Fairgrounds supporters say 'more than enough' signatures submitted to require referendum

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 7:33pm

Six minutes before Monday’s 4:30 p.m. deadline, Tennessee State Fair supporters walked up the stairs inside the Metro Courthouse and delivered what they say is “more than enough” petition signatures to add a referendum to August’s election in hopes of preserving the 117-acre fairgrounds.

For three weeks, fairgrounds supporters have counted petitions from the mailbox, knocked on doors and used social media to try to collect the more than 15,700 signatures of registered Davidson County voters required to hold the referendum. On Monday, they took their collections to the Metro clerk’s office.

“We have more than enough,” Save My Fairgrounds’ Neil Chaffin told a room full of reporters. “I can’t give you an exact account, but I think we have several thousand more than what we need.

“It brings a little bit more suspense and a little thrill to the action,” he said of the last-minute submission. 

The signatures, contained in several clear boxes, are now expected to make their way to the Davidson County Election Commission, which must count them and certify they’ve come from registered voters in the county. 

County Elections Administrator Albert Tieche said he believes the process will take at least 10 days.

“It’s just a verification procedure — the same we do for candidate petitions,” Tieche said. “It’s just a much larger number.”

Absent when preservationists turned in petitions was Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin, who had taken the lead on the referendum efforts. Contacted by The City Paper, Hollin echoed confidence that the group collected enough signatures.

“A lot of people put in a lot of hard work to enable the voice of the people to be heard,” Hollin said. “This goes a long way towards making that happen.”

Chaffin — who formerly served on the Board of Fairgrounds and whose son, Chad Chaffin, has been hired to hold racing events at the fairgrounds speedway — said the majority of his group’s signatures came via mail.

“People signed them, put a stamp on them and sent them back,” Chaffin said. “Then we collected tons door-to-door and at parking lots, and places like that.

“We have a tradition out there — the fairgrounds — and we want to keep it,” he added.

Earlier on Monday, a group called Neighbors For Progress, which has aligned with Mayor Karl Dean’s efforts to redevelop the fairgrounds, announced it has tapped veteran attorney George Barrett to monitor the fairgrounds petition effort. The announcement came from Barrett’s law office.

“Given the recent history of this particular issue, we believe it is incumbent on the Davidson County Election Commission to carefully consider and verify each and every signature on any petition filed today,” Barrett said in a statement.

When asked for a response to Neighbors for Progress’ announcement, Hollin took aim at Barrett’s intentions.

“It’s my understanding that Mr. Barrett is taking that case pro bono,” Hollin said. “It would not surprise me if that was done as a favor to the [the mayor’s] administration.”

Barrett has contributed $1,000 to Dean’s re-election efforts.

Contacted by The City Paper, Barrett chuckled at Hollin’s suggestion.

“I’m certainly not taking it as a favor to the administration,” Barrett said. “I don’t have any problem with people petitioning. I just want to make sure that the petitions are proper and that people who have signed them have the ability to sign them to make them valid.”

Election Day is Aug. 4. If put on the ballot, a referendum on the fairgrounds figures to play a major role in the upcoming campaign season, perhaps giving a boost to Metro Councilman Michael Craddock, Dean’s lone challenger for mayor. Craddock has strongly opposed Dean’s handling of the fairgrounds.

Fairgrounds supporters say they’re ready for any opposition.

“I think there will be a battle to get the most votes out,” Chaffin said. 

28 Comments on this post:

By: CrimesDown on 5/16/11 at 7:38

All along this has been an attempt by a small group of people to steal a piece of property that belongs to all of us. There are different reasons for the attempted theft. A few don't like the noise, a few want their property values to rise and others want the property for financial gain. Regardless of your reasons, the fact remains that the property isn't any one persons, or even a few. It belongs to all of us and the majority want it left as what it is presently. People that have used the property for decades, nearing a century, have been demonised and treated like uneducated hicks, just because they have enjoyed the property as it was intended to be used. If the Fair-board had treated it like it should have been, we would have a polished gem. Politicians have let it plod along unpolished for a long time, in an attempt to gain control of the property for their greedy intentions. The politicians are using the few voices, that for whatever reason want the track and flea market gone, to help them gain control of the property. It insults me and should be insulting to every resident of this county.

