Thursday, June 11, 2015

(Update) Council strips flood wall, Jail, and Police Hdqrs from budget! This is a council meeting worth watching.

In a major set back to Mayor Karl Dean his three big proposed projects, building a $100 million flood wall to protect the downtown from the next thousand-year flood, the $23 million relocation of the police headquarters to Jefferson Street and the $110 million relocation of the jail to Antioch, were all amended out of the Capital Improvements Budget which is BILL NO. BL2015-1142. Funding to renovate the existing downtown jail is put in the CIB.

The amount of authorized bond obligation remains at $520 million. Other projects possibly could be funded instead and those three big projects. The Capital Improvements spending plan,  RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1500, is explained in this document.

To watch the discussion in the joint Budget and Finance and Planning and Zoning Committee where the real work of the council takes place see the video below.
While I am often disappointed in the council, in this case, the council did a great job. Duane Dominy makes an excellent presentation in opposing the jail relocation and makes several good points. One point is that the bus transportation from the proposed jail location to downtown is simply not adequate and given current bus routes it would be extremely difficult for released inmates to go from the jail to downtown. He also raises questions about the cost and difficulty of transporting prisoners while in custody from the new jail to downtown and back. He also questions what the city got for its $1.5 million jail master study.  Dominy is a termed-out councilman and could have just coasted out of office instead of taking a leadership roll in stopping this project. I commend his dedication and ability to articulate his argument and his passion in denouncing the spending of money without Council authorization.  To view his comments go to time stamp 6:34.

Several other council members do a good job asking probing questions and explaining their opposition on each of the projects, including Councilman Tim Garrett, Charlie Tygard and Jacobia Dowell.

Councilman Jerry Maynard does a good job of arguing to leave the relocation of he police department headquarters in the CIB. Frankly I do not understand the opposition from the community of this relocation of the jail. To me it seem like it would be an asset to a depressed part of town. It is a $24 million office building that will only employ 75 people, mostly civilians. Unlike the bad elements that will accompany the move of the jail, that would not be the case with the relocation of the police headquarters.While I think Maynard makes his case well, I oppose the project because this was a rushed proposal without proper community vetting, and I think all of these projects should be be on hold for the input of the next mayor and council. It may be that the best place for the jail and the police headquarters is downtown where they are now.  To see Councilman Maynard's comments go to time stamp 22:01.

It should be noted that as is explained in this meeting that if a project is taken out of the CIB, it can be put back in . To amend the CIB the mayor must recommend the project and it must be approved by 27 votes of the council.

Here is the Council meeting of last night:

Other than the Capital Improvements Budget, there is not much else of interest on this agenda with is an adjourned meeting from June 2. For your on copy of the agenda, follow this link.  This is an adjourned meeting from June 2nd meeting and staff analysis of bills on this agenda and related documents can be found at this link. The Council discussion of the Capital Improvements Budget starts at time stamp 7:06.

What follows is almost two hours of discussion of the three projects which Budget and Finance has already recommended be removed from the Capitol Improvements Budget and the outcome is already known. Still, it is good to see some of the council member vent their frustration. They vent that money was spend before being authorized both for the flood wall and for the jail in Antioch. Charlie Tygard does an especially good job at time stamp 21:07.

Council member and mayoral candidate Megan Barry argues against removing the flood wall from the Capital Improvements budget. Councilman Hager and Council member Karen Johnson vent their frustration that we are protecting downtown from a flood and not doing anything more for flood protection in the neighborhoods that were hit hard by the 2010 flood. Councilman Carter Todd, Councilman Duane Dominy and Council member Jacobia Dowell are other council members who make good speeches. Many of the council members seem genuinely angry at the way these projects were handled and especially angered that millions of dollars were spend on these projects before they were approved. Councilman Dominy makes one of the best speeches I have even seen given from the Council floor starting at time stamp 1:23:07 and again makes a great speech at time stamp 1:49:06.

Council members like Dominy and Tygard will be missed from the Council. I wish they were both serving another term or were running at-large. To read The Tennessean's take on the meeting follow this link: Nashville flood wall, jail plan, police HQ move rejected.

At the mayoral forum at First Tuesday yesterday featuring David Fox and Howard Gentry, both candidates said they would support taking the projects out of the capital improvements plan and were critical of the process that did not involve the community.  Howard Gentry who is the current Criminal Court Clerk, said the relocation of the jail would effect the logistics of his office and how they would serve the inmate population but said he was not consulting or informed of the project until the public announcement. Both pledged that if elected they would have a different approach to advancing projects of this nature and would seek support prior to proposing funding for the projects. Mayoral candidate Jeremy Kane issued a statement following last nights vote in which he condemned the way these projects were handled by the mayor.

Once the minutes of this meeting are available, I will post the votes showing who voted for and against the three projects. 

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