... Metro Hospital, PILOT for affordable housing, and gay marriage resolution.
Council meetings are a whole lot more interesting (well not a "whole lot;" they are still boring but they are less boring), it you know what it is that is under discussion. To get your own copy of the Metro Council agenda and the staff analysis of the agenda follow the highlighted links.
Below is my agenda summary and commentary.
Boards and Commission: There are seven mayoral appointments to Boards and Commissions on the agenda, including the appointment of former mayoral candidate Charles Robert Bone to the board of the Metro Development and Housing Agency (MDHA). All of the other appointments are to the Nashville Education, Community and Arts Television Corporation (NECAT). NECAT is the not-for-profit organization that programs three of Metro Government's four PEG (public, educational and government) television stations in Davidson County. I expect none of these appointments to be controversial and all to be approved.
There are 19 bills on public hearing. These are usually rezoning bills that effect only one neighborhood, but sometimes there are text changes also on public hearing that may have larger implications. I don't pay much attention to most zoning bills and do not even attempt to understand the pros and cons of every rezoning bill. Usually the only people who care about a rezoning bill are close neighbors of the proposed zoning change. Below are the bills on public hearing that interest me.
- BILL NO. BL2015-96 by Councilman Withers would restrict all “Historic home events” to enclosed areas. I guess when you have a big hammer every problem looks like a small nail. There are certain historic homes in Nashville which are in residential areas that are granted a status allowing them to host events such as meetings and weddings and dinners. They are also often a bed and breakfast. We have one in my neighborhood which I consider an asset to the community. Many of these large homes are very expensive to maintain and by allowing them to function in this capacity, the owner can maintain them as showplaces and these historic homes are preserved. The Timothy Demonbreun House, the historic home in my neighborhood of Woodland in Waverly, is only one mile from downtown and from music row and Belmont University. This historic home has a big deep porch running across the full front of the house and from time to time there are front porch wedding and it may also have backyard breakfast meetings and receptions. I enjoy walking by this beautiful old home and seeing a wedding taking place on the grand porch. There are restrictions on time of operation and parking that keep the site from being an inconvenience to the neighbors. It is my understanding that in Councilman Withes district there is one of these homes that has been having late night jam session outside and disturbing the neighbors. We already have a noise resolution that could prohibit that. It seems like overkill to require all of these approved historic homes to stop having outdoor events because one such property owner is inconsiderate of his neighbors.
- BILL NO. BL2016-107 by Councilman Anthony Davis would expand the Inglewood Place - Jackson Park Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District to 454 additional acres. These conservation overlay districts restrict developers from buying modest homes and demolishing them and building much larger homes which are much more expensive. I understand the desire to maintain the character of one's neighborhood but I am not sure this is good public planing policy. If those desiring nice big homes near downtown cannot get them, then the tax base does not grow as it otherwise would and we need an expanding tax base to fund better schools and mass transportation and all the other things we need and want. Downtown development has not grown the tax base as much as one would think because much of the new development was funded by tax increment financing and the increased taxes flow to MDHA to fund more development and very little goes to the general fund. We can raise more taxes by expanding the tax base or raising taxes or we can choose to not have the things many of our citizens desire. Also when one area is put in a conservation overlay, the area immediately adjacent to the overlay and other areas close to downtown not in an overlay are under more pressure for redevelopment. An overlay in one area shifts the pressure to another area and often the area outside the overlay area has more affordable housing than that within the overlay area. Instead of preserving affordable housing, an overlay may increase the destruction of affordable housing. A conservation overlay in east Nashville may cause rapid destruction of affordable housing in Woodbine which does not have an overlay and still has affordable housing. While I am not opposed to this or any of the particular overlay districts, this seems like a haphazard approach to deal with Nashville's growth and its increased desirability as a place for people who have money want to live.
- BILL NO. BL2016-117 would impose a proximity distant requirement on alternative financial service establishments. This refers to those business such as pawn shops, title loan companies, payday lenders and check cashing places. It would require them to be 1320 feet apart. I am no fan of these business that are often referred to as "predatory lenders." If you don't know about them, this is how pay day lenders work. Assume you get paid every two weeks and take home $300 a week and to avoid having your electricity cut off you go to a payday lender and borrow $250 with the understanding that on pay day you will pay back the $250 and $50 in fees. If a person paid it back on payday, then that would be less costly and less inconvenient than having ones electricity cut off. However, many people do not pay it back and roll it over again and again. On an annual basis the interest rate comes to 500% or more for these type loans. I think it is shameful that people are so stupid that they use these services and that these businesses thrive taking advantage of stupid people. I doubt that by imposing a distance requirement there will be fewer people using these services. The total number of such establishments may decline and each serve more people and the people who use them will be inconvenienced but this will not lessen the demand for these services. The reason these places of business are in low income and minority neighborhoods is because that is where their customers are. As far as being unattractive, sometimes they may be more attractive than the other business that line the street on which they are located. I oppose this bill just as I would oppose a bill that tried to require fast food establishments be 1320 feet apart.
