Saturday, December 7, 2019

What happened at the December 3rd Council meeting? Water rates hiked, fencing permit bill deferred, World Aids Day recognized, more Council oversight enacted.



This meeting is three hours and ten minutes long.  Life interfered with blogging so I am late posting this analysis of the last council meeting and I did not carefully watch the video. I skipped all of the bills on public hearing. Bills on public hearing are zoning bills or zoning related. They usually concern no one except nearby neighbors. I do pay attention to bills disapproved by the Planning Commission but on this agenda there were no disapproved bills. I did not do much timestamp notation this time so if you want to watch the more interesting parts you will have to find them yourself. Also the formatting is different, not showing the normal background color for the page, but I do not have the time to correct. I may devote more time to this and add the notations so look for a possible update.

If you are going to watch the meeting, follow this link to access the agenda, agenda analysis and my commentary on the agenda.

After Pat Nolan's introductory commentary, the prayer and pledge, and some announcements, the Council gets down to business at timestamp 16:26.

Elections and Confirmations.  There are 16 of them. There was a contested election for a seat on the Industrial Development Board. Winnie Forrester was elected with 22 votes. Seats on this board may not be of much interest to the general public but some financiers and developers care. The other candidate, Andy Bhakta got 17 votes.  I don't know anything about either one of them. 

Former mayor Bill Purcell was confirmed to a seat on the Board of Metro Development and Housing Agency. 

Rules of the Council. The Council adopts new rules of procedure. I notice that the order of business omits the Pledge of Allegiance. Here is first items listed under order of business: 
    1. Meeting called to order 
    2. Invocation 
    3. Roll Call 
    4. Approval of minutes of previous meetings 
    5. Communications from the Mayor 
The pledge of allegiance normally occurs immediately following the invocation. Is the Council going to discontinue the pledge? I have written my Council member to ask why the Pledge of Allegiance was omitted from the order of business of the rules of the Council. I will share the response. During discussion of adoption of the rules, no one mentions this omission and I do not know if previous Rules included the pledge in the listing of order of business. 

Public Hearing. It runs from timestamp 34:22 to 1:40:25.

Resolutions.

     Resolution RS2019-100 and Resolution RS2019-116 both involve the reallocation of funds that were originally intended for the Gulch pedestrian bridge to other purposes. These are adopted on consent.

     Resolution RS2019-128 recognizes December 1, 2019 as World AIDS Day in Nashville. Last month we had a recognition for a Transsexual Day of Remembrance and of course in the summer we have the gay pride event and a resolution so honoring gays and it wasn't long ago the city erected historical markers honoring two of the earliest gay bars in Nashville. We are giving a lot of attention to gays in Nashville.  Aids, of course is a terrible disease and there is nothing wrong with recognizing a World Aids Day, but if we are going to do so, I think we should have Alzheimer's Day or Remembrance, and a Heart Health Day of Remembrance, and a Cancer Day of Remembrance, and a Breast Cancer Day of Remembrance and Autism Day of Remembrance, and Death due to Drunk Drivers day of Remembrance, and Aborted Babies Day of Remembrance, and Americans killed by Illegal Aliens Day of Remembrance, etc, etc.. There are 365 days a year and there are plenty of illnesses and causes and events worthy of a day of remembrance. This passes on a roll call vote, with 34 in favor, no abstentions and no "no" votes.  However four people did not vote.  Not voting is different than voting "abstain."  If someone left the room or simply set on their hands they are not listed as having voted.  I will list who did not vote for this in a future post.

Bills on Second Reading. These are the ones that I find of interest.
     Bill BL2019-46 requires the Department of Water and Sewerage Services to submit annual reports to the Metropolitan Council. The reports include: 1. The Audited Financial Statements, including net position, capital assets, outstanding bonds payable, and other financial information. 2. The Annual Budget Review, including the adequacy of budgeted revenues to cover projected expenses and debt requirements. 3. Any other information deemed relevant by the director or upon request of the Council public works or budget and finance committees. This is good as far as it goes. I just hope the Council will read the reports and act if they need to do so. If they do, this might stop a future occurrence of what we are experiencing now, where the water department is out of reserves, needs a lot of infrastructure work and the water rates are insufficient to keep the water system functioning. The problem with Water and Sewer is that they operate off of their own revenues so when the Council is putting together a budget they pay little attention to waste and inefficiency in water and sewer because even if they can cut their budget that does not free up money to spend elsewhere so as a result they get less scrutiny than other departments. I wish the Council would even do more than this to insure sound financial management at Water and Sewer. This passes on a voice vote.

