Monday, February 2, 2015

What is on the Council Agenda for Feb. 3rd, 2015? Funding the leftist Neighborhood Resource Center, killing the AMP. (update)

Council meeting can be really, really boring, if you don't know what is going on.  With an agenda and council staff analysis you will have a better understanding of what is happening. The meeting will still be boring, but not really, really boring.  To make the meetings less boring follow the above highlighted links for you own copy of the agenda and the staff analysis. If you are  only interested in some mundane rezoning happening down the street from you, you are on your on.  I only report on the stuff I find interesting. 

There are three appointments to boards and commission on the agenda for Council confirmation. One is a reappointment to the Arts Commission and one is a reappointment to the Metro Action Commission and one is a first time appointment to the Nashville Education, Community & Arts Television Corporation (NECAT). I don't expect any controversy about any of these. I do not like the tax payer money that is being paid for "Sticks." If I were on the Rules Committee, I think I would ask the appointees if she voted for this. I don't know that I would vote against her reappointment if she did, but I would at least question this decision to use public money for this work of art. I am not opposed to all public works of art but think the process by which it is funded and selected should be reexamined. The only time the Council has any influence on which art is chosen as publicly funded is when they confirm appointee to the Arts Commission. I also would like to let everyone have a lower cable bill and stop funding NECAT but I probably would let it slide and not put the appointee on the spot with that concern. 
There are ten bills on public hearing. Here are the ones that may be of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2014-948 amends the Five Points redevelopment area, changing some permitted uses on some parcels and approving an additional $670K in Tax Increment Financing. TIF allows taxes from new development in an area to pay for the infrastructure in that area rather than flow into the general fund. At some point TIC makes sense, in that without it development would probably not occur, but past a certain point it is an unnecessary give-away. I hope Budget and Finance looks carefully at this when it comes before them.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1002 in Councilman Potts' district rezones 361 acres from R10 zoning which allows duplexes to RS10 which is single family. This can be controversial due to it being a "taking" to down zone someone's property if they do not want their property down-zoned. Also, as Nashville grows, as we make more property single-family only instead of allowing duplexes we contribute to urban sprawl. Also, successful mass transit needs greater population density not less.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1004 in Councilman Bedne's district is the same as above for 155 acres.
 There are 14 resolution, all on the consent agenda at this time. The resolutions to fund the Neighborhood Resource Center is back on the agenda this time.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1316 approves $100,000 to the Neighborhood Resource Center.  This was on the Council agenda several times and was deferred. I was hoping this was resolution was dead. This non-profit has fallen on hard times recently having lost their United Way funding and some other things. Some of the things the NRC does I do not disagree with but I think the city should not bail them out.  There are many worthwhile non-profits that need funding. 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. If I were in the Council, I would vote against this resolution.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1371 will really kill the AMP by de-authorizing the previous funding authorized for planning for the AMP.  
There are only twenty-two bills on First Reading but I have not read them. First Reading is a formality that allows a bill to be considered and normally all bills on First reading pass unless something is really atrocious.
There are only eleven bills on Second Reading. 
  • SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-909 and BILL NO. BL2014-951 regulate peer-to-peer vacation rentals such as AIRBnB. There are over a thousand of these operating in Nashville with little problem. Since they do not fit the definition of what is prohibited in a residential area (they are not a bed and breakfast, they are not a boarding house, they are not a hotel) they have been allowed to operate. This defines what they are, says what they can do, regulates parking and advertising and makes them collect taxes and establishes insurance requirements. I would probably prefer to let them remain unregulated and let "the buyer beware," but these regulation are not onerous. Much of what this bill regulates such as noise and parking and signage is unnecessary since we already have general regulations regarding these things. Other cities have tried to ban them. I am pleased we are not trying to prohibit them. I am please we are not imposing a minimum rental fee.  I do think the city should collect the tax revenue on these that we would collect if someone was renting a motel room at the same rate. If we are going to regulate them, then these proposed regulations seem reasonable to me. One provision I do not like is that these regulations establish that no more than 3% of the homes in a census track can be non-owner occupied vacation rentals. I understand the desire to make sure there is not an over concentration of these in one area but by restricting it to 3% that creates value for those who already have them or get them first. However, I do not know how to address what this provision attempts to address in any other way. I would prefer that that restriction simply not be in the bill, however, I would not let that keep me from voting for this. 
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1009  would prohibit cash advance places from being open between the hours of midnight and 6AM. I understand why people do not like cash advance places. The
    interest rate on a cash advance loan can be over 600%.  However, if one needs cash to keep the electricity from being cut off, a pay day loan is cheaper than an electric reconnection fee and in the depth of a cold winter keeping the electricity on may be "priceless." Also, if one overdraws a checking account by one penny and must pay a penalty and that is calculated as interest, that is an interest rate in the thousands and thousands of percent.  If used correctly, pay day loans or no worst than many other financial transactions. They are often misused however. How far should we go in protecting stupid people?  In any event, these are legal businesses and the Council should not be trying to drive them out of business. Recently the Council imposed restrictions on proximity of one of these business to others of the same type. It appears the Council is trying to do all they can do make it difficult for people to do business with these companies and trying to inconvenience the customers. I would vote against this. The Council staff analysis says this may be unconstitutional. 
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1008 would regulate how one could keep a dog chained in their yard. I hate to see a dog mistreated and would probably vote for this. However, saying a dog cannot be tethered when the heat index is above 95 degrees seems a little extreme if the dog has shade. I would hope this would be deferred and a little more study went into it.
Bills on Third reading:
  • BILL NO. BL2014-896   rezones 238 acres in east Nashville to allow accessory dwelling units on properties in the rezoned area. It has been deferred several times. This needs to pass. I think rezoning like this is a positive development as opposed to the bills on Second reading above which prohibits duplexes. 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 greater density combats urban sprawl.

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