Monday, April 20, 2009

In his salute to his columnists, The Carpetbagger editor fails to mention that his writers simply promote the same Chamber of Commerce line

Running out of anything substantial to write about, The Carpetbagger editor of The Tennessean wrote yesterday about staff members who write -- columnists.

In his testimonial to them, Mark Silverman forgot to mention some important points -- all must follow the Chamber of Commerce line in positions taken. No rocking the boat, please. And don't say anything bad about Gov. Bredesen. He's always right because has a lot of money.

And there was no more sickening proof of these rules yesterday than Gail Kerr's column promoting the building of a $600 million convention center in the midst of a recession and budget cuts affecting police.

Kerr's point was that many of the skeptical folks in Nashville have always said no to projects that turned out great for the city. She cited the Parthenon, the Ryman and Bud Adams wanting to go the Super Bowl.

Wow, what a list!

But it was obvious from her writing that the financial considerations of such a project such as the convention center are beyond her. And entering the Muni bond market while credit markets still are mostly frozen will demand more from any annual bond payments the hotel/motel tax can cover. That leaves it to taxpayers locally to cover the difference -- as always.

Ironically, Kerr was the lead reporter on the Titans coming to Nashville and even got to go and sit in Bud Adams' office in Houston. That certainly would leave me emotional. But all the promotional work by all involved was based on a gross misrepresentation: that the Titans deal would not cost taxpayers a thing.

I arrived after the deal had been sealed. And then editor Frank Sutherland confronted me in the newsroom on a column I was writing about the actual cost of the deal. He repeated the line that deal would not cost taxpayers a thing.

After hearing Sutherland's loud protestation, the new city hall reporter, Mark Ippolito,, came over and told Sutherland in front of a lot of people that he was wrong.

First, taxpayers were being soaked for $56 million they had overpaid in water bills.

Second, each year's budget would first have to pay $4 million in bond payments on the financial vehicle used to the build the stadium.

Later, taxpayers found out that they had to pay another $1 million a year for maintenance on a stadium they technically owned but Adams controlled.

And now Adams has the right to call in $177 million in improvements on a stadium that is growing quite old by NFL standards. I wonder who is going to pay for all those improvements?

Kerr never has been able to recognize these things. Her purpose is to serve as a Chamber rah-rah writer. You'll notice in her column that she didn't mention other big projects that a lot of skeptics did not like and rightly so. These big deal have turned into money losers:

Americans Airlines,
Dell Computer,
The Arena,
The Predators deal.

Tennessean investigative reporter Shelia Wissner even proved the Dell deal would be a loser for taxpayers, but the newspaper still endorsed it. The Chamber rules.

Nashvillians have a right to be skeptical. And a $600 million convention deal while its public schools have failed and tent cities are rising around the area and police numbers may be cut is the very definition of greed to benefit the few at the expense of the many.

Unfortunately, this city doesn't have a columnist to say these things and present the full history of the bad deals in this city that should have been turned down.

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