By: Bellevue on 5/16/11 at 8:20

One can always tell by the spelling, i.e. - "demonised' - which side of the fairgrounds issue the writer has taken.

By: CrimesDown on 5/16/11 at 8:43

Thank you Bellevue..."demonized" would be correct. Ignore my post because I misspelled a word.

By: Beernazi on 5/17/11 at 5:38

even if there are "thousands" of signatures that doesn't mean it's the "majority" of the people.

By: holleracha on 5/17/11 at 5:49

The shame of it all is that those of us who live outside the county who enjoy the property and spend our money there have no say. The property was given to the city for all of us to enjoy not to be sold off to the highest bidder!! Properly managed this site could produce jobs and a profit for the county.

By: Beernazi on 5/17/11 at 6:05

Then let it belong to the state. That works for me.

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 5/17/11 at 6:52

I have lived in Davidson County and paid taxes here for decades. During that time the state fair has continued to shrink, through no fault of anyone in particular. As Nashville has grown, the fairgrounds has become a prime real estate location because it is close to downtown.

Using that valuable property for a monthly flea market, an annual fair, and an occasional race is a poor use of that land. How many days are there when nothing is going on there? Let's put it to better use.

Could the fair be combined with the Wilson County Fair and held there?

Could the flea market be moved somewhere else or combined with the Farmers' Market?

I have heard that the nearby neighbors do not like having the races there anyway, so the race track should be moved anyway. Those who think it is historic could honor it with a plaque or staute of a race car or the like.

By: BigPapa on 5/17/11 at 7:04

It's just not a good idea to have a race track in the middle of town. THAT is the issue, and THAT is what Dean and others will present to Nashville.
The "Dale Earnhardt raced here!!" battle cry will only last so long.

By: Funditto on 5/17/11 at 7:05

bring it on. most of the folks who support the race track won't be able to vote because they do not live in the county or even the state.

By: nester on 5/17/11 at 8:38

I had no doubt they'd get enough signatures -- there are always plenty of people eager to voice their opinion when they don't have to act. This is a perfect situation for that....feel good about doing something they actually didn't have to do commit to at all past dropping that fairgrounds postcard back in the mail. I read that thing -- it's misleading. It read "if you would like the fair to stay where it is, with some improvements, then......." um who do you think will pay for the improvements? TAXPAYERS!!! I know lots of people in that neighborhood -- they haven't aligned with Mayor Dean - they just want the track demolished while having the fairgrounds property for the fair and expo center updated. They coud demolish that track, build up the base so it's not in flood plane and have major office or retail space -- while keeping the fair and expo halls. Bring in tax revenue for the city, while keeping some of the historic sense at the property. But seriously -- having a track in the middle of a city? It's just ignorant. And Chaffin being the one to walk in the signatures while his son won the lease to race? Are people THIS blind? If it was the majory of Nashville being interested in keeping this site there/as is -- then tens of thousands of signatures would have been submitted. THe majority of Nashville wasn't naive enough to sign a basic, open ended petition that leaves little to potential and growth for our City.

By: SRJ on 5/17/11 at 8:43

I realize that the Fairgrounds issue is one of varying opinions. I just do not understand why anyone wants to turn this land over to the state. That makes no sense at all. This property does not cost the taxpayers one dime. I believe this decision to dismantle, destroy or give away this property, will most likely be the unseating of many on the Metro Council. While Mayor Dean will likely win re-election, the council members who supported the Mayor... will drop like flies.

By: dogmrb on 5/17/11 at 9:19

Have any of you heard of the Nashville Superspeedway in Williamson County? And have you heard of The Wilson County Fair which is the largest in the state? What are the real reasons that out of county folks want to dictate the use of this property? I truly don't understand this controversy but do know that the property is rundown and not used effectively and neighborhoods all over south Davidson County hear the speedway, not just the ones adjacent.

By: OHSMAN74 on 5/17/11 at 10:07

Silence the racetrack! Don't mess with the Metro Charter!

By: SRJ on 5/17/11 at 10:18

The Wilson County Fair and The Nashville (which is not in Nashville) Speedway do nothing to bring in money for Davidson County. Those venues inpact Wilson county, not our county. You are comparing apples to oranges, not a true comparison. And YES, I live in Davidson county.