     Bill BL2019-77 requires the disclosure of the full cost of a project prior to submission of capital expenditure authorization legislation to the Metropolitan Council. Currently the New sheriff's headquarters $17M over budget. This is not cost overrun. We simply started the project $17 million short of the cost to complete it. That should not happen. This bill should prevent it. It passes on a voice vote.

Bills on Third Reading.
     Substitute BL2019-6 says that if a short term rental property has operated without having obtained a permit, there shall be a waiting period of one year from the date of such determination before they can get a permit. Also, if a short term rental had a permit and failed to renew it, and operated without the renewed permit they would have a six months to get a permit. This passes by a vote of 26 in favor, 18 opposed.

     Bill BL2019-31 would require a permit for all new fencing. We have never required this before. I would want to know what problem this is trying to address before voting for it. It seems like more unnecessary government bureaucracy and cost to homeowners. I oppose. It was deferred.

     Bill BL2019-43 (as amended) requires than any adverse notification about Metro's finances from the State be delivered promptly to members of the Council. The prior administration did not do so. This is a good bill. It passes 37 to 0.

   Bill BL2019-45 (as amended) raises water and sewer rates. It raises several different fees, raising water fees about 63% and sewer by a lesser amount. The rates would raise each year for several years, not all at once. Unfortunately, this has to be done. We have a consent degree agreement with the Federal government to improve the system and don't have the money to do it and the State Comptroller says we have to do it. Also, improvement need to be made. More than 65% of Metro’s water pipes and 58% of the sewer pipes are over 40 years old. This passes by a vote of 38 to 0 with no abstentions.

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Nashville approves water and sewer rate hikes to stave off $45M shortfall

The Tennessean - Metro Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a multi-year rate hike, electing to make the choice on its own — avoiding what would have been certain order to do so from the state. (read more)

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Mayor Cooper Announces Approval of Most Recent Barnes Fund Grant Recipients. Affordable housing advocates not happy.

Metro press release, 12/3/2019- Mayor Cooper today announced that the Metro Housing Trust Fund Commission has approved recommendations from the Barnes Application Review Committee for a new round of grants to support the development and rehabilitation of 549 affordable housing units in Nashville. In response to fiscal pressures highlighted by the state comptroller, the Mayor’s Office has awarded a partial round of $5 million in Barnes Fund grants.

Mayor Cooper is hopeful that with potential budget savings and efficiencies, Metro can back an additional round of awards in the spring of 2020 using excess fund balance for this fiscal year. Taking current budget pressures into account, a primary objective of the Mayor’s Office is to avoid widespread personnel changes and interruption of vital city services.

“Even with our current budget difficulties, we are pleased to announce that the Barnes Fund will make grant awards due to their critical importance to housing affordability in our city,” said Mayor Cooper. “The Barnes Fund is a critical part of making sure that affordable housing is at the center of everything we do in Nashville. Providing housing stability for our children, taking stress off our local workforce, and creating opportunities for seniors to remain in their communities are all goals that help achieve a stronger Nashville for all of us.”

Under the Barnes Housing Fund requirements, eligible projects must create or preserve affordable housing opportunities in Nashville-Davidson County, Tennessee. Projects must be affordable to households with incomes at or below 60% area median income for rental projects and at or below 80% of the area median income adjusted for family size for homebuyer projects.

