Sunday, April 03, 2011

Gruhn challenges Tennessean reporter's story

Fairgrounds preservationists sent out an email blast tonight that included a letter to the editor from well-known and reputable local businessman George Gruhn on a local organization's latest terms for the Fairgrounds:
The top of the page headline in the Local News section of the Sunday April 3 Tennessean entitled Neighbors Offer Racing Deal states "The South Nashville Action People neighborhood group has reached an agreement with fair board chairman James Weaver that would allow five racing weekends in both 2011 and 2012." implies in no uncertain terms that a final deal has been reached when in fact any such decision needs to be made by the full fair board which does not meet until April 5 and later in the same article it is mentioned that Weaver stated that he didn't know if the full board would support this so-called compromise he had worked out without consultation with other board members.

The South Nashville Action People group comprises a small minority of neighborhood residents. There has been no vote giving SNAP authority to represent people who live in this area. Furthermore it should be noted that the fairgrounds are a publicly owned facility belonging the citizens of Davidson County as a whole rather than the local neighborhood. The Metro Council has already passed legislation keeping the fairgrounds open and approving racing as well as other activities currently held at the facility.

The terms of this so-called compromise limiting racing to 5 daylight hour events to be held only on flea market weekends would effectively kill any chance for racing to be successful. In order to be profitable an operator would need more than five events per year, should not be limited to daylight hours only, and would not be successful if racing were confined only to flea market days when the parking lot is already filled to capacity with the flea market alone.

The article omits the fact that the muffler demonstration conducted Saturday, April 2 at the racetrack clearly demonstrated that race cars with modern state-of-the-art mufflers reduce noise levels no more intense than cars and trucks on the interstate highways which run through our city. Even with a full racing schedule as desired by potential operators of the track the sound would be far less troublesome than our interstate highways which are open 24 hours a day seven days a week.

James Weaver's term as fair board chairman ends after April 5 meeting. I do not believe that he should be permitted to mortally wound racing at the fairgrounds on his final day as chairman.

George Gruhn
Gruhn Guitars
400 Broadway 37203

Mr. Gruhn is right on in his criticism of the botched reporting about the process of decision-making at the fair board. (I'm giving the journalism the benefit of the doubt in assuming this to be an error rather than a cynical report that a decision was intentionally reached under the table, outside of government procedures without the reporter asking any questions about propriety.)

Reporter Nate Rau was also in error describing SNAP's terms as a "compromise." The word "compromise" assumes that SNAP is winning this battle and that it gives up something it does not have to in order to produce a "win-win" for each side. On the contrary, the organization is dictating its terms as if it were a vanquishing army. SNAP has been losing the Fairgrounds battle for months now, and given Metro Council action so far, they do not carry the legitimacy that comes with wins to dictate terms to sides that are not losing.

I've maintained consistently that the local print media is predisposed toward the Mayor's stance on the Fairgrounds and that they are treating SNAP's Colby Sledge (who as a reporter was once one of the Tennessean's own) sympathetically and bringing no critical questions to bear on his leadership on this issue. Today's report does not change that perception.


  1. "The Metro Council has already passed legislation keeping the fairgrounds open and approving racing as well as other activities currently held at the facility."

    I would like to correct Mr. Gruhn, while it is true that legislation has passed keeping fairgrounds events in operation for the next two years, the legislation says nothing of racing. That decision is being left up to the fair board.

  2. Hey JustTheFacts,

    Legislation left the option of racing open during the two year interim.

    The fairboard still has the option to realize revenues via the track. The reason they are dragging their feet is because it is political play by Dean.

    The fairboard is sitting on their collective behind.

    The duty of the fairboard is to promote and run the fairgrounds as a business. Collectively and individually, they are neglecting this duty. If they were managers of a restaurant, car rental or any other business, they would likely all be fired.

    Would you hire such a bunch if you owned the fairgrounds?

    Case in point:

    Fairboard member Ned Horton founded FM 100. He went on to found Dancing in The District. It was a hugely successful, outdoor, summer, weekly concert that was free to the public located on the riverfront.