By: Floyd2 on 5/17/11 at 10:20

Only a very small and vocal minority of Nashvillians want to keep this nosiy and smelling racetrack. They are being funded by a bunch of multi-millionaire racers from Williamson County.

Do away with the racetrack and fairgrounds. They are a drain on the taxpayers and they create very little economic impact. Contrary to the lies pushed by Jamie Hollin, most of the jobs from the fairgrounds will be moved elsewhere in Davidson County. If Williamson County residents want a racetrack, let them build one in Williamson County and pay for it themselves.

By: dogmrb on 5/17/11 at 10:31

I've heard Metro Council people talk about the phone calls they've received in support of keeping the Fair, etc. When they ask people when they last attended the Fair, the overwhelming response has been "not in a long time -- it's in a bad part of town". It's not a "bad part of town" but it isn't Cool Springs either.

By: SRJ on 5/17/11 at 11:06

FLOYD2- You need to do your homework. The Fairgrounds property cost the Metro taxpayers nothing. Well, it looks as if the taxpayers and voters of Davidson county will be able to decide. If the people pushing to keep this venue live out of county, we will know soon enough. The registered voters will either prove you wrong or prove you right.

By: CircleBurner on 5/17/11 at 11:09

Well,this group didn't take into consideration the fact that their going up against racers.A group of people who know how to win,what it takes to win and will sacrfice to get the job done.I'm not just talking about just drivers.I'm talking about drivers,crews,builders,their families and the fans. "Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experiences, so that you can make the most of an opportunity when it occurs."
-Mario Andretti, auto racing

By: nester on 5/17/11 at 11:34

OK FLOYD2: You sound like a politician -- using one piece to push a manipulated truth. The fund to run the fairgrounds and events -- including the track -- is about to run out. Codes hasn't been there in a real form in years, and it will cost MILLIONS TO UPDATE this property. Millions. That will cost tax payers. Who cares if it hasn't cost tax payers up til now -- it's going to. And when it does? Taxpayers will raise hell over it. Metrol Council didn't vote to race in January, like track supporters keep saying. They voted not to demolish the track UNTIL they reviewed a Master Plan pulled together with informed informationa about the best use of the property. The suporters of this petition and push to get this on the ballot are just trying to pull one over on DAVIDSON COUNTY tax payers -- full well knowing that a racetrack wouldn't be recommended in the master plan. When taxpayers have to start forking over money for "our" fairgrounds property? The truth about it all will come out. Nashvillians won't want to pay for this crap facilities we have there. It's embarrassing.

By: wasaw on 5/17/11 at 11:45

Even if the fairground property were to see development, how long would it take to raze the residential properties surrounding it? Have any of you driven through the surrounding neighborhood, using the eyes of a future owner. I would count it a tragedy to drive to work in that area on a daily basis and worry if I made it out alive. The area is crime ridden. It's bordered on its south side by a train track, a low income project development lies toward the west, a four lane highway on it's eastern side, and to the north, rundown residential houses. I'm not a developer, but if I were, the cost of the property would not be my ONLY consideration.

By: BigPapa on 5/17/11 at 12:05

backward looking trogladites like yourself didnt see what happend in East Nashville as possible, or 12th south, or Germantown, or Sylvan park.... The people are looking at improving that area to where it's NOT crime ridden, it's NOT blighted, the track and FG are the main hurdle standing in the way!

Circle Burner- can you honestly say that having a track in the middle of town is the best thing? Nobody would recommend that. And if racers are so resiliant why isn't NASCAR still here?

By: nester on 5/17/11 at 12:33

Well said BigPapa!!

Yeah, clearly WASAW didn't drive through Belmont either, when you could run down homes on Belmont Boulevard for 120K -- less then 2 decades ago. And I'm sorry, but I'm seeing lots of cute houses off of Wedgewood that are looking great -- whatever they're doing over there, is working and in the direction that many great urban neighborhoods before them, went. UP. Le'ts help them, but demolishing the track. That neighborhood -- NO neighborhood -- needs people like that coming in, from outside to see a poorly attended race.

