Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Music City's Brand = CREATIVITY - So why is the MCC idea so lame?

MCC boosters have spent a lot of time and energy talking about the “Music City” Brand, without talking about what that brand represents. In our opinion, that brand is defined by Creativity – it starts with music, but the visual, performing and media artists in our city are world-class.

So how did these proponents of the "Music City Brand" come up with such an un-creative, worn-out solution? It would appear that they never explored other ways to boost tourism besides an enormous downtown convention center that will benefit a tiny minority of (and very few, if any, minority) citizens. Instead of placing one huge bet on the MCC, how about a bunch of smaller bets that will help the rest of the county?

Since Nashville's Priorities has done all the other work that MCC boosters and the Mayor should have done, let us provide some creative solutions that will grow tourism:

  • Properly fund all of our attractions – from the Adventure Science Center to the Nashville Zoo
  • Focus on creating more events – Country Music Marathon, Music City Bowl, CMA Week ring a bell?
  • Re-visit the Plan of Nashvillehundreds of Nashville believers gave the city their best ideas – let’s use them! Hmm -- the link seems dead: coincidence? it's like they didn't want people digging around in that...
  • Consider more legalized gambling – hey, I didn’t say creative wouldn’t be controversial
  • Work more closely with colleges and universities edu-tourism, anyone?
  • The Music Row Creative Development Zone – with tourist features so they can learn about famous Music Row instead of driving slowly and aimlessly down 16th Avenue trying to see what all the fuss is about.
  • The Arts Tour – Frist, Van Vechten, Cheekwood, Arcade galleries, Alan Lequire's studio, and the list goes on.
  • Realize Jefferson Street’s Tourism Potential – civil rights, American music, cultural authenticity -- all perennially neglected by the city.
  • A Family-Friendly Corridor off 8th Avenue – connect Ft. Negley, Greer Stadium, Adventure Science Center
  • Leverage Nashville’s appeal to history, environment and healthcare
  • Complete Riverfront development - on both sides of the river
  • Develop Opryland 2.0 – that’ll shut ‘em up about an amusement park
  • Develop an easy-to-use, convenient transportation system – now, this one is big-ticket, but also benefits all of Nashville.

A brilliant, creative community deserves abundant, creative solutions to its problems, not a tired old idea that hasn’t worked out from coast to coast. Tell your Council Members you’re against this – the fat lady has yet to take the stage, and she’s still in the wings until we the people make our voices loud enough for her to sing “our” song. (Did I push the metaphor too far? Sorry…)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Convention Business Is Dying - Why Bother?

The Music City Center will force Nashville taxpayers to invest hugely in a dying industry. The mayor's own consultants wrote in their 2008 white paper "Convention Centers: Is the Industry Overbuilt?":
...the supply of convention centers now exceeds the demand for such facilities nationally... There is not enough business to go around.
And this is from 2008, before the US economy took a 30% haircut -- clearly, the situation is worse now than 18 months ago.

The chart explains it all: Demand (green) is down; Supply (red) is up -- way up. If you recall Econ 101, that means prices for the supply will go down. In the case of the MCC, we know for a fact that there are major convention centers under construction right now that will increase that supply. And even if the economy recovers to 2007 levels, there will still be more convention space than convention-goers.

This enormous gap in supply and demand will only get worse because of a perfect storm of three social trends:
  • Sustainability -- the carbon footprint of a convention and its attendees is astonishing. Imagine 3,000 people traveling to Nashville for a national convention. According to the TerraPass carbon footprint calculator, it's 2.84 million pounds of CO2 (over 660,000 cubic meters, which is a football field-size cube over 120 feet deep.)
  • Technology -- USA Today featured an article recently on virtual trade shows, and there's a tech buzz around the possibilities of immersive, 3-D computer displays. The meteoric rise of virtual meeting spaces and online collaboration tools give most companies a much more cost-effective business-development opportunity.
  • Corporate Spending -- in a new era of cost-cutting and cash conservation, traditional conventions are on the chopping block. Companies are realizing that for many purposes, conventions and trade shows do not deliver the return on investment they need.
So why is the mayor so intent on building the MCC? Conventions are a dying business, and there is no reason to gamble a billion dollars (and yes, folks, it WILL be a billion before this thing is over) on this losing proposition. The MCC Coalition has done a fine job finding a solution for a 1999 problem, but we live in a different world now.

