Mayor Karl Dean reflects on an eventful year of disasters — one natural, another political

Sunday, December 26, 2010 at 10:05pm
Eric England/SouthComm

Just a few weeks into 2010, Mayor Karl Dean enjoyed the greatest triumph of his three-plus years in office when the Metro Council voted to approve financing for his administration’s signature project: a $585 million, 1.2-million square-foot convention center south of Broadway.

By the end of the year, Dean reached a new political low point, backtracking this month on original plans to plot a new expo center at Antioch’s Hickory Hollow Mall, which would have opened the 117-acre Metro-owned fairgrounds for redevelopment into corporate office space. Dean calls the change of course a “time-out.” It seems more like a retreat, albeit a temporary one. 

These were the bookends on the most eventful year of Dean’s tenure. In between, the mayor assuaged any fear of a property tax increase or drastic cuts to Metro’s budget by electing to restructure, or push back, the city’s debt. Twenty-four hours after announcing those plans, Nashville was overwhelmed by what some called a 1,000-year flood, transforming the priorities of the mayor’s office for the months ahead. 

It’s these final two matters — navigating the city’s budget through a dismal economy and leading Nashville through its worst natural disaster — that are certain to be recurrent themes in Dean’s August re-election bid. Expect them to become more than just footnotes added to Dean’s relentless reminder of his “three pitches”: economic development, public safety and education.  Heading into the final lap of his first term, Dean hasn’t given up his fight to redevelop the fairgrounds. With the council set to consider a bill that would move forward with the demolition of the fairgrounds’ racetrack, the future of the fairgrounds will remain at the center of immediate priorities.

Meanwhile, Dean has hinted at future big-picture projects, including a new downtown baseball stadium and an amphitheater at the 11-acre former thermal plant site. But if there are immediate plans to pursue either one of these initiatives, the mayor isn’t saying so. For the time being, he seems content to focus on the basics. Fairgrounds fallout aside, his political brass have demonstrated they know what they’re doing. Dean, widely perceived as a popular executive who has visibly become more comfortable in his position, still lacks an election opponent. It could be an easy road to a second term.  

CP: Capping off a recent speech to the Rotary Club of Nashville, you concluded that it’s been a “difficult year” for Nashville given May’s flood and other circumstances. Talk about that for a second. 

Karl Dean: It’s been a difficult year because we were confronted with two huge challenges. The Great Recession, the greatest recession since the Great Depression, continued, and it’s been particularly challenging for local governments. And we had the 500-year, or 1,000-year flood in May. So, we were presented with two big challenges, amongst the day-to-day activities that we work on, to manage our way through. If you look at it first from the flood perspective, clearly the flood was something I think the city reacted very well to. Metro employees, Metro departments were prepared. We had actually trained about 50 of them at a FEMA conference in Maryland on flood response. People knew what they were doing. Police, fire, EMS did a fantastic job of saving people, searching for people. They did about 1,400 water rescues and responded to somewhere between 49,000 and 50,000 calls. They put in hours of overtime protecting people, and then in the recovery, protecting property and homes. That was an enormous challenge, and then you had what our public works department did in removing tons of debris from the city. We’re still recovering, but if you stop and think about where we were in mid-May and where we are now, it’s incredible.

Metro’s flood buyout program is fully under way, with the city set to close on and demolish the first 81 eligible homes. Is this the beginning of the end of the recovery?

Oh no. I’m not satisfied until everybody is back or in a place they need to be. Obviously, everybody can’t go back because their homes are unsafe or they’re in an area where they just can’t go back. But the vast majority of people can, and we’re working hard getting that done. But if you look at other cities that have gone through this sort of experience, the flood-recovery process is not over in six months, it’s not over in a year. We have actually moved, I think, faster than almost any city we can find in terms of getting money to citizens working with FEMA and TEMA, and working with programs in terms of buyouts. That being said, I’m proud of the city’s response, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Obviously, the fairgrounds issue has grabbed a lot of headlines recently. Based on your comments, you still seem determined to move toward redeveloping the fairgrounds site eventually. Is that fair to say?

