If you don't know what the Council is voting on, Council meetings are really boring. With 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 a lot of zoning bills on public hearing, so if a few of them are controversial, this could be a long meeting.
There are 5 Confirmation of Appointments on this agenda. None of them are to the more troubled or controversial Boards or Commissions but it wouldn't matter anyway as the Council always rubber stamps whoever the Mayor appoints.
There are 24 bills on public hearing. All of them are zoning bills and should be of interest to only nearby neighbors. The only exception is the following resolution.
BILL NO. BL2014-651 would establish new stringent regulations of temporary music event on commercial property. I hope some members of the music community or present to oppose this bill. I do not know why we are trying to kill the music in Music City. If there is a particular problem, I would assume the current noise ordinance and other laws would be sufficient to address it. In my view those who want to live adjacent to or in commercial areas should tolerate a little music and noise. I will be interested in hearing both sides of this issue.
There are 13 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 resolutions, that I think may be controversial:
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-948 appropriating $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 laptop computers, teacher technology training and a universal screener assessment for the implementation of Common Core testing, and an incentive program for teacher retirement.
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. This resolution was on the agenda for the last two meeting and was deferred both times. I am certain it will not be on the consent agenda Tuesday night.
The bill is sponsored by Councilman Bo Mitchell. Given that the school board lost millions of dollars of State funding by unnecessarily picking 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. Since the Mayor's Director of Finance will not sign off on the resolution, I would assume that this resolution is doomed. I suspect this be withdrawn or defeated this time.
Some of what this resolution would fund, the teacher retirement incentive, has already been funded. There is another resolution on the agenda, RS201-963. that would fund the laptop computers. Not mentioned in the staff analysis and something I have heard no one say, but something I think should be a consideration, is that Common Core is not a sure thing. There are several bills in the State Legislature that would curtail or have the state back out of common core. Before Metro spends money on Common Core, we ought to wait and see what the State is going to do.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-963 authorizes the issuance of $21 million in general obligation bonds! This is for the purchase of heavy equipment for various departments and $6 million for laptop computers to implement common core testing. The charter calls for sitting aside 4% of the metro budget for the purchase of equipment. This would be the first time the city, instead of using the fund to purchase equipment or make repairs or other such things, will instead use the 4% fund to pay bonds. For more on this proposal, see the staff analysis. This appears risky to me. I wonder if it is even legal to use the 4% fund for this purpose. In my view we should only issue bonds for long-term projects. The 4% fund should not be used to pay debt service. I am looking to Council members Tim Garrett, Charlie Tygerd, or Emily Evans to take to the floor to oppose this. If it is not opposed, then I hope someone will explain why this departure from normal process is a good idea. Unless persuaded otherwise, if I was serving on the Council, I would oppose this bill.
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 21 bills on first reading. Several of them concern funding for mass transit.
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. 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 and then deferred again to this meeting. For a better understanding of why this is on the agenda, see the staff analysis. This bill was disapproved by the planning commission.
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 seven bills on third reading. None of them have unresolved issues or of much importance.
Memorializing Resolutions: There are three memorizing resolutions on this agenda. Unless someone objects they will be added to the consent agenda and passed as group with other resolutions. Memorializing resolutions do not have the force of law and simply express the will of the council. Most often memorializing resolutions simply honor someone on their retirement or recognized a sports team for a victory but on occasion they are used to express the will of the Council advocating a policy position on a State or National issue. Here are two worth noting:
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-984 requests the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to provide a dedicated funding source for local mass transit. While I have reservations about the AMP and oppose its current route and configuration, I believe that it is time for Nashville to begin to develop an improved system of mass transit. The fare box cannot pay the cost of mass transit. I am not ready to endorse any increased tax to support mass transit, but may reach that point. I could support this resolution which would permit Nashville to establish a dedicated source of funding. We could have the argument about the size and what the source of funding is at a later date. Since several bills addressing mass transit are on First Reading, I wish this would be put off to track the other bills on this topic, but would not oppose it.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-985 honors Senator Douglas Henry on the occasion of his retirement as a Tennessee State Senator. I suspect this will be moved to the front of the agenda and Henry will be honored with a large scroll and a standing ovation. Senator Henry is the last of his kind and one of my very favorite Democrats. He deserves to be honored.