Thursday, June 12, 2014

(final update) Council meeting of 6/3/14: The budget hearing, charter admenments, honky tonk protection, and gay rights meeting.

At almost five hours long, this has got to be one of the longest Council meetings on record. Or, at least the longest in a very long time. When I served on the Council in the 80's we used to have some long meetings but in recent years they have gotten shorter and shorter. Some contentious zoning issues, proposed charter amendments, the budget hearings and metro benefits for same-sex couples make for a crowded agenda. While many council meetings are boring, this one is not. This is one of the most interesting council meetings I have observed in years.

To get your own copy of the analysis and agenda, follow this link. Here is a summary of the meeting.

  • Same sex benefits for metro employees passed on second reading 26-5 with 3 abstentions. Councilman Josh Stites publicly spoke against it. God Bless Josh Stites.
  • No one spoke against the Mayor's $1.9 billion budget but some wanted more spending for their favorite interest or department and the budget passed on second reading. No one speaks for more government efficiency or points out waste except in years when taxes are to be raised; proponents of more spending are constant advocates.
  • All proposed charter amendments were rejected. That is a surprise to me.  Some had passed the Charter Revision Commission. I thought something would get passed.
Here is a play-by-play of highlights of the meeting with time stamp notation:

Public hearings on the operating budget starts at time stamp 13:42 and ends at 35:18. There is no point in watching it, it is pretty boring. Everyone who speaks, speaks in favor. There is no opposition.   Policemen want more money, a 3% pay raise. Bruce Wood of BURNT laments pockets of poverty and what he sees as misplaced priorities. Advocates of free bus passes speak as well as advocates of shuttle bus service and other advocates of mass transit. Advocates of improved fire service speak. The budget is approved and referred back to the Budget Committee.

Public hearing on the Capital Improvements budgets: The Capital Improvements Budget is not really a budget but a planning document that prioritizes what will be built if money is available to build it. It is an important document but does not actually appropriate any money. Rick Williams who heads the anti-AMP group speaks in opposition to an item in the document to fund the AMP on West End. He makes the point that to make the improvements on West End would require State legislative approval. See his remarks at time stamp 37:09.

BILL NO. BL2014-747 defines “communication huts” which is a step necessary for Goggle's proposed new network to move forward. It passes with no one from the public speaking pro or con.

BILL NO. BL2014-769 which would allow smaller secondary houses on lots with an owner occupied house generates some comments. I think this as a good bill. (see time stamp 1:22:45)

BILL NO. BL2014-770 would allow two houses to be constructed on a lot without the little
A tall skinny Nashville duplex
connecting portion now required. I like that portion of the bill. However, another portion of the bill is designed to prohibit the two tall skinny building on a single lot. Several people explain how under certain circumstances this could present a hardship, such as when grade of the lot is lower in the front than in the back of the lot. Also, some other problems are presented.  I would think that the Board of  Zoning appeal could makes some height variances in hardship cases but don't know that. Councilman Bedne tried to ask that question but was ruled out of order. The bill is passed on second reading but made amendable on third. (See 1:26:22- 1:37:17)

BILL NO. BL2014-771 would allow the council to create a “contextual overlay district” in a neighborhood. This is in response to the trend of developers buying small existing houses and tearing them down and building much larger houses that are out of scale to the existing neighborhoods. This COD designation would impose size limitations on replacing of an existing single family home with a larger home. I initially thought this was a positive development, but after hearing from the public, I am persuaded that the bill needs to be withdrawn or deferred and rewritten. I do not like to see modest homes torn down to build McMansions, but that is a matter of taste and aesthetics.

The market is responding to demand and I am not sure that we should impose these restrictions on redevelopment. Nashville is growing. If we are going to discourage urban sprawl and grow the tax base, we should not prohibit the market from responding to demand. If developers cannot tear down a one-bath, two- bedroom house build in the 50’s and build the kind of housing people want, such as a three-bedroom, two-bath home, then the kind of homes people want will be build in surrounding counties. We need to let the market dictate the size and type of homes and Nashville needs the increased tax base if we are to provide the services the city needs without raising taxes. It should be pointed out that these restrictions would not automatically apply to any area but this designation would have to be applied to the area by the Council. To see the discussion of this bill, see time stamp 1:37:18-2:22:26. This bill is deferred two meetings.

BILL NO. BL2014-776  would create the Music City Cultural Heritage Overlay District which
Lower Broad
would apply to property on Broadway, Second Avenue North, and Printer’s Alley. It would require any new businesses in those areas to offer live music or "contribute to the cultural fabric of the district," which means they must sell cowboy boots or hats or tea shirts or tacky music city souvenirs. This bill is in response to Walgreen's interest in opening a drug store on Broadway. Nashville is a unique place, you cannot find what you find anywhere else what you can find in Nashville and we need to preserve it say several speakers. Over 12 million visitors visited Nashville last year and they were not looking for what they could find in any other city.