There are a few things you can do to help stop this train-wreck:
- sign the online petition and make your voice heard in opposition to this terrible business deal.
- come to the public meetings - 1/11 is the big one at the courthouse, and there are more dates posted at our website.
- call your council members and the mayor's office.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Upon Further Review...

... We are against the Music City Center!

When Nashville's Priorities started out, our mission was to find and publicize the facts about the proposed Music City Center. Despite the disinformation of MCC proponents, NP was NOT originally against the MCC, just desperately seeking facts and information (btw, the administration has yet to deliver anything resembling reliable, factual data).

Well, after much research, we reached the inescapable conclusion that THIS IS A BAD DEAL FOR NASHVILLE. Now, that may strike some gentle readers as a "Duh!" moment, but we have scrupulously tried to avoid establishing a position until we had exhausted every logical approach to try to make sense of this project.

Perhaps engaging logic and rational thought was a mistake, because the facts of this deal will make your head explode. Especially since pro-MCC forces (who are paid handsomely for their personal attacks, intimidation and disinformation) are relying on their loud, steady, hackneyed drumbeat of civic cheerleading to drown out thoughtful, civil discourse.

But this is not a done deal -- contact your council members and the mayor and let them know that when they finally do the math, the numbers will not add up for Nashville. And as the grafitti on a wall in Pompeii said "non illegitimati carborundum est"!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nashville's Priorities Launches Petition Drive

Nashville’s Priorities has launched a petition drive calling for a vote on whether to go forward with the downtown Music City Center project.

"This deal is shaping up to be the largest public works project in the history of Metro Nashville, and one of the largest in Tennessee’s history," Kevin Sharp, president of Nashville’s Priorities, said. "The people deserve to have their voices heard before public funds are committed to pay for it."

Blank petition forms will be mailed to registered voters beginning December 14, urging them to complete and sign the postage-paid card. You can download blank petitions at, along with instructions for completing them.

The petition calls for a "will of the people" election pursuant to Metropolitan Charter Section 7.05, to be conducted before any bonds are issued for the project. It also states opposition to issuing tax bonds if they are backed by property taxes and calls for a referendum vote before such bonds are issued.

"This is a way for tens of thousands of Nashvillians to be heard," Sharp said, noting that only a fraction of that number would be able to speak at the Public Hearing on the project scheduled for January 11.

A primary message of Nashville’s Priorities is that the city could create a much more potent benefit to Nashville’s economy and tourist industry by spending the money on projects besides a convention center, which most residents would seldom if ever use.

"There are lots of ways to spend a billion dollars to benefit Nashville," Sharp said. "We think the people have a right to choose whether or not to spend it on a convention center or to spend it at all -- particularly in these tight economic times and in light of downward trends in the convention industry."

The petition signatures will be gathered and presented to the Mayor at the Public Hearing scheduled for January 11, Sharp said.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Focus, People! Don't Be Fooled by the Red Herrings!

Last night's Town Hall discussion of the Music City Center surfaced a number of revelations:
  • The gloves are off -- Randy Rayburn's personal attacks on Emily Evans were desperate and nasty (prediction: that is just getting started)
  • The Pro-MCC forces must rely on emotion, hope and disinformation because (as Bruce Barry pointed out recently): "Sadly, MCC advocates apparently don't believe they can prevail through honest argument and arithmetic."
  • There are a lot of Gaylord haters in Nashville.
  • The media (mainstream and - sadly - the social space too) picked up on the Red Herrings that MCC's attack dog Rayburn dragged out: that CM Evans is using this as a platform to run for mayor; and also that she "has not created any jobs" (btw, neither had Karl Dean before he ran for mayor).
The last bit is the most troubling -- it appears that folks would rather report on a random personal attack than the real issue at hand. When Nashvillians DO THE MATH, we will find that MCC does not add up for the overwhelming majority of the city. A few truths to bear in mind:
  • A Convention Center is not high on the list of strategic priorities for most Nashville residents, and this diversion of resources will have lasting and damaging consequences for the city.
  • Taxpayers will be on the hook for revenue shortfalls -- Rich Riebeling says it would be a minimal amount, but that's the same line we heard a couple of years ago about the rise in mortgage defaults.
  • HVS studies are notorious for over-stating revenue and attendance projections, yet no one (outside of volunteers at Nashville's Priorities) is challenging their assertions.
  • Conventions are a declining industry -- demand is eroding because of the convergence of technology, cost containment and Green concerns; while the supply of convention center space continues astounding growth. Would any businessman in Nashville get into a business with those trends? I guess not, since no one has stepped forward.
And this list goes on and on -- stay tuned and Nashville's Priorities will do our best to continue to put facts and reason front and center in this critical debate over we the people's $600 million mortgage on MCC.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Raising the Debate: This is About More Than Financing MCC

