For those of us who love this city, sometimes curse this city and in general care about what happens within its borders, tonight marks an important moment: The city council will vote after a second reading on whether or not to amend the city’s anti-discrimination policy to include prohibitions against discrimination in hiring based on ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It already includes a prohibition against discrimination in hiring based on race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion or creed. The change brings Knoxville in line with federal non-discrimination standards.
It seems like a simple thing and, in fact, I was very proud of our mayor and city council two weeks ago when the changes passed on first reading without discussion or dissent. I could not have been more proud of our little city. The large group of people who came to express support of the bill sprang to their feet and gave a spontaneous ovation in response to the action. I doubt standing ovations are common place in City Hall.
All seemed well until Greg Johnson, a News Sentinel columnist attacked the measure and the mayor. While he didn’t suggest we should discriminate, he did suggest this measure is indicative of a mayor who is pandering to progressives with a social agenda while more important matters are being ignored. In that connection he mentioned the mulch fire and the pension as examples of problems to which the mayor should be attending.
Unfortunately for Mr. Johnson, there are serious problems with his line of thinking. It would appear from his article he was unable to be present at the meeting he referenced. Perhaps since he lives outside the city it was inconvenient for him to be there. I was there and the ordinance probably consumed two minutes of the meeting while the mulch fire was discussed extensively for probably twenty to thirty minutes and was higher on the agenda. A neutral observer would have to conclude the mulch fire was given more emphasis in the meeting.
Outside the meeting the argument also does not hold water. More city resources had likely been expended in the days leading up to the meeting on the mulch fire than on everything else combined. Massive resources of both material and personnel had been devoted to containing the damage and, further, it was made clear in that meeting that a review of the handling and placement of the mulch would begin immediately. To not know this, Mr. Johnson must not have read his own employer’s newspaper.
Regarding the pension, Mr. Johnson is correct to point out that it is a major problem. It is a major problem that has not been addressed by our previous mayors in any meaningful way, but is currently being given the attention it requires. Does Mr. Johnson simply not care to inquire as to those efforts? Does he not believe it conceivable that an ordinance might be changed at the same time that other important business is attended to? Even he acknowledged these changes in the ordinance might attract business to the city. Does he feel unemployment is not a problem?
Incredibly, this partisan screed comes at a time his party in the legislature is addressing weighty issues such as teachers saying “gay,” saggy pants, protecting creationism in the schools, making certain we can carry guns onto campus and into parking lots and most recently legislating a fine for teachers who do not put a stop to student “gateway sexual activities.” Thankfully our state has no unemployment or other problems or Mr. Johnson would presumably have to call them to task just as he did our mayor. Thanks to these efforts our state is being routinely ridiculed by the national press.
It is unclear what impact Mr. Johnson’s article or other efforts of similar ilk may have had in the two weeks subsequent to the previous vote. Will there be a large contingent of vocal opponents to the changes present tonight? Will they sway the council? If you care, there is one place you should be at 7:00 PM tonight: The City-County Building. I might suggest that you be early.
In a previous post I discussed the question of whether or not Knoxville is Gay friendly. The quality of welcoming everyone to our city goes beyond allowing everyone to hold hands. It translates into jobs and the willingness to go on record supporting everyone’s rights. Who are we, Knoxville?