Music City Center backers don't tout project in campaign ads

Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 10:05pm

Some called it “Nashville’s stimulus package.” Others said it would allow Nashville to emerge as a premier convention destination. Its economic impact would be immeasurable, several declared, leading up to one of the most memorable Metro Council votes in recent memory. 

Music City Center may ultimately deliver on all those counts. But Metro Council members who in 2010 voted for financing the $585 million convention center — along with Mayor Karl Dean — don’t seem to be aggressively campaigning on their records of supporting the most expensive municipal project in Tennessee history. 

With the defining issue of the past council now in construction phase, Music City Center has taken a noticeable backseat this campaign season. Early voting begins Friday and runs through July 30.

Most notably, Mayor Karl Dean, who put his political capital on the line to spearhead the project, hasn’t mentioned the center — and the jobs, economic jolt and visual impact its been billed to produce — in either of his two television ads. One commercial does briefly pan over a Music City Center construction crane. Observers have dubbed the 1.2-million-square-foot facility, set to open in 2013, Dean’s signature project.

“Mayor Dean always talks about the positive impact the Music City Center has made and will continue to make,” Dean re-election spokesman Tom Hayden said, adding that combined with the new Omni Hotel, the facility will become part of “the premier entertainment district in the country.”

But Emily Evans, one of nine council members who disapproved the center’s financing, said she received recently a “Dear constituent” campaign letter from the mayor that didn’t mention Music City Center at all.

“I guess it didn’t poll well, but that’s just speculation on my part,” Evans said. “Considering the political battle it was, you would have thought it would be front and center.” 

At-large Councilman Tim Garrett is among a handful of council members who voted for Music City Center’s financing and have also released television ads. Garrett doesn’t reference his convention center vote, but touts his support for the Tennessee State Fairgrounds, which voters can weigh in on via public referendum.

“I think of all the issues out there — and I’ve got in my ad — the general public is still more enthralled with the fairgrounds issue than they are with the convention center,” Garrett said. “So, I think the fairgrounds issue is what’s going to be in most peoples’ minds. So that’s what most people are advertising.”

Councilman Eric Crafton, who’s competing for an at-large seat, suggested there are political reasons for not recalling the Music City Center vote.

“Nobody that voted for the convention center is going to campaign on the fact that they voted for the convention center,” said Crafton, who voted against Music City Center’s financing. “It’s taken up all the borrowing capacity and ability to operate that the government has.”

At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry has also released an ad called “What Matters.” She supported Music City Center, but doesn’t mention her vote — or how the project will reap benefits — in her TV spot.

Ronnie Steine, also running for a second term as an at-large member, briefly walks in front of the convention center construction site as he talks about job growth in his ad, but doesn’t mention the center.

“The community has moved on, and everyone wants it to succeed,” Steine said of the convention center. “It’s really not an issue. It hardly ever comes up.

“I’ve been to umpteen forums, and there’s been [only] one question about it,” he said.

Besides television ads, Music City Center has also seemingly gotten little mention on candidates’ websites.

Before he cast his vote for the center, Councilman Bo Mitchell was among those who said the project would create jobs in the midst of a stagnant economy. He’s currently running for re-election to reclaim his District 35 seat.

Listed on Mitchell’s website in bullet-point are several issues in which he’s played a role. He recalls how he voted to “fully fund” schools with no property tax increase; secured funds for greenways; and increased the area’s police force.

Mitchell doesn’t mention Music City Center.

“I guess if I were running countywide, you would run on issues like the convention center, things that are more global,” Mitchell said. “But if you’re running in a district, you’re going to be running on issues that affect the guy down the street.” 

23 Comments on this post:

By: 4gold on 7/15/11 at 6:42

Big political battle my backside. That was a done deal from the get go. Bulldozers were rolling the morning after the vote. Metro council was gun ho from the get go. If it is so profitable for Nashville where is the money going because they are talking property tax already to pay for it. They have discovered Property Tax as their favorite cash cow and keep returning year after year. I wont use the convention center but will pay dear for it through rising property tax.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: jody.lentz on 7/15/11 at 7:10

Of course candidates are ignoring the MCC -- now that it's going up (and up), Nashville is seeing what an eyesore and blemish it will be, and politicians don't want to be lashed to that white elephant.
There's nothing we can do about that now, so the real challenge for J-Gar and the rest of Music City's ink- and electron-stained wretches is to put the spotlight on Butch Spyridon and Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Butch & Co. have assured us that they will fill the MCC with conventioneers and tourists who will cover the downtown streets with money - so let's see the contracts, Butch!!

By: Melstruck on 7/15/11 at 7:35

Is Crafton still running? He didn't file his campaign funding papers that were due on Monday

By: bonk on 7/15/11 at 7:50

You are a local pol and you voted for the convention center and you want to get re-elected. Metro elections are won and lost on turning out your supporters. (why else are we having a stupid referendum on the fairgrounds - to try and rally the blue collar set to the polls that they hope will vote for crafton and the gang).

