Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Mayor Has His Brownie

Remember the dumb trick that George Bush tried to play on Americans when he told ABC that nobody could have anticipated the levee failures in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit even though he a discussed the possibility of such failures the day before landfall with FEMA Director Michael "Heckuva job, Brownie" Brown? Of course this country's executive is going to consider possible catastrophic failures that could adversely affect the well-being of those whom he represents.

Likewise, Nashville's executive, Karl Dean is not going to propose a convention center in the middle of difficult budget times and an economic recession without considering, knowing and discussing with his advisers the high costs of beating back resistance to his proposal. So, did Karl Dean know that public relations costs of his bid were going to be much higher than originally proposed? Of course, he did. And claiming that he did not would only make him look like an inept executive.

Caleb Hannan iterates what the Mayor knew and when he knew it:
The open-ended contracts given to a PR firm and a consultant to help MDHA promote the new convention center were the result of a failure in management. A failure in management that was supported by all levels of management ....

Dean was responsible for handing down the duty of coordinating Music City Center pre-development, along with an extra $250K to execute said duty, to MDHA, stressing that these were the guys capable of handling the job. Now that the contract flaps are out in the open, he's acting as if they've violated some sacred trust. But that's the thing: everyone knew.
Got that? Mayor Dean is reprising the role of El Presidente Dubya and feigning ignorance along the lines of "nobody anticipated the breach of the levees," by acting shocked and saying that he did not know about costs overruns until NewsChannel5 reported it.

Of course he knew about the costs overruns. We elected him Mayor to marshal that kind of knowledge about capital expenditures not just during and after things fall apart, but beforehand, too.

But Nashvillians cannot be allowed to believe that Mayor Dean knew all along lest his reputation hit the skids. So, he effectively needs a stand-in scoundrel. Bush had Brownie as a fall guy, and Mayor Dean's Brownie is MDHA's Phil Ryan. Hannan again:
Phil Ryan says he had a budget cap of $900,000 for MP&F. MP&F says they were told of the same number. Dean and finance director Rich Riebeling went to (or were billed for) a bunch of meetings in which high-priced, on-the-clock PR partners were present ....

That MDHA did not [get their money's worth] is a result of lax oversight that no one, especially the Mayor's office, seemed to object to ....

That Ryan is now left to fall on his sword is an unfortunate political reality. That Dean is the man holding it steady is, at least after so much willfully neglectful supervision, at least a sign that he's willing to be, for once, assertive. Even when it means sacrificing a good soldier.
I'm not a fan of Ryan, and I don't have much sympathy for him in this mess. After all, he had the gall to tell NewsChannel5 about the overexpenditures, "There's nothing wrong here. Everything is fine." I would caution against deluding ourselves into thinking that the Mayor's office is not pleased with such a willing scapegoat to take its place on the platform of accountability.

However, if you believe that Karl Dean didn't know the astronomical costs of selling the Music City Center to a reluctant and expense-wary audience, then you were probably prone to believe George Bush when he said that he had no clue that the levees could fail in a major hurricane, too. If Nashvillians give Karl Dean a pass on the the convention center debacle, Phil Ryan is not going to be the Mayor's only patsy.

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