What I’ve said is there will be a time-out where we look at the expo sites and the flea market to try to determine what’s the best thing to do. The issue came down, for me, is that it was pretty clear that there was some issue because of whether there would be the desire by merchants and vendors to go to Hickory Hollow, or whether the Hickory Hollow leases would work. Ultimately, if people didn’t show up to the flea market, there’s no point of the city entering into a lease that would expose us to financial loss.

Now we’re taking a time out to kind of figure out what’s the best thing to do there. Clearly, we have to continue the conversation. But what I’ve said is we’ve got to be serious about this. If we’re going to have economic development in Nashville, if we’re going to attract corporate headquarters, if we’re going to create jobs, if we’re going to expand our tax base, we’ve got to look for sites where we can put these buildings. The fairgrounds, look at it from an analysis of is this a good spot: It’s underutilized now. I think everybody agrees the fair loses money, and the speedway loses money. The flea market and the expo center could be almost anywhere. It is 120 acres and two miles from downtown. It’s next to the interstates, and there’s existing infrastructure. It is a project that would unquestionably be an environmental benefit to the city. You would help preserve and clean up a creek that is on the EPA’s impaired list. And then the clincher to me is the neighbors want it.

So when you do a big project, all things that people look for — neighborhood buy-in, infrastructure and environmentally sound — are all there. If not there, where? It’s easy to be a critic and say, “We’ve had the fair here forever, we’ve lost a lot of money, but we’ve got to just keep doing it.” Well, no. We’ve got to think through what’s the right thing for this entire city.

Have you been surprised by the level of opposition?

I’m surprised, well, I think part of the difficulty about this is that you have different groups for each one. Some of them are real organized. Some of them have people working for them, some that you’ve written about. For some of them, it’s an emotional thing, it’s a tradition thing. And I get that, and I want to be respectful of that. But I don’t think it’s an enormous opposition. I think people would rather see the tax base expanded and jobs created, and opportunities for their children, and the environment improved, than they would to see something that doesn’t work just keep not working.

Do you think long-term Metro should be in the flea market business?

I think that’s a legitimate question. It’s certainly not a core function of a government. I have tried — and I don’t mean to bore everybody again — but I have tried to say what our government is looking as a city at are economic development, public safety and schools. Could you argue that the flea market is economic development? I don’t know. It is unusual that we do that. The expo center, that happens more at other places. But running a flea market, and then basically having the vendors be a group that sort of lobbies and helps decide what happens to public property, is a little different.

You’re calling it a time-out. But the group Save My Fairgrounds and a handful of Metro Council members have said your change of course is just a way to push the issue until after your re-election date. What’s your response?

I’ve made it pretty clear we need to be doing something different than what we’ve been doing. That the status quo isn’t working. The council itself has taken a couple of actions. Councilman [Duane] Dominy filed an ordinance requiring the city to hold a fair, requiring the city to maintain a speedway, and that if we didn’t do it, to go put all these things somewhere else, and to find money to do it. That got overwhelmingly defeated and deferred because the writing is on the wall. So the council kind of gets it that something needs to happen. The council voted unanimously in favor of a capital program that has $2 million to build a park at that facility. And the council, not me, has filed an ordinance saying let these things stay for a year — and I’m fine with that.

Politics is about the art of the possible. You want what you want, and you’d like to see things done where you can improve the city and make things better. But if you can’t get people to agree on it, you can’t get it done. And so I’m willing to take a break and listen, and see what the ideas are. The challenge I think for the opposition — wherever they live and whoever they are — is to say if not this fairgrounds, this is where we will do it. This is where we will assemble 80, 90 or 100 acres, where we can get the jobs we need and maintain our tax base. I don’t think you hear that.

It sounds like you’re saying you have the council’s support for your overall vision for the fairgrounds.

I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of things that are happening, and we’ll see how it unfolds. I think there will be discussions about various ideas. And there may be some idea that works out there that we haven’t thought of.

Multiple companies have approached Metro and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce about moving to the fairgrounds. Will this “time-out” dissuade them from still pursuing this?