Organizations that will receive funds include:

  • Our Place, 
  • Affordable Housing Resources, 
  • Habitat for Humanity Nashville, 
  • Woodbine, 
  • Westminster, 
  • Be a Helping Hand, 
  • and Living Design Concepts. 
Since inception, the Barnes Fund has invested $37 million in affordable housing development and rehabilitation and has leveraged over $186 million of federal and private funding to construct more than 1,700 housing units.
#

Violated their trust:' developers denounce Mayor Cooper's cut to the Barnes Fund 

The Tennessean - … But on Tuesday, Cooper announced he is slashing nearly half of the city's annual funding it sends to the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing, which offers city dollars to grant incentives to Nashville developers who pursue projects priced affordably. … Of the nearly $10 million the Metro Council — including Cooper while serving on council — approved for this year, Cooper said only $5 million will be awarded because of the "fiscal pressures" facing the city and highlighted by the state comptroller. …… While city leaders, stakeholders and affordable housing advocates say they understand the circumstances surrounding the budget Cooper inherited, many say trust has been broken and the mayor could have, and should have, made the decision with more input and transparency. ….

Cooper's announcement came as a blow to the Metro Housing Trust Fund Commission, which was only alerted of the funding cut just an hour ahead of its meeting Tuesday to approve this year's grant recipients. "It was a shock," Commissioner Kaki Friskics-Warren told The Tennessean. "It was demoralizing for our nonprofit artners and others who have spent hours of work into this."  (read more)

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Friday, December 6, 2019

State Rep. William Lamberth Earns NFIB Guardian of Small Business Award

Rep. William Lamberth
Press release, NASHVILLE, Dec. 5, 2019 -- The Tennessee office of NFIB, the state’s leading small business advocacy organization, today presented its coveted Guardian of Small Business award to state Rep. William Lamberth (District 44), Tennessee’s House Majority Leader.

NFIB made the presentation today at the Gallatin Noon Rotary Club. The Guardian of Small Business award is the most prestigious honor that NFIB bestows on legislators in recognition of their efforts to support small business. The NFIB Tennessee Leadership Council, an advisory board comprised of NFIB members, voted to present the award to the legislator for his outstanding leadership on small-business issues.

“William Lamberth has been an exceptionally strong friend of small business since the day he was elected,” NFIB State Director Jim Brown said. “Leader Lamberth not only has a phenomenal voting record with NFIB, but also has worked diligently to protect our state’s job creators. His leadership has been integral in promoting a stable and predictable environment for Tennessee’s entrepreneurs.” “It’s a tremendous honor to receive the Guardian of Small Business award from NFIB, which was the first organization to endorse my candidacy in 2012,” said Lamberth, a longtime NFIB member.

“Small businesses are the backbone of my district and they drive our statewide economy. I remain committed to supporting them so they can operate on a level playing field and have the resources needed to succeed.” Lamberth serves on the Calendar & Rules, Judiciary, Finance, Ways & Means, Government Operations, and Joint Pensions & Insurance committees, the Criminal Justice and Judiciary & Government subcommittees, and the Select Committee on Rules and Select Committee on Ethics.

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Mayor Cooper Announces Multiple Initiatives to Combat Climate Change and Promote Sustainability, Signs Global Covenant of Mayors

Metro press release, 12/5/2019 - Mayor John Cooper today announced that his administration has signed the Global Covenant of Mayors as a precursor to participating in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a coalition of 94 leading cities around the world focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Mayor Cooper also introduced multiple local initiatives underway by his administration to address climate change and sustainability in Nashville and Davidson County.

“Since entering office, I began addressing immediate impediments to the function of our city – namely our financial condition,” said Mayor Cooper. “But my administration has been keenly aware of other longstanding concerns, including threats to our environment and the protection of our limited natural resources. Members of my staff have been focused on identifying opportunities to improve the stewardship of our city’s clean air, water, tree canopy, and other natural amenities.” 

Nashville’s participation in the Global Covenant of Mayors requires ambitious local climate and energy action and a transition to a low-emission and resilient urban environment to benefit public and environmental health and to lay the foundation for a prosperous economy.

“Since Nashville is my home, I am honored to help Mayor Cooper advance our city’s work to address the climate crisis,” said former Vice President Al Gore. “He is taking important steps forward that should lead to even greater commitments. He is thinking globally and acting locally -- as we all should.”

