Neighbors for Progress, a group of Tennessee State Fairgrounds neighbors who support the redevelopment of the fairgrounds property, has gone far outside its Metro Council district to make a case against Councilman Jason Holleman.
The group’s home is the council’s District 17, but a Neighbors for Progress-drafted mailer (see here ) that arrived in the mailboxes of West Nashville District 24 residents reads as follows:
“Mayor Karl Dean had a plan to create a better quality of life in our neighborhood ... But Councilman Jason Holleman stood in the way.”
Comparing Holleman to oft-controversial Councilman Eric Crafton, the letter urges constituents to call Holleman to tell him to “stop listening to special interests” and support Dean’s fairgrounds redevelopment plans.
“Earlier this year, a coalition of South Nashville neighbors and small business owners supported a plan to create new opportunities and more green space on the 117-acre Tennessee State Fairgrounds site,” the mailer reads.
“But we were dismayed to run into opposition led by your councilman, Jason Holleman.”
Holleman, who called the mailer a “mischaracterization,” said it seemed unusual that a neighborhood group from one part of the county would engage in a council race in another.
“To my knowledge, it’s unprecedented for a neighborhood association or an entity that is based in one council district to get involved in another council race,” Holleman said. “I’ve never seen that happen.”
Holleman is running for re-election against challenger attorney Sarah Lodge Tally, who has raised $50,000 in campaign cash and enjoys the support of some of Dean’s most well-connected supporters.
The mailer never mentions Tally, the election or the public referendum that allows citizens to vote in favor of or against a Metro Charter amendment to keep the status quo at the fairgrounds.
The neighborhood organization takes a shot at Holleman because in January he introduced an amendment to a bill — later approved — that called for a new master plan to decide the future of the fairgrounds, but more importantly did not call for the demolition of the fairgrounds speedway. Holleman said it was inspired by the Nashville Civic Design Center. A separate amendment, narrowly defeated, would have led to the racetrack’s destruction.
“It mischaracterizes what actually happened during the fairgrounds debate,” Holleman said of the mail-piece. “On the night of the fairgrounds vote, the chamber was literally filled with thousands of people who felt that their voices were not being heard. My goal was to provide an opportunity for all parties to play a role in determining the future of the fairgrounds property through a master-planning process.
“The majority of the Metro Council supported that idea and, in fact, the next day the mayor even referred to the master-plan legislation as a positive step forward.”
But Colby Sledge, who chairs Neighbors for Progress, said his neighborhood organization had asked Holleman to help them out because they believed he was a neighborhood advocate.
“He drafted that amendment in the council that was specifically silent on the racetrack operations, which is what we were really trying to fight,” Sledge added. “We had sat down with him, we had a good conversation, but he just wasn’t going to help us.”
Sledge said Neighbors for Progress put between $3,000 and $3,500 into the District 24 mail-piece effort. Currently, Sledge said the group does not plan to target any other council districts.
A majority of council members sided against Dean’s plan to redevelop the fairgrounds property — not just Holleman. Accordingly, Sledge said part of the reason to target District 24 is the interest in the Holleman-Tally race.
“From a political standpoint, that’s probably going to be a pretty high turnout district,” Sledge said.