Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The real goal of the charter provision cannot be so gainsaid

South Nashville Life blogger Jen Trail misrepresents the effect of changing the Metro charter's provision on the Fairgrounds:

A group of neighbors of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds have engaged with a lawyer* to hold accountable the petition to add a referendum to the ballot that, if passed, would make it more difficult to do anything with the fairgrounds property other than maintain the status quo.

Here is what the proposed change says:

all activities being conducted on the premises of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds as of December 31, 2010, including, but not limited to, the Tennessee State Fair, Expo Center Events, Flea Markets, and Auto Racing, shall be continued on the same site. No demolition of the premises shall be allowed to occur without approval by ordinance receiving 27 votes by the Metropolitan Council or amendment to the Metropolitan Charter

This provision does not stop the community planning process on the Fairgrounds started earlier this year by the Metro Council. It only says that any demolition that occurs on the premises requires a super-majority rather than a simple majority of the Metro Council to approve. I also wonder if it prevents a unilateral move by the Mayor to demolish (has happened before elsewhere).

During the past couple of years the chips have been stacked against those of us who opposed moving the flea market to Hickory Hollow, to hacking up the Fairgrounds and selling it to private developers, and to the Mayor's absolute power to make these moves unchecked by the community. The latest underhanded moves included stacking a neighborhood advisory group with representatives from demo-driven South Nashville Action People/Neighbors For Progress and giving them recommendation powers to an already Dean-friendly State Fair Board with unchecked fiat over the lease.

In that kind of scenario, it does not matter how many Nashvillians oppose Fairgrounds demolition. The game is rigged against broad, popular sentiment about a public property. What can bring balance to the process is the Metro Council, which can send any one-sided concepts back into the community planning process.

SNAP has had countless opportunities to try and influence the direction of Fairgrounds redevelopment, which can and should happen (in fact, it should have happened years ago while the powers that be were allowing it the property to deteriorate). Their lack of success should not place extra obligations on any one else with an opposing interest in the Fairgrounds issue. Likewise, It is not too much to ask that--whatever concepts eventually emerge from the community planning process--that they receive the support of 27 rather than 21 council members to verify that everyone had the chance to influence the final product.

I honestly fail to see why Jen and her SNAP cohort would be opposed to supporting the most democratic solution to a planning challenge, unless they believe that support for the Mayor's initiative for an office park is not popular to begin with.

Full disclosure: For the first time ever I signed a petition for a public referendum when late last week I signed and returned the petition to put this charter change on ballot the next election. I believe it encourages a more inclusive community planning process rather than narrowing the process to suit the exclusive ideas of those supporting Mayor Dean.


  1. SNAP claims to be progressive, yet the group is merely a tool of Dean and a handful of behind the scenes powerbrokers.

    There is nothing stopping SNAP from pursuing an agenda that would tie in the neighborhood to a new and improved fairgrounds.

    One need only drive through the area surrounding the fairgrounds to see plenty of opportunity to move into and improve the neighborhoods. The fairgrounds in not preventing this.

    From Mrs. Grissoms up to Nolensville Road is a neighborhood full of that opportunity. Investment and hard work will be needed, but getting rid of the fairgrounds and raceway will not make this area instantly a 12th Ave. S.

    The fact is Dean (who ate lunch at Sunset Grill today rahter than Gabby's or La Hacienda) conducts his administration while looking down his nose. His SNAP cohorts are merely PR driven tools that allow him to distance himself from any real decision-making.

    SNAP also provides cover to the under-handed way he continues to handle this matter.

    The fairgrounds and raceway can be what leads the redevelopment of that entire area and ties it into surrounding neighborhoods and downtown.

    Nashville has proved that organic growth provides the best results. It has also proved that the will of the people driving such growth create much better results than tearing things down and starting from scratch.

    SNAP brings nothing to the table. Maybe it's time they do.

  2. The way I see it, If passed, the fairgrounds will be afforded a greater level of protection than the Historic Metro Courthouse or any other number of (truly) historic places. The fairgrounds is a pit. It has already been moved once for economic development (to make way for Centennial Park). Founding documents are no place for this sort of thing. The U.S. Constitution doesn't spell out places to preserve, and neither does the state constitution. The city's charter is hardly a land use or planning tool. This whole fairgrounds thing is nutty. And, what's the beef with Mayor Dean? I don't get it. This blog and its comments smell of sour grapes too often.

