Friday, November 19, 2010

A vintage Nashvillian questions the truthfulness of the Tennessean's coverage of the Fairgrounds/Antioch debate

George Gruhn, guitar town's guitar man and a rock star at last Tuesday's public hearing on the Mayor's Hickory Hollow lease bill, challenged reporter Michael Cass's characterizations of happenings during council proceedings in a letter to council members:
Based on what appeared in the article, readers would assume that this was a total victory for the mayor’s proposal. What in fact happened was a most unusual turn of events. Bills are routinely approved on first reading without debate. It is virtually unprecedented for a bill to receive a public hearing on first reading. This bill was approved by the Council on first reading only after vigorous debate and with the stipulation that the bill must be modified to separate the three leases for individual approval rather than bundled together and that the leases would need to be renegotiated with better terms ....

Mayor Dean announced his plans to close the Fairgrounds without prior public hearings or consultation with the Metro Council. Although the article goes on to state “Dean wants to clear the 117-acre fairgrounds site a few miles south of downtown so it can be developed. City attorneys say he can do that without council approval.”, in view of very clear public sentiment expressed by a great outpouring of e-mail messages to Council members as well as a council chamber packed with opponents of the mayor's proposal, there are clear indications that it may not be politically expedient to oppose the very clearly expressed wishes of the vast majority of Davidson County residents.
While Mr. Cass did report that "around 40" opponents spoke during the public hearing, I do not recall him observing that the gallery was packed with opponents. And the reporter did make that inexplicable beeline to convey Dean supporter Keith Moorman's indignation at not having foreknowledge of the chance of a public hearing even though so many opponents had come prepared in case they got their chance.

I have already commented that the Tennessean needs to report these events less slanted toward or lead around by Janel Lacy's county-executive talking points and that the newspaper should be more critical and independent. But Mr. Gruhn's comments with a considered gravity that I simply do not possess.

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