for working to implement it.