I think realistically, you’re not going to get — this is like what’s happened in other cities or counties, or states that have done this. You have prepared sites for corporate headquarters or business expansion. The site’s there. You show it. You can tell somebody, “You can move here. This is how it all works.” I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but it’s very unlikely that a business would want to locate and go through the political process of what we’ve gone through in terms of determining whether we get the land. Companies look at Nashville all the time. And the chamber does a good job and [Metro director of economic development] Alexia Poe does a good job of talking to them about coming to our city and expanding in our city for existing companies. And people have looked at the fairgrounds, but there is no deal, there’s no wink. There’s nothing going on, and I don’t think anything will until it’s determined how development could take place.

You must be pleased with how things turned out with Music City Center. With the approval of the hotel plan, the project appears to have come together.

If you stop and think where we were last year at this point, we’re going into the Christmas holidays and we had made the decision in November where I decided that we’re not going to go ahead with having the hotel and the convention center locked together. I had the confidence that, as a city, our appeal was such that there was a need for another hotel and that it would come. The market would take care of it. The convention center, despite a lot of debate and controversy, passed overwhelmingly. And then the hotel deal happened. The hotel deal, I think most people agree is just a wonderful thing for our city. It is a privately financed agreement. It is a hotel where we are clearly giving incentives in terms of some taxes generated by the project, but it is a massive investment in the city of Nashville by a man who runs a very successful company who understands the huge potential that we have here. So I couldn’t be more gratified. And then the fact we’re doing this tie-in with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to create I think the most unique downtown convention center hotel in America, is just icing on the cake.

What’s your take on the controversy surrounding Belmont University following the dismissal of gay women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe?

As probably most people in this city, I have no idea what the facts are. I guess my role as mayor should not be to comment on No. 1, a situation where I don’t have the facts, and I should not comment on — I’ll let Belmont run Belmont. The difference between what we’ve done in Metro is clearly, as a city, we’ve adopted a council-sponsored ordinance that I signed — I was happy to do it — that said we have a nondiscrimination policy here in terms of employment. I think that’s absolutely the right thing to do. I think the metropolitan government of this city’s role is to not only be fair in employment practices, but it’s important for the city to set an example on issues of public policies like this.

In response to all the news of the last few weeks, I started thinking about boards and commissions, and whether there is any potential lack of a policy for those. Most of the authorities are not covered by it, so we sent letters to each one, asking them to look at it and consider adopting the policy the general government has.

Council members Jamie Hollin and Mike Jameson have filed a bill that would require companies that contract with Metro to adhere to the same nondiscrimination policy that Metro has. What are your thoughts about that?

I’d have to look at it. My general sense of things is this: As a city, we need to be a city that embraces diversity and is a welcoming, friendly city. My general sense on how this works is that as a city government, it is certainly appropriate for us to establish policies that do that, and that those polices can set an example for the private sector. There are companies and institutions in Nashville that already have policies like that. I’d have to look at something [the bill] after it’s actually written, but in general, the less regulation we do of businesses, the better. My general reaction is not for the public sector to immediately begin regulating the private sector. I look at regulating the private sector very, very cautiously.

Even companies that contract with Metro?

Again, I do think that the best thing metropolitan government can do is lead by example, to say we’re not going to discriminate. And that if we do, then we’ll correct it, because certainly we’ll make mistakes down the road. But taking a strong position on a public policy issue like that is probably the best thing we can do. I’m not saying I wouldn’t consider something. You have to look at everything. But my natural sense is that we should not be over-regulating the private sector.

Director of Schools Jesse Register has led the district for nearly two years now. Are we starting to turn things around?

I think we’ve made a lot of progress. I think the city has focused on education certainly for the three years since I’ve been in office. There’s been a sense that we are aware of the challenges we had under No Child Left Behind, we’re aware of the challenges that we have in terms of graduation rates. And we’ve seen improvements. When the schools release graduation rates, my understanding is that you are going to see graduation rates going up. That’s good news. That’s a compliment to Dr. Register. That’s a compliment to teachers. That’s a compliment to the city, which has steadfastly financed and supported education during difficult years, during a recession.

It’s also an indication that I think the reforms we’ve been talking about are beginning to help, too. There are a lot of challenges, though. We’re going to have a hard time with the new standards that have been set by the state. We have to make the commitment to not be afraid to continue down the path of reform, and to make the commitment to continue to fund schools. And the revenue issues don’t get easier. It’s not going to get any easier next year. But it’s my top priority, so I’m confident we’ll get it done.