Mayor Cooper’s administration will also work toward reducing Nashville’s community-scale emissions 30 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by 2050. To lead by example, CO2-reduction targets for Metro Government will be 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Using Nashville’s most recent emissions inventories as a baseline, these targets were developed upon surveying those adopted by peer and aspirational cities and align with science-based recommendations in the Paris Climate Accord to reduce absolute CO2 emissions by three percent annually until 2050 in order to hold global warming to 2°C.

Mayor Cooper’s initial climate change and sustainability initiatives include:

  • solar power array installation atop Historic Metro Courthouse to be included in the next Capital Improvements Budget, expanding Metro’s renewable energy portfolio; 
  • the creation of an “Energy Savings Program” to support energy efficiency efforts in Metro’s general government facilities; 
  • LEED certifications achieved for Sheriff’s Office Downtown Campus, Metro Police Department Headquarters and Family Safety Center; 
  • the establishment of a Sustainability Advisory Board to review active proposals as they are being implemented through legislation; 
  • and the introduction of legislation with Metro Council members to further strengthen tree protections under the Metro Code.
“As we enjoy the holiday season, it is perhaps likely we will not see a proverbial white Christmas this year,” added Mayor Cooper. “But we can certainly work to have a green one. To ensure that our environment is as safeguarded as our pocketbooks, I am proud to announce these initial sustainability projects and policies with the guarantee that more are forthcoming, for the sake of our children and all future Nashvillians.”

Following is a detailed list of Mayor Cooper’s initial climate change and environmental initiatives:

1. Solar power installations across Metro facilities

A. Metro Courthouse

Among Mayor Cooper’s initial proposals is the implementation of a full solar panel array atop the Historic Metropolitan Courthouse. This effort will reduce the building’s costs by offsetting consumption with clean, onsite renewable energy.

Initial steps will include conducting a solar feasibility assessment to determine the ideal location and total number of solar panels that can be installed. It is estimated that the courthouse rooftop could accommodate over 200 individual solar panels capable of generating 72 kilowatts of renewable carbon-free energy.

This would constitute the first retrofit of an existing Metro building under the Metro Council’s local “Green New Deal” enacted under Ordinance Nos. BL2019-1599 and -1600. This legislation adopted a renewable energy standard outlining staged goals toward eventually achieving 100 percent renewable energy for Metro-owned buildings by 2041. The “Green New Deal” legislation also adopts an energy retrofit program across at least 9 percent of metro government-owned buildings with a goal of achieving at least 20 percent reductions in average energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Mayor’s Office has instructed the Department of General Services to manage the solar installation and building retrofit. The department currently manages nearly 100 facilities and has had experience and success with managing, monitoring, and reducing energy costs across its facilities.

The Historic Metropolitan Courthouse building, managed by the Department of General Services, currently offsets an average of 3.5 percent of its electricity by solar via a subscription to Music City Solar. The production from 510 solar panels at the city’s community solar park in Madison are directed towards the Courthouse’s electricity bills.

B. Other solar power array locations forthcoming 

Once installed, the Historic Metropolitan Courthouse will join other Metro locations where solar power arrays are being installed, including the Sheriff’s Office Downtown Campus (with 144 solar panels generating 50.4 kilowatts), the Metro Police Department Headquarters and Family Safety Center (with 864 solar panels generating 302 kilowatts), and the Bellevue Community Center (with 430 panels generating 150 kilowatts).

C. Metro Water Services 1.7-megawatt solar power facilities

An even more expansive plan is underway at Metro Water Services (MWS), which has initiated plans to install 1.7 megawatts of solar power generating capacity at three of their facilities − two wastewater treatment plants and one water treatment plant. The combined facilities will generate over 2 GWh of electricity annually − enough to power over 100 homes − and will avoid nearly 2,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The MWS procurement process begins December 5, 2019 with publication and release of the RFP. The procurement approach relies upon a third-party ownership model that will result in only marginal capital investment by the department. MWS will then enjoy direct use of the solar power generated at their facilities, offsetting an estimated six million dollars’ worth of conventional power over 20 years.

