at-large Metro Council candidate backed by the political and fundraising largess of Mayor Karl Dean & Co., Sarah Lodge Tally has returned the favor on the campaign trail by championing her benefactor's pet Music City Center project as well as criticizing its detractors — namely her opponent, District 24 incumbent Councilman Jason Holleman, whose skepticism of the publicly financed convention center has drawn ire from the mayor's office — as naysayers of capital-P progress.
So it's with no small irony that Tally's support of the $585 million project is apparently rhetoric-deep: Her work at law firm Miller & Martin, which has collected $1.6 million in its handling of the city's purchase of the low-balled 5.66 acre Tower Investments property, presents enough of a conflict of interest that Tally must recuse herself from any convention center-related votes if she is elected Aug. 4.
In an interview with The Tennessean, Tally tried to apply a generous coat of lipstick to the proverbial pig maw, saying that an "abstention due to a conflict of interest and a vote against a project are two different things." Indeed, a zero and a negative integer are two different things, but in terms of tangible legislative support in the council, Tally's is a distinction without much difference.
She explained her position further last week in emails to the Scene:
I do not see my support of the convention center as a problem. My support ... is wholly unrelated to my work at Miller and Martin. Last year, I did about four hours worth of work on the Tower case, out of nearly 2,000 hours billed. As you can see, it was very, very minor work. And, I do not have any idea what the firm has been paid for the (Metro Development and Housing Agency) work — that information is well above my pay grade.