Not long ago [prior to the district most recently reaching No Child Left Behind benchmarks], you were discussing the idea of a mayor-run school district. Is that something you still think about?

I clearly did when I didn’t think there was fast enough action, and we were slowly moving toward the most severe sanctions of No Child Left Behind. I think that in Tennessee as a whole and in Nashville, just take the change in attitude toward charter schools. You go back four or five years ago, it was hostile. Now we’re being acknowledged as one of nine cities by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as leaders in this area. We didn’t have Teach For America. We didn’t have the New Teacher Project. We didn’t have after-school programming. We didn’t have truancy programs. I have found that when the school board hired Dr. Register, they hired a really good person. They hired somebody who is smart, who is a good communicator, who I think his sole mission is to get this right. I think he has the ability to do it. And we work well together. So, right now, I’m very comfortable with where we are. It’s not going to be something for the timid. We have got to keep pushing forward.

Let’s talk about the Nashville Sounds’ desire for a new downtown ballpark. Do you want a downtown baseball stadium? Is Sulphur Dell your preferred location? When does that pick up?

I think we need to have a new ballpark. I think downtown is the appropriate place for it. The exact location, you know, there’s a lot of speculation. Everybody’s got their favorite. They’re all intriguing, and Sulphur Dell has gotten a lot of interest, which is justifiable. But in terms of the timing, it really all comes down to the ability to pay for it in a way that’s responsible. I understand the Sounds need to see progress and move forward, that’s OK, but it’s a private business. We have got to make sure that when we do it, that it’s right for the city and the taxpayers are protected. Those are the things that control the timing.

Talks of a new downtown ballpark are in many ways tied to the future of the 11-acre former thermal plant site. That’s still the Sounds’ preferred location. You’ve talked about a possible outdoor music venue at that site.

What I’ve said all along, and what I firmly believe, is that the thermal property is a unique property. Even though we have this great, long riverfront in downtown Nashville, the thermal site is uniquely located there up on a hill, and it’s positioned in a way where it could very easily be a signature project for the city, a project that when you see it you think, “This is Nashville.” So an amphitheater is something that is music-related and performs a variety of roles. It brings people downtown, like a ballgame would, to attend a public event. It also can be used for multiple genres of music — whether it’s the [Nashville] Symphony, rock, country. It could be used for the CMA Music Festival. And you could design it in such a way with public art and the nature of the facility, where it is truly a symbol or a signature of the city. The same issues are there with building a new ballpark. It’s just got to be right financially, and it’s got be done at the right time.

It’s my understanding that your office has communicated with state officials regarding the relocation of PSC Metals Inc. [located on the east bank of the Cumberland River]. Last legislative session, an incentive was approved that would “allow a relocation expense credit to any scrap metal processing facility relocating from a central business district or an area adjacent to the central business district and separated only by a waterway.” Is this something you’re working on, or is it solely the state?

Let me just say right now that there’s nothing imminently happening. There’s nothing happening. There’s a change in administration [governor]. But No. 1, PSC Metals is a private business, and I respect that. Obviously, I’m not the first mayor to have an interest in trying to develop what I would say is an underutilized piece of land right next to downtown. But it’s privately owned, and I’ll be respectful of that process. And I would confirm that there have been discussions, but for something to happen, you have to have a willing seller, you have to have the ability to buy, you have to find a place to put something, and you have to have money to do all that. That being said, there’s nothing to announce.

You weighed in on immigration policy the other day. Are you worried that the state’s heavily Republican legislature — now with a newly elected Republican governor — will try to adopt a law similar to Arizona’s?

I wouldn’t do it by party. I try to actually approach this job in the most nonpartisan way I can. I think the issue, for both parties, has been one on the national level where there has not been the necessary attention to the necessary reforms, so there’s this sense that local governments and state governments have to take these dramatic actions for what is largely — what is — a federal role. There has obviously been a lot of discussion in the newspapers and elsewhere about the issue. What I said in my speech the other day is that I’m not trying to interfere and meddle with the business of the General Assembly. But I would say — and I think it’s my responsibility to say as a mayor of a major city, a city that has a hospitality industry that’s its second-largest private employer — that we need to be cautious and think through what we’re doing. You add in our universities and colleges. We are an enormous academic center, too, where there are a lot people from other countries coming to our schools. And so whatever actions they take, I would just ask they give consideration to what the impact would be on the economy of Nashville and the rest of the state.

