Before the 40-member Metro Council votes on a finance plan for a proposed $585 million convention center next week, the proposal must clear two committees tonight, presumably revealing the stances of several council members.
Both the council’s 13-member Budget and Finance Committee and its 10-member Convention, Tourism and Public Entertainment Facilities Committee are set to deliberate and vote on the Music City Center at 5 p.m. inside the council chambers.
“It doesn’t seem likely that something this technical will be amended,” said At-large Councilman Ronnie Steine, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee. “It’s basically an up-or-down vote.”
The resolution approving the finance plan — which seeks to pay off the project’s bonds through a combination of taxes and fees that target tourists — is expected to ease through both committees by healthy margins.
With At-large Councilman Tim Garrett said to be out of town, talk among observers says the legislation could be approved by the Budget and Finance committee by a 9 to 3 vote. Meanwhile, some say the finance plan may unanimously sail through the Convention, Tourism and Public Entertainment Facilities Committee.
One council member stakeholders on both sides will watch closely is At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry, who has asked some pointed questions about the project, but hasn’t worn her position on her sleeve. She serves on the Budget and Finance Committee.
Another council member sure to be surveyed is Lonnell Matthews Jr., chair of the council’s Black Caucus and member of the Convention, Tourism and Public Entertainment Facilities Committee. Matthews had previously been critical of the Metro Development and Housing Agency over the number of minority- and women-business owners contracted so far during predevelopment work on the convention center.
More recently, however, Matthews applauded MDHA after the agency demonstrated a commitment to ensure that going forward 20 percent of contracting for the convention center will go to small businesses and those owned by women or minorities. He also applauded the efforts of Mayor Karl Dean, who recommended the Convention Center Authority establish a committee to ensure minority participation.
“As one of my largest concerns about the [convention center] proposal, knowing the commitment to the [diversity] program and its objectives will weigh heavy on my decision of whether or not I support the Convention Center,” Matthews wrote in a letter last week.