Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau: nice work if you can get it

A NewsChannel5 investigation found out what?!
Metro council members have demanded answers about the budget of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau following a NewsChannel 5 investigation ....

The CVB receives more than $10 million a year from Metro to promote the city.

CVB President Butch Spyridon said the organization will repay [a $300,000] loan within three years and the money was needed to keep conventions in Nashville after the flood ....

The investigation revealed the total combined compensation for the top four employees was more than $925,000 last year.
A handful of CVB employees make almost a million dollars a year in salaries and they require a huge loan from Metro to pay of their convention expenses? Ten million Metro simoleons a year isn't enough to take care of their business? Why don't they take up a collection from the local corporations who benefit from Nashville tourism and who helped bankroll the PR effort to convince Metro Council to pay off their obligations? It sounds like time to pass around the private plate to me.

While the state may legalize the Convention Center Authority to subsidize private interests at will, without council support, that power is inherently oligarchic and it runs counter to taxpayers having some input on how their money is spent outside normal Metro operations. I am not suggesting that we have micromanagerial control over funding Metro services that provide for a common good. However, it is entirely fair to argue that when atypical money is going to an Authority associate in the wake of a 500-year weather event, it ought to have to pass some kind of broader public test.

The question of CVB not meeting its own financial obligations is not a momentous one for the rest of us. It does not require hierarchal decisions in the public interest that the public might not otherwise make. We are handing out alms to a few big wheels who seem quite capable of spinning on their own. The Convention Center Authority should not enjoy this kind of lending power with our funding, at least not without an astronomical interest rate that would pour exponential returns into the General Fund like it was La Cosa Nostra coffers.

The CVB also seems to have misplaced priorities outside of its mission. As one CM pointed out, the CVB is in the business of marketing the city, not maintaining the convention center. But at the rate of four salaries drawing nigh to $1,000,000, maybe the CVB managers believe they can do anything and everything.

1 comment:

  1. I hate to do it because there is so much that I dislike about the Nashville CVB, but having been in the event business for a time, the relationship between a city's CVB and the Convention Center is often symbiotic and overlaps. The CVB becomes the group that provides the overall coordination services for an event, interfacing with independent hotel operators and other vendors to provide a package of services to meeting planners. Part of that package is the Convention Center, and in the early days of planning and event or a conference representatives from the CVB and the Convention Center are usually working side by side. It's only when the event specifics get close at hand that the planner works directly with the Convention Center staff. Thus, to suggest a hard and fast separation of powers is to not fully appreciate the nature of the relationship between the two entities.

    However, as to whether the Convention Center authority should make a loan to the CVB is another matter. I believe that the CVB should have approached the mayor and council directly for an increased appropriation which is a legitimate expense of the flood, and could even possibly be eligible for FEMA reimbursement at some level. Getting the loan from the Authority feels like either laziness on the part of Butch and the CVB, or part of the continued unwillingness to maintain any sense of accountability to Metro Government and/or the Council.