Saturday, December 17, 2011

What to Watch for in the December 20th Council Meeting, updated

 Undoing Limo Price-fixing, Beer Permits, subsidizing LifePoints move
The Metro Council meeting agenda and analysis is now available. You can find the agenda and analysis here:  Metro Council Agenda, Council Analysis.   The council meetings are more interesting if you have both. However, I watch the council meetings so you don't have to so look for my highlights of the meeting, following the Council meeting. Below is what I see as issue worth watching.

This biggest issue of the night will be  ORDINANCE NO. BL2011-49 by Council Member Blalock, which is on second reading.  This ordinance amends the Metro Code to remove the price fixing that was imposed in June 2010 when the Council passed Ordinance No. BL2010-685.  That bill imposed a minimum $45 fee for livery services, a prohibition on the use of leased vehicles, and age and mileage restrictions on vehicles. The effect of that ordinance was to protect the luxury limousine companies from competition from those providing economy limousine  service. Blalock's bill will remove the more odious elements of the June 2010 price fixing bill.

While our local press has given this issue little attention this case has been reported on nationally in an in depth piece in the Huffington Post.  A nationally acclaimed libertarian, civil liberties, public interest law firm has sued the city claiming constitutional violations of the rights of the economy limousine service providers. The way I see this bill, this is a fight between those who believe in free enterprise and those who advocate crony capitalism and protecting your friends from competition. I will be especially disappointed if the members of the Council who call themselves Republicans, many of whom I endorsed,  contributed money to, and worked the phone banks and the polls for, don't support this bill.

I have blogged extensively on this issue. To see YouTube clips, the Huffington Post piece and more, follow this link and then scroll down to see all post on this topic. 

Other issues:

RESOLUTION NOS. RS2011-111, RS2011-112 & RS2011-113  These three resolutions exempt specific restaurants from the minimum distance requirements for obtaining a beer permit. The Metro code prevents a beer permit from being issued to an establishment located within 100 feet of a church, school, park, daycare, or one or two family residence. However, the code was amended in September 2010 to exempt restaurants that already have a state on-premises liquor consumption license from Metro’s minimum distance requirements to obtain a beer permit upon the adoption of a resolution by the council. A public hearing must be held by the council prior to voting on these resolution. As nutty as it sounds, there are restaurants that can sell wine and hard alcohol but cannot sell beer. That is because Metro draws up the regulations for beer and the regulations governing the sale of liquor (which includes wine) is a state regulation. These hearing on this issue seem like a waste of time but they are required. I don't know what argument one would make that an establishment that can sell Jack Daniels should not be allowed to sale Bud Lite, but I bet someone will speak out against issuing beer permits to these establishments.

On the consent agenda is RESOLUTION NO. RS2011-59 which approves a contract between the Metropolitan board of health and Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church to upgrade the church’s kitchen facilities. The church is to receive $24,275 in federal stimulus pass-through funds under this contract. This use of public funds for improvements to a church's kitchen sounds like a misuse of funds to me, sort of like supporting the establishment of religion. By being on the consent agenda, someone has to ask for it to be removed and voted on separately or it gets lumped in with all the other non-controversial resolutions. Apparently there is no opposition to this bill, but if I was in the Council, I would have to vote against it. It will be interesting to see if there is not a single councilman who has a problem with this bill.

ORDINANCE NO. BL2011-58 on second reading exempts LifePoint Hospitals, Inc. from paying property taxes for moving from Brentwood to Nashville.  It is a lot more complicated than that however. See the analysis to know more. I certainly don't know enough about this to know if it is a good deal or not. Frankly, I wish cities were not able to offer these incentives. I hate it that we get in bidding wars to attract business, but we have to compete in the environment in which we are in. I hope the Budget and Finance Committee has a through exploration of this issue and it is given some serious debate. 

ORDINANCE NO. BL2011-60 on second reading is a routine ordinance that readopts the Metropolitan Code prepared by Municipal Code Corporation to include all ordinances enacted on or before August 16, 2011. This will be routine, but unfortunately this routine readopting of the code can be used to bury ordinances legally adopted by the Council and signed by the Mayor that someone wishes had never passed.  Ordinances can simply be left out of the code. I know this from experience. When I served in the Council, I got passed through the Council, after a long hard fight, a requirement that Metro Schools be periodically tested for radon and if radon in hazardous levels was discovered, for there to be radon abatement. Radon is a naturally occurring odorless gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer and is most damaging to developing children. Due to the nature of limestone shale in this part of the country in which we live, radon is prevalent.  When the code was readopted, this requirement for Metro School radon testing and abatement was left out of the code and the law was ignored for about the next 20 years.  There is not a mechanism to insure that everything adopted into law gets in the code. There needs to be a procedure to insure that all laws make it into the code. I wish some councilman would take on this project.  To read more about how the Radon testing program was sabotaged by, read here.

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