Haslam signs bill that could end Metro's oversight of state fair

Monday, May 21, 2012 at 6:19pm

Against the wishes of many Metro officials, Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill into law that authorizes the state government to oversee a new commission that would operate the annual Tennessee State Fair.

A Haslam aide said Monday the governor had signed House Bill 3208, a measure that could pave the way for the 106-year-old event to transfer from Metro’s hands to the state while also enabling its relocation outside Davidson County. The move came despite the concerns of the Metro Council, which had approved a nonbinding memorializing resolution that asked Haslam to veto the legislation.

“It sounds like they’ll create something at the state-level doing what we’ve been doing since the 1920s,” Metro fair board chair Ned Horton said regarding the governor’s decision. “They will be responsible for holding the fair every year.

“The next piece to answer will be: Will the fairgrounds be the place where this event takes place?” Horton said. “There’s a lot of people who will want to see that happen.”

Metro attorney Susan Jones, who provides legal counsel for the fair board, did not immediately respond to a voice mail seeking comment on the law. The Metro Department of Law had decided to withhold its legal opinion on the legislation until the governor officially had signed it.

The newly signed law authorizes the state agriculture commissioner to appoint a state fair advisory commission that would oversee the fair’s operations. Pushed by the Tennessee Farm Bureau and Tennessee State Agriculture Department, the measure seemingly allows a group of state tourism and agriculture leaders known as the Tennessee State Fair Association to act as this new state fair commission.

In what Horton acknowledged might be the Metro fair board’s final vote involving the state fair, commissioners finalized a prior agreement last week for the Tennessee State Fair Association to operate the 2012 state fair. This same entity played an identical role last year, and will again hold the event on the 117 acres of city-owned fairgrounds property off Nolensville Pike.

Though the new law allows the state fair commission to determine the fair’s future location, John Rose, who chairs the Tennessee State Fair Association, told The City Paper last week there is no intention to move the state fair outside of Davidson County in the years ahead.

“All parties want and believe it should be in Nashville,” Rose said. “I think everyone involved at this point has a pretty keen understanding that the current Tennessee State fairgrounds is far and away the most likely and the most desirable place for that to happen.”

Rose said the Metro fair board has in the past concluded that the state fair would be best served having state government involvement “to make it a true state fair.” He added: “I think this is just a logical step in that direction.”

Critics of the law, however, fear a move outside Nashville could be down the road. Metro officials have also questioned the manner state lawmakers passed the measure after engaging in little communication with the city.

Others have pointed out that Metro owns the naming rights of the “Tennessee State Fair.”

“It’s disappointing that the state has taken copyrighted property from the city of Nashville without consulting them or compensating them,” said Metro Councilman Duane Dominy, who had led the appeal for Haslam to veto the legislation. “That’s a scary thing here in Nashville.

“The thing we need to do is make sure the interests of the city of Nashville are protected,” he said.

Horton, the Metro fair board chair, acknowledged there are still many “unanswered questions” related to the law. He also pointed out the fair board is about to begin the creation of a new master plan to study the long-term operations and uses of the fairgrounds property.

“Hopefully, there’s a bright future for the fair,” Horton said.

26 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 5/21/12 at 7:23

Just because I hold local government in such low esteem, I suspect the major concern is Mayor Dean may not be able to destroy the fairgrounds and raceway now that the state has stepped into the picture.

I realize I am displaying an immature and juvenile side of myself, but I do so enjoy the mental image of Mayor Dean frothing at the mouth, twitching and gnawing on the carpet as he contemplates a setback in his campaign to remake Nashville in the his own image.

Shoot, why stop with Nashville? Today Nashville, tomorrow Tennessee, then, the world!

Sorry. My vivid imagination got the better of me.

By: fair_minded on 5/21/12 at 10:22

All we have really lost is the management of the State Fair. The Fairgrounds still belongs to Davidson County, and according to both state law and the Metro Charter, the Fair Board is still the sole autonomous authority over the property.

Also, the portion of the of the Metro Charter that requires the Fair Board to put on an annual fair does not specify that it be the State Fair. Therefore, even if the State Fair moves, the Fair Board is still legally obligated to put on a 10-day Fair on the Fairgrounds property, presumably a Davidson County Fair.

