Tuesday, May 22, 2018

50-Cent Property Tax Increase Proposed By Metro Councilmembers

50-Cent Property Tax Increase Proposed By Metro Councilmembers   led by At-Large Councilman Bob Mendes

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Mayor Briley resurrects $125M downtown flood wall and protection system proposal

Mayor David Briley is reviving the proposal to build a massive flood wall to protect downtown from

a future flood like occurred in 2010.

Briley has added the flood wall back to the city's proposed capital improvements budget. This proposal has been rejected by the Council on three previous occasions. The Capital improvements budget is not really a budget but a planning document that list projects the city would like to build, list a revenue source for funding the projects and prioritizes projects.

The 2010 flood of Nashville produced 2 billion dollars in damages, however it was not all downtown.  The wall would only protect downtown but everyone would pay for it by an additional fee added to their water bill.  The 2010 flood was considered a "1000-year flood" meaning the likelihood of such a flood occurring is only once in a thousand years.

The wall would consist of supports, (fence post) permanently in place and in the event of a flood, large slats would be placed in the grooves in the supports, creating the wall.  In essence the wall would be constructed when a flood was approaching.

Assume 75 years from now we have another 1000-year flood, am I the only one that thinks the wall may not work?  Any number of things could cause it to fail.  Due to road or subway or other construction, some of the supports may have been removed and not replaced or a slight shifting of the earth due to a tremor or blasting may mean the pieces no longer slide into the upright grooves. Proper training  may not have taken place and pubic works may no longer knows how to make the pieces fit.  Or, some of the slats may have been relocated and no one knows where they are.  I don't think this is far-fetched.  Government is not even very good at maintaining things used every day.  I am just not confident that something that may never be used will be properly maintained.

In addition to thinking it is difficult to plan for such a system and doubt that it will work when needed, I would assume that protecting down town will cause worse flooding elsewhere.  If water cannot flow into downtown, will it not force more water into east Nashville?  The water has to go somewhere. This proposal needs to be defeated again.

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How Council members voted on urging the Governor to veto a bill banning santuary cities

Recently the State legislature passed HB2615, a bill that  would prohibit sanctuary cities in Tennessee and require local law enforcement officials to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold immigrants for purposes of deportation.  Advocates of illegal immigration, such as Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, opposed the bill. Others opposed the bill the bill on practical grounds, contending it will make it more difficult to get illegal immigrants to cooperation with police if they fear the local police are acting as ICE agents.  Others opposed it due to a stated believe that the State should not be telling cities what to do. Cities do not have sovereignty, of course and derive their power from what is granted by the State. States have every right to set rules for cities.  Liberals do not understand the basic government structure or purposely make an invalid comparison when they claim that the relationship of the Federal Government to the State government is comparable to the relationship of state government to cities.

I support the bill that passed.  The State was right to require cities to cooperate with the Federal government to enforce immigration law. Governor Haslam allowed the measure to become law without his signature.  He had been heavily lobbied to veto it.

At the May 15th council meeting, the council passed Resolution RS2018-1222  requesting that Governor Bill Haslam veto that legislation. The vote was 21 in favor of the resolution, four opposed and four abstaining. Here is how they voted. 

Voting Yes, voting in favor of the resolution urging a governor to veto the bill banning sanctuary cities in Tennessee  (21): Sheri Weiner, Cooper, Gilmore, Mendes, Hurt, Shulman, Hastings, Haywood, Scott Davis, Withers, Anthony Davis, VanReece, Sledge, O'Connell, Mina Johnson, Vercher, Karen Johnson, Potts, Bedne, Dowell, and Lee.

Steve Glove
Voting No, voting against the resolution urging a veto (4): Steve Glove, Steve Glover, Mike Freeman, and Russ Pulley.

Steve Glove
Russ Pulley
Mike Freeman

 Casting a vote to Abstain (4): Jeff Syracuse, Roberts, Elrod, and Davette Blalock.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Trump to Hold Campaign Rally in Nashville on May 29

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — President Donald Trump will hold a campaign rally in Tennessee later this month on the same day he will headline a fundraiser for Rep. Marsha Blackburn in her Senate bid.

