January 18, 2023


Deliverance director Sir John Boorman turns 90 today.

In today's report: Knox County Commissioner Dasha Lundy is planning to attempt to file subpoenas next month of Sheriff Tom Spangler and some of his deputies and staff to try to clarify what happened in a November encounter at a McAlister’s Deli restaurant. Spangler refused a request from Lundy to appear at Tuesday’s Commission work session to answer questions or to have any of his staff members present. Lundy called the refusal "cowardly" and promised to continue to pursue the issue.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Rhonda Lee, in mounting a defense of the Sheriff's deputies, suggested that the whole issue was over free meals the officers were supposed to receive at McAlister's — a version of events the Sheriff's Office quickly denied. Lee also denied that race played any role in the incident and accused the 15-year-old girl at the center of the incident of playing "the race card." We tell the story.

County Commissioners last night also gave unanimous approval to a resolution calling for a new interstate bypass around Knoxville. The resolution, proposed by Commissioner Larsen Jay, urges the state Department of Transportation and legislators to put the project on the state's list of planned infrastructure projects.

Jay acknowledged that the idea has a long history. "There's been lots of discussions for lots of years," he said. "And it all has to start with an idea or with a bit of a spark from us as the legislative body."

State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, has been advocating for the idea for some time now, and is in a good position to do so — she was just reappointed chair of the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee.

No route has been proposed, but it would presumably take traffic west off Interstate 75 somewhere north of Knox County, and loop around somewhere west of the I-75/I-40 split.

"I don't know where this would go, I don't know what it would cost, I don't know how long it would take," Jay said. "These are all the questions that need to be examined on a much bigger scale."

He said TDOT's own data makes the need for a new route clear. "We have three of the five most congested spots in all of Tennessee," he said. "And number one is our (I-40/I-75) corridor that runs 18 miles through the heart of our community."

Among the new bills landing in the early weeks of the state legislative session are a few that could affect local governments. First, of course, is the much-talked-about proposal to cut Nashville's Metropolitan Council from 40 members to 20, which is perceived as retaliation for Council members' opposition to inviting the 2024 Republican National Convention to town.

But that only affects Nashville. A few other bills have broader application. As Sam Stockard reports in Tennessee Lookout, House Majority Leader William Lamberth has a bill requiring county general elections to be held in November rather than August. This would put county office-seekers on the same election schedule as state and federal candidates.

Knox County Election Administrator Chris Davis said he didn't have a "particularly strong opinion" about the idea from an operations standpoint and said he was waiting to hear details.

Another bill Stockard mentions would require closed primaries, meaning you would have to be a registered party member to vote in them. And there is the possibility of trying to force municipalities to hold partisan rather than nonpartisan elections.

Many of these ideas have been proposed several times before, but that was also true of the change to partisan school board races that finally happened in 2021. Members of the Legislature overall are relatively new and fiercely partisan.


Kevin DuBose, who was deputy director of community development during the administrations of former Knoxville mayors Victor Ashe and Bill Haslam, is returning to city government as director of housing and neighborhood development

“DuBose has more than 25 years of housing and community building experience that will be invaluable in continuing to move Knoxville in the right direction,” Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said in a news release announcing the appointment. “Couple that experience with his passion for serving the people of Knoxville, and this is a great fit. I am excited for him to hit the ground running.”

DuBose, who is currently director of area ministries for the Emerald Youth Foundation, said he is excited to return to the city in a new yet familiar role. 

“I believe that the Housing and Neighborhood Development (HND) team is one of the City's best assets,” he said. “Through my current work in Lonsdale and adjacent neighborhoods, I see the positive impacts of HND's work every day. So many residents have transitioned from living in public housing to becoming homeowners due to the work of HND and its affordable housing partners.”

DuBose replaces Amy Brooks, who resigned to become senior director of planning and development with Knox County government. 

After four years with the City in the Ashe and Haslam administrations, DuBose became the director of economic and community development in Macon, Ga. He returned to Knoxville in 2009 and has been working with the Emerald Youth Foundation since that time.

“I have been able to view Knoxville from the perspective of a housing practitioner, land planner, and nonprofit leader,” DuBose said. “I have gained extensive knowledge from all of these perspectives that will help inform my decisions as I embark on this new role.”

DuBose has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Knoxville College and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Alabama A&M University. He earned membership into the American Institute of Certified Planners and has specialized training in housing and community development, economic development and negotiation. Dubose is also a 2004 graduate of Leadership Knoxville.

A team of scientists led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers has genetically engineered poplar trees that are larger, leafier and have extended growing seasons.


Using a gene in agave that governs when the plant goes dormant, the team created poplar trees with increased biomass yields for fuel production and carbon sequestration, according to an ORNL news release. Their research has been published in the journal Plant Physiology.

By sequencing the messenger RNA of Agave americana, researchers found the REVEILLE1 gene that controls both dormancy and budding. A study showed that poplars engineered with the gene could potentially extend their growing season by two to three months in temperate regions.


“Much like the circadian clock responds to light and dark, REVEILLE genes regulate when plants are asleep in dormancy and when they’re awake,” Xiaohan Yang, a senior scientist in ORNL’s Synthetic Biology Group in the Biosciences Division, said in a statement. “We used the gene to successfully repress dormancy over two winters.”

Poplars with REVEILLE1 achieved a 166 percent increase in biomass when grown in a greenhouse, yielding taller trees with larger leaves and thicker stems compared with standard poplars.

Genetic engineering gone bad.