Politically connected donors aid fairgrounds neighborhood group

Monday, August 1, 2011 at 6:49pm

Campaign efforts of the fairgrounds-area organization Neighbors for Progress aren’t funded by actual fairgrounds neighbors.

Rather, the group’s modest amount of money has come from former Mayor Karl Dean strategist Will Pinkston, investor John Cooper and a political action committee dubbed Building Nashville Together, financial reports submitted to the Davidson County Election Commission last week reveal.

The organization, which supports Dean’s vision for redeveloping the 117-acre property, has made only one political play during Metro’s election season: issuing a negative campaign mail-piece against District 24 Councilman Jason Holleman, who is trying to fend off challenger Sarah Lodge Tally and her army of pro-Dean supporters. Holleman has questioned the mayor’s handling of the fairgrounds issue. 

“I think the disclosure demonstrates that Neighbors for Progress was a political attack operation, not any kind of neighborhood organization,” Holleman said. 

Financial documents show Neighbors for Progress paid $3,318 to send out the mailer, which alleges, “Jason Holleman wouldn’t listen” when fairgrounds neighbors approached him last fall about new opportunities for the fairgrounds. Holleman sponsored the decisive amendment to a bill, which ultimately opted against demolishing the fairgrounds speedway.

Pinkston, a former aide to Gov. Phil Bredesen who briefly worked on Dean’s re-election team, contributed $1,000 to Neighbors for Progress. Cooper donated $700. Building Nashville Together contributed $1,500.

“Four year ago, I gave money to Jason Holleman, and I’ve regretted it ever since,” Pinkston said. “Jason is a good guy, but he’s unfortunately turned out to be a real antagonist on the council.

“He did not deal up front with neighbors in South Nashville during that whole [fairgrounds] episode,” Pinkston added.

Colby Sledge, who chairs Neighbors for Progress, said he doesn’t believe the outside money is an issue.

“The truth of it is, we as neighbors don’t have the money to put together something like this,” Sledge said. “We’re a low- to middle-income neighborhood. We don’t have the dollars that it takes to get involved on that level.”

Ethan Link, who is employed by the Southeast Laborers District Council, chairs the pro-union Building Nashville Together. Link worked as campaign manager for attorney Jeff Yarbro’s unsuccessful run last summer to unseat conservative state Sen. Douglas Henry. Yarbro has endorsed Tally’s candidacy.

“One thing that Building Nashville Together has as a goal is not just supporting candidates that we believe will support job-creating projects, and put people to work, but we want to make sure that when those people are in office, they’re held accountable,” Link said. “We made a contribution to them because we believe they have the same spirit on that.

“From my view, it was a way to help another organization that was trying to hold a council candidate accountable to some of the policies they voted on over the past four years,” he said. 

30 Comments on this post:

By: dogmrb on 8/1/11 at 5:08

It will be refreshing if District 24 can't be bought and I voted NO on the fairgrounds amendment too!

By: ds on 8/1/11 at 5:42

Yes!! go Nashville!!

By: las04 on 8/1/11 at 6:11

It would be refreshing to think that a grown man could speak for himself instead of having to pay people to do it for him. The "NFP" group are all a total waste of time and money. You cry babies need to wake up and smell the coffee. Karl Dean is using you, the fair board and his staff to do his dirty work. When this is done and over with he won't know any of you, I would bet the only one he knows as of now is his biggest puppet.. Colby Sledge. VOTE FOR RATIFICATION OF THE FAIRGROUNDS.

By: boyer barner on 8/1/11 at 6:16

I'm willing to bet that few people in the fairgrounds area were really that interested in supporting Neighbors for Progress in the first place. Hence, few, if any neighbors contributed money to the organization.

Only about 1/3 of the fairgrounds land truly borders neighborhoods (by neighborhoods, I mean homes, sidewalks, shops etc.). The other 2/3 is bordered by commercial, light industrial and office space.

Of the 1/3 that is true a true neighborhood setting, there are many there who support the fairgrounds. Though they would like to see it improved, they are certainly not chomping at the bit to have it redeveloped as an office park.

The Save My Fairgrounds folks have a proposal that takes a park-like approach to improving the fairgrounds. This includes updating the buildings, stone entrances, playing fields, a restored creek, walking paths and the planting of hundreds of trees. Also included, a long-term lease on the raceway where the promoter is responsible for improvements and maintenance of the racing facility.

The fairgrounds is just a small piece of this "land-use puzzle" which stretches from Thompson Lane to I-40 (as it borders downtown) and out to Lafayette and arguably to Briley Parkway.

Tearing down the fairgrounds will not magically restore the huge swatch of land described above.

