Thursday, May 23, 2013

Commentary and Video of the May 21st Council Meeting

Budget hearings, Fairgrounds and more

If you want to follow along with the agenda, the council staff analysis, and my analysis follow this link where you can find them. 

This meeting is only one hour and thirty-eight minutes long, which considering that is the night of the public hearing on the city budget is not that long of a meeting. 

Confirmation of Mayor's appointees to Boards and Commissions:

Hundreds of people serve our city by serving as members of boards and commissions.  These entities  include everything from the Board of Zoning appeal, the Historical Commission, the Planning Commission, and the Beer Board to the Sexually Oriented Business Licensing Board.  These citizens serve without pay and often without recognition, simply because they care about our city. In most cases the Mayor appoints the members and the Council confirms them.  These commissions can be quite powerful. The Council really is a pretty weak body. One of  the few powers they have is the power of the budget and the power to approve the Mayor's appointees  to these unelected bodies. The Council almost never rejects a mayor's appointee. 

Tonight seven of the members of the seventeen member Human Relations Commission are up for confirmation of their appointment or reappointment. The HRC is a  commission that served no useful purpose. Anything they do that is worth doing could be done by other agencies or private entities. They are essentially Metro's agency for political indoctrination. They serve to promote political correctness. I do not think there has ever been a conservative or traditionalist appointed to this commission. One of the things they do is sponsor a youth pavilion at Nashville's Gay Pride Festival. In my view Metro government should not be in the business of normalizing a gay lifestyle among our city's youth. Tonight the Council had an opportunity to take a stand against Nashville sponsorship of the youth pavilion at the Gay Pride Festival. I had hoped that members of the council would question the Mayor's appointees to the HRC and reject those appointees who support this. I don't know that if in Committee anyone was questioned about their position on the appropriateness of Metro's sponsorship of this youth pavilion at the gay pride event or not.  If anyone council member or member of the public was at the committee, I would appreciate knowing what happened. Among those appointees to the HRC:

  • Mr. Richard Kennedy's nominations was withdrawn.
  • Reappointment of Ms. Sharon Kay was deferred one meeting.
  • Reappointment of Mr. Don Peterson was deferred one meeting.

Other appointments to the HRC were the following and they were all approved by the Rules committee 7-0 and were approved by the council:

  • Reappointment of Ms. Debra Palmer George for a term expiring April 18, 2016.
  • Appointment of Mr. Richard Kennedy for a term expiring April 18, 2016.
  • Appointment of Ms. Tasha French Lemley for a term expiring April 18, 2016. 
  • Reappointment of Mr. Avi Poster for a term expiring April 18, 2016. 
  • Appointment of Mr. Frank Trew for a term expiring April 18, 2016.
Budget Hearing:

The budget hearing starts at 15:13 and ends at  45:20 in the video.  Only a few people speak on the budget. Several metro employees speak in favor of a pay increase. 

At 27:19 in the video Rick Williams, Director of Save Our Fairgrounds, speaks in opposition to the budget making a plea to fund the fairgrounds. While I usually take a position that those entities which could operate off of their own revenue should do so, this time I make an exception for the fairgrounds. In my view, there has been a cynical effort on the part of the administration to destroy the financial viability of the fairgrounds by creating uncertainty in order to justify selling off the property.  I support subsidizing it for one year and then bringing about a process that ensures stability so it can return to profitability. George Gruhn of Gruhn Guitar also speaks in favor of the fairgrounds. Over a million people attend the over 500 events a year at the fairgrounds he says. 

I am surprised that there was no speakers in favor of fully funding the school budget request.
Usually you can count on several people speaking in favor of greater school funding. None do this time. The budget passes second reading and is rereferred to Budget and Finance Committee. The budget is amendable on third reading.

Resolutions on the Consent agenda:

All except three resolutions were on the consent agenda. A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is likely to be non-controversial and it stays on the consent agenda if it passes 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. Any member of the body however may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda.

