Jacobs' First Budget Plan Includes New Schools - WUOT

Credit Getty Images

Credit Getty Images

Knox County Glenn Jacobs' FY 2020 budget plan dedicates money to the development of three new elementary schools without raising taxes.

The proposal meeting was held in the Central High School auditorium where Jacobs gave a brief overview. The full proposal is available online.

This is Jacobs’ first budget proposal as mayor of Knox County, and in his announcement Wednesday he said focus areas include “a commitment to keeping taxes low, continuing to attract new jobs to our area, a renewed focus on the quality of education, infrastructure, working to create safer communities, full transparency, and a fresh outlook on limited government.”

Jacobs said his primary point of concern is economic development, so Knoxville can remain attractive to the private sector to provide quality jobs for citizens of Knox County.

The budget outlines the beginning of a 5-year Capital Improvement Plan that is meant to invest $214 million dollars into county and school infrastructure. The plan outlines funding to build new buildings for Lonsdale and Adrian Burnett Elementary schools to replace outdated facilities. It also provides funding for a brand-new elementary school in northwest Knox County and additions to Brickey-McCloud and Sterchi elementary schools.

The capital improvement plan includes $13.6 million to Engineering and Public Works for infrastructure projects that include safety improvements to problematic roads and intersections in the county. That money is also meant to be used for projects to expand infrastructure to keep up with expected growth in the coming years.

Jacob’s budget proposal includes and overall increase of $34 million dollars from last year’s budget. This increase is funded by economic growth predicted by state and federal projections. Jacobs also mentioned the county’s voluntary workforce reduction program as savings source. The program offers incentives for eligible county employees to step down from their positions with the goal of lowering personnel costs.

Knox County's general fund budget will see a 5.1% increase from 2019. This increase would provide $4.2 million dollars for employee raises and $2 million for benefit costs. The general budget also includes a $124,000 increase in Women’s Health Services.

Jacob’s suggested that the Knox County school board’s budget plan be approved. The board's proposal expands school funding by $4.4 million dollars that will go towards raising system employee salaries by 3.5%. $750,000 dollars will go towards a childhood literacy pilot program proposed by county school superintendent Bob Thomas. The program includes providing focused literacy training for teachers and extended library funding.

Jacobs' proposal must be approved by the County Commission. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

UT Administrators, Students Spar Over Response to Snapchat Image - WUOT

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Top University of Tennessee administrators promised to change the way students and faculty are trained on diversity, and pledged other changes as the university responds to a racially-charged image that made the rounds on social media last week.

An estimated 200 students and faculty gathered in a ballroom at UTK’s Student Union Monday afternoon for an open dialogue in response to the incident. Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis and others fielded questions from students and faculty for more than three hours.

Two people believed to be UT students appeared in a Snapchat image that became public last Thursday. That afternoon, UT condemned the photo, calling it repulsive. But some students asked for a more robust response, so the university arranged the dialogue session.

Students who spoke at the event demanded concrete changes from UT administration and said university leaders weren’t doing enough to prevent racial incidents. Davis and UT vice chancellors Vince Carilli and Tyvi Small said they were working on doing what they could. They cited the recent reconfiguring of UT’s office of diversity, after lawmakers defunded its predecessor in 2016.

Administrators also promised diversity training for themselves and faculty. They also expressed interest in creating diversity-inspired general education requirements for students.

Some students at Monday’s dialogue were alarmed that UT’s code of conduct does not directly condemn race-based harassment. Vice Chancellor for Student Life Vince Carilli discussed reviewing the code of conduct to potentially include language involving race. He is not part of the disciplinary process, should there be one, for the students involved.

The chancellor’s cabinet offered no timeline for when these changes would come.

Many attendees called for the expulsion of the students who appeared in the photo, but Carilli said that was not likely. He noted while the university does not condone the racist expression, expulsion may run afoul of First Amendment rights. Multiple students rejected his analysis, pointing out the university restricts other rights, such as barring gun owners from bringing their firearms on campus.