D. Renewable Investment Agreement with TVA for utility-scale solar power

In pursuit of even more substantial utility-scale solar power for Nashville, Mayor Cooper recently directed the Department of General Services to sign an initial agreement with NES and TVA allowing the Mayor’s Office to explore a Renewable Investment Agreement (RIA) whereby TVA would procure renewable energy from new renewable generation resources within the Tennessee Valley area for the benefit of Nashville.

While Metro’s efforts to develop clean sources of renewable energy are just beginning, the Mayor’s Office encourages Nashvillians who have the resources to consider solar installations at their own homes and businesses.

2. Energy Savings Program to improve efficiency

Mayor Cooper has commissioned the Department of General Services with establishing an “Energy Savings Program” to support energy efficiency efforts in Metro’s general government facilities with a goal of substantial reductions in energy consumption and costs.

To implement reductions, the Department of General Services will manage an “Energy Savings Revolving Fund” deploying ongoing measurement and tracking of energy savings projects for most Metro department facilities. This approach will provide a broad range of energy solutions, including design and implementation of energy savings projects, energy conservation measures, energy audits, energy infrastructure retrofits, building automation systems, utility expense management, and building retro-commissioning.

To track and manage the projects and energy savings, General Services’ sustainability team will be installing a new energy management system. The system will deliver high-quality data tracking used to provide visibility into an asset’s energy performance, accurate reporting of Metro’s progress towards greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, and the identification of actionable energy conservation measures. The software will be able to organize, track, visualize, benchmark, and effectively communicate trends of all commodities related to energy consumed by buildings managed by the Department of General Services.

General Services currently manages nearly 100 facilities and has had experience and success with monitoring and reducing energy costs in these facilities. Further, the department has an innovative Center of Responsible Energy staffed with an experienced team knowledgeable in energy management that monitors building automation systems in nearly half of its buildings, a seasoned energy manager, and in-depth expertise in reporting on energy utilization through the Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. 3. LEED certifications for Metro buildings

A. Sheriff’s Office Downtown Campus, Metro Police Department Headquarters and Family Safety Center

Achieving cost savings from energy efficiency will be a priority under the Cooper administration. Today, Mayor Cooper is proud to announce the pursuit of green building certification by two Metro-owned facilities.

With the assistance of the Department of General Services, the Sheriff’s Office Downtown Campus has just been awarded LEED Silver certification. And the Metro Police Department Headquarters and Family Safety Center is successfully tracking toward LEED Gold certification.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, is the most widely used green building rating system in the world and an international symbol of efficiency and sustainability. Through design, construction, and operations practices that improve environmental and human health, LEED-certified buildings make the world more sustainable.

The Sheriff’s 416,000 square foot campus in downtown Nashville will be the first of its kind to achieve LEED Silver certification in the state of Tennessee. The campus includes 436 detention cells on five levels, 60 behavioral health beds, a medical unit, kitchen and laundry facilities, intake and processing facilities, administrative space and visitation, and staff parking. This state-of-the-art facility achieved LEED certification by implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions toward sustainability in several areas, including site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. More than 84 percent of the construction and demolition debris was diverted from landfills, with 33 percent of the materials containing recycled content and 50 percent of the materials procured regionally. The facility was designed to reduce water consumption by 45 percent and energy use by 21.6 percent, with a portion of the electricity demand generated onsite with rooftop solar panels. Certification is proof that the Sheriff’s Office Downtown Campus is being constructed and operated to the highest level of sustainability.

4. Establishment of Sustainability Advisory Board

Among Mayor Cooper’s other initial undertakings will be the establishment of a Sustainability Advisory Board that will review actual sustainability initiatives advanced by the Mayor’s Office and by the Metro Council.

Previous administrations have convened environmental groups whose well-meaning members ably gathered, discussed, and prepared reports filled with ambitious proposals and recommendations. But today, Metro’s problem is not a lack of proposals − it is the implementation of those proposals into actual practice. That is why the Advisory Board will be charged – to review active proposals as they are being implemented through legislation and policy changes.