The fairgrounds is ripe for being restored and becoming something for ALL Nashvillians to enjoy.

By: left on 8/1/11 at 6:22


By: boyer barner on 8/1/11 at 6:22

And I would remind Will Pinkston, that the point of having a Metro Council is that "antagonists" (read: citizens) may have a place to state their case and have their interests put forth as well as protected.

By: dogmrb on 8/1/11 at 6:30

The State Fair and other non-profit venues are fine but the race track doesn't fit. Bundling all this was strategic mistake for both sides. It's is a great multi-use
space near the city and should be used by those who live in Davidson County.

By: boyer barner on 8/1/11 at 6:33

Ethan Link should know that the fairgrounds already supports individuals and families.

The JOBS he speaks of ALREADY exist at the fairgrounds.

Yes, they these working folks may be self-employed (read: flea market vendors, food vendors, trade show vendors, show promoters, etc), but they have REAL jobs.

I suppose Mr. Link would prefer a huge call-center at the fairgrounds where folks can make $9.00 per hour answering phones, rather than a venue where Nashville and Middle Tennessee entrepreneurs can pave their own way, pay their own taxes and pursue dreams.

By: boyer barner on 8/1/11 at 6:38


Why does the raceway not fit?

Winston-Salem has a short-track in the middle of town that generates $500,000 in gross revenues per event (tickets sales, sponsorships and concessions).

With the new muffler requirement, noise is no longer an issue.

Why is racing any different than football, baseball, hockey or golf?

With a long-term lease, a promoter could step in and we'd have an equally successful raceway that draws tourists as well as locals.

Please describe to me, WHY the raceway "does not fit."

By: PJ66 on 8/1/11 at 8:01

Sort of ironic that the neighborhood group has been claiming the speedway supporters are not from Nashville, when the neighborhood group isn't really supported by the neighbors.

By: RacingMakesOurK... on 8/1/11 at 8:50

I don't know why everybody is complaining about the noise created by the racetrack. There is an easy solution: GO TO MORE RACES!!! There are huge medical benefits to extended exposure to loud noises. We should all be jealous of the neighbors that live close to the racetrack. First off, they get to send their kids to a elementary school that is across the street. Ohhh, how the kids must love not being able to hear themselves think. Second, they get to have the entire south side of their neighborhood protected by a 8 foot tall barbed wire fence. Most people have to provide their own dangerous metal fencing, but not our neighborhood. All large open spaces in Nashville should have razor fences!!! Right, who wouldn't vote for that??? And last but not least, the third reason all the other neighborhoods are envious, we have the land for the largest public park in Nashville, but we refuse to allow it to be used by anybody else, it is all ours!!!! It may be 100% covered by asphalt, but that doesn't matter to me!! The longer we can keep the racetrack, the longer we can keep people from enjoying our enormous concrete parking bad.

The track was there when I moved in so I have learned to enjoy being deafened by it.

All neighborhoods should have Racetracks, they are the coolest.

By: RacingMakesOurK... on 8/1/11 at 8:53

Also, I forgot to mention that I love exposing my kids to the noise created by the races. Letting them enjoy the health benefits brings me great enjoyment.

By: pswindle on 8/1/11 at 9:31

It is dirty everywhere. All of this under the table dealings just turns me off. Does Dean think that we Nashvillians are that stupid, and that we can't think for ourselves? Vote YES for the Fairgrounds.

By: boyer barner on 8/1/11 at 9:39

Hey RacingMakiesOurK..

You are obviously a tool of Dean's office, an intern for McNeely, Piggott and Fox or a friend of Rich Riebeling's son (most likely the latter).

The raceway now has mufflers. Noise is no longer an issue. I bet you didn't even know they had a race this past Saturday.

The largest public park in Nashville is Percy Warner Park. Even if the fairgrounds were turned into a park, it would pale in size compared to Percy Warner. If you want a park close to the fairgrounds, Sevier Park is just 8 blocks away.

250 events are held at the fairgrounds every year -- antique shows, amateur sports (The Nashville Roller Girls started there), dog shows, lawn and garden shows, gun shows and many others.

The Save My Fairgrounds proposal takes a park-like approach to the land. I don't know of any razor wire, but per the SMF proposal, the border of the fairgrounds would be replaced with hundreds of trees.

Much of the asphalt you speak of would be converted to grass, with walk-ways and an athletic field.

The fairgrounds is currently used by THOUSANDS of Nashvillians.

I've never seen your handle (RacingMakesOurK...) on any City Paper comment threads before.

I bet you don't even live near the fairgrounds. And I doubt you even have kids.

In fact, you sound like one yourself.

