Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Is the Planning Commission Going to Reconsider May Town Center on the Basis of Reason or because of Power?

A couple of Metro Planning Commissioners have said that their governing body, while it listens to the public, does not make their decisions on the basis of popularity, but on the basis of reason alone. Part of me doesn't disagree with that. They shouldn't be beholden to popular power moves. But I would go one step further: they also shouldn't be influenced by power and money that comes from the top of the local power pyramid, whether that be from Metro Council that controls their purse strings or from wealthy developers who have the money to gain influence and access to the halls of power. Indeed, they ought to be planning within the limits of reason alone if they choose to stay unswayed by public debate.

So, I'm having a hard time understanding how it is that Planning Director Rick Bernhardt (whose Department recommended approval of building a second Downtown on Bells Bend) and Planning Commission Chair Jim McLean (who has cast at least one vote against disapproving the May Town Center plan) are now telling May Town developer Tony Giarratana that the commission will entertain his request to rehear his team's proposal after the Planning Commission failed to muster the needed 6 votes to recommend approval.

Here is an excerpt of the Bernhardt's letter via the Tennessean:
In accordance with the adopted Rules and Procedures of the Metropolitan Planning Commission ... your request has been reviewed for merit by Chairman McLean and myself. Without making a final determination on the issue, we do not find at this time that the request is completely without merit. Therefore it will be place don the Planning Commission's agenda for consideration.
I genuinely would like to know exactly what merits Tony Giarrantana's letter has that other party's--in enduring long meetings, late hours, and meeting confusion--requests do not have. If the Planning Commission is indeed going to make a decision for rehearing on the basis of reason alone and not because of the power and money at stake in the May Town Center decision, the Planning Director and the Commission Chair should articulate the reasons for this decision and their claims and warrants should stand for fall by no other power than that of the better argument.


  1. These comments have no merit and sound like a person who did not attend the meeting in question or a person who did not read the full letter from T.G.

    It sounds like 'sour grapes'! This project has come a long distance when it was not expected. It has some tweaking to do IF given the opportunity. That is due them from the process that transpired on June 25.

  2. This is a democracy. Why would the rich and powerful get a "do over" whenever they do not agree with the vote? The citizens cannot write a letter to Bernhardt every time they don't like the vote. The citizens never get a "do over."

    Gotto thought he had his six votes in the bag before the meeting. The commissioners probably had their minds made up before the public hearing. It took the courage of one commissioner to continue to support the community plan and one commissioner to decide on his own and actually make up his own mind to vote down MTC.

    Is Tony G. saying that the commissioner who changed his vote shouldn't have used his own brain to make a logical decision? Is he upset that the preplanned vote fell apart?

    I guarantee Tony G. has been meeting behind closed doors with Bernhardt every day since the vote. We can assume he has threatened to sue Metro or have Bernhardt removed? How many citzens have had an opportunity to meet with Bernhardt every day to plea their case? They are told to file a case in court. Tony G. just has more money to file such a case and money to make threats.

    Let's face it, Chairman McClain is a builder and Rick Bernhardt ignores the community plans that his own staff is paid to create. It was McClain who called for the removal of David Kleinfelder at the Planning Department when Kelinfelder insisted that the developers keep their promise to build sidewalks in a development. When developers wanted the cheap way out, they (Planning Commissioner Jim McClain and another developer who happens to be married to the vice-mayor) went to Mayor Dean who in turn went to Mr. Bernhardt. They wanting the sidewalk promised erased from their plan and Kleinfelder removed from his job. McClain also wanted the minutes of the Planning Commision meeting changed to support his wishes.

    I was at the MTC public hearing the entire time and watched the replay again on Channel 3. Everyone in the city can see that Tony G. baited the North Nashville community and then recruited young people, who had no interest in the project, to come and speak in favor of his project. Now he is saying that an African American commissioner was confused and not smart enough to know what was going on, so he changed his vote.

    Perhaps the commissioner who changed his vote saw right through Tony G.'s plan to bait the North Nashville community with a few acres for TSU and his attempt to divide this city racially. Perhaps we don't give this commissioner the credit he deserves? Perhaps Tony G. underestimated this commissioner?

    If the citizens of Nashville are going to have any democracy, the taxpayer paid Planning Director must support the community plans developed by the citizens and his staff. Our city also needs to replace any and all Planning Commissioners who have a conflict of interest. Many of them are builders or have ties to the development community.

    Throughout our country's history, so many have given their lives to protect our democracy so that the citizens make the decisions, not the kings with all of the money?

    There is more at stake here than Bells Bend, it is called democracy.