Sunday, November 28, 2010

Council members reconsidering, pandering or hedging bets on Mayor?

The "Save the Fairgrounds" preservationists sent out the following news release the day before yesterday:
Council Members Charlie Tygard, Robert Duvall, Parker Toler, and Tim Garrett will be visiting the fairgrounds this weekend to talk with vendors. We appreciate the past support given by Council Members Tygard and Duvall as evidenced by their vote on November 16, 2010 to make sure BL2010-770 survived the Mayor’s extraordinary effort to have the bill defeated through parliamentary rules of procedure.*

The sudden interest by Council Members Tim Garrett and Parker Toler is shocking. Both voted with the Mayor to kill the Fairgrounds. Fortunately those votes were not successful. If they were successful, this trip to the fairgrounds would be patronizing to the vendors and seem like pandering, perhaps it still is. Or, perhaps the packed courthouse, impromptu public speakers, and thousands of emails and calls in support of saving the Fairgrounds moved Councilmen Garrett and Toler. Regardless, the least they could do while they’re visiting is open their wallets and make some holiday purchases for their friends and family. Better yet would be if they started casting votes in favor of saving the fairgrounds.
If anyone was present for the CM visit, please e-mail report to me or comment below and I'll update.

UPDATE: News 2 has an update on the CMs' visit:
Among the thousands of shoppers at Saturday's flea market were several Metro Council Members who were there to get opinions of shoppers and vendors about the potential move.

"These people don't want this place to be closed," Councilman Robert Duvall said.

Despite shoppers and vendors not wanting the flea market moved, some area residents have complaints about the fairgrounds.

"Their biggest problem is with the noise from the racetrack; at least with the folks that I have talked with," Duvall said, adding, "Some would like to see some development. They believe that development would increase property values, and there's no reason not to want that, but the noise from the racetrack, that's fixable."

UPDATE: Channel 4 has even more of the CMs' responses to flea market vendors and shoppers opinions:
Four Metro Council members spent their Saturday morning at the Nashville flea market listening and asking questions -- for example, would shoppers still go to the flea market if it moved to Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch?

One shopper told Councilman Parker Toler she hasn’t been to the Hickory Hollow Mall area in years and doesn’t go to that area of town.

Vendor Tommy Turner told Councilman Charlie Tygard he’s against moving from the fairgrounds to an area that has a history of retail failures.

"Hickory Hollow has become a crime scene anymore. It's gone down," Turner said.

Others, like Charlene Johnson, told Council members it's not about Antioch's reputation; they just like to shop in the fresh air.

“I just don't want to go inside a mall. No, not for a flea market,” Johnson said.

In the past, several Council members have spoken out against Mayor Karl Dean's efforts to shut down the fairgrounds. Saturday's group included two longtime Council members who had voted before to support the mayor. That's important, because the Council is split on this issue, and every vote is critical.

Council members like Tim Garrett are balancing what they heard at Saturday’s flea market with the concerns of neighbors who are tired of the noisy fairgrounds racetrack.

"What you want to do as a councilman is listen to the public and keep an open mind as much as you can," Garrett said.

Toler got an earful from vendors and shoppers, who asked him not to relocate the events currently at the fairgrounds. Some vendors have had booths for more than 25 years.

"This is a very valuable piece of land now. So we're just going to have to listen to as many people as we can and try and make a good decision," Toler said.

Dean has said the fairgrounds land has great development potential as an office park, but he hasn't said who, if anyone, wants to buy it.

"Everybody would like to know the plan. This situation hasn't been handled very well from the very start," Garrett said.

UPDATE: NewsChannel5 has a blurb on the visit, but did include comments from CM Tygard:
I think there are other ideas both the redevelopment of this site, improvement of this site or possibly looking for other accessible locations and rebuild from scratch a modern facility that would serve the same needs.

UPDATE: Not waiting around for any "intrepid" reporters, CM Jamie Hollin struck out on his own fact-finding mission and blogged his impressions, complete with video documentation of vendor views on Mayor Dean's attempted Expo exile.

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