Monday, January 31, 2011

North Nashville Community Plan easily clears its first major Metro hurdle

Last week I attended the public hearing on the North Nashville Community Plan. It did not appear to me that very many citizens attended on the subject. No one spoke in favor of it. The only opponent, Bruce Wood, spoke in opposition to it based on his view that there is a fundamental disconnect between per capita income levels, workforce and health of North Nashville residents and that of the rest of Nashville. He insisted that the plan does not address those inequities. The Planning Commission disagreed with Wood and voted unanimously to approve.

The full plan passed by the commission can be found on the planning website. Some of the community-informed highlights discussed at the Planning Commission include:
  • Planning for easy on-street parking or parking behind buildings in urban corridors
  • Conserving parks and greenspace and increasing amenities and programming therein
  • Leaving open space/flood plain undeveloped (which was justified during May flood)
  • Limiting number of neighborhood centers to strengthen corridors
  • Corridor polices along Jeff St and Buchanan St emphasizing vertical 1-3 story builds against sidewalks and mixed use
  • "University Row" 28th Av connector to West Nashville including residential development with commercial development limited to grocery store
  • Acceptance of developers' request for Metro to provide economic incentives for development
  • 5th Av N and several other streets would be changed to "collector streets"
My main concern was with the implications of that last point. It seems like I remember something about collector streets and LED sign allowances, but I did e-mail Metro Planning after the meeting to ask for clarification. A transportation planner replied to me thusly:

We are in the process of updating the Major and Collector Street Plan, which is still scheduled for a public hearing on February 24 at 4 p.m. in the Howard Office Building. We have added and deleted a number of streets based upon feedback from stakeholders and residents. During one of our last reviews, we reevaluated streets that connect into Downtown. There were a few streets added as collectors with the largest one being 5th Avenue beginning at Lafayette and going north through Downtown, through Germantown to Garfield. It is identified as a T4-M-CA2 between Jefferson and Hume. It is a T4-R-CA2 between Hume and Garfield. This means it's within an urban context (T) with mixed use (M) or residential (R) land use policies as a collector-avenue with two travel lanes. Ultimately if a developer were to redevelop property along 5th or Metro to conduct public improvements, the MCSP would help outline what potential elements should be considered and what they may look like. That might include wider sidewalks, improvements to on-street parking, addition of bike lanes, wider planting strips along the street, etc. These decisions would be guided by existing constraints meaning the existing development conditions and whether it is a large or small improvement project.

Sounds innocuous right now, but of course I wonder if there are Metro Codes in our future that call for something objectionable on collector streets. Any thoughts?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blogger responds to the Dean administration's rather nebulous and problematic hire in challenging budget times

Nashville's women's health news blogger, Rachel Walden, would like an explanation from Mayor Karl Dean's office on their decision to throw $60,000 at former Bredesen Parks Commissioner Jim Fyke based on vague rationales:

The Finance Director is quoted in the article saying things that make it explicitly clear that this was not an existing job opening, one with clearly defined responsibilities and needed qualifications, that other people were able to compete for.

“We’ll assign him projects as they arise on a case basis.” Because they were “just talking” (hello, good ole boy network), and thought he could help.

You know who actually knows what they’re supposed to do and could use more money? Who would just love to have somebody around to do whatever needed doing, or at least the $60,000 a year?

The Nashville Public Library.

Or the Metro Department of Health.

Or schools, or any number of other departments with real missions to help real people. Real services that people of Nashville need and deserve, in department that struggle to do everything that needs doing with the limited-and-being-cut funds available.

Interesting that over a year ago Tennessean columnist and Dean supporter Gail Kerr telegraphed the idea of Metro government re-hiring Fyke to the newspaper's expansive readership.

While Rachel does not want to go too hard on Fyke himself but focus on Mayor Dean and his Finance duputy, Rich Riebeling, Fyke does not have an uncheckered rep here at Enclave. How could he in good conscience take that much money when year-after-year Metro departments are asked to slash their budgets?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another spurious attack on CM Emily Evans

The day after Tennessean columnist Gail Kerr raged against CM Emily Evans for being uppity and doing what she was elected to do--ask critical questions on policies affecting voters--a supporter of Mayor Karl Dean's Fairgrounds redevelopment plan, Nancy McCune responded emphatically unimpressed with an outpouring of support for Evans on the Nashville neighborhood leaders elist. Ms. McCune insisted in no uncertain terms that she had "plural" interactions with CM Evans in the past and that she believes that CM Evans is "egocentric, close-minded and extremely negative."

Today Ms. McCune took her opinion of the District 23 Metro Council Member to a new level. She herself appears in a Tennessean story on her filed formal complaint to the Metro Clerk that she heard CM Evans tell Bells Bend supporter of race track demolition, Sumter Camp, that she did not want him to speak at last Tuesday's public hearing on proposed demolition. Ms. McCune told reporter Michael Cass:

“I was sim­ply appalled by the audac­ity that this woman would step through the door and say what she did,” McCune said. “Her tone was threatening.”

It is fairly clear from Ms. McCune's December elist comments that her opinions of Emily Evans were formed and conclusive before the Tuesday night meeting, so it is entirely reasonable to ask whether her strong opinions that CM Evans is close-minded and negative might have influenced her interpretation of a threat to Mr. Camp.

Evans at West Meade community mtg.
And an affirmative answer to that question becomes plausible given that Mr. Camp himself denied those allegations in an interview with Cass:

Camp said Evans “was just sur­prised to see me there.”

“She said, ‘What are you doing in this line?’ ” Camp said. “Since we hadn’t talked, she wasn’t sure where I was com­ing from. … It cer­tainly wasn’t any­thing that was going to dissuade me from speak­ing or that I took offense at. Emily’s very bright and she’s very pas­sion­ate, and that’s usu­ally a good thing.”

Is a charge of intimidation plausible when the alleged victim expresses seeming warmth and no fear? It may be anecdotal for me to say it, but in no instance have I ever witnessed CM Evans act in the way that Ms. McCune describes, and like her I have observed the CM on "plural" occasions. I would honestly be shocked and a little suspicious if Metro Legal finds anything to make of this complaint, given Mr. Camp's comments.

One other thing to consider before taking this formal complaint as gospel is that Ms. McCune has made troubling statements about others before. She got into a tit-for-tat with Fairgrounds preservationist Lisa Leeds on a June 30, 2010 City Paper comment board, during which she referred to those who opposed demolition of the Fairgrounds as "knuckle-draggers." Consequently, the administrator of the neighborhoods elist informed members that he had "moderated" her, meaning that he temporarily blocked her comments for review before posting so to prevent the same personal attacks on the list (he revealed that Ms. Leeds had previously been so "moderated").

The upshot to that drama: the elist administrator told the membership that his concern was affirmed after Ms. McCune's husband sent her previously blocked comment that judged preservationists "myopic" to the elist anyway.

Finally, take a look at the recently released Metro e-mails on the Fairgrounds. An August 2010 e-mail from Ms. McCune to the Mayor's Office accuses Fairgrounds preservationists of "accosting" her (p. 24). The State Fair Director replied to the Mayor's Office that vendors were allowed to invite the preservationists and later that--under observation by Fairgrounds staff--the preservationists were found to be breaking no rules in asking people to sign petitions.

Am I the only person who sees a pattern of statements against demolition opponents that are exaggerated and overwrought? Shouldn't they give us pause before taking seriously the already tenuous and rather improbable charges that Ms. McCune leveled at CM Evans?

If anyone is willing to put their actual identity by their comments has any experience with CM Evans to substantiate Ms. McCune's allegations, then by all means comment away. But I will be strictly screening anonymous comments on this post, because some influential sources around town, whom the news media will not name, seem out to cut the council member off at her knees. I would not put it past them to make hay out of these wild accusations.

