Saturday, May 18, 2013

What's on the Metro Council Agenda for May 21st: Budget hearings and more.

You can get your own copy of the Metro council meeting agenda at this link: Metro Council Agenda. 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 boring. 

Several of the board members of the Human Relations Commission are up for confirmation of their appointment or reappointment. The HRC is a metro agency with no function that needs to be done, that could not be done by some other agency.  The whole purpose of HRC seems to be to promote political correctness and liberal causes. One of the things they do is sponsor a youth pavilion at the Nashville Gay Pride Festival, which I think is inappropriate. I do not think Metro should be in the business of normalizing and promoting a homosexual lifestyle among young people.  I hope someone in the Council will question the appointees  about this and if the appointee supports continuing Metro's sponsorship of a youth pavilion at the Gay Prive Festival that the Councilman would vote against thay person and state the reason why. This is an occasion where a conservative leader could step forward in the Council.   
For more on this, see this link and this one

Public hearing on the budget: To know all you need to know about the budget, follow this link: Citizen's Guide to the Metro Budget. Also, see the Council staff analysis or see this link.

Since the Mayor is not proposing a tax increase there will be fewer people speaking on the budget than there were last year.  It seems critics of spending only show up in years in which there is a proposed tax increase. The mayor's proposed budget represents a 5.86 percent increase or about $100 million over the current budget and does not fully fund the Schools request of $44 million increase, but increases the Schools budget by  $26 million. It does not include a subsidy for the Auditorium, Farmers Market or Fairgrounds.  I normally would be opposed to subsidies for these functions, however this year I think there may be reason to subsidize the fairground.  Much of the reason the fairgrounds is losing money is because when the Mayor announced plans to sell  the fairground and turn the site into a corporate campus, those who would rent the fairgrounds for tradeshows did not do so thinking the fairground was going away.  I think there has been a deliberate attempt to make the fairgrounds lose money so there could be a justification to sell the property.  I could support subsiding the fairgrounds, this one year only.  To learn more about the fairground issue, follow this link.  

The budget dips pretty deeply into the "rainy day" reserve fund. Expect advocates of Schools, Farmer's Market, Fairgrounds,  and advocates of an employee's "step" pay increases to dominate the hearing. The budget is amendable on third reading, so it will most likely pass tonight. 

There are nineteen resolutions all of which are 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. However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda. I expect a couple of the resolutions to be deferred to "track" the budget including  RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-670  which establishes the certified tax rate in both the General Services District and the Urban Services District.

Bills on First reading almost always pass. 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.  I have not carefully reviewed the bills on first reading, but will before second reading. There are thirteen bills on first reading.

Bills on Second Reading. It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place.  There are twenty-one bills on second reading. None of them seem terribly controversial but below are a few worth watching:
  • 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 was on second reading last council meeting and was deferred to this meeting.
  • 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 this council and failed.
  • 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 will most likely be deferred again.
  • 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. It is unusual that a bill is discussed on first reading, but last council meeting this one was. Councilman Bo Mitchell argued against it, arguing that it was an uneven swap and Metro was getting a poor deal, however he may have been motivated by his dislike of  charter schools. (See his remarks at this link.) There is also 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 was deferred last meeting and expect it to be deferred again. 
  •  BILLNO. BL2013-432  establishes the tax levy for the fiscal year 2013-2014. This will probably be deferred. It has to pass after the budget passes.
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.  There are twenty bills on third reading.  Most of them are zoning bills and I don't expect any of them to generate controversy.

There are no memorializing resolutions on the agenda.

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