Mayor's 2024 State of the City Address

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Mayor Indya Kincannon's State of the City Address

April 26, 2024

10:30 a.m.

Tennessee Amphitheater at World's Fair Park

  Mayor Indya Kincannon
  Mayor Kincannon's Proposed Budget Invests in Public Safety, Housing, Great Places and Services
  Mayor's 2024 State of the City Address
  Event Program
  Facebook Photo Gallery
  2024-2025 Proposed Operating Budget [PDF]
  Video of State of the City by
Thank you, Vice-Mayor Smith and thank you all for being here today as I share a progress report on the City, and look ahead to what’s next.

In 1982 the world came to Knoxville!  The World’s Fair and this park are unique to our city, and we are committed to building on what makes Knoxville special.

I’ve seen some amazing performances here, everything from the symphony to sumo wrestling.  Who else has attended a memorable show at this amphitheater?

I want to ask everyone to look up for a moment…..

Not a pretty sight.  We’ve cleaned and repaired this structure for 42 years, but the time has come for a new roof!  

This budget includes design funds for a new roof structure - we will make sure this unique architectural gem can remain safe, functional, and a point of pride for the next generation!

World's Fair Park is one example of our commitment to preserving history, protecting green space, and creating well-connected and beautiful public spaces that everyone can enjoy.

We have already started significant upgrades to the Sunsphere. The observation deck has been updated. The base has been restored to its original blue color, and we’re building a new Welcome Center.  Thank you, Kim Bumpas, Visit Knoxville, and everyone who has contributed to the Sunsphere Fund.

It’s time to invite Bart Simpson back to Knoxville!

Stop by the Visit Knoxville table today for a free ticket to the observation deck!

Knoxville is on a roll! And this budget reflects our Commitment to Completion!

Good ideas can take years to realize.  Our Urban Wilderness is one example of an unique amenity for our city that has been years in the making.…. So to all of my visionary predecessors who got the ball rolling on some amazing initiatives for our City - thank you.

I want to take a few minutes to update you on projects that we have brought across the finish line.

Two years ago, I delivered my State of the City Address from a muddy field next to a loud construction site. Now, that location is our bustling new Public Safety complex.

Having our police, Fire, E-911, and KEMA, headquartered in this re-purposed space is already catalyzing new investments in higher education, housing, and retail.  

This past year, we donated a fire truck to Fulton High School  - seeing the students’ eyes light up when we drove that truck in…  that’s how we recruit the next generation of first responders!

There is more to come.  Construction is almost done for the Empath Center, which will provide acute medical and behavioral health services, right there on the same campus.

Thanks to the McNabb Center, the State of Tennessee, Knox County, and our hospitals - the Empath Center will open this summer!

In 2017, the City’s Affordable Rental Development Fund jump-started construction of new affordable housing across the City. 
But we needed to do more.  

So, in 2021, with the help of amazing partners like Justice Knox, we passed a City ordinance that commits a minimum of $5 million local dollars a year for affordable housing for 10 years.  

I am proud to say that we have exceeded that minimum every year.  

In fact, we have invested more in affordable, attainable, housing than ever before, leveraging millions of private dollars, and creating homes for thousands of Knoxville families!

While some people are struggling to pay rent, or to buy their first home, others have no housing at all.  

Homelessness is a housing problem. And the needs don’t end at the city limits.

That’s why I’m so grateful that we partnered with Knox County to launch the first-ever Joint Office of Housing Stability - led by Erin Read.  

Back in January, when we had that big snow and more than a week of dangerously cold temperatures, the Joint Office led a coordinated effort to stand up 4 warming centers, no doubt saving many lives.

Thank you, Erin, and all of the volunteers who made that possible.

I am proud of our progress protecting our clean air and water, and making sure we are ready for extreme weather.  

Just like the bumper sticker says, Trees are the Answer. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, we will be planting thousands more trees across our community. 

Our Urban Forest Master Plan, can be summarized in three simple phrases:
1. More Trees
2. Better Trees
3. Trees planted in the right places.

Thanks to our Urban Forester, Kasey Krause, Trees Knoxville, and all the partners who developed the plan and have already started the work.

We are also electrifying our fleet.  This budget includes more EVs for police and fire, and more electric buses!

We are going to reduce our carbon footprint and increase our resiliency even more under the leadership of our new Sustainability Director Vasu Primlani.

Vasu just started a few weeks ago and has already hit the ground running - Vasu please stand to be recognized!

We are making so much progress on Safety, Housing, and Resiliency.  We are also committed to helping people make a decent living.  

I am proud to say - in the last 4 years we have added nearly 5000 new jobs to the city!

We are making progress - on a lot of fronts! 

But, rather than me giving you more updates, let’s check in with some of the people who are making these changes possible!

Glad to know everyone’s working hard….

This video highlights the biggest and most important part of our city budget - the people.

The people who keep Knoxville running every day.

The people who do their jobs with skill and grace.

The people who work hard, and who have some fun along the way.