UPDATE: a commenter at the Tennessean claims to have been present for the exchange and corroborates Sumter Camp's denial to the paper that the exchange was unfriendly:

As it turns out, McCune has no idea what she’s talk­ing about. I was just out­side the council cham­bers when Emily Evans walked through. I didn’t pay any atten­tion to what she said to Mr. Camp, but from the way he responded to her, it seemed that he was a friend of hers. It doesn’t surprise me that McCune would make accu­sa­tions with­out know­ing what she was tak­ing about. It’s nice that that Mr. Camp was so easy to find, and explained what the con­ver­sa­tion was about.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Further crowdsourcing Metro e-mails on Karl Dean's Fairgrounds plan sheds more light, spurs more questions

An Enclave reader read through the previously unpublished e-mails that I put up at Google Docs last week and e-mailed reflections and questions to me:
  1. The economic impact study that Dominy cites when filing his bill to keep the track (50-60 million dollars) is “legit” and uses proper methodology, the Chamber of Commerce “Matrix”. Toby and the Mayor’s office are obviously VERY worried about this study, and instruct Buck to get it “ASAP” and “within the hour.” (pages 365-369). This is perhaps the most damning piece of information to those suggesting there is a “higher and better” use. Some will try to mislead you and say the racetrack generates pennies per sq. ft., but these divide and conquer tactics are falling on deaf ears. The Fairgrounds generates between $50-60 million dollars a year, as prepared by the Fair Board and their staff, using the same formulas the Chamber of Commerce uses.
  2. The other email that has me scratching my head is an email from Robert W. Lowe and a cc: Chad Tuck of Cassidy / Turley Commercial Real Estate Services (page 483). They are requesting to meet with Buck the week of Oct 11. What is that about?
  3. Page 485, Buck attached a Word document to the Mayor’s office with some talking points, and advised the Mayor to “stay away from any discussion of Tennessee State Fairgrounds expenses.” Our supporters have long said the expenses are a big reason the Fairgrounds appears to “lose money”. This suggests the Fairgrounds was designed to fail, even going as so far as to jack up the expenses.
  4. Page 531, Marilyn Edwards sounds the alarm with Rita Roberts-Turner in Human Resources that some of the State Fairgrounds employees are not qualified to apply for some of the jobs they are being told they should apply for. Call in the SEIU.
  5. Interesting that Karissa Barclay was “campaigning” for Buck Dozier to become the election commissioner. How does that work? Hopefully she wasn’t tearing down any signs like she was for Cong. Cooper.
  6. Page 590-599 discuss FEMA damages in detail (down to the horsepower and model numbers for equipment) and whether to request an extension of time. Did Buck and the Fair Board submit damages to FEMA? If so, how much? We believe there was substantial damage to the Fairgrounds due to the flood. Now that the Fairgrounds will be open for 2 more years – will that FEMA money come to the Fair Board? That money SHOULD be used to rehabilitate the Fairgrounds.
  7. I thought is was bad when Reibeling called Nancy Amons “Sophomoric”, but evidently no one in that office takes her seriously, they can’t even spell her name correctly (610-615)
  8. Page 627 and 667 – examines the “culture of fear” the Mayor’s office is instilling in the Fairgrounds staff.
  9. Page 655 – State Fairgrounds staff skeptical of Toby Compton and Mayor’s office, stating in an email to Buck “wish they would be honest about their real intentions” in response to a request by the Mayor’s office to contact the vendors directly.
  10. There are 23,000 “customer accounts” in the system. We assume this is a list of vendors over the past decade. So in essence, up to 23,000 small businesses rely on the Fairgrounds. Makes the 10-County Chamber of Commerce’s 2,000 look small in comparison. I understand a Councilmember requested the same list and was given a list of a few hundred. Hmmmm (Page 657)
  11. Page 666-667 – Clear coordination between not only Buck Dozier and the Mayor’s office, but the Mayor himself is attending SNAP meetings at the end of October to help build support for closing the Fairgrounds. When was the last time the Mayor attended other neighborhood meetings?
  12. On page 668, Buck asks Kristi Harris to remove certain documents from her computer: Summary Report on Fair viability; 12 Yr Profit/Loss; AG opinion on the property, and the HH Lease to Council. Why?
  13. Page 669 – Toby Compton responds to a request from the State Delegation on the details involving moving the State Fairgrounds. It appears our state elected officials also had some concerns about the Mayor’s plans. Wonder how long it takes SMF to begin emailing this list of legislators to keep them informed?

Hermitage neighborhood leader's dispatch observes dealings behind scenes of Fairgrounds public hearing

Veteran of community-based efforts Susan Floyd was at last Tuesday's packed Metro Council meeting observing events in the common areas outside the council chambers. She e-mailed those detail-rich observations to me. They include an image of organized citizens nobler than the rabble the Mayor's supporters try to spin them into. Her reflections also indicate to me that while the politicos work together to manage their bid to bring down the Fairgrounds, the public effort to dissent and resist that bid is closer to the grassroots:
Going into the courthouse, there was a man in a red shirt that came out of the courthouse all upset. He had passed through the metal detector with his adult son. His son pulled out a tiny metal measuring tape after they had cleared security, but security tried to take it away from him. These two left before the public hearing ever started because of the way that they were treated.

The fire marshal was walking all over in a panic acting as if he would close the place at anytime. Council members Craddock, Hollin, and Garrett came out as if to take a reading of what was going on outside the chambers. CM Barry came down the stairs closely following Rich Riebeling. They disappeared into his office.

Ray Barret, the former Chairman of the Election Commissioner, came in the courthouse. I assumed he was going to be given an award. For some reason he failed security. They wanded him. The crowd was massive. It would have been nice if council members could have watched the people outside the chambers via camera and really know the magnitude of the support for the fairgrounds.

I personally never made it into the chambers, but did watch what was going on in the courthouse very closely. At one time this very clean cut gentleman wearing a red shirt and nice black jacket walked from the area near the television monitor toward the Council Offices. The lights were off in the offices, but the clerk and several IT people had been coming and going from the offices. One security and another uniformed Metro officer followed this man quickly from the center of the mezzanine. The man in the red shirt didn't see them, but they walked briskly as if to detain him. I stayed in the area and watched carefully. The man simply walked to the area near the offices, looked down the stairs, and turned around. When he turned around the officers acted like they weren't following him. He turned around and walked back to the area near the television. When the young man passed me, I told him that they had been right behind him watching him closely. He thanked me for telling him.

When the meeting started, the red team gathered around the television and even said the pledge of allegiance together along with the council. That really moved me.

After about 20 minutes, a woman passed out. Security rushed in with a first aid bag and another uniformed Metro Police officer came upstairs and stood in the middle of the mezzanine. She was really nice and never approached the people. The police woman stayed for a while and then stood at the bottom of the steps on the first floor. The sick woman was wheeled away for medical attention.

I hung out with the red shirts while I was there, spending time on each floor (2nd, 3rd and 6th), and never once saw or heard any problems. There was even a family with a little baby on the 6th floor. They sat on the cold tile of the 6th floor feeding the baby a bottle with as many people as could catch a glimpse of the flatscreen television that was set up for overflow crowds. One young boy about eight years old complained to his father that he was tired. The young boy was told that sometimes you have to make sacrifices for things that you believe in. He seemed to understand.

The red shirts waited and watched but did not make comments when the yellow team spoke. They were just simple, ordinary folks waiting their turn.
Photo credit: CM Jamie Hollin
They had been there a very long time and didn't even complain when the yellow folks got to go home while they were still waiting. I know they were tired. There were very few places to sit. Many had been standing the entire time.

The yellow shirts lined up outside the chambers all night and fed into the chambers one at a time as they spoke. They were still lined up when I left around 8:15. The red team was in the process of organizing and prioritizing their speakers. They realized that the council members were as tired as they were. They lined up District 17, Davidson County, then any others. I am not sure if they even knew how long it would take for the red team already in the chambers to speak, and although a few seemed exhausted they remained vigilant.

While it appeared to me that security feared an outbreak or unruly incident, these Nashvillians were the same folks that helped one another during the flood when some thought that there would be trouble. These citizens (yellow and red alike) seemed willing to wait their turn to have their say. They just wanted to be part of democracy. It was an honor to be in the courthouse with this historic and passionate crowd of my fellow citizens.

