Thursday, November 20, 2014

What happened at the Nov 18th Counicil meeting? The limit-pawnshops-meeting. (Updated)

Councilman Peter Westerholm's memorializing resolution endorsing President Obama's plan to force coal-fired power plants to close was pulled off of the consent agenda and deferred. Westerholm failed to appear before  the Rules Committee so the vote was deferred "by rule." The plan to force Pedal Pubs to get a certificate of necessity was deferred one meeting.

Council meetings are not quite as boring if you know what the Council is voting on. To get your on copy of the agenda, the staff analysis and my commentary, follow this link. I normally notate the timestamps of the portions of the meeting worth watching, but there is nothing noteworthy worth watching in this meeting.

Here is the items worth mentioning:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1269 extends the term of the Study and Formulating Committee to March 31st, 2015. Every five years the mayor has to appoint such a committee to study and make recommendations on employee benefits. The work of the committee is not finished and the staff analysis says this extension is needed. Without an extension the work of the committee will have to be completed by November 19, 2014. This resolution was deferred last meeting. Any recommendation of the Study and Formulating Committee would have to come back before the Council.  Any recommendation would not change benefits of current employees but only future employees. I wish the employee retirement plan would be changed to a Metro defined contribution plan rather than a defined benefit plan, but I don't think that will happen anytime soon. Most private sector plans, if there is any retirement plan, is a defined contribution plan rather than defined benefit. A defined contribution plan is less risky to the employer. A defined contribution plan specifies the employer make contributions on a regular basis and within a set range of options, the employee decides how his contributions will be invested. A defined benefit plan specifies how much retirement income the retiree will receive. This resolution to extend the term of the committee fails by a vote of 16 aye's and 17 no's.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1289  is the bill to offer incentives to Bridgestone to get them to stay in Nashville.  Actually, if I were in the Council, I would vote for this but I wish that was not the way business was done, but if we don't bribe them to stay, some other city will pay them to relocate so we have to play the game. They will bring 1700 jobs to downtown and build a new 30-story tower in SoBro. They already have about 1100 employees in Nashville but the lease on their location near the airport is expiring and they were looking at relocating.  The metro incentive is about $50 million, mostly in a exemption on paying taxes for some years on the new building they will build downtown. In addition to the Metro incentive the State is also offering an incentive. You can read The Tennessean's story about this deal at this link. It is deferred one meeting to "track" with the bill on first reading which addresses the same issue.

Three bills on First Reading sponsored by Councilman Westerholm are pulled from consideration as  bundled with all other bills on First reading and he them moves to have them passed and deferred to the public hearing in February.  As I had it explained to me, Westerholm had put bills on the agenda to rezone property and the owners of the property did not request the rezoning. They were not even aware of the rezoning proposal before they were introduced. This is almost unheard of. Councilman Robert Duvall explains this and speaks against the bills and says they should be defeated. Council member Megan Barry speaks against defeating of the bills. The bills do pass on first reading. I heard several "no's".  I wish the "no's" would have requested a machine vote. If Westerholm would like to explain how this happened, I would be pleased to post his explanation.

BILL NO. BL2014-925 on second reading would regulate pedicabs and pedal pubs. Pedicabs are the three wheeled non-motorized vehicles that travel in the 2nd Ave and lower Broad area. Pedal pubs are those traveling taverns powered by the customers, about eight on each side. These regulations would require a certain amount of insurance and certain safety requirements. I am OK with that. What I don't like is that Metro would allow them only after they prove a necessity for the vehicles.  Metro can say "we have enough" and not allow new providers to get in the market. I don't think any business should have to show a need to enter the market.  Let whoever wants to try to make a go at it, have a shot. No one should be protected from failure or competition.  What if one had to show a need before one could open a new restaurant? We would not have the great restaurants we have today, but we would have some really mediocre restaurants. There is probably never a "need" for a pedal pub.  One pedal pub may succeed because of the type of beer they sale or the price of the beer or the bartender tells good jokes or the barmaid is cute and shows cleavage. Let them compete and let the market determine which ones survive.   If I were in the Council, I would vote against this bill.   The bills is deferred one meeting. As I had it explained to me, it would not be lawful to require a certificate of necessity for Pedal Pubs.

BILL NO. BL2014-926 on second reading subsidizes the cost of a rain barrel purchased form a company Metro will contract with to provide them. The justification for this program is that it will help with storm water management.  It sounds like a waste of money to me. I would have voted against it. It passes.

BILL NO. BL2014-896 on third reading rezones 238 acres in east Nashville to allow accessory dwelling units on properties in the rezoned area. I think rezoning like this is a positive development, we need to promote affordable housing but not use the heavy hand of government to mandate it. Accessory dwelling units on a lot can provide more affordable units of housing and increase density which is necessary to have successful mass transit and it combats urban sprawl. This is deferred two meetings.

BILL NO. BL2014-902 on third reading is a zoning bill disapproved by the Planning Commission and there is some discussion of the bill but it really doesn't interest me very much. The contentious issue is the bill allows an LED sign. It passes. I would have been persuaded to vote for it if I were in the Council. If anyone is interested, see the timestamp at about 46:00.

BILL NO. BL2014-908  imposes proximity limits on what are often called predatory lenders, places like check cashing businesses, title loan businesses and payday lenders and pawn shops. These  businesses, except for pawn shops, could not be located within 1/4 a mile of each other and pawnshops could not be located within 1/4 mile of another pawn shop. I think this is a misguided effort and if I were in the council, I would have opposed it. To see my commentary on this, follow this link. When the bill was on public hearing, I was surprised that no one showed up in opposition.  Those in support did not speak and there was no discussion and the bill passed unanimously by voice vote.  I oppose this bill but it passes and there is little discussion.

Here is the Tennessean's report on the meeting: Limits on way for Nashville pawnshops, payday loan stores.
Here is the Nashville Business Journal's report: Bridgestone incentives clear first council hurdle.
This is the WSMV report: Ride-sharing regulations pass first Metro Council reading.

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