I do not think a Wallgreens on lower Broadway would destroy it. Tourist attending live outdoor music downtown may need a Tylenol or sun glasses or sun screen or a lawn chair or bottled water.  However, I do want to see lower Broad remain primarily a strip of honky tonks, but an occasional something else added to the mix might enhance the area not distract from it. The Merchants Hotel restaurant does not have live entertainment, so under this bill, it they were not already there, they would not be allowed open. Sometimes, tourist visiting Nashville may want to eat a good meal in a relaxed environment and take a break from live music. On Second Ave especially, I think this is just too restrictive. Candy shops, sports memorabilia stores, ice cream shops and art galleries may enhance the mix and the tourist experience. I support the basic intent of this bill but think it needs more thought. Not every music venue that opens downtown makes it. Some fail. While I think we should try to guide development in this area to protect what has made it popular, I don't think we can micromanage development. Some of the advocates of the bill and the sponsor admit that the bill needs more work. The bill is passed on second reading, made amendable on third and deferred to the July 3rd meeting. (see 2:29:46- 3:09:38)

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1052, RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1087, and RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1088  are all proposed Charter amendments and they are lumped together for discussion. One proposed amendment would prohibit Metro Council members from serving any other elective office while serving in the Metro Council, another would reduce the size of the Council to 27 members, one would increase the number of terms a council member could serve to three, and one would prohibit Metro Government from asking a potential employee about his criminal record and one would remove protections for the Fair Grounds.  (If you are following along on the Council staff analysis, see page 9.) The amendments are taken one at a time regardless of which resolution they are a part of.  There is some very good discussion.

Council member Megan Barry makes a good argument why one should not be permitted to be a council member and a member of the State legislature. However, she makes the common liberal comparison that the relationship of city to state is the same as that of state to federal government, which of course is incorrect. States have sovereignty; cities do not. Cities only exist at the will of the state. That proposed amendment fails 10 to 22.

There is a good discussion about term limits and the size of the Council. I think term limits were a mistake. Having council members who have served a long time gives them some power to balance the power of the bureaucracy which serves the interest of the Mayor. We have a very strong Mayor form of government and Council term limits makes the Mayor even stronger. However, all attempts to repeal term limits have failed. The size of the Council is discussed with Emily Evans arguing for the smaller council and Ronnie Stein, Tim Garrett and others arguing against it. The argument in favor of the large council is that less wealthy people can serve in the Council because with smaller districts is does not take as much money to run and that with smaller districts council members are more available to their constituents. While I think those are valid arguments, I think the downside of a large Council is that it makes the Council less powerful and concentrates more power in the hands of the Mayor. The bill to reduce the size of the Council fails 10 for, 24 against.

Council members Robert Duvall and Duane Dominy speak against the bill that would weaken the fair grounds protections and that amendment fails 12 in favor and 20 against.

Council members Gilmore's proposed amendment that would prohibit metro from asking about a job applicant's criminal history fails 23 for and 11 against.

The argument in favor of the other proposed amendment which would increase the number of terms a councilman could serve from two terms to three terms is made by Charlie Tygard. It fails 23 for and 12 against. All proposed amendments fail and the three resolutions containing the amendments are withdrawn. For the discussion of the proposed amendments see time stamp 3:15:12 - 3:57:32.

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. At the request of the sponsor it is deferred indefinitely.

BILL NO. BL2014-698 attempts to curtail the litter caused by those free Tennessean newspapers that litter the neighborhoods. Due to First Amendment protection, the press has a greater right to litter than other people so this bill can't do a lot but it is an attempt. In response to this effort the Tennessean agreed to adopt some policies to police itself and the sponsor request passing it on second reading and then an indefinite deferral. There is some good discussion of this bill and opposition to passing it on Second reading. There is allegation and concern that the sponsor tried to use this bill to force the Tennessean to write an article on the issue. The bill fails to pass on a machine vote of 10 for and 21 against. (see time stamp 4:03:3- 4:15:09)

BILL NO. BL2014-775 establishing the tax levy. It is deferred and rerefered to the Budget and Finance Committee of the Council.
BILL NO. BL2014-779  is the metro benefits for same-sex couples bill.  Council member
Josh Stites
Megan Barry recites a long list of cities and fortune 500 companies that offer this benefit. Councilman Phil Clairborne takes to the floor to argue against it, primarily siting the cost and how it may cause homosexual couples to move to Nashville and seek government employment to gain this benefit. Because of this we cannot know the cost of this change. Congratulations to Councilman Josh Stites who makes a principled argument against it citing his faith as the reason for opposing it. Scott Davis speaks passionately in favor of it getting a round of applause. Several others speak in favor and it passes by a vote of 26 for, 6 against, 3 recorded abstentions and 5 not voting. Those to be commended for voting against this bill are Pridemore, Pardue, Glover, Stites, Clairborne, and Dominy.  The abstention are Bennett, Blalock and Dowel. I am terrible disappointed in some councilmembers who voted for this, abstained, or did not vote. I will have more to say about this in another post. (
See time stamp 4:17:15-4:34:39)

For news reports on last nights meeting follow this link , this link , this link, and this link.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

No comments:

Post a Comment