Friday, January 21, 2011

More coming to light from Metro e-mails: State Fair Director did not take Civic Design Center plans seriously, ignored potential impact on Fairgrounds future

Local blogger Jay Voorhees analyzes those Metro e-mails that I posted on Google Docs and breaks news, previously ignored by Nashville's news media, that indicates that Buck Dozier and the former State Fair Director of Marketing did not take seriously the democratic process of collecting citizen feedback for planning and development last September:

Mr. Dozier and staff were not enamored with the report from the Nashville Civic Design Center. This report arose from public meetings on the future of the fairgrounds at the behest of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development. During the “public” portions of this process there was criticism by those now known as preservationists that the there was inadequate opportunity for public comment. The report was supposed to guide the Fair Board and Mayor on future directions, ultimately suggesting that a master plan needed to be developed.
Click on image to enlarge
When the report was leaked to the press and then rushed into release, a former staffer emailed Mr. Dozier and asked, “Did you have to pay for THAT?” Mr. Dozier replied that the fair board was indeed charged for producing the report and that it cost around $30,000 to produce. “You can pick yourself up off the floor,” he joked when mentioning the cost. In a later e-mail he told another staff member that apparently they had paid over $30,000 to learn that “…Metro needs to hire a planner.” The report seemed to have little impact on discussions about the future of the fairgrounds.

Mr. Dozier has been accused by Fairgrounds supporters of deliberately running the facility into the ground. In that context it is hard to read these e-mail exchanges and not wonder whether he wasted tens of thousands of Metro dollars on a civic design process that he never took seriously. It also warrants asking the Mayor's council supporters like Megan Barry, Erik Cole, Ronnie Steine, etc. why they never bothered to ask what happened to the community-informed design process, but instead just went along with Karl Dean's bidding.

And there is something relevant here for North Nashville/Bicentennial Mall residents. When discussions for a new Sulphur Dell ballpark revved up before last May's flood, some of us involved in those discussions asked that the Nashville Civic Design Center be brought in to lead us through a community meeting process to answer questions, address concerns, and consider feedback. After I made several attempts to contact him, NCDC Design Director Gary Gaston replied to me by saying that he had been consumed in the Fairgrounds design meeting process.

He also said that his organization was conducting a design competition for the ballpark that would be presented to the community at the end of 2010 (presentation has yet to happen). NCDC has a ballpark event on its March 2011 calendar, but there is no indication that a community planning process will take place. However, if the ballpark development process emerges and follows the script laid out for Fairgrounds planning, North Nashville participation may be rendered a moot mockery by the wasteful courthouse elite.

CORRECTION: Gary Gaston asked me to correct one of the details in this post. He e-mailed that NCDC has not been conducting a competition. Here are his comments from October 2010:

We are working with our partners at the University of Tennessee College of Architecture + Design to host a design studio of student projects on the topic of a baseball stadium. A group of 14 graduate students are currently analyzing two sites (Sulfur Dell and North Gulch) and will be designing baseball stadiums for each site. (The SoBro site was excluded because so much study has been done in that area already, and the city recently submitted a grant that would pay for a complete master plan for SoBro - we felt the idea of a baseball stadium would be addressed during that process).

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.

Green Hills neighborhood leader's dispatch on double standards during last Tuesday night's Fairground public hearing

Charlotte Cooper sent me the following message the day after she went to the Courthouse to observe Metro Council consideration of the Mayor's Fairgrounds plan. She pointed out some important and unbalanced power dynamics that I missed from my live-blogging perspective while watching it on Metro 3.

Charlotte is a long-time advocate for her Green Hills neighborhood, so she is attuned to local politics and offers a simultaneously significant and troubling point-of-view:

I was in attendance, in the council chamber. One thing I did not see in your "live blog" was how the red shirt [opponents of Mayor's plan] speakers were treated. The yellow shirts [supporters of Mayor's plan] were allowed to line up their speakers in any fashion they wanted. When it was time for the opponents (red shirts) to speak [Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors] announced a change in lining up - starting with the back row of the chamber.
Photo credit: CM Jamie Hollin
It was pointed out neighbors of the Fairgrounds were lined up in the hall to speak, but VM Neighbors said no, security had requested they start with the back row and work their way up. So who runs the public hearing - VM or security? By the time we got half way up the rows, Save My Fairgrounds leadership knew we had the votes to win with the [Jason] Holleman amendment [to remove Mayor's prohibition against racing], so they asked that we close down the public hearing and get on with the voting. Most of the individuals who did speak were racers, but rest assured there were many others (including a number of neighbors) who had perspectives for saving all of the Fairgrounds other than just the racing perspective. I really hate that the members and public did not get to hear us, but if the public hearing had gone on for another hour or two, we ran the risk that one or two council members might have left before the vote, taking their vote with them.

I just wanted you to have the facts; I expect there will be spin about the number of "red shirt" speakers versus "yellow shirt" speakers.

Regardless of how the results of this public hearing are spun into dominant narratives by the Mayor's supporters or by the Dean-friendly local media, contrasting perspectives like Charlotte's still need to be publicized and passed on for the sake of fact-checking the narrative. There were a significant number of Davidson County neighborhood leaders attending to speak against the Mayor's plan, despite the spin that the Mayor is supporting the neighborhoods with his Fairgrounds plan.

Crowdsourcing opportunity on Metro's Fairgrounds e-mails

I obtained 700 pages of Metro e-mails released under the Freedom of Information Act (.pdf), and I have uploaded them to Google Docs for public consumption and comment. If you are interested in reading and analyzing them, then jump here: I will blog feedback I get back on the e-mails.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Council vote tally on Sandra Moore's amendment to take the racetrack out of any Fairgrounds master plan

Council staffers do not usually allow roll call vote tallies to stay visible very long after votes are made, so getting a snap shot of actual votes is a rare thing. But thanks to an Enclave reader, we have a record of last night's vote on CM Moore's attempt to amend the Fairgrounds bill with language that would have left the possibility of keeping the racetrack out of any master plan generated when the Fair Board, Parks, and Planning Department meet with citizens.

Names that stand out to me of those voting "Y", that is voting not to give citizens the widest latitude in determining a master plan for the Fairgrounds, include: Megan Barry, Ronnie Steine, Jerry Maynard, Erik Cole, and Kristine LaLonde, progressives who rarely if ever vote against Karl Dean, who governs conservatively. Note that District 19 Erica Gilmore also voted with the Mayor's demolition plans.

As you can see by the results, Moore's amendment failed, and an alternative amendment sponsored by Jason Holleman, which calls for a community-informed master plan but removes a demolition mandate completely out of the bill, passed handily 29-11.

These series of events prompted several CMs to express words of support for CM Moore in spite of her defeat. Those attempts were practically thwarted when CM Barry lost her composure and rose to exclaim, "If you really do support Sandra Moore you would support her amendment!"

UPDATE: While CM Barry made CM Moore's amended bill a personal matter rather than a matter of political compromise last night, less than 2 weeks ago she expressed a different, stoic tone when asked about the prospect of having to lose the promise of racetrack demolition:
Megan Barry, the sponsor of a pending bill to tear the racetrack down, said if the council votes to save the speedway, then the park will be designed around it.

“I don’t think we’re doing anything we shouldn’t be doing, obviously, as things develop. If we have to change the plan, that’s part of what the consultant would have to consider,” Barry said.
Apparently, CM Barry was not as ready to roll with the actual punches last night as she said she was earlier this month.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Live blog of tonight's Metro Council meeting, including Fairgrounds consideration

Deanieleaks Epilogue

I have uploaded to Google Docs the entire .pdf of previously unpublished e-mails between Buck Dozier and the Mayor's Office on the Fairgrounds and Hickory Hollow, from which I drew the last few blog posts on "Deanieleaks." Jump to see that file.

