Knoxville Neighborhood Initiative Receives $40 Million Federal Grant for ‘Transformation’

Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC) was awarded a $40 million federal grant for a plan dubbed, “Transforming Western Heights,” aimed to improve the area with more affordable housing and access to transportation.

“Transforming Western truly represents a collaborative effort after 14 months of intensive community engagement,” KCDC Executive Director and CEO Ben Bentley said in a press statement. “This plan is a synthesis of the dreams and ideas of the residents, community members and stakeholders, and will transform Western Heights and the Beaumont neighborhood into a community where families and residents can thrive.”

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First Lady Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona Traveling to Knoxville This Week

First Lady Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona are traveling to Knoxville this week to kick off the Road to Success Back to School Bus Tour.

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Knoxville Public Service Department to Host Job Fair on September 15

The city of Knoxville’s public service department announced that it will hold a job fair on September 15th, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., located at the Public Works Service Center.

The Public Service Job Fair is geared toward job seekers “looking for steady, satisfying outdoor work that helps keep Knoxville clean and operating efficiently,” the department wrote in a press release.

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Three Tennessee Cities Ranked Among 25 Cheapest to Live in America

Three cities in Tennessee are among the cheapest to live in the United States, according to a recently-published Kiplinger report. 

To measure the cheapest cities in the United States, Kiplinger calculated the cost of living in 267 cities using a standard Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). It then narrowed its results to cities with populations of more than 50,000 people. 

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Commentary: Tennessee Government Broadband Is Socialization of Effective Industry

In recent years, communities across Tennessee have considered pursuing a municipally-run broadband network. In July of 2021, this trend continued with the Knoxville Utilities Board’s (KUB) proposal for the largest municipal fiber network in the nation being approved unanimously by the Knoxville City Council. KUB’s broadband business plan came with a colossal $702 million price tag, as well as an estimated seven to ten year network build out, with the hopes of providing service to a four-county footprint, the majority of which would be located in Knox County, where the FCC estimates that 98.3% of the area has access to three or more broadband providers already.

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Study: One in Five New Tennesseans from California

As Tennessee experiences a massive influx of new residents from across the country, a study found that one state in particular is a popular feeder for the Volunteer State. 

“Our 2022 data shows that California is the largest contributor to Tennessee’s population increase,” according to a MoveBuddha study. “Nearly a quarter (22.14%) of all search queries for moves into Tennessee are from the Golden State.”

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Anti-Gun Group to Host Protests in Six Tennessee Cities

An anti-gun group will host protests in five cities later this month, as part of a nationwide effort to push gun control in the wake of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

“What we are demanding from our state’s legislators should not be controversial, and will help to prevent preventable deaths in our communities,” said Carson Ferrara, a rising senior at Vanderbilt University and representative of March For Our Lives. “Last year, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a law that allows anyone to carry a loaded gun in public without a permit. He signed it at a weapons manufacturing plant.”

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First Starbucks Unionizes in Tennessee

Outside view of Starbucks Coffee

A Starbucks in Tennessee became the first store in the state to join what has become a nationwide movement among the coffee chain giant’s employees to unionize.

“The Merchants Drive Starbucks in Knoxville, Tennessee just WON their union vote and will become the first unionized Starbucks store in the south,” Starbucks Workers United announced Tuesday on Twitter.

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ATC Drivetrain Announces New Manufacturing Operations in Knoxville

On Wednesday, Governor Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Bob Rolfe, and ATC Drivetrain officials announced the company has selected Knoxville as the location for its newest manufacturing facility.

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Beacon Center of Tennessee’s 2021 Pork Report Lambastes Metro Nashville Public Schools for Government Waste

Staff at the Beacon Center of Tennessee on Wednesday bestowed the Metro Nashville Public School System (MNPS) with their yearly Pork of the Year Award, for more reasons than one. Beacon, a Nashville-based center right think tank, published their 2021 Pork Report on Wednesday.

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‘Private’ Church Group Funded by Government Resettling Refugees in Tennessee

This week, 35 Afghan refugees were resettled in Knoxville with the help of two nonprofits whose sole focus is bringing refugees to America. 

Bridge Refugee Services Inc. is a Tennessee nonprofit whose mission is “to help refugees, those people who are fleeing because of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, a pertinence to social group or escaping wars and violence, to be self sufficient as soon as possible,” according to its Executive Director Drocella Mugorewera. 

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Several City Council Districts in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee Likely to Shift

Metropolitan Nashville’s (MetroNashville) Council, the legislature for the city of Nashville and Davidson County, is currently preparing to consider a second draft of the its newly revised Council-district map.