The rally will take place on the evening of May 29 at Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Tickets are available online. (link)

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

(Part 2) What happened at the 5/15/18 Council meeting: Attempt to move soccer stadium fails, auto emissions test to continue, Council opposes efforts to ban sanctuary cities, plastic bag ban dies, and Robert Swope confesses to youthful indiscretion.

This is part 2 of the report on the Metro Council meeting of Tuesday 5-15-2018. To see part one follow this link.  If you are going to watch the meeting, it helps to know what is going on. To access an agenda, the staff agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda follow this link. This report picks up at timestamp 1:28 in the video where the council moves to consideration of resolutions.

There are 38 resolution on the agenda most are on the consent agenda.  A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passes unanimously the committees to which it is assigned. Resolutions which receive negative votes in committee are pulled off of consent. Also any councilman may have a resolution pulled off of consent. Those remaining on consent are lumped together and passed by a single vote. Resolutions on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government, entering into inter-agency agreements over mundane things, appropriating money from the 4% fund, settling lawsuits, or approving signs overhanging the sidewalk. Unlike a bill which requires three votes of the Council to pass, a resolution only requires one vote of the Council. Here are the resolutions of interest:

Resolution RS2018-1158  is an attempt to decouple the development of a soccer stadium from the location of the Fairgrounds. This resolution authorizes the city to issue bonds for construction of the major league soccer stadium but does not specify the location. There is an effort which I approve of to have the soccer stadium build in Metro Center instead of the Fairgrounds.  The staff analysis says there are several things wrong with this resolution. The owners of the soccer franchise say that building the stadium anywhere other than the fairgrounds would jeopardize the soccer franchise. This resolution was disapproved by the Budget and Finance Committee. It is deferred indefinitely, which means this effort is essentially over unless something unusual happens. Councilman Glover made a valiant commendable effort. To see his remarks on this resolution see timestamp 1:46:37 in the video.
Resolution RS2018-1165   is even more money for the Metro General Hospital money pit. It is half a million dollars from the 4% fund for equipment and building repairs.  Since the mayor included a massive increase in funding for Metro General in his budget this is deferred indefinitely by voice vote. To see the sponsors explanation of this action see timestamp 1:48:35.
Resolution RS2018-1171  which would continue the auto emissions testing program in Nashville even though the State says we may discontinue it, passes. This reason given for passing this is that we have contracts with vendors to provide the inspections
 through June 30, 2022. If I were serving in the Council I would have voted against it anyway. If we no longer need the service, I am sure we could have bought our way out of the contract and discontinued the program early. In 2022 the Council will decide the future of the program. There is some explanation but little  discussion other than the sponsors explanation as stated above and this is passed on a roll call vote. To see the discussion see timestamp 1:52.
Voting Yes (28): Gilmore, Mendes, Hurt, Shulman, Hastings, Haywood, Scott Davis, Withers, Anthony Davis, VanReece, Pridemore, Syracuse, Freeman, Sledge, Allen, O'Connell, Mina Johnson, Murphy, Pulley, Elrod, Blalock, Vercher, Karen Johnson, Potts, Bedne, Dowell, Lee, and Henderson.
Voting No (7): Cooper, Swope, Hagar, Glover, Rhoten, Roberts, and Rosenberg.
 No one Abstained.
 Resolution RS2018-1180  proposes three amendments to the Metro Charter, all related to the procedure for succession when a mayor leaves office prior to the end of his term. I think what occurred when Mayor Barry was forced to resign worked pretty smoothly and do not see the need for revising the charter, however it is no big deal. It will take 27 votes of the Council for this to pass and then the proposed changes would be decided in a referendum. The resolution was referred to the Charter Revision Commission and recommended for deferral at the request of the sponsor by the Charter Revision Committee. Council Member Rosenberg moved to defer the resolution, which motion was seconded and approved by a voice vote of the Council. This action is explained by the sponsor. To see the explanation see timestamp 1:58:17.
