Monday, June 16, 2014

What's on the Council agenda for June 17th: The budget and benefits for same-sex couples.

To get your own copy of the Council agenda and the council staff analysis, follow these link: Metro Council agenda and staff analysis .

The big item on the agenda is the budget which does not raise taxes but is $79 million more than last year's budget. The other important item is benefits for same-sex couples.

Below are the Resolutions of interest. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1126   is the first step in the sale of up to $275 million in GSD General Obligation bonds to fund various projects in the 2014-2015 Capital Improvements Budget including $110 million of school projects and $17 million for sidewalks. To see more of what is included see the staff analysis and the attachment. I would not expect any "no" votes unless something comes up in Budget and Finance.

I wish someone in the Council was willing to take on the Mayor specifically over sidewalks. The public wants sidewalks. We spend a lot of money for sidewalks and get very little sidewalk expansion. I have witnessed perfectly good (well not "perfectly" good, but very good) sidewalks that only had small cracks ripped out and replaced. We are replacing good sidewalks rather than extending sidewalks. The only way the Council can exert any influence on the Mayor is by exercising the power of the purse.  I wish a Council member would move to take sidewalk funding out of this budget and I wish the Council would hold hearings on Metro's sidewalk priorities and policies and only fund sidewalk expansion after being assured that we would get sidewalk expansion out of the additional funding.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1127 RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1128, and

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1129  adopts new pay plans for most Metro employees, giving them a raise.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1131 is a contract with a company regarding vehicle electric charging stations. Metro supplies the electricity and space for charging stations and a private company manages them and Metro gets a share of the fees the company charges or profit the company makes. I hope someone on B &F is looking closely at this. Anything "green" is so cool that often the details don't get a lot of scrutiny.  The former company that had this contract was funded by the Federal stimulus money and since has gone bankrupt.

There is nothing of much interest among the bills on Second Reading.

Below are bills on Third and Final reading

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-715  waives the fees for application and advertising of rezoning of property when the request is made by a councilmen under certain circumstances. Basically this would apply when a whole area is being rezoned, such as when a neighborhood is being zoned from residential which allows duplexes to single unit only residential, or when a conservation overlay is being proposed for a neighborhood. The fees associated with this type rezoning can come to several thousand dollars. This bill is strongly favored by organized neighborhood groups who often cannot raise that kind of money and who feel they should not have to do so to get a zoning change for their neighborhood. The planning commission voted against this. The Director of Finance has refused to certify it as to the availability of funds saying it could cost the city up to $150,000 a year.  This bill requires 27 votes to pass the Council since it was disapproved by the Planning Commission.

BILL NO. BL2014-769 allows a second dwelling to build on residential lots of over 15,000 square feet or lots with alley access. One of the units would have to be owner occupied.  The smaller unit could not be over 700 square feet in living area. Some neighborhood groups oppose this bill. I support it.

Nashville is expected to have significant growth over the next few years.  If we are going to avoid Atlanta-type urban sprawl we must have greater density. If we want successful mass transit we need greater density. Also we are seeing a lot of "affordable" housing units destroyed and replaced with much larger homes.  This replacing of small homes with larger homes is good for the tax base but it means people of modest income are being forced out of the city.  Many of the housing units that would be build under this bill would be affordable. Another reason I support this bill is that there is often a need for one's aging parents or underemployed children to have this type of housing.

BILL NO. BL2014-770 would allow two detached units on a single lot instead of the requirement that they share a common wall. The bill would also restrict how tall and skinny a building could be. I generally am in support of this, but hope that the Board of Zoning appeal would have lee way regarding the height restrictions.

BILL NO. BL2014-774  This is the mayor's operating budget for $1,891,647,000. Under this budget the tax rate will not increase but revenues are expected to increase substantially. This budget is $79 million greater than the current operating budget. This budget will be substituted with a Council version of the budget that makes minor tweaks to the mayor's budget.        
 BILL NO. BL2014-775 is the tax levy.   

BILL NO. BL2014-779   is the bill that would extend metro benefits to same-sex couples. To see who voted for it and against it when it was on second reading follow this link.  This bill will cost the city between $400,000 and $900,000 a year and it treats two homosexuals the same as a married couple. In my view we should not be normalizing what as always been considered a deviant lifestyle.  I am very disappointing that two Republican members of the Council abstained when it was on second reading and two voted for the bill. If Republicans vote exactly like Democrats, why do we bother trying to get Republicans elected to the Council?

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