Councilman questions Music City Center community forum

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 12:00pm

Metro Council budget and finance committee chairman Jim Forkum sent an email to the vice mayor Monday questioning the Music City Center forum to take place at Vanderbilt later this month.

Forkum questioned why the forum, which will pit public convention center critic Dr. Heywood Sanders against Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau President Butch Spyridon, was planned outside of the Council committee system.

Forkum’s email to Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors suggested it would have been easier and more convenient for Council members to attend a joint meeting of the budget and finance and tourism committees instead of the special open forum. The debate-style forum will take place May 31 at Vanderbilt University’s Steve and Judy Turner Recital Hall from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Sanders is considered the preeminent expert on public convention centers, while Spyridon is leading the efforts to build the proposed $635 million Music City Center downtown in SoBro.

Forkum, who has been a staunch ally of Mayor Karl Dean’s administration, levied the following questions at Neighbors:

“Why are these meetings being held on a private campus like Vanderbilt? Why is the media sponsoring this event and in what way? Are Council-at-Large members spear-heading this event? Who requested the forum and what was is the real purpose is as it bypasses the Committee system and thereby undermines the process?”

The forum was spearheaded by at-large Councilwoman Megan Barry, but it is being co-sponsored by Neighbors, all five at-large Council members and various district members.

“As you know I totally agree that our committee system is where we ask our questions and discuss the issues,” Neighbors said in her email response. “My understanding was that this forum was to be similar to those meetings being held in council districts as opposed to a committee meeting where debate occurs. Again I cannot speak for the organizers as to the format that will be used.”

Barry could not immediately be reached for comment, but she said last week the forum would be an opportunity for the public to learn more about the convention center project from industry experts.

Council is currently considering a bill to begin the land acquisition phase of the Music City Center project, although no guaranteed maximum price has been attached yet, nor has a comprehensive financing package been introduced.

The City Paper is among the media sponsors for the event.

22 Comments on this post:

By: nvestnbna on 5/19/09 at 11:33

Bravo - - Megan Barry!!!!

These committee meetings are anything but public. You can attend them but the real discussion occurs before and after the deliberately orchestrated meetings.

I support the MCC but all along the PR folks and I guess some of the council have short changed the deliberative process where the public actually has input. It's probably good someone from outside the industry has been invited to come and discuss the wisdom of this center with it's lead promoter. The public will have the opportunity as well as Mr. Forkum's committee to draw their own conclusions from this additional discussion.

By: pandabear on 5/19/09 at 12:08

Hey Forkum:

Shut up !
We don't need a "Deano" lapdog. We need facts.

This is the way adults make decisions.
They get the info first, discuss it with others, and then make a decision.
Grow up and learn from it.

We've got too many idiot politicians like you in Nashville.
Spending our money without a clue.

By: JeffF on 5/19/09 at 1:03

Because there are some people interested in hearing more than just the CVB sponsored Ra-Ra at the community meetings. This is a special event that is not being perfectly orchestrated by proponents and their hired guns at McNeely, Piggott & Fox (hired with our own tax money by the way). This will be the FIRST time that all information will be hauled out in front of the public and many of the council members.

The committee system allows the mayors office and tourism interest to fully control what is presented. No one has even publicly discussed the specter of failure in all the other cities doing this, only the "need" and the loss of some unproven large meetings. How many council members actually know of the industry's abysmal track record and performance compared to the consultants' reports? If they depended on the committee system and council meetings they would have heard none of it. How many know about the bond defaults in other cities requiring taxpayer bailouts? How many know have had the dotted lines drawn between the necessary programs facing funding cuts while this one goes full steam ahead? How many know that a simple request to change the state legislation would allow the tourism money to go to important and necessary governmental activities instead of this thing? Heck, how many people know the difference between General Obligation debt and real revenue bonds?

The "public meetings" thus far have been packed with MPF employees and downtown hotel and restaurant interests. This happens when the meetings are in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday in downtown. It also happens when council members "sponsor" public meetings and only bring in industry proponents to better "educate" the citizens to their real needs. Council members are apparently unaware that there are people against this thing and they have actual data to back them up. They have been filled with stuffing from this turkey's proponents.

God bless Dr. Sanders and bless the council members who are making this event happen. They really are the ones interested in learning about the issues that effect all of us, not just the tourism overlords.

