Phone survey seems to target Gaylord

Sunday, September 27, 2009 at 11:45pm

Is someone gearing up for an anti-Gaylord media campaign? It would certainly appear that way based on a phone survey of Davidson County residents being conducted last week.

The survey, which originates from a Denver area code, features questions that appear to be slanted against Gaylord and slanted in favor of the proposed new downtown convention center.

It is being conducted at the same time Gaylord is in ongoing talks with Mayor Karl Dean’s administration about the proposed new convention center, its attached headquarters hotel and the effect it could have on Nashville’s tourism industry.

Political observers are keeping a close eye on the negotiations between Dean and Gaylord officials.

It was unclear which group sponsored or financed the phone poll, but somewhat leading questions appear to paint Gaylord in a negative light. Folks can judge for themselves from this sampling of the questions asked:

— “Do you think it was right for Nashville government to give Gaylord $80 million in tax breaks?”

— “Do you think it was greedy of Gaylord to close the theme park?”

— “Do you think Gaylord was dishonest in changing the format of its radio station?”

Such surveys are often conducted during political campaigns to test which negative messages resonate with the public.

The poll also included generic questions about whether the public thinks Nashville needs a new convention center and an attached headquarters hotel to boost its tourism industry.

“If there is in fact a negative survey campaign against Gaylord, we would be very disappointed, particularly while we are in the midst of very constructive conversations with the mayor’s office about what is in the best interests of Nashville,” said Tom Ingram, who has been hired as a consultant by Gaylord to work on its behalf in advance of Dean presenting a final convention center financing plan to Metro Council for approval.

Ingram said Gaylord “wants to be a good corporate citizen and is in a series of what we view as constructive conversations” with Dean’s office.

Dean’s press secretary, Janel Lacy, said the administration had no knowledge of the survey.

Additionally, one question asked about the respondent’s feelings of how public relations money was spent on pre-development of the new convention center. That question centers around the fallout of Metro officials giving the OK for spending more than $458,000 on public relations work from McNeely, Pigott & Fox, even though the original contract was capped at $75,000.

Two years ago, Metro approved a deal with Gaylord to provide the company with $80 million in Tourism Development Zone financing for use in its expansion project, which has yet to begin. The funds can only be used for expansion and Gaylord has not spent any of the money to date.

14 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 9/27/09 at 11:57

Thanks for reminding us that they gave away another 80M of our money to get this folly.

Gaylord is no friend of this city but they only take what the politicians are willingly giving them.

By: NotDaveCooley on 9/28/09 at 2:02

As if spending $80,000,000 on this project already was not enough, now the PR gurus are spending money on a push poll? Brilliant. Enough is enough, sign the petition against this project and let's move on to spending tax dollars on essential city services, not a $1 billion dollar (and counting) convention center. Sign the petition:

By: nvestnbna on 9/28/09 at 4:45

Smells like another PR stunt by the backers of the MCC project. Wonder who actually funded this one?

Let's just face the Facts. Gaylord for all their tax breaks has done much more to bring tourism to Nashville than the CVB folks pushing this new poorly planned urban boondoggle being plopped in the middle of our city.

Nate, thanks for bringing another apparently sleazy, tactic to the public's attention on this project.

By: sidneyames on 9/28/09 at 6:50

What about the fact that Mayor Dean just announced an addition to the Country Music hall of fame? Are we paying for that also?

By: Floyd2 on 9/28/09 at 7:45

What this article fails to point out is that political campaigns also test negative messages AGAINST them for resonance. This poll may very well have been conducted by Gaylord. You want to know what works for you and against you.

By: Kosh III on 9/28/09 at 9:06

I shall answer the questions

— “Do you think it was right for Nashville government to give Gaylord $80 million in tax breaks?” NONONONONONONO

— “Do you think it was greedy of Gaylord to close the theme park?”

— “Do you think Gaylord was dishonest in changing the format of its radio station?”
Don't know, don't listen to radio.

By: nvestnbna on 9/28/09 at 9:25

Floyd2 on 9/28/09 at 8:45What this article fails to point out is that political campaigns also test negative messages AGAINST them for resonance. This poll may very well have been conducted by Gaylord. You want to know what works for you and against you.

That is probably a valid point in some cases, I just don't find it plausible in this one considering the wording of the questions. These push polls seem to be designed in some cases to effect a certain reaction or push an impression. This seemed more intent on moving impressions in a negative direction relative to Gaylord, and I would find that were they responsible, it would be more open ended/neutral.

They didn't asked "did you feel like Metro Nashville has been "dishonest" in the handling of pre-development money for the Music City Center?". This seemed more open ended/neutral with the intent seeming to be gauging damage without pushing a negative impression. And as a supporter of tourism in this city, I find it disquieting that someone would be undermining probably the largest single player with sleazily worded polling, maybe with the intent of moving the MCC forward. The question again is who is responsible?

By: idgaf on 9/28/09 at 10:26

They should not spend another dime before this goes to the people for a vote and let them either plug the leak or open the floodgates and let the cash flow.

