As a rule, Metro Council members Charlie Tygard and David Briley disagree. On everything. They’ve had ethics reform run-ins and budget battles, fought through development disagreements and swapped zoning zingers. Even food fights: in June, Tygard sent colleagues a sophomoric email asking if Briley couldn’t just eat off the ground at the upcoming council picnic.
They are not allies. They are not friends. And yes, with these two it is personal.
But when it comes to the Nashville Sounds ballpark proposal, the oft-quarreling council members speak in similar tones of voice—OK, Charlie’s is still shriller—and at the moment they sound unimpressed, to say the least. Both have said they’re not convinced that building a minor league baseball stadium would be the best use of the downtown riverbank site. For whatever political and public policy reasons, they find themselves in agreement. It’s either a sign of the apocalypse or some bad political news for the Sounds. Maybe both.
Last week, the club’s hired PR guns were making the pitch to council members in one-at-a-time meetings, but so far skepticism seems to reign among the 38 city legislators. Opponents recite a host of arguments against the $43 million stadium proposal, arguments that run the gamut from specious to serious: there’s Carolyn Baldwin Tucker’s familiar “What about the children?” rallying cry, and then there are those who question whether this is the best use of valuable city land and money.
From a political perspective, local poll-watchers say, a minor league ballpark deal isn’t something voters get particularly exercised about. Which makes sense: six murders in 48 hours can motivate public outrage a little more powerfully than a densely worded 50-page memorandum of understanding between the city and a corporation. Other than diehard Sounds fans, no one’s going to the polls in 2007 with the ballpark deal on his mind.
The not-so-subtle subtext here, as always, is Mayor Bill Purcell’s relationship with the Metro Council—or really his relationship with anyone other than himself. Council members remain displeased with his dispassionate, impersonal style of politics, the kind that proposes a sales tax increase he’s too embarrassed to promote out loud or a ballpark deal on which he’s personally agnostic but playing to win. Hold a press conference, smile and announce the deal; then let the council do with it what it will.
He’s not malicious, just nerdy and selfish: such a believer in checks and balances (and self-preservation) that he doesn’t fool around with the messy liabilities of horse-trading. Liberals and conservatives alike resent the guy. One member of the black caucus jokingly suggests deferring the ballpark deal for 22 months—long enough that Purcell can’t take credit for it.
But the deal may be more than bad politics and strange bedfellows; it may be bad policy. Legal-minded folks who’ve combed the agreement report that the financing for this project will come from the entirety of Streuver’s Rolling Mill Hill development, not just the portion connected with the ballpark, as everyone thought at first. In layman’s terms, that means the city is deferring more tax revenue than previously expected to pay for the ballpark.
This has been a pretty bush league Metro Council, but even these folks know minor league politics when they see it. The Sounds’ stadium deal will live to see 2006. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.
Fund-raising report, “Play Ball!” edition
Republican Senate candidate Bob Corker has squirreled away $3.17 million for his 2006 bid for outgoing majority leader Bill Frist’s Senate seat, compared to $713,984 and $841,842 respectively for his primary race challengers Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary. How comforting that not only is he smarter and more reasonable than his right-of-Genghis-Khan opponents, he’s also richer. Meanwhile, on the nominal left, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. has $1.75 million on hand compared to opponent state Sen. Rosalind Kurita’s $236,500. Will this race go by the numbers? Worse things could happen.
Many motions, little motion
The newly formed Metro Homelessness Commission got off to a rocky start earlier this year by meeting before representatives of Nashville’s homeless population had been chosen to sit on it. After surviving that initial misstep, the commission has proceeded to sink quickly into the bureaucratic tar that’s threatened the government’s chronic homelessness amelioration efforts since day one. The commission—which itself is the product of a task force and an implementation committee—has divided into subcommittees, virus-like, and is trying to figure out how to spend $500,000 by June so as not to lose its funding stream. One big problem? Vice Mayor Howard Gentry’s signature rudderless leadership style.
Metro Council inbox
“Dear Councilpeople,” wrote Ashley Haugen of Sylvan Park. “Councilman [John] Summers is a disgrace to politics…. He’s a selfish, bad man who’s asking for a lifetime in hell by living a life so unGod-like. Please do the right thing and help Sylvan Park overcome this bastard.”
But Ashley’s plan may have backfired: “I think I just decided how I will vote on this due to these remarks,” wrote council member Rip Ryman.