Monday, May 19, 2014

What's on the Council Agenda for May 20th? Charter amendments and mass transit funding.

To get your own copy of the Council Agenda follow this link:Agenda. The analysis is at this link:  Analysis.

This is an abbreviated version of my usual analysis. I am only listing the item that I think are most important and am skipping on the commentary.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1052 is proposed charter amendments as are the next two resolution. The council can only pass one resolution to amend the charter, since they are only permitted two a year and have already previously passed one. So, all proposed charter amendments will be incorporated into one resolution. Each proposed charter amendment would have to get 27 votes of the Council and then the resolution itself would have to get 27 votes to be approved. If approved by the Council, the proposed amendments would then go to a referendum of the voters.

  • The first proposed amendment would prohibit Metro Council members from serving any other elective office while serving in the Metro Council. I support this. The interest of the State and the City are not always the same. I do not think one person should be allowed to be a Councilman and a State Representative.
  • The second proposed amendment would allow metro to enact an “opportunity interviewing policy” which means they could not ask a potential employee about his criminal history unless the position for which the person was applying required a criminal background check.  I do think that we ought to give people a chance at reentering society and making a living once they have paid their debt to society, however, I tend to think this should be addressed as policy, not as a matter of law. I would probably not support this proposed amendment.
  • Proposed amendment three would change the maximum number of terms of office of the Metro Council members to three terms from the current two and it would reduce the size of the council to 27 members. I support this. I have not always done so, but I do not see that our lager Council has given us better government. I think it is time to cut the size of the Council. Also, I think term limits was a mistake. Always having half of the Council who are brand new simply gives more power to the bureaucrats. Council members and Mayors come and go but Metro employees are there for a lifetime. We need some people in the Council who know where the bodies are buried (institutional knowledge). If people do not like there council member they can always vote them out.
  •  Proposed amendment four would reduce the size of the council to 27 members but does not address term limits. 
  • Proposed amendment five would remove the protections for the fair grounds that stipulate all uses of and activities at the fairground will continue. With 27 votes, the council could redevelop or demolish the Fairground premises. I oppose this amendment. We have fought too hard to keep the fair grounds to give it away.  It seems the Mayor is trying to kill it by neglect rather than make it a success. Maybe if he and the next mayor realize there will be a fairground where it is now, they will promote it and improve it and make it a greater asset to the city rather then be looking for ways to destroy it.  
RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1087 is also a charter amendment almost the same as the second proposed amendment in the above resolution.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1088 is also a proposed charter amendments. It expand term limits for the Council from two terms to three terms stating in 2019, and would restrict the Mayor to two terms.

Watch the following two bills and the memorializing resolution 984, which request the Davidson county Delegation to the General Assembly to support legislation to provide a dedicated source of funding for mass transit. Everyone seems to want mass transit but few want to pay for it. Mass transit cannot be self-supporting. It is subsidized everywhere in America as far as I know. Of course it could be funded our of general revenue like schools, police, fire and almost everything but it would then be competing for those same dollars. If more goes to mass transit, less goes to something else unless we raise taxes. We do not want to build a big new system and then not have funds to operate it. No one has said where the operating cost would come from for the new proposed AMP. I don't think anyone should unfairly charge Councilman Tygard with advocating raising the wheel tax or increasing the sales tax.  I think he is attempting to show the hypocrisy of those who want to advocate a massive increase in mass transit but pretend it will not be costly. I doubt any of these will pass, but the discussion should be interesting.

BILL NO. BL2014-665 on second reading proposes to raise the local option sales tax to 2.75 percent from the current 2.5% with half of the increased revenue dedicated to mass transit and half to public education, subject to a public referendum.

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-666 would increase the wheel tax by $20 raising it to $75 with the increase dedicated to funding mass transit.

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