As most people around the Music City Center debate descend into dissecting the Mayor’s financing package, let’s take a minute (or even the whole weekend!) to take the helicopter up to 20,000 feet for a better view of the questions around the MCC. Answer these questions Yes or No:
  1. Do you want to make Nashville a better place to live?
  2. Do you think increasing downtown tourism is the best way to do that?
  3. Is building a new convention center the best way to do that?
  4. Is this convention center project the best way to do that?
  • If so: Is the timing right? Is the financing right?
If at any point you answered “No,” then welcome to Nashville’s Priorities! You need to make your voice heard to the Mayor’s office and your council members, and let them know your opposition to the Music City Center. We hear a few folks moan that “the fix is in” and “this is a done deal” – well, only if you take that position. This is far from done, people, and you can still have an influence on whether or not Nashville follows through on this project.

Take Action!
  • Join Nashville's Priorities: sign up for the email list, volunteer, follow us, friend us, whatever: join the fun!
  • Contact the Mayor's office at 862-6000.
  • Contact your Council member via email or at 862-6780.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Desperately Seeking the Data on MCC

Even before the mayor's office announced a delay in releasing the Music City Center feasibility study, Nashville's Priorities officially requested records regarding the Music City Center from Rich Riebeling, Metro Finance Director, and Sue Cain, Metro's general counsel. Here is the complete request from NP treasurer Allen Hovious:
Mr. Riebling and Ms. Cain, I am treasurer of Nashville’s Priorities, a group of citizens interested in the dissemination and understanding of information and analysis about the proposed new convention center. Our group is committed to having the same information, the Mayor and the Council are using for their analysis and decision making. It is my understanding that I can request that information from you and you will provide it for me. If this request is citing the wrong code or needs to be redirected through another source I will be happy to follow the correct procedures if you will be kind enough to send me to the right form and source.

1. As a citizen of Tennessee, I hereby make the following public records request pursuant to T.C.A. 10-7-501 et seq.
  • All draft copies of the Revenue Peer Review Study conducted by HVS Consulting (the "HVS Study") in response to the Request For Proposal dated August 25, 2009.
  • All comments whether provided electronically or in traditional hard copy, submitted by any representative or employee of Goldman Sachs, any representative or employee of First Southwest Securities, any representative or employee of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County, any representative or employee of CH Johnson Consulting, and representative or employee of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau and any other person who may have reviewed the HVS study.
  • All correspondence between representatives or employees of the Metropolitan Government and representatives or employees of Goldman Sachs, First Southwest Securities, CH Johnson Consulting related to preparation of the HVS Study.

2. As a citizen of Tennessee, I hereby make the following public records request pursuant to T.C.A. 10-7-501 et seq
  • All draft copies of the review of MDHA's procurement and contracting procedures conducted by Kraft CPA's ("Kraft Study") pursuant to an engagement letter dated September 4, 2009.
  • All comments whether provided electronically or in traditional hard copy, submitted by any representative or employee of Kraft CPA's or any representative or employee of the Metropolitan Government with respect to the Kraft Study.
All correspondence between representatives or employees of the Metropolitan Government and Kraft CPA's.

As one might imagine, we are still waiting to hear back...