5. Saving and strengthening Nashville’s tree canopy

Locally, Metro’s policies must promote and protect efforts to restore a healthy tree canopy. Planting trees is an effective and cost-conscious way to fight climate change. The Metro Council has approved important legislation toward the protection of Nashville’s tree canopy, yet much more remains to be done. While a wholesale revision to Metro’s current Code is suggested by some, such efforts would require substantial costs and labor at a time of significant budgetary constraint. But incremental measures can at least continue the momentum forward until Metro’s fiscal house is in order.

To that end, Mayor Cooper is introducing initial legislation with Metro Council Member Angie Henderson to further strengthen tree protections under the Metro Code. Specifically, the legislation will propose the elimination of an exemption to tree density requirements that unintentionally reduces tree volume by nearly 70 percent based solely upon lot dimensions. (See, Metropolitan Code of Laws, sec. 17.24.100.B.2).

Christmas Tree

Sustainable practices for a vital tree canopy can and should include Nashville’s annual Christmas Tree – an important symbol where Metro’s practices can likewise be of symbolic significance. Therefore, for the first time, the Metro Parks Department will provide a “replacement value plus” for each tree harvested for Public Square holiday decorations. After a Christmas Tree is donated, the Parks Department will plant multiple replacement trees equivalent to twice the caliper inch measurement of the Christmas Tree, literally doubling the diameter volume of replaced trees. Further, the Christmas Tree will be decorated with over 5,000 LED lights powered exclusively by solar energy.

Joining the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy

As Metro acts locally, it is important to continue to think globally − being mindful of the impact the city’s conduct has upon others around the world. To that end, Mayor Cooper has added his signature to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, a global coalition of city leaders dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, making their communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change, and providing access to sustainable energy.

By taking these initial actions, Nashville secures its commitment to local climate and energy action and the transition to a low-emission and climate-resilient urban environment that will benefit the health of the community and lay the groundwork for a prosperous economic future. 

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Mayor’s Night Out on Thursday, December 12, 2019

Press release - Mayor John Cooper is thrilled to host another Mayor’s Night Out. These events are held on the second Thursday of each month and Nashville residents are invited to have one-on-one conversations with the Mayor and his department personnel. The next Mayor’s Night Out will be held on Thursday, December 12, 2019 at Shayne Elementary from 6:00-8:30 p.m.

The following people will be attending this event:
Mayor John Cooper
Rachael Anne Elrod (Metro Nashville Public Schools Board Member)
Council member Courtney Johnston (District 26)
Council member Robert Nash (District 27)
Council member Sandra Sepulveda (District 30)

Note: There will be no availability for interviews or questions and answers at this event.
Location: Shayne Elementary School 6217 Nolensville Road Nashville, TN 37211

Get Driving Directions

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Blackburn speaks on Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act




Update: President Trump signed the bill. 

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Monday, December 2, 2019

Tennessee Now Has the Highest Sales Tax in the Country, ....


But, I'm OK with that.  I would much rather have a high sales tax than an income tax. 
However, Tennessee's sales tax structure could stand room for improvement. The non-partisan Tax Foundation says a good sales tax should be broad based, low, and not tax business inputs, but only tax the final product. Our tax is not broad based enough because it taxes not enough services, focusing heavily on products. When the base is broader, the rate can be lower and bring in the same revenue. We impose a tax on too many inputs. When inputs are taxed consumer end up paying a tax on a tax. It distorts economic activity. Also, sales taxes levied on business equipment have a negative effect on small business start-ups. Also, according to the Tax Foundation, companies have been known to avoid locating factories or facilities in certain states because the factory’s machinery would be subject to the state’s sales tax.

Tennessee, along with Alabama, Washington, Louisiana, Arkansas, and California rate as having the worst system of sales tax, imposing high rates and taxing a range of business inputs, such as utilities, services, manufacturing, and leases, and maintaining relatively high excise taxes. Excise taxes are a tax separate from a sales tax, on specific goods. Liquor taxes, beer taxes, cigarette taxes, and gas taxes are examples of an excise tax. Tennessee has the highest combined state and local sales tax rate of 9.469 percent, closely followed by Arkansas at 9.465 percent.

The Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index  looks at five components in overall ranking of states as to their business climate: Individual Income Tax , Sales Tax, Corporate Income Tax, Property Tax, and Unemployment Insurance. While we get a boost for not having a state income tax, we do not score well on some other matrices. According to the Tax Foundation, Tennessee is ranked only18th best state business climate. However, they predict our ranking is likely to increase due to the phasing out of the Hall Income Tax. The Hall Income Tax is a tax paid on interest and dividend income. The report says the State's initial reductions are too small to change the State Business Tax Climate rankings yet, but Tennessee’s rank will improve once the tax is fully phased out in 2021. To read the full report follow this link.

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

What is on the Dec. 2nd Council Agenda: Raising water rates, permits to build a fence, new transparencies and communication requirements, and recognizing World Aids Day.

by Rod Williams - The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, Dec. 2nd at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. Here is a link to the Council agenda and the Council staff analysis.

For those who want to watch the Council meeting and follow along, the meeting are more interesting if you have the agenda and agenda analysis.  It is still not very interesting but more interesting if you know what the heck is going on. You don't have to watch it and yet you can still be informed however, because  I will watch it for you and then a couple days later post a summary of the most important Council actions and I will post a video of the meeting and highlight the interesting parts. Below is a summary of the agenda, highlighting what I deem to be the most important items.

Elections and Confirmations. There are sixteen appointments or reappointments to  boards and commissions to be confirmed, including the appointment of former mayor Bill Purcell to the Metro Development and Housing Agency. I suspect all will be confirmed without controversy. There is also an election by the council of one person for a seat on the Industrial Development Board, from nominations made by council members.  Seats on the industrial board are important to some people and sometimes the Council gets lobbied heavily to favor one candidate over another but the general public pays little attention to this. The Industrial Development Board can help favored parties.


Public Hearing. There is one resolution and 18 bills on public hearing.  These are mostly rezoning bills.  I don't closely examine rezoning bills and don't try to form an opinion of their merits. Usually the only people who care about zoning bills are nearby neighbors.  If I anticipate a bill to be controversial I will call attention to it and will point out a bill that is disapproved by the Planning Commission.  Also, I will point out zoning bills that have wider import than just the subject property, but purely local zoning bills I ignore.  These are the bills on public hearing of interest.

Bill BL2019-67  is one of those bills that changes a community from a zoning that allows two housing units per lot to a zoning that allows only one unit per lot. I understand the concern of those who want to keep their neighborhood the way it is but I oppose all bills of this type.  This has the detrimental effect of decreasing future density which leads to more urban sprawl and less affordable housing.  If we have less density, the cost of available housing will increase at an accelerated rate. I wish the Planning Commission would recognize this and disapprove bills of this type.
Resolutions. Most are routine things like approving contracts, accepting grants, appropriating the money to settle law suits, and approving signs overhanging sidewalks. These are the ones of interest.
Resolution RS2019-100 and Resolution RS2019-116  both involve the reallocation of funds that were originally intended for the Gulch pedestrian bridge to other purposes. These should pass without opposition.

Resolution RS2019-128 recognizes December 1, 2019 as World AIDS Day in Nashville. Last month we had a recognition for a Transsexual Day of Remembrance and of course in the summer we have the gay pride event and a resolution so honoring gays and it wasn't long ago the city erected historical markers honoring two of the earliest gay bars in Nashville. We are giving a lot of attention to gays in Nashville.   Aids, of course is a terrible disease and there is nothing wrong with recognizing a World Aids Day, but if we are going to do so, I think we should have Alzheimer's Day or Remembrance, and a Heart Health Day of Remembrance, and a Cancer Day of Remembrance, and a Breast Cancer Day of Remembrance and Autism Day of Remembrance, and Death due to Drunk Drivers day of Remembrance, and Aborted Babies Day of Remembrance, and Americans killed by Illegal Aliens Day of Remembrance, etc, etc..  There are 365 days a year and there are plenty of illnesses and causes and events worthy of a day of remembrance. 
Bills on Second Reading. These are the ones that I find of interest.
Bill BL2019-46   requires the Department of Water and Sewerage Services to submit annual reports to the Metropolitan Council. The reports include: 1. The Audited Financial Statements, including net position, capital assets, outstanding bonds payable, and other financial information. 2. The Annual Budget Review, including the adequacy of budgeted revenues to cover projected expenses and debt requirements. 3. Any other information deemed relevant by the director or upon request of the Council public works or budget and finance committees.

