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VOL. 43 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 8, 2019

Big Ears to recognize ECM Records anniversary

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Knoxville’s 2019 Big Ears Festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary March 21-24, will honor 50 years of ECM Records with 20 concerts of jazz, classical and new music. The four-day event will host 100-plus concerts at 12 venues.

ECM-related events will include legendary artists such as The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Meredith Monk, Carla Bley and Jack DeJohnette and a new generation of torch-bearing talents including Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn, Avishai Cohen and Shai Maestro.

These concerts at Big Ears 2019 are a collective testament to the label’s enduring vitality, to the breadth and depth it has added to modern music.

Many of the artists who helped shape ECM’s pioneering role in previous decades will be on hand – guitarists Ralph Towner, Bill Frisell and David Torn, who have all released records on ECM for decades; legendary jazz drummer DeJohnette, who recorded “Ruta and Daitya” with Keith Jarrett in 1971; classical viola virtuoso Kim Kashkashian, who has played on three-dozen ECM titles.

Wadada Leo Smith returns to perform his ECM classic Divine Love.

Tickets for Big Ears Festival 2019 are on sale now at

UT study: Prescription opioids hurting workforce

Prescription opioids may be negatively affecting labor force participation and unemployment nationwide, a new study co-authored by economists at the University of Tennessee finds.

The report, published in The Journal of Human Resources, which looked at county-level data from across the U.S., found that a 10 percent increase in opioid prescriptions per capita led to a 0.6 percentage point drop in labor force participation rates and a 0.1 percentage point increase in county unemployment rates.

The study measuring causal effects of opioids on the labor force is the first of its kind to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, says Matt Harris, assistant professor in UT’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic research and co-author of the study.

“The effects are really large,” Harris says. “Prescription opioids may explain up to half of the decline in labor force participation since 2000.”

Harris co-authored the paper, “Prescription Opioids and Labor Market Pains,” with UT’s Larry Kessler, Matt Murray and Beth Glenn, now a postdoctoral scholar at Tulane University.

The researchers were prompted to investigate a link between labor markets and opioid usage after employers began asking why no one was applying for job openings.

Tennessee is among the states with the highest number of heavy opioid-prescribing practitioners. On average, providers in Tennessee write 1.4 opioid prescriptions per person per year. At the average dosage per prescription, this rate is equivalent to prescribing 80 opioid doses to every man, woman and child in Tennessee each year.

State get high marks for budgeting transparency

The Volker Alliance has named Tennessee as one of only three states to receive an “A” for transparency in state budgeting.

The state had received a “B” in the previous year. The Alliance publishes “Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: Preventing the Next Fiscal Crisis.’’

Tennessee earned an A rating for avoiding budget maneuvers and for maintaining adequate reserves as well as for transparency in budgeting. The report gave Tennessee a B for legacy costs and a C for budget forecasting.

“Budget information is worth little to elected officials, policy advocates and the public if they can’t find it,” a spokesman for the Alliance says.

“Yet only three states won top average A grades for fiscal 2016 through 2018 for budget transparency. The lack of comprehensive budgetary information on the cost of deferred infrastructure maintenance in 46 states explains part of the result.

“While federal standards for reporting highway and bridge deferred maintenance costs are being upgraded, Hawaii, which received a grade of B, and the three states receiving top average scores of A – Alaska, California and Tennessee – are the only ones making a clear effort to disclose these costs in budgetary or related documents.”

McWherter Park getting third boat ramp

Work is underway at Gov. Ned McWherter Riverside Landing Park, expanding the city park’s public boat access to the Tennessee River.

The work at the 5-acre park, under the South Knoxville Bridge at 1648 Riverside Drive, is expected to continue through March 5, says Chip Barry, Knoxville deputy chief of operations.

A $237,245 grant from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency made the upgrade possible.

A third boat ramp is being installed, along with a new service pier. The lighting at the ramp will be improved. The parking area will include a new ADA-accessible parking space to accommodate a truck and boat trailer.

The park is a favorite for fishing and water access to the Tennessee River. Walkers, runners and cyclists also use the park, accessing it from the James White Greenway.

The park is a city facility on land leased from the State of Tennessee.

“This park has a lot of amenities with access to the greenway, and it also provides storage for the Knoxville Rowing Association,” Barry says. “It is one of several access points in the city on the river, and it tends to be busy.”

