Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Council Meeting of Feb. 24th, 2015: The Dog-chain meeting.

At only 50 minutes long this is a short meeting. This meeting was originally scheduled for February 17th but was delayed until last night due to the bad weather.

To get your own copy of my commentary, the staff analysis and the agenda, follow this link.

There are six appointments to Boards and Commissions on the agenda for Council confirmation and they all pass with no dissenting votes.

This is a short agenda with not much on the agenda of a controversial nature. There are seven resolutions on the agenda and all end up on the consent agenda except RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1389. Those still on consent all pass without any being pulled. Bills on consent are passed by one single vote rather than each resolution being considered individually.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1389 is interesting. It involves the settlement of a lawsuit brought  by an employee who sued the city when fired. It is somewhat complex.  The fired former employee was a Metro Parks Police officer with the Parks Department who is a lesbian and one of the first females hired by the Parks Department for a Parks police position with the department. The department fired her for inefficient performance of duties, insubordination toward a supervisor, violation of written rules and dishonesty. She claims she was discriminated against. This resolution would settle the suit for $295,000. I understand those who may not want to settle this suit, but my view is that the Council should settle lawsuits when defending them would be more costly than settling and when there is serious doubt if we would win  if it went to trial. I tend to trust the legal department when they propose settling a suit. This resolution is deferred one meeting. Why, I don't know.

All bills on Second Reading pass.

Bills on Third Reading:

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-909 and BILL NO. BL2014-951  regulate peer-to-peer vacation rentals such as AIRBnB. These bills which haves been worked on for months and both  pass by a vote of 30 in favor, 2 against, and no abstentions. The "no" votes were Jason Holleman and Robert Duvall. I would have supported this bill, if I were in the Council. The regulations are not onerous. There is one provision I do not like but that would not have kept me from supporting the bills.  There is some talk of dedicating part of the tax revenue that taxing these facilities will generate to the Barnes Fund, which is a fund sit up to develop affordable housing, but that was not part of this bill.

BILL NO. BL2014-948  amends the Five Points redevelopment plan, changing some permitted uses and it would provide and additional $670,000 in Tax Increment Financing. TIF lets the taxes from a project first go to pay for improvements in the area of the project before any tax from the project goes to the general fund of the city. I am not opposed to TIF but think it must be used cautiously . If TIF causes a project to be built that most likely would not be built then it makes sense. If however, it is just a giveaway in a popular area where development would occur anyway then it is a misguided policy in my view. I would like to know how much money has been diverted from the general fund over the past few years due to TIF and if this development tool is being overused. This bill is deferred one meeting at the request of the sponsor.

 BILL NO. BL2015-1002 rezones 361 acres to a use that prohibits duplexes from a current use that permits them.  I personally do not like this type downzoning and think it unwise to downzone property for less density. To make mass transit more viable and to combat urban sprawl we do not need to be codifying lesser density. It passes on a voice vote.

BILL NO. BL2015-1008 regulates how one could tether their dog such as how long the cable must be and how heavy and also prohibits keeping a dog tethered when it is too hot or too cold and prohibits tethering a dog with a chain. If the dog has water and shade I do not see that a heat index of 90 is excessive. Also some dogs, such as Alaskan Huskies, can tolerate being outside in a well-strawed dog house at 20° below for up to 8 hours (link). Some dogs are bred for cold weather. This bill treats all dogs the same, and they simply are not. I do not want to see any dog mistreated but I am not sure why a light-weight chain is banned. What is wrong with a chain?

Councilman Karen Bennett, the lead sponsor of the bill ,makes a pitch for her bill. Councilman  Duane Dominy gets recognized and ask for a suspension of the rules in order to offer an amendment of the bill. On third reading council rules prohibit amendments to bills, but the council may suspend the rules in order to entertain a proposed amendment. There was an objection and Duane was unable to offer an amendment.  He then spoke on the bills itself. Councilman Dominy says his 40 pound dog Lucy has chewed through four cables, one rated for a 250 pound dog. Dominy has the chains and holds them up and shows them. He says as currently drafted the bill endangers animals. Dominy asks for the bill to be deferred but does not make that in the form of a motion.  In a wise, seldom used  parliamentary move, Dominy voted in favor of the bill, then moved to reconsider. He got five people who supported him in that request, so the bill will be back on third reading next Tuesday.  To see the floor action on this bill see time tamp 36:48 - 45:56.

To see the Tennessean's report on this meeting, follow this link: Council OKs dog-chaining ban then decides to reconsider it

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