Resolution RS2018-1216 is an attempt to combat the proliferation of campaign signs in the public right of way. It requires a report to the council from public works and codes on the number of signs removed and how many cases were prosecuted, and some other things.This passed on the consent agenda.
Resolution RS2018-1220  recognizing June as  “'Nashville Pride Month', celebrating the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities and their enormous contributions to the quality of life in Nashville and Davidson County, and further recognizing the 30th anniversary of the first Nashville Pride event which took place in 1988." This passed on the consent agenda.
Resolution RS2018-1221  is a late filed resolution that required suspension of the rules. This resolution request that the Metropolitan Civil Service Commission propose a pay plan for Metropolitan Government employees limited to the ensuing FY2018-2019 fiscal year, and requesting the Mayor, Director of Finance, and Civil Service Commission to refrain from multi-year pay plans in the future unless a financing plan is presented adequately demonstrating that future revenues will be sufficient to meet the multi-year obligation. This is prompted by what happened when last year the Council voted to approve a cost of living pay increase for employees but the pay increase was not funding in this year's budget. This is a memorializing resolution only and really doesn't do anything. It is not binding on anyone. It is however a responsible statement of policy. The discussion of this resolution starts at timestamp 2:02.
The resolution was approved by the Budget and Finance Committee. Council Member Vercher moved to adopt the resolution, which motion was seconded and adopted by the following roll call vote: Yes (26): Weiner, Cooper, Mendes, Hurt, Shulman, Hastings, Haywood, Swope, Scott Davis, Withers, Anthony Davis, VanReece, Hagar, Glover, Syracuse, Sledge, Roberts, Mina Johnson, Pulley, Elrod, Blalock, Vercher, Karen Johnson, Potts, Dowell, and Lee; No (1): Bedne; Abstain (3): Gilmore, Freeman, and O'Connell.
Resolution RS2018-1222  is another late filed memorializing  resolution requesting that Governor Bill Haslam veto HB2315, which would prohibit state and local governmental entities from adopting sanctuary policies.
I support the HB2615 and oppose cities in Tennessee being allowed to become sanctuary cities. No one speaks against the bill. To see the discussion see timestamp 2:09:50.  Council Member Gilmore moved to adopt the resolution, which motion was seconded and adopted by the following roll call vote:
Voting Yes (21): Weiner, Cooper, Gilmore, Mendes, Hurt, Shulman, Hastings, Haywood, Scott Davis, Withers, Anthony Davis, VanReece, Sledge, O'Connell, Mina Johnson, Vercher, Karen Johnson, Potts, Bedne, Dowell, and Lee;
Voting No (4): Swope, Glover, Freeman, and Pulley;
 Casting a vote to Abstain (4): Syracuse, Roberts, Elrod, and Blalock.
Bills on Second Reading. Thee are 13 of them. This is the only one of interest:
BL2018-1173  by Councilman Davette Blalock which would prohibit retail establishments from providing to customers single-use plastic carryout bags. In addition to an assault on my liberty and convenience, some make the argument that plastic bags are environmentally superior to paper bags. This would not ban paper bags. There is a continent size mass of trash in the pacific ocean and plastic bags make up a large part of it and this has received publicity, but the origin of this trash is mostly from five poor Asian countries. Banning plastic bags in Nashville will not decrease the plastic bags in the oceans. The committees that considered the bill voted to defer to the second meeting in July. The sponsor moved to defer indifferently, which means it could be resurrected but mostly likely means it is dead.
Bills on Third ReadingThree are 22 of them. Most are approved zoning bills. Here are the only ones of interest
Bill BL2018-1148 is a rezoing of properties on  Baptist World Center Drive and other nearby streets from various zoning classifications including industrial and residential to an SP zoning. This does not interest me and it is a bill approved by the Planning Commission but at the public hearing several neighbors spoke out against it. It passes on a roll call vote with no "no" votes but five abstentions. There is some explanation and classifications offered. If interested see timestamp 2:34:42.

