I've been watching a live stream of the informational meeting about the proposed convention center. Butch Spyridon, President of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau has been exceptionally rude, mocking and impatient. While I'm waiting to hear Dr. Heywood Sanders finish his thought he was regularly interrupted by a man who is supposed to be the face of Nashville to the world. Apparently, Southern Hospitality has been thrown out the window in Spyridon's desperate attempt to force the citizens of Nashville pay for his legacy building. Spyridon may be a great cheerleader and salesman for Nashville but he's failing to persude me that this is a must for Nashville. His mocking of Lancaster, PA and Branson, MO was childish. About the only important number Spyridon provided was the fact that financing would add 20% to the $635,000,000 estimated price tag. That should give you pause.
Frankly, Spyridon comes across as the child who has just come home from Timmy's with a free puppy and is making all sorts of promises about how he'll feed, bath and walk it. "Can I keep it? Can I? Can I?" Sanders is the patient but practical parent who knows the child cannot be relied on to care for the puppy, that vet bills will need to be paid and that at some point the child will head off to college and Mom and Dad will get stuck with Spot. He admits that the puppy that's just been shoved into his face is cute but being the adult with life experience he knows there's more to consider.
Bottom line for me is this should be a completely private enterprise. If it's a good deal there will be folks willing to gamble their own money in order to make a profit. Nashville should NOT guarantee or provide a dime of financing. Should NOT use its powers of eminent domain to help procure one foot of land for this project. Government should not be in the business of business. We've got enough to deal with ensuring the safety and health of our citizens. When we're doing that very well, there are still a dozen issues Nashville could and should focus on before providing a convention center for visitors.
Tonight the Metro Council will vote on whether to start acquiring land for this project. It's absolutely clear that this is still an unsettled issue with iffy projections and that support from the community that will make money from the deal is BIG but support from mere citizens isn't there. The Council should not move forward with this project. I don't care that Spyridon has already sold convention space in a center not yet built. He overextended his authority. Yes, I know Nashville is special...but it's not THAT special. What I do know is that we're living in historic times and debt got us here. I'm supposed to take on more? No.