Held Law Firm is committed to supporting community leaders who tackle the issues faced by our clients every day. City Council decisions affect our clients’ homes, jobs, schools, and communities. Founding Attorney Margaret Held disagrees with Campaign Coordinator Kaelynn Stewart regarding who City Council should appoint to fill Stephanie Welch’s vacant seat, representing South Knoxville. Even when we disagree, we believe that the most important work we can do is to inform our clients. If you live in South Knoxville and feel strongly about its future, get in touch with sitting City Council members and make your voice heard. Below, you can read about two of the seven candidates in the running.
by Margaret Held
As a lifelong resident of Knoxville and a 30-year resident of South Knoxville, I support Janice Tocher.
Janice has lived in South Knoxville for over 25 years. For this entire time, she has shown consistent leadership on the most pressing issues in our community. For instance, Janice was president of South Woodlawn Neighborhood Association when South Knoxville battled TDOT over the James White Parkway Extension. When the project died, South Knox gave birth to the Urban Wilderness – another project that Janice helped to lead. This nationally recognized 1,000 acre park, walking distance from downtown of our scruffy little city is the new go-to place for hikers, kayakers, and other outdoor enthusiasts from across the country. Janice helped in the effort to secure $10 million in public investment in the Gateway Park, located precisely where TDOT had proposed a four-lane highway.
Janice helped found the South Knox Alliance, a charitable organization that helped keep South Knox businesses alive during the years-long Henley Street Bridge closure, and then organized those businesses to take the best advantage of the flow of traffic down Chapman Highway (all of which would have been diverted by the Parkway), and to capture the dollars of those visiting the Urban Wilderness.
Sustainable economic development and environmental preservation are not all that Janice stands for. Janice wanted to support artists and entrepreneurs, as well as make South Knox more accessible to those of lower incomes. So she helped start Knoxville Soup, which organizes periodic dinners where South Knox community leaders meet one another and vote to financially support various projects ranging from a science classroom at South Knox Elementary to construction of shelters for people waiting on the bus after visiting the Fish Pantry. Oh, and by the way she helped land a $30,000 grant to build an outdoor classroom at South Doyle Middle School.
While doing all of this volunteer work in South Knox, Janice has served two terms as the chair of Metropolitan Planning Commission, at the moment that MPC is considering arguably the most important city-wide issue Knoxville has faced in decades – the passage and implementation of “Recode Knoxville,” which will govern what types of businesses and residences can be located throughout the City. This new code will likely have a greater economic impact on our city than any other policy initiative we will face in the next decade. Janice has personally chaired the meetings where community members weigh the demands of developers and the needs of the existing community.
There simply is no one with a more impressive resume of serving the South Knox community, who knows more about the history and the challenges our community has overcome. There’s also no one more down-to-earth than Janice. She is my neighbor, my community’s leader and my friend. I will be proud to call her my councilwoman.
by Kaelynn Stewart
I support David Hayes’ bid for the City Council seat because of his history of hands-on, grassroots work with working-class Knoxville.
In the summer of 2019, City Council Movement garnered enough political power to elect Amelia Parker to the Knoxville City Council At-Large C Seat. Notable for its dedication to Knoxville’s working class, CCM places community organizing ahead of networking among the Knoxville elite. The progressive platform upon which City Council Movement has built its organization includes: affordable housing, reimagining community defense and safety, inclusive development, and sustainable environmental policies.
One of the figureheads of the movement is David Hayes, 27, community organizer and candidate for the City Council seat vacated by Stephanie Welch. Despite the substance of his agenda, Hayes has been often dismissed by media and establishment politicos. As the target of racist attacks on his appearance and finger-wagging social media posts and think-pieces that amount to no more than racist tone-policing, Hayes faces an uphill climb toward placing power in the hands of Knoxville’s working class. However, that outsider branding may just work in his favor, as a disengaged electorate yearns for something different. Hayes touts hands-on experience that sets him apart from the field of candidates for the seat. It is not uncommon to come across videos on social media of Hayes amidst a throng of protestors, putting himself on the front lines of the issues that matter most to Knoxville’s most vulnerable populations (such as gentrification and affordable housing). Knoxville leads in terms of black poverty rates in the state of Tennessee, with 42% of black Knoxvillians living in poverty. While establishment candidates have remained quiet on this issue, it is one often centered by Hayes and City Council Movement as a whole, with Hayes hosting a recent episode of Democratic TV – Knoxville about black poverty in our city. In the age of FaceTune, sponsored posts, and pandering from establishment politicians, Hayes exudes an authenticity (and willingness to call out those who would turn a blind eye) that many – especially young people – are craving.
Since it became apparent that Welch’s vacancy would need to be filled, Hayes has resumed campaigning. emphasizing the need for this appointment to reflect the wishes of the community; his team has collected more than 700 signatures in an online petition to present to the sitting council ahead of the appointment. Despite his loss to current city councilwoman Janet Testerman, Hayes won over 10,000 votes across Knoxville, accounting for 45% of those cast in November’s election. More importantly, Hayes won District 1. If we are to make this process as democratic as possible, it is imperative that the council takes that win into consideration. Representing the working class, Hayes managed to galvanize enough of South Knoxville to defeat Testerman in the district, despite being the clear underdog in the race. When presented with a choice, District 1 chose David Hayes. If given the chance, would the people of District 1 make that decision again?