Central Business Improvement District: An Organization You Should Know

Michele Hummel leads CBID sponsored resident meeting November 2011

I’ve mentioned them before. It’s the kind of name for an organization that makes people momentarily scratch their heads before moving onto the next channel. As a concept, the CBID is pretty simple: It’s an organization funded by an extra tax on downtown residents and businesses whose purpose is to improve downtown. The devil is, as always, you know where. What gets funded, whose project gets funding and how much funding they get is where matters get sticky.

The board that makes the decisions is supposed to be representative of all the various groups who would have an interest in such matters. It’s a pretty diverse group in some ways, not so much in others. Some of the same names pop up in all the lists of decision makers. Marshall Stair, for example, who I happen to like quite a bit, is on City Council and CBID. The other names on the board are generally familiar to people who follow downtown goings on. You can see a full list here if you scroll down the page.

One of my concerns as a downtown resident who isn’t particularly connected, is that the board makes all the decisions and the board meets at 11:30 AM each month to make those decisions. My money is being spent at a time of day when I cannot be present. Businesses and developers can be present, but how many residents are able to be there at that time of day. I expressed my concerns to Michele Hummel the Director, who is also a downtown resident. She was very patient and seemed to understand my concern. I’m not sure that had anything to do with the fact that the August board meeting was subsequently scheduled at night, but it was and it was very well attended.

CBID Board members meet downtown residents, November 2011

In November they had the first of what they are billing as a series (though I can’t find a schedule on the webpage) of Residential/Quality of Life Meetings. This was a meeting for residents to have input and it was also very well attended. First on the agenda was the announcement that four of the board meetings for 2012 would be held at night. The first of these will be January 23 at 5:30 at 17 Market Square. You can find the full schedule for the year here. I’m excited this is happening and hope those of you who are interested will attend. The meetings are open to everyone interested in downtown.

Other topics on the agenda included Downtown Knoxville Gift Cards (which were a subsequent success), parking, a downtown map and guide (still coming) and a stakeholder survey which they encouraged people to complete online. The more interesting portion of the evening came when discussion was opened to the residents. Here are some of the topics and opinions expressed:

  • Dog bags and posts are important.
  • There need to be more KPD patrols, particularly in the Old City.
  • A listserv/message board for downtown residents would be nice.
  • Panhandling continues to be a problem. Persons can be told to call 211 24 hours a day for needs.
  • Concern was expressed over bicycle and pedestrian safety. Bicycles on sidewalks are an issue for some people.
  • Events were discussed. Most people supported continuing major events but some people question whether we may be reaching a saturation point and the suggestion was made that events be scattered around downtown.
  • A young man presented a call for more park space claiming that our downtown falls far behind other cities in a per capita comparison. Possible spaces were discussed for green space. Some of the parents of young children noted that it would be nice to have green space that is pet-free.
So, it was a good meeting and more like it are promised. In the meantime, why not try to make the board meeting tonight? If you are a downtown resident, you are a member of CBID. If you are reading this blog post you are an interested party and you are welcome.