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Prepared Speech of Mayor Indya Kincannon's State of the City Address

Proposed Budget for City of Knoxville's Fiscal Year 2023-2024

April 26, 2023

Western Heights & Beaumont Communities

  Mayor Kincannon presents the State of the City Addresss
  Mayor Kincannon's Proposed Budget Invests in Public Safety, Housing, Great Places and Services

View Today's Program

View Video of Mayor Kincannon's State of the City

View Poet Laureates' Poem

View Photo Gallery on Facebook

View Proposed Budget [PDF]
Thank you Vice Mayor Roberto – and, thank you all for being here today.  

What an amazing space to celebrate our progress and look ahead to the future.

We are at the top of Western Heights, a neighborhood that is about to be transformed.

Raise your hand if you’ve been up here before to see this incredible view of our City. It’s really something isn’t it?

As I look out today – across Western Heights, Beaumont, and Lonsdale – seeing Downtown in the distance – my heart is full of gratitude.  How lucky are we that call Knoxville home.  

Knoxville is a growing City, a place more and more people are choosing to start and grow a business, to raise a family, to connect with nature, to pursue a dream – Simply put: Knoxville is an amazing place to build a life. 

Walking in our neighborhoods – North, South, East, West, downtown - you can feel the energy, our momentum is unmistakable.

As our Poet Laureate Rhea Carmon just said, “... This space is ONE that we share.” 

Rhea, Thank you for that beautiful reminder that we are all interconnected.
We are fortunate to have so many dedicated leaders in Knoxville – those who serve today and those who came before us.  

I want to give a special shout-out to my predecessors – fellow Mayors who helped make Knoxville the City that it is today.

Remember back in 1980 when we were called that Scruffy Little City?

There was a lot of skepticism when Knoxville decided to host the 1982 World’s Fair. But we didn’t just host it, we made it a huge success, the last successful world’s fair held in the U.S.

Today – some 40 years later, we are still reaping the benefits. Just think about World’s Fair Park – the versatile, gorgeous green space in the heart of downtown where we enjoy festivals, fountains, 4th of July, and so much more!

Thank you Mayor Randy Tyree for seeing the fair through and leaving us with such an important space in Knoxville.

Not far from that location – there was another project that drew controversy – the construction of the 500,000 square foot Convention Center.

People said we could never attract enough events to justify the project. Today so many people want to hold their conferences in Knoxville, the Convention Center is booked years in advance. Thank you Mayor Victor Ashe.
After the convention center was complete downtown still had a long way to go.

There were just a handful of shops on Market Square, and Gay Street was pretty quiet after 6pm.  Ben and I would bring our kids to every festival –  because they were fun and free, but also to make sure enough people would show up so the festivals would continue.    

We don’t have to worry about that anymore! Thanks to Mayor Bill Haslam - who brought Regal Cinemas to Gay Street, and helped jump-start our downtown revitalization.

When Mayor Haslam decided to run for Governor – Knoxville had an opportunity to make history – and that we did when Mayor Dan Brown became our City’s First African-American Mayor!

I am happy to announce that this budget includes funds for a commemorative space at First Creek at Austin, a space that honors Mayor Brown’s Legacy. 

And, who can forget the City’s first female Mayor and the vision and collaboration it took to turn 1000 acres of hilly, rocky, wooded land into a hub for recreation and outdoor play.

Thank you Mayor Madeline Rogero for creating Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, one of my favorite spaces in town!

And now in 2023 - projects big and small are creating benefits for the people who call Knoxville home. From the Public Safety Complex at St. Mary’s, to Lakeshore Park, from the Stadium to the Urban Wilderness -  and the pedestrian bridge - We are creating more great spaces in Knoxville, turning our dreams into reality.  

As you’ve heard me say before, Public safety is Job #1.  

This past year I hired a new police chief, Paul Noel – and we’ve added more officers to beat patrols – solved more cases. 

We’re making sure we have the right people, policies, and training to make the Knoxville Police Department the most community-focused, trusted, and effective police department in the country.  And – good news – crime is going down.

This time last year we had critical staffing shortages.  Our pay was not competitive, and it was threatening our ability to keep Knoxville safe and running smoothly.  Thanks to your support, we passed significant pay raises.  Our police officers, firefighters and city workers always have our backs, and I’m proud that we have theirs too.

Since 2020, the city has helped thousands more families have a safe and affordable place to live. 

That includes 105 families who now call First Creek at Austin home, with another 180 scheduled to move in later this year.

It includes 57 people who had been homeless for years, who now have permanent, supportive housing at Caswell Manor.  

And just last week City Council approved plans for Callahan Flats, the City’s 6th Permanent Supportive housing development.  Thank you City Council!

Great spaces means connecting people to opportunities that allow them to thrive. 

And in the last 3 years there is so much to celebrate, including:

• More than 2,300 new jobs.

• State-of-the-art trucks and equipment to help our firefighters save lives.

• New sidewalks, curb cuts, and crosswalks.

• Reliable, affordable, high-speed, internet – thanks to KUB Fiber.

Electric buses and more EV charging stations.

• Hundreds of new trees and a long-term urban forestry plan.

• $15 Million in park and greenway improvements,

• And, so much more!  

Much of Knoxville is thriving. The US Census Bureau reports that since 2017, incomes are up, and fewer families are living in poverty, even among our most at-risk communities. 
Still, many people’s incomes are not keeping pace with the rising cost of living. 

