An Open Letter To Mayor John Cooper

By John Sloop (@NCAMookie), columnist.

February 11, 2020

Dear Mayor Cooper:

I’ve tried to write a letter to you concerning your stance on the stadium for Nashville Soccer Club many times over the last week, but I’m never able to get the tone right. I’ve pondered why it is so difficult, and I think I’ve come to the conclusion that, because I am so baffled by your motives at this point, I’m not quite sure who I imagine I’m talking to. What persona am I addressing?

Are you an accountant in disguise who is simply looking at the bottom line for the city, as you sometimes seem to imply? Maybe. But there seems a little more going on than that.

Are you a snake, as some stadium supporters have said, thinking that you promised that soccer was “finished business” when you were on the campaign trail and then have gone about trying to alter this “settled matter” once you took office? I don’t see you that way - as I said in a column last week - but I understand how and why some do.

Are you a visionary, working on a NASCAR deal, who hopes to bring something even better than soccer alone to Nashville? So far, having watched you as a council member and as Mayor, I’ve seen less vision and more caretaker behavior, but maybe I’m wrong about that.

When it comes down to it, though, I’m confused because you have not been very forthcoming.

Yes, you wrote an editorial last week, in which you attempted to outline what you had done with the negotiations. And yet, you not only remain stuck on parcel 8C, but you end the column with the throwaway line that you want a stadium deal that works for “all of us.”

To be frank, that’s a throwaway line, Mayor Cooper, mainly because it’s an abstraction that you alone are claiming to know the answer to. That is, at what point do we declare that the deal being made works for “all of us”? Right now, you’ve negotiated so much that Nashville Soccer Holdings is providing significantly more funding than was originally agreed to. Further, they have been creative in working with you on ways to make this deal work while also honoring the groundbreaking Community Benefits Agreement. From where I sit, the deal already works for “all of us.” At what point do you say “OK, that’s it”? Is it when John Ingram agrees to also finance the race track? Of course not. But my point is, you can use the discourse of what works “for all of us” as much as you wish, but it really comes down to your personal definition of that. And on that point, again, you’ve never been clear. It’s as if you are holding a deal hostage, not really explaining why, and not offering to compromise.

At best, we’ve been led to believe that 8C is the deal breaker for you. You’ve never explained it, although all rumors and other indicators make it out to be your behind the scenes negotiation with NASCAR.

I wish you would talk to us, Mr. Mayor, explain why a deal that was “settled” is all of a sudden “not settled.” We are the citizens of Nashville, and we deserve to be part of the conversation.

Stadium rendering | Courtesy Nashville SC

Last week, I wrote about the position you are taking, and I tried to separate out your actions from the ‘actions” of the city. In short, I argued that while I thought you were likely being internally honest and consistent with your values, that your actions are making the city itself out to be a liar. And this remains a major concern for me.

Elections have consequences, and I’m more than pleased to live with them. You are the properly elected (by a landslide) Mayor, and you get to set priorities for the city. I’m on board with that, even if I am not on board with all of your priorities.

However, even though you are now Mayor, it is wildly inappropriate to alter deals that were made prior to your election. If the city of Nashville was a person, I wouldn’t trust a damn thing it said right now, and that’s on you.

I’m confused by your motives and actions, then, but not by the consequences.

I want to add one more thing here, and I hope you will take this seriously, even if you find it a little overwrought. I have a friend who is a strong supporter of soccer in general, of Nashville SC in particular and of the stadium deal. He is also, quite significantly, a person who is very fiscally cautious and has worried about the finances of the city. As a result, while he was concerned about supporting you after your voted against the stadium deal as a council person, he ended up doing so when you reassured him—as you did all of us—that you saw the stadium as “settled business.”

Mr. Mayor, he voted for you on those grounds. And while you might justify your actions in your own mind as consistent, they are wildly inconsistent to most of us. This friend of mine, fairly young and still somewhat idealistic about how politics works, feels lied to. Feels like democracy failed him because you failed to keep your word.

While placing all of that on you is a bit harsh, some of it does lay in your direction. Just as I don’t see how businesses will feel like trusting Nashville again, there are a lot of voters who are going to have a difficult time trusting you again.

This whole business seems sad and exhausting. And it didn’t have to be this way. If you would only talk to us in an open and transparent manner, we would all feel a little better about your (in)action. We wouldn’t like it, but we would have a space from which to have a conversation.

As I come to an end, I want to remind you that you’ve already gotten major concessions from Nashville Soccer Holdings. At some point, politics is an art of compromise. And if you are unwilling to compromise until you get every single item you desire, you’re no longer practicing politics; you are holding people hostage until you get your way. In my mind, that’s a way of doing business that is going to lead to no one wanting to do business with us at all.

Mr. Mayor, talk to us, talk to Nashville SC, talk to John Ingram. And be open to compromise.


John M. Sloop

EDITOR'S NOTE: The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent Speedway Soccer as a whole.

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