There isn't any natural "we love the convention center" voter constituency - expecially since the thing hasn't been finished. So you'd gain nothing by promoting it. What you would lose (and movtivate to run against you) is the anti-convention center crowd.

Besides - this issue is playing out big time in the Holleman/Tally sylvan park battle. Its just being fought with different labels. You also recently had a key Glasgow supporter blast strong challenger Burkeley Allen for being in the pocket of anti-progressive obstructionists. If they aren't referring to the convention center - what are they referring to?

By: macjedi on 7/15/11 at 8:08

Big shock. Evans trying to continue fooling people into thinking there was no choice.

Those of us citizens who bothered to give a damn were in public workshops for TWO YEARS before that vote, participating and shaping this project. Just because people decide to ignore things till they are on the cheese-ball local news does not mean they were not transparent to begin with.

The promise of the new center has already brought back business to Nashville for trade shows, who are using the old center for now, after having given up on our po-dunk outlook a while back. We've started already to rescue our lack of space (read: Gaylord monopoly) and reputation.

Cry, cry, cry... all some people do is cry. Without bothering to be informed or participate. Don't be lame. Don't be such easy marks for Evans' political agenda.

By: govskeptic on 7/15/11 at 8:11

Of course Mr Steine says everyone has moved on-since he was a lead proponent
of the center. What has not been moved on is transparency as to the many
promises made for local employment which has turned into a huge "falsehood"!

By: macjedi on 7/15/11 at 8:23

Wow, really? Employment before the thing is open. You're joking, right? Why not wait till it and the Omni hotel get built, and THEN gauge the jobs?

By: slzy on 7/15/11 at 8:37

best part of the MCC is it can easily be converted into the Rescue Mission annex.

By: JeffF on 7/15/11 at 8:47

"Oh gee, vote for me because I denied you the opportunity to vote on the largest debt project in our city's history because you are not as smart as me"

Anyway the supporters cannot point to a single vote FOR the MCC because it was incrementalized into existence, so each step would have to be approved in order to rescue the "sunk costs" all the previous increments accrued.

This is pretty convincing evidence that the council and mayor knew all along this project was not something actual Nashvillians wanted. Now it appears the attack on the fairgrounds was a device to make everyone forget about the larger MCC problem when they went to the polls.

I guess we also see why it was important to rush the MCC, it was getting to close to election time and it was imperative that the Metro public schools educated voters be allowed time to forget about it.

Bread and games in Nashville, while schools continue their bottomless free fall we get distracted by our leaders desire to "invest" in the last place tourist industry instead of the people who live here.

Notice we have not heard the vaunted and absurd "the MCC will create 30,000 new jobs" promise? Get used to that, a whole lot of promises are currently being forgotten. The biggest one is "the general fund will just back the bonds, it/we will never have to pay anything"

By: JeffF on 7/15/11 at 8:51

By the way, I went to some things which were supposedly "workshops" too. Oddly enough there was no input, just someone extolling the virtues of the plan already in place. You remember those? They were the ones which were later invoiced to taxpayers by the McNeely Piggott and Fox project cheerleaders. Workshops usually do not require the services of a PR firm to keep the message confined to one side.

The only real workshop and opportunity for discussion was made off-limits to council members by the head of the council.

By: bfra on 7/15/11 at 9:02

macjedi - You are the most apparent "Karl goat" on the board! What benefits are you getting from Karl?

By: watchdog55 on 7/15/11 at 10:03

Of course no candidate is talking about the convention center; it is still very unpopular. But, I think it is important to look back at how they voted; obviously they are not proud of their past voting record now that they are running for re-election. The construction of the convention center was brought about through several votes; the majority of this Council voted in favor of a new convention center in each of those votes, and voted against allowing the citizens to vote. It all started back in August 2008 with BL2008-251 introduced by Greg Adkins and Erik Cole to increase the hotel occupancy tax by $0.50. The analysis of this bill written by Jon Cooper, Metro Council Office, stated “This tax can only be used for the purpose of paying construction costs of a new publicly owned convention Center with a cost in excess of $400 million. Revenues from the $2.00 tax can also be used for the operation. Promotion, management and marketing of a new convention center.” Thus setting into motion the proposal for a new convention center and the funds to pay for the PR (McNeely Pigott & Fox paid about $500,000) to promote it. (Metro spent half a million dollars of tax money to promote spending a billion dollars; yet Metro keeps cutting services and asking for more tax money from the citizens.)

A year later (Aug 09) Councilmen Jim Forkum and Tim Garrett introduced Resolution 2009-881 to form the Convention Center Authority. This was adopted with 37 yes votes; however, Councilman Jameson moved for re-consideration of the vote, which motion received four seconding motions. A special MC session was held the next day at which time the motion to re-consider failed with 33 No votes. The only council members who were opposed to forming a CCA was Mike Jameson, Eric Crafton and Emily Evans (Carter Todd had to abstain).