By: producer2 on 5/19/09 at 1:29

I hope you attend JeffF as just yesterday you were compaining as usual that the fix was in even on this meeting. Just wondering, when was the last election you remember when there was 100% agreement on anything? We can wait until you have a chance to think about that. In the meantime call the folks in San Antonio (the good Dr.'s hometown) and ask them why they paid virtually no attention to their Hometown Hero and have added on to their Center twice since his exaulted eminence wrote his mantra. Guess they had better intel......

By: JeffF on 5/19/09 at 2:10

I need to call someone and ask why they chose to ignore good advise? I would guees they ignored him for the same reasons you choose to ignore him, it goes against your personal best interest to stop and think spending through using historical presedence. Why, if someone looked at results and evidence none of these things would get built and we would not have overcapacity and failure and hotel owners would have to build their own toys with their own money.

Really you want to use failed judgment calls as a justification for more failures in good judgement? I have given you too much credit. you are really for a project regardless of its actual factual shortcomings. I thought you were just being shortsighted.

By: JeffF on 5/19/09 at 2:15

Would you listen to him if he was an instructor at dear old Lipscomb?

By: JeffF on 5/19/09 at 2:19

Also, if the blindfolded council members are hating this then it must be a good thing. Bring on the debate between the hotel hack and the Phd from Harvard with a long list of published research.

By: govskeptic on 5/19/09 at 2:28

Why would the "Budget" chairman be so afraid of a public debate on this issue. Thus far Nashville taxpayers have only been told of all these great benefits that will be derived at no cost to them. Yet, the proponents won't give any details, total pricing, or design on this project.
and still they expect a blank check. What the total cost of having all this PR and suspectedly paid folks like "producer2" to scan every website and blog to tell us about the SW Hispanic center of San Antonio.

By: producer2 on 5/20/09 at 12:24

As usual you totally missed the point....

By: girliegirl on 5/20/09 at 6:57

Citing the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, USA Today said the 402 cancellations cost the Las Vegas area's economy $166 million -- not counting lost gambling revenue. (April 14, 2009 Las Vegas Sun)

Orlando has had 114 meetings scheduled for this year canceled as of late last month at a cost to the local economy of $26 million, USA Today reported, citing the Orlando Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Anyone else suspect we're being lied to about this convention center?

By: girliegirl on 5/20/09 at 6:59

Ya know, Producer, not everyone in Nashville is as stupid as you think they are.

By: producer2 on 5/20/09 at 7:43

Apparently only 3 out of 36 are as smart as you and one of them is a liar! In case you have not checked your history, we have had recessions before and like almost everything else the meetings industry has always survived just like it did after 9/11. Things tend to return to normal or even better after such downturns.
Maybe you should find out how many meetings canceled at our convention center before you make blanket statements. I believe that number is zero but I may have missed one or two. You could check if you really wanted to.

By: girliegirl on 5/20/09 at 10:53

This isn't 9/11 you twit... (oops, name calling is sooooo not acceptable) but alas facts are facts and we're not going to improve upon our financial crisis any time soon. Ergo it begs, why flush MILLIONS of dollars away for something which has no market right now? White man speak with FORKumED tongue....... LOL

By: JeffF on 5/20/09 at 10:54

We have had two recessions since the last uptick in convention business. That is not indicative of a cycle, that is a death rattle. 2 or cneters show a marginal uptick for a year or two but the entire industry is spiraling all the way to the scene of the crash. Their only hope? Getting someone to build all their stuff for them before all that crazy logic starts getting in the way.

Funny how a convention center can be relabeled as progress by proponents while the schools and infrastructure and public safety (the actual job of government) continue to wither in Metro due to lack of funds. It is almost like those chanting "progress" are following a script from some well paid PR firm with a grassroots strategy.

See Y'all at the debate. I am going to get Dr. Sanders autograph.

By: girliegirl on 5/20/09 at 10:54

You haven't even built your little convention center, sooooooooooooo what's to cancel? LOL

By: Anna3 on 5/20/09 at 11:47

We sure gotta a lotta Kool Aid drinkin' Deaniacs around here! What part of "This project will LOSE MONEY FOR THE FIRST 23 YEARS OF ITS EXISTENCE" from the KPMG Report are we all having trouble with??? Are we really this stupid? Do we really want to become another debt ridden, vacuous and blighted inner city area? Everyone I know is trying to move out of the county already! Bad Schools, Crime going up, bad infrastructure, screwed up priorities, and taxes already excessively too high! What a receipe for failure as a city...its the same road taken by so many others failing today. Can we find a Mayor in this town whom is not a Socialist?