A number of Nashville Council’s 35 districts stand to change dramatically, particularly with districts losing land mass in the city’s northeast, as population growth there has not kept pace with the city’s southern area.

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Knox County Sheriff Tells President Biden He Will Not Enforce Mask Mandate

A local sheriff has responded to President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees. Sheriff Tom Spangler, of Knoxville, Tennessee sent Biden a letter telling the President that he would not be enforcing the mandate on his staff.

Spangler said in his letter that enforcing the mandate was unconstitutional and was putting the lives of the people of Knoxville at risk.

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Two Sevier County, Tennessee Clerks Charged in Federal Corruption Sting

Federal grand jurors in Knoxville this month returned a multi-count indictment against two Sevier County deputy clerks and charged them with accepting bribes. Those jurors charged Brandy M. Thornton, 44, and Roberta Lynne Webb Allen, 55, with two counts of taking cash payments in exchange for an official act.

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This Fall and Winter, Redistricting Will Occupy Minds of Tennessee Politicians and Activists on the State and Local Levels

Tennessee State Capitol at night in winter

After the finalization of the U.S. Census every ten years, state and local governments set about redrawing their lawmakers’ and school directors’ district lines.

Throughout this fall and winter, legislators across the state will toil over this process sure to directly impact many of their futures. Although political considerations inevitably loom large in redistricting, the proceedings are theoretically intended to make districts as compact and contiguous as possible—i.e. to ensure that they don’t look like irregular puzzle pieces.

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Mayors of Tennessee’s Largest Cities Refuse to Say Whether They Support Critical Race Theory in K-12 Public Schools

The mayors of Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Knoxville declined to say Monday whether they support public schools teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT). This, even though those four mayors — Jim Cooper, Jim Strickland, Tim Kelly, and Indya Kincannon — belong to the United States Conference of Mayors, which recently adopted a resolution supporting CRT in K-12 public schools.

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Pfizer Launches Trials to Test Booster COVID Shots in Knoxville, Nashville

Pfizer has launched trials in Knoxville and Nashville to test a third booster shot for the COVID-19 vaccine, marketed as an “updated version.” Alliance for Multispecialty Research (AMR) Knoxville’s Volunteer Research Group is conducting the Knoxville study, and Clinical Research Associates is conducting the Nashville study. Pfizer claimed in a press release earlier this month that a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine would more effectively provide immunization, especially against the Delta variant.

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Knoxville City Council Considering Zero-Tolerance Policy on Racism and Sexism by Any City Employee

Knoxville City Council will be considering a zero-tolerance policy on racism and sexism displayed by any city employee.

Council member Amelia Parker announced that she is drafting the policy. This latest initiative follows a similar policy proposed in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year by community activists, and agreed upon by Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. That initiative never came to fruition. Concerning last year’s similar proposal, Parker said in an email that the lack of follow-through from Kincannon was disappointing.

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Georgia Man Sentenced in Tennessee for Stealing Veteran’s Identity, Claiming Medical Benefits

A Georgia man traveled to Tennessee and posed as a veteran to receive more than $20,000 in medical benefits, according to federal officials. Federal officials this month sentenced that man Kristopher M. Voyles, 31, to 27 months in prison followed by three years’ supervised release.

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Knox County School Board Considering Hire of Outside Consultant to Decide on Putting Law Enforcement Back in Schools; Mayor Says It’s a ‘Waste of Taxpayer Dollars’

The Knox County Schools (KCS) Board of Education is considering whether to hire an outside consultant for reinstating law enforcement in their schools. In a letter submitted to the Knox County Board of Education (KCBOE) last week, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said that the proposed facilitator would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“Please let this letter serve as official notification that I strongly oppose using taxpayer dollars to pay an outside consulting firm to tell the district what every parent in Knox County already knows: armed law enforcement officers are a necessity in schools,” wrote Jacobs. “[I] simply cannot ignore that physical security is absolutely critical in keeping our students safe at school. I am deeply disturbed that any governmental body would even consider removing law enforcement from any of our schools.”

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Knoxville Appoints ‘Youth Council’ of 12 to 20-Year-Olds to Help Address City Issues

On Wednesday, Knoxville announced the appointment of 17 youths to a council dedicated to addressing city issues through “strategic planning.” The “Mayor’s Youth Council” will work alongside the Knoxville City Council and other city officials as they focus on community organizing, leadership, and advocacy. The council has a total of four eighth-graders, three high school freshmen, four sophomores, four juniors, and two seniors representing eight schools.

The council will begin meeting over the summer. They will be tasked with learning municipal services, collaborating with their peers and youth-serving nonprofits, and “strategic planning.”