Knoxville will be providing support through design, permitting and project management. The Public Building Authority will manage the construction project.

“Winter is the river’s lowest level, so construction is being done now before water levels begin to rise in April,” Barry says, adding only the boat ramps will be closed during the project. The park will remain open with access to the playground and fishing pier.

‘Clean audit opinion’ for Blount County

Ed Mitchell, mayor of Blount County, has announced that the state has released an audit for the county for the fiscal year ending June 30, saying, “there were no audit findings for Blount County government.’’

Mitchell adds, “This is four years in a row with a clean audit opinion on the presentation of financial statements of Blount County Government. I am pleased that this information is now available for the public to review.

“I am more than proud of Blount County’s fiscal performance. During these four years, we have been very fortunate to have great leadership on the Blount County Commission with former chairmen Jerome Moon and Gary Farmer, and current chairman Ron French.

“The teamwork they have fostered throughout the county has been instrumental in making this happen. Four years of a clean audit report and no audit findings might very well be unprecedented. We’ve asked the Comptroller’s Office to determine if this has ever been accomplished by another county in Tennessee.’’

Blount financial information is available at

PetSmart grant benefirs Young-Williams facility

A $16,740 grant from PetSmart Charities has given Young-Williams Animal Center the funds to add space to the dog holding areas by installing special doors.

The renovations added sliding vertical doors between kennels, connecting each space and doubling or even tripling kennel size to create higher quality of life and capacity for care. Dogs are placed in these holding areas before being moved to the adoption floor.

“These doors give us the ability to better accommodate all sizes of dogs,” says Janet Testerman, CEO of Young-Williams Animal Center.

“Not only do they give the large dogs more space, they also allow us to be flexible during times of high intake to save more dogs’ lives.”

Young-Williams Animal Center is “a home for every pet,’’ and it is the municipal shelter of the City of Knoxville and Knox County. In 2018, the center took in more than 9,000 animals.

KCDC to redevelop Austin Homes site

Knoxville’s Community Development Corp. has developed a master plan to revitalize its Austin Homes site.

The plan includes replacing the existing affordable housing on the site, while creating a mix of housing choices for families and individuals of varied income levels.

KCDC anticipates finalizing a master plan for the site in mid-2019. KCDC is pursuing Low Income Housing Tax Credits and private financing to support the first phase of redevelopment.

Established in 1941, Austin Homes is an affordable housing property just east of downtown Knoxville on nearly 23 acres.

Resident, stakeholder and community input will guide the transformation of the site into a residential neighborhood with potential for affordable, workforce and market-rate housing units, as well as other appropriate nonresidential uses.

KCDC’s design team is Gensler, a global architecture firm based in San Francisco, and Knoxville-based Johnson Architecture.

Boys & Girls Clubs mark Black History Month

Local U.S. Cellular stores and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley are participating in the fourth annual Black History Month Art Contest, celebrating influential African-Americans with art created by young people.

Ten finalists will be chosen, and the community will be invited to vote for favorites in Knoxville U.S. Cellular stores.

“We enjoy working with the Boys & Girls Clubs on this contest and are inspired seeing the thoughtfulness, creativity and talent that the kids showcase through their artwork,” says Nathan Waddell, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in Tennessee. “We are honored to display their creations in our stores and celebrate our country’s diversity during Black History Month.”

The top three vote recipients will be announced in March.

PerfectServe celebrates record-breaking 2018

Knoxville-based PerfectServe, a provider of cloud-based clinical communication and collaboration solutions, has announced the company achieved record sales bookings and growth in 2018.

The firm also finalized agreements with several new health system clients to close out the year.

In December alone, PerfectServe signed new agreements with five sizable health system clients:

• Carilion Clinic, a not-for-profit health care organization serving approximately 1 million residents based in Roanoke, Virginia.

• Inova Health System, a not-for-profit serving more than 2 million people each year from throughout the Washington, D.C., metro area and beyond.

• Little Company of Mary Hospital, a not-for-profit Catholic community hospital.

• Summa Health, one of the largest integrated health care delivery systems in Ohio serving more than 1 million patients throughout a five-market region.

• TeamHealth, one of the largest integrated care providers in the country, based in Knoxville.

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