January 25, 2023


Henry VIII and the ill-fated Anne Boleyn were officially married 490 years ago today.

In today's report: Knoxville City Council gave final approval to an unsupervised dog tethering ban on Tuesday after making a slew of amendments to its overhaul of the animal control ordinance. The ban, which takes effect on July 1, requires pet owners or another responsible individual to be outdoors on the premises when a dog is tethered. Council amended the original proposal, which would have required the responsible human to be within the dog's field of vision. Dog owners won't be allowed to go inside their houses or leave their property as long as their dogs are tethered. We follow the debate and offer this summary of the proceedings.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville has set enrollment records in recent years, but the state university system’s flagship campus has bumped into its ceiling. UT-Knoxville anticipates a smaller freshman class next year despite a dramatic increase in applications. 

Members of the UT Board of Trustees Executive Committee discussed the situation at a meeting last Friday, where Chancellor Donde Plowman gave hints of plans to give prospective students who don’t get into UT-Knoxville options to attend other UT campuses.

“We’re sort of capped on what we’re going to be able to accept in the fall of ’23 compared to the fall of ’22, yet applications are going to be way up,” said John Compton, chair of the Board of Trustees.

As of Jan. 1, UT-Knoxville had received 48,665 first-year applications, a 40.3 percent increase over the number at the same time a year ago. Kerry Gardner, assistant director of news and information, said the 2023 applicant pool is the most competitive in the university’s 228-year history.

About one-fourth of the applicants live in Tennessee, an increase of 13.2 percent over last year. Out-of-state applications have increased by 51.6 percent. 

The 2023 application numbers dwarf 2022’s numbers. As of Jan. 1, 2022, UT-Knoxville had received 34,698 applications for fall 2022 enrollment. The university accepted 24,826 students and 6,846 actually enrolled. The others apparently received multiple offers and enrolled at other institutions.

The enrollment number will be lower in fall 2023, though no maximum number has been set as a cap.

Plowman said the flood of applications is “a great problem to have,” noting that the first round of acceptance decisions have gone out and the second round will go out on Feb. 15. 

She and other UT System chancellors are working on a pilot program that would allow some students who have been accepted to UT-Knoxville but can’t enroll because of the cap to attend UT-Chattanooga, UT-Martin or UT-Southern, even if they haven’t applied to the other campuses.

“We are working out the details, which we’re going to be able to share with you at the February meeting (of the Board of Trustees),” she said. “It’s kind of a pilot, and we’ll see how it works and then how we will build on it in the future.”

UT-Chattanooga Chancellor Steve Angle said students who go through the program would likely be given the opportunity to transfer to UT-Knoxville later in their academic careers if they so choose. “If a student wants to start with us and transfer, we’ll do everything we can to help them get to where they want to be to finish their college career,” he said. “I think every campus is committed to that,” he said.

Gardner said a number of factors have led to the increase in UT-Knoxville applications and positive momentum, including a commitment to affordability, increased retention and graduation rates, and athletic success, which increases the university’s visibility.

“We also rely on our strong partnership with alumni who share their unique Volunteer experiences and can speak to the way their time at UT helped prepare them for success,” she said.

Safire Technology Group, a startup developing lithium-ion battery safety technology licensed from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is setting up shop at the University of Tennessee’s Spark Innovation Center.

Local business and government leaders met for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday at the Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing at UT’s Research Park at Cherokee Farm. 

Safire develops an additive to batteries for electric vehicles that prevent explosions and fires during collisions while improving performance. 

“As more and more EVs are being driven, it’s more of a problem,” said John Lee, Safire’s co-founder and CEO. “By protecting batteries, we’re able to shave off some of the weight, which improves range and performance.”

Lee said the company plans to employ about 15 full-time workers — mostly in high-paying executive, scientific and engineering positions — to get its operations up and running.

Doug Lawyer, the Knoxville Chamber’s vice president of economic development, said Safire’s business aligns with the Chamber’s efforts to transform Knoxville’s economy through high-growth, high-paying companies.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said Safire is a tangible example of the impact of the region’s “innovation engines” — UT and ORNL. Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon touted the importance of partnerships in economic development and Safire’s example as a clean energy company with the potential to help transition the city’s economy.

“Clean technology is the future of the planet and the future of Knoxville,” she said.


Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs kicked off this year's edition of his annual Read City USA challenge with an event at the Bijou Theatre on Tuesday afternoon.

Where past goals were measured in miles of books read and other metrics, for 2023 Jacobs wants the county to "go platinum" by joining in the "All Together Now" tour — which you can do by logging hours read, online or by hand. You can find full information here.

There is a particular emphasis on parents reading with children, which is connected to early childhood literacy. But the overall goal is for everybody to read at least 20 minutes a day. (We think Compass counts, but you might want to check.)

“I'm excited to bring this event to the community as a celebration of reading,” Jacobs said in a news release. “We're working with groups, businesses, schools, and families to illustrate Knox County’s commitment to literacy.”

Southern Skies Music Festival will return to World's Fair Park for its second year in May. Part of the Dogwood Arts event slate, the festival will take place May 20 and 21, with headliners St. Paul & the Broken Bones and Grace Potter.

As before, it is curated by local rock faves the Dirty Guv'nahs, who will also perform. The rest of the two-day bill includes Black Joe Lewis, Jackie Venson, Cruz Contreras and more.

The festival was originally announced in 2020 as something of a successor to the defunct Rhythm 'N' Blooms, but the pandemic postponed it for two years and it finally debuted last May.

"We are thrilled to bring Southern Skies back for a second year," Guvs frontman James Trimble said in a news release. "The inaugural festival exceeded all expectations, and working alongside Dogwood Arts and Born & Raised Productions has been an absolute dream. 2023 is going to be bigger and better with two days of performances, and more surprises than before.”

The fest will feature 13 artists on two stages along with food trucks, craft beer, cocktails and a Maker Market.

Trimble said, “Our goal is for Southern Skies Music Festival to become a southeastern music festival staple that is known for its hospitality, creativity, diversity, and all around fun."

Tickets for this year's festival go on sale at 10 a.m. this Friday, with an "early bird" special of $85 for a weekend pass.

Yes, you can be "All Together Now" on your own.