There are 17 resolutions on the consent agenda at this time. Resolutions on "consent" are all lumped together and are passed by a single vote do the Council. A bill is taken off of consent if it fails to gain unanimous approval from the committee to which it was assigned. Also, any council member may, from the floor, object to a resolution being on consent or may ask to have his dissenting vote or abstention recorded. Here are the resolutions of interest:
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-86 authorizes MDHA to enter into a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) Agreement with a developer developing a 240 unit apartment complex known as the Paddock at Grandview near I-65 and Trinity Lane. These apartments will be priced affordable for people earning below 60% of the area median income. In addition to being excused from paying about 88% of the property taxes they would otherwise pay on this property, the developer is using Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and other tools to subsidize the financing of the project. This is an example of what it takes to build affordable housing. While I oppose mandatory inclusionary zoning, I do not oppose developments of this nature. If this property was not already zoned for multi-family this development probably could not occur as communities routinely oppose rezoning request to accommodate affordable housing. While everyone says we should build affordable housing, no one seems to want it in their neighborhood. If you live in Belle Meade or Green Hills it is very easy to support affordable housing in principal since there is very little likelihood that affordable housing will be build in your neighborhood. Those who live in neighborhoods where it may be possible for developers to build affordable housing, often do not want to see developments of large number of affordable housing units. They want to see their community become upscale and their property values increase. I don't have a solution for how we build affordable housing and protect property rights and the desires of neighbors to control the nature of their community, but I see the complexity. I have heard of no opposition to this resolution, but since those who oppose development of affordable housing can not fight this development from a zoning standpoint, I would not be surprised if this proposal generates some opposition.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-100 request an addition $10 million dollars in operating subsidy for Metro hospital in addition to the $35 million dollar operating subsidy in the FY16 budget. This needs to be rejected. Metro needs to get out of the hospital business all together. Every since the advent of medicaid poor people could go to the hospital of their choice. There is no need for a Metro charity hospital. Meharry cannot fill its beds despite being the hospital metro jail inmates are sent to and despite it being the hospital that Metro employs get a special deal for using. A few years ago, long after there was no longer a need for Metro to provide charity nursing homes, metro finally got out of the nursing home business. It is time for metro to get out of the hospital business.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-102 this resolution amends the Farmers Market lease agreement and turns back over to the State the part of the Farmers Market property that has the northern sheds which have been used as flea market space until fairly recently. Metro is compensated. The resolution does not say so, but it is my understanding this is where the State plans to build a new State museum. Assuming the details and dollar amounts are right, I am for this. Now that metro has decided farmers market will be a local-produce-only market and not structured to sell from farmers selling wholesale in bulk to retailers, but will function as a farmer-to-consumer only type boutique farmers market, Metro Farmers market will never need that space. They have also ended the flea market type vendors who were using the northern sheds and are going to only allow local artisan type stuff to be sold, not the velvet Elvis and 12 socks for $5. So, we do not need all of that norther shed area for people selling homemade soap and soy candles. It would be a good location for the new State museum.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-109 settles a claim against metro in the amount of $200,000 due to an officer shooting a suspect during an arrest. The officer apparently violated some department procedures and the victim sued. This will probably result in some questions from the council. Often anytime the city has to settle a claim the Council questions the decision to settle. I understand, but the question is not if the employ did right or wrong or if the employee was punished or not. The important issue is, is it cheaper to settle than it is to take a case to court. Can we win if we go to court? In my years on the council and observing the Council, I have never thought the legal department was wrong in suggesting a settlement. I tend to give Metro Legal the benefit of the doubt in these cases and do not second guess them.
- RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-113 is a memorizing resolution asking the Davidson County Delegation to oppose House Bill 1412 sponsored by Rep. Mark Pody. This bill responds to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges which forced all states to grant license for same-sex marriage, by saying the Supreme Court's decision in Tennessee is "unauthoritative, void and of no effect." While I very much oppose same-sex marriage and would support the State of Tennessee doing whatever it can to legally resist implementing the decision, I do not support the theory of nullification. I think HB 1412 is a bad piece of legislation. I am not alone. David Fowler of Family Action Council of Tennessee has said of HB 1412, "Good Intentions Make Bad Politics" and has explained his opposition. While I agree with substance of the resolution before the Council, if were in the Council I still might vote against it or be recorded as abstaining simply because I do not think the local council should opine on issues before the state legislature or the U. S. Congress except in the most extreme of circumstances. The Council does not have hearings on the issue or study the issue. There are lots of bad bills introduced in the state legislature that never pass and I doubt 1412 will pass. The Council should generally stick to local legislative matters. However, since Bill 1412 is such a bad bill I would not be critical of those who voted for Resolution 2016-113.
There are seven bills on Second Reading and this is the only one I find of interest.
- BILL NO. BL2016-99 would strengthen the Human Relations Commission by removing the term limits for members of the Commission. In my view this useless agency should be abolished instead of strengthened. They serve to indoctrinate people in political correctness. Any thing of value they do could easily be done by other agencies. One of the offensive things they do is sponsor the Youth Pavilion at the Gay Pride Festival. This bill should be defeated.