Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is the Mayor's Office sending department heads to lobby Metro Council on the fairgrounds privatization plan?

I cannot wait to see the replay of this week's council committee meeting on Mayor Karl Dean's plan to help fulfill Finance Director Rich Riebeling's dream of privatizing the fairgrounds by converting it for real estate industry royalty. I've never really been strongly opposed to converting the fairgrounds to something more in tune with surrounding South Nashville, I just oppose the means the Mayor's Office uses consistently to ram through capital initiatives that serve Karl Dean's cohort while leaving the rest of us to enjoy whatever scraps are left over.

I want to see the replay of the meeting because I look forward to CM Emily Evans pointing out that Director Riebeling has been "carrying the torch" of fairgrounds privatization since he was with the fair board. That confirms my sense (which I've had since the Mayor's Office ran interference for CM Sandra Moore on a shadow neighborhood meeting) that the fix was in on the fairgrounds future from the beginning.

But what I most want to see is CM Mike Jameson rail against the lobbying effort that seems to be coming from on high (as related by Joey Garrison):
Jameson said [Metro Public Works Director Billy] Lynch called him last week and asked for his stance on the fairgrounds issue.

“You don’t need to go there,” Jameson said. “Had it just been me, I would have chalked it up as just idle conversation. But, in talking to some of my colleagues on the council floor –– none of whom I will name –– but all of whom said they got the call and started getting arms twisted and references to yellow trucks in their district. That doesn’t need to happen.

“I know the public works director,” Jameson added. “He’s a phenomenal public servant. I know he doesn’t do this out of his own volition. I know he follows orders.”

Jameson requested Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite, who chairs the council’s Codes, Fair and Farmers Market Committee, ask Lynch for any vote tally list that he may have obtained.
Metro 3 and IT Director Keith Durbin willing, I will get to see the drama unfold on tape someday soon.

UPDATE: Metro 3 did play back the 3 hour meeting Thursday night, and Mike Jameson's disclosure about Public Works' lobbying effort was even more spectacular than depicted in The City Paper. CM Jameson made a point of saying that the Director's phone call was not made personally, but with the Director's assistant. If I could transcribe Jameson's entire body of comments I would. It was impressive.


  1. Evans did call out Mr. Riebeling, but he countered with 'Sometimes, we should just do the right thing'.

    Either way, I just wanted to clarify, I'm pretty sure the neighborhood folks called for that 'shadow' meeting you're referring to, although it wasn't meant to shadow anything. But I understand why Ms. Moore would want to come to a meeting with constituents rather than a bunch of screaming race fans.

  2. Yes, Mr. Riebeling is a good lawyer. Nice deflection on his part.

    The folks I talked to who were in charge of the original meeting were not the race fans. And the shadow meeting was not coordinated at the grassroots but by the Mayor's office. That's why Communications Director Janel Lacy was quoted in the story.

    By the way, the leading neighborhood supporter of privatization of Nashville's public property, Mr. Moorman of SNAP, is married to a Bone Law attorney, who works with the attorney of the Music City Center and a close friend of Director Riebeling, who has been advocating privatization of the fairgrounds since the Purcell administration. Conflict of interest?

  3. I went door to door with flyers for that meeting, as did others. So it was promoted by neighbors.

    Keith has been advocating for green space at the fairgrounds for over a decade. His wife has been very much out of the picture with this stuff, attending only a neighborhood block party here and there. I think you may be reaching a bit with that one.

  4. It would only be reaching if the Mayor didn't keep appearing in the equation like the wizard behind the curtain.

  5. I gotta say that I am sort of amazed that, so far, the press did not write about the manufactured losses of the fair. Rich purposefully set the budget to lose money for the three years he has been finance director. In government, as in life, if you plan on losing money you most likely will. Someone will have to educate me on how blowing a wad of the people's cash is the "right thing."