A group of neighbors of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds have engaged with a lawyer* to hold accountable the petition to add a referendum to the ballot that, if passed, would make it more difficult to do anything with the fairgrounds property other than maintain the status quo.
Here is what the proposed change says:
all activities being conducted on the premises of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds as of December 31, 2010, including, but not limited to, the Tennessee State Fair, Expo Center Events, Flea Markets, and Auto Racing, shall be continued on the same site. No demolition of the premises shall be allowed to occur without approval by ordinance receiving 27 votes by the Metropolitan Council or amendment to the Metropolitan Charter
This provision does not stop the community planning process on the Fairgrounds started earlier this year by the Metro Council. It only says that any demolition that occurs on the premises requires a super-majority rather than a simple majority of the Metro Council to approve. I also wonder if it prevents a unilateral move by the Mayor to demolish (has happened before elsewhere).
During the past couple of years the chips have been stacked against those of us who opposed moving the flea market to Hickory Hollow, to hacking up the Fairgrounds and selling it to private developers, and to the Mayor's absolute power to make these moves unchecked by the community. The latest underhanded moves included stacking a neighborhood advisory group with representatives from demo-driven South Nashville Action People/Neighbors For Progress and giving them recommendation powers to an already Dean-friendly State Fair Board with unchecked fiat over the lease.
In that kind of scenario, it does not matter how many Nashvillians oppose Fairgrounds demolition. The game is rigged against broad, popular sentiment about a public property. What can bring balance to the process is the Metro Council, which can send any one-sided concepts back into the community planning process.
SNAP has had countless opportunities to try and influence the direction of Fairgrounds redevelopment, which can and should happen (in fact, it should have happened years ago while the powers that be were allowing it the property to deteriorate). Their lack of success should not place extra obligations on any one else with an opposing interest in the Fairgrounds issue. Likewise, It is not too much to ask that--whatever concepts eventually emerge from the community planning process--that they receive the support of 27 rather than 21 council members to verify that everyone had the chance to influence the final product.
I honestly fail to see why Jen and her SNAP cohort would be opposed to supporting the most democratic solution to a planning challenge, unless they believe that support for the Mayor's initiative for an office park is not popular to begin with.
Full disclosure: For the first time ever I signed a petition for a public referendum when late last week I signed and returned the petition to put this charter change on ballot the next election. I believe it encourages a more inclusive community planning process rather than narrowing the process to suit the exclusive ideas of those supporting Mayor Dean.