Councilman Mike Jameson evoked an obscure Council rule in order to defer a vote on the creation of a new Convention Center Authority, which would oversee the development of the proposed $635 million Music City Center project.
A resolution to create the Convention Center Authority passed with a 37-2 vote and Jameson voting in support.
But immediately after the vote Jameson evoked Council rule No. 35, which allows a member in the majority to call for a resolution to be reconsidered at the next regular meeting — in this case the Sept. 2 meeting.
Jameson said earlier during the Council convention, tourism and public entertainment committee meeting that he had a problem with the process Mayor Karl Dean's administration had used to create the Convention Center Authority.
Jameson also said the resolution had been rushed by the administration as a Band-Aid for bad press stemming from a whirlwind of stories concerning invoices turned in by the public relations firm McNeely, Pigott & Fox for the project.
“In the committee meeting today Mr. Riebeling confirmed what he had previously indicated in media reports this was in the works for a long time, that they had planned to do this, but they had accelerated the filing of it because of recent developments with the invoices of the public relations
firm,” Jameson said.
“So the concern that I had asked him was, 'Was that true?’ he said yes. And secondly, obviously it was in a rush. In other words, if you weren’t planning on filing it on Friday, which you eventually did when it becomes a public relations concern, there’s no reason the Council needs to vote on
this on Tuesday.
“This introduction was reflective of other issues that brought before the Council regarding the convention center. They’re filed, deferrals are argued against, significant decisions are made and the Council doesn’t have time to take these issues out to our civic groups, out to our neighborhood
organizations, out to business groups. And we can’t do that any longer.”
Other Council members felt creating the new nine-member board would provide more oversight over the Music City Center project. But Jameson, and others, felt it was unnecessary to create the Convention Center Authority until a financing package was presented by the administration.
The administration pushed for the creation of the Convention Center Authority, after a NewsChannel5 report showed Metro had been billed $458,000 for communications for the project. The original communications contract, which was overseen by the Metro Development and Housing Agency, was for just $75,000. The proposed authority would oversee the development of the Music City Center project instead of the MDHA, which has managed predevelopment activities up to this point.
“MDHA has demonstrated they are not capable of doing this and we have no control over those folks,” District 12 Councilman Jim Gotto said.
Dean has called for an independent audit, which is in the works. He also moved forward with the creation of the Convention Center Authority, which was enabled by new state legislation earlier this year.
District 22 Councilman Eric Crafton warned against establishing the Convention Center Authority, because it took the option of using general obligation bonds off the table for financing the convention center. The state legislation included a promise that Metro would not use a property tax pledge to support financing the package.
Voting with Jameson on his call to reconsider the resolution were Council members Crafton, Emily Evans, Karen Bennett and Erica Gilmore.