Thursday, February 7, 2013

Council meeting of 2/05/2013 with notation and commentary

Above is the video of Tuesday night's council meeting. It is 2 hours and 19 minutes long.

There are nine bills on public hearing.
Most of them are zoning issue that would impact no one except the immediate neighbors of the proposed rezoning so I not going to attempt to describe this purely local bills, except to call attention to them.
BILL NO. BL2013-348 would rezone 81.70 acres in midtown. This apparently is part of that proposed massive rezoning that was to coincide with the new east-west bus mass transit proposal, however I am not sure of that. In any event it is deferred until May 7th.  
BILL NO. BL2013-351 is a rezoning in mid town that proves controversial. The discussion starts at 7:55 in the video and does not end until 43:02 and it passes.
BILL NO. BL2013-353 sponsored by Councilman Tenpenny is a bill that would rezone a piece of property in Woodbine to benefit a tire recapper and it generates quite a bit of public comment. I find this interesting because this is the former district I used to represent many years ago and I still have an interest in things that happen in my old district and because the local Internet group has been abuzz with discussion about this , and also because Rick Williams, a citizen activist who many of us know, speaks in favor of it and former Council member Anna Page speaks in opposition. This bill was disapproved by the Planning Commission but passes on a voice vote. (see 43:56 to 1:31:18)
BILL NO. BL2013-354: This ordinance would delete the "historic home event provisions" in their entirety and would create a new use called “special events center” to be permitted in the mixed-use, office, and commercial districts, and permitted with conditions in the mixed-use neighborhood and commercial neighborhood zoning districts. These events would not be allowed in residential zoning districts.

I really don't know what the impact of this would be and thankfully it is deferred indefinitely. There are some old historic homes in Nashville which are permitted to act as bed and breakfast facilities and to host events such as weddings and receptions and corporate retreats.  Some of these old homes are so grand that it not allowed to operate in this capacity they would probably deteriorate and eventually become condemned and be lost forever. I live in a neighborhood with one of these historic homes that operates in this fashion. Some neighbors have relentlessly tried to prohibit it's operation, opposing horse-drawn carriages delivering brides to the home for weddings, counting cars to try to catch the venue violating the valet parking requirements and timing the required ending time of events to catch people not leaving by the required time. I actually think having this historic home in my neighborhood is a plus, but some neighbors try to drive them out of business. I hope this ordinance is not an attempt to destroy the operation of these historic homes.
There are twelve resolutions, all were originally on the consent agenda however 558 and 559 are removed from the consent agenda.  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, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government or authorizing the Department of Law to settle claims against the city or appropriating money from the 4% fund. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda. All that remain on the consent agenda pass.

The resolutions amending the Capital Improvements Budget and Program (RESOLUTIONNO. RS2013-558) and the bonding authority for additions to the Capital Improvements budget (RESOLUTIONNO. RS2013-559),  which authorize and funds the improvement to the rear of the Bridgestone Arena which will now be across from the front of the new Music City Center and the relocation of the central police precinct, which is now located in the Bridgestone Arena on Broadway, are substituted and pass.  The substitutes are only minor changes. Given that we have already built the new conventions center, in my view, these improvements seem reasonable. These resolutions pass without opposition.
Bills on First reading almost always pass. There are twenty bills on first reading. They 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.  
 Bill 360, which is another bill concerning the pay and benefits, including health insurance benefits, of former Metro Council members is passed on first and differed indefinitely. Council remember Evans explains why (1:40:25).
Bills on Second Reading: It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place.  There are only three bills on second reading and none of them are of any importance.
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. BL2012-320 is the bill that would reduce the health insurance benefit to future former Metro Council members. This benefit currently costs Metro approximately $300,000 per year. Due to term limits there are a growing number of former metro council members. This cost is going to continue to increase. This bill passed second reading by a vote of 25 to 13.
Here is how council 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).

On third reading it fails. These are the members who voted for it an third: Tygerd, Banks, Glover, Stites, Clairborne, Holeman, McGuire, Harmon, and Mitchell.
The logic for the defeat is to have a full comprehensive compensation study to include a consideration of the size of our forty-member council.  

I am very disappointed that some of whom I think of as the "good" council members voted against this bill. Congratulation for Claiborne for trying. (See the discussion at 1:49:22 - 1:59:09)
BILL NO.BL2013-338 by Tygard and Dominy says that no sole source contract for the purchase of goods or services in excess of $250,000 may be entered into unless the contract has been approved by a resolution adopted by the council by twenty-one affirmative votes. Unfortunately, this bill is amended to exempt contracts  for development services, which means the city's contract with the Chamber for Partnership 2020 will not have to have Council approval. This is too bad. This is still a good bill but does not address the serious issue of Partnership 2020. It passes. 
BILLNO. BL2013-339 and BILL NO.BL2013-340 are more incentives to private business to get them to stay or relocate to Nashville. Councilman Stites tries to amend the bill to require that companies getting these incentives be accountable for the job creation they promise in exchange for tax abatement.  Councilman McGuire argues against the Stites amendment. 

Councilman Stites has been the lone voice critical of these incentives. This time he picks up some support. Stites does a great job arguing his position. Also, congratulations to Councilman Duvall. "Folks, we are giving away the people's money,"  he says. 
This practice must end or every company that stays or locates to Nashville will expect a bribe for doing so. While Stites loses, it looks like the idea that performance standards accompany tax incentive deals is gaining ground. Five council members vote against the deal: Stites, Standley, Gilmore, Dominy, and Duvall. 
(See 2:00:49- 2:15:02) (See the Tennessean and City Paper articles below to learn more about the issue.)

Below is the Tennessean's coverage:

Metro Council signs off on arena improvements, other spending

 by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean, Feb 5, 2013- Major exterior upgrades are in store for Bridgestone Arena's south side, including new retail and restaurants to anchor a second stadium entrance, as part of a $110 million capital plan the Metro Council approved Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, the council agreed to forfeit millions of dollars in tax revenue for the promise of job creation after approving separate property tax discounts for Nashville-based AmSurg Corp and Seattle's Oberto beef jerky. The deals are intended to spur investments from the companies. (link)
Here is the City Paper coverage: 

Council passes AmSurg, Oberto tax breaks despite last-minute amendment effort

By Steven Hale, City Paper,Tuesday, February 5, 2013 - 
Councilman Josh Stites, a consistent opponent of Metro’s tax incentive packages, offered amendments that would have required the companies to reach job-creation benchmarks in order to receive the full tax break. They were defeated, but the idea of including more accountability in similar deals going forward found support. (link)

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