Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What happened at 6-2-15 Council meeting: A long hearing on the budget w/ lots of opposition to jail relocation; pro rent control bill. Give away of tax money.

This is a long meeting- over four hours long. To get your own copy of the agenda, staff analysis and my commentary, follow this link.

After spending some hours watching summarizing and commenting on the public hearing portion of the meeting, and providing timestamp notation, I unfortunately had a computer malfunction and lost all my work, so I am not going to post commentary on the public hearings. The public hearing is very interesting and I encourage readers to watch it, especially if you have concern about the flood wall, the relocation of jail to Antioch, or the relocation of police headquarters to Jefferson Street.

To briefly summarize, on the operating budget people who think Metro does not spend enough money- people who want more spend on police, fire, schools, health, libraries and more, speak asking for more funding. No one speaks asking the Council to spend less. Conservatives are only active when the city wants to raise taxes but liberals are always engaged and unrelenting in the quest for bigger government and higher taxes.

The public hearing on the Capital Improvements budget has a few people speaking in favor of the flood wall, the jail relocation and the police headquarters relocation and a lot of people speaking in opposition. Both pass but are amendable on third reading and are referred back to budget and Finance.

All resolutions on consent pass and none are pulled.

These are the resolutions of interest not on consent.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1499  refinances some city debt. It is deferred one meeting to track with the budget.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1500  authorizes the issuance of $520 million in General Obligation Bonds. This includes $110 million for relocation of the jail to Harding Pl. and the relocation of the police headquarter, $96 million dollars for schools, $25 million for sidewalks and more.  It is deferred one meeting to track with the budget.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1501 is another deal to hand out money to Asurion, the cell phone insurance company. In 2011 we gave them a deal worth $2.4 million. This resolution pays them up to $50,000 for increasing their number of employees at their Crossings Boulevard location paying them $500 per job that they add from now through June 2017. There is also a bill on second reading (BILL NO. BL2015-1128)   that approves a tax abatement plan to benefit Asurion. This would freeze property taxes on the building the company occupies at the 2013 rate. The mechanics of how this would work is that the company would get an abatement for four years of any taxes due that exceed the $136,000 annual taxes that were being paid on the property prior to any improvements Asurion makes to the property. The amount of the abatement would be about $288,000 a year.
When one looks around and sees all of the growth taking place in Nashville, one would think the city should have fat tax coffers, but with tax freezes, tax increment financing and similar deals, a lot of money that would flow into the treasury is not.  Proponents of measures such as this say this companies will not locate to Nashville unless we entice them and that this is money well spend. I am leery of continuing these practices. The purpose of growth should not simply to be a bigger city. I think it may be time to call the bluff of these companies that come to us with their hand out. The resolution is amended to clarify that Metro would not make any payments until fiscal year 2015-16. It passes on a voice vote with no dissention.
 RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1498 by Charlie Tygard request the   Metropolitan Civil Service Commission to consider and recommend an amendment to the General Pay Plan to partially base the compensation of Members of the Metropolitan Council upon Council and committee meeting attendance.
Recently, Channel 5 did an investigative piece and revealed that some Council members almost never attend committee meetings.  This is just not right! As Tygerd said, "It's not fair for certain council members to do all of the homework and others to get the same rate of pay and do nothing of the work.”
With a large council, the council must have a strong committee system.  It is in committee where the real work of the Council is done. It is in committee where the council can ask hard questions and get answers.  There is no way a councilmember can know all there is to know about the  bills on the agenda. Some of the Councilmen said they had regular jobs and could  not take off work to attend committee meetings. In my view, if a councilmember does not have flexibility in his job to attend to his council duties, he should not run for council.  If he cannot attend Council committee meetings he should resign from the council. The worst offenders were Emily Evans, who missed 83 committee meetings since 2013, Robert Duvall, who's missed 93 committee meetings in that time period, and Sean McGuire, who's missed 132 committee meetings since 2013! Among the top twelve members with the worst attendance records was Council member-at-large and Mayoral candidate Megan Barry. This meeting is again deferred one meeting.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1515 by Charlie Tygard requesting the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to require full-time Davidson County elected officials to submit an annual report to the Comptroller detailing the dates they worked.  The Tennessean recently did some investigative reporting, and got the records of the access card swipes of various elected officials.  These elected officials carry a unique card that records every time they enter a certain office or building and some of them have very poor records of showing up for work. This is also deferred one meeting.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1516 ask the General Assembly to pass legislation to allow the Metropolitan Government to enact inclusionary zoning legislation to ensure sufficient affordable rental housing. Inclusionary zoning is another term for price fixing or rent control. An example of how it would work is a developer builds a 400 unit luxury condo downtown and the rent range is $4,000 to $8,000 a month. Under inclusionary zoning, some number of units, (maybe 10%) would have to be set aside as "affordable." Assume it must be affordable for people making 80% of the area median income, then that would be a rent of $1382 per month for a family of four assuming affordable is 31% of gross monthly income. That means those who rent at market rate would subsidize the rent of those who rent the affordable units. In my view fixing prices is simply wrong and the market should determine the price of things. As a practical matter it distorts the market. Also, there are other considerations. If one rents a luxury condo, it may include access to a gym, a spa, a dog walking service, a doorman, concierge service, and fresh cut flowers in the morning. Do those in the "affordable units" get the amenities?  In may view the state should not authorize rent control and this should be defeated. If I were in the Council, I would vote against it.  This passes on a voice vote. I am disgusted! It is unbelievable that the so called conservatives on the council support rent control. I should not be surprised however, a few years ago they all supported livery price fixing. I do not think there is a single committed conservative serving in the council.

