I’ve lived in Nashville for 30 years. When I first moved here from Los Angeles, I got the usual digs from friends and colleagues: “You’re moving to .. NASHVILLE? Do they have indoor plumbing there?” Ha ha so funny.
For years Nashville has had an image problem. Our reputation was that of a hayseed, redneck, corn-pone town. And damn but we worked hard to overcome that. Years of work and effort by Nashville’s Chamber of Commerce, CVB, music industry, etc. to project an image of a modern, progressive city that was more than country music, more than hay bales and bare feet and bib overalls. More than Hee Haw and Opryland and big hair.
It’s paid off: we’re an “It City” now, with a thriving foodie scene, bustling nightlife, a center for tech and all kinds of music. Young people are coming here in droves. Heck, even Jack White lives here. And I just can’t help but think that’s all been undone now that the NRA is coming to town and blanketing our public spaces with their extremist messages.
And I do mean blanket. Here’s our brand-new convention center, sporting ginormous banners gloating about how the NRA bullied the ATF into backing down on a proposed ban on cop-killer bullets:
I like the green “blood,” or whatever that is. Note the message: “If they can ban one, they can ban them all.”
Here’s another one, which to my mind references the Stand Your Ground laws they’ve foisted on the nation:
“Stand and Fight”? What planet do these people live on? There is similar signage at the Nashville airport. I asked the airport authority why blatant political messaging was allowed and this is the response I received:
The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority posts welcome signs for the NRA on the screens above the escalators going to baggage claim, which is the same courtesy welcome that we provide for all groups sanctioned by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation. Any other signage seen in the airport was purchased as advertisements.
Emphasis mine. Are there any standards for such signage? If the KKK were to have an international event, could they purchase advertising at the airport?
This is the largest convention the city of Nashville has ever hosted. We’re going to get all the Republican presidential candidates here, plus the Sarah Palins and other far-right nutjobs. There will be national media, who may or may not be perplexed at how out of step the NRA is in Nashville, a swatch of deep, deep blue in a very red state.
This is not Nashville. This does not represent who we are, what we believe, or how we live. And it’s an embarrassment to the city. I cannot imagine what the Nashville CVB and Chamber were thinking.
Well, I know what they were thinking. They were thinking, “we won this hard-fought battle to foist the Music City Center on an unwilling and skeptical public, now we need to show something for it.”
You see, as I wrote back in 2010 (“Music City Center Blues“), the new convention center, while beautiful, is not a financially viable operation. And it will never be a financially viable operation. As I wrote at the time:
Last night I heard the same “trickle down” fairy tales we’ve been told for years about these kinds of massive projects. Somehow the economic impact of a new convention center (or arena, or football stadium, or symphony hall, etc. etc.) will “trickle down” like fairy dust on the entire county.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the arena, I’m a huge Nashville Predators fan, and Mr. Beale and I have been to many Titans games. I moved here in 1986 and I well remember what downtown Nashville used to look like. So yes, the past 20 years have seen some wonderful changes to our city, positive changes.
Yet every year our schools budget is cut to the bone. This year Metro Public Works laid off employees and cut back on things like cutting the grass in the public right-of-way, making some intersections in my neighborhood rather dangerous. The Green Hills Library was closed on Fridays, and now it looks like more cuts are likely.
In other words: we have these wonderful downtown facilities like a stadium and an arena and we still have the same budget issues we’ve always had. So don’t tell me that all of the business from a new convention center is going to have a positive economic impact on my neighborhood because I haven’t seen it yet.
There simply are not that many conventions that bring 80 bazillion people to town. There just aren’t. And so we grabbed the NRA convention right from the get-go, and look what we get: a black eye. A bunch of nativist, recidivist, far-right extremists blasting a partisan message and completely undermining the years of work that’s been done to change the city’s image.