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Knoxville Mayor Allots $100k for African American Equity Restoration Task Force

Knoxville’s newly-established African American Equity Restoration Task Force was allotted $100,000 in the latest city budget. Mayor Indya Kincannon highlighted this task force as one of their biggest diversity initiatives. 

That is one tenth of a percent of what Kincannon projected the task force may receive. At the end of January,  The Tennessee Star reported projections that the task force may receive $100 million in government grants over the next seven years.

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Boyd Sports to Profit from Events Held at Taxpayer-Funded Stadium

Smokies Stadium in Tennessee

Randy Boyd’s company, Boyd Sports LLC owner of the Tennessee Smokies, will profit on events booked at the proposed taxpayer-funded baseball stadium to be located in Knoxville.

The arrangement was revealed during a livestreamed Stadium Proposal Public Meeting held on March 25. 

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Multiple Shooting Victims Reported at Knoxville, Tennessee High School, Police Say

Austin-Magnet High School

by Andrew Trunsky   Multiple shooting victims were reported at a Knoxville, Tennessee, high school Monday, the city’s police department said. One person was confirmed dead at the scene, and a police officer was sent to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the Knoxville Police Department (KPD) said in a statement. The…

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Group Pushing for Green New Deal Schedules Rallies for Atlanta and Knoxville Next Week

Members of a nationwide group pushing for The Green New Deal have planned rallies and demonstrations throughout the country for Wednesday, April 7. The activists in this group, The Sunrise Movement, will hold one rally in Atlanta and another in Knoxville on Wednesday, according to its website.

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Knoxville Marks One Year of ‘Safer-at-Home’ Order; Other Tennessee Counties Allow Mask Mandates to Expire

April Fool’s Day marks one year since Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon issued the “safer-at-home” order, after three counties dropped their mask mandates. The counties of Hamblen, Roane, and Claiborn allowed their mandates to expire on Wednesday. Similar “15 days to slow the spread” practices turned into weeks, then months, and now, for many across Tennessee and the country.

Kincannon’s Safer at Home order lasted for nearly a month. It prohibited gatherings over 10 and forced closure of all “nonessential” businesses. The order empowered city officials with regulatory authority to take action against anyone who violated the order. The city even made available a non-compliance reporting process to enforce the order – which is still active.

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Music Spotlight: Sam Hatmaker

The first time I saw Sam Hatmaker was with the Song Suffragettes before COVID. Every songwriter who is part of the Song Suffragettes collective is amazing, but Hatmaker was unique and different. I knew even back then, I wanted to interview her.

It turns out that Hatmaker is from Knoxville, Tennessee. Her mom did theater and her dad was a performer too. It was natural for her to want to be on stage. When she was ten-years-old, she auditioned and was cast in a Christmas show at Dollywood. That ended up with her working at Dollywood for three years.

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Member of Senate Committee Considering Legislation for Randy Boyd’s Taxpayer-Funded Baseball Stadium is Employee of Law Firm That Could Benefit From Bill’s Passage

Yarbro

A member of the Senate State and Local Government Committee is an attorney with a law firm that could benefit from the passage of the legislation enabling Randy Boyd’s taxpayer-funded baseball stadium in Knoxville.

Democrat Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville sits on the Senate State and Local Government Committee, the first stop for SB 0783.

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Tennessee Star Sr. Reporter Laura Baigert Follows the Money in the Case of Randy Boyd Development in Knoxville

Thursday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed Senior Reporter for the Tennessee Star Laura Baigert to the newsmakers line to explain the circumstances around legislation for Randy Boyd’s stadium.

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Five Sponsors of Bill Enabling Randy Boyd’s Taxpayer-Funded Baseball Stadium Received More Than $90,000 in Campaign Funds from Individuals with Ties to the Project

Five of the eight sponsors of the bill that will enable a taxpayer-funded stadium for Randy Boyd’s minor league baseball stadium in Knoxville received a total of more than $90,000 in campaign contributions from several individuals who are involved with the proposed project.

All but one of the legislators are from the Knoxville area and all but one are Republicans while three are freshmen.

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Knoxville’s African American Equity Restoration Task Force: $100 Million to Solve Racial Inequity

This year, Knoxville will deploy an African American Equity Restoration Task Force to solve “disparity and disenfranchisement in Black communities.” The city created the task force in mid-December at the request of Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie, as part of a larger resolution issuing an apology for the city’s past impacts on Black people.

According to the City Council website, the task force will include business, community, financial, education, faith, healthcare, youth, and city leaders capable to create policy and programs for the city. The Community Empowerment Department will assist the task force in their assigned task. Additionally, the city stated that the task force’s recommendations may be afforded up to $100 million in government grants over the next seven years.

