Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Summary of the Council Agneda for 1/8/2013. What to watch for.

You can get your own copy of the Metro council meeting agenda at this link: Metro CouncilAgenda. From the agenda you can usually link to the analysis, but for some reason you can’t this time. You can find the analysis at this link: Metro Council Agenda Analysis.

Council meetings can be really, really boring if you don't know what the Council is voting on. With an agenda and analysis, they are just really boring.

There are eight bills on public hearing. All are zoning bills except for one.  I am listing those that might have broader interest than just affected neighbors.

  • BILL NO. BL2012-264  by Josh Stites, amends the code by specifying that in regards to grandfather-in PUDs (planned unit developments which were approved prior to 1998 when the current code was adopted), “… when legislation modifying the planned unit development is approved by the metropolitan council that expressly includes provisions that are not consistent with the chapters of this code, such express provisions shall govern.”
While this may seem minor, this bill could keep someone from losing their property rights. With this bill, a property owner could develop according to a plan already approved, not the current code requirements. This applies to the development rights of the property, not building codes or fire codes. This will probably not be controversial. It was unanimously approved by the planning commission. This is a good bill.
  • BILL NO. BL2012-302 by Karen Johnson is an amendment to a portion of the Nashboro Village Planned Unit Development Overlay. I don’t know what is wrong with this bill.  There is no analysis of it. I am listing this as a bill to watch however, because last month Councilman Johnson tried to down-zone a piece of property in Hillsboro village against the wishes of the owner and because this bill was deferred indefinitely by a 9-0 vote of the Planning Commission. 
There are twelve resolutions, all of which are on the consent agenda at this time. 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. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single voice vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. If one is present and does not ask to be recorded voting "no" then they are assumed to have voted "aye."  Any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda.

All of the bills on the consent agenda appear routine and I would not expect any of them to be pulled or see any that I think need to be pulled.

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

Here are bills of interests on first reading:
  • BILL NO. BL2013-338 by Tygard and Dominy looks very similar to a bill which Councilman Dominy recently unsuccessfully tried to pass. This bill says that "no sole source contract for the purchase of goods or services, including contracts for economic development initiatives and services, with a total contract amount in excess of two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) may be entered into unless and until such contract has been approved by resolution duly adopted by the council by twenty-one affirmative votes.” 
I don't know how this bill differs from the previous bill on the same subject, but I am glad to see Dominy is not giving up the fight. I am glad to see Councilman Tygard join as cosponsor. This is a good bill that needs to pass. One of the few sole source contracts that metro has 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. 
  •  BILL NO. BL2013-339 and BILL NO. BL2013-340 are more bribes incentives to private business to get them to expand in or relocate to Nashville. I would hope the Council would consider the wisdom of this policy. If this continues, every business of any size that could relocate will have a reason do so unless paid not to so. For more on this, see here
  • BILL NO. BL2013-354 deletes “Historic Home Events” as a use and to adds “Special Events Center” as a new use to be permitted in certain zoning districts and permitted with conditions in certain zoning districts. I really don't know what this does, it just got my attention. There are certain large historically significant home which are permitted to serve as bed and breakfasts or banquet facilities or places for wedding in residential neighborhoods. They operate under a conditional use. There are always some neighbors who want to drive them out of business. I don't know that this is what this change is all about but it caught my attention. This may amount to nothing significant, but it is worth watching.
Bills on Second Reading. It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place. Below are bills of interest on second reading. 
  • BILL NO. BL2012-293 by Dominy and others would require the fair board to "issue a request for information (RFI) to gauge interest from the private sector regarding the future operation of the fairgrounds property. The RFI is to assist the fair board in the identification of potential options to partner with the private sector to make significant capital improvements to the fairgrounds property in exchange for a long term lease of at least twenty-five years with a portion of the revenue generated on the property to be shared with the Metropolitan Government. The RFI should specify that the existing property uses (fair, expo center, flea market, race track and livestock exhibitions) are to remain, and should seek interest from the private sector for the long-term operation of each of these functions.”
This bill was recently deferred by Dominy to give the fair board an opportunity to do this, which they could do, without being mandated to do it. Apparently they would not do this voluntarily. The skids are being greased to get rid of the fair grounds. If you think that the referendum on the fairgrounds last year protected the fairgrounds from being sold, you are wrong; it only made it a little more difficult. To read more about this see here and here.
I know for a fact that a private interest would like a long term lease on the fairgrounds and in return they agree to greatly improve the site and maintain all of the current uses and they plan to create an additional tourist attraction that could enhance the local economy.  This bill needs to pass.
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.
  • SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2012-283 is the new Metro Solicitation bill that would impose new regulations on commercial door-to-door solicitors. It  passed unanimously on second reading so I expect it to sail on through third reading. While this bill is not a bad bill and while I know aggressive sales people can be an annoyance and while I know some are unscrupulous, I do not think I could support this bill. We are grownups. We do not need to look to government to remove every annoyance from our life. I am disappointed there was no debate on this bill on second reading.
  • BILL NO. BL2012-320 by councilman Phil Claiborne would reduce the health insurance subsidy for future former councilmember's. Previously Councilman Claiborne had attempted to completely abolish the benefit but failed. This benefit currently costs Metro approximately $300,000 per year. Due to term limits, there are a growing number of former metro council members and former council members are younger than they were when this benefit was first awarded to Council members. This cost of this benefit is going to continue to increase.
On second reading this bill passed by a vote of 25 to 13. so if five council members sit on their hand or switch their vote, this bill could fail. I was disappointed that some of the "good" councilman opposed this bill. Here is how members voted on second reading:
Ayes”  Barry, Steine, Garrett, Tygard, Banks, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Pridemore, Jernigan, Glover, Stites, Stanley, Claiborne, Tenpenny, Allen, Baker, Langster, Weiner, Holleman, McGuire, Harmon, Blalock, Dominy, Todd, Mitchell (25);
“Noes” Maynard, Matthews, Harrison, Hunt, Bennett, Pardue, Moore, Gilmore, Evans, Johnson, Potts, Bedne, Dowell (13).
Memorializing Resolutions: There are ten memorializing resolution on the agenda.  Unless someone opposes a memorializing resolution in committee, memorizing resolutions become part of the consent agenda.  However, any councilmember may have a resolution pulled off of the consent agenda and have his vote recorded.

Memorializing resolutions do not have the force of law and are often not taken very seriously and most often they do nothing more than congratulate a sports team for a victory or a person for being honored or congratulate a person on their retirement. The Council staff does not even analyze memorial resolutions. However, memorializing resolutions do represent the will of the Council and when they advocate a policy position they should be taken very seriously.

A few month ago, the Council passed a resolution praising the EPA and urging strict enforcement of clean air standards including the job-killing regulation of co2 which Congress never authorized. The Council played into the hands of a left-wing organization that was pushing this same resolution nation-wide. (For more on this see here, here and here.)

A couple years ago, the Council passed a memorializing resolution praising students for their pro-gay agenda activism. Somehow, memorializing resolutions taking a conservative position never come before the council but liberal memorializing resolutions always pass unanimously. 

There is one memorializing that needs to be defeated:

 RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-556 by Councilman Glover opposes the creation of  a state charter school authorizer.  With the recent history of the School Board's refusal to approve Great Hearts Academy and Nashville losing a quality charter school and a major investment in education in our community, I think it is time to approve a State charter school authorizer. 

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