The racetrack, flea market, and other shows and events.are still there and are still viable activities with which to move forward, making improvements to both the property and the schedule of events in the future.

Should the State Fair wish to continue in Davidson County, then they will be paying rent to the Fair Board, much as this so-called "Fair Association" is doing now.

What's really the shame here, and I *do* mean shame, is that this surrender to special interests was done in the manner of a corporate hostile takeover, and has now opened up the State Fair to even more political influence that what already existed.

We have a new chairman of the Fair Board and of the five Board members, three of them are new appointees. Let us hope that they clearly see their responsibility to the people and recall the sentiments expressed in the Fairgrounds referendum and move forward with a renewal of the Fairgrounds, not influenced by the political concerns of Metro.

Let us also hope that they are able to resist this concept, put forth by real estate developers, of "highest and best use" in the formulation of a master plan. The "highest and best use" theory has no place in public property such as the Fairgrounds, Centennial Park, Percy Warner Park and other public venues where their purpose of contributing to the quality and enjoyment of life far exceeds the simple dollar value of the real estate. If we applied the "highest and best use" theory to all public property, there would be *no* public property left.

As far as the Governor goes, I'm not surprised he signed the bill-- after all, he's just another part of that special interest group himself. I wonder how much Farm Bureau contributed to his election campaign?

By: JayBee56 on 5/21/12 at 10:42

I'm afraid this is an end run around the local citizens, I had the opportunity to talk with the sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Joe Haynes, some months ago and got the feeling that he was not a friend of the fairgrounds. Hope I'm wrong.

By: vadam on 5/21/12 at 11:00

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By: brian21285 on 5/22/12 at 12:43

Like it or not, the fair grounds area is a dump hole that could totally be something a lot better that more of Nashville would come to and enjoy. Sometimes traditions must end and new ones begin. I cannot for the life of me understand why people in Nashville don't want this gone and criticizing Mayor Dean for wanting to replace it with something better! That's what has always been wrong with Nashville, nobody wants anything to change. While other cities of our size are very forward with their thinking, transportation, roads, business, etc... we always seem to move backwards. Let the rednecks have their race track in another part of the city and let the gross people that need the flea market do the same! Tear it down and revitalize that whole area ASAP

By: garanddaddy on 5/22/12 at 5:15

Finally..A move to make the fairgrounds a "state thing" rather then a Mayor Dean money pawn. Good work Gov. Haslam! Now all that needs to be done is move it out of the ghetto ,or better yet move the ghetto.Whatever is cheaper.The Fair could be a WHOLE lot better then it is.. Until then, if it's State Fair time I go north with my dollars.

By: Ask01 on 5/22/12 at 5:31

Hmmm, the rush to modernize is striking.

After all, Nashville really needs another half empty industrial park or shopping center. Perhaps we could build some low income housing on the site.

Better yet, how about a modern factory, with 24 hour, seven day a week, 365 day a year shifts with constant truck and rail movement? I'm sure the complainers living in the area would much prefer that option, and best of all, doing so would present Mayor Dean and Karl's Kommandos the chance to give away huge sums of corporate welfare.

Whatever we do, I suppose we can take solace knowing the cheapest option is erecting yet another historic marker reading, "Near here once stood....which fell victim to greedy, selfish, feculant individuals with no appreciation for history or the perspective of anyone except themselves."

OK, I made up that last part, but do believe we should name the people responsible for leaving future generations with only a sign as opposed to a tangible place to actually see. Those signs really draw in the toursit, you know. And what a wonderfully appropriate manner to recognize politicians and other.

By: NilsOrion on 5/22/12 at 6:25

I can understand all the sentiment of The State Fair. Nashville, though, is not and has not been for some time an agricultural city. How many of your kids are excited about going to the fair? Even as a kid 50 years ago I didn't give a damn about going to see prize chickens, cows and tractor pulls. I went for the midway and the shows. For several years, my opinion has been that a State Fair is still a viable venture, but it would seem more logical to hold it in a more agricultural area. Wilson County comes to mind.

