Thursday, August 20, 2009

Convention Center's Diminishing Returns Will Be Cinched Tomorrow

I'm with Council Member Emily Evans:
Dean's office had the [convention center authority] legislation introduced earlier than originally planned after a furor erupted over the Metro Development and Housing Agency's oversight of the convention center public relations contract.

But Evans said she hasn't been convinced the authority would provide more oversight than MDHA has.

"How do I trade the devil I know for the one I don't know?" she said Wednesday. "Yeah, MDHA messed up. But how does it follow that we should start a new entity with no staff, no bylaws, no contracting regulations?"
No. It doesn't follow. However, convention center proponents don't need staff, bylaws, or regulations. They have the power and the money and the avarice to keep this thing going.

The story is the same. Only the players change.

Mayor Karl Dean responded swiftly to the backlash over MDHA and McNeely, Pigott, and Fox not with specific points of reform but by shifting the mess to the council while dangling the prospect of an indeterminate, empty vessel called the "Convention Center Authority." My guess is that vessel is already being filled behind closed doors with the same campaign contributors and industry interests that keep local political leaders in office and grease the wheels for their next elections.

But the prospects could be worse for the general welfare.

Keep in mind that MDHA isn't under the direct thumb of campaign finance; the Mayor appoints the MDHA Board, which hires the Executive Director, who watched the PR cost overruns.

The new authority will be appointed by and answerable to the Mayor, who is indebted to Nashville's wealthiest campaign donors. So, tomorrow the convention center issue may be going directly from the frying pan into the fire. What was once bureaucratic mismanagement will likely become money-grubbing influence pulling in half of Metro Council, consolidating Mayor Dean's control over that slavish body.

And any discussion of ethics in this mess will be ground down by an Ahabic drive to land a large white whale called the Music City Center. Call me Ishmael, but I don't entirely agree with some implicated in this fiasco that the Courthouse system works. It only truly works for those at the top of the system. Unless you are one of their associates or lackeys, it doesn't serve you, either.

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