Monday, January 17, 2011

WSMV gets their own copy of Deanieleaks e-mails and asks Dean administration critical questions about them

Tonight Channel 4 reporter Nancy Amons aired a story on Metro's Fairgrounds e-mails I have been leaking here at Enclave since last Friday. Ms. Amons had obtained her own set of e-mails and she directly asked Metro officials what was meant by directives like "sowing doubt" among council members, which is a lot more direct than any of the other journos have been during this regrettable episode. Enclave has had a higher than usual volume of web traffic since I started publishing these e-mails and a number of those visits have come from the station's IP address.

If you have been keeping up with these Deanieleaks you will recall that the Dean administration expressed pleasure at the favorable coverage they seemed to receive from WSMV last autumn. I'm hoping that the Dean Team's self-satisfaction with the way they break and bridle the media shamed WSMV into a more probing and bold investigative stance that we will continue to see as we build toward the end of Karl Dean's first term.

This is the kind of responsible media attention the Mayor's Fairgrounds campaign has needed for months. The only thing I need now is more of it.

UPDATE: Jump to Nancy Amons' story.

Deanieleaks #8: Mayor's Office e-mail correspondence on the State Fairgrounds

If no other series of e-mails exchanged between the Mayor's staffers and Fairgrounds staffers makes clear the strong degree of micromanagement of PR for Karl Dean's redevelopment plan, this one should.

Dean's Legislative Director enlisted Dozier's staff to evangelize flea market vendors. A survey that came out a few weeks later indicated that vendors did not respond well to the "outreach" of those "fired up" staffers. The Mayor's Office also wanted notice each time Council Members asked a question of the State Fair staff. The level of action coordination is striking.

[Original Message]
From: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Sent: Friday, October 08, 2010 4:14 PM
To: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
Subject: FW: meeting
Importance: High

Buck, FYI. We sent this e-mail a moment ago. I know you also spoke with Greg today. We want to bring them in and fire them up on a few things. Just wanted you to be aware, if asked.

Additionally, if Council members ask you or others at the grounds questions on Dominy's bill or things related to Hickory Hollow, we want to know. Drop me a line or give me a call.

Thanks! Have a great weekend.

Toby Compton
Office of Mayor Karl Dean
Legislative Director
(615) 862-6000

[--Forwarded Message--]
From: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Sent: Friday, October 08, 2010 4:12 PM
To: Dornan, Deborah (State Fair); Burton, Steve (State Fair)
Subject: meeting
Importance: High

Deborah [Flea Market Manager] & Steve [Director of Events at the Fairgrounds] --

Hope you are well this afternoon.

A moment ago I sent a meeting request to you both for this Wednesday, October 13th at 2p here in the courthouse. Greg Hinote [Deputy Mayor] and I would like to meet about the fairgrounds and the transition of services to Hickory Hollow Mall. After that meeting we may gather with others on the team working on this as well. If this date and time doesn't work for some reason, please let me know ASAP.

I will follow-up with you both on Monday morning to discuss a few preliminary things and to brief you a bit futher on things to be prepared for at the meeting.

If needed, and it will probably be needed in the coming weeks, my direct line is 862-6010 and my cell is xxxxxxxx. I will be working with you both on outreach, etc. to expo users and flea market vendors (among others).

Have a good weekend.

Toby Compton
Office of Mayor Karl Dean
Legislative Director
(615) 862-6000

[Reply Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Subject: RE: meeting
Date: Monday, October 11, 2010 2:30:53 PM

Buck is out this week, but I read this email to him over the phone so he could know what is going on. He said to let you know that he got this message. If you need anything else, just let me know. Thanks-

Kristi for Buck

We certainly cannot blame the December collapse of the Hickory Hollow lease plan on neglect on the part of the Mayor's Office. These Deanieleak e-mails indicate that they seemed to be maintaining clinch-fisted control over the marketing of the legislation. Perhaps the message was simply not marketable. Maybe no one--not flea market vendors, not CMs, not a critical mass of citizens--was buying what they were selling.

Is the racetrack demolition tack the Mayor has taken to Fairgrounds redevelopment since December any less controlled or working any better?

I will continue to publish more e-mails in the run-up to Tuesday's council consideration of the Fairgrounds bills. (Jump to Deanieleaks #1. Jump to Deanieleaks #2. Jump to Deanieleaks #3. Jump to Deanieleaks #4. Jump to Deanieleaks #5. Jump to Deanieleaks #6. Jump to Deanieleaks #7.)


The same day that Toby Compton was recruiting State Fair staffers to proselytize Expo vendors, the State Fair Director sent an e-mail to the Metro Finance Director and the Fair Board Chair warning that Fairgrounds preservation supporter and attorney Lewis Laska was snooping around the public records on past Fair Board meetings. Laska went on to publish an analysis questioning the Mayor's Plan on legal grounds.

From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: James Weaver; Riebeling, Richard (Finance - Directors Office)
Subject: Old minutes
Date: Friday, October 08, 2010 1:04:30 PM
Attachments: fax 000.tif

Attorney Lewis Laska was here all day yesterday reviewing old minutes. I am sending you a copy of the minutes that he asked my assistant to make copies of. FYI.
He says he plans on coming back again.
Thanks Buck

As far as I know no one on the Dean Team has responded to Laska's conclusions despite monitoring his research habits.

Deanieleaks #7: Mayor's Office e-mail correspondence on the State Fairgrounds

In the latest release, State Fair Director Buck Dozier raises a red flag with Finance Director Rich Riebeling about access problems for fleamarket vendors should they be moved to Hickory Hollow (Mayor Dean withdrew that Hickory Hollow plan December 1 after withering public blowback).

In the context of the previous e-mails it is hard to see this meeting proposal as anything but a further effort to define and assign talking points among the Dean Team with feedback from the corporate mall owners who stand to benefit handsomely from an Expo exile. Shouldn't Dozier have invited a representative from affected Expo vendors if he intended to act as their access advocate?

[Original Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: Riebeling, Richard (Finance - Director's Office)
Subject: Update
Date: Tuesday, October 05, 2010 12:15:52 PM


You told me to harass you as things moved along. I have not as Toby, Weaver, and others seem to be on target.

I have one consideration for you that I don't feel that we have fleshed out well. I consider it to be a HUGE issue moving forward.

The issue of egress and ingress at the Hickory Hollow site. The building has only TWO doors in which to get vendors in and out.

I really feel the need to express to ALL who will have anything to do with the build out to talk with me and my crew about these issues.

Setting up a flea market, especially this one, is not like setting up a yard sale as you will know.

I believe that it would be profitable for CBL [Hickory Hollow owner], General Services, and a few of my staff to meet soon on the build out. Your thoughts and wisdom on the matter.

When we open Hickory Hollow I want us to be successful from the get-go.

I will be in New York next week on vacation, but will be here all of this week.

It is conspicuous that this was not a matter of "if" Hickory Hollow would open as an exposition of former Fairgrounds vendors but a matter of "when" for Dozier, regardless of how "HUGE" the obstacles were.

I will continue to publish more e-mails in the run-up to Tuesday's council consideration of the Fairgrounds bills. (Jump to Deanieleaks #1. Jump to Deanieleaks #2. Jump to Deanieleaks #3. Jump to Deanieleaks #4. Jump to Deanieleaks #5. Jump to Deanieleaks #6.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Deanieleaks #6: Mayor's Office e-mail correspondence on the State Fairgrounds

The next exchange in the series of e-mails between the Mayor's Office and the State Fair executive, Buck Dozier, evinces concerns with risking spokespeople getting "trapped" unscripted by media or CMs. It also suggests that justifications for the Mayor's Fairgrounds plan are not necessarily straightforward and the arguments for the plan are not known by common rote. Moreover, rather than slowing down the process to permit more consideration and discussion, the Mayor's Office merely asks for talking points to counter Dominy's arguments.

[Original Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Subject: Council Meeting
Date: Tuesday, October 05, 2010 11:35:57 AM


Should I be there tonight? Weaver and I will be before the committee soon. You know that I don't mind being there. I would suggest that it might be better if I wasn't there so not to get trapped by media and councilpersons.

It is first reading anyway, so they cannot ask any questions from the floor.

