To follow along with the Council agenda, the Council staff analysis and my commentary follow this link. At 58 minutes long this is a short meeting. Councilman Greene who was a victim of a recent shooting is back. All mayoral appointees to boards and commission are confirmed. All resolutions on the consent agenda pass and none are pulled off consent from the floor.
Of the resolutions, one that is not on the consent agenda is RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-51 which appropriates $5,476,000.00 from the General Fund Reserve Fund for the purchase of equipment and building repairs for various departments. Councilman Elrod ask for an explanation of the fund that this money comes from and how often request like this are made. His question is answered. For this discussion see time stamp 14:36 -18:20.
The "4 percent fund" or "the general fund reserve" is 4 percent of the Metro budget which is put aside and request for money from this fund can be made when needed. One can understand that equipment breaks during the year and things have to be addressed during the year, but in my view there is not consistency in what can be funded out of the 4% fund. As an example, tonight's request includes $1.5 million to purchase library books. Certainly library books should not be funded by bond issues, but why are library books not part of the regular Public Library budget? I see no more logic to purchasing library books out of the 4% fund than I do purchasing asphalt for public works out of this fund. It seems the library should anticipate purchasing library books and include that in their regular budget request. In the end however, I am not sure it matters; it like an individual paying for something out of his right pocket rather than there left. It does however distort the true cost of a government function.
Also tonight, not on consent is RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-63 which is a memorializing resolution which would put the Council on record requested President Obama and the Congress to oppose the TransPacific Partnership (TPP). The rules Committee had approved the resolution 5 for 1 against and 1 not voting. An opposing vote in the rules committee is what kept the resolution from being on the consent agenda. I would bet the members of the council are no more informed about this complex issue than the average man on the street. Why they think they are qualified to have a valid opinion is beyond me. I wonder how many of them even know the nine countries involved in the agreement? Has any of them read the seven thousand pages that make up the TPP? From what I know about it, I oppose it, primarily because I don't trust the Obama Administration to negotiate a deal in America's interest and some organization that I trust say it surrenders some American sovereignty. However, I do not think our local council should be expressing an opinion about something that is beyond their pay grade. If they want to spend months becoming an expert on TPP, they should be serving in the U. S. Congress, not the Metro Council.
Council member Freddie O'Connell makes the point that other bodies such as our congressman and local members of the State legislature or the Mayor's office have not reached an opinion on the merits of the TPP and he does not feel competent to take a position. Good for him! Councilman Elrod makes the same point as does Sheri Weiner and Steve Glover. The vote is 17 for, 4 against, and 17 abstentions and 2 not voting. This is good! Rules of the Council require that when the council passes a memorizing resolution directed to another body that the vote of the Council be included. In the past the Council passed some equally ridiculous memorializing resolutions about complex issue they knew nothing about, such as expressing an opinion on the parts-per-million of CO2 that should be in the air. That less than half the council voted for this in encouraging. When member of Congress see that only 17 of our 40 member Council voted for this, that will make it have less impact assuming it would have any impact anyway. I hope this is establishing a new attitude on the part of the Council. To see the video discussion see time stamp 20:12-30:19.
All bills on First Reading pass without objection. A couple bill on Second Reading are deferred and the rest pass and there is no controversy. Most of the bills are boring zoning bills.
The only bills of interest on Third reading are BILL NO. BL2015-13 and BILL NO. BL2015-14 which are designed to stop the development of a rock quarry in the vicinity of Old Hickory Dam.The owner may already be "vested" in the rock quarry, however, and these bills may not accomplish their objectives.
The Vice Mayor announces that on Thursday of this week the Rules Committee will meet to establish new rules for the new Council. I hope the council takes this process seriously. There are some rules that I think need changing. Rule 30 restricts a council member from speaking more than four minutes on an issue. Sometimes, there needs to be debate and sometimes a case can not be made in under four minutes. Also, on zoning matters the three minute time limit to hear from the public is overly restrictive. Not often, but on occasion, a member of the public cannot make their case in less than three minutes.
In my view, memorizing resolutions addressed to the U. S. Congress or the President should not be permitted to be on the consent agenda. If tonight's resolution addressing TPP had not received one "no" vote in the Rules committee then instead of getting 17 positive votes, it would have likely sailed on through on the consent agenda and got a unanimous vote. In the past the council has voted for everything from the parts-per-million of CO2 to be permitted in the air to endorsing Obamacare to approving the EPA regulations that will force the closing of coal-fired power plants and lead to an increase in electric cost. I don't think the Council should be acting on any resolutions of this nature, but at least these complex controversial issues should not slip through the Council on a consent agenda.
Below is the The Tennessean's report on the Council meeting: Council's action unlikely to stop Old Hickory rock quarry