Some Nights You Just Have to Love This City

Mayor Rogero Opens the May 1, 2012 Session of the Knoxville City Council

I’d intended to write about business today, but I’ll delay that until tomorrow. Today I need to express the complete wonder of last night in our city. Yesterday I encouraged everyone to come out to support the addition of several groups, including sexual-orientation to our non-discrimination ordinance. The issue had gotten negative attention in the Knoxville News Sentinel in a column written by Greg Johnson and I feared our less tolerant neighbors might attend and attempt to sway the council.

It’s not fair to, or often accurate to look around a crowd and decide who is who, but it was pretty easy to find the supporters of the change: they wore purple. Very helpful. As I scanned the crowd I knew there would be small opposition, if any, since the purple crowd out-numbered the more ordinarily dressed citizens by about four to one. I noticed Bill Lyons wore a purple shirt and tie – very dapper – and our very own Mayor was decked out in the color, as well.

Representative from Alcoa Expresses Support of the Measure



When the issue was presented, two people had asked to speak. The first identified himself as a representative from Alcoa Aluminum. I knew this had to be a good thing because it would in no respect be advantageous for them to oppose the change. In fact, the gentleman spoke quite forcefully for the changes noting that it is not only the correct thing to do in human terms, but also it is good for business, allowing them to recruit the best employees to come to our city regardless of any factors save their talent for the job required.

The second person was dressed in purple leaving little drama as to his perspective. He identified himself as a spokesperson for the purple people and had everyone stand who had attended to support the changes. Nearly everyone stood. It was a smart move and a cool moment.

Standing Ovation for City Council and Mayor Rogero

A couple of council members spoke, mostly thanking the Mayor for bringing the changes forward and taking leadership on the matter. Finbar Saunders noted that she had personally spoken to each of them regarding the importance of the measure. She had made it clear that this was a campaign promise she intended to keep early. She called for a vote and it passed unanimously which lead to a standing ovation.

Greg Tardy, Market Square Stage, Knoxville, May 1, 2012

I understand the group moved the party to the Bistro and I was tempted to go there for the photos, but I decided it felt like a jazzy kind of night and Urban Woman and I enjoyed hummus and crackers on Market Square to the sounds of Greg Tardy and Vance Thompson along with Keith and Kenneth Brown and Clint Mullican. (Special thanks to Preservation Pub for their wireless connection making this blog possible! :-))

Keith Brown, Clint Mullican and Kenneth Brown, Knoxville, May 1, 2012

Jazz on Market Square, Knoxville, May 1, 2012

It was a great evening with stellar jazz from an amazing quintet a gentle breeze keeping an appreciative crowd pleasantly comfortable. Prestige Cleaners (featuring new downtown resident Eddie Mannis) and the City of Knoxville. It’s not Sundown in the City: it’s cooler. The series will continue through the summer every Tuesday night from 8:00 to 10:00 weather permitting. Somehow jazz just seemed the perfect ending to an evening in which our city showed it can be – can I say this out loud – almost modern and sophisticated.

Jazz on the Square, Knoxville, May 1, 2012

And just in case Greg Johnson is reading this, don’t worry Mr. Johnson, city council is also working on the pension, they’ve solved the mulch problem and – did you notice – Mayor Rogero proposed a budget which includes no tax increase! That has to warm the heart of a small government guy like yourself. How about writing about that? No? I didn’t think so.

Tonight Matters: Let’s Talk Politics

Mayor Rogero Prepares to open City Council Meeting

For those of us who love this city, sometimes curse this city and in general care about what happens within its borders, tonight marks an important moment: The city council will vote after a second reading on whether or not to amend the city’s anti-discrimination policy to include prohibitions against discrimination in hiring based on ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It already includes a prohibition against discrimination in hiring based on race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion or creed. The change brings Knoxville in line with federal non-discrimination standards.

It seems like a simple thing and, in fact, I was very proud of our mayor and city council two weeks ago when the changes passed on first reading without discussion or dissent. I could not have been more proud of our little city. The large group of people who came to express support of the bill sprang to their feet and gave a spontaneous ovation in response to the action. I doubt standing ovations are common place in City Hall.

Crowd largely supporting changes (many dressed in purple)

All seemed well until Greg Johnson, a News Sentinel columnist attacked the measure and the mayor. While he didn’t suggest we should discriminate, he did suggest this measure is indicative of a mayor who is pandering to progressives with a social agenda while more important matters are being ignored. In that connection he mentioned the mulch fire and the pension as examples of problems to which the mayor should be attending.

Unfortunately for Mr. Johnson, there are serious problems with his line of thinking. It would appear from his article he was unable to  be present at the meeting he referenced. Perhaps since he lives outside the city it was inconvenient for him to be there. I was there and the ordinance probably consumed two minutes of the meeting while the mulch fire was discussed extensively for probably twenty to thirty minutes and was higher on the agenda. A neutral observer would have to conclude the mulch fire was given more emphasis in the meeting.

Knoxville City Council Prepares to open session

Outside the meeting the argument also does not hold water. More city resources had likely been expended in the days leading up to the meeting on the mulch fire than on everything else combined. Massive resources of both material and personnel had been devoted to containing the damage and, further, it was made clear in that meeting that a review of the handling and placement of the mulch would begin immediately. To not know this, Mr. Johnson must not have read his own employer’s newspaper.

Regarding the pension, Mr. Johnson is correct to point out that it is a major problem. It is a major problem that has not been addressed by our previous mayors in any meaningful way, but is currently being given the attention it requires. Does Mr. Johnson simply not care to inquire as to those efforts? Does he not believe it conceivable that an ordinance might be changed at the same time that other important business is attended to? Even he acknowledged these changes in the ordinance might attract business to the city. Does he feel unemployment is not a problem?

Knoxville City Council, April 17, 2012

Incredibly, this partisan screed comes at a time his party in the legislature is addressing weighty issues such as teachers saying “gay,” saggy pants, protecting creationism in the schools, making certain we can carry guns onto campus and into parking lots and most recently legislating a fine for teachers who do not put a stop to student “gateway sexual activities.” Thankfully our state has no unemployment or other problems or Mr. Johnson would presumably have to call them to task just as he did our mayor. Thanks to these efforts our state is being routinely ridiculed by the national press.

It is unclear what impact Mr. Johnson’s article or other efforts of similar ilk may have had in the two weeks subsequent to the previous vote. Will there be a large contingent of vocal opponents to the changes present tonight? Will they sway the council? If you care, there is one place you should be at 7:00 PM tonight: The City-County Building. I might suggest that you be early.

In a previous post I discussed the question of whether or not Knoxville is Gay friendly. The quality of welcoming everyone to our city goes beyond allowing everyone to hold hands. It translates into jobs and the willingness to go on record supporting everyone’s rights. Who are we, Knoxville?