Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Council meeting of Dec.16th. The Prove-a-necessity-before-competing-with-Pedal-Pubs, Pay-the-Bridgestone-Bribe, defer-bailing-out-NRC meeting.


This is a short meeting at just over an hour. Council meetings are more interesting if you know what the Council is doing. To get your own copy of the agenda, staff analysis and my agenda summary and commentary, follow this link

All appointments to boards and commissions were approved including the appointment of someone to the Human Relations CommissionVoting against an appointment to the Human Relations commission could have been an opportunity for someone to symbolically voice opposition to a useless agency that does not much more than promote political correctness and voice opposition to Metro's sponsorship of the twink booth at the Gay Pride festival. Maybe when a new council is elected we will have have at least one person with gumption enough to take a stand.

Other appointments were to the  Employee Benefit Study and Formulating Committee. This will allow the city to continue to study pension obligations and their impact on the city. Council meeting before last, there was a resolution before the Council to extend the life of the Benefit Study and Formulating Committee and it was killed.  The reason it was killed is due to pressure from the SEIU, the largest metro employee union and the reason they wanted to not extend the life of the committee was because the committee was exploring the merits of changing metro's pension plan from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan.

Any such proposal from the Study Committee, of course, would have been debated by the Council and had to be passed by the Council and would have been phased in to effect future employee's not current employees. The SEIU did not even want the issue discussed. Employee pension plans are bankrupting cities all over America and forcing cities to raise taxes and robbing cities of funding for other services in order to meet pension obligations. Our own pension liability is underfunded. To see how they voted when this was before the council before, and for a greater understanding of the issue, follow this link: How the Metro Council buckled to the SEIU and voted to continue fiscal irresponsibility. 

In appointing members to a new Employee Benefit and Study and Formulating Committee, Councilman Bo Mitchell and Bruce Standley speak against it. There is a voice vote and some "no's' are uttered. The vice mayor calls for a machine vote but says the machine vote will be for all appointees to boards and commissions. No one challengers her.  I am sure the "no" votes were against the Study and Formulating Committee only, not all of the appointees to all committees. Why did not Bo Mitchell or Standley or one of the other "no" votes not call for a point of order and demand the vote on appointees to the Committee's be one at a time or at least separate the vote for appointees to the Study and Formulating committee, to be separate from all other appointees? 

It is a amassing how little this Council uses parliamentary procedure and thinks on their feet. Maybe that is a function of term limits. With term limits a new council comes in office not understanding parliamentary procedure and they have no one to learn from. Anyway, the appointees were approved, 27 voting "yes," 4 voting "no," 4 voting "abstain," and 6 not voting. I am pleased to see that this committee was reestablished.  It is time we look at our pension liability.  The mayor must have twisted arms harder than the SEIU twisted arms to get this passed. I am not sure it  the "not voting" were absent or simply sitting on their hands. Look for a future post where I will list who voted which way and who was absent for the meeting. To see the discussion see time stamp 2:51- 9:25.

Resolution and bills  of interest:

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1319  passes on the consent agenda. It authorizes the the purchase of property known as Kellytown, and the acceptance of  $400,000.00 from Friends of Kellytown. This property is 6.72 acres at the corner of  Hillsboro Rd and Old Hickory Blvd and was an Indian settlement from the 1400's and artifacts have been found on the property. The purchase price is $750,0000. The land will become a park.  I favored this resolution.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1289 passes on a machine vote with Councilman Josh Stites voting to abstain. This is the bill to offer incentives to Bridgestone to get them to stay in Nashville and expand.   
  • BILL NO. BL2014-953 on second reading is taken out of order following the above resolution. It is part of the Bridgestone deal and approves the 20-year tax abatement. It also passes with a machine vote with CM Stites voting "no" and Robert Duvall voting to "abstain." There is no floor discussion of either of these Bridgestone bills.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1315  passes without opposition. It appropriates $9.3 million from the General Fund Reserve Fund (the 4% fund)  for the purchase of equipment and building repairs for various departments.  This is routine business.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1316 is deferred at the request of the sponsor. It would approve $100,000 to the Neighborhood Resource Center This non-profit has fallen on hard times recently having lost their United Way funding and some other things.  I do not think the city should bail them out. The NRC is essentially a political organization teaching political activism with leaders of the organization trained in the Saul Alinsky tradition. From time to time the NRC promotes a leftist agenda such as they did in 2011 when they hosted a  Contract for the American Dream workshop. You can learn more about this leftist project here. I urge the public to call your council member and urge them to oppose this bill when it comes back up in January. 
  • BILL NO. BL2014-952  on third reading passes on a machine vote 32 in favor, none opposed, and two voting to abstain. There is no discussion. This bill regulates non-taxi livery services such as Uber and Lyft. Uber and Lyft have been operating in Nashville for about a year unregulated and this regulates them. There has not been push-back from the industry against this bill so I assume it is something they can live with. The proposed regulation requires a certain levels of insurance and require the drivers to get an annual permit and some other things.  While I would have voted for this bill if I were in the Council, people who believe in a market economy need to be cautious. 
When "Black Cars" made their appearance in Nashville, in an attempt to drive them out of business and protect the limo companies, the council passed a $45 minimum for a limo ride and made Black Cars operate under limo regulations. Last year  the Council removed the $45 minimum for a limo ride and they set a minimum at three times the flag drop for a taxi ride which would come to about $9. This bill abolished the $9 minimum and says the MTLC can set a minimum subject to Council approval.  I do not think the city should be setting minimum prices for any service. A minimum fare does not protect consumers, but protects providers from competition and it stifles innovation. Since the Council could set a minimum with or without this bill, if I were in the Council, I would have voted for this bill, but we need to watch and make sure the Council does not come back later and set a minimum fare for Uber and Lyft. 
  • BILL NO. BL2014-925 on third reading passes. It regulates 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 require a certain amount of insurance and certain safety requirements. Under this bill new ones can only enter the market 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 would have voted against this.  I don't think any business should have to show a need to enter the market and there is probably never a "need" for a pedal pub. Requiring a certificate of necessity for new entrants into the market simply protects those already operating. I say, let whomever 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 restaurant we have today, but we would have some really mediocre restaurants. There is no need to improve your service if you are protected from competition.  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. I say, let them compete and let the market determine which ones survive. Also, the drivers of these vehicles must wear a uniform? Why, I don't know. I am terribly disappointed that out of a 40-member council there is not a single council member who thinks it is ridiculous that you have to show a "necessity" for another pedal pub before you can compete with existing pedal pubs. Maybe next election we can find at least one council member who agrees with me. 

Here is the Tennessean's coverage of the meeting: Bridgestone secures $56M in incentives with council vote

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