Rodney Wilson has been a dedicated city worker for over 50 years, and comes to work every day with a smile. Rodney, you make Knoxville proud. Please stand to be recognized.

I am proud of our accomplishments but, as they said in the video, we aren’t done yet!

We are committed to:
• Keeping our community safe
• Tackling Knoxville's housing crisis, and
• Creating great spaces and connectivity across our city.

Public safety is Job #1.

Thanks to the collective efforts of KPD, KFD, the Office of Community Safety and Empowerment, and community groups - Crime is down for the second year in a row!

However, we are experiencing an acute shortage of police officers. Our authorized force is 416, and right now we only have 350 sworn officers.  Of those 350, more than 70 officers are eligible to retire this year.

A shortage of police officers makes it harder to keep Knoxville safe.

We already have the hardest working, best trained, most professional police officers around, it’s time they get paid the best too.

That is why I am proposing a targeted - market based- increase for uniform officers.

This $3.9 million investment will bring starting pay for new officers to $56,000, and significantly boost pay for experienced officers too.

Our firefighters also play a vital role in public safety.

Most of the calls our firefighters respond to - are medical emergencies - making advanced training more valuable than ever.

That is why I am proposing to increase Advanced EMT stipends to $3,750 a year; and to increase stipends for paramedics to $8000 a year.

Our firefighters need high quality gear to protect them while they save lives.

This essential gear is not cheap.  For each firefighter - it costs 5 thousand dollars just for the jacket and pants they wear to avoid deadly burns.

This budget designates $1.8 million for equipment, training and resources for new firefighter recruits.

Our firefighters also need modern stations to keep Knoxville safe.

A few months ago we purchased property, and this budget proposes $3 million to start construction on a new, first class, energy efficient, fire hall in Burlington!

Keeping the community safe also means ensuring people can move around the city without getting hurt, whether they are walking, biking, taking the bus, or driving.

Our Vision Zero plan is a strategy to eliminate traffic deaths on city streets by 2040.

Thanks to City Council’s support, we have a Vision Zero coordinator.

Thanks to President Biden, we now have $8 million to start implementing our safety initiatives on Broadway, Woodland, and Magnolia Avenue.

We are tackling our affordable housing crisis by listening and learning from those who have real-life experiences, like Michelle Henderson.

A domestic dispute left Michelle without a place to call home. For 5 years she couch-surfed, slept in her car, and camped outside.

She was often scared, alone, and worried she would not make it through the night.

Thankfully, this past fall, with the help of local services, Michelle found a home at Minvilla Manor.

She calls her apartment a godsend - saying she is finally at peace and can sleep for the first time in 5 years.

But, her story does not stop there. Michelle is determined to use her experiences to help change the face of homelessness and she volunteers to help others get back on their feet.

Michelle, thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration - Could you please stand to be recognized?

To help neighbors like Michelle, this budget proposes more than $8 million dollars to address our housing crisis.

During my Inauguration address I promised that we would look for more creative solutions to the housing shortage. Today I am pleased to deliver on this promise.

Like Kevin alluded to in the video - I have a big announcement!

Today, for the first time in Knoxville’s history, local philanthropists are donating more than $2 million to help with affordable housing.

Thank you Matt Ryerson and the entire team at the United Way,  Phil Lawson and the Lawson Family Foundation, the Haslam Family, Randy Boyd, and Kevin Clayton and Clayton Homes, for making this possible!

Great things are happening in Knoxville and we are not slowing down!

The federal government recently awarded Knoxville a $42.6 million Re-Connecting Communities grant that we will use to help heal the wounds of Urban Renewal.

We are also priming the pump for redevelopment and investment along Magnolia Avenue.  

And next month, we will issue a Request For Proposals to reimagine the rarely-used surface parking lot across from Chilhowee Park!

It is East Knoxville’s time to shine!

We are committed to beautiful parks and public spaces. This budget includes $7 million for park and community center improvements - including the new park in Lonsdale and continued improvements at Lakeshore Park.

If you aren’t sure where those parks are, we have a brand new interactive map that shows all the parks and Greenways in the city, the town of Farragut and Knox County. Make sure you get one as you leave today!

We are committed to thriving cultural attractions. This budget proposes nearly $2.4 million for a new Rhino Habitat and the Ravine floating boardwalk at Zoo Knoxville!

We are committed to a vibrant arts scene. This budget funds numerous arts organizations, including funds for the Immersion Experience at the Emporium.

Speaking of great public spaces - have you seen the progress on the new multi-use stadium?

It is half-way done and already sparking investment and creating jobs!

By this time next year,  One Knox Soccer and the Knoxville Smokies - will be playing ball downtown!

Let me close by saying:

We are committed to  taking care of the basics you count on and deserve.

We are committed to keeping you safe.

We are committed to tackling the housing crisis.

We are committed to creating a Knoxville where everyone can thrive!

I’ve talked a lot about commitment in this speech. I’m also committed to letting you all get back to work!  

Thank you for being here and have a great day!