Here’s the thing. It’s not that I don’t have sympathy for the arguments. Clearly, the old convention center is inadequate. And, yes, people are always going to want to go someplace where they can see all the new boats or all the new RVs or what-have-you. But, as I said this morning, I’m just not sure that the meeting-based convention is going to come back as strong as it was. Being able to sit at your own desk and go home to your own bed has some great advantages from an employee point of view and knowing that you’re not sending your employees on a company-funded vacation has some real advantages from an employer point of view.
I think we also have to face the Bozo quotient. If Tennessee continues to be the go-to state for people to get quotes about how Obama is a secret Muslim who hates Charlie Brown (and he’s black!!!!) and how we hate foreigners and outsiders and liberals and gays, that’s going to limit the pool of conferences and conventions that will come here. That’s just a fact. People are not going to want to send people to a place where they feel unsafe and unwelcome.
Now, I think we all know the state is going to go GOP in the next election and I think we all know what the worst of our Republicans (who have great knacks for getting on national TV are like).
A new convention center might be a good thing. I honestly don’t know.
But I don’t see how we can even begin to guess under these circumstances. If and when the economy comes back, will conventions come back with them? If they do, will they be the same kinds and the same scale? If we’ve given over the state to folks like Stacey Campfield, will folks want to come to Nashville? If they do come and they bring their families, will we have the public transportation infrastructure to get them out of their hotels and to the nifty family stuff we have to do or are we going to have a reputation as a city where you either have to rent a car or you have to content yourself to being trapped within walking distance of your hotel?
I know other people feel certain that we should absolutely not do this.
I admit to being less certain, but I really, really do wish that we had a couple of more years to decide, to see how things shake out, before we make a decision.
Anyway, I don’t know. I made the mistake of looking at the Nashville’s Priorities website and that billion dollars thing is really sticking in my craw. We’ve got kids who didn’t have school books for almost a month at the beginning of school. Driving down 18th Avenue is like a lesson in all the different ways a road surface can self-destruct. We need sidewalks all over the place. The Parks budget is still fucked. etc. etc. etc.
And I know it’s not as easy as moving this money to those things.
But there’s something fundamentally wrong with building attractions for people who have jobs to fly in and play in while our children suffer from shitty educations and the prospects of people in our state getting to have jobs that fly them places to play continues to be dim.