All bills on First Reading pass.

Bills on Second Reading of interest:

BILL NO. BL2015-1123 adopts the tax rate, which is the same as the current tax rate of $3.924 in the General Services District and $4.156 in the Urban Services District. The tax rate is per $100 of assessed value which is 25% of appraised value for residential property.  It passes.
BILL NO. BL2015-1124 adopts the tax relief program for the low-income elderly. Never in doubt, it passes unanimously.
BILL NO. BL2015-1125 creates a new department of Metro Government, the Office of Family Safety. Currently, this office with a staff of nine is funded as part of the mayors office. This office provides one place where victims can go to talk to an advocate, plan for their safety, interview with the police, meet with a prosecutor, receive medical assistance, and receive information regarding shelter and other needed services. That will mean more pay for a department head and a new large bureaucracy. In my view we should be shrinking the number of departments not creating more. It is deferred one meeting to track with the budget.
BILL NO. BL2015-1126 is a new tax, initially to be at $2, imposed on all parties in a civil litigation case to help fund the salary of General Sessions Judges. I assume this is legal, but just as once upon a time one had to pay a poll tax to exercise the right to vote and now we think that was not proper, we are now going to make one pay a tax to have the right to have access the courts. This is shameful. This is deferred one meeting to track with the budget.
BILL NO. BL2015-1127 is a deal to benefit American General very similar to the deal to benefit Asurion described above.  It passes.
BILL NO. BL2015-1128  is the Asurion tax give-away described above. It passes.
BILL NO. BL2015-1129 establishes a codes offender school similar to the school we have for traffic violation offenders. The Director of Finance has refused to certify that there are funds available for this. It is deferred one meeting.

There are seven bills on Third Reading and none of them are of interest and they all pass.

Given that some of the incumbents who I have endorsed have voted for rent control, I may be reevaluating who I support for reelection or who I am supporting for at-large seats on the council. If they do in fact vote for the new tax on court access and vote to create this new bureaucracy, I doubt I will be supporting them in their campaign for reelection or their campaigns for at-large seats. I am hopeful that if we elect people like Lonnie Spivak, Ken Jakes and Stephen Clements that they will not disappoint. I would rather have three committed out spoken principled uncompromising conservatives with leadership ability on the council than a dozen lukewarm nominal conservatives.

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