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It's Your City, Knoxville
By John Disque

Of the five city mayoral candidates is there one who has the ability to lead Knoxville from a mediocre mid-size town to the very best city in the USA?

knoxville mayoral candidates 2011
Knoxville Mayoral Candidates 2011
Top Row: Mark Padgett, Madeline Rogero. Bottom Row: Bo Bennett, Ivan Harmon, Joe Hultquist

john disqueIronically, the answer to this question does not weigh on the candidates. It weighs on the Knoxville voters.

In 2007 only 6,560 people showed up to vote in the City of Knoxville Primary Election. Considering the city's 105,000 registered voters, the number is embarrassingly low.

In the words of my great friend Eric Paquette, publisher of Norris Bulletin, "It's sad. It really is. Local politics are where we can all make a difference. We may not have much of a voice in Federal politics, but we can all make our voice heard at the local level. It's not so much the next President we should worry about electing, but rather our local city councils. If the reporting on local politics would overshadow the reporting on national politics - and 'reporters' would stop extrapolating little bits and pieces that support their own narrow agendas (while letting the rest go unreported), local politics would see a real resurgence."

Paquette is not alone with his line of thinking. I have reason to believe that the 2011 City of Knoxville Primary Election numbers are going to break all previous records.

For one, each time I write an article about a local political issue or a candidate the numbers of visitors to the Knoxville Daily Sun website are overwhelming.

Every day I'm out in the community talking with people. What I'm witnessing is: people of all backgrounds, races and income levels talking about the candidates and the upcoming primary elections on September 27, 2011. Some have strong opinions and decisions while a large percentage (estimated at 40%) are very actively researching, listening, reading and waiting. In 2007 I was just as active in the local community and did not see this.

The Internet (particularly social media), with all the recent moves and talks of government transparency, combined with the candidates being out in the community is succeeding in helping residents feel more connected and more of "a vital" part of their community. Candidates themselves are recognizing that their voice is not the only one that matters. A few are listening to and asking for the voice of the voters and the voters are stepping out in droves.

Our local politics and politicians are no longer being monopolized. While you may have your own thoughts on the issue there is no clear runaway candidate nor is there any one "hot-topic." As I stated from the beginning, it's going to come down to natural human instinct and trust.

Three of the five candidates have a very strong following and supportive base. That leaves the swing vote to determine some surprising figures on September 27th. Voters microscopes and magnifying glasses are in hand, and the very fact that the race is close will bring the swing voters to the polls. They now have adequate proof that their vote is going to make a difference.

You might first suggest that the KDS traffic is coming from the people who already support the candidate but you'd be wrong. The majority of the traffic is coming from people looking for information and each article on each candidate is receiving an almost equal number of visitors.

People have suffered greatly and died over your right to vote, but I'm not here to put anyone on a guilt trip. I just want to plant that seed in your mind and stress the importance of your voice.

Gone are the days of biased newscasters spouting their premature opinion to sway anyone. It would take an overwhelming amount of arrogance and ignorance to tell you who to vote for. I would never even suggest it or hint it. Whether it did or didn't I would feel as if I were insulting your intelligence, instinct and ability to make up your own mind. What I will do is: continue to gather as many facts as I can and to write my experiences, to ask you to use your own true human instinct, to gather as many facts as you can on your own and to realize that it's your children's chance, hope and future at stake.

It's not about any one person – it's about all of us. It's more than just your civic duty. It's your opportunity take part and to live in the very best city in the USA and . . . yes, I also have reason to believe that Knoxville TN can be the very best city in the USA.

Published July 6, 2011

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