New Website, New Paper, Interesting Facts and a Couple of Announcements



How’s that for a hodgepodge of topics in a title? Several interesting events and new resources are emerging while others are sorting out as they must. It’s never dull around this place.

First, the new website. PlanET (or Plan East Tennessee) was a three-year grant designed to, “imagine our future and then to chart a path to reach a shared vision.” The grant ran its course, culminating in a video available for viewing on the website linked above. The intention was that the grant would begin a discussion that would be continued and evolve into an action plan to help our area confront its challenges and seize its opportunities.

The next step was to develop a “Livability Report Card,” which is part of the East Tennessee Index, the new website referenced in the caption. Announced last week in a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce, the East Tennessee Index represents an extensive database of information about our region and our city. Some of the statistics presented illustrated both the challenges as well as the opportunities, and some were simply startling.

Did you know that east Tennessee has about half of all the greenways in the state? I didn’t, either. Did you know that 88% of our days in 2014 were rated as good quality air days, as opposed to only 55% in 2000? Those are certainly facts of which we might be proud. On the other hand, there were other facts not so pleasing. Here are some highlights, including good, bad and simply interesting you might find on the site:

  • East Tennessee’s Hispanic population has tripled since 2000 and now comprises 3.6% of our population.
  • Currently one in six of us are seniors. By 2040 it will be one of every four.
  • In 2004 ET had just over 1500 miles of unhealthy waterways. In 2014 it had risen to over 2,000 miles.
  • Obesity and Physical inactivity rates are high and holding while smoking is rising (currently 26%).
  • Both Knoxville and the region consistently (since 2000) have lower unemployment rates than the state and the country.
  • In 2000, 47% of us had post-secondary education. Today that number is 54%.
  • The Median household income in the Knoxville metro area declined by 9% from 2007 to 2012.
  • KAT’s annual ridership has increased by 1 million trips since 2003 (3.5 million trips in 2013)
  • 47% of people in our region commute to another county to work. 84% drive alone.
  • On average it costs $80 more per ticket to fly out of Knoxville than the average airport.
  • Numbers of farmers have decreased from 2002 to 2012 (4300 to 2800) while farmers’ average age increased (57 to 61).
  • Outdoor recreation opportunities have increased dramatically.
  • Crime is dropping and is about 20% lower than the rest of the state.

It goes on. This information and much, much more is available on the site. Start digging and share what you learn. More data will be added and the site is set to be regularly updated. It should prove to be a valuable resource for all of us.


The new paper, of course, is The Knoxville Mercury, which started its roll-out yesterday and will be distributed to more locations today. The editorial staff is much the same as the final editorial staff of Metro Pulse, as are some of the contributors. I haven’t seen the new copy, but I’ll read it today. It’s good to see an independent paper on the streets once more. Here’s wishing them a long, productive life serving Knoxville’s residents with an alternative view. Pick up a copy.

The second announcement ironically came on the same day as the distribution of the Mercury: Hard Knox Independent announced that it is not pursuing print publication at this time and may not do so in the future. A web presence will be maintained, though its future is also uncertain. Original publisher Crystal Huskey withdrew from the project several weeks ago, the crowd-sourcing fundraiser did not go well and the staff acknowledged the difficulties on their website late Wednesday night. To further the irony: the effort to publish a paper started with the outrage in the aftermath of the closure of Metro Pulse.

The second announcement isn’t likely a surprise, given the above. Despite the fact that the Hard Knox Independent will continue as an online presence, I have ceased my affiliation with the project. While they may continue to link to my articles (which anyone may – and should! do), I will not write or provide content directly for them. I continue to remain independent and on my own.


Finally, I’ve added a member to my staff and I’ll be taking a long weekend to engage in intensive staff training activities. Urban Girl continues to do a great job, but as of Tuesday, we’ve added Urban Boy to our crack line-up. You will likely see one or both of them with me as I make the downtown rounds. He adds considerable heft (7.1 lbs) to our organization and everyone will benefit from his focused attention on the scene. So far he has slept a lot on the job. I’ll be back with the calendar on Sunday and more great stories next week.