By: titansjoe on 9/28/09 at 11:24

I'm not sure who is responsible for the survey but I hope its a citizen group. The questions in my opinion aren't slanted. They simply ask opinions about known facts concerning Gaylord and Metro. I haven't forgotten how Gaylord closed the theme park with little or no warning or regard to Metro, its citizens or the many businesses that relied on the tourism the park generated. I am not blind to the fact Gaylord, its employees and pac groups that seem to be mostly controlled by Gaylord have made large contributions to almost all of our council members. At times not not to help a candidate get elected, but to ensure another candidate didnt get elected such as the close election in the 1st district between Lonell Mathews and Ken Jakes. Jakes refused all pac money and was vocal about the way the land was being rezoned for Gaylord.

I also recall with the last council how a peice of property was rezoned without proper documents for Gaylord by the Metro council and signed by the mayor. PAC money at work. Now 80 million went to them when Metro can't even mow the grass in its parks. Metro employees are giving up their perfect attendance bonus of 50 dollars. Lay offs and understaffed crews are being denied longevity pay and scheduled raises to help fund Gaylord. Seems to me management needs a little tweaking.

Metro has given Gaylord tax break after tax break as well all the special treatment regarding zoning issues. My question is why? Why are the tax payers paying Gaylord 80 million for anything? Galylord is not doing the citizens any favors. We do them a favor when we allow them to operate here after they have hurt the city in a devastating way and are giving so little back. We owe them nothing. Gee, thanks for letting us shop in your mall and stay in your hotel. Oh please take my money!

By: NotDaveCooley on 9/28/09 at 12:12

titansjoe: so, do two wrongs make a right? this isn't about Gaylord - sure they don't want it, but I would guess the other hotel/motel owners who will subsidize this don't want it either. The proponents are trying to make this MCC vs. Gaylord, a red herring that is distracting us from the real issue - future tax implications of approving a NEARLY 1 BILLION DOLLAR project using tax money that may or may not be there. And guess what? If it's not, and we're on the hook for it, you better it will be more than the park's grass that isn't getting funded. Our credit rating will be shot, and Metro's finances will spiral out of control. Gaylord has been here a long time, long enough to have plenty of baggage, but that doesn't mean we should automatically support a 2nd convention center. Not now, at least.

By: JeffF on 9/28/09 at 12:53

Cooley has simply done what I expected him to do, change the focus from all the people who do not like this to a single character (Gaylord). They are apparently been told that a referendum is coming because of the dismal revenue-to-bond-costs numbers showing a general funding source is necessary. They are going to demonize a large private company in the public media just like what was done in Knoxville and Dallas with their related referendum processes.

The know that a large number of people are too busy with their lives to become fully educated about the morass and poor historical performance of this industry. But they can overwhelm them with the message that Gaylord is "picking on them" and avoid having to give actual industry facts and performance metrics. This was simply step one. Next will come stories and talking points form public officials stating that Gaylord contributes money to anti-convention center forces (curiously those ads will not mention the $80 million in hush money to keep them on the sidelines for a couple of years).

A morality question, why should a private taxpaying business have to fight off an attempt by government to compete with them? Particularly when that government is using the taxes the business collects and pays. We have already seen the government (the real one and the MDHA shadow-government ) use tax money against our right to question authority. This is just an escalation from that already established stance.

By: titansjoe on 9/28/09 at 1:09

NotDaveCooley: the comments and questions are about Gaylord. Obviously, unless they are lying the mayors office has nothing to do with it. I totaly agree with you that we don't need another convention center and we certainly don't need more debt at this time. This is another project where it is being sold as "no cost to tax payers." What a joke! If I charge Christmas this year will that be free to me? Bonds are repaid with interest. The city is not as fortunate as the federal government. We can't print more money.
I think my rant was more at Metro and Gaylord for stiffing the tax paying citizens of Davidson County while pretending to do us a favor. Gaylord has been here long enough to get a political foot hold. They once brought prosperity to this city and let us down without as much as a little warning by closing Opryland. Since then it has been all take and no give. Gaylord is in the business to make money. They seem to be getting special favors in return for campain contributions. This time they recieved 80 million pay off when the city is already strapped.

Thanks Gaylord for investing in our city. We welcome you and we are glad you will be making Millions. Build and sell sell sell, the city could use the sales tax and property tax. OOPS! Did you pay any of those?

By: producer2 on 9/28/09 at 2:48

JeffF and nvestnbna,
Please don't act like this is one-sided. Both the MCC Coalition and Gaylord have hired lobbyists to pursue their agendas. Gaylord is scared that they may no longer be the 800 pound gorilla in the room and that the City may actually start reaping the benefits of Nashville being a player in the meetings industry. Whatever Gaylord has done for the city, it's taxpayers have paid for. Peons like us are not even on the radar of this fight.....

By: JeffF on 9/28/09 at 2:54

us not being on the radar is what this Cooley hit piece was trying to do. By attacking Gaylord they marginalize the folks who have valid reasons for detesting and trying to stop this boondoggle.

As of yet there has been no real evidence of this actually benefiting Nashville. Only some projections that have been proven wrong in each and every other city this consultant has been hired to deliver the goods for.

At least quit writing absurd things like "tourism is Nashville's second largest employer" and "this center will create 30,000 plus jobs". There needs to be an air of believability and those two statements are up there with little green men and bigfoot.