Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What's on the Council Agenda for January 7th with analysis and summary

If you don't know what the Council is voting on, Council meetings are really boring. With and an agenda and an analysis they are just boring. To follow along, you can get your own copy of the Metro council meeting agenda at this link: Metro Council Agenda. To get your copy of the Council staff analysis download it at this link: Council Staff analysis.

There are no Confirmation of Appointments on this agenda.

Bill on public hearing: There are 15 bills on public hearing. Most of them are zone changes and would not interest anyone but the immediate neighbors. The one bill of general interest is BILL NO. BL2013-629. This bill amends Metro's backyard chicken bill by removing the two-year sunset provision and also by expanding it to areas where it does not now apply. When the Chicken bill originally passed, several suburban Council members had their districts taken out of the bill.

Consent Agenda:
There are eleven resolutions, all of which are on the consent agenda at this time. 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. 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 but it doesn't happen often. Below is the only resolution, that I think may be controversial:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-948 appropriates $13,100,000 from the Undesignated Fund Balance of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund to the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools General Purpose Fund Operational Account for the purpose of funding the purchase of laptop computers, teacher technology training and a universal screener assessment for the implementation of Common Core testing.
The Director of Finance has refused to sign the resolution as to the availability of funds, saying it would be fiscally irresponsible to spend a significant amount from the schools fund balance giving the funding deficit projected by the schools going into the coming fiscal year. I assume this bill will be pulled from the consent agenda and will either be deferred or defeated. The bill is being pushed by Councilman Bo Mitchell. 
Given that the school board lost millions of dollars of State funding by unnecessarily picking a fight with the State and defying the State by refusing to approve Great Hearts charter school and given the school board's continued blaming of their budget woes on charter schools, and given the hefty increase in funding they got last budget year, I think this resolution should be defeated.
It is also worth noting that there has been a growing opposition in the community to Common Core and while I have not jumped on the anti-common core band wagon, an added reason to vote against this bill, on the part of some in the council, may be to express their opposition to common core. Some in the Council, always want to give the schools everything they want, but since the Mayor's Director of Finance will not sign off on the resolution, I would assume that this resolution is doomed. However, to go up against the Mayor, Mitchell must think he has a chance of passing it.

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 twenty-five bills on first reading and most of them are rezoning bills. Here are three bills of interest:
  • ORDINANCE NO. BL2014-651 would establish new regulations of temporary music events. 
  • ORDINANCE NO. BL2014-653 would restrict activity at historic home events. I don't know what is behind this but there are always some people who have a axe to grind with those historic homes that operate as Bed and Breakfast or special event facilities. 
  • ORDINANCE NO. BL2014-654 concerns beer sales and appears to expand the hours of operation of wholesale beer deliveries.

Bills on Second Reading:
It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place. There are seven bills on second reading. I see nothing on second reading that is very controversial. The following items are interesting:

  • BILL NO. BL2013-569 would change the regulations of car lots. There is a lot of opposition to used car lots in some parts of town. It seems any vacant building or piece of land can be opened as a car lot for very little investment. This bill would remove the distinction between used car lots and new car lots and impose new restrictions. This bill was on first reading on public hearing on October 1 and to my surprise no one spoke on it on either side. From that meeting it was deferred to this meeting. This bill was disapproved by the planning commission. 
  • BILL NO. BL2013-588 is a rezoning bill that would allow the demolition of three duplexes and allow the construction of eight cottage-type units as single family homes in the Woodland-in-Waverly community. I am following this bill because it is in my neighborhood. This neighborhood has an historic overlay, but the three duplexes are non-contributing to the historic character of the community. I support this bill. I think the duplexes are more out of character of the neighborhood than the cottages will be and I think this will be an improvement, but some in the community are very much opposed, concerned about increased density and additional on street parking. 
  • BILL NO. BL2013-603 would regulate small outdoor music events on commercial property. Please note that on first reading there is another bill, ORDINANCE NO. BL2014-651, which would establish new regulations of temporary music event. Why are we having all of this effort to regulate outdoor music? Maybe it is a problem, but I would want to be sure that this is necessary before I could support it.
  • BILL NO. BL2013-633 would allow beer sales to began on Sunday at 10AM. Currently beer sales cannot occur before noon on Sunday.

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 twelve bills on third reading. The only one of interest is this one:
BILL NO. BL2013-605. I am extremely pleased to see this bill advance in the Council and hope it passes.  It would change the minimum fee that vehicles for hire are allowed to charge. This bill is necessary in order that app-based services like Lyft, Uber and Sidecar can operate in Nashville. There has been a realization on the part of those in the tourism industry that Nashville needs more pubic transportation options and more vehicles for hire. Hopefully this will pass and end an embarrassing chapter in Nashville's history.
I would be more pleased it this bill established no minimum. A minimum is designed not to help consumers, but to protect providers of a service. I also would be more pleased if this bill removed the other onerous regulation of black sedans. This is however, a big step in the right direction. To learn the history or Metro's shameful protectionist price regulation of vehicles for hire and a lot more about this issue, see my previous post on this topic by following this link.
It is unbelievable that this bills passed all committees of the council unanimously and passed second reading unanimously. It is surprising that a bill which imposed a minimum fees in 2010 passed unanimously and now a bill to lower the minimum so low that it will essentially have no effect also passes unanimously. Regardless of why it happened, I am glad to see it happen.

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