By: spooky24 on 5/22/12 at 6:54

As much fun I had at Fair Park as a child I am starting to lean to the idea that this money pit is beyond returning to even a shell of it's former self. Who was it that said " Old families are like ancient civilizations....they wither and die" Perhaps it's time to view the fairgrounds in this mold as well.

sp

By: Kosh III on 5/22/12 at 8:01

"I had the opportunity to talk with the sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Joe Haynes,"

Wow! Lucky you. I've been in his district for 15 years and not ONCE did he reply to my calls, my emails, my postal letters even though they were usually short, polite and to the point. Most of the time I couldn't even get more than voicemail if I called his office.

By: govskeptic on 5/22/12 at 8:16

The Governor should pay as much attention to any Metro Council
resolutions as do those Council members pay to a constituents
legitimate problem!

By: frodo on 5/22/12 at 8:18

Ditto here, Kosh. Joe answers to no one, it seems.

About the State Fair, I think the Mayor and others have made it clear they don't want the State Fair. So I say move it to some other city that wants it. And when Hizzoner runs for higher office, which he surely will, then let the voters decide if they like how he drove the fair away.

By: yucchhii on 5/22/12 at 12:57

Just like the DISHONERABLE MAYOR KARL "DINK", Haslam is a CRIMINAL as well as all the politicians at legislative plaza. They ALL proved that they all have something serious to hide when they made an EXCUSE to pass the law there can be no camping on state property to illiminate the occupy protestors! The protestors obviously struck a nerve! If the politicians had NOTHING to hide, then why would thy care if the protestors were out there? The protestors hadn't done anything wrong. The politicians simply did what they are GOOD AT... LYING!! You also have to understand, there are HOMELESS and then you have your HOMELESS "BUMS" that don't give a dam about anything. They were also there trying to get something for free and hanging onto the coat tails of the protestors giving them a bad reputaion. However, never the less,....POLITICIANS=CRIMINALS!!

By: JeffF on 5/22/12 at 2:09

I am confused about the mayor's dissapointment. How can he be upset about no longer being in control of an event he didn't care for to begin with. It is supposedly a state event so let the state take control if Nashville isn't interested in preserving it. Save the fairgrounds if possible, but for now lets applaud the state for saving the actual event from the whims of Nashville's elected government.

By: Beernazi on 5/22/12 at 2:35

Some people are never happy.

By: Left-of-Local on 5/22/12 at 4:52

GOOD! TAKE IT!

Finally this jackass governor signs something I can agree with.

I humbly submit the following better locations: Robertson, Wilson, Dickson, and Cheatham counties...

By: wasaw on 5/22/12 at 7:41

I'm still rolling on the floor. Hizoner used the Goodlettsville doorman (Joe Haynes) to introduce the legislation. Hizoner does know that his power and influence stops at the Nashville courthouse, doesn't he?

To Hizoner: In case you haven't noticed, the "Pubs are in charge at the state level and unless Gary Odum pulls another fast one using the lowlife from East TN,, you probably aren't going to get much going your way at the state level. But isn't this the way things went when the Dems were in charge? BTW, Hizhoner, what are your plans when this last term expires? Are we going to have another washed up Public Defender as mayor? Maybe your wife can buy off Cooper and you can run for Congress. You're a career politician, RIGHT?

By: girliegirl on 5/23/12 at 9:32

so....unless you attend this location each and every year, you probably have no right to speak in favor of it. The majority of us cringe at the idea of attending an event at that location given the narrow streets, limited parking, etc. There have been several other locations suggested, and 2 of them are very credible and offer easy access, parking, etc... This site is encumbered and no longer is attractive. Let another part of the City take this venue. Move on.

By: fair_minded on 5/23/12 at 10:58

girly_girl....

this legislation and this discussion are about who manages the state fair... it has nothing to do with the fairgrounds itself, other than questioning if the state fair will remain there. whether it does or not, the Fairgrounds will remain a functioning entity.

but other than that, have you actually been to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds??

It's located on Nolensville Road, a 4-lane major thoroughfare of the city, not hardly a "narrow street."

Furt5her, it has *thousands* of parking spaces, not exactly what you'd call "limited parking."

And as far as the "majority cringe", please keep in mind that the majority-- 71% of the voters-- voted in favor of the fairgrounds in the last general election.

Not much cringing going on there.......

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