This is good as far as it goes.  I just hope the Council will read the reports and act if they need to do so. If they do, this might stop a future occurrence of what we are experiencing now, where the water department is out of reserves, needs a lot of infrastructure work and the water rates are insufficient to keep the water system functioning.

The problem with Water and Sewer is that they operate off of their own revenues so when the Council is putting together a budget they pay little attention to waste and inefficiency in water and sewer because even if they can cut their budget that does not free up money to spend elsewhere so as a result they get less scrutiny than other departments. I wish the Council would even do more than this to insure sound financial management at Water and Sewer.

Bill BL2019-77 would require the disclosure of the full cost of a project prior to submission of capital expenditure authorization legislation to the Metropolitan Council. Currently the  New sheriff's headquarters $17M over budget.  This is not cost overrun. We simply started the project $17 million short of the cost to complete it. That should not happen. This bill should prevent it.
Bills on Third Reading. 
Bill BL2019-31 would require a permit for all new fencing.  We have never required this before. I would want to know what problem this is trying to address before voting for it. It seems like more unnecessary government bureaucracy and cost to homeowners. I oppose.

Bill BL2019-43 (as amended) requires than any adverse notification about Metro's finances from the State be delivered promptly to members of the Council. The prior administration did not do so. This is a good bill.
Bill BL2019-45  raises water and sewer rates. It raises several different fees, raising water fees about 63% and sewer by a lesser amount. The rates would raise each year for several years, not all at once.  Unfortunately, this has to be done. We have a consent degree agreement with the Federal government to improve the system and don't have the money to do it and the State Comptroller says we have to do it. Also, improvement need to be made. More than 65% of Metro’s water pipes and 58% of the sewer pipes are over 40 years old.  I hope the Council will pursue changes at water and sewer so this situation does not happen again. Water and Sewer operate off of their own revenues and as a result do not get close scrutiny.  Since efficiency and cost cutting at metro water cannot benefit the general fund, they do not get the same oversight as would a regular Metro department.  In my view, changes should be made such that Water and Sewer has a board they have to report to and a member of the Council should be a member of the board.  
To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person, or you can watch the broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and it is streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. It is also available live on Roku. You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) on the Metro YouTube channel.   If can stand the suspense and just wait I will post the video here and provide commentary.

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Bill Hagerty guess speaker at First Tuesday, Dec. 3rd.

From Tim Skow:

When we meet on Tuesday, December 3rd, Tennessee will be just 8 mere months from selecting our NEXT US Senator.
[yes, the winner of the August Republican primary will be Tennessee's next Senator ! ]

On Tuesday, DEC 3 we will hear from US Senate candidate BILL HAGERTY. 
Ambassador Hagerty is the former TN Commissioner of ECD and until this summer was the Ambassador to Japan. 
Bill Hagerty
Amb. Hagerty is a man with an incredible record in both the private sector and while in public service. And as many of you know, President Trump announced his support before Ambassador Hagerty had even left his role in the Orient. 
More about Amb. Hagerty is available at his website: www.Meet Bill - Bill Hagerty for U.S. Senate

Many Tennesseans have yet to spend much time getting to know Amb. Hagerty. December 3 at 1ST TUESDAY will be your up close opportunity to get to know him and ask him directly about what you care about the most !  Make your plans and pass the word !
We expect a BIG crowd for this lunch event at Waller Law. 

As usual, its still $20 for Members and $25 for Guests. 
Secure seating for you and your Guests ASAP via our website shopping cart !  www.firsttuesdaynashville.com

Tim Skow
Host of 1ST TUESDAY

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