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.
This meeting is conducted by Lonnell Matthews Jr. who is President Pro Tem of the Council and whose duty it is to conduct the meeting in the absence of the Vice Mayor.
The first 24 minutes of this meeting is public hearings and this has got to be one of the least contentious public hearings on record. There was one resolution and 15 bills on public hearing and there almost no opposition to any of the bills and only a couple members of the public spoke.
Most of the resolution pass as part of the Consent agenda. RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1289 which is part of the Bridgestone Bribe is deferred to track with BILL NO. BL2014-953 which is part of the same deal.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1302 is a routine acquisition of property by the city. Charlie Tygerd takes to the floor and ask why we are paying $485,000 for a piece of property on the tax roll with an appraisal of $151,400. Rich Riebling, Director of Finance, explains the city had an outside appraiser appraise the property and that is its value and that Metro only reassesses property every four year for tax purposes and he suspects property values have increased. Tygerd ask for a explanation from the appraiser and the Tax Assessor's office to explain the discrepancy. The resolution is passed. I wish Tygard would have asked to have the resolution deferred until after he gets his explanation but at least Tygard is asking the right questions. Maybe new safeguards need to be put in place so that if a property is appraised X% above the values on the tax rolls, that there are three independent appraisals instead of one. To see this segment see time stamp starting at 32:35.
Tygard also ask several other questions about other resolutions. These are normally the type of questions that would have been asked in Budget and Finance committee but you may recall that Tygard was not reappointed to the Budget and Finance Committee after many years of service on that committee and he said he would ask the questions he wanted to have answered from the floor. He looks like he is doing it. Good for him. This is Charlie Tygard's last term in office and he will be missed. He seems to be pay closer attention to the cities finances and spending than anyone in the Council.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1300, Councilman Peter Westerholm's memorializing resolution endorsing President Obama's plan to force coal-fired power plants to close, passes by a vote of 24 in favor, 12 opposed and 2 abstentions. While it passed, this is still a victory. For the first time in the many years that I can recall, a resolution putting the council on record as supporting some liberal position gets push back. Normally a resolution like this, no matter how liberal, passes unanimously with no discussion. I am immensely pleased with Councilman Duane Dominy who asked good questions about the bill and made the case for voting against it. Also, councilman Duvall, Claiborne and Tenpenny took to the floor against the resolution. A special recognition is due to Councilman Josh Stites who was the lone vote against it in the rules committee. I believe a vote against a resolution in the rules committee makes the bill require a machine vote. I know a vote against a resolution in committee keeps it off of the consent agenda. I hope the "good" councilmen keep it up. Every time there is some resolution like this on the agenda, it should be opposed.
One does not even have to disagree with the merits of the resolution to have a reason to oppose it. One could take the position that the Council has enough to do to dealing with local issue. One could argue that the Council should let Congress deal with national issues. If members of the Council want to opine on national issues, then there is no end to issues the Council could opine about: immigration, the war in Iraq, quantitative easing, President Obama's lawlessness and trampling of the Constitution, and on and on. I expected this resolution to pass, but I am very pleased that 12 Councilman took a stand against it. It looks like all of the "good" Council members voted against it. I will publish who voted which way in a future post.
Bills on First Reading pass as a group as is the norm. Here are the bills of interest on Second Reading:
BILL NO. BL2014-909 which is one of the two bills that would regulate short-term rentals is substituted, and deferred for two meetings. BILL NO. BL2014-951, the other bills that regulates short-term rentals is also deferred two meetings.
BILL NO. BL2014-925 which would regulate pedicabs and pedal pubs is amended and it passes. It is clarified that the bill would still require a certificate of necessity to enter the market to compete against existing pedal pubs. I find that kind of economic protection from competition reprehensible and I would have opposed this bill for that reason. It passes on a voice vote. I wish a principled opponent of restriction on entry into the marketplace would have voiced opposition to the bill and recorded his "no" vote. Why should existing pedal pubs be protected from competition? They should be protected against completion no more than restaurants should be protected from the competiton of new restaurants.
BILL NO. BL2014-952 which regulates non-taxi livery services such as Uber and Lyft is amended and passes. The amendment was not explained. One thing I do not like about this bill is that it authorizes Council to set a minimum fare. There should never be a reason for a mandated minimum fare and I oppose that provision of the bill. A minimum fare does nothing except protect current providers of a service from price competition. I wish we had a core of people in the Council who strongly believe in a free market and economic liberty and would oppose on principle such things as setting fares and requiring a certificates of necessity before one could enter a market. Unfortunately we do not. Other than the allowing for a future minimum fares, this seems to be a pretty reasonable bill and if this was as good of a bill as could be passed and the industry was accepting of it, I think I would have voted for the bill anyway, if I was in the Council. In reality the Council could set a minimum fare later anyway even without the authorization spelled out in this bill, so I would not let that one provision stop me from voting for the bill. With this bill now in place it will most likely be that services like Uber and Lyft are here to stay. Also, the public can be assured that providers of this service have adequate insurance and some safety regulations. I have used Uber and it is a great service. Councilman Scott Davis says that he supports the bills but thinks taxi cabs should be granted some relieve from the restrictions imposed on them to allow them to better compete with Uber and Lyft. I agree. Robert Duval and some other council members make comments agreeing with Councilman Davis. This is encouraging. To see the discussion, see time stamp 1:01:07-1:13:14
BILL NO. BL2014-953 is part of the Bridgestone deal and approves the 20-year tax abatement. The bill is amended but no one explains what the amendment does. To understand the controversy about whether this helps our schools or robs our schools see the news coverage in the articles at the end of this report. I see this as corporate welfare and do not like it, but we do not operate in a vacuum. If we do not bribe Bridgestone to stay, other cities will bribe them to relocate, so while I don't like it, if I were in the council I would reluctantly vote for this bill. It passes by a vote of 37 to 1. To see the discussion see time stamp 1:13:15- 1:37:38.
There are 8 bills on third Reading, most of them are zoning bills which would interest no one but the near by neighbors and none of them are of much interest and they all pass.
Below is press coverage of the meeting:
The nearly unanimous vote came despite letters from mayoral candidate Jeremy Kane and three school board members (Will Pinkston, Amy Frogge, Jill Speering) raising concerns about how the deal, which includes a two-decade property tax break, could hurt public schools.
Councilman Steve Glover, who is a former school board member, said that’s not exactly true. (link)