By: boyer barner on 8/1/11 at 9:42

Hey RacingMakesOurK...

Racing and racing practice is not held when school is in session.

So, the kids can hear their teachers.

By: whitetrash on 8/1/11 at 9:44

Donnie Redd the manager of the Fairgrounds Speedway resigned from his duties last night. I recieved the email today. He also was the one running the fairgrounds speedway facebook page and it looks like the page is no longer active. I guess Donnie Redd, Bobby Hamilton, and Chad Chaffin have gotten a rude awakening running the fairgrounds speedway this year because the fair board is actually making the fairgrounds speedway give one dollar back to the fair board of every ticket sold or given away which doesn't allow them to give thousands of tickets away like the lessee did last year. The fair board is also keeping track of not only the tickets sold but also the number of parking spots sold in order to get an accurate count of exactly how many people attend the races and how much money is generated by the track. If anyone has any info on why Donnie Redd resigned please share. He is a nice man so I hope everything is okay with him.

By: whitetrash on 8/1/11 at 9:45

Boyer get your head out of your third point of contact.

By: boyer barner on 8/1/11 at 9:50


Bring it on.

By: boyer barner on 8/1/11 at 10:09


What is the point of your post? And where did you learn to write. Sears?

By: whitetrash on 8/1/11 at 10:52

Owens School at Vanderbilt. Sorry about my writting I have been up all night drinking and smoking cigs with my mother.

By: whitetrash on 8/1/11 at 10:56

Sorry again. Man I'm drunk tonight. I meant Vanderbilt's Owen School.

By: Funditto on 8/2/11 at 5:44

I'm voting FOR Jason and AGAINST anything the GOP is behind. Including the Fairgrounds and Crapton - two entities that are determined to keep us from moving forward.

By: gdiafante on 8/2/11 at 5:54

I find it hilarious that in this economy, the election has been reduced to fighting over a small area that contains an archaic race track and is best known for junk peddlers. Only in America.

By: govskeptic on 8/2/11 at 6:23

My main interest would be to know who all the "new" property owners are in
the area and supporting the Mayor's position in order to Flip these properties
as soon as changes are made for a much better than normal profit. A huge
part of that immediate area is rental property and has been for many yrs!

By: RacingMakesOurK... on 8/2/11 at 7:33

I recorded the Bachelorette like we talked about, Let's get together tonight and watch it 8:00 PM. You better leave your house around 7:15, it will take you at least 45 minutes to get to the racetrack neighborhood from your house in Williamson County. Maybe you can park your car at the 150 acre parking lot and walk to my house. You should find some rockstar parking as you will be the only car in the lot.

Also, don't forget to vote this week. Ohhh, never mind. You don't live in Davidsion County. Now you are going to go on a rant about how you do live here, but we all know you don't. You can't fool us.

let me know if you need directions, most people probably just get on I-65 North for about 20 minutes. Take the Wedgewood exit, but take a right at the bottom of the ramp (Be careful not to take a left on Wedgewood because you might actually see something called progress and I know how much that would horrify you!!)

By: macjedi on 8/2/11 at 8:25


By: slim4520 on 8/2/11 at 10:28

I wonder who paid for the robo-calls I got asking me to show up at the January council meeting and to vote yes to ratification in the upcoming election. Mike Curb? Darrel Waltrip? Sterling Martin? These three men are rich and successful, but they do not live anywhere near the Fairgrounds. Politics is ugly and legislation is usually funded by outside interests. Pointing fingers at the other guy is no different than pointing fingers at a mirror.

By: las04 on 8/2/11 at 11:31

SLIMBALL4520....one thing for sure it wasn't the mayor using our tax dollars to pay for that call and I personally made close to 2000 calls myself along with a few others using THEIR time and MONEY. We are the real people of Davidson County, you know the ones that have real jobs and have to clock in to get a pay check. Unlike most of you who live off of Daddy's money or even worse the cities.

By: slim4520 on 8/2/11 at 12:11

Gee, it sure feels like I go to a real job everyday, and I don't recall daddy paying for the student loans I took out to attend college, or the last three cars I have owned, or the house payment I make every month and the associated utilities, insurance, and expenses. Nope, it's my paycheck that covers all of those expenses, just like yours does I'm sure. Oh, and I was born and raised in Nashville and have lived here for four decades. I'm as Nashville as anyone, drawl and all.

By: titansjoe on 8/2/11 at 9:20

All we have to do is vote Dean out and our problem becomes a memory. Of course it might be a good idea to vote that sorry @@@ council out along with him. We may have the mayor asking the council to raise our debt ceiling. And they will most like do it if they all get re-elected.

James Keeton for mayor!