Thursday, December 6, 2012

Highlights and summary of the 12/04/2012 Council meeting

HCA gets the Deal, Private property rights advocates speak against down zoning,

This council meeting is 2 hours and 16 minutes long. I am only highlighting those bills that I deem to be of a general interest or are especially controversial. In addition to the bills I highlight, there are other zoning bills on public hearing that are of interest to the neighbors who reside in the part of town where the rezoning is proposed.

Bills on Public Hearing:
BILL NO. BL2012-292 would permit home recording studios in residential neighborhoods. This is not uncommon in Nashville. Under this proposal a recording studio could have up to ten clients, customers, musicians, or other visitors come to the property per day. Currently they are only allowed to have one visitor. The noise ordinance would still apply.

Several prominent songwriters and musician speak in favor of the bill, including Bryan Cunnings who composed the instrumental "Do the Dog" and has a distinguished career including lead guitar player with ShaNaNa, touring with everyone from Al Jarreau to K.T. Oslin and has written a slew of song.

Less Kerr, another prominent entertainer also spoke in favor of the bill. Speaking in opposition was David Pomeroy, a prominent bass player and head of the musicians union. His argument is that the restrictions would be unenforceable and that a better bill needs to be drawn. The bill is deferred and referred to committee. Council Member Barry promises to get input of the music committee and work on improving the bill. (see 14:03-26:33)
BILL NO. BL2012-301 by Council Member Karen Johnson would down zone a piece of property, allowing only a two story building, where currently the Planned Unit Development on the property would allow a four story building. (see 26:34-58:00.)

Four  people, who are members of the community, speak for the bill. Speaking against the bill is one of the owners of Vastland, the company that owns the property and the developer of Nashboro village for about the last fifteen years. He explains that a large development such as Nashboro Village cannot be developed in a short period of time, and that just because time has passed since the plan was approved is not reason to change the zoning.

Next to speak was an investor in the project who explains that without certainty that one can develop a property the way it is zoned, then one cannot secure financing. He was explaining the complexity and the steps that must be taken and the factor that go into consideration in developing a piece of property, when his time expired.

Next is Daniel Lewis (see 43:51) chairman of the Davidson County Libertarian Party. He says this is a fundamental attack on private property and quotes John Locke and gives a good history lesson. (Not that I would always agree with him, but I wish we had Daniel Lewis or someone like him in the Council. If we did, then things like the unanimous support of limo price fixing and unanimous support of giving EPA dictatorial powers and things like giving eminent domain power to other governmental agencies would not occur. We need at least one dogmatic champion of liberty in the Council.)

Engineer and former Councilman Roy Dale (54:45) is among others speaking against the bill saying this is bad for business. Saying if this passes it sends a bad message to investors.

The vote is 28-8 by machine vote. Those voting against the bill are Tygerd, Banks, Stites, Claiborne, Baker, Langster, and Weiner. Robert Duvall was absent, but some of the other councilmen who I think of as the "good councilmen" disappoint me and voted for it. If I would have been in the Council I would have voted against the bill.

Other bills of interest are BILL NO. BL2012-309 (1:02-1:18:50) would rezones a piece of property to permit a used tire store and BILL NO. BL2012-291 (1:23:09- 1:44:05)   which amends the definition of “recycling facility” to clarify that it does not include the conversion of material into a fuel product or asphalt.
There are fourteen resolutions on the consent agenda. None are pulled. A resolution is on the consent agenda if it passed the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Bills on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters.

There are two resolutions not on the consent agenda, RESOLUTION NO.RS2012-488.and SUBSTITUTE RESOLUTION NO. RS2012-489. These are part of the HCA deal. (see 1:48:55-2:00:27
Councilman Josh Stites takes to the floor (1:55:050) and argues against the bills saying we just raised property taxes and yet we are here giving a tax break to a wealthy company. He says he does not blame HCA for seeking the deal but says, "their obligation is to their shareholder; our obligation is to tax payers. It is a distinction we should not forget."

He makes a good argument against the bill. While I admire Stites for taking the lone stand against the bill and while I agree in principle that we should not be offering incentives for companies or movie or TV production projects or sports teams, we must compete with other cities that are offering such incentive. Unfortunately we are in an environment in which sports team, movies or companies will go somewhere else with their project unless they are bribed given an incentive. If I would have been in the Council, I think I would have had to hold my nose and reluctantly vote for the bill.

All Bills on First reading pass. Bills on first reading are considered as a group and are seldom discussed. First reading is a formality that allows the bill to be considered. Bills are not assigned to committee or analyzed by council staff until after they have passed first reading.

Bills on Second Reading all pass with little discussion. 

Bills on Third Reading: Third Reading is the final reading. If a bill passes third reading it becomes law unless it is vetoed by the Mayor, which has only rarely happened. Below are the bills of interest on third reading.
BILL NO. BL2012-294 by Councilman Duane Dominy simply brings a minimum level of accountability and oversight to the purchasing process. It would require all sole-source contracts over $250,000 be approved by the council. One of the few sole source contracts that come before the council is the city's contract with the Chamber of Commerce for the Partnership 2020 program.
Partnership 2020 is a public-private partnership developed by the chamber whose purpose is to recruit new businesses to the Nashville area. Metro’s appropriation for this program in recent years has been $300,000 a year. While the program serves a ten county area, Metro funds a greater share of the program than the other nine counties combined. Many feel that Metro funds the program, yet the bulk of new relocations to the Nashville area go to surrounding counties.
This bill fails. The vote is 18 for and 15 against, 3 abstentions and 4 members absent. The bill failed. It required 21 votes to pass. (see 2:08:24) This was a good bill. I commend Councilman Dominy for trying. It is tough to go up against the Chamber.
BILL NO. BL2012-295 establishing rules for handling the eggs and keeping chickens on school property is withdrawn. The sponsor explains that the issues necessitating this bill had been resolved administratively.
BILL NO. BL2012-297 is part of the HCA deal. Again Josh Stites takes to the floor to argue against it but again is the lone dissenting vote. (2:11:53)

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