Your perspective and wisdom?

[Reply Message]
From: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Sent: Tuesday, October 05, 2010 11:51 AM
To: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
Subject: RE: Council Meeting

Thanks for checking. I talked with Marty about it too and we think you shouldn't bother with tonight. The ordinance, with all likelihood, will be deferred this evening by Council Rule 8 [automatically defers a bill affecting a single district not sponsored by the district's CM]. And, you are right, there will be other times to come on this, for sure.

Below is correspondence we just received from Dominy to [CM Vivian] Wilhoite for a public meeting. As you probably know, Sandra Moore is very interested in a meeting too. We will see how this shuffles out.

In the meantime, look this letter over. It has a few bullet points that we have seen worded like this before. What are some talking points for the allegations that over the past three years there have been particularly large deficits?

Also how was the board meeting this morning? If you want to talk by phone, I will be around after I grab a bite.

   File: 0975_001.pdf

Toby Compton
Office of Mayor Karl Dean
Legislative Director
(615) 862-6000

[Reply Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Subject: RE: Council Meeting
Date: Tuesday, October 05, 2010 12:21:54 PM

The Board Meeting went fine. Nothing major at all. I saw this letter. [James] Weaver [Fair Board Chair and Hickory Hollow lobbyist] has asked Howell Townes [State Fair Finance Officer] to provide him and me some statistics to answer these questions. We can and will answer them. It is complicated to answer them, but it can be done. Weaver and I are expected to meet as soon as we get the details for our future presentation. When do you need the bullet points?

I will be in New York next week on vacation. Kristi [Dozier's Assistant] can get me if you need me. I told Weaver also. We are suppose to meet with Vivian sometime out here to brief her on the subject before us.

I hear the Election Commission has narrowed the field. Haven't heard who made the cut yet.

The preparation time with his Finance Officer seemed to have paid off for Fair Board Chair Weaver, who a little later got his name in the paper by responding to a local reporter separately via e-mail, countering Dominy tit for tat.

I will continue to publish more e-mails in the run-up to Tuesday's council consideration of the Fairgrounds bills. (Jump to Deanieleaks #1. Jump to Deanieleaks #2. Jump to Deanieleaks #3. Jump to Deanieleaks #4. Jump to Deanieleaks #5.)

Deanieleaks #5: Mayor's Office e-mail correspondence on the State Fairgrounds

I thought it was evident from the first sequence of Deanieleaks e-mails that the Mayor's Office was playing Channel 4 news to maximize its PR about the plan to move Fairgrounds vendors to Hickory Hollow mall. Buck Dozier even thanked Channel 4 in those e-mails for helping him "relax the troops." The latest release of unreported e-mails exposes more talking-points management of Channel 4 to the point that Dozier writes that he expects a "benign" report.

I find it curious that a Metro attorney was copied in this action-coordination correspondence. Why would legal attention be needed in a discussion about media reports on the Hickory Hollow plan, if not to keep Metro legal on message?

Most importantly, take note that the Mayor's Office specifically directs Dozier to contact his good "buddies" on the Metro Council who have "concern" about Hickory Hollow and to "sow some seeds of doubt" among them.

[Original Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 12:21 PM
To: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office); Sloan, Doug (Legal)
Subject: Channel 4

The main area she [Channel 4 reporter Sara Dorsey] hit on was: Would the impact of the legislation [Duane Dominy's bill to Save the Fairgrounds] slow down the move? Are the vendors happy to go? Would the Council and the Mayor butting heads slow the process down? She did mention that she had "polled" by email the Council and there was a lot of concern. I really don't know how to interpret that. I get the first two points in on the beginning and had to insert the third point intentionally. Should be a benign interview. I don't believe she will use much.

[Reply Message]
From: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 12:24 PM
To: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
Subject: RE: Channel 4

Thanks. Rich got the question about the Council too [appeared in Dorsey's report].

Make a few Council calls to the folks we discussed to see what they are saying and sow some seeds of doubt. We need some of those guys to stand firm on this. Point out that there are clearly problems with [Dominy's] legislation too.

Toby Compton
Office of Mayor Karl Dean
Legislative Director
(615) 862-6000

[Reply Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Subject: RE: Channel 4
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 1:07:19 PM

I will begin calling some of my buddies. Thanks.

This handling of Channel 4 during the Mayor's failing autumn attempts to exile the Fairgrounds Expo to Hickory Hollow is particularly interesting today in light of an announcement Channel 4 reporter Nancy Amons made this morning on Twitter regarding a report on the Mayor's current attempts to demolish the Fairgrounds Speedway:

I have to wonder whether similar e-mails were flying between the same power brokers during this interview process and whether more cynical Mayor's Office marching orders were given to "sow seeds of doubt" among council members who could vote on both Dominy's Fairgrounds bill and the Mayor's demolition plan this Tuesday. Will Rudy Kalis and Channel 4 give the Mayor the same "benign" interview tonight that Buck Dozier and Rich Riebeling enjoyed from WSMV last September?

I will continue to publish more e-mails in the run-up to Tuesday's council consideration of the Fairgrounds bills. (Jump to Deanieleaks #1. Jump to Deanieleaks #2. Jump to Deanieleaks #3. Jump to Deanieleaks #4.)

Deanieleaks #4: Mayor's Office e-mail correspondence on the State Fairgrounds

The next sequence of e-mail passing between Buck Dozier and the Mayor's Office indicates Dozier's interest in working wherever Dean staffers need him whether continuing as Fair Director or running for the Election Commission.

From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: Hinote, Greg (Mayor's Office) [Deputy Mayor]
Subject: Questions
Date: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 9:54:44 AM

Who will be our point person on the move to Hickory Hollow? There are many questions and logistical problems still to be worked out. We submitted our best estimates on cost and what was needed to renovate the building to Alexia some time ago.

One of the traps that we could fall in is that the Hickory Hollow property would not be ready in January. Some of our biggest shows are in the first quarter of the year. Any thought as to keeping this property open for those events. My advice is to do so. If we lose those shows and vendors (including the flea market vendors), it will be very difficult to get them back.

Further, to complicate your life, if there is any desire to keep us open out here during the construction phase, we should make the announcement at the latest next Thursday, before the next flea market. Our February and March shows are booking now, and preparing their advertisement.

Lastly, I want to be where you all need me the most. The dealing is tomorrow on the Election Commission. However, I will not put my name in if you all need me to complete this project for you. I enjoy this work. But I see needs in Metro that I can help with often. Councilman Crafton is putting his name in for the Election Commission.

Sorry, for the length. Trying to keep things moving. Good move on the park in the flood plain.

I will continue to publish more e-mails in the run-up to Tuesday's council consideration of the Fairgrounds bills. (Jump to Deanieleaks #1. Jump to Deanieleaks #2. Jump to Deanieleaks #3.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Deanieleaks #3: Mayor's Office e-mail correspondence on the State Fairgrounds

I find the 3rd series of e-mails that passed between State Fair leaders and Mayor's Office staffers the most interesting of all the Deanieleaks so far.

They indicate that the Mayor's Office selectively invites certain residents and that staffers actually tell Metro officials whom not to invite. Karl Dean's advisers only include "friendly" organizations. They do not seem to rely on organic local leadership networks outside the courthouse but seem to look inward and paint an "us vs. them" atmosphere around the Fairgrounds issue. That is likely reason why the Mayor's Office selected only Keith Moorman to stand next to Mayor Dean on November 8 and tell the news media that South Nashville wants to be another Green Hills.

Note that the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods head, Billy Fields, is included in the request for neighborhood representatives. I do not recall seeing Mr. Fields in Salemtown or at North Nashville community meetings I've attended. That experience makes me wonder if he really has his finger on the pulse of South Nashville neighborhoods.

[Original Message]
From: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Sent: Friday, September 10, 2010 5:00 PM
To: Dozier, Buck (State Fair); Sanders Kenneth (State Fair)
Subject: FW: Fairgrounds neighborhoods

If you are aware of any key people from the community, or friendly organizations, it might be good to have them there.

