Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Neighbors for Progress poses as community-based, but is fed by outside donations

Astroturf. That's what it seemed to me beginning late last year when the same small number of representatives from self-styled "neighborhood" organization, Neighbors for Progress, appeared at council meetings during Fairgrounds discussion. Then, they could only muster 35 supporters during the pivotal council public hearing against 3,000 advocates for racetrack preservation.

While the mainstream news media continued to spin Colby Sledge et al. as a neighborhood group, I continued to insist that NFP looked like an extension of Davidson County Democrats who had a financial interest in selling the Fairgrounds to private developers. While their website promoted a community-based movement committed to installing a park, in a pinch they were getting help from very powerful people including a lawyer last minute to try and derail their opponents before the referendum.

Not even handing out t-shirts could make them grassroots
So, now I'm not surprised at all that the media has finally dug up NFP's financial ties to partisan politicos (nor am I surprised that the embarrassing media reports are coming so late in the game to minimize the damage):

Campaign efforts of the fairgrounds area organization Neighbors for Progress aren’t funded by actual fairgrounds neighbors.

Rather, the group’s modest amount of money has come from former Mayor Karl Dean strategist Will Pinkston, investor John Cooper and a political action committee dubbed Building Nashville Together, financial reports submitted to the Davidson County Election Commission last week reveal.

The organization, which supports Dean’s vision for redeveloping the 117-acre property, has made only one political play during Metro’s election season: issuing a negative campaign mail-piece against District 24 Councilman Jason Holleman, who is trying to fend off challenger Sarah Lodge Tally and her army of pro-Dean supporters. Holleman has questioned the mayor’s handling of the fairgrounds issue.

“I think the disclosure demonstrates that Neighbors for Progress was a political attack operation, not any kind of neighborhood organization,” Holleman said.

Pinkston, a former aide to Gov. Phil Bredesen who briefly worked on Dean’s re-election team, contributed $1,000 to Neighbors for Progress. Cooper donated $700. Building Nashville Together contributed $1,500.

Neighbors for Progress is not very effective at organizing people so they have to rely on organized money given by some very powerful people in the Democratic Party, many of whom have ties to Mayor Karl Dean. Colby Sledge admitted to the City Paper that they cannot muster any influence without the help of these partisan sources. That admission does not allay my perceptions about NFP.

By the way, Building Nashville Together is a 527 organization whose chair is a former campaign manager for Jeff Yarbro, who is closely tied to Karl Dean, too. BNT has been paying people to canvass neighborhoods for Dean-friendly candidates for Metro Council, no doubt to grease the wheels on future projects like the Mayor's Fairgrounds "redevelopment" scheme.

Paid out $10,000 helping Deaniacs like Tanaka Vercher and CM Anna Page

If you can't organize people to help you at the grassroots you can always buy some influence to mobilize the voters you believe you need. And money spent now may just flip future council votes to Karl Dean.


  1. What has struck me as of late, is that roughly 1/3 of the fairgrounds footprint actually falls into a "neighborhood" (by neighborhood, I mean homes, sidewalks, shops, trees, etc.)

    The other 2/3 of the footprint falls into commercial, light-industrial and office space land.

    The Neighbors for Progress group has always acted as if the entire parcel were sitting in the middle of a large neighborhood filled with children, dogs and backyard cook-outs.

    Well, that is simply not the case.

    Another under-mentioned fact is that the fairgrounds is just a small part of the "land-use puzzle" of a tract of land which arguably stretches from Thompson Lane to I-40 (as it I-40 borders downtown), over to Layfayette Ave. and on towards the Elm Hill Pike corridor.

    Of this huge swatch of land, the fairgrounds is the largest piece and perhaps (in the minds of some), "the easiest pickings."

    The idea of Neighbors for Progress representing "the fairgrounds neighborhood" was disingenuous from the very beginning.

    They swept in a like a small group of vultures on this piece of land, hoping for some easy pickings.

    What they have since found out is that the pickings aren't gonna be so easy and that those weren't lazy, fat cows grazing in the far pasture, but a bunch of now angry bulls.

  2. Thanks Boyer. Do you be staysing with your girl friend on Belmont Blvd or do you own that property?

  3. I'm sick and tired of Colby and his manipulative less than half truths.
    He has claimed the Fairgrounds preservationists are astroturf while serving as the chairman of NFP.
    The financial disclosures confirm what we have assumed all along, NFP is funded by The Mayors people. Not the neighbors. That is astroturf folks!

    The Fairgrounds supporters are real grass roots. Real working people working to save our History, Culture, and small business engine.

    A vote "FOR' Ratification is a vote FOR the fairgrounds and FOR telling Colby to shut the hell up!

  4. How can Colby expect anyone to ever believe him again? He wasn't even smart enough to realize that he was a pawn.