You and other elected officials recently signed the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2035 Regional Transportation Plan. You’ve talked about taking mass transit more seriously. It all boils down to finding a dedicated funding source. Is this the year that happens?

Before you go into a discussion about dedicated funding, you have to have a plan, or a vision as to how this would all unfold, in order to get people to buy in. You don’t do transit for the sake of transit — because you like trains and you like buses. You do it because when you have a good transit system, your economy works better, people’s costs and their own family budgets are lowered. They’re able to have alternatives to cars, alternatives to parking. It gives young people more choices when they move into a city. All those things are good for the city and good for our region. That’s why you do it. But to get there, and talk about the funding aspect, you’ve got to have the plan first. A serious plan. And one you communicate to the public. That’s the process we’re going through.

You’ve talked primarily about light rail. When is this a possibility?

Well, we’re going through the process now of doing a streetcar study on West End-Broadway. I don’t know what the results of that will be, but that is an ongoing, real project that may happen. The work we’ve done on Gallatin Road with Bus Rapid Transit — it’s sort of “Bus Rapid Transit light.” But I think the bus stops are better. They have real-time information on them. They’re more comfortable. The buses are better. They’re more comfortable. They make fewer stops. That needs to become more sophisticated. If light rail is a solution, as you move to it, you need to continually make improvements in the transit system. And within Nashville itself — not just regionally — we need to do it as a city. People need to be able to move around the city better than they can right now. It is an ongoing challenge, but I’m excited about working at it.

Filed under: City News
Tagged: karl dean

26 Comments on this post:

By: lookfor125 on 12/27/10 at 12:30

Oh, mayor Dean is going to continue to be really surprised at the amount of public backlash, he will continue to receive!The real sin committed by Dean here, is the lack of ethics surrounded the racetrack issue!This guy accepted campaign contributions from the racing community,on the promise that......"If the racing community would support me,I'll support them ,and the racetrack ,and racing will continue at the Fairgrounds!Not to mention, that if this issue was to be put on a ballot for public voting,it would pass with at least 75% of Davidson county saying keep the track!

By: bfra on 12/27/10 at 4:11

The biggest Disaster, is Karl Dean, himself. Time for someone, honest & with the taxpayer's best interest to replace this ego boosting Clown.

Maybe his rich wife can by him a "race car" to boost his ego!

By: govskeptic on 12/27/10 at 6:27

The smirk on the Mayor's face for photo says it all.
I've got Nashville right where I need to in order to
be re-elected! Instead of reflections on the past
3 yrs, I would have preferred he told this support
group what he has planned to do to us the next
4 yrs, and the price tag!

By: spooky24 on 12/27/10 at 6:49

I'm having a hard time understanding why people are upset about mayor Dean. Everyone knew(they should have or should not have voted) that he was going to crown himself king, and with all his nodding toady's at the Tennessean-and here as well-become the omnipotent one. Sometimes having a Fuhrer as Mayor can be a good thing because since he has no rivals he has much more time to lead. I think he was correct about the Police chief and as far as the fairgrounds there are things that can be said for both points of view. He has the council firmly in his back pocket as well as the school board. I'm willing to give him the befit of a doubt a little while longer.


By: bfra on 12/27/10 at 8:11

spooky24 - Yep! Your comments are "spooky". Get rid of this ego boosting Karl, ASAP.

By: JeffF on 12/27/10 at 10:12

The last exchange makes me cringe, it is obvious that getting people moving about the city is not a priority for him or MTA. The goal is to get people moving through downtown and the central terminal in order to justify both of their existence. Dean is 100% certain that every need can be met with a new building or facility in downtown. Unfortunately, his list of needs include very few items from the lists of actual Nashvillians. His is a tourist based agenda.

And once again, would someone please stop his holiness from using the "..hospitality industry that’s its second-largest private employer" chestnut? When he says this the gullible start to believe it. Hospitality at its highest is just tenth place in Davidson. Currently it isn't even reaching those goals. It is and always has been dead last in wages, job security, and benefits. Promoting it to second causes our leaders to spend billions of dollars on this non-industry. The state does an excellent job publishing the actual employment statistics for each county, yet this paper (as well as the MP&F affiliated one on Broadway) never bothers to compare those number to the ones coming out of the mouths of the Deaniacs.

