My thoughts on James White Parkway and Partisan Elections

James White Parkway and Chapman Highway

Back in 2013, the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) voted to kill the James White Parkway extension in order to focus priorities elsewhere in the city. The idea behind the extension is that it would relieve traffic congestion on Chapman Highway by rerouting traffic coming from Seymour to the interstates and downtown. Supporters of the project believe it will make Chapman Highway safer. Opponents don’t like that the project will take 10 – 15 years to complete and that the parkway will run through the Urban Wilderness.

James White Parkway
James White Parkway

There are a few plans in development by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to widen parts of Chapman Highway to 5 lanes to help with congestion and with the hope that the road becomes safer. These projects were going to happen regardless of a decision on the James White Parkway extension.

Whether in my car or on my motorcycle, I have driven on Chapman Highway every day for the last 10 years. Anyone who has driven Chapman Highway knows it has its problems, but I do not believe extending James White Parkway is the best solution for that problem given the resources for the project and the infringement on the Urban Wilderness; South Knoxville’s crown jewel.

I support the plans TDOT has for Chapman Highway and I support other ways we can make Chapman safer for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. One of which would be to move our utility lines underground. This will reduce injuries in crashes, allow more space for sidewalks and bike lanes, and it will help clean-up the landscape.

I also support turning the existing dead end of James White Parkway into simple green space. No one wants to have a picnic at the end of a parkway, and it’s not particularly safe, but that doesn’t mean it has to look like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie. Let’s give the “Road Closed” signs a rest, put up guardrails around the ramps, and create a simple green space that blends into the surroundings.

So, for the record: I do not support extending the James White Parkway.

Partisan Elections

Currently, City Council races and school board races are non-partisan. That means the candidate’s party affiliation will not show up on the ballot. Republican officials would like to see these races become partisan while Democratic officials would like to see them remain non-partisan. They both have their reasons. Republican officials claim that voter turnout is less for non-partisan races and that by candidates not disclosing their party affiliation they are doing a disservice to the voters. Democrats claim that party affiliation shouldn’t matter when running for those positions.

The bottom line is that Republican officials view non-partisan races as an advantage to the Democrats who don’t have to disclose their party affiliation in a region that routinely votes Republican, and the Democrats know that by not having to disclose their party affiliation they have better odds of being chosen at the voting booth.

I personally do not care if the races are partisan or not. However, I would support a referendum to allow the citizens to vote on making the races partisan or keeping them how they are. Regardless, I believe each voter needs to learn as much as they can about each candidate and make an informed vote based on the candidate’s stance and not the party affiliation next to their name.

If the races were to ever become partisan, we should allow more than just the two main parties to participate on the ballot. We need more open races and I believe parties who want to appear on the ballot should either have had a candidate that was elected in the last 10 years or has collected a petition of signatures (approximately 100) to appear on the ballot.

So, for the record: I would support a referendum on making the City Council and school board races partisan, but I would want a clause that states all qualified parties will also be allowed on the ballot, not just Republicans and Democrats.