In January 2010 another Resolution (RS2010-1088 sponsored by Ronnie Steine, Erik Cole, and Erica Gilmore) was adopted to approve bonds and project agreement (29-9). That same night a resolution (RS2010-1089 sponsored by Eric Crafton) that would have allowed a public vote on whether to build a new convention center failed (27-10).

All of this information is public, but I will tell you each of the five At Large Council members voted YES on all actions to build a new convention center and all five voted NO to allow the public to vote on this action.

So when you are deciding how you vote on At Large candidates, look back at their voting record, not just on the Convention Center issue, but all controversial issues. The majority of the time they backed the Dean machine and failed their responsibility to the citizens of Nashville. I often wonder why we have At Large Council seats; do they represent the citizens or are they there to do the mayor’s bidding?

By: bfra on 7/15/11 at 10:45

At Large Council seats are just a way to get past the term limit. There should be NO at large seats and some authority needs to change the "2 term councilpeople getting insurance for themselves and their families for a lifetime".

By: aphibes on 7/15/11 at 12:21

Maybe no one is campaigning on it because the promises of local hiring have been broken? The real headline is "Most media, like this paper, don't follow up on Music City Center promises"

By: titansjoe on 7/15/11 at 12:25

I hope and pray that every single council person that voted for the Convention Center is voted out. I certainly pledge my vote against each incumbent council at large member, my district councilman, vice mayor and the mayor. We need people that will actually represent the PEOPLE who live, vote and pay taxes in our city. Regular people who have not lost touch with regular people.

Honestly I don't think Karl Dean and the council believe for a minute that we the citizens of Davidson County have forgotten about how they voted for putting our city in deep deep debt in order to build the convention center against the wishes of the majority of nashvillians. Why else would Dean be recieving such big donations while he is almost unopposed? Why would the first dinner fundraiser for Megan Barry net her over $80,000? Its an outrageous amount for a council race. That was just one dinner. The answer is the Mayor and the council are worried they will be voted out.

Now its time to follow the money. Who could be donating these large sums and why?

My first vote will go to Eric Crafton for voting against it and speaking out against it. My next vote will go to Keeton for mayor and my third vote will be for Ken Jakes for always speaking out against the convention center and the demolition of the fairgrounds. My next vote will be for Mr. Baxter for Vice mayor because I know Neighbors will be cutting Ken Jakes microphone off too often and I like what he has to say.
See you at the polls!

By: MusicCity615 on 7/15/11 at 12:26

bfra people like you make me laugh. Anyone that doesn't agree with you or supports the convention center HAS to be receiving benefits of some sort right? HA

By: titansjoe on 7/15/11 at 12:33

By the way the council and the mayor promised 1000's of construction jobs and 1000's of jobs after the MCC opens and if you believe that...............I have a few investment opportunities just for you.

By: bfra on 7/15/11 at 12:39

titansjoe - You have a very solid voting agenda, think I will follow your lead!

MusicCity615 - What do you have to offer? Do you make up your own mind or just do as told?

By: yucchhii on 7/15/11 at 5:31

yucchhii Too many people just don't get it...but they will, when it's too late! Now IS too late. The vote of the people was NO, WE DON'T WANT IT!! The people were LOUD + CLEAR about that! See what that NO vote got ya? I don't believe ANY politician! Democrat or republican! Democrats and republicans ALL have ONE thing in common...They "ALL" politicians, they will "ALL" try to BS you. Ever heard of an "HONEST" politician? If you believe it, "YOU ARE THE FOOL!" Mayor "DINK" has NO interest in making NASHVILLE a GOOD city. He ONLY has eyes for "HIMSELF!" Think otherwise? PROVE ME WRONG!

By: bfra on 7/15/11 at 6:24

By: macjedi on 7/15/11 at 9:23

Wow, really? Employment before the thing is open. You're joking, right? Why not wait till it and the Omni hotel get built, and THEN gauge the jobs?

The construction was also supposed to create local jobs! Everything I have read, most of the companies are from "out of State", just like all of Karl's consulting firms, are from "out of State". Seems Karl doesn't think people in TN are mentally equipped to do his biddings!

By: macjedi on 7/16/11 at 11:02

Well... many people in TN are NOT equipped for progressive ideals. Hence why our best Mayors tend to come from the Northeast. There are plenty of local jobs happening there right now. Hell, look on the fence at the local construction companies. Ask the steel and electric unions. Oh wait... this is the conservative south... "unions are bad, mmkay, because Fox news told me so."

And before you ask. I am born and raised.

I'm not getting anything from Karl Dean other than EXACTLY the mayor that I voted for after studying his opponents: lame, redneck, lackluster, and family history of corrupt developments. I chose him BECAUSE of these sorts of progressive efforts.

By: joe41 on 7/17/11 at 8:03

They will once it is up and running and is a huge success. Those people reporting negative comments are anti-progressives who never took a chance in their life and hence, have nothing to show for it. Congratulations Nashville. That is why I love you.

By: nashmusic2244 on 7/17/11 at 6:12

Simple Solution:


Simple, right?