Good grief people, Walmart and McDonalds pay more and have more true economic impact than the hospitality industry in Nashville. Quit reading the hype and start reading the actual numbers.

By: pswindle on 12/27/10 at 1:25

Bull,. let's get a real good candidate our there for Nashville.

By: GUARDIAN on 12/27/10 at 2:07

GUARDIAN-Let us talk about the MTA. Why did they bring someone in and pay them double what the job is worth. Why did they bring someone in and put them in charge when they were so dumb that they cost MTA millions of dollars during the flood. Yes millions. There was enough people working that day to move all the buses that were destroyed that day by the flood waters. It's like they were in New Orleans and said let them be flooded and destroyed. They even made the employees stay in the building and not leave to save their own vehicles. All these MTA employees had time to save all the buses plus all their own vehicles and themselves. In other words the guy they are paying toooo much money cost MTA = Nashville millions and millions of dollars for being New Orleans stupid.

By: GUARDIAN on 12/27/10 at 2:13

GUARDIAN-Nashville should of elected Bob Clement and things would of been much better by now.

By: bfra on 12/27/10 at 2:51

GUARDIAN-Nashville should of elected Bob Clement and things would of been much better by now.

Amen on that! Then I wouldn't have lost my vote. I never, for once, thought Karl was mentally equipped to be a Mayor. His rich wife, wanted a trophy husband, and bought him the job.

By: MAmom on 12/28/10 at 1:20

Oh where to begin... without the questions prompts - my comments will seem disjointed.
DEAN: "I think people would rather see the tax base expanded and jobs created, and opportunities for their children, and the environment improved, than they would to see something that doesn’t work just keep not working."

It is really quite CALLOUS & DISHONEST to dangle the prospect of many possible jobs from Fairgrounds "redevelopment" because:
(1) If a business merely relocates from one Nashville location to another - there will be no or few net jobs gained.
(2) And if an established Corporation is courted and moves to Nashville from another locale, the best jobs - the ones that pay decently - will go to their existing employees who will move here. Not to locals.
(3) Also, the "unnamed" company will most certainly get great tax incentives to move here - so no great tax base gain either, and
(4) the flea market & expo vendors who make a living or supplement their income by working at the Fairgrounds will be displaced.

An article in the 12/21/2010 Nashville Chatter Class entitled "SKEPTICISM ARISES OVER CHAMBER'S VIEW OF FAIRGROUNDS.
The article says: "According to the Questions are arising within the Nashville real estate community over the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s take on what could be done in redeveloping the fairgrounds."
"In fact, there’s DOWNRIGHT SKEPTICISM that 1 million square feet of mixed-use space could
be developed on the site to attract or create 6,500 jobs, or that the site is a good location for Class-A office space. Generally, the view is that the possibility of 1 million square feet is outlandish, ...'WHEN PIGS FLY, THIS DEVELOPMENT WILL CREATE 6,500 NEW JOBS IN DAVIDSON COUNTY,' one real estate industry insider said. 'The density of occupancy/development will be closer to 700,000 square feet and 3,000 jobs WITH NO GUARANTEE ANY OF THE JOBS ARE NEW TO DAVIDSON COUNTY. THE DEVELOPMENT, NO MATTER THE SIZE, LIKELY WOULD DRAW TENANTS FROM OTHER PARTS OF TOWN LIKE OTHER NEW DEVELOPMENTS HAVE DONE AND WILL ALWAYS DO.' "

DEAN: ": It’s underutilized now. I think everybody agrees the fair loses money, and the speedway loses money. The flea market and the expo center could be almost anywhere."

WHY DID THE FAIR LOSE MONEY IN 2010? Almost certainly revenues are decreasing because of bad management and intentional saborage by the Dean Team.

The Markin "Tennessee State Fair Assessment Summary Report" dated 5/6/8 (which is on the website) says State Fair revenues in FY2006 = $1,302,000, FY2007= $1,451,000, FY2008=1,377,000. In 2010 this profitable enterprise was handled differently.

