Most of you missed the West Knox Republican Club Meeting and consequently didn’t hear Mayor Haslam so I’ll recap the meeting for you. Notables in attendance were: Sherry Witt, Barbara Pelot, Jean Teague, Jimmy Jones, Fred Sisk, Scott Moore, Brian Hornback and a few others. I want to thank Brian for introducing me to a few of the folks at the meeting and I hope that he will write something up from this evening. Update: Brian made a great post here.
Mayor Haslam spoke for a few minutes and then allowed for a question and answer time. Haslam noted 4 reasons why he was seeking re-election.
1. He loves doing his job, which essentially is helping the community.
2. It takes a long time to get things done in government
3. Every project is good and it is unclear where to spend the limited money
4. Continue working on projects he started, i.e. South Waterfront, Downtown, I-275 Corridor
I have to agree with the Mayor on the first point. There is something about Knoxville that gives you a desire to dive in and be a part of helping better the community.
Some of the questions that were asked by those in attendance were as follows (The questions and responses by Mayor Haslam are from my notes and are not direct quotes):
The South Waterfront has been controlled by the TVA, which hasn’t allowed any development. How did the city become responsible for the area now? The TVA has been working with the South Waterfront committee and has been very flexible.
The Knoxville Convention Center is running in $150 million in debt, what’s the deal? Basically Mayor Haslam said Knoxville inherited the debt because of poor planning (no hotel) and bad timing when the Convention Center was being built among other factors like 9/11. He has been working to lower the operating cost debt, which he has done successfully from $2 million to $1.3 million a year. The cost/loss for the convention center is about 5 million per year and there isn’t much we can do about it.
What are you thoughts on Metro government? It is cheaper for taxpayers and it makes it easier to work together. In some cases, he said, we may be paying 3 or 4 council members to lobby against each other on the same issue.
Is the location of the Knoxville Transit Center a settled issue? No, but the Church Avenue location is the preferred location if American Accessories will agree upon moving their business.
When will the Downtown Regal Cinema Theater be open for business? The 8-screen state of the art theater with stadium seating will be open by the end of June or early July. He also emphasized the free parking in City garage’s nights and weekends.
Mayor Haslam is doing a great job operating the city and I am grateful that he was willing to share these insights with those of us at the meeting. Knox County Republican Club meetings are held on the second Monday of every month at the Copper Cellar.