Toby Compton
Office of Mayor Karl Dean
Legislative Director
(615) 862-6000

[--Forwarded Message--]
From: Hester, Jim (Mayor's Office) [senior adviser]
Sent: Friday, September 10, 2010 4:57 PM
To: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office); Fields, Billy (Mayor's Office); Williams, Charlie (Mayor's Office) [ECD]
Cc: Poe, Alexia (ECD)
Subject: Fairgrounds neighborhoods

We would like to invite Fairgrounds neighborhood reps to press conference on Monday. Thats this Monday, September 13 [background on the event].

It will be at 2:15 at Sevier Park Community Center. The Mayor will be talking about Sevier Park but also plans for park space at the Fairgrounds.

Not sure who should be invited, if you do, please go ahead and contact.

Jim Hester

[Reply Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
Sent: Friday, September 10, 2010 5:22 PM
To: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Subject: RE: Fairgrounds neighborhoods

Will do. I assume our Councilpersons know about this?

[Reply Message]
From: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Sent: Friday, September 10, 2010 5:23 PM
To: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
Subject: RE: Fairgrounds neighborhoods

Yes. Don't invite Lisa Leeds.

Need to call you in a bit about something unrelated, but you need the heads-up.

Toby Compton
Office of Mayor Karl Dean
Legislative Director
(615) 862-6000

[Reply Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: Compton, Toby (Mayor's Office)
Subject: RE: Fairgrounds neighborhoods
Date: Friday, September 10, 2010 5:26:41 PM

Call me on my cell -- xxxxxxxx

So, do you think that the Mayor's Office hand picks and hand shuns community leaders in other neighborhood events it sponsors?

I will continue to publish more e-mails in the run-up to Tuesday's council consideration of the Fairgrounds bills. (Jump to Deanieleaks #1. Jump to Deanieleaks #2.)

Deanieleaks #2: Mayor's Office e-mail correspondence on the State Fairgrounds

More from the series of e-mail exchanges between the Mayor's Office and the Fair Board indicating action coordination in efforts to sell the Mayor's plan to convert the Fairgrounds into private real estate. (Jump to Deanieleaks #1.)

The following e-mail exchange was between State Fair executive Buck Dozier and Deputy Mayor Greg Hinote regarding events at the election commission. I am not sure what ship Dozier intends to right. Was it the fallout of the hotly contested August 24 recount of the Democratic primary between Douglas Henry and Jeff Yarbro, who lost even though receiving the Mayor's support? What kind of power does Dozier have to right the ship?

[Original Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2010 10:08 AM
To: Hinote, Greg (Mayor's Office)
Subject: Update

Did you get a feel from the Mayor on the Election Commission?

[Reply Message]
From: Hinote, Greg (Mayor's Office)
Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2010 2:55 PM
To: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
Subject: RE: Update


[Reply Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: Hinote, Greg (Mayor's office)
Subject: RE: Update
Date: Thursday, September 09, 2010 2:58:13 PM

Thanks. I will now call Lynn [Election Commission Chairman Lynn Greer?] and see what the temperature is for this. I do believe I can right-the-ship over there for them.

I will continue to publish more e-mails in the run-up to Tuesday's council consideration of the Fairgrounds bills.

Deanieleaks #1: Mayor's Office e-mail correspondence on the State Fairgrounds

I have obtained a series of e-mail exchanges between the Mayor's Office and the Fair Board that indicate a considerable degree of action coordination on the public relations effort to sell the Mayor's plan to convert the Fairgrounds into private real estate. These e-mails make what we actually saw play out in council hearings and media reports seem staged.

The first series of e-mails between Executive Director of the State Fair, Buck Dozier, and the Mayor's economic development czar, Alexia Poe. What is interesting to me about this exchange is the way Dozier referred to local news media as a contributor to his military-like campaign strategy:

[Original Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: "Alexia Poe"
Subject: Racing
Date: Thursday, August 26, 2010 2:17:15 PM

I believe Mr. [Tony] Formosa [racetrack operator] has retained Earnhardt to come in an race, I believe in the last big race of the season.

They are going to announce it later today. It won't do any good, however it will cause some heavy PR. But it will go away after that.

Are we planning a big announcement next week about this property, and does the H. Hollow property a part of the announcement? [refers to Mayor's original plan to move fleamarket to Antioch]

My guys are telling me Channel 4 had a blurb about it.

[Reply Message]
Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2010 2:29 PM
To: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
Subject: Re: Racing

We are still working on some issues - there is no plan for an announcement next week.

Thanks Buck.


[Reply Message]
From: Dozier, Buck (State Fair)
To: ""
Subject: RE: Racing
Date: Thursday, August 26, 2010 2:33:57 PM

Thanks. I will relax the troops, with much thanks to ch.4

I will continue to publish more e-mails in the run-up to Tuesday's council consideration of the Fairgrounds bills.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rich Riebeling, The Demolition Man, says he can only "guess" on the cost of tearing down the track

You would think that the Metro Finance Director would be able to reel off exact budget figures to the press, given that he is set on taking out the Fairgrounds:
Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said this week there is no cost estimate on the demolition of the property’s racetrack, a course of action that is outlined in a bill nine council members are co-sponsoring. The bill, set for a crucial second of three votes on Jan. 18, would also retain the property’s expo center and annual state fair for at least one more year.

Riebeling has signed off on the availability of funds for the ordinance.

“I’m guessing that it’s in the half-million-dollar range,” Riebeling said, referring to the track’s demolition. “That’s a pure guess.”
Allow me to suggest that taxpayers do not pay Mr. Riebeling to make guesses, no matter how pure.

How many trademarks do these sign-industry-produced anti-racetrack signs violate?

I've been loath to join recent discussions of campaign yard sign wars that tend to be the focus of racetrack opponents' online expressions of moral outrage. Yard signs are overrated means of conducting a campaign since people usually are not swayed to support or oppose something based on reading them.

However, I do want to draw your attention to a sign that was -- I am told by a well-placed source -- professionally produced by Bobby Joslin, owner of Joslin Signs, for the supporters of the Mayor's plan to demolish the racetrack and sell off the Fairgrounds to private developers. The sign ironically includes a photo of racer and racetrack supporter Jimmy Johnson's car displaying all of Johnson's commercial sponsors.

So, does the sign imply that Lowe's, Chevrolet, or Kobalt Tools endorse the Mayor's plan to demolish the racetrack?

Megan Barry's ordinance to hand public input on economic development to Mayor's Office is on January 18 agenda

Note that the analysis of CM Barry's ordinance that would rewrite Metro codes on how public money is used to subsidize private business development reads like her bill would relax job-creation obligations of grantees, centralize grant-making decisions in the Mayor's Office of Economic Development, remove those decisions from influence of public input that comes through the Metro Council:

This ordinance amends the Metropolitan code provisions pertaining to economic and community development incentive grants .... Under the existing incentive program, the grants are only available for a corporate headquarters that will bring at least 1,000 jobs within five years or a technology company that will bring at least 2,000 jobs within five years. The Metro grant funds are paid to the industrial development board (IDB), who in turn uses the funds to acquire, improve, maintain, extend, equip and furnish real and personal property owned by the IDB and used for the benefit of the private company. All such incentive grant agreements are to be administered by the IDB and are subject to approval of the council by resolution ....

The ordinance [would] authorize the mayor’s office of economic and community development, as opposed to IDB, to make economic and community development (ECD) grants for a corporate headquarters or a technology firm that will create at least 500 jobs. This will increase the pool of businesses that may be eligible to obtain the grants. Unlike the existing incentive program, there will be no set formula in the code for calculating the maximum amount of the grant. Rather, the amount of the grant is to be determined by taking into account the number of jobs created and the amount of revenue Metro is expected to generate from the new corporate location.

Civic Design Center leader mentions neighborhood events, leaders as his favorites

Today the Next American City website interviews NCDC Design Director Gary Gaston, who mentions some recognizable names:
Who in your city inspires you the most?

