Fairgrounds work session scheduled but compromise is no guarantee

Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 10:05pm

With a spread of donuts and coffee to their side, Metro Council members are set to gather Saturday morning in hopes of politely discussing the city’s hot-button issue of the day: the future of the 117-acre Metro-owned fairgrounds.

Whether the meeting actually facilitates genuine dialogue — producing new ideas or even compromise regarding competing fairgrounds legislation — remains to be seen.

The fairgrounds work session, set for 9 a.m. Jan. 8 at the Richard H. Fulton Campus on Second Avenue, originated out of a request from Councilman Mike Jameson, who said he’s detecting “antagonisms and animosities” in discussing the fairgrounds issue in a way he’s never seen during his seven years on the council. He billed the session as a casual “jeans and slacks” meeting to respectfully discuss the issue at hand.

According to the council’s office, 19 council members have formally said they will attend the session and another five have said they might attend. Citizens are welcome, but public input won’t be allowed.

“I can’t really say that the level of rancor is at an all-time high,” Jameson told The City Paper. “Certainly, we’re not screaming at each other on the floor. But there is a level of contempt between council members that I’ve not seen before. And there are quite clearly individual council members and various factions that simply aren’t talking to each other at all.”

The meeting comes 10 days before the council is set to consider on a crucial second of three votes a bill that would move forward with the demolition of the fairgrounds racetrack. The council seems split on the ordinance, which has the backing of Mayor Karl Dean and his administration. In the background, there’s a competing bill filed by Councilman Duane Dominy that would keep the status quo at the fairgrounds. Dominy’s bill has been deferred.

Former Green Hills Councilman Jim Shulman, who helped play facilitator during similar council work sessions in the past, will serve as moderator for the meeting. Shulman said he hasn’t set a formal agenda for the work session.

“I was simply asked to moderate a discussion regarding the fairgrounds,” Shulman said. “I don’t have an opinion on it. Obviously, I don’t have a vote on it. From what I understand, obviously it’s a very hot topic among the council. The people who asked me to do it simply want to have a good, general informal discussion.”

Normally, the council turns to its committee system for in-depth discussion and debate on bills. “This is not an attempt to do any of that,” Shulman said. “Those processes will go on just as they normally will.”

“It may help them with the legislation,” Shulman said of the work session. “But it’s not meant to replace the committee structure or the council meetings themselves.”

Councilwoman Anna Page, who vice chairs the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, has helped take the lead in organizing the work session. She said it’s an opportunity for the council to sit down without formalities.

“It’s not really to discuss the bills so much as it is [about] possible ideas,” Page said, referring to Saturday’s work session. “And if some good amendments, some good positive things, come out of the conversation, then that would be the goal.”

Over the past several months, every public meeting dealing with the fairgrounds has seen huge crowds of citizens wearing red shirts advocating for the preservation of the Metro-owned property.

Darden Copeland, who heads the group Save My Fairgrounds, said his troops are planning to meet at the Fulton campus prior to the work session, but they will be leaving shortly after the meeting commences to knock on doors.

“Some council members have expressed a concern about us having a large crowd there,” Copeland said. “Some individual council members are scared, frankly. We would rather spend our time being more productive and going door to door in some of their [council] districts to make our case.”

Dominy, who has become the council’s most vocal opponent of Dean’s plans to redevelop the fairgrounds, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” something positive can result from the work session. 

“My hope is that we can discuss pros and cons of various issues all at one time,” Dominy said. “I’m open-minded to see what can be done.”


9 Comments on this post:

By: HokeyPokey on 1/7/11 at 7:13

I'm guessing the public will be show the door when they try to turn the meeting into a "town hall."

Just sayin'


By: las04 on 1/7/11 at 8:02

HokeyPokey, I don't think this will turn into a " town hall" . Those who support the fairgrounds want to do get as much information to the council as they can, this is the time and place. We realize and understand their concerns and we will try to honor their wish. People don't give us enough credit for being understanding and having common since . For some reason we have the stigma of being a bunch of redneck country hicks in overalls and cow dung on our shoes. Actually most of us are just the oppisite, do you have any idea what it takes to build a race car or what it takes to do the be a vendor at the flea market ? We are willing to do whatever it takes to help our cause...!!

By: cowgirl65 on 1/7/11 at 8:41

its the same ole same ole crap Carl Dean and his bunch of so called elected BY THE PEOPLE MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEMBERS...NOT!!
Well people you sit back and elected Carl Dean in to office and now you have him and a bunch of council members as dictators and you fellow Nashvillians have no say so what ever. They are some council members that don't like what he is doing but when the majority rules and they are greedy people there is not much you can do. Word to the wise vote him out in the next election we don't need a dictator and corrupt council members. Get rid of them, probably will loose the fight for the fair grounds and race track. You people were not paying attention what Carl Dean is all about----- Big money and Big Corporations to share the money for him and his cronies....

By: HokeyPokey on 1/7/11 at 9:20

@ las04 I hope you're right, but I suspect you're wrong.


By: las04 on 1/7/11 at 10:20

HokeyPokey....I know you mean well but, we should try and speak positive of those who are in favor of saving the fairgrounds. We do get emotional and sometimes speak when we shouldn't but it's only out of the love we have for our hobby, way to make an income or to acheive a dream to become a driver in the higher ranks of Nascar. Actually the issue has already been resolved, the public has been asked not to attend. This is actually a good thing, we can use this time doing something more constructive. Please join us and help us go door to door to hear the voices of those who are being used as the main objective to demolish our race track which will eventually elimanate the fairgrounds all together. We welcome you and anyone else you can bring.

By: girliegirl on 1/7/11 at 10:28


By: bfra on 1/7/11 at 10:54

By: girliegirl on 1/7/11 at 10:28

Best comment you have ever made that shows, what you know really about the situation!

By: Captain Nemo on 1/7/11 at 12:57

lol bfra

I think I will go to this just to see what is being said.

By: cowgirl65 on 1/8/11 at 12:03

girliegirl has a problem can't stay awake why is she even own her if this is so boring to her...go somewhere else!! We have a right to save the fair grounds and race track and we shore don't like it shoved down our throats that its better to let the big Corp. make money off it and charge like the devil for everything and only the rich can afford anything that Karl Dean puts out their as his pet project ...he is all for the rich ONLY!!!!!