Metro Requests Plans For Destruction of the Fairgrounds
It appears that some people within the Metro Government are still intent on destruction of the Fairgrounds, ignoring both the Metro Charter and expressed public opinion.
Let's start by looking at the referendum that you and thousands of other Davidson County voters passed last August. The actual wording of the referendum is below, but basically it amends the Metro Charter to require all events happening on December 31, 2010 to continue at the Fairgrounds, and that no demolition can be done at the Fairgrounds without a "supermajority" of the Metro Council voting in favor.
This referendum was passed with 43,273 voters in favor, and only 17,682 against, a ratio of almost 3:1. You would think that this would be accepted as a mandate by Metro government, especially since the mayor only received 50,391 votes in his bid for re-election.
However, in October, Metro Purchasing, a division of Metro Finance, issued a Request-for-Proposals asking for bids for a master plan converting the Fairgrounds into mixed-used development.
We contend that this RFP and it's proposed master plan are currently unlawful under the amended Metro Charter and we sent the following letter to all of the Metro Council, the Fair Board of Commissioners, the Purchasing office, Metro Law Office, the local and state District Attorneys and all local print and TV media.
So far, the only response we have received is the following from Jeff Gossage, the head of Metro Procurement, where he takes the "Nurenburg Defense" ("I was only following orders") as to why his office did not take the initiative to reject the request for the RFP to be issued.
It is our position that the referendum of August 2011 "mooted" or overruled both the ordinance that was passed last December (No. BL2010-820) and the previous proposal to establish a metro park on Fairgrounds property.
We contend that this ordinance was unlawful from the beginning because (1) the Metro Charter and state law both give the Fair Board of Commissioners "complete charge and control" of the Fairgrounds property and (2) does not give them the authority to pass any control over to the Planning Commission nor the Parks Department. This also applies to the idea of a park being created on the Fairgrounds, since the charter also stipulates that the property cannot be used for anything that would interfere with holding the State Fair there.
The Metro Charter and state law (Act 515) both set the Fairgrounds up as what is called an "enterprise property" much like the Airport Authority, the Sports Authority, etc.-- a separate entity from the Metro Government that "shall have full power to prescribe rules and regulations for its own government and organization..."
As far as the park goes, if the mayor has a spare $2 million (which he seems to have, the way he's spending money buying country clubs, shopping centers, and such) let him transfer that money to the Fair Board with an earmark for capital improvements. They can use part of those funds for new landscaping to make the Fairgrounds more park-like. But that neighborhood certainly does not need more soccer fields or ball parks and it's unlawful to transfer any of the Fairgrounds to the Parks Department or anyone else.
At the same time this RFP was issued, another one, RFP #12.394 titled "Fairgrounds Master Plan Phase 1: Fair and Events Analysis" was issued. The title sounds good until you read the actual RFP which states the following purpose:
"The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (hereinafter, “METRO”) is soliciting competitive sealed proposals from qualified firms for the purchase of the following products and services:
Specialized consultant expertise, using generally-accepted methodology, to develop criteria for a Tennessee State Fair and associated year-round venues, at a non-specific location, based on national best practices for comparable facilities and events; to project market demand, costs, benefits, and site impacts if the model were located on the existing Fairgrounds site; and, for purposes of comparison, to project market demand, costs, benefits, and site impacts if the model were located on a hypothetical greenfield site. This is a technical analysis undertaken to provide professional quality information to Metro decision-makers."
We did not send a formal objection to this RFP although it's unacceptable as well. The problems with this RFP can be cured by amending and editing the purpose and scope of the RFP.
Our main objections to this RFP are:
- The RFP calls for a "best-practices" plan that includes moving the Fairgrounds to another location. This is unlawful under the recently passed amendment to the Charter, which requires the Fairgrounds activities to continue at the present location, as does previous Charter provisions.
- It involves the Planning Department and Parks Department in decision making which is unlawful under the provisions of the Metro Charter.
- It calls for a Metro Park to be built on the Fairgrounds which re-purposes a portion of the property, transferring it to the Parks Department which is unlawful under the provisions of the Metro Charter.
We feel that a Master Plan for the Fairgrounds can be a good thing- sort of a map for long-term growth. But it should be strictly a plan to grow, maintain, and preserve what we have. And the recent referendum should have made it abundantly clear that the citizens of Davidson County wish to see the Fairgrounds remain in its current location and continue in operation with its current purposes.
It should also be kept in mind that these "studies" and reports are costly -- usually in the range of $20,000 to over $100,000 each, and it's likely that these RFP's would each come in at the higher end. Too much to spend "just to see what the figures are" and definitely too much during this time of economic depression, not to mention that most of what they're studying would be unlawful under the Metro Charter. So why are we even considering them?
Don't let the work that you and hundreds of other Davidson County citizens did to pass the referendum be for nothing! Let us not be run over by an un-responsive government!
Contact your council representative, or the whole council for that matter, and let them know that these RFP's are unacceptable and not in keeping with the new Charter amendment, which affirms the previous charter provisions. Let them know that you didn't work for passage of the referendum just to be ignored by Metro! And spread the word on this to your friends, neighbors, church, and co-workers-- anybody and everybody!
Together, we CAN make a difference.