Knoxville’s SACE Mayoral Energy Forum Draws Large Crowd

On Monday, over 200 Knoxville citizens gathered at The Square Room in downtown Knoxville for the Mayoral Candidate Forum hosted by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE).

It was the largest of several candidate forums thus far and proved that energy issues are a hot topic for Knoxvillians.

Moderated by Andre Canty of the Highlander Research and Education Center, candidates Indya Kincannon, Fletcher ‘Knoxville’ Burkhart, Calvin Taylor Skinner, Marshall Stair and Eddie Mannis answered questions and gave their insight into the burdens Knoxvillians face within the energy sector and what their plans would be for negotiating with KUB (Knoxville Utilities Board) and TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority)

According to

Progress on energy is a priority for Knoxville

Two forum questions addressed the issue of high energy burdens, or portion of income spent on energy, prevalent in Knoxville’s low-income and minority communities and worsened by high fixed fees on KUB electric bills. Candidates discussed approaches to work with KUB to bring down fixed fees and incentivize weatherization and energy savings measures for customers most in need. Mayoral candidates Fletcher Burkhardt, Indya Kincannon, Eddie Mannis, Calvin Skinner, and Marshall Stair appeared to find common ground on these issues.

Low-income Energy Burdens in Knoxville by Census Tract
Candidates acknowledged the $19 and soon to be $20.50 monthly mandatory fixed fee or “basic customer charge” on electric bills, which KUB claims helps pay for infrastructure upgrades, disproportionately impacts low-income and fixed income users and puts our most vulnerable communities at risk, which Burkhardt summed up as “unacceptable.” Skinner stated that “KUB Board knows the fixed fees are too damn high, TVA knows the fixed fees are too damn high,” and that “it’s time for us to act.”
Stair explained the impact, stating that, “[A fixed fee] doesn’t incentivize weatherization. If most of your bill is fixed costs, it doesn’t matter how much energy you consume.” Many candidate comments echoed sentiments from the SEEED forum where, just days before, “unaffordable utilities” was highlighted as one of the top three issues Knoxvillians face.
Kincannon stated she “opposes regressive fixed rates,” and pointed out that “better ways to finance fixed costs are being done in other cities and KUB knows there are other ways.” She stated a desire to work with KUB to find a revenue neutral way to work on a “KEEM 2.0.” The Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover (KEEM) was a program that ended in 2017 where TVA provided $15 million to weatherize low-income homes in Knoxville. TVA funding for weatherization and other energy savings programs has since plummeted.
The five candidates supported energy efficiency as one of the best solutions to relieve energy burdens, but recognized the high fixed fee isn’t conducive to lowering household energy costs and incentivizing energy efficiency upgrades in homes that will lower energy consumption, reduce carbon emissions, and make homes and communities healthier.

Full video of the forum can be watched below:

☀️ We're live at Knoxville Mayoral Energy Forum! Candidates will discussing their solutions for affordable KUB electric bills, clean energy for all Knoxvillians, and carbon emission goals for our city. ☀️

Posted by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy on Monday, July 29, 2019
view the slide deck that accompanied the forum questions here

Andre Canty of the Highlander Research and Education Center moderates Monday’s forum. (Photo by Angela Dennis)
Mayoral Candidates seated from left to right, Indya Kincannon, Fletcher ‘Knoxville’ Burkhart, Calvin Taylor Skinner, Marshall Stair and Eddie Mannis. (Photo by Angela Dennis)
Knoxville City Council Candidates from left: Amy Midis, Janet Testerman, Charles Al-Bawi, Charles Lomax, David Hayes, Amelia Parker.(Photo by Angela Dennis)
City Council candidate Charles Lomax, Jr. with Alex Carter at yesterday’s mayoral forum. Alex recently turned 18 and will be entering the University of Tennessee in the Fall where she will be studying Materials Engineering. This will be her first election she has voted in.
A crowd of more than 200 Knoxville citizens gathered at The Square Room for Monday’s forum. 