Vanderbilt made over 100 Oaks and was one of 3 large corporations who bid on the Fairgrounds property. 100 Oaks has totally updated that area -- there are several new restaurants and shops -- with full parking lots. Bam - economic growth, city beautification and improvement for our City.

Let's focus on saving what is truly historic in our City. Sit-in sites, battlefields, homes of US Presidents, tails. The fairgrounds property pales in comarpison and the track isn't even worth mentioning when compared to truly historic things in our lovely City.

By: lookfor125 on 5/17/11 at 3:40

As long as the opposition to the Fairgrounds crowd are basing their arguements on the wrong facts(lies), holding minority opinions,and their incentives to protest are personal in nature ...Then,the pro Fairgrounds side will continue to win each battle ,until the war is finally won..I mean,just face it the rednecks racers ,flea Markets vendors,and fair supporters continue to out bebate intellectually, mayor Dean,SNAP,and the Progresss for Themselves Organization..Wow,dont you just love when conventional wisdom gets turned on it's head!..The opposition to the Fairgrounds crowd continues to get out done, and by those people who says things like, ....."GIT R DONE"....!!

By: knowthycity on 5/17/11 at 5:34

No doubt this is pure Astroturf. There is little question this is driven by out of county interests. Why else would Mayor Dean, Vice Mayor Neighbors, and council members Steine, Barry and Maynard work 24/7 to keep this referendum off the ballot? Why else would political hacks like George Barrett and Percy Sledge be employed by the city officials at the behest of the Chamber of Commerce to disenfranchise thousands of Davidson County voters?

It's all fake. That's why a vote cannot be allowed!

Or are we missing something here?

By: Shane Smiley on 5/17/11 at 9:15

knowthycity on 5/17/11 at 6:34
No doubt this is pure Astroturf. There is little question this is driven by out of county interests. Why else would Mayor Dean, Vice Mayor Neighbors, and council members Steine, Barry and Maynard work 24/7 to keep this referendum off the ballot? Why else would political hacks like George Barrett and Percy Sledge be employed by the city officials at the behest of the Chamber of Commerce to disenfranchise thousands of Davidson County voters?

It's all fake. That's why a vote cannot be allowed!

Or are we missing something here?

You got it right! The whole thing is being driven by out of county and possibly out of state money.
Why else would the mayor and above listed council members fight so hard to silence the voters of Nashville?
If it goes to a vote and the preservationists win, Karl and his friends on council lose big money promised for helping in this land grab. Time for a bunch of new council members and Dean needs to go!

By: nester on 5/18/11 at 8:04

MY APOLOGIES TO FLOYD2 - I agree with you! I was confused about who was saying what and meant to direct my opinion towards SRJ. SRJ YOU sound like the dirty politicians using a manipulated truth to prove a point that isn't very accurate.

I am not confused about the direction the fairgrounds property should go. Doze the track, update the rest and add mixed use development space to blend old (fair/flea market) with new (office space for tax revenue for Davidson Cty).

This property isn't worthy of preservation - it was before the fire over 50 years ago, but when rebuilt, it lost all that would call for preservation. Fair Park is gone, the old and glorious Grand Stand is gone, and all the history of HORSE racing there -- now it's just an underused, eyesore that could be so much more for the City. Most important -- in this economic time? Leaving the track is an absolute waste of valuable property that could be used to earn money for Davidson -- not drain it.

It will cost tax payers after this year -- and will cost a lot. I don't want to foot the bill as a tax payer for a small fair that isn't even close to representing how great TN is -- and I definitely don't want to pay for renovations -- FOR A RACETRACK. No one else in Davidson will either when their taxes go towards it. The ballot signed was a joke -- and misleading. When it comes out how much it will really cost Davidson? The entire property will be bulldozed. My guess is that the racers who funded this issue to put it in front of "the people"have just secured it's fate with a bull dozer because NOW the truth will come out about the misuse of the property, the lack of revenue it brings in, and the amount it would cost to update the space -- that won't repay the debt for decades. This could take a few more years to play out, but I bet it will play out this way....and it will bull dozed. Congrats.

By: CircleBurner on 5/18/11 at 5:07

"The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is."
Winston Churchill

By: Shane Smiley on 5/19/11 at 1:49

Amen, Circle Burner, Amen!!!