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...

Nashville's Priorities on Channel 4 & 17

Media coverage from 11.30.09:
  • Channel 4 WSMV: Nancy Amons talks to NP president Kevin Sharp about reports that blasting is set to begin on the MCC in January.
  • Channel 17 WZTV: Stacy Case and NP Treasurer Allen Hovious talk about the timing of convention center plans.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nashville’s Priorities Welcomes the Downtown Medical Mart!

From Kevin Sharp, president of Nashville’s Priorities: While we await the details (stay tuned), it appears that the Nashville Medical Trade Center's investment in downtown Nashville shows that we can leverage our unique qualities as a city for economic development that does not put the taxpayer at risk.

Nashville is in a heated race with Cleveland to see which city can land a deal for a health care trade show and expo center, and the Cleveland development recently suffered a major setback.

We certainly hope that the Mayor does not endanger this opportunity by attempting to tie it to the approval of his controversial convention center project, because they are two discrete proposals.

Allen Hovious, treasurer of Nashville’s Priorities, added: “The fundamental problems associated with the proposed Music City Center do not go away with the Medical Mart announcement. The project still:
• Puts Davidson County taxpayers at risk
• Requires considerable subsidies which will only grow without a headquarters hotel
• Offers little marginal economic benefit

Contact your council representatives
: find out where they stand and let them know what you think about a billion-dollar downtown gamble.