Saturday, November 14, 2015

What's on the Council agenda for 11-17-2015: Spending a lot of money, stopping the Old Hickory Dam quarry, and opposing the TransPacific Partnership

The Metro Council will meet in regular session at 6:30 pm on Tuesday November 17. This is a relatively short agenda and not much of controversy on the agenda so this should be a short meeting. Council meetings are much more interesting if you know what the Council is voting on. To get your own copy of the agenda and Council staff analysis, follow the highlighted links.

Please be advised that I only call attention to those items that I find of interest and I might miss something someone else would think is important, so you may want to read the agenda for yourself. Also, I do not even attempt to keep up with zoning issues.  A zoning bill may be very important to nearby neighbors but of little interest to anyone else. 

Confirmations of appointees to boards and Commission: There are five mayoral appointees up for confirmation. I am aware of no controversy involving any of the appointees. I hope the council is carefully scrutinizing appointees. The role of confirming mayoral appointees should be taken seriously by the Council as it is an opportunity to influence policy and assure a diversity of views on boards and commissions.

There is one resolution on public hearing and it is one of those routine resolutions to exempt an establishments that already has a liquor license from the distance requirements from churches, daycare centers, homes, and parks, of establishments seeking a beer license. In my view, the law should be changed to automatically exempt establishment that have a liquor license from those requirements. What logic is there in allowing an establishment to have a liquor license then refusing to issue them a beer license?

Resolutions: There are twelve resolutions, all on the consent agenda at this time. I resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is assumed noncontroversial and it stays on consent if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously.  However, any member of the Council may have a bill moved off of the consent agenda and any member of the Council may ask to be recorded as voting "no" or abstaining. All bills on consent are lumped together and pass by a single vote of the council. These are the resolutions of interest:

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-51 appropriates $5,476,000.00 from the General Fund Reserve Fund for the purchase of equipment and building repairs for various departments. That is the purpose of the 4% fund, however this is a lot of money.  I hope Budget and Finance carefully scrutinizes these request. This request includes $400,000 for General Hospital. If we are going to keep operating a charity hospital then we have to keep it up, but in my view we should get out of the hospital business, just as we finally got out of the nursing home business a couple years ago. Metro employees get an incentive to use General and all Metro prisoners are sent to General, yet General still cannot fill its beds. When General was first established there was a need for a city to operate a charity hospital, but since we have medicaid and low-income people can go to the hospital of their choice, there is no need to the city to continue in the hospital business. Another $463,000 is for Municipal Auditorium. This is another expense the city does not need to incur.  If Municipal cannot break even, we should sell that valuable property. 
There are seven bills on First Reading. All bills on First Reading are lumped together and pass with one vote. Normally bills are not discussed until second reading and First Reading is formality that allows a bill to be considered. I do not read bills until after First Reading.

There are ten bills on Second Reading. Most of them are zoning bills and none of them are of much interest.

There are 22 bills on Third Reading. These are the only bills of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2015-13  and  BILL NO. BL2015-14  are bills designed to stop the development of a rock quarry in the vicinity of Old Hickory Dam. Rock quarries are never popular but there is fear that this quarry and the blasting that goes on at a quarry could weaken Old Hickory Dam and if the dam should be weakened and fail, it could cause massive flooding of Nashville. If these pass, it is uncertain they would stop the proposed rock quarry since the owner may already have "vested" property rights in the proposed quarry. For more on this issue see this link for the discussion that occurred when these bills were on public hearing and read the staff analysis.    
There is one memorializing resolution on the agenda, and it is a resolution by Council members Bedne and Rosenberg urging the President and Congress to oppose the TransPacific Partnership (TPP). I am unsure how I feel about the TPP. I generally support efforts to advance free trade, but many conservative organization are opposing this bill claiming that it puts the U. S. at a disadvantage and that it transferred American sovereignty to a third party. Labor Unions and some on the left oppose this bill because they like protectionism. This is a bill that has been months if not years in the making and has involved negotiations with numerous countries, is hundred of pages long, and has been the subject of much analysis and congressional hearings.  This is complex and yet our Council is being asked to take a position on the bill. I do not think the Council should be weighing in on matters of this nature. Council members who want to vote on complex trade deals should be serving in the U. S. Congress and not the Metro Council. Unless someone objects, this will be included with resolutions on the Consent Agenda. Memorializing resolutions have no legal impact and are most often resolutions honoring someone upon their retirement or honoring a sports team for a victory. Memorializing resolutions, do however, express the will of the Council. If I were in the Council, I would object to this and vote against, not because I necessarily approve of the TPP but I do not think the Council should be taking a position on complex national issues of this type.

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