According to an article in the 2/13/2010 Tennessean named "Two sue to force Metro to have state fair", Buck Dozier said: "In previous years, we were in charge of the fair and ran the entire operation, and we'd take proposals for the companies who brought the equipment,...Now, they'd do it all and be paying us to use the property."

Three companies bid for the State Fair event: Universal Fairs, American Midway, and Rockhouse Partners (a new Nashville Company founded just in time to bid for the Fair).
UNIVERSAL FAIRS offered to pay the [greater of $100,000 OR ($1 for the first 100,000 paid tickets + .50 for each ticket over 100,000)] + a rental fee. Also expressed a willingness to explore taking over the two areas that make up revenues (Flea Market & Expo events).
ROCKHOUSE offered to pay 1.00 for the first 50,000 tickets + .50 for the next 50,000 tickets + .25 for tickets beyond 100,000.

The Fair Board took the ROCKHOUSE bid.
NOT exactly MAXIMIZING REVENUES here by bidding out the profitable State Fair operations - and then giving it to the LOW bidder.

ROCKHOUSE is a new organization. One of the 4 partners is Chrysty Fortner. According a 3/11/2010 citypaper letter to the editor "One of four partners in this company is Chrysty Fortner, currently the Marketing Director employed by the fairgrounds. That in itself should be a red flag, but let's look a bit closer at Ms. Fortner. She was plucked from year-long unemployment in October 2008 for her position at the fairgrounds. She was hired by Buck Dozier for this newly created position as the only candidate for the job. This was apparently an unadvertised position and did not seek out candidates to apply....Prior to her unemployment, Ms. Fortner spent 10 months as the "Grass Roots Campaign Manager" for Karl Dean's mayorial race."

Last year they were only ALLOWED to have 5 races at the speedway. It's hard for a racetrack to be profitable - when you can't run races.

As shows have tried to renew contracts - they have been told they cannot. This business has been sent this business to Williamson and Wilson County. So as time goes on, fewer and fewer shows have been booked.

DEAN: "It is a project that would unquestionably be an ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT to the city."

OKAY - so this is the "greenest" thing to do with the property per DEAN:
1. Dig up the speedway,
2. Redevelopment, part 1 - Demolish the existing structures at the Fairgrounds - destroy structures on the Fairgrounds property & haul off all the debris
3. Redevelopment, part 2 - BLAST foundations for new structures which will hold DEAN's generous estimated 6500 employees,
4. Redevelopment, part 3 - Build a tower or industrial center that will house an estimated 6500 people.
5. Redevelopment, part 4 - Build a lovely parking garage to hold the vehicles of the estimated 6500 people.
6. Then after construction is over - DEANS's fantasy 6,500 people drive to the "redeveloped" property every day - daily traffic - daily fumes - right across the street from the school every day.

AND overall this is supposed to create less pollution than once-a-month flea market activities, weekly Expo events, and occasional races.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF "GREEN"? You know, like reducing the damage to "mother earth". Or are you cynically trying to paint your "redevelopment" plan 'green' to make it easier to sell?

DEAN: "And then the clincher to me is the neighbors want it. "

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Most of the neighbors do not want "REDEVELOPMENT." Only a relative few, mostly newcomers, want to "redevelop". These seem to be young and loud people who are mostly in the "real estate" business or in the employ of local or state government with connections to Dean (drectly or indirectly).

I've seen parts of the petition and MANY of the signor's zip codes are from the surrounding neighborhood. AND they DO NOT not want "redevelopment". They want to save the Fairgrounds - only improve it.

When the Save-my-fairgrounds organization canvassed the neighborhood a few weeks ago - OVERWHELMINGLY the local residents wanted to save the Fairgrounds from "redevelopment." Ironically, many of the local neighbors are race fans.

Last summer public meetings were held - the NCDC meetings - to discuss the future of the Fairgrounds. Page 85 of the Nashville Civic Design Center report (which is on the website also) says: "All in all, the State Fairgrounds is considered to be an asset to the community. Many popular events such as the Tennessee State Fair (in September) and the monthly Flea Market are enjoyed by both neighborhood residents and people from across the region. The Civic Design Center makes the following recommendations to better utilize the Fairgrounds as a resource for the neighborhood." Their recommendations say nothing about destroying the racetrack or fairgrounds structures.