  3. I've argued over & over that i'm less concerned with the FG concept that results from an inclusive community process than I am the process is indeed inclusive. From giving SNAP leaders his own podium for a council hearing to ignoring the Hickory Hollow community task force priorities on the fleamarket to trying to stealth FG privatization under the guise of speedway demo, the Mayor has tried to force his plan in the face of increasing blowback.

    Call my articulated opposition to the strong-arm tactics sour grapes if you wish. I do resent autocrats who exclude citizens with whom they disagree in community planning process.

    The comment about founding documents, in this case the Metro charter, not determing the planning process or balancing executive power makes no sense to me.

  4. I say, just let the voters,who live with in a 5 mile radius of the Fairgrounds(racetrack,too) vote on its future...I mean, 65% voting for keeping the track would easier to swallow,than 85% pro Fairgrounds support via a county wide vote.Friends,the debate is over the democratic process has worked,and come August you'll really see what I mean!..Thank- goodness, for democracy,and the HUGE majority of Nashvillian's, who care about saving the Fairgrounds!Thank-you

  5. Anonymous,

    For one, have the guts to sign your name, unless you are a tool of Dean aide, Jim Hester (who is the point person for the hilarious BS you see on the City Paper comments section) or a tool of McNothing, Pighead & Flox.

    I have lived on Belmont Blvd for 18 years. The area between Belmont and 8th Ave was a "pit" for most of the time I have lived in the area (I have lived in that area for 25 years). It literally used to contain crack houses. How do I know? A friend of mine was an addict and used to point them out.

    Organically and through the free market, the neighborhood came back.

    Now it is a hot place to live. Would it have made sense to tear it down back in the crack days?

    You claim the fairgrounds area is a pit. Well, it may not be pretty, but the entire area around it is a bit rough looking. That said, it is coming back on its own.

    The fairgrounds can be a wonderful part of our city.

    It's obvious you are a tool of the mayor, or Jimmy "chi chi" Hester.

    Sign your name. Or FaceBook me, you useless, no-balls, tool.

    Let's go take a tour of that neighborhood. I've been hanging out there since 1981. I have a few ideas.

  6. I'll also point out the many "I support the fairgrounds" signs I see within a mile off the fairgrounds. How do I know? Because I have seen them when I worked within a mile of the fairgrounds.

    I see then now when I bicycle through the area.

    I also see how the area is ripe for an organic and market-based redevelopment. One that includes an economic/public infrastructure that is currently a positive financial asset to my neighborhood. That infrastructure would be the fairgrounds and its geographic loctation, as well as the affordable homes and commercial structures in the area.

    12th South became economically viable because families, real estate folk and people like Miranda Pontes (owner of Frothy Monkey and Burger Up) could afford the rent. So, such folk moved in, invested and worked hard.

    Now, the fairgrounds and immediate areas offer the same opportunity.

    From Mrs. Grissom's up to Nolensville Road is a plot of residential and commercial land ready to go the route of 12th South. From Greer Stadium down Chestnut Ave are other opportunities that present the same opportunities.

    Are you telling me that a monthly flea market and a dozen or twenty car races are stopping this kind of redevelopment?

    The fairgrounds and raceway, with a relatively small amount of money to fix them up can make this a great area. The fairgrounds, raceway and Sounds stadium can be part of our "urban fare," cultully and economically.

    Did the owner of Gabby's Burgers let the fairgrounds stop him from going for it? No, he did not.

    Too bad that CM, Megan Barry does not get out more. She went to Vandy's Owen School. Her husband is a "professor" there. Too bad Bruce and Megan can't profess entrepreneurship in an area like the fairgrounds. Bruce and Megan used to be true Democrats -- when Dems cared about people and economic opportunity for all.

    Now, they are out of touch.

    I guess they would rather throw parties, collect checks and lecture.

    I invite Bruce and Megan to take my economic-idea tour for the area surrounding the fairgrounds.

    They need to get out more.

    And remember their roots.

    Hey Bruce. Do you REALLY want to become a Swan Ball regular?