    Has Horton done ANYTHING to promote a similar event (or encourage) at the fairgrounds? Please tell me if he has.

    Wouldn't you expect him to apply such expertise and experience to the fairgrounds? (Especially if you owned the fairgrounds and hired him?)

    The fact of the matter is, Horton was appointed because he sides with Dean. Horton has also been involved in real estate within one of mile of the fairgrounds. His home is located within one mile of the fairgrounds. Horton's compay was paid by Dean to manage his election web-site.

    Horton has done nothing, except serve as a political tool for Dean. Horton should resign.

    Let me stress again, Dean's fairboard is only there to push his agenda of tearing it down. The fairboard has been woefully inept. The criminal thing is, it's been intentional.

    A good lawyer could assert that via intentional mismanagement of this public asset, the fairboard members have essentially taken, or misdiected monies from the public.

    This could be a criminal matter if pursued properly.

  3. At the fairboard meeting this morning, Mr. Weaver said he attended the muffler test and that in his opinion they 'significantly' cut down on noise. He also said the mufflers made a "dramatic" difference. Mr. Weaver actually surprized me with his supportive tone. Will this result in racing?

    Judging by the difference in noise levels, it should, unless of course Dean uses SNAP to continue his pattern of obstructionism.

  4. BTW, anoymous is me, Boyer Barner. I sent that comment from the meeting this morning and neglected to include sign in.

    More on the meeting:

    The only board-member who displayed some antagonism in tone and line of questioning towards race promoters Formosa and Hawkins was Mr. Charles Sueling. Sueling primarily pressed on issues of noise and seemed ill-prepared for the meeting.

    At one point, Mr. Weaver" stepped in" to explain to Sueling that the mufflers cut the sound from the cars "nearly in half." Weaver stepped in again to explain an issue that Sueling was not aware of.

    I have to say, I went to the meeting expecting "not to like" Weaver. However, he proved very prepared and showed a proper level of respects towards Formosa and Hawkins.

  5. I was also at the fair board meeting this morning, and I have a question about this "85%" number that was thrown out by a few people, supposedly 85% of the neighbors want racing? Just curious about this survey....

  6. I left near the end of Hawkins presentation. I did not hear this figure.

    I live on Belmont Blvd, probably a little over two miles from the raceway.

    I have not conducted a scientific survey, but my neighborhood "coffee house, bar and Bi-Rite survey," found that certainly 85% of the people favored saving (and improving) the fairgrounds.

    I'd say at least 65% favored, or had no problem with racing. Some of the folks were racing fans who regularly attend them, some appreciated the historical aspect of the raceway, and some even said they enjoyed the "hum" of the raceway on a warm, summer night, then waiting for the Sounds firework show. Others said, "They've always raced there. Why not?" Others said it could make money for the city if properly managed.

    I'd say over the course of 8 weeks, I informally spoke to about 100 people in the area. I spoke to residents living from Belmont, around 12th South and to 8th Ave as well as three residents living in the area directly behind Douglas Corner Cafe.

    I did this because I wanted to get my own take on the matter.

    I believe in my heart, that relatively few people in that area are against racing.

    So yeah, throw on the mufflers, and let the cars race.

    It is NOT gonna be noisy (I heard it from fairboard head, Weaver, myself).

    And if you live nearby, bring your kids. They will dig it. And earplugs won't be necessary.

  7. First of all, anyone that thinks SNAP has done anything wrong, or something that wouldn't have been done by ALL of the other fine folks posting here. Are kidding themselves. As far as Mr Gruhn is concerned, I think some racers have lined his pockets with cash, because let me assure each one of you out there, he cares nothing about stock car racing. However he loves to make a buck at the expense of others hard times. I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just asking people to mind their own business, and worry about where they live.
    SNAP is actually a group that comprises of a lot more than just a few neighbors. It's a group of people wanting to make their area as vibrant as possible, and keep the area on an uphill trend instead of letting it go back to being a place for loud, unruly, drunk wanna be racers to come tear up the area and family has been hear a whole lot longer than the fairgrounds and racetrack, and some times you just have to let change happen. What about putting a banked short track at the super speedway. That's where the effort should be targeted.