Tuesday, June 2, 2015

(update) What is on the June 2nd Council Agenda: Publilc hearings on the budget, tax give-away for Asurion, a new tax, rent control.

The first two items on the Council agenda on Tuesday night June 2nd are hearings on the Capital Improvements Budget (BILL NO. BL2015-1122) and the Operating budget (BILL NO. BL2015-1142) I have provided analysis and commentary on both at the following links:
Speak out now against a future tax increase. 2015-2016 Operating budget on public hearing Tuesday June 2nd.  
The public's chance to speak out against the Jail moving to Harding Pl., or other projects: Public Hearings on the Budget June 2nd. 

This may prove to be a long meeting. The public  hearings will take a while and there are several item that may prove controversial. Council meetings are much more interesting if you know what is being voted on. For a copy of the Council agenda and staff analysis follow the highlighted links.

There are 14 resolution on the agenda. Most resolutions are lumped together and put on the "consent agenda" and all pass with a single voted. If a resolution does not pass the committee to which it was assigned unanimously then it is not on consent and is considered separately. Any council member may, from the floor, ask for a resolution to be pulled off of consent and then the resolution will be considered separately.  These are the resolution of interest:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1499  refinances some city debt. I do not know if this is a good deal or not but the staff analysis raises no concern.
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. I think the council should defeat this or at least defer it and then amend it down taking out the jail and police relocation money.
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.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1511 advances Google Optics, approving Network Hut locations on Metro property. There is nothing controversial about this, but is a noteworthy advancement leading to Nashville being one of the city with Google fiber optics.

There are 65 bills on first reading, but I don't look at them until second reading and I doubt many of the members of the Council do either. First reading is a formality to get the bill on the agenda and all bills on first reading are passed at one time in one motion.

There are 18 bills on Second Reading.  Here are the ones 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.  With all of the growth in Nashville, I would hope the city could actually cut the tax rate, but that has never happened and probably never will. It seems Metro taxes only go in one direction no matter what happens.

BILL NO. BL2015-1124 adopts the tax relief program for the low-income elderly.
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. Why does this office of nine people need to be a standalone department?  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. I wish a council member would point that out and vote against it.
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. This is just another way to tax the public. I would vote against this. I assume this is legal, but just as when once upon a time one had a poll tax to exercise the right to vote but now we think that was not proper, I do not think one should have to pay to have the right to have access the courts.
BILL NO. BL2015-1127 is a deal to benefit American General very similar to the deal to benefit Asurion described above. 
BILL NO. BL2015-1128  is the Asurion tax give-away described above.
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. Unless it can be determined that this would be revenue neutral, I think it should be defeated.  
BILL NO. BL2015-1131  is part of the Google fiber optics deal allowing Google to attatch their equipment to telephone poles at their expense.

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

Thee are five memorializing resolutions. These are the ones of interest: 

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. This will probably prove controversial. I support it.
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.
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. 
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. 


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