I’m most inspired by people who work hard to make the city a better place, whether that’s through volunteering or philanthropy. During my time in Nashville I’ve been inspired by so many it would be impossible to name them all. A very special few who have inspired my work include: Betty Brown, Bill Barnes, King Hollands, Berdelle and Ernest Campbell, Mike Fitts, Ed Cole and Scott Chambers.

What is your favorite thing to do in your city?

I love attending Nashville’s awesome neighborhood events, including the Germantown Street Festival, Oktoberfest, Tomato Festival, Wine on the River, Hot Chicken Festival. These bring people out to walk and interact with one another, reminding me of what one of our main goals is with our work – to create beautiful streets and successful public spaces that are pedestrian friendly, safe and contribute to the life of the city.

How not to handle a local crisis if elected

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took his lumps last week for going on vacation as a blizzard bore down on his state and for acting the callous clod. Some blogger responses are noteworthy:

The Conscience of a Liberal:
Maybe it’s just my bias that gives me the impression that there are more mean, self-centered whiners on one side of the aisle than on the other; but anyway, a spectacular performance by my governor:
When asked about the hundreds of people trapped in their homes for days, Christie said unless they lived on state roads, it’s not something his administration would have been able to change.

“If someone is snowed into their house, that’s not our responsibility,” Christie said.

When asked about mayors who said they were forced to divert their resources to unplowed state roads instead of clearing local roads Christie said, “I know who these mayors are and they should buck up and take responsibility for the fact that they didn’t do their job.”
Just brimming with generosity, he is.

Mr. Media Training:
Christie’s inaction was a stunning act of political tone deafness. He should have learned from the litany of other recent high-profile optical disasters, such as when:

  • President Bush was photographed looking out from his plane over New Orleans days after Hurricane Katrina wiped out the city
  • President Obama and Vice President Biden were criticized for playing golf during the B.P. oil spill
  • BP CEO Tony Hayward was filmed attending a yacht race as tarballs rushed ashore in Florida

In a crisis, people want to see their leaders at the scene, even if their presence doesn’t actually accomplish anything. Good examples of leaders in crisis include:

  • Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s walking with an oxygen mask at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of 9/11
  • President Bush visiting Ground Zero days after 9/11 and standing next to a rescue worker on a pile of rubble with a megaphone
  • President Clinton delivering a tone-perfect speech in Oklahoma City after the bombing of a federal building killed 168 people

... the lessons learned from them remain equally as valid for smaller crises. One of those lessons is this: good leaders are visible during a crisis. In all three of the “bad” examples above, the leaders were AWOL; in all three “good” examples, they were present.

Let's hope it is the final nail to keep the zombie in the coffin

Nashville Urban Organizer Sarah Bellos interviewed with other food activists this week in the Tennessean:
"In 2010, with the nail in the coffin of May Town Center, citizens from Bells Bend to Bordeaux exercised their right to speak out and protect the foundation of our food system — land. Nashvillians joined a national and global effort to protect what may be some of our most productive and crucial growing space: the land right at the urban fringe. Add to that cohesive local school food and community gardening efforts across the city and we have begun a foundation for increasing our food sustainability and security in Nashville.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Middle Tennessee Council for the Blind asks CMs to vote against racetrack demolition

Jo Anne Stombaugh appeals by e-mail to Metro Council:
On behalf of the Middle Tennessee Councile of the Blind, I am very concerned about the proposal to do away with the race track at the State fair grounds. Our Council of the Blind has several members who enjoy participating in tandem bike riding at that site every Tuesday night with the Harpeth Tandem Biking Club. They say that it is a very safe environment in which visually impaired persons can learn to ride tandem bikes while enjoying the companionship of their sighted peers. There is great concern about finding another safe venue if the race track is closed. Please keep these facts in mind while making a decision and consider carefully the needs and desires of the disabled community of Nashville. Thank you for hearing my concerns about this matter.
More background after the jump.

Megan Barry curiously backs off leadership of her own bill

The controversy surrounding the bill that would add council certification to the Mayor's plans to demolish the Fairgrounds racetrack began when Megan Barry introduced the bill the same day the Mayor's Office announced its new direction, organized the "gang of five" co-sponsors, and acted as gang spokesperson in the media and in e-mail correspondence to opponents of the gang.

Last Saturday she seemed ready to pass off the lightning rod she took up as gang leader:
Several council members on Saturday suggested the legislation be deferred to allow for more debate. Approached by The City Paper, Barry deflected questions on her plans for the bill to Councilwoman Sandra Moore, who represents the surrounding fairgrounds neighborhood and has co-signed the legislation. Moore said she would consider deferring the bill.
This is not the first time the Dean Team has handled CM Sandra Moore's district business. However, they also attack any opponents who demand other plans for the Fairgrounds by defending CM Moore's councilmanic privilege.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Important North Nashville Community Plan meetings this month

Announcements from Metro Planning involving North Nashville:

  • Open-house meeting on North Nashville Community Plan update. Planners will lead informal discussion of the plan update from 3-6 pm Tuesday, January 11, at Watkins College of Art, Design, and Film, 2298 Rosa L. Parks Boulevard in MetroCenter. There will be no formal program - the draft update will be available for public review, and residents, stakeholders, and others interested in North Nashville's future growth, preservation, and development are welcome to drop in for part or all of the conversation.
  • Metropolitan Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the North Nashville Community Plan: 2010 Update during the regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting at 4 pm Thursday, January 27, at the Howard Office Building auditorium.

The false choices of a nostalgic Tennessean columnist

Gail Kerr poses the Fairgrounds friend to get to her misleading point that advocates of the Fairgrounds advocate doing nothing:

Surely ... fairground supporters do not really believe that it's good government for city leaders to sit back and do nothing purely to preserve nostalgia. Imagine what downtown Nashville would look like today if that had been the policy over the past three decades.

I loved Fair Park. It closed down years ago, of course. They finally had to tear down the rotting, termite-eaten roller coaster.

But no one can tear down my memories.

Beyond Ms. Kerr's strawman fallacies, Fairgrounds supporters have asked Metro government over and over again for renovations and improvements to the parkland. Those requests have been neglected and ignored. The Mayor is only recently getting around to Brown's Creek mitigation and redevelopment proposals, and it took a 1,000 flood to prompt him to consider that.

In the end, even if we accept news media premises that progress must be made at the Fairgrounds rather than doing nothing, why should we accept that Karl Dean's sell-off of public land to private real estate interests is the best means of wrecking rotten roller coasters?

Slashed down to just enough of a green roof for symbolic sustainability at the Music City Center

Naked Eyes lyrics come to mind when seeing the original green promises:
"You make me promises promises you knew you'd never keep."
Back in early 2009, when convention center construction boosters tried to convince Nashville that Music City Center would be good for everyone, they showcased a huge green roof to lure sustainability advocates into the fold. Part of their campaign was to float some ambitious--some might call them idealistic--claims that were doubted by those of us jaded by past pie-in-the-sky developer concepts: "the roof will be green with colorful tiered plantings featured across most of its surface as requested by Nashvillians". We understood that part about being requested by the local community as the biggest strike against its chances.

Our suspicions were confirmed almost a year later when Mayor Karl Dean defended Music City Center construction against critical analysis during the recession by indicating that the green roof had been an optional feature all along. Too bad the marketing wizards who airbrushed that inspirational video promoting Music City Center neglected to tell us that those tiered plantings requested by Nashvillians were in fact not as integral to the project as they claimed. Sometimes the buyers' remorse is caused by the wiliness of the sellers.

Seems more than 28%
To no huge surprise, the Tennessean announced today the constriction of the "green roof" to just 28% of Downtown's new big box. Note that there are no sketches of the constricted green roof at the newspaper, which would be a lot less inspiring that the original sketches from 2009. The project's primary architect, TVS Design still seems to have the original green roof displayed on their website, which seems like false advertising if only 28% of the roof is projected at this point to be green. And the question remains: will the green shrink even more with rising costs over time?

