One of Mayor Karl Dean’s Metro Council allies is questioning the motives behind Councilman Jamie Hollin’s fairgrounds referendum push, suggesting efforts are equally geared at fueling Election Day opposition aimed at the mayor’s re-election bid.
“My suspicion is that he wants to help his cause to promote car racing in Davidson County, and he wants to try to increase voter turnout for the opposition to the mayor,” At-large Metro Councilman Ronnie Steine told The City Paper.
Hollin, who represents parts of East Nashville, has taken the lead on trying to collect nearly 16,000 petition signatures by May 16 to add a referendum to August’s local election on whether to retain all existing activities at the 117-acre property off Nolensville Pike. If approved, the change would come in the form of a Metro Charter amendment.
Hollin is also widely believed to be helping the mayoral candidacy of Metro Councilman Michael Craddock, Dean’s main challenger who has been an outspoken critic of the mayor’s stalled attempt to develop the Metro-owned fairgrounds. Most observers believe a fairgrounds referendum could lure to the polls people inclined to vote for Craddock, who faces an enormous financial obstacle to unseat Dean.
Steine, who is up for re-election is August, recognized Hollin and other fairgrounds preservationists are exercising their rights to get an issue before voters.
“I guess my biggest concern is what the use of our Metro Charter really is, and whether or not the charter is a land use document or not,” Steine said. “But if enough folks want to put it on the ballot, then so be it.”
Asked for his response to Steine’s remarks, Hollin pointed to the council’s recent approval of a bill requiring Metro contractors to write sexual orientation and gender identity into their non-discrimination policies, an ordinance Hollin sponsored.
Leading up to the final vote on the nondiscrimination bill, Steine had criticized Hollin and original co-sponsors for not reaching out to other council members to gather support from the get-go. The council ultimately passed the ordinance.
“Is [this not] the same council member that questioned how I went about passing BL2011-838, who took a shot in the press, however, right when it got enough votes for passing on second reading? He signed onto the bill,” Hollin said. “I do not communicate with Councilman Steine, and so his question of my motives is not worthy of a response.”
Hollin and others are up against a tight time frame to accumulate the necessary signatures to hold the referendum. When asked, Hollin could not say how many signatures his group has collected, but said, “We’re counting every day.”
“Many in the past have questioned whether I can get the ball over the goal line,” Hollin said, perhaps alluding to his success in ousting former Councilwoman Pam Murray through a special recall election. “I will let my record and reputation on that speak for itself.”