Friday, January 21, 2011

NY Times coverage of Nashville worth the read

Despite the mountains of print and video piling up in local news media vaults over the last six months on the Fairgrounds controversy, one of the most even-handed accounts I have seen on the drama was in yesterday's New York Times, of all places:

Few deny that something needs to be done about the gloomy asphalt hill that is the current fairgrounds. Revenues have been trending downward for years, as has racetrack attendance, though because of a dwindling reserve fund the fairgrounds have yet to cost taxpayers a dime.

Defenders of the fairgrounds say the city’s board of fair commissioners has purposely hindered improvement by refusing long-term leases at the track.

One can find both views in the neighborhood itself, where the debate has been going on for years, and where “Save Our Fairgrounds” and “No Racetrack” signs face off on opposite lawns.

Regardless of my sense that the NY Times piece was square-dealing relative to most local reportage, it is still being panned by some neighborhood leaders as perpetuating myths of nostalgia vs. progress instead of describing dynamics of community determination vs top-down rule.

I do not disagree that the latter dynamics have been ignored by the media, but to a certain extent that is also due to themes that each side chooses to inflate. As much as I try to challenge free-floating assumptions that the Mayor's Office can possibly be on the side of progress while he ignores community-based efforts and democratic process, it does not help my case when racetrack proponents conflate preserving public parkland with a generational issue of memories or legacies in racing families.

Nonetheless, I aim to recognize improvements in journalistic coverage of local events as they happen. All things being equal, the NY Times provided stronger coverage than others in my opinion.


  1. In an economic time where real estate prices are down and most of us couldn't sell our home and make any money if we wanted to, the bottom feeders are coming out.

    Who exactly has the money to buy the fairgrounds right now? We know the market is down and the price would be low, but you would still need a lot of money. Who has the power to influence the mayor and the chamber?

    What about the Mathews Group? Bert Mathews just announced a large corporate center in Donelson and he is pulling strings behind closed doors with TDOT to have the taxpayers fund a new exit off of I-40 just for them. He and his father used the Airport Authority to acquire much of this land and reconfigure the plan for the airport and Donelson Pike itself. In fact the airport wouldn't be there if it were not for the late Mr.Mathews and his influence to put the airport where he already had land. Karl Dean is head of the MPO [Metropolitan Planning Organization]that decides who gets the money and where new roads like these will be built.

    Bert Mathews is the leader of the Chamber of Commerce and appears every time Karl Dean does. Does Mathews want the land cheap and will he do anything to get it? Since the hotel for the new convention center will be built on land that he owned, was this part of the deal made behind closed doors? Has Karl Dean made a deal already and just thought the city of Nashville would just roll over because he said so?

  2. My bet is the property will not be sold but will be leased. For Example Rose Park. Belmont signed a 50 year lease and is making improvements to the park. I would suspect the City will not want to give up complete control of the fairgrounds property.

  3. How can the city collect property tax if we still own the property?

  4. The lessee would just have an interest in the buildings thus they would pay property taxes on the buildings. Sounds crazy and its complicated but it could be possible. Maybe Mr. Byrd could look into this to see if that would be a possible option for the City.