Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What is on the Council Agenda for May 5th: Sex Club regs, amending term limits, supporting Insure Tennessee, selling the old Convenstion Center site.

Council meeting can be really, really boring if you don't know what the council is voting on. With a copy of the agenda and agenda staff analysis, they are still boring but not really, really boring. Follow the highlighted links to get your own copy.

There are three appointments to boards and commission on the agenda for confirmation but none are to the controversial or troubled agencies.

Public Hearings: Thee are 31 bills on public hearing and most of them are rezoning bill that would concern no one except nearby neighbors. I do not even attempt to keep up with rezoning issues. Here are the ones of a more general interest.

  • BILL NO. BL2015-1064 would allow detached accessory dwellings as a permitted use in the Commercial Limited (CL) zoning district. This is already allowed in residential zoned areas that have a historical overlay or an Urban Design overlay (UDO). The same conditions would apply. This expands it to CL. I support this. 
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1098. Currently the Metro code establishes a minimum acreage for different type schools and number of students. For example, a high school must have at least 15 acres and an additional acre for each 100 students. This bill applies some common sense adjustments to that formula and would allow schools to be located on less acreage. Some people in the Green Hills area oppose this change, because they think that by making it difficult for Hillsboro high school to relocate, that the Hillsboro property will remain a school and that that prime property in Green Hills will remain unchanged. They do not want to see more commercial development in Green Hills.
  •  BILL NO. BL2015-1099  defines what is a sex club, and says they can only locate in areas zoned industrial and not within 1000 feet of a church, home, school, park or daycare center. A proposed substitute for the bill would even impose more stringent requirements. This looks like this is intended to make it impossible for a sex club to exist. I know no councilman wants to be labeled as voting for a sex club, but this is pretty heavy handed. The one existing sex club in Nashville has existed for over forty years and is not associated with crime or disturbances.  If it was not pointed out to someone, no one would know it was a sex club.  it has the letters "TCS" on the door.  It does not have flashing neon signs saying, "Naked Girls," "Sex, Sex, Sex." I think people ought to mind their own business and let consenting adult perverts have a place to play. 
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1100 changes the code to make it the applicant's responsibility rather than the city's for posting signs that say a property has a hearing before The Board of Zoning Appeal. Also it removes the requirement that such notices be published in a newspaper. Notices will be published online on an official website. This makes sense to me.
Resolutions on Consent Agenda: 
There are 13 resolutions on the consent agenda, which is all of them at this time. A resolution stays on consent if it passes the committee to which it was assigned unanimously, however any Councilman may ask for a bill to be taken off of consent or have his vote recorded. All bills on consent are considered as a group and pass with one vote. Here are the resolutions of interest:
RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1433  proposes amendments to the Metro Charter. There are two ways, proposed amendments to the charter can get put to a vote of the people. One, is the petition route and  the other is by resolution of the Council.  This resolution proposes an amendment to the Charter that would extend term limits for the Vice Mayor and members of the Council from two to three terms. It will take 27 votes to pass.  If it passes it will be on the August ballot. However, it take two votes of the Council for that to happen; one to approve the proposed amendment and another to submit it to the ballot. I think term limits are a mistake and they transfer power from the Council to the Mayor.
Even without term limits we have a weak council-strong mayor structure. Term limits makes the unelected bureaucrats stronger and they serve the mayor.  It takes a while for a new councilman to learn out how things operate and it takes an informed and powerful councilman not to be snowed by a long-term bureaucrat. While expanding the number of terms from two to three may help some, I think this is pretty insignificant. One problem with term limits is that almost the whole council terms over ever eight years.  A more meaningful measure would be to stagger terms so that not all experienced councilmen leave office at the same time.  This proposed amendment does not do that. This resolution does nothing to reduce the size of the Council. I have slowly reached the point to where I think the size of the council should be reduced. The proposal that and also changes term limits is proceeding via the petition route. It is also worth noting that efforts to amend the charter to increase term limits has already been tried several times. While I think the public is wrong in supporting term limits, I think they have clearly spoken, and I see nothing that would change their mind and at this time make them changing  term limits. I would probably vote against this.

There are eight bills on First reading, but I don't read them until second reading. First reading is a formality and all are considered at one time and all pass except in very rare instances.

Bills on Second Reading: 
There are 14 bills on 2nd reading. This is the only one of interest to me. 
BILL NO. BL2015-1102  would allow the Parks Department to permit the sale of beer in any Metro Parks, Now the Parks Department can only allow beer sales at parks in the downtown area.  I approve.
Bills on Third Reading:
There are ten bills on 3rd reading and this is the only one of significance.
BILL NO. BL2015-1067 is the agreement to sale the site of the old convention center. I am bother by the giving away of space valued at $10 million to build a museum of  African American music. I also think lower Broadway is the wrong place for the museum. Located on Jefferson Street the museum could spur development in a part of town that needs it. I am also concerned that $5 million dollars is going to the Barnes Fund from this sale.  I would prefer the money go to the General Fund and then be appropriated to Barnes during the regular budgetary process, letting Barnes compete with schools and transit needs and police and fire, like everything else. It does not seem like a wise way to fund an entity.  Beyond that concern, I don't have any specific concerns about this deal. It is a complicated bill however and I hope the Budget and Finance Committee has carefully studied it. Often, I feel our Council just rubber stamps what ever the mayor sends them. I had a little more confidence in the Council when Charlie Tygard was on the B & F committee. To learn more about this complex issue see the staff analysis.
There are six memorializing resolutions and if they meet the same criteria for inclusion they will be included in the consent agenda. Memorializing resolutions do not have the force of law and simply express the will of the council and are often used to honor a sports team on a victory or honor a long-time employee on his retirement. Of the six memorializing resolutions, five are harmless of the kind that honors a person or institution, one states a council position on a complex State issue.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1476, puts the Council on record as supporting the Insure Tennessee plan. There are two sides to that issue. The Council has not been lobbied by both sides, they have not set through the hearings. Personally, I ended up after initially having reservations, supporting Insure Tennessee giving the assurances that we could get out of it if it did end up costing the state money. I like the way it was structured. However, I do not think the Council should weight in on State or Federal matters. There could be no end to memorialize resolutions.  We could memorialize Congress on the issue of the day every Council meeting. We could memorize the U.S. Congress on the Iran Arms deal, we could memorized the State on the gas tax. We could have competing memorializing resolutions and spend the Council's time debating State and National issues every meeting.  Despite actually favoring Insure Tennessee, if I were in the Council I would vote against this memorializing resolution.

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