Too many residents struggle to make ends meet as they work to create better futures for themselves and their families.

We are here - on this hill - because - a bright future for Knoxville means we must make investments that lift up all of our residents.

That is exactly what is happening through the Transforming Western project. 

I want to thank KCDC, CAC, Pinnacle Financial, Brinshore Development, and countless partners who are working to make this transformation possible - of course that includes residents who have led the way from the beginning. 

If you’ve been involved in any part of the Transforming Western process – please stand.

That’s what we are celebrating today!

I want to share this quick video, that paints a picture of what’s happening here and all across our City: 

I want to celebrate a few specific people who are making great things happen in our city.  

People like Denzel Grant.

The director and co-founder of Turn Up Knox, Denzel and his team are making our city safer by stopping violence before it happens. 

Sitting with Denzel is Terry Walker-Smith, a mother who has lost two sons to violence.  

Terry turned her grief into action by creating MOMS - Mothers of Mission Survivors.  

She and her fellow MOMS support those who have lost loved ones to violence –  and they are also steadfast champions for common sense gun laws. 

Thank you, Terry.

Amy Hathaway of Forest Heights, and Eric Johnson, from Vestal, are neighbors who go above and beyond to create great spaces. 

Amy pulled together 70 community members and businesses to turn an underutilized lot into a new playground.

Eric —this year’s Diane Conn Good Neighbor of the Year – organizes litter and creek clean-ups, helped establish a new greenway, coordinated COVID vaccine clinics, and is a compassionate advocate for homeless outreach.

This budget proposal complements the work of neighbors like Eric, Amy, Terry and Denzel.

Some of the city’s most appreciated and heavily utilized spaces are our parks.

This budget commits nearly $4 million to our parks including investments at:

• Lakeshore

• Williams Creek Golf Course

• And a new park in Lonsdale at the former Sam E. Hill School.

The Multi-Use stadium is going vertical! We will break ground soon on this new, public space that baseball fans – and all residents – can enjoy year-round.  

Knoxville’s amazing arts and culture spaces are a huge part of what makes Knoxville unique.  From Ijams to the Knoxville Botanical Gardens to the Arts District on Gay Street. 

That’s why I am proposing more than $3 million in support of the places that keep us saying “wow”.  That figure includes a new immersive experience at the Zoo, funding for the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, and nearly $1 million for arts and culture nonprofits.

A great City is a connected City. 

This budget allocates nearly $9.3 million for repairs to roads, bridges, guardrails – and yes – potholes! 

And, an additional $2.4 million to support sidewalks, and other projects that support our Vision Zero commitment of safe streets for all, including for bus riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists.   

Earlier this week, I was pleased to join Mayor Jacobs in announcing the new Knoxville-Knox County Office of Housing Stability

For decades the City has partnered with non-profits to try to end homelessness and restore people to housing. Unfortunately, homelessness knows no boundaries.  

Through this new partnership, we will work together to help more families avoid eviction, and get more people back on their feet after experiencing homelessness. 

Thank you Mayor Jacobs and Knox County for your partnership.

Sometimes those who fought for our freedoms and risked their lives for our country, end up living on the streets.

This was on my mind as I accompanied Wilford Slade and other veterans on an Honor Air Flight a few weeks ago. 

Sergeant Slade served in the US Air Force from 1951 to 1971, during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  Thanks to people like Wilford we enjoy the freedoms we have today.  Thank you, sir – for your service. 

This budget supports $½ million for Liberty Place –  permanent supportive housing – exclusively for Veterans. 

Thanks to leadership by KCDC and support from local, state and federal partners—, Liberty Place will soon be home to 32 local veterans.

While we will always leverage our resources to create more affordable housing, to truly close the unprecedented gap between housing demand and housing supply, we must encourage private development of new housing all across our City. 

Right now – over 3,800 new residential housing units are moving through the City’s permitting process. 

It’s our job to make sure those projects are processed efficiently and fairly.    

In order to keep up with the increased need for new housing, this budget funds two new positions to make our development process smooth, responsive, and transparent.

We recently digitized our plan submissions and fee payment systems, and are working to modernize other anachronistic practices, including the infamous ward map issues that have frustrated so many people. 
You don’t need to be an engineer or architect to tell if a space is great.  Just look - Are people gathering there –  to chat, to watch over neighborhood kids, to keep up with each other’s lives?  If so, then that is a space that is safe and nurturing.  

Creating such spaces is work that the Office of Community Empowerment and the Office of Community Safety do every day.  

I’m thrilled to announce that, under the able leadership of LaKenya Middlebrook, we are bringing together these two departments to work as one. This budget includes two additional staff and funding for evidence-based strategies to reduce community violence.

This budget also proposes additional funds to support the work of the African American Equity Restoration Task Force as they seek transformative grants to address the harms of urban renewal. 

Great spaces inspire us, heal us, they remind us of why we choose Knoxville. The energy you feel on Market Square – the connection you feel to your neighbors while walking your dog, the positive vibes you feel while swimming at Meads Quarry.

As one urban designer put it, “A good city is like a good party – people stay longer than really necessary because they are enjoying themselves.”  

I’m so honored to be at this party with all of you.  You are what makes Knoxville a great place to live. 

Thank you for being here today and enjoy the rest of your afternoon.