Sunday, January 23, 2011

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.


  1. I want to add to Susan Floyd's piece,which I thought was written so well,but infinately more important accurately! I too, picked up on, let's call it the civility inside the courthouse,however not by security,or others,but by the red shirts!As Ms.Floyd stated,this was the democratic process at work,and at work it truly was!You can't help but feel the culture divide between the king and his towns people.Oh,he understands the people in his political court,and the inner workings of how a king moves his pawns around on the board of politics .However,the king never exspected there would be uprising,and by the very people he claims to rule over,"we the peasants"...oops I meant concerned towns people..The pitchforks weren't present by the red shirts the other night,instead it was a group of civic minded citizens! Who's only problem is, they seem to like racing,flea markets,and fair's!How else can you explain the attitudes by security,vice mayor Diane Neighbors pugilistic behavior toward the Fairground supporters.And,if mayor Dean's own condescending attitudes toward the racing/Fairgrounds community isnt enough,then I don't know what else to say! The peasants are not yet storming the castle,but the king might want to start pulling up the draw bridge! Thank you!

  2. I was on the main floor of the courthouse that evening talking to a fairgrounds supporter who lives about a mile from the track. Dean advisor Jim Hester came up to us (we both know him socially) and basically said, "This is a done deal. Tonight is just so people can voice their opinion." Rather than welcoming us, his demeanor was quite the opposite -- almost antagonistic. His behavior was demonstrative of Dean's attitude towards his constituients.