Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another year-end tribute from Tennessean reporter Michael Cass for Karl Dean

Cass ended 2010 with an homage to Karl Dean. His 2011 verse same as the first.

Last year he wrote the evocative tribute to the Mayor under the banner declaring Karl Dean "Tennessean of the Year." This year Michael Cass's retrospective on Metro politics is no less ingratiating. It places Mayor Dean at the center of the action, as vanquishing victor over any opponent, as well as the unqualified champion of several policy issues and one strictly personal one (you and me losing weight). Cass even minimizes the hits the Dean budget is set to take because of convention center land acquistion/construction overages that many have warned about.

Perhaps the most pandering and shameless homage to Karl the Conquerer is Cass's cast of the Mayor's Fairgrounds opponents as finally trampled in war despite an impressive series of populist battles won from 2010 to 2011:

[W]hen Dean didn’t lay out a specific plan for the property ... his proposal died at a Metro Council meeting that brought out thousands of people on Jan. 18 ....

While Dean lost that battle, he arguably won the war six months later, when Metro voters overwhelmingly supported his re-election bid on Aug. 4 and gave him another four years in office even as a large majority also voted for a Metro Charter amendment putting further restrictions on changes to the fairgrounds.

Cass's editorializing that Dean "lost the battle, but won the war", seems to assume that the only mission of Dean's Fairgrounds' opponents for the last half of 2010 into January 2011 was to beat Karl Dean in the August 2011 election. By any standard, let alone the journalistic standard, that assumption is a stretch. Many of us who opposed Dean's plan were clear about the victory in January. Few of us were looking for an alternative candidate to run against a wounded Mayor. So, where can Cass possibly get the idea that the Fairgrounds war was won by Dean in 2011?

In my estimation, Cass's reporting has tended to hedge against Dean opponents the longer this Mayor has pressed the Fairgrounds issue. First, he initially underestimated the turn-out of Dean's opponents at the Fairgrounds public hearing before conceding the actual high numbers that were being reported the night of the meeting.

Second after a 71%-29% landslide trouncing of the Mayor's demolition plan in August at the polls, Cass oddly reported that the Fairgrounds question divided Nashvillians while Karl Dean did not. Given the lopsided results, the Fairgrounds question was no more divisive than Karl Dean himself was. So, Cass is flat wrong about Dean winning the Fairgrounds war in August. He beat a handful of no-name candidates, one of whom was homeless (which hardly makes for a big campaign finance base to the obscene degree of Dean's). It is just as plausible to conclude that if the Fairgrounds question is the litmus test, Dean lost the battles of 2010-11 and the August war. And the community planning process that the council voted as the alternative to Dean's demolition is ongoing.

And readers should never let Cass live down that 2010 "Tennessean of the Year" homage. As much as it may have gained him friends inside the Courthouse, it should also be the context for whatever else he publishes on Hizzoner. It tarnishes his image.

The January victory of the Fairgrounds preservation group was almost a year ago. A long time ago. In my opinion, the Mayor's Office and the Dean supporters at the Tennessean are counting on the length of time passing and the shortness of public memory to bury the actual events leading to the defeat of the Mayor's demolition plans.

This history is contestable. Don't let them re-write it.

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