Thursday, June 7, 2012

Update: What Happened at the June 5th Council Meeting: budget passes on 2nd reading.

 06/05/12 Council Meeting

This is the council meeting of June 5th. This meeting includes the lengthy public hearing on the budget which is on second reading. This meeting is over five hours long! Below are the highlights.

  • When the council adjourns, it adjourns to June 12, 2012 at 6pm for consideration of the capitol improvement meeting and any other matter the vice mayor may deem appropriate. 
  • Reappointment of Mr. Brian Winfrey to the troubled Transportation Licensing commission is deferred. Why? I don't know. 
  • The first bill on public hearing is the capital improvement's budget. This appropriates no money. It is a planning document and establishes priority for proposed capital improvemeents. This hearing starts at 8:43 and ends at 15:26. The principal of Stratford speaks in favor of improvement of that school. The capital improvements budget is approved and rereferred to the Budget and Finance Committee.
  • The vice mayor explains that if a majority of the council votes against the operating budget or abstains the Mayors budget automatically goes into effect.
  • Proponents of the Mayor's proposed operating budget starts at 15:55. One after the other people plead for approval of the budget. Proponents plead for a yes vote because they advocate for headstart, for all services, for better schools, for paramedics, for the arts, for a summer writing program, lots of advocates for public transportation, and to get a pay raise.   Many are metro employees. Lots of policemen and lots of teachers speak.  Below are some of the more interesting examples of testimony of those in favor of the budget.
    • Robert Weaver, the head of the Fraternal Order of Police.(21:25)
    • David Peters, a business man with Universal Robotics. He is with the Chamber's report card project. (22:30)
    • Doug ? with the Auto Diesel College. Pro mass transit. Students have no cars. Pro public safety.
    • Bert Matthews, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He gives the address of the chamber but not his address. Should he have been allowed to speak? Favors mass transit and support of the Chamber.
    • Ginger Cook, president of the Realtors. Again, she give the address of the organization but not her address. Is she a Nashvillian?
    • Jane, Ellis, Chair of the Nashville arts.(1:22:28)
    • Steven Entre representing the Greater Nashville Hospitality industry. (1:45:10)
    • Eric Cole, a former council member. (1:51:00)   
  • The opponent of the tax increase start speaking at 1:54:10)
    • Burce McNealage (?). Watch this one. He is a real estate investor buying lots of slum property and turning them into nice places to live. This is a person who has been active in the anti tax movement.  
    • Ken Jakes, citizen activist and former candidate for Metro Council. (1:57:30) He argues we do not need a department of internal audit. Very good. He argues against the arts. Is that art, he ask after giving a couple examples of bad art.
    • Bob Ries, candidate for Congress. We should be expanding the tax base, not the tax rate.  (2:11:53)
    • Daniel Lewis, Chairman of the Davidson County Libertarian Party. Taxation is theft! China, a communist country, is privatizing transportation. Many functions of government could be privatized. (2:17:43)
    • Dan Davis, a Metro School teacher and the Vice Chair of the Davidson County Republican Party. Great job! Watch this one. The city's liabilities exceed it's assets. (2:21:27)
    • Lonnie Spivak, a former candidate for Congress and a leader of the tea party in Nashville. He addresses how much more we spend on education than surrounding counties. Where are the teachers. Too many chiefs, not enough Indians. (2:29:34)
    • Ken Marrero, blogger at Blue Collar Muse and local tea party leader. Great passionate speech. "I am not an ATM."  (3:00:47)
    • Connie Hunter, former school board member. (3:05:36
    • Ed Zeigler. Ed is humorous. Good plea against the increase.(3:24:32)
The public hearing ends at 3:29:20, The budget passes on a voice vote and is referred back to the Budget and Finance committee. Also, the tax levy is passed and referred back to committee.

In other Council action: 

There is a public hearing on a Granny White Pike area zoning bill (BILL NO. BL2012-151) that would interest no one but those in the vicinity. It last an hour. I pity the folks who came to speak on this zoning bill who had to sit through the public hearing on the budget. I think the Council needs to change their rules so public hearing on zoning bills do not occur on the same night as public hearing on the budget. The bill was approved on second meeting and Councilman Todd said he would defer it one meeting on third reading.

A bunch of bills are appropriately passed on the consent agenda, (281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 287, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 295, 297, 298, 299).

Several bills, such as bills to adopt an employee pay plan and bills that would issue bonds are deferred to follow the outcome of the budget.  

