The Mayor Karl Dean administration’s all-at-once approach to the new Convention Center Authority has left the resolution to install the nine first-time board members in serious jeopardy.
The resolution is on the agenda for the Sept. 15 Council meeting. In advance of Tuesday’s meeting, an effort is underway to vote down the resolution, which would place nine volunteers on a board to oversee development of the proposed new convention center and its attached headquarters hotel.
Council members are taking issue with the administration’s decision to have all nine members appointed at the same time instead of nine separate resolutions.
Leading the opposition effort is outspoken District 4 Councilman Michael Craddock, who, ironically, pushed for the creation of the new authority because he favored more Council oversight of the estimated $1 billion project. Craddock takes issue with the process for putting the new authority in place.
Also at the center of the issue is Convention Center Authority appointee Leo Waters, whose deep political roots have left him with detractors, who are trying to block his placement on the new board. Waters, who previously served as both an at-large Councilman and as a member of the Nashville Electric Services board, said on Wednesday he has no intention of stepping aside.
As of late Thursday, Council was nearly evenly divided on whether or not to pass the resolution to install the new members. Council has already approved creating the Convention Center Authority.
Craddock and District 12 Councilman Jim Gotto initially prepared nine amendments to allow Council to consider each appointee separately, but were advised by Metro’s legal department that their amendments would take the appointee out of the resolution.
The agenda analysis prepared by the Council office says that, “Although all nine appointees are included in one resolution, the resolution could be amended to allow individual votes on whether to remove appointees from the resolution.”
“I do not want the Council to be disrespected,” Craddock said. “From my perspective they are disrespecting the Council by bringing these in all one resolution. Every person deserves an up or down vote.”
The administration said early last week that it was Craddock’s right to file his amendments and an expected part of the process.
“It’s his right to file the amendments if he wants to,” Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling said. “It’s his right and a part of the process. I’ve always assumed that if someone had a major problem with one of the members they could always amend them out [to be considered separately].”
Appointees in question
Besides Waters, two of Dean’s other appointees are in question for another reason. Luke Simons and Ken Levitan cannot make Tuesday’s Council meeting, so the two answered questionnaires concerning their appointments instead.
The answered questionnaires were not forwarded to Council until Friday. Council rules require the questionnaires to be forwarded five days before the meeting, which means a suspension of the rules must be called, or a separate amendment must be filed.
Several Council members also had questions about appointee C. Mark Arnold, who only moved to Nashville from Atlanta in June.
PR snafu sped up the process
The Convention Center Authority will gradually take control of developing the proposed Music City Center away from the Metro Development and Housing Agency.
MDHA found itself in the headlines in August when an expose revealed it had spent $458,000 on communications for the project. The contract with powerful public relations firm McNeely, Pigott & Fox had originally been capped at $75,000. The firm has since resigned, and Dean has called for an independent audit.
The mayor also sped up creating the new Convention Center Authority which would be required to make quarterly updates to Council.
Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors will appoint herself or another Council member to serve as ex officio to the new board. Several Council members have expressed interest in the new role.