Executive Director, Peace Brigades International - USA
All cities want to attract new businesses that will provide its residents with well paying jobs. What qualities do you think a city should have to attract these kinds of businesses?
Knoxville is a beautiful city with some of the friendliest, most laid back folks you’ll ever meet. It is also a transportation hub, with interstate 40 and 75 running through our city, and 81 just down the road. Knoxville is also within a day’s drive of half of the continental U.S. Our city is truly a gem that is ripe for businesses to locate. To attract businesses that pay their employees well, we must be a city that reflects the values of ensuring the well-being of our residents. A company that pays a living wage to their employees would not want to relocate to a city that does not prioritize taking care of the most vulnerable in our city or addressing growing wage gaps and poverty in our city. Knoxville must exhibit a commitment to the well-being of all of our residents by making greater investments in social services, addressing our affordable housing crisis, and promoting economic development among our lowest wage earners to attract businesses that value paying their employees well
What is the best use of the former St. Mary’s Hospital campus?
The absence of a healthcare facility in various parts of our community has compounding effects on our residents, effects that have already begun with the closing of the former St. Mary’s/Tennova North campus. Recently, I learned that the Walgreens Pharmacy on Broadway is no longer 24 hours. Therefore, those living in the area who experience a prescription-related health scare in the middle of the night must now travel farther to reach a pharmacy or drugstore. In thinking about what should go in the former St. Mary’s, the city must promote healthy neighborhoods by helping secure the services needed in each part of our city. With the closing of Baptist Hospital and now the Tennova North campus, much of our health services within the city limits are now concentrated in West Knox. Long term, this could lead to poorer health outcomes for our residents living in other parts of the city. Consideration of an urgent care facility at that location in partnership with the county should continue.
What do you think are the best ways for the city to generate increased revenue?
A city with a high rate of poverty like Knoxville is in need of increasing our workforce so that we have a larger population participating in our local economy. Vacant buildings in our city can be put to good use for residential and commercial purposes with tax incentives and low interest/no interest loans offered by the city. The city should prioritize those parts of the city and members of our community experiencing the highest rates of poverty. We can also increase revenue by applying a small tax to new amenities that come to town, such as the electric scooters, so that perhaps a dollar of each purpose goes directly back to the city and could be used to fund a city priority such as making our sidewalks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act by adding curb cuts throughout the city.