Other Resolutions:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2012-522 authorizing the purchase of property on Smith Springs Rd to build a public school.  This location been controversial in the effected community and Councilman Duvall ask for a two meeting deferral. By a vote of 10 "yes," 23 "no" and 2 abstentions, the deferral fails. He then moves to defeat the bill and that motion fails with a vote of 4 in favor of a defeat and 29 against and 4 abstentions. The bill then passes 31-1-2. (see 50:27-59)

RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-670  which establishes the certified tax rate in both the General Services District and the Urban Services District is deferred to track with the budget.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-700 which establishing the the Metropolitan Animal Care and Control fee schedule is deferred.

All bills on First Reading pass. 

Bills on Second Reading:

BILL NO. BL2012-291 amends the definition of “recycling facility” to clarify that it does not include the conversion of material into a fuel product or asphalt. Public works says this bill is not necessary since state regulations do not permit a C & D landfill to have an incinerator  anyway.  This bill is disapproved.

Bill NO. BL2013-360 requires that there be a compensation and benefits study for the mayor, vice mayor, and members of council. Included in this will be a review of the lifetime health insurance benefit provided to former council member who served at least two terms. This generous and costly benefit was up for repeal or reduction twice before in this council and failed. This bill calling for a study passes.

BILL NO. BL2013-420 creates a small business economic development incentive grant program.  As you are probably aware, Metro Council has been picking winner and looser by bribing big companies not to leave metro and "enticing" big companies to expand or relocate to Davidson County. Some have argued that this is wrong and the same enticements should be offered to small businesses. I do see this policy as a problem. By paying companies to locate or not to leave we create an incentive whereby a company would be foolish to move here unless they get their pay-off and we have created an incentive for companies to threaten to leave unless we pay them to stay.  Unfortunately, it is hard to stop playing this game since other cities are also playing it.  Cities have created an environment to where they have to pay the incentive or another city that does pay the incentive will get the big corporate headquarter relocations and manufacturing plants. I don't think the way to fix this problem is to expand it to small businesses. This bill was deferred last meeting to track with the budget ordinance. It passes by voice vote. If no one asks to be recorded as voting no, then it is assumed they voted for it. 

BILL NO. BL2013-422 pertains to the procedure to be followed in designating residential permit parking areas.  I live not far from the popular 12th South Ave area and see the need for residential permit parking.  Residents off of 12th sometimes must park blocks from their homes because patrons of the popular restaurants on 12th take the parking spaces.  Two restaurants have recently sued Metro for approving permit-only parking in the 12 South neighborhood. This bill is deferred indefinitely.

BILL NO. BL2013-423 would swap some Metro land for some State land. The land that the School for the Arts sits on and the land that will be the site of the future STEM charter school located on the old Tennessee Preparatory School site on Foster Ave, would be swapped for the old Ben West Library site downtown at Eighth and Union Ave . Metro now owns the library and the State owns the TPS site. There is some opposition to tearing down the old Ben West library because some preservationist consider the building architecturally significant.  The most persuasive argument against the deal is that there is a deed restriction that requires the site to be used as a library or revert to the heirs of those who gave the land to Metro to be used as a library. I think deed restrictions should be honored as a matter of principle but as a matter of practicality we should not move forward with this deal until the title issues have been resolved. It is again deferred one meeting. 

 BILLNO. BL2013-432  which establishes the tax levy for the fiscal year 2013-2014 passes and is rereferred to Budget and Finance. 

Bills on Third Reading:

BILL NO. BL2013-348 is a massive rezoning increasing the density in midtown. The rezoning will likely impact the probability of getting funding for federal funding for the proposed Bus Rapid Transit development. It passes by a vote of 34-1-1.
Below is a news report on the council meeting.
Council holds public hearing on Dean's budget, approves small cities agreement

By Steven Hale, City Paper, May 21, 2013 - 
It was a familiar scene at the Metro Courthouse Tuesday night, as red-clad fairgrounds supporters turned out for a public hearing on Mayor Karl Dean’s proposed $1.8 billion budget.

Their numbers did not approach the unprecedented crowd that showed up for a hearing on the property’s fate in 2011, but members of the Save Our Fairgrounds group arrived Tuesday intent on reminding Metro Council members of that night as well as of a referendum on the century-old fairgrounds later that year.(link)Below is the video. It you haven't watched it, wait and I will watch if for you and tell you where in the video is the good stuff and also give you my opinions of what happened. check back.

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