The Castle Coalition, a national grassroots property rights group working on eminent domain issues, came to Clarksville Thursday to participate in a rally prior to the city’s public forum on the redevelopment plan held in the Burt School cafeteria on Thursday.
The rally featured Christina Walsh , Clarksville Property Rights Coalition Spokesman John Summers, Dan Brown of the Tennessee Preservation Trust and others. They addressed plan opponents and members of the press on the issues they perceive in the current version of Clarksville’s Redevelopment Plan. Summers and Brown have been frequent speakers at CPRC meetings.
After the rally, the public forum began in the Burt School Cafeteria. with Mayor Piper making the first statement. The program continued with a presentation by Knoxville’s KCDC President Alvin Nance, followed by Downtown District Partnership board member and recent appointee to the Clarksville Housing Authority Frank Lott. The presentation given was identical to the KCDC video on the “Our view: The updated redevelopment plan still has major flaws” article; watching that video provided all the same information as last night’s forum.
Laws mean exactly what they say on paper; it does not matter what those who created it intended for it to say. What counts is in the actual letter of the law. Members of the City Council do not see any issues with the plan they approved, even though a common sense reading shows that this plan is faulty, open to major abuse, and was clearly intended to make it easier for developers to take private property from its owner and then profit from it. Mayor Piper and the council have denied that, but that is exactly how the currently plan reads.
Counting heads, the Fire Marshall allowed only 180 people inside the hall for the meeting, with another estimated 150 people turned away. [Editor’s note: At the Train Station meeting in December, more than 300 people turned out to oppose this plan.] CPRC members provided a list of the names and addresses of people who were denied access to this public forum: page after page was full of names and addresses.
This was a purported “public” forum, where some but not all interested members of the public were allowed inside, due to insufficient space, despite the fact that public interest in this issue and the turnout for prior meetings on this issue warranted larger quarters. Limiting attendance may have been a primary consideration due to the fact that there are three nearby locations with significantly more capacity: Burt school’s own gym, APSU’s Clement Auditorium, and the Dunn Center. The public were denied their right to speak. Many members of the audience wore red tape over their mouths as a visible protest over the acts that silenced them. The city could have but did not allow each person who wished to do so to address the City Council and the Mayor. The public was not allowed to ask questions, questions which should have been clearly answered.
When the forum ended, a number of attendees described it as “a farce,” “a dog and pony show,” “a joke,” and “just plain sad.” It was a public forum without public participation.
During a interview with Mayor Piper, News Channel 2 asked the mayor if the locations was chosen to limit public participation. Piper said “no,” then removed his microphone and terminated the interview. The Channel 2 newscast, in broadcasting this interview, cut away immediately following Piper’s “no.”
One gentleman was placed in handcuffs by the Clarksville Police for protesting the trampling of his rights by the city a little too vigorously (watch the video). He was released without any charges.
With such a large number of people opposing Clarksville’s redevelopment (eminent domain) plan, and the lengths the city is apparently ready to go to in order to enact it, one must ask who is the power behind the throne on this issue, who or what is giving Mayor Piper and the City Council the impetus to defy the clearly expressed will of the public.
The actions regarding the development plans, when combined with statements by city officials at other meetings and events, are clear examples of the contempt and disregard that Clarksville’s elected and appointed officials have for the wishes of their constituency.