Three proposed charter amendments (278 and 278 and 298) are deferred indefinitely.  

original post 6/5/2012
Outside the Council Chamber about 6:30 PM

I just finished watching the Council hearing on the budget. It passed unanimously on a voice vote, as it should have. Had the combined majority either abstained or voted "no" the mayor's budget would have become law. The council had to pass this budget tonight. That is the way the charter requires it. The budget is now passed on second reading and referred back to the budget committee. It is amendable on third reading.

I arrived at the council chamber about 5:15 but by the time I got there the chamber was already full and about 200 people were on the mezzanine unable to get in the chamber. I had my remarks prepared and fully intended to speak. However, I had my wife Louella and her caregiver and our friend Sue with me. Louella has Alzheimer's and we had not had dinner and Louella got antsy. The pros got to speak first. By 7PM there was a very long line of "pros" waiting to speak and I knew it would be a very long, long time before I would get to speak and I had to leave.  I did get a chance to speak to my Council member and a couple others I know and I urged them to oppose the Mayors budget. I went home and watched the rest of the hearing on channel 3. The budget hearing was not over until about 10PM.

The people who spoke, for the most part, made intelligent and thoughtful remarks. Most of the "pros" were Metro employees who wanted the promised 4% salary increase or those who benefit from doing business with Metro or whose industry benefits from more Metro spending.  However, some of the "pros" were people who genuinely think Nashville needs more funding to move forward, especially people who believe we need more funding for schools. I disagree with them, but respectfully disagree. I think they are simply wrong; not bad people.

I was very impressed by the quality of comments from our side of the issue. I know many of these people and I was impressed. Connie Hunter, former school board member; Ken Marrero, blogger at Blue Collar Muse, tea party leader and a Davidson County Republican Executive Committee member; Ken Jakes, citizen activist and former candidate for Metro Council; Bob Ries, a candidate for the 5th Congressional District; Lonnie Spivak, former candidate for the 5th Congressional district and tea party leader; Ed Zeagler, a former member of the Davidson County Republican Party Executive Committee who's remarks were not only good but humorous; Daniel Lewis, Chairman of the Davidson County Libertarian Party; Dan Davis, Vice Chair of the Davidson County Republican Party; and others. I am proud of these people. I am not only proud of these people, but pleased that so many citizens cared enough to come out and miss a meal and stay late to be heard.

Now, it is up to the Council. I hope the Council will develop an alternative to the Mayors budget which does not increase taxes. Realistically, I expect some tax increase. The challenge of the opponents is to craft an alternative to the Mayor's budget. While I hope that the alternative is a no tax increase budget, to get a majority will probably require some compromise which is greater than no increase but less than the mayor's requested 13% increase. Unfortunately, the charter gives an edge to proponents.

As soon as the video of the meeting is available I will post it and provide notations to what I see as the best comments, so you can see the best parts and skip the rest. Stay tuned for updates.  

Here are my prepared remarks that I did not get to give: 
 My name is Rod Williams of 758 Roycroft Pl, Nashville. As a former member of this body I appreciate the difficult task you face.  I know the challenges you face in passing a no tax increase budget but I urge you do to so. 
Of the proposed 13% tax hike, 44% is slated to go to schools.  The largest part of that additional money for schools is a proposed increase in the starting salary for teachers, raising that starting salary to $40,00.  We are told starting salaries for teachers are too low in Davidson County. We are told that without raising the starting salary, we will lose teachers to other school districts.

I do not believe this. The facts do not support that argument.  

Thirty-nine of 133 districts do pay a higher starting salary. That means 93 of 133 school districts pay a lower starting salary.

For those that pay a higher starting salary, how much more do they pay? The one immediately above Nashville in starting salary pays $119 more per year. That is $2.23 more per per week.  Of the next seven, they pay less than $500 dollars a year more. Not much difference.

Where are the better paying districts? Only one, Murfressboro City schools, is in this vicinity. Those paying more include Memphis and Sevier County and Maryville City and other districts which are over 200 miles away. Several others including Bristol city, Johnson City and Kingsport are more than 300 miles away. Those are not our competitors.

There are a lot of reasons people choose to live and work where that do.  I do not believe we are losing talented educators to other districts.  If we are, it is not due to starting salaries of our teachers.

We are always told a tax increase is "for the children." I am not buying it. Please do not pass the mayor's budget.  Thank you.

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1 comment:

  1. That was some interesting stuff here on Thanks for posting it.