The dialogue ended after students finished their questions and statements. The News Sentinel reported Monday night that a group of UT leaders and students will determine diversity goals and report back in two weeks' time.

Source: https://www.wuot.org/post/ut-administrator...

State Preps For Zagorski Execution - WUOT

Credit Tennessee Department of Detention

Credit Tennessee Department of Detention

Death row inmate Edmund Zagorski’s execution is scheduled for Thursday, November 1. Zagorski was originally scheduled to be killed by lethal injection last month but it was pushed forward to this week when he requested that he die by electric chair. The state took time to prepare the chair and test it to ensure that it worked. It hasn’t been used in an execution since 2007.

Zagorski’s attorneys filed a federal suit last Friday in hopes of stopping the execution. In that motion, lawyers argued death by electrocution was unconstitutionally cruel, and that the attorney selected to attend the execution should have access to a phone should the execution go wrong. U.S. District courts largely tossed out the suit, except for the request for phone access, which was granted on Monday.

The builder of Tennessee’s electric chair has expressed concern over its functionality. Fred Leuchter says changes made to the machine since he maintained it could cause a malfunction.

The Tennessee Department of Correction no longer works with Leuchter. He was disgraced in 1990, after claiming there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. It was also revealed that while Leuchter had worked with many states to develop their own execution devices, he had no degree or official certification to be an engineer.

Tennessee offers the electric chair to inmates who were convicted before 1999. Zagorski chose the chair after the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the state’s lethal injection protocol. Tennessee’s new lethal three-drug mixture has been controversial; its opponents say the cocktail is too slow and painful to be used.

Source: https://www.wuot.org/post/state-preps-zago...

University of Tennessee Students Express Concerns about Net Neutrality

By: Levi Johnson 

 

KNOXVILLE, TENN. - University of Tennessee Computer Science Students are expressing concern for their field after the repealing of Net Neutrality.

 

This past December the board of the FCC voted to repeal Obama-era restrictions on internet service providers that prevented ISPs from throttling data or providing fast lanes for any particular website or service. These restrictions have been regarded as key to maintaining healthy competition and consumer protection on the tech market, but others have seen the restrictions as overbearing regulation that is stifling innovation.

This decision was headed by Chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai who is quoted saying “This decision was a mistake. For one thing, there was no problem to solve. The Internet wasn’t broken in 2015” in reference to the Obama-era restrictions. Pai’s “plan to restore internet freedom” is based in the idea that less regulation means more competition, and therefore more innovation and better service from our Internet Service Providers.

The Min H. Kao Building on campus is the home of the Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Department 

The Min H. Kao Building on campus is the home of the Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Department 

Some students are worried about how this change may affect startup tech companies, since they may not be able to pay for fast enough connections to compete with large, established companies. University of Tennessee Senior Savannah Norem says, “Internet Providers saying ‘You can go to these websites a lot faster’ means that potentially these start-ups can’t pay to have their websites on these lists so no one ever sees their websites.”

Norem also stated that the people who will be affected the most by this change will be online content creators since their platforms will have more vicious competition from more established companies. UT Phd. Student Jared Smith is also concerned about this. He says, “If your provider decides to limit say Youtube versus Netflix, and you can’t get access to Youtube, that is where a lot of content and training is these days for people to learn software development.”

P.h.d. Student Jared Smith discusses how repealling Net Neutrality may prevent Computer Science students from gaining access to online tools. 

P.h.d. Student Jared Smith discusses how repealling Net Neutrality may prevent Computer Science students from gaining access to online tools. 

Students are hopeful for the future of Net Neutrality though. Jared Smith says he is hopeful because “many people, on both sides, bipartisan, are not in support of repealing net neutrality.” Students think that the negative aspects of repealing net neutrality will be too much to let it stand as it is now. UT Sophomore Duncan Layman says, “I think having open internet is too much, too central to small companies and to companies around the U.S. that it would be too detrimental in the short term.”

Democrats may try to fight against the decision of the board with congressional review, but that may be difficult with the Republican controlled Congress, but for now the future of net neutrality is unknown.