Stephen George’s article in the Scene about the Fairgrounds Debate is an interesting read that does a pretty good side of presenting the degree to which the administration is failing in it’s attempt to sell the project. In the midst of that article, this one statement jumped out:
But as neighborhood residents, fairgrounds advocates and opponents of the Hickory Hollow deal form a chorus of growing disapproval, administration officials are getting frustrated to the point they’re losing control of the debate — if they haven’t already. Much as they did (successfully) during the PR battle over the convention center, they paint opposition to their plan as a sort of black operation funded by outside interests and waged by hired media guns.
Riebeling, Poe and Dean spokeswoman Janel Lacy each suggested as much to the Scene, raising allegations of well-funded adversaries and Astroturf opponent groups. They say the seven public meetings they’ve held since work began in the summer of 2007 are enough. No more talking.
This is the standard belief of an administration that simply cannot believe that ordinary citizens have the capability of seriously addressing issues, and organizing themselves to support or oppose those issues. It’s a strange tendency for in fact the Mayor’s first major citywide battle, the opposition to English Only, represented an odd consortium of grass roots groups who banded together and in the end gave the mayor a win. However since that win I have seen again and again an unwillingness to address the concerns of normal citizens, and when those citizens organize the administration promotes all sorts of innuendo suggesting that some evil organization is behind them. There almost seems to be a belief that only “professionals” can accomplish serious work and that grassroots efforts should be discounted as unimportant.
Listen Karl, the reason you won English Only wasn’t through your effervescent personality but through the efforts of the grassroots organizers like Kathy Chambers fresh off the Obama campaign who utilized their infrastructure to mobilize voters. As we’ve seen in the Dennis Ferrier reports this week, We Are Home (your professional flood response effort) is struggling to meet the needs of our neighbors, while grassroots faith community groups such as Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, North Nashville Flood Recovery, West Nashville Flood Assistance, and Southeast Nashville Recovery do the serious heavy lifting of getting folks back in their homes. Through some heavy hitting you won the MCC battle, but your opposition was in fact just a bunch of folks who disagreed with your vision. And likewise, the fairground opposition is a loose confederation of folks who simply disagree with you and are willing to organize to oppose your efforts.
There are no black helicopters, or evil figures in eyeshades calling the shots. It’s just us–normal people–your constituents, who think there is a different way than what you are presenting. And as I’ve walked through the streets of Nashville, I find that “the normal people” are much wiser than you seem to think.