By: girliegirl on 5/20/09 at 1:16

I've got an idea: why don't you rent out a portion of the new proposed/secured/it's-in-the-bag health care expo convention building? Let them foot the bill, but rent it as needed. THEN, you can put all that MONEY you have hidden away from us towards police/fire and schools. ;-)

By: lisaleeds2008 on 5/20/09 at 1:55

101 Reasons Not to Build a New Convention Center

1. The extra local convention space is not needed.
2. Existing local convention space is not being used fully.
3. Many sizes of conventions can already be hosted locally.
4. There is no demand for extra convention space in the local hospitality market.
5. The local convention site market is already over-saturated.
6. No evidence shows that convention centers "revitalize" the local economy.
7. Building a new convention center will not guarantee a flow of new tourists.
8. Local convention sites are already diverse in size, possible uses, and location.
9. Local convention sites are already meeting the needs of convention planners.
10. Local convention sites respond to market needs without government intervention.
11. Government should not run business.
12. Market needs are better met by private businesses than the government.
13. Government run businesses cost more than their private counter parts.
14. Government run businesses hurt the local economy.
15. Government run businesses remove much needed funding from the market sector.
16. Government run businesses provide inferior services compared to their private counterparts.
17. Government run businesses receive more funding when they lose money or perform poorly.
18. Government run businesses do not manage funds wisely.
19. Government run businesses drain money from the local economy.
20. Government run businesses hinder the production of wealth and profit.
21. Running a business is not a proper function of government.
22. The new convention site will probably have to acquired by using eminent domain.
23. Private businesses will have to bear the cost of relocating.
24. Some private businesses will be forced to close as a result of losing their property.
25. Nearby residents and workers will be deprived of these nearby businesses.
26. Seizing land by eminent domain may displace residents of the area.
27. Using the land for private use would be more profitable.
28. Using the land for private use would allow the use to change to meet market demands.
29. Using the land for private use is more likely to stimulate the economy.
30. Using the land for private use respects the property rights of the current property owners.
31. Changing the land from private to government ownership will remove it form the tax rolls.
32. Tax funds will have to be removed from the local economy to pay for the property.
33. Tax funds will have to be removed from the local economy to pay for construction.
34. Tax funds will have to be removed from the local economy to sustain the convention center.
35. These added tax burdens will require local taxes to be increased.
36. Local taxes will become much higher than in neighboring counties.
37. The cost of doing business locally will increase due to local tax increases.
38. This will cause businesses to relocate to neighboring counties.
39. A mass exodus of business will increase the tax burden for local residents and businesses.
40. A change in the location of jobs will cause workers to leave the county.
41. Taxes not collected and wasted on a convention center could be used to educate our children.
42. Taxes not collected and wasted on a convention center could allow for educational choice.
43. Taxes not collected and wasted on a convention center could be used to house the homeless.
44. Taxes not collected and wasted on a convention center could be used to feed the hungry.
45. Taxes not collected and wasted on a convention center could be used for job training.
46. Taxes not collected and wasted wasted on a convention center could provide college scholarships.
47. Taxes not collected and wasted on a convention center could be used to start new businesses.
48. Taxes not collected and wasted on a convention center could be used for real growth.
49. Taxes not collected and wasted on a convention center could give business tax breaks.
50. Money not wasted on a convention center could allow for tax cuts for all in the county.
51. A government run convention center is unfair competition to local convention sites.
52. A government run convention center must not make a profit.
53. A government run convention center will stay in business if it performs poorly.
54. A government run convention center takes taxes from others for its operation.
55. A government run convention center takes business from privately operated ones.
56. A government run convention center is not under the same rules governing private ones.
57. A government run convention center must not pay many taxes.
58. A government run convention center must not pay many fees.
59. A government run convention center can rely on subsidies to make ends meet.
60. A government run convention center is a drain on the economy.
61. The tax burden created by the convention center will harm the economy.
62. The convention center will cause economic decay.
63. The unfair competition advantage will force other companies to close or downsize.
64. Closures and downsizing will reduce the business use of local products and services.
65. Increases unemployment as businesses closing or downsizing will occur.
66. This will reduce the ability of local workers to spend money in the local economy.
67. Money will be removed from the economy instead of infused in to the economy.
68. The market share of the convention profits will shrink.
69. Market diversity in hosting conventions will be diminished.
70. The quality convention hosting will be diminished.
71. Fewer groups will consider the local market for their conventions.
72. Construction jobs created will only be temporary.
73. Service jobs created will be low wage jobs.
74. Increased demands for low wage jobs will make these jobs harder to fill.
75. Jobs created will have little opportunity for advancement.
76. Jobs created will leave people economically disadvantaged.
77. Increased competition to host conventions will force business to cut wages paid.
78. To cut costs competitors will seek less expensive products and services from abroad.
79. Better paying jobs would be created if private business was encouraged.
80. The new convention center will waste valuable resources.
81. The new convention center will be inefficiently used, like the current one is.
82. Problems of the current convention center will not be overcome in the new one.
83. Use of the new convention center will be inefficient.
84. Operations of the new convention center will be inefficient.
85. Privately run convention sites can better meet market needs.
86. Privately run convention centers have the profit motive to ensure they do a good job.
87. Private ownership increases efficiency.
88. Private ownership increase quality of services.
89. Private ownership is proven to work.
90. The tax costs of building a new convention center are too high.
91. The tax costs of maintaining a new convention center are too high.
92. The costs to the tax payers are too high.
93. The costs to local economy are too high.
94. The costs to the job market are too high.
95. The costs to local businesses are too high.
96. The costs to the hospitality industry are too high.
97. The cost of unused convention space is too high.
98. The cost of lost revenue is too high.
99. The cost of property lost to eminent domain is too high.
100. The cost to our freedom is too high.
101. Do we really need a three-quarter billion dollar boondoggle added to our already bloated budget

