Councilman Eric Crafton needs to watch Animal Planet more often. The channel that teaches your kids that furry things have sharp teeth and zero remorse gave him one of the more apt descriptions of the latest befuddling move surrounding the proposed new downtown convention center.
Proponents of the center (read: the Mayor's office) are pushing for a new bill that would free up $75 million to buy the land necessary to build on. This is pretty standard territory, but with a kink. The state law that allows for the purchase demands that it only be used for a convention center. Since funding for the Music City Center hasn't actually been approved yet, some councilmembers are a little concerned that, given the terrible economic climate, if a deal can't be reached, and the land has already been bought, the city just may be on the hook for some overpriced land that it can't do anything with. Which means, in the eyes of some councilmembers, that a vote in favor of buying the land is essentially a proxy vote in favor of the convention center (which, uh, may be a bad idea).
Finance director Rich Riebeling swears this ain't true, even though the council's special counsel Jon Cooper claims it to be. Riebeling says if they'll just give him and the lawyers from Bass Berry & Sims another week or two, they'll explain how it's all legal. This is where Crafton comes in.
Tuesday night, the council had their first reading of the land buy bill. Despite what the Tennessean might imply, first readings are pure show. Second readings are where bills live or die. (Think of it like a debutante ball. The introduction is like the first reading. The moment when the girl actually makes her appearance on the grand staircase is like the second reading, when everyone gets to mentally pick apart her choice of gown, make-up and/or hairdo.) Instead of bowing to the tradition of letting everything pass on first reading, Crafton pulled out the bill for a four-minute soliluoqy.
The council, it seems, is just like these vultures Crafton saw on Animal Planet. The scavengers were housed in successively smaller, open-roofed cages and, at first, the birds were able to escape. But as the cages got smaller, and the vultures lost the space they needed to do whatever weird vulture warm-up run they require to get airborn, they lost the ability to fly away.
Translation: The Mayor's office is slowly shrinking the cage that is councilmembers vote in favor of the convention center, making it nearly impossible for them to
fly away say no.
Convoluted? Maybe. But considering we're talking about the guy who pushed English Only for the better part of three years, Crafton cleared the low metaphorical bar he'd set for himself. (Although we still prefer the much simpler "if you put a frog in boiling water it'll jump out, but if you put it in a pot and raise the heat you'll cook it" metaphor.)