Council considers rules of engagement for convention center debate

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 1:07am

Balance and civility are principles a memorializing resolution asks Council members to uphold when discussing Nashville’s proposed $585 million convention center, along with other topics, at forthcoming community meetings.

The non-binding request, filed by Council members Mike Jameson and Darren Jernigan, calls upon Nashville’s elected body to follow recommendations outlined by the nonprofit Neighborhoods Resource Center when hosting public gatherings to confer on potentially divisive issues.

Suggestions, dubbed the center’s “Top 10 Guidelines for Holding Controversial Community Meetings,” include maintaining neutrality, alternating the order in which opposing views speak and soliciting questions from the public in advance.

“It’s a helpful reminder in terms of those considerations to have in the back of your head when you’re scheduling meetings on contentious issues,” Jameson said. “I know Council members are looking at several community meetings regarding significant issues, primarily including the convention center.”

The Council’s consideration of the resolution comes in the same week as the Dec. 3 unveiling of the Music City Center’s finance plan. Its release could kick off the definitive debate over the largest financial investment in the city’s history, as a series of Council meetings are slated that may decide the fate of the project by Jan. 19.

The period between those dates offers Council members perhaps their last chance to bring the case to constituents to measure stances on the proposal. So far, The City Paper has confirmed two finalized community meetings, with several other Council members in the process of organizing future gatherings.

Council members Jason Holleman, Sean McGuire and Kristine LaLonde will discuss the convention center with residents at West End Middle School, Jan. 12, from 7-8:30 p.m. The meeting will feature both proponents and opponents of the proposed convention center.

Meanwhile, East Nashville Council members Jameson, Karen Bennett, Erik Cole and Jamie Hollin, will co-host a community meeting Jan. 12, from 6-8 p.m. at the East Police Precinct. Again, opposing sides will be present.

“Obviously, I want to vote how my community wants me to on specifically this issue,” Bennett said. “For them to make an informed decision, they need to hear both sides of the issue to make that call.”

The resolution may be an attempt to turn the chapter on a series of meetings in which Council members raised concerns when casual sit-downs with citizens turned into presentations by paid lobbyists organized by Music City Center Coalition.

As reported by the Nashville Post in October, for instance, Bennett said a constituent contacted her about discussing the proposed convention center with her and few friends at a neighborhood restaurant. To her surprise, the day before the meeting she learned Terry Clements, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau’s vice present of government and community relations and registered lobbyist for the Music City Center, would be attending and giving a PowerPoint presentation on the case for a new convention center.

“I was uncomfortable in that situation,” Bennett said. “I felt like the community had felt I had set the meeting up, and I had not.”

According to Molly Sudderth, director of communications of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Music City Center Coalition has conducted more than 100 community and civic presentations concerning the convention center, with 10 past presentations organized at the request of individual Council members.

Asked about the confusion surrounding Bennett’s meeting, Sudderth said it’s her understanding that the hosts of the gathering had invited Clements to attend.

“They’re always events that we’ve been asked to come to and speak,” she said. “Some of the events have been coordinated by the Music City Center Coalition, some have been coordinated by Council members, and some outside of that have been coordinated by (neighborhood associations).”

In a written statement, Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, “This project has been publicly scrutinized for the past four years and we have consistently provided fair and accurate information about what the proposed new center would mean for Nashville.

“We will continue to make presentations and offer accurate information to the public as this debate progresses,” he said.

17 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 12/1/09 at 5:42

Mr. Spyridon's fair and accurate information is certainly
subject to much scrunity. I'm looking forward to a
hopeful community meeting in our district with Mrs.
Langster and her reasons for being so strongly in
favor of this expenditure by the city in light of all the
others projects and problems facing the county!

By: NewYorker1 on 12/1/09 at 7:30

What is there to vote on, the money for the CC isn't coming from local tax payers. It's coming from tourist. Am I missing something? I say build it and move on. How many times do they have to say the money is coming from tourist and not property taxes?

By: producer2 on 12/1/09 at 7:44

you can't have a moniker like govskeptic and make statements about who is telling the truth.You don't happen to like the truth so you have chosen a side who is giving you different information that supports how you want to feel. How is this any different?

By: Time for Truth on 12/1/09 at 8:04

Plenty of reason to be a gov skeptic here.

By: producer2 on 12/1/09 at 8:18

All I am saying is both sides of the argument have talking points. Both sides are making suppositions about the future. Only one side has historical data in this particular market to back up it's point. It is not a guaranteed predication of the future but at least it is based upon real data. To say the historical, audited data is flawed is to suggest some type of conspiracy. Maybe a new moniker is warranted.

By: Time for Truth on 12/1/09 at 8:27

Historical data is meaningless in a segment of the tourism industry that is overbuilt AND in decline.

But this is the most sense you've made in a while.

By: Floyd2 on 12/1/09 at 9:27

Mike Jameson is a hypocrite. Nashville's Priorities, the sham organization with which he is affiliated, is running misleading push calls around Nashville about the Music City Center. They are even calling for recall elections against Council Members that support the project. Now Jameson tries to appear as if he is calling for civility.

