Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CityPaper fast becoming print press watchdog as Nashville leaders spend your money recklessly

If you connect the dots from fine reporting by Richard Lawson and Amy Griffith Graydon of the CityPaper, a Nashvillian can see why the city is in such trouble in its schools and in its finances.

Lawson delivered another bravado performance in breaking down the deal that brought the NCAA Women's Final Four to Nashville. The bid that got the event depends on a whopping $1.75 million in public financing. And the new tax sports officials are counting on to finance the event covers only part of the cost.

Now switch to Griffith-Graydon, who reported today on discussions before the Metro Nashville school board on how to cover an $11 million deficit in the current budget year. Right now, members are hearing about places to cut in new textbooks and administrative costs. But everyone knows that cuts will have to reach the bone of educating children in a district failing to meet standards under the No Child Left Behind Act.

So now let's place the two different stories against each other. Why is the city spending money it does not have on a sporting event when the education of its children needs dramatic fiscal rescue? Worse, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who believes he is competent enough to run local schools, is planning to build a convention center that will easily top $600 million in cost. And the city's bid to win the NCAA Final Four is based on that center being built.

The city can't afford the center, which will cost a lot more than the projected $600 million because of the credit crunch across the globe. City-issued bonds would have to pay an extraordinarily high interest rate. And taxpayers already pay $4 million annually on bonds for LP Field.

Expect Titans owner Bud Adams to soon push his demand for $176 million in improvements to the stadium. The city must do so under the contract negotiated by former Mayor Phil Bredesen more than a decade ago. How can the city afford the Final Four and the convention center?

Meanwhile, children continue to suffer. And so will Nashville as more children fall out of school and into prison or on welfare and fathering or bearing children as teens.

Nashville cries out for compassionate and common sense leadership that has priorities for investment of public dollars such as in public education that pays off the best and the longest.

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