Angela Dennis is a Freelance Writer and Blogger residing in Knoxville, TN. Her work has been featured in multiple publications both local and national such as Knox News Sentinel, Blavity, Black Sports Online, Black Girl Nerds, etc.

Community Voices Mayor Forum a Success for Inner City Knoxville

From left to right, Mayoral candidates Marshall Stair, Michael Andrews, Calvin Taylor Skinner, Indya Kincannon, Eddie Mannis and Fletcher ‘Knoxville’ Burkhart.

Thursday’s Mayoral Candidate Forum at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in East Knoxville garnered a large gathering of Knoxville citizens.

Organized by SEEED and the Community Voices Coalition the forum aimed to focus on the issues that matter most to the urban and inner city communities of Knoxville.

There has been a concerning absence of questions in previous candidate forums in regards to what matters most to many East Knoxville and inner city residents. These are gun violence, youth opportunities, poverty, and affordable utilities.

Hundreds of community members were surveyed recently in an effort to gain feedback on what matters most to them. It was also a chance for the Mayoral candidates to let the inner city residents know where they stand on matters that have continuously plagued marginalized residents.

Turnout was high and local residents such as Denzel Grant and community representative for Trisha Melton, Mother of the late Chris Melton, who lost his life to gun violence at the hands of a gang member in South Knoxville got the chance to take the podium and share their stories of struggle, pain, and concern for the city.

The forum was moderated by Knox County Education Association President Tanya Coats. All six mayoral candidates were present which included, Marshall Stair, Indya Kincannon, Michael Andrews, Calvin Taylor Skinner, Eddie Mannis, and Fletcher ‘Knoxville’ Burkhart.

Over the course of two hours each candidate was able to answer questions and offer their solutions to questions raised during the Community Voices Coalition survey.

The Community Voices Coalition is a group of local organizers who are working to survey residents, particularly low-income and people of color who are often left out of the conversation. The goal is to promote participation in community conversations and candidate forums, and to allow citizens to tell their stories to identify LOCAL solutions to their most serious issues.

It is a necessary initiative in the City of Knoxville due to the economic decline of the Black community and climbing poverty rate. We have lost far too many children and young adults to gun violence in our city and the increase in gang activity has left a stain that has been difficult to clean up.

It must also be noted that we have far too many Knoxvillians whose livelihoods are declining due to unaffordable utility bills and housing, and youth who are falling as prey to the streets.

As the local election season is underway we must continue these difficult conversations and continue to ask the hard questions.

Our candidates must be aware of what is going on in all of Knoxville particularly in areas hurting the most.

As voters it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on the issues and vote in November for leaders who will best represent not only the suburban communities but also the Black community and inner city of Knoxville.

It is time our voices be heard. SEEED and the Community Voices Coalition are in our corner and giving us an opportunity to do just that, and we thank them.

Angela Dennis is a Freelance Writer and Blogger residing in Knoxville, TN. Her work has been featured in multiple publications such as Knox News Sentinel, Blavity, Black Girl Nerds, etc.



KNOXVILLE—State Representative Rick Staples and other state and local officials will hold a bridge dedication ceremony on Thursday honoring the three victims of a deadly bus crash in 2014. 

Zykia D. Burns, Seraya “Bubbles” Glasper, and Kimberly Lynn Wester Riddle were killed and 27 other adults and children were injured when a bus from Chilhowee Intermediate School swerved across the eastbound lanes of Asheville Highway and struck another bus that was leaving Sunnyview Primary School. Burns and Glasper were students at Sunnyview and Riddle was a teacher’s aide at the same school.

Rep. Staples said, “Losing two little children and a wife and mother was a terrible tragedy in our community. It is my hope that this dedication will honor their memory as we keep them forever in our hearts.”

In addition to Rep. Staples, Senator Becky Massey, Knox County Mayor Glen Jacobs, and Knox County School Superintendent Bob Thomas are scheduled to appear, as well as representatives from other state and local offices.

The naming ceremony will take place on Thursday, July 25 from 10:00 to 10:30 AM at the Milton E. Roberts Recreation Center, 5900 Asheville Highway in Knoxville.