Gaylord and their flunkies, like Jameson and Emily Evans, will try every underhanded trick to stop this project.

By: producer2 on 12/1/09 at 9:50

How can it be meaningless? It is up to date and current whichmakes it relevant. The argument by Heywood Sanders among others is the whole industry is in decline, yet in his own writings he clearly states that exceptions are visible based upon certain market conditions. Nashville meets or exceeds many of those conditions which makes the data pertinent.

By: Kosh III on 12/1/09 at 12:00

It's going to get built. It's a done deal and has been for quite some time. The old center has already been "sold" so there is no going back.

Downtown uber alles.

By: Time for Truth on 12/1/09 at 1:19

Yes, I had heard something about that. Some kind of cross between a medical equipment sales showroom and permanent convention facility for those products. New York and another major city were looking at this and backed away, and someone affiliated with the industry said the NATION could only sustain one. So of course more will be built so they can all fail together. I hear Deano is letting the developer off the hook for taxes too. At least, in theory, this one won't be on the taxpayers' backs like the MCC will be.

Notice how this hits the news right before the smoke and mirrors show on the 3rd. I sense there will be many questions about the financing plan but Deano will say 'We can't turn back now! I sold the old building!'. Reminds me of the old timey used car lots where they threw the keys to your trade in up on the roof and pretended they lost them to force you to buy. Deano has a great career ahead in used car sales like some other shifty politicians from Tennessee's past.

Why is everyone bringing Gaylord into this? Did Deano cancel the 80 mil hush money payment to make the center look less expensive or is this just a red herring to make it look like big bad Gaylord is the reason for opposition. The reason for opposition is simple- we don't need it and we can't afford it. That will become clear after it is built, unfortunately.

By: producer2 on 12/1/09 at 1:36

How uninformed you really are considering your moniker. Both NY and Cleveland are still trying to get their projects off the ground. Neither City has as large a medical industry as Nashville does especially considering the purpose of this facility which is to showcase product for institutions like hospitals, etc. It appears Nashville will beat both of those cities to the punch and land their prospective tenants first (NY had announced about a handful of tenants but they have no facility) The person who said only one center would work in the US is the guys who is developing the one in Nashville. Not sure if it is accurate but time will tell. This company has quite an impressive track record in this typed of development. It has also been in the works for over a year and a half so its not like this just landed out of the sky.

By: CityProgress on 12/1/09 at 2:05

The Medical Mart would be a great investment for this private company.
Unfortunately, MCC promoters had the arrogance and nerve to negotiate a potentially unnecessary site agreement which helps them further their cause.

What’s keeping the Medical mart from locating to SoBro, and allowing the Convention Visitors Beureau & Co to expand thier present facility?
If the NCC was redeveloped more within its own means (say $250 mil, or 1/4th of their current asking price), with less of a parasitic burden to Nashville, we’d all be better off.

Tax dollars are too hard to come by these days to put all our eggs in one basket. We’re light years behind other cities with rapid transit systems. For HALF the price of the MCC we could have 200 miles of Light Rail and Bus Rapid Transit through Nashville’s major arterials, according to MPO, creating 15,000 jobs according to MTSU.
There's more studies and sources where that came from.

By: airvols on 12/1/09 at 2:18

I can't wait for Gaylord to come begging for tax breaks in the future. It will be an all out war on making them live by the deeds on the MCC issue. "Build it an they will come", as proof of the new Medical Mart deal, it just the beginning, take the high road and support the Music City Center!

By: producer2 on 12/1/09 at 2:21

Again no clue. The medical Mart is not enlarging the trade show floor which is exactly the reason for building the MCC. Building up for a traditional Convention Center was not an option otherwise it would have been discussed. Your tax dollars are not paying for this so quit acting like they are. With the addition of the Medical Mart you now have the potential for an additional 150,000 plus visitors using hotel rooms and paying the HOT tax to help pay for the MCC. Merry Christmas Nashville.....

By: govskeptic on 12/1/09 at 2:59

The Medical Mart may run the path of the "Bible Park".
It may or maynot come about and could be another of
many PR moves surrounding this project.

By: producer2 on 12/1/09 at 3:04

It has been in the works for over 18 months maybe longer, it is legitimate and has been discussed more in the cities of Cleveland and NY (the Nashville project) than our own papers. It is anything but a diversion.

By: Time for Truth on 12/2/09 at 10:37

prod, all of my info is from a two-minute news segment on NPR this Monday and it is the first I have heard of the medical mart venture. What I heard is what I wrote. So I will accept that I am not well informed on this 'new' turn of events.

It is certainly curious that this comes to the forefront of the Nashville media a few days before the financing plan is unveiled. I trust Karl Dean as far as I can throw him and he's larger than I am.

airvols and Floyd, if there is any substance to your statements that Gaylord is working against the MCC, they certainly should not receive 80 million taxpayer dollars essentially provided in the MCC package to shut them up. But I wish them success.