"This was a great way for us to engage in a dialogue and exchange
of ideas about how to make our city the best place it can be," Mayor
Haslam said. "The Hurricane Katrina disaster has shown us the importance
of good communication and working relationships among leaders at
all levels of government. I appreciate the governor coming to Knoxville
and sharing his thoughts with us."
Mayor Haslam opened the conversation by asking the governor what
he had learned from watching the response to Hurricane Katrina unfold.
Gov. Bredesen replied that Tennessee had been a "wonderful, strong
partner and good neighbor" to the Gulf Coast areas, noting how the
National Guard, law enforcement agencies and thousands of volunteers
responded to the calls for help.
He also said the delays and lack of communication between federal,
state and local officials in the devastated areas "underlined so
strongly to me that in times like this somebody has to take charge."
Tennessee and local communities will feel an economic impact from
the roughly 2,900 new students in public schools as the result of
the evacuations, Gov. Bredesen said, adding he would be asking the
federal government for financial assistance in educating those relocated
Touching on the topic of ethics in the state Legislature, the governor
said he was "trying to keep my finger out of it" as he awaits the
recommendations of a task force, co-chaired by former State Sen.
Ben Atchley of Knoxville.
"I do think we need to get more separation between the lobbying
and fundraising parts of the world," he allowed.
Noting that both he and the governor worked in private business
before seeking elected office, Mayor Haslam said people often tell
him to run government like a business, but that government has many
constituencies, each with good ideas about what government should
Gov. Bredesen agreed, joking, "Everyone wants government run like
a business until you do that."
The governor said he believes the political process to a large
part sets the priorities and those priorities can be executed in
a business-like way.
And a good leader sometimes "must decide what's best for their
community and try to go out and sell it. Someone who sticks their
finger in the air and tries to determine if they have 51 percent
in the polls - that's a terrible way to run a shop."
Gov. Bredesen encouraged Knoxville leaders to find the "things that
are unique and different" about the city and "build upon them."
One of the things that makes Knoxville special is the University
of Tennessee, and the city will benefit as the university grows
in size and stature, particularly with new research dollars.
"I think Knoxville has a lot going for it," the governor stated.
Gov. Bredesen said he's spent his first two years in office addressing
the state's problems, primarily budget and TennCare. In the future,
he hopes to focus on education and modernizing the economy, with
more jobs that are knowledge-based and not easily moved to places
with low-cost labor.
"I think the job of grownups is to make things better for future
generations," he concluded.