Council meeting are really boring if you don't know what the Council is voting on, with an agenda and council staff analysis the meetings are still boring but not quite as boring. Follow the highlighted links for you own copy.
At this time the staff analysis is not available so look for an update. This post is now updated with insight gleamed from the staff analysis.
The big item on this agenda is a move by Westerholm to put the Metro Council on record endorsing President Obama's controversial job-killing EPA Carbon Emission Rules which will raise electricity rates, $50 million is subsidy to Bridestone to stay in Nashville and expand, and new regulation of Pedal pubs and Pedicabs and regulation of livery service such as Uber and Lyft and regulation of vacation rentals. Here is the agenda summary.
There are no appointments to Boards and Commission on this agenda.
There is resolutions and 15 bills on public hearing. The resolution is for restaurants that already has a liquor license but not a beer license that is within the Metro beer code prohibited distance limit of a home or other type facility such as park, school or church. It seems silly to me that one can sell tequila but not beer in a restaurant. I think the metro code should be changed so that any restaurant that has a liquor permit, automatically has the beer code distance requirements waived but that is not the case. The bills on public hearing are all rezoning bills except for one. I don't follow closely all the rezoning bills but do not see any that would be of a general interest. Usually zoning bills are all only of interest to neighbors near the proposed rezoning. The other bill on public hearing is ORDINANCE NO. BL2014-947 which clarifies procedures related to fees, in-lieu contributions and other assessments. What this does is clarify that those fees are not frozen at the time first assessed but can be updated from time to time. There is a technical necessity for this and it is no big deal.
There are 12 resolutions on the agenda, all on the consent agenda at this time. A bill is placed on consent if it is assumed to be non-controversial and stays on consent it passes the committee to which it was assigned unanimously. However, on the floor, any Councilman may ask to have a bill moved off of consent and considered separately or may ask to have himself recorded as abstaining or voting "no." I see only one resolution of interest:
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 don't like it. 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 and this link.There are 27 bills on First Reading but I usually don't pay much attention to them until Second Reading. First Reading is a formality that allows a bill to be considered and it is bad manners to vote against a bill of First reading unless it is really atrocious.
There are 15 bills on Second Reading. These are the ones one of interest:
BILL NO. BL2014-909 and BILL NO. BL2014-951 both pertain to regulating short-term vacation rentals and requiring the providers of short-term vacation rentals to collect taxes and get an annual permit and sets numerous conditions and rules. The short-term vacation rentals refers to rooms that one rents in their home. This has become a big segment of the vacation rental market with phone apps that match those wanting to rent a room with those offering a room to rent. They have been unregulated. These two bills seem to cover the same issues but one relates to zoning and the other the business operation of these facilities. While most of the regulations seem reasonable, one of the regulations says that no more than 3% of the single-family or detached two-family residential units within each census tract shall be permitted as non-owner-occupied short-term rental use as determined by the Zoning Administrator. That does not seem reasonable. After a certain number of permits are issued, new applicants cannot even apply under this provision. This will create an increase in property values for those who get the permits first. I would hope the Council would defer this bill for more study and reconsider that provision. There also may be other provision that are overkill, but I have not studied the bills in depth. I am pleased that Metro is not trying to prohibit this type innovation but think we may be overregulating them.
BILL NO. BL2014-925 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. Requiring a certificate of necessity for new entrants into the market simply protects those already operating. 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 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. 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. Also, the drivers of these vehicles must wear a uniform? Why? If I were in the Council, I would vote against this bill. I have been told that the requirement for a certificate of necessity will be withdrawn form the bill but it is still in there at this time.
BILL NO. BL2014-952 regulates non-taxi livery services such as Uber and Lyft. I have used Uber and love it. It is fast, cheap, convenient, easy to use, the vehicles are clean and of all the times I have used it, the drivers I have had speak English. Someone in the industry tells me these regulations are reasonable. There has not been push-back from the industry against the proposed regulations so I assume it is something they can live with. The proposed regulation require certain levels of insurance and require the drivers to get an annual permit. I think minimum insurance requirements probably are reasonable and maybe some of the other proposed regulations. Nashville, however, has had a ugly past in trying to stamp out competition to established taxi and limousine services so I simply don't trust the cities bureaucrats or our Metro Council. I hope someone is paying close attention to what the city is proposing. This bill is 34 pages long and I have not studied it carefully. I wish there was someone in the Council whom I had confidence in that I knew was committed to free enterprise and economic liberty who I knew would study the bill and who I knew would object to it if the regulations are too onerous. Unfortunately, I do not have that level of confidence in anyone on our Council. Some who call themselves conservative have voted for price-fixing. Last year when the Council removed the $45 minimum for a limo ride they set it at three times the flag drop for a taxi ride which would come to about $9. Last weekend I took a Uber ride from my home to downtown and it was only $4.20. This bill modifies that $9 minimum to a minimum to be determined by the Council. I oppose any minimum. The Council should not be setting minimum prices for any service. A minimum fare does not protect consumers, but protects providers from competition and it stifles innovation. At the time of the introduction of the automobile, I think our Council would have banned them on city streets in order to protect buggy whip makers, or that might have required all cars to be equipped with buggy whips.
BILL NO. BL2014-953 is part of the Bridgestone deal and approves the 20-year tax abatement.
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.
There is one Memorizing Resolutions on the agenda. A memorializing resolution is an expression of the will of the council and has no legal impact but they can have an impact in influencing Congress when they are part of a campaign and many cities across America pass the same bill. I don't know if this bill is part of an organized campaign or not, but the last time the Council passed a bill praising a policy of the EPA it was part of a national campaign. If no one objects a memorializing resolution can slip through on the consent agenda. Our Council has allowed some atrocious bills advocating liberal polices to pass and even the so-called conservatives on the Council have not voted against them. This bill was deferred last time, because the sponsor did not appear before the Rules Committee to speak on behalf of his bill so it was deferred "by rule." This is the resolution:
RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1300 expresses support for President Obama’s "Clean Power Plan" to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. I do not think the Council should be opining on matters like this. The Council has enough to do to solve local issue. Let Congress deal with nations issues. If members of the Council want to opine on national issues, let them blog. If we are going to consider matters like this, then I think the handful of Republicans on the Council should sponsor a memorizing resolution urging the president do follow the constitution and a resolution urging the President to not use an executive order to grant amnesty to five million illegal immigrants. Each council meeting could be devoted to memorialize the Congress on national issues.
The new Congress plans to go after these new rules and overturn them. It is a certainty that the new rules will cause higher electric bills and they will most likely slow the recovery. This is not a simple matter where all of the positives are on one side. The Council should vote against this. There are about eight members of the Council who are identified as Republicans. They should vote against this. If they cannot be counted on to vote against measures like this then we might as well elect liberal council members. Council members who would argue against this resolution don't have to argue that global warming is not real or argue in favor of dirty air, they just need to say that this is not an issue the Council should be debating. To read more about this issue follow this link and A Dangerous Plan - EPA Proposal Perilous for State and a story form the Tallahassee Democrat Mike Murtha: EPA’s Clean Power Plan would hurt Florida.
Please call your council member and ask them to vote against Resolution RS2014-1300