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Former Knoxville Utilities Board Employees Paid More Than $10K for Time They Did Not Work

Two former employees of the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) collected more than $10,500 in pay for hours they did not work between 2016 and 2019, an investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office found.

Utilities board officials reported questionable compensation of two employees – an engineering associate and a student worker – prompting an investigation by the state comptroller.

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Mayor of Knoxville Latest Politician to Have Home Vandalized

The Mayor of Knoxville is the latest politician to have her home vandalized, in a trend that has become commonplace since last summer’s Antifa and Black Lives Matter riots. 

“The Knoxville Police Department is investigating after a vandalism report at Mayor Indya Kincannon’s home Sunday night,” according to a Monday report by WBIR. “When officers arrived on the scene, they observed the word ‘Death’ spray-painted in black on the backside of a detached garage at Mayor Kincannon’s house.”

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Knox County and City of Knoxville to Consider Establishment of a Sports Authority, First Step to a Taxpayer-Funded Stadium for Multi-Millionaire Randy Boyd’s Tennessee Smokies Baseball Team

The establishment of a sports authority that is the first step to a taxpayer-funded stadium for the Tennessee Smokies minor league baseball team owned by multi-millionaire Randy Boyd will be considered by the Knox County Commission at the regularly scheduled work session scheduled for Monday, December 14.
The application for the establishment of The Sports Authority of the County of Knox and the City of Knoxville was signed by Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, County Commission Chair Larsen Jay, City Councilmember Gwen McKenzie, well-known local teacher and coach Tommy Schumpert and Dan Brown.

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Citizens Groups Hold Rallies in Franklin, Knoxville to Declare ‘We Will Not Comply’ With Mask Mandates

Grassroots movements combating Tennessee’s never-ending mask mandates are gaining steam.

Tennessee Stands held a “Mask Free Tennessee Rally” Saturday on the Public Square in Franklin. A similar rally was held Sunday in Knoxville by No Mandates Tennessee.

Tennessee Stands organizers on Saturday evening posted on their Facebook page, “So thankful to all of the patriots that showed up today for the Mask Free Tennessee Rally today in Franklin! Our voices are louder together. We will not give in to the mob. We will not relinquish our liberty. We. Will. Not. Comply.”

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Sen. Rand Paul in Knoxville for Dr. Manny Sethi: ‘I Have Never Seen a More Sincere Opponent of Obamacare’

Sen. Rand Paul, who was in Knoxville Saturday for a town hall event in support of Dr. Manny Sethi for U.S. Senate, said he has never seen a more sincere opponent of Obamacare.

“I guess that’s what sort of bothers me is that people would lie about that,” said Paul. “Obamacare has really messed up healthcare. I think it’s been a disaster for the country.”

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18-Year-Old Charged with Inciting a Riot, Civil Disorder in Knoxville Unrest

An 18-year-old from Heiskell, Tennessee was charged Monday with inciting a riot and civil disorder for his involvement in a May 30 riot in downtown Knoxville.

According to WVLT, a group of 50 to 100 people gathered in Market Square around 11:30 p.m. on May 30 to commit acts of vandalism as unrest spread across the nation in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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New Numbers Show Tennessee’s ‘Staggering Increase in Unemployment’

Officials with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development released statistics Thursday showing what they call “a staggering increase in unemployment for each of Tennessee’s 95 counties” in April. This, as many businesses closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19, according to a TDLWD press release.

“The unprecedented and historic spike in unemployment impacted some counties more drastically than others, but no area of Tennessee escaped the pandemic’s effect on the state’s workforce,” the press release said.

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Knoxville Opts Out of Controversial Practice of Sharing Personal Data of COVID-19 Patients with Police

The City of Knoxville said Tuesday it will opt-out of sharing the names and addresses of COVID-19 patients with law enforcement following a statewide controversy over the practice.

Mayor Indya Kincannon and Police Chief Eve Thomas said that the Knoxville Police Department will leave a state program that allows law-enforcement officers across Tennessee to access a database of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19.

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Knoxville Manufacturer Needs to Hire Many Employees Despite Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic

While other sectors of Tennessee’s economy languish during the COVID-19 pandemic, officials at Republic Plastics in Knoxville want to hire people for several new positions, including full-time machine operators and other manufacturing positions.

Staff at Republic Plastics manufacture custom private label foam tableware, including plates, bowls, food containers, and more for individual homes, restaurants, and hospitals.

People have high demand for this product, especially now, said Republic Plastics spokeswoman Suzanne McGowan.

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