Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fair is as fair does: finding that elusive level playing field at the Fairgrounds

South Nashville Action People leader Keith Moorman got to speak 4 minutes to Metro Council members in a video of his address to Chamber of Commerce leaders and press (you can access the video by clicking on the Council Committee Presentation, November 9, 2010 link here; Moorman speech begins around 50:00). Mayor Karl Dean introduced the SNAP leader so that the latter could express support of the Mayor's plan to move State Fairgrounds vendors to Hickory Hollow mall and to sell all but 5% of the non-flood-risk Fairgrounds public land to private real estate developers.

No community leaders who question the Mayor's plan were invited to speak to council members with criticism until the council voted overwhelmingly last Tuesday to permit a rare public hearing on the 1st reading of the Mayor's plan to lease Hickory Hollow for Fairgrounds refugees. It should be noted that there are also angry Antioch leaders who report that they were told by the Mayor directly to accept the mall lease or expect no other improvements. They were not accorded Moorman's chance to address a press conference. Hence, they are invisible to the media.

For his part, Mr. Moorman was in attendance during Tuesday's public hearing and he vented his spleen to reporters about not being notified of the public hearing:
But lease supporters who live near the fairgrounds said they felt sandbagged because no one had discussed the possibility of holding a public hearing.

"This is a total shock, and it's not a fair situation," Keith Moorman of South Nashville Action People, a neighborhood group for the Wedgewood Houston area, said in an interview outside the chamber. "It doesn't give a level playing field."

Moorman spoke at a news conference held by Dean last week to tout the fairgrounds' economic development potential. Video of his speech was shown to council members during a committee meeting the next day.
It is worth asking whether anyone complained in shock when Keith Moorman took 4 minutes to describe how he would like for the Fairgrounds to become the next Green Hills? Keep in mind that during the public hearing on Tuesday, individuals only got 2 minutes to speak. I listened to all 40 of the Mayor's critics, and not a single person whined about the fairness of only getting half the time that Mr. Moorman was given to address council members. I fail to understand why Mr. Moorman is so indignant, although I do get that it is in the Mayor's best interest for him to be.

In all honesty, it was not a level playing field back when Mr. Moorman got to speak directly to the press and then had his own little public hearing on November 9. And with Mayor Karl Dean backing you up with courthouse fiat, the playing field could never be level. So, please do not cry for Keith Moorman. I doubt his cause was damaged in the least, and Karl Dean got some free insinuations via journalism that the deck was stacked against him on Tuesday.

A final note of full disclosure: Keith Moorman's spouse is employed by a law firm which also employs the main attorney for the Mayor's convention center project who is also a close personal friend of Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling, who has been lobbying to sell off the fairgrounds for years. Perceptions that might result from those facts unstack the deck quite a bit.

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