|Conversation Focuses on Issues Around the World and at Home
June 26, 2006 - Mayor Bill Haslam hosted
a conversation with Senator Lamar Alexander at today with topics that
touched on issues around the world and in our own backyard.
Haslam noted that Sen. Alexander brings a unique perspective to his
view of Knoxville, having been raised in East Tennessee, which he
now calls home, and having served as the state's governor and University
of Tennessee's president before being elected to represent Tennessee
in the U.S. Senate.
Alexander opined that the Knoxville area has three distinct strengths: a high-technology environment created by the presence of the University of Tennessee, the Department of Energy facilities in Oak Ridge, and TVA; natural beauty; and an Appalachian culture "which is something to be proud of."
Its weaknesses are those things that threaten those strengths, including a lag in state funding for education largely due to sums being directed toward Medicaid, as well as pressures on the environment such as urban sprawl, air pollution and cellular towers.
Sen. Alexander returned to the topic of education several times - citing good schools as key to creating good jobs, school choice as helping parents do their job well, and his desire that outstanding teachers be paid more money.
Mayor Haslam noted that Knoxville once worried about competing with other Southeastern cities for jobs - now the region competes with cities in China, India and throughout the world.
Sen. Alexander said leaders have to focus on creating new jobs - not just keeping the ones that are here. That means emphasizing such things as good schools and traffic infrastructure.
In Knoxville, candidates for Mayor and City Council run in non-partisan elections, but Mayor Haslam noted that the "higher you get the harder it gets" to address issues in a bi-partisan manner.
The Senator agreed that "Washington is a different place and it's getting worse." Media that operates 24/7 shares some of the blame for either broadcasting a "car chase in LA or two politicians arguing." The increase in the number of public interest groups is also a factor, he said.
Citizens hear a lot about "pork" in the federal budget, but "one city's pork is another city's great project," Mayor Haslam said, adding that funding for road improvements at the I-275 Business Park and the South Waterfront were included in the federal budget.
Sen. Alexander said he and House Majority Leader and Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist contact local leaders, as well as every member of the Congressional delegation, to determine Tennessee's priorities for federal funding.
Mayor Haslam thanked the Senator for participating in the event, the second he has held with a Tennessee leader to emphasize the importance of partnership on the federal, state and local level. His guest last year was Gov. Phil Bredesen.
. "I think it's important for the citizens of Knoxville to hear from you because our world is inextricably linked to what happens in Washington and Nashville," the Mayor stated.
The luncheon was attended by about 600 local elected officials and business and community leaders, with the cost paid for by sponsors.
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