Bill BL2018-1159   restrict the retail sale of dogs and cats at pet stores. There is a lot of confusion surrounding this bill. I had mistakenly reported that with the passage of this bill that only rescue pets or "pound pubs" could be sold in pet stores. Apparently that is incorrect. Animals purchased from breeders could still be sold in pet stores. For the sponsors explanation see timestamp 2:50:42. I did not know this, but when you see pets for sale at a pet store, they are currently being sold though a 501(c)(3) organization that is housed in the pet store. I apologize for contributing to the confusion. It passes.
Robert Swope confesses to a incident from his past
Taking to the floor in a "point of personal privileged," Councilman Robert admits to an incident that occurs some twenty years ago when he was charged with the misdemeanor offense of soliciting prostitution. He is taking the opportunity to expose and explain this because a political opponent is preparing to make it public, and Swope says he wants to explain it first. This does not amount to much of anything. I admire Swope for taking to the floor to address this scandal. He chokes up while making his comments. Several council members join him and put their hand on his shoulder and show him support. This is moving. I admire Swope's courage. For more on this issue follow this link. To see Swope's comment see timestamp  3:03:30.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Councilman Robert Swope admits To 1998 solicitation bust

Councilman Robert Swope is one of the few self identified Republicans in the Metro Council and he

Robert Swope
was Trump's Tennessee State Director. He is the most conservative member of the Council and yet is effective and respected by his colleagues.  He is running for a position on the Republican State Executive Committee challenging Ron McDow for the District 20 Republican State Executive Committeeman seat. The election is August 2.

Apparently Ron McDow dug up some dirt on Robert Swope. Swope was charged with the misdemeanor of  soliciting prostitution on Sept. 11, 1998. He paid a  $1,000 bond and there was never a  disposition of the case, indicating that it is still open. 

Swope told The Tennessean he had stopped at a gas station in Chattanooga while driving back to Nashville from Atlanta and a woman banged on his window and propositioned him and "out of complete curiosity, I said 'How much?'"  Then blue lights shown up and he was sited with solicitation of prostitution and released.

That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  I have been approached by prostitutes who asked, "You want a date?" I have engaged them in conversation, probably also asking how much.  It could happen to anyone.

Swope told this story near the end of the Council meeting on Tuesday night. "In the decades since this long-forgotten episode, I've grown... met an incredible woman, gotten married, and tried to serve my community and my country as honorably and as well as I could," Swope said. "This alone doesn't absolve me from my past transgressions, but my youthful indiscretions were just that -- youthful indiscretions."

He later told The Tennessean that when he showed up in court, they had no record of his arrest and sent him on his way. The Tennessee reports that Hamilton County court records have no court date listed for Swope or any indication that a subsequent failure-to-appear warrant was issued.

Swope made his public statement because he said he wanted to "get out in front of this."  "I respect my wife, my family, and my constituents of this city far too much to let this come out without hearing it from me first."

Ron McDow who is apparently the one responsible for digging up the dirt on Swope, has a lengthy record accusing him of beating his wife.  (link)

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

"Bitch," "Nigger," "Fuck," are lyrics to a rap song Dr Shawn Joseph played to the Board of Education as an example of inspirational lyrics.

"Bitch," "Nigger," and "fuck," are among the words in the lyrics to a  rap song that praises pimping and taking a hit off of blunt, and getting locked up and says that "real hoes still know they gots to fuck." 

That is typical rap song garbage, but what makes it interesting is that Director of Schools Shawn Joseph decided to play a snippet of the song for members of the school board at a school board meeting. He did not play it to give an example of how degenerate rap music is but in explaining how he sometimes uses song lyrics as inspiration.

That is shocking, but what is more shocking, is that when a board member criticizes his doing so, the leader of the Council's minority caucus said of the board member that her criticism of Shawn was "inflammatory, it seems racially motivated, perhaps more appropriately stated, as culturally and generationally insensitive."

I question if Dr. Joseph has the values or the judgment of someone we want leading our school. Here are the song lyrics. Judge for yourself.

I go on and on
Can't understand how I last so long
I must have super powers
Rap 225 thousand hours
Get it calculated do the math
I made 1,000 songs that made you move your ass
And for the last 300 months
I made 16 albums with me on the front and they bump
Where you get your beats?
I heard 93 rappers say bitch like me
2 singers and 10 comedians
And I'm still gon' yell it every time you see me in
What's my favorite word?
Why they gotta say it like $hort?
You know they can't play on my court
Can't hang with the big dogs
Stay on the porch

[Hook: 4x]
Blow the whistle

[Verse 2:]
Where you get that from?
Grab the mic, spit one, let me hit that blunt
Pimp-C, 8-Ball, and MJG
Keep spittin' that P to the I-M-P
Bun-B, that's Texas, baby
Ball and G, that's Memphis, baby
$hort Dog, that's Oakland, baby
Ain't nothin' but pimpin' these days, G
My nigga C got locked up
But these real hoes still know they gots to fuck
Give a fuck nigga what you say
$hort Dog fuck with UGK
Do you really wanna be like me?
Spit game like Snoop and T.I.P
Pretty girls in the VIP
They came with Dre... they don't need ID

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(Part 1) What happened at the Council meeting on 5-15-2018: Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan deferred.

