Weekly Obsession: Fairgrounds gets a vote

Monday, May 30, 2011 at 10:05pm

Metro voters will decide Aug. 4 whether to keep the status quo at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds after the Davidson County Election Commission last week verified 11,159 petitions, nearly twice the figure needed to add a fairgrounds referendum to the ballot. 

The development adds a wrinkle to Metro’s election, with voters weighing in on whether to keep auto racing, an expo center and flea market at the 117-acre fairgrounds. Mayor Karl Dean, who lacks a credible election opponent with last week’s exit of Councilman Michael Craddock from the race, has expressed a desire to pursue redevelopment at the grounds. 

The victory for fairgrounds preservationists, led by Councilman Jamie Hollin, would not have happened if not for the commission’s 4-0 vote to follow the advice of city attorneys and use the August 2010 election as the reference point for the required number of petitions. 

That decision, made after a lengthy legal debate at last week’s commission meeting, changed the benchmark to 6,742 signatures, drastically lower than the more than 15,700 petitions observers had earlier believed were necessary. Fairgrounds backers cleared the mark despite the commission throwing out numerous petitions because of irregularities. 

“The people of Davidson County will decide the issue once and for all,” Hollin said. “And whatever that decision is, that’s it. It will be off the backs of the next council.” 

Throughout the four weeks since the petition drive began, observers, including Metro officials, had believed fairgrounds supporters needed petitions from 10 percent of the voters in the previous election, which was Nov. 4. 

But Metro attorney Tom Cross alerted the election commission Thursday to a 1983 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that held the required signatures to amend the Metro charter is not 10 percent of the previous statewide general election, which took place in November, but 10 percent of the most recent Metro general election, which the commission agreed took place in August. Only 67,420 voters took part; hence, the lowering of the bar. 

Veteran attorney George Barrett, working on behalf of a group of fairgrounds-area residents called Neighbors for Progress, made a case against the interpretation, but to no avail. 

The election commission’s decision sets up a new campaign over the summer in which fairgrounds preservationists must now remind supporters to go to the polls.

3 Comments on this post:

By: budlight on 5/31/11 at 7:19

Weekly Obsession: Fairgrounds gets a vote

What does that mean "weekly obsession"? Obsession is a negative word. It would sound better to say "weekly update" or just use the phrase "Fairgrounds Gets A Vote". Garrison must be one of those negative democrats! Always putting down anyone who disagrees with them. I'm glad we're voting on it. I'm glad they got almost twice the votes to put it on the ballot. Sort of sends a message, doesn't it?

By: GUARDIAN on 5/31/11 at 9:56

GUARDIAN budlight AMEN !!!!

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 6/1/11 at 7:04

Many of us will be glad to hear the last of the fairgrounds situation. The referendum might show otherwise, but it seems that much of the support is from outside Davidson County (who cannot vote in the referendum). There are better uses of property in such a prime location than an annual state fair, monthly flea markets and an occasional race (which creates noise the neighbors generally do not like).