External Links and Sources

2009 Nashville Budget Convention Center at a Glance
Nashville Convention Center Events Calendar (Shows actual usage)
Internal Audit Report of the Nashville Convention Center and the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau (2003)
New convention center project seeking to fight industry trends
ORDINANCE NO. BL2009-437 - Authorizes eminent domain
List of Properties to be acquired for Music City Center
Las Vegas Sags as Conventions Cancel - NY Times
American Bank Center's (CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) loss for the year possibly more than $3 million
Capping the convention center money pit (Boston)
Decline of convention business troubles Atlanta hotels
CVBs & Centers Struggle for Business
Is the Knoxville Convention Center staying afloat?
The New Raleigh Convention Center: A taxpayer-funded money pit
Size, number of conventions decline
Expanding the Convention Center: We Be Scammed
Should Governments Own Convention Centers?
Stadiums and convention centers as community loss leaders
Unconventional wisdom

Lisa Leeds

By: producer2 on 5/20/09 at 3:16

those are some serious reasons there my friends especially #... well actually all of them are redundant and not applicable. Don't you all ever wonder why there is only a handful of you who have the negative responses. In essence you kinda match the vote yesterday. I would not expect a 100% agreement on this but the desparity is truly remarkable, even more than the English Only inititive and McCain for President campaign. Really how can so many of us be so out of touch when you 5 have all the answers....

By: Woodman on 5/20/09 at 7:56


Where did you hear that San Antonio twice expanded their convention center, not heeded their homeboy?
No Way!
Did it just once in the last two decades--opened in 2001.
But they did publicly-finance a 1,000 room hotel.
Want to hear how the convention center's doing?
Want to hear how the hotel's doing?
Maybe they shoulda listened.

By: producer2 on 5/21/09 at 8:09

Do you people just make stuff up? Maybe you should have looked into this further. Here is an article from a San Antonio Business publication just recently. The title is:

"Tourism and other factors are helping San Antonio during the recession"

Nashville and San Antonio are very similar in their toursim sectors. Read it for yourself , and check out the Grand Hyatt which is the hotel I beleieve you are talking about. It has been open for about a year and is gorgeous. did you know something we don't about that property. I would say it is too early to tell on success or failure at this point but i hear the condos are great!

By: Woodman on 5/21/09 at 8:46


You just keep faking it yourself.
Nothing in that article about convention center expansion.
Wrong there!
And "tourism" is "tourism," not just convention center visitors.
And I've checked out the Grand Hyatt.
A construction disaster, with suits against the contractor/developer from dozens of subcontractors, less than gorgeous, and with the condos unfinished and unsold!
But we know how the hotel is performing--do you?