At over three hours long, this is a long meeting. If you are going to watch it, it helps to know what is going on. To access an agenda, the staff agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda follow this link.

Since this is a long meeting, I am breaking this report into two parts. This first part primarily concerns the public hearing on the Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan. While this plan may not be of interest to everyone, this is a big deal.

All mayoral appointees to Boards and Commissions are approved without dissent. There were several appointees to the Human Relations Commission on the agenda.

Public Hearing on the Donelson Transit-Oriented Redevelopment Plan (Substitute BL2018-1139).

A new authority has been given to cities by the State to plan, facilitate and guide develop around

transit stops to encourage a certain kind of development around those stops and to give cities the authority to issue Tax Increment Financing bonds for improvements in the designated area. This would be the first time this authority has been used. The Donelson plan will likely be the template for when this is tool is used again, so it is important that the Council get it right.

This designation as a transit-oriented redevelopment district  would apply to the area around the Donelson stop on The Nashville Star line. This plan sits development guidelines and does a lot of different things. There is a lot of detail in the staff analysis for those who want to know more.

The plan sits aside $10 million in TIF funding for affordable housing. TIF stand for Tax Increment Financing and is the type of financing that has funded much of the gulch development and downtown. Under TIF, instead of the tax income generated by a development flowing into the city coffers it is used to fund development in the redevelopment area. The logic for this is that without the use of this tool the development would not have occurred in first place. At one time this made scene and was a tool for redeveloping blighted area. In my view it is being abused.

I believe this new transit-oriented redevelopment authority can be a good planning tool and approve of it. However, I do have concerns. A major concern is that this may give to MDHA the authority to condemn property and take it for redevelopment without that action going back before the Metro Council. MDHA has a long history of misusing eminent domain. You may recall the case of Joy Ford, who some years ago had to fight MDHA which wanted to take her small music business office to make the property available for a larger development. That is only one of many instances where MDHA has taken property which was not in any real sence "blighted" and and simply took the property so a larger concern could develop property that would bring in more tax revenue. I could not support any bill that gives MDHA condemnation authority. In my view, all use of eminent domain should require council action.   I am trying to get clarification of this point.

A whole bunch of people speak in favor of this bill and against it. Most of those speaking against say they are not really against it they just want it improved. One of those speaking against is former Councilman John Summers speaking on behalf of The Coalition of Nashville Neighborhoods. I often disagree with Summers but this time he raises several good points, one of which is that TIF money is not MHDA money and TIF financing diverts money away from the general fund and robs the city of the funds to support general services and instead gives that money to support specific developments. He says instead of giving MDHA control of the TIF money and letting them decide how it is spend, he says that each project seeking TIF funding should have to come back before the Council. I agree. (see timestamp 1:04:20 for his remarks)

Several people speak against the bill saying that while it will result in the development of some units of affordable housing that it will tend to destroy more units of affordable housing than it creates. Often people oppose the development of affordable housing in their neighborhood but no one argues against the bill on those grounds. Some speak against the bill, because the bill would prohibit the establishment of twenty-some types of businesses in the overlay district. The bill is criticized because development decision making would be shifted from the democratic process of a councilmen sponsoring bills to decisions being made by MDHA.  Action on the bill is deferred until June 5th.  To view the public hearing and council discussion of this bill see timestamp 34 - 1:28:35.

To read 20-page MDHA report on the plan, follow this link
To read the bill and the staff anallysis, follow this link.
Here is a link to The Nashville Business Journal report on this issue: What a development in Donelson means for Nashville's $5.4 billion mass-transit overhaul 
The Tennessean coverage: Donelson debates Nashville's first planned transit-oriented district.

Check back for the part 2 report on what happened at the May 15th Council meeting.

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