The boosters marketed this facility with appeals to the boldness of Nashville's current convention center. But the Music City Center seems to be amounting to a conventional center with sustainable aspects more symbol than substance. Many of have been warning that the more progressive aspects of this build would be first to fall away. For such prescient realism before the project was approved, critics were labeled as "negative" by boosters. If past patterns hold, when and if critics start lambasting the unrealized benefits of this project, they will be labelled as "unrealistic" even as they were not on the side last to rely on realism.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Near total media blackout of this morning's council work session, despite council promises to televise

After CM Mike Jameson proposed a council work session for this morning, CM Vivian Wilhoite stated at two different council business meetings that council was working to televise the proceedings. According to the the Nashville neighborhoods e-list, CM Jameson asked preservationists not to turnout massively this morning like they had for previous Fairgrounds discussions because it was going to be televised.

If you like I turned on Metro 3 this morning expecting to see exactly what our council members were up to in the latest installment of the ongoing Fairgrounds drama, you were disappointed that Metro 3 was showing events of Metro government past, including Mayor Karl Dean's speech to the Rotary Club last month reaffirming his goal to sell off Fairgrounds property. There were Mayor Dean's smug comments on my TV once again that, in spite of previously taking a "time out" to listen, he would push ahead with his original goal. That is some thick irony.

Both the Tennessean and the Nashville City Paper bloggers were present and started out live tweeting the meeting. Then both inexplicably fell silent. The only detailed Tennessean tweet was on water spillage at the beginning of the session:

The City Paper's few tweets provided more details on the chances that the demolition bill may be deferred and on the CMs breaking up into groups to discuss the issue, but little else. Both bloggers responded to my request for information at the end of the meeting by saying that they had trouble getting cell signals during the meeting to tweet details. Even so, they disclosed little else at that point, including why the meeting was not televised.

CM Erik Cole replied to one of the press bloggers that he did not attempt to get a cell signal because he was busy participating in the work session. Too bad that participation was not seen by those who did not attend because they were told it would be on Metro 3.

CM Jamie Hollin eventually replied to my ongoing query-tweets that he was under the impression that the session would be televised.

This was an unfortunate media blackout that is not going to reassure suspicious community leaders who oppose the Mayor's attempt to coerce a redevelopment plan that has not shown broad public support. Metro 3's inflexibly selective coverage is frustrating, but I am particularly disappointed to hear that CM Jameson encouraged those leaders to stay home. As it turned out, council once again held an insular meeting even though it was in the interests of Nashvillians to observe it.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Could Dean pull a Daley?

Almost a decade ago Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley ordered demolition equipment on to city-owned parkland in the middle of the night. Under cover of darkness private crews gouged giant X's and trenches into an airport runway called Meigs Field to effectively shut down the airport and to minimize organized resistance, even though a considerable number of Chicagoans opposed tearing down the airport.

We can argue the merits of replacing an airport (which required a more secure fly-zone over Downtown Chicago than without the airport) with more open, greener, and higher public-use facility. But the problem with the Meigs sabotage is that it ducked the democratic process.

There may be an analogy between Mayor Daley's autocratic style and that of Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who seems to have his own penchant for lording over Metro parkland at the Fairgrounds. The public opposition to his plan to demolish the racetrack and exile the Expo has been considerably strong and mobilized. Yet, Mayor Dean keeps treating them as if they are irrelevant and invisible. He soldiers on as if their continuing influence over council proceedings is moot.

There may be a cautionary tale in the Meigs Field massacre of 2003. The Chicago Tribune described Mayor Daley's actions in a way consistent with how some see Mayor Karl Dean responding to dissent:
[T]he issue here is not planes versus trees. The issue is Daley's increasingly authoritarian style that brooks no disagreements, legal challenges, negotiations, compromise or any of that messy give-and-take normally associated with democratic government .... Daley announced that agreements with other officials, or with the public, are only valid until he changes his mind or comes up with a different idea.
Might Nashville's Mayor exercise his own power by dispatching Metro bulldozers on the down-low to ruin the track just enough to cancel any future racing? Since his finance department has its own track record of sabotaging the Fairgrounds' revenue stream, and given that he brushes off opposition as if they were infinitesimal gnats, it bears vigilance.

FT: Brandon Valentine

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Two cyclist associations use Fairgrounds racetrack as weekly training velodrome

Both the Harpeth Bike Club and the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes support saving the Fairgrounds Speedway from the Mayor's wrecking ball because it serves as a safe place for them to train:

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Might the Obama/Bush tax cut extensions for motorsports be financial incentive for Metro to keep the speedway?

Considering that the Metro Finance Director called the revenue potential of Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway "marginal" this week in the latest attempt to remove its obstacle to selling off the Fairgrounds, the Mayor's office might not have exactly welcomed the news that President Barack Obama extended the Bush era tax cuts. One of the Bushian panders that the Obama administration made to racetrack owners—who had been fighting the IRS's attempt to remove them from the sweet tax break categories that amusement parks get—was the extension through 2012 of tax breaks for "motorsports entertainment complexes." This could amount to a $40 million windfall for owners:

Hidden in the fine print of the $858 billion bill were tax breaks of up to $40 million for tracks and other racing venues to finance capital projects, the Washington Post reported. The original bill was to keep the government from raising tax rates, especially on people who earn more than $250,000 a year, and to extend unemployment benefits. The breaks for sports facilities were part of nearly $55 billion in earmarks.

As owner of the speedway, Metro Nashville stands to write off taxes on the property, should the speedway stay operational through 2012. I am a fan neither of car racing nor of Obama's extension of the Bush tax cuts, but this turn of events is a clear disincentive for Metro to move to demolish.

Coincidently, the group attempting to stop the demolition obtained Metro documents that they contend indicate that the Mayor's Office is rushing to demolish with or without the public input on the matter scheduled for later this month in council chambers. According to Save My Fairgrounds:

Save My Fairgrounds has discovered a Request For Proposal ("RFP") to "[c]ommence work promptly" to demolish the Fairgrounds Racetrack.  RFP #10-159 from Metro Parks department calls for proposals for "Master Planning and Design Services for Fairgrounds Park" ….

The RFP describes the site as "currently characterized primarily by…a former racetrack," and states "[t]he project consists of development of a park master plan and construction documents for a roughly forty-acre portion of the tract that was formerly the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville, Tennessee."

If the speedway is a "former racetrack" then Mayor Karl Dean does not seem to be interested in those Obama/Bush tax cuts. Or maybe ending its status as a racetrack is another deliberate Metro Finance attempt to sabotage Fairgrounds cash flow. More significantly, Hizzoner would not be referring to the racing oval just so if he were not intending to repurpose or to demolish it. Given that there is still financial incentive to keep the track open, the rush to close is strange, unless we see closure as a step that puts Karl Dean closer to his ultimate goal of driving out Expo small business, minimizing the blue collar presence in South Nashville, and cashing in on the conversion of public property to private real estate.


HT: Christian Grantham

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Pimping the May flood tragedy for political gain does tend to turn the stomach

That the news media could so easily trivialize the tragedy of last May and ingratiate itself to the Mayor's Office with a groveling award somewhat nauseates South Comm blogger Betsy Phillips:
Robert Woods is dead, killed by the creek that he tried to get the city to fix for 30 years.

I know folks all over town know this same feeling ... but when I drive down West Hamilton and I see the shells of house after house, when I see cars parked in the driveways of houses that are interspersed among those empty houses because those folks have no other place to go, I feel like I'm choking on a cry too deep to come out. And I also know that we're supposed to all get about the business of pretending that we all came together, united by our lovely mayor. "We are Nashville." Aren't we great? ....

I'm sorry, but handing out accolades for how Dean handled the flood without mentioning that his administration failed to help Woods and his neighbors ... is a sugar-coating so thick on a tragedy ... that it leaves me sick to my stomach.
One of the commenters on Betsy's post reminds us that Hizzoner was not perpetually huddling with his staff to come up with protective options as the waters rose. Instead, he attended a Jimmy Buffett concert to sooth and to reassure the visiting parrot heads that their tourist amenities would survive nature's onslaught whether locals did or not.