Monday, May 16, 2011

Local Democratic Party official doesn't want issue decided by voters, alleges preservation group brings in outside agitators

With a new lawyer in tow, Colby Sledge, who leads the organization that lined up behind Mayor Karl Dean through each of his multiple attempts to sell off the State Fairgrounds as private real estate, told the media that he would not like to see the Fairgrounds issue decided democratically:

"Obviously, I'd rather not see it on the ballot," said Colby Sledge of Neighbors for Progress.

Sledge speaks for the neighborhood association.

If I only got 500 people to sign my petition in favor of demolishing the Fairgrounds speedway after aiming for thousands, I would not want to see a county-wide ballot initiative on preserving the Fairgrounds either. NFP does not have the numbers to win this.

In an NFP press release, Sledge also indicts opponents of Dean's redevelopment scheme as much less than homegrown talent:

the group involved with this petition has a track record of organizing protestors from outside Nashville and bringing them into our communities to be disruptive

I'll be interested to see how Sledge and his new lawyer substantiate the rash accusation that people who were interested in preserving the Fairgrounds brought agitators in to undermine the order of things.

I've observed and been involved with neighborhood organizing in Nashville for almost 20 years now, but I'm not aware of any neighborhood initiative that Sledge has led until Mayor Dean's Fairgrounds plan came along a few months ago. So, I am skeptical about his claims of representing the community, especially when NFP only turned out about 35 people to speak at a public hearing on demolishing the racetrack last January, after making it seem like they had the support of thousands.

It also bears mentioning that Sledge's boss, Democratic State Senator Joe Haynes supports blocking voters from making a choice on the Fairgrounds. Did Sledge lead on any other neighborhood initiatives before he moved from being a Tennessean reporter to Senator Haynes' communication director?

CORRECTION: As pointed out by Braisted in the comments below, Sledge is Press Sec'y of the State Senate's Democratic Caucus, which means his boss is the Caucus Chair, not Democratic Senator and Caucus member Joe Haynes.

UPDATE: Note in the screen shot above that the Neighbors for Progress webpage states they have hired the lawyer to oversee the petition process. This is preying on my mind. How many neighborhood associations do you know that can afford to pay a lawyer on a petition issue by themselves?


  1. The protestors from outside Nashville Colby refers to are lovers of the Fairgrounds activities and a portion of the 1.2 Million visitors enjoying the Fairgrounds annually.
    Colby sees them coming into our communities as disruptive. The Chamber of Commerce calls this "Economic Impact". In the case of the Fairgrounds, $60 Million dollars annually, at a cost of $0 dollars to the tax payers of Davidson County.

    The NEW Convention center has an estimated economic impact of $120 Million dollars annually at a cost pushing $1 Billion dollars to the tax payer.

    I guess Colby sees the Titans and Predators fans from out of county as disruptive as well.

    As the press guy for the TN Democratic party, You would think Colby would be the first to embrace the Democratic process of the citizens having their voices heard on election day. Obviously that is not the case when the issue is in his back yard.

    The reason there is no dialog between the Fairgrounds community and the NFP group is because Colby doesn't want to sit down. I have offered many times to sit down and have had no reply from the group.

    Did the Mayor, all of the Council Members,and Fair Board members sign the petition? It will be interesting find out.
    I for one, plan to make it a point to find out and spread the word to the citizens on Nashville. Should be interesting to see how many of our elected officials, all elected by the voice of the people, actually participated in this Democratic process.

  2. Unless something has changed, I'm pretty sure Colby Sledge is the Caucus Secretary, and the Caucus Chair generally is in charge of Caucus staff...which would be Sen Lowe Finney.

  3. Channel 5 reported tonight, that in a recent poll taken, 82% of registered voters support keeping the fairgrounds.

    I maintain that certain folks, and in particular, Dean and Council-at-Large member, Megan Barry are either truly out of touch or totally disingenuous.

    Sadly, I have to say, when it comes to Mrs. Barry, it is the former.

    Though, to a degree, also the latter.

    Mrs. Barry needs to get out more. And meet some some real people -- not just hipsters, Vandy alum and people who give to her campaign, but people who are beyond her comfort zone.

    I know Barry personally, and I can say she is doing herself and the people she represents a dis-service by not really getting to know the entire community.

    What she demonstrates is not yet a lack of integrity, but it will turn into that if she does not take some time to pause and rethink what her true duty is as a representative of the people.

  4. Sean, He is still a member of our State Democratic Party.
    As a member of the Democratic process, You would think he would be on the bandwagon to put this issue to the vote of the people. The Fairgrounds is after all, a property owned by the citizens of Nashville.
    You can rest assured, If Colby ever runs for office, His not wanting to see this issue on the ballot and trying to derail the voice of the people will come back to haunt him.
    By the way, Did you sign the petition, Sean?

  5. I'd like Mr. Sledge to know that I have lived within two and a half miles (closer, at times) of the racetrack since 1986. I'm not an "outsider," nor am I someone who was recruited by SOF. My activism on the matter has been basically on my own. I have written counciil members, written on blogs, had a one-one meeting with Megan Barry, attended council meetings on the matter, attended a fairboard meeting and made personal appeals to folks on behalf of keeping the fairgrounds and raceway. I'm also a Vanderbilt grad twice-over. I attend fairground events events. I also attend races at the speedway. Frankly, I find Sledge a tool of Dean. I also think he should move. I'd prefer he went to another state, but another county would make me happy. I consider the man a rat. And a scroungy one, at that.

  6. Mr. Barrett is no less of a tool of Dean than Sledge is. Funny how he is coming to the debate late. I guess if you're not busy chasing ambulances, you might as well chase publicity. If Mr. Barrett were following this issue at all he would know Jamie Hollin was in charge of the petition effort, Darden Copeland had zero to do with it. CM Hollin deserves the real credit, not Copeland. In his statement, Barrett is trying to discredit us all based on Copeland's previous employer. Thats a stretch, even for a lawyer.