Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Details from last night's council meeting you will not read in today's daily newspaper

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Technically, Tennessean reporter Michael Cass is correct: Mayor Dean's plan to lease out Hickory Hollow Mall for former fairgrounds expo tenants passed its first test last night by being approved on first reading. However, Cass put too much positive English on the spin by referring to it as a "major" test and by very nearly insinuating that it stood a chance of being defeated last night.

Three remarkable things happened last night that were setbacks for this Mayor, as much as the Tennessean might attempt to gild the lily or make lemonade.
  • The lease plan did not breeze through on consent with every other bill on 1st reading to be subject to the head gates, squeeze chutes, and crowding tubs of the Metro Council committee process, which tends to corral rather than expand preferential options for community input. For a Mayor's bill not to breeze through 1st reading uncontested and undebated is the biggest news of all. Even a journo cannot not gainsay that given this strong executive form of government.
  • A rare public hearing, an opportunity that the stingy Mayor's Office seemed intent on avoiding, was overwhelmingly approved and allowed to happen (take note: North End CM Erica Gilmore voted against allowing it); a reflection of the furor Karl Dean has wrought with redevelopment plans? Without question, the opposition to any relocation from the fairgrounds was better organized in South Nashville and Antioch (x10) than were the gentrifying supporters who would like to see haute boutiques hawking couture in place of lowly flea markets.
  • The only legislative attempt to counter Mayor Dean, in the form of CM Duane Dominy's bill to "preserve" the fairgrounds could have been beaten, but 19 CMs voted to defeat Greg Adkins's attempt to kill it outright with parliamentary finesse (again, CM Gilmore voted with the Mayor against the opposition to kill Dominy's bill). An alternative to leasing out Hickory Hollow Mall survived.
I would think that opponents to the Mayor's fairgrounds redevelopment folly are encouraged by last night's events regardless of approval on first reading. If they're not they should be. They exercised some leverage over the debate and influenced events. The Mayor's aura of inevitability was shaken. If you told me Tuesday afternoon that would happen I would have called you overly naive, optimistic, and deaf to the Agent Smiths of the Metro Matrix.

Organized community leaders, some of whom probably seemed rough and ragged to the courthouse gentry, were able to make the Mayor's prized pooch, the Metropolitan County Council, sit up and stray from its master in ways that convention center construction opponents could not.

Was it a fluke? Was it a sign that Nashville's overextended honeymoon with Karl Dean is finally ending? Or will the sleeping giant otherwise known as the gentrifier collective wake up and rally to Karl Dean's side? We will see how this plays out. In the meantime, I imagine that outside the usual PR the Mayor's office might be sending out about it, they are not pleased with last night.


  1. First big loss for Dean during this term. This was a major loss for his administration. Too bad the local press missed the real story. SOOOOOO glad you didn't. Thanks for all of the great writing.

  2. It wasn't entirely missed my media types. I know you don't care much for Lawson most times but dig this...

    Also, I just created a blog regarding the fairgrounds to add to the noise about how much of a folly this deal is. FYI reason Gilmore is with Dean, North Nashville folks want the ballpark at Sulphur Dell.