By: lookfor125 on 12/28/10 at 1:49

MAmon';;;;;;;;; Your comment was such a beautifful thing to read and admire.. A job well done! Now, if we could get the media to do their job we might have something here,no? I do not want to see the racetrack harmed in anyway,however I'm much more concerned about the unethical manner in which Dean's asinine plans have been carried out! We as citizens may not be able to control the corruption in Washington,but what kind of people have we become ,if we can't even keep Nashville's own backyard clean.. I say this is an issue of ethical standards as much as it has become an issue of saving our beloved Fairgrounds! Stand up media,stand up citizens,stand up friends,and neighbor's we have some real nasty trash to take out,and it starts in the Metro courthouse! Thank- you!

By: budlight on 12/28/10 at 7:56

He got my $100 and my vote. Fool me once, shame on you. You won't fool me twice and I think there are more like me who will NOT vote for you again Karl.

By: yucchhii on 12/28/10 at 8:28

Why do they call him DEAN when he's a "DINK?"

By: bfra on 12/28/10 at 8:46

yucchhii - He isn't even high enough to be a "DINK" in my opinion. NCP won't let me post what he really is.

By: everloyal on 12/28/10 at 2:00

I'm glad Karl is focused - so are we. We even have a slogan. "Karl Dean -One and Done!"

By: bfra on 12/28/10 at 4:28

Karl will be in history, about even with Boner, if not lower.

By: gdiafante on 12/28/10 at 8:25

Interesting interview. The comment section confirms that Nashville is full of hillbillies. No wonder an articulate, intelligent man would offend.

By: bfra on 12/29/10 at 2:51

g - What is the basis for your opinion or are you just trying for the title of "board jester"?

By: lookfor125 on 12/29/10 at 2:56

gdiafante,............This is the kind of attitude and personal attacks, that hurts all debate!You mean, Dean is getting attacked because he's intelligent,and has articulation abilities!Funny,if Dean would actually use these attributes you mentioned ,maybe this whole issue concerning the Fairgrounds wouldn't keep blowing up in his face!Tell me,can a person still be dishonest,or be a sleazy politician while being intelligent,and articulate,I'll answer for you, sure they can be! I mean,come on with it,tell me why this hillbilly has it wrong about Dean,and especially the shadyness that Dean's fostered around this Fairgrounds issue!See,we can go along with a multi-cultural city,and we probaly can go along with your hopes of a utopia(with our tax dollars no less) being created here in Nashville,However ,the folks who have lived here with their families for generations still has a say about Nashville,and until Dean's intelligence figures this out,we'll have a 1 term mayor on our hands!

By: GUARDIAN on 12/29/10 at 4:10

GUARDIAN-gdiafante here's your sign but you don't have to wear it because everyone knows you're a moron.

By: TITAN1 on 12/29/10 at 5:38


Positive people always look at the glass half full and make the best of it and are happy most of the time. Negative people always find it half empty and complain and are miserable most of the time.

By: yucchhii on 12/29/10 at 9:09

I like your comment in putting some backing to comments that though may not always be specific, but at least tell us that they see something wrong aside from you and me. As far as I'm concerned, there is NO good politicians!! I always ask..."What do republicans and Democrats have in common?.....They are 'ALL' politicians and they 'ALL' BS you..or they TRY to!"

By: Rat on 12/29/10 at 9:29

Mayor Dean what about the people of the City??? Do you care what they need or want.

We need JOBS.
Affordable Housing and does not mean $150 thousand +.
Better Education.
We need you to stop spending TAX payer dollars like it is water.

We need you to get VOTED OUT in 2011.


City COUNCIL meeting JAN 4th at 6pm
Remember the PUBLIC HEARING Jan 18th at 5pm

We need to stand up and be counted...

By: on 12/29/10 at 12:34

to bfra; I think your comments comparing Dean to Boner is a disservice to Boner. Boner was a clown sometimes but he was great at listening to the people that elected him, both in congress and the city. Dean could learn a lot about representing the people from Boner.

By: bfra on 12/29/10 at 1:01

judy, you might be right, Boner fiddled around (or what ever musical instrument he played), while Karl just blows taxpayer's money, on his ego building shrines.