Monday, February 29, 2016

(update 3) What's on the March 1 Council agenda: Gun shows at the fair grounds, new regs for payday lenders, ....

Please see the text in red typeface below for update # 3 additions.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday March 1st. Council meetings are really, really boring if you do not know what the council is doing.  If you have a copy of the agenda and the Council staff analysis of the agenda, then the meetings are not really, really boring, they are just boring. To get your own copy of the Metro Council agenda, follow this link. To read the Council staff agenda analysis follow this link.

There are ten appointments to Boards and Commissions on the agenda for Council confrimation but as is the norm, they will all be approved unanimously.

There are three resolution and fourteen bills on public hearing.  The three resolutions are to allow establishments that already have a liquor-by-the-drink license to have a license to serve beer despite not meeting the distance requirements from a certain entity. Beer license are a Metro license and a liquor license is a State license. To serve beer you must be a certain distance from daycare centers, parks, homes, and churches. The same distance requirements do not exist for liquor, so some establishments end up without a beer license but they do have a liquor license. If those cases, the council, after holding a public hearing, can approve them to get a beer license. I think this should be changed so it is automatic and does not require a public hearing or council action, however that is not the case.

Most of the bills on public hearing are zoning bills and would interest no one except nearby neighbors. I don't read each zoning bill or form an opinion on their merits. I only report on those that have broader implication or are that I suspect will be exceptionally controversial. Below are the ones I find on interest.

BILL NO. BL2016-132 is an alternate to bill  BILL NO. BL2016-117  which was deferred last council meeting. This bill is an attempt to regulate alternative financial service businesses such as pawn shops, payday lenders, and check cashing business, and title loan companies, not by trying to define the products or service they provide but by saying they are alternatvie financial service companies if they operate outside the hours of 8AM to 6PM Monday through Friday and 8AM to 1PM on Saturday. Dumb idea! So, if a bank should decide that it wants to stay open all day on Saturday or until 2PM rather than 1PM, it is then considered an "Alternative Financial Service."

The regulations these "alternative financial service" companies would be subjected to are distance requirements from each other. A 2008 zoning change said these companies had to be at least a quarter of a mile apart. The industry created new products that were also alternative credit type, high interest loans but were different enough that they did not fit the definition in the 2008 ordinance. So while bill 117 tried to define the new products to make them fit into the category of "Alternative Financial Services," this tries to defines them as financial service companies operating outside of current banker hours.

In my view, we should butt out and let these Alternative Financial Services locate wherever they want to in accordance with otherwise compatible zoning. I am not a fan of these pay day lenders and related subprime lenders.  I have spend most of my career in a field where I counsel low income people. I have tried to educate them not to use these type services and have tried to educate them to use standard financial services. I think pay day lenders and title loan companies are kind of slimy and prey on ignorant poor people. However, if only used in an emergency, using a pay day lender is no more predatory than the late fee associated with bouncing a check or the reconnect fee for having your water turned back on.  This is a bad bill and needs to be defeated even if one agrees with the intent. To identify a type of business by their hours of operation is a bad way to define a business. Some day banks may not want to keep "bankers hours" and may want to be more accommodating to their customers. This bill would stop them from expanding their hours of operation.

I am really disappointing by the staff analysis of this bill. Instead of simply explaining what the bill would do, it engages in advocacy.
I received the following email from bill sponsor Councilman Jeff Syracuse explaining his bills: "My bill actually does something to help differentiate financial institutions from the AFS industry for the first time, which is something that is fairly well supported by the industry.  I'm also introducing an amendment that makes it an and/or situation where the distance requirements stand even if they fall outside of the hours of operation definition.

I'm basically doing what Donelson (and other areas of the county) needs to escape the bonds of an over-abundance of these businesses keeping us from being able to redevelop properties into more meaningful and positive businesses.  I'm a free-market guy, but these businesses are dragging us down.  I wish the free market could solve this on its own, but it's only going to spiral down in a worse way if we allow the industry to come up with new business models in order to skirt around established zoning ordinances.  My intent is to simply put an end to the game of legislative whackamole with this industry.  I believe I've achieved that.


BILL NO. BL2016-135 rezones property at 4th Avenue and Chestnut St.  This is a welcome development in this depressed neighborhood close to downtown. Here is a link to a Tennessean story on this development: Large Wedgewood-Houston project faces key vote. This will increase property values in this part of town. Those who oppose evil "gentrification" should oppose this bill. 
Thee are 13 resolution's on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are all lumped together and are passed by a single vote of  the Council.  A resolution is taken off of consent if it fails to gain unanimous approval from the committee to which it is 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.  This is the only resolutions of interest:
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-102  which takes out the north shed portion of Farmers Market and turns it back over to the State is back on the agenda after being deferred two meetings. It is revealed that the $4M that the State is going to pay Metro for releasing the northern sheds, will not flow back to the Metro General fund but will go to subsidize the operation of the Farmers Market. I do not like that and think the money should go to the General Fund and any additional subsidizing of Farmers Market should have to come before the Metro Council. In my view the Farmers Market should not have to be subsidized. I like Farmers Market but think it should be able to cover its own operating cost. One of the amendments to this bill would remove the prohibition against selling alcoholic beverages at the Farmers Market. I'll drink to that!  On occasion, metro has ignored the current prohibition and allowed the sale of alcoholic beverages. 
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-142  request that the appropriate Metropolitan Departments review the possibility of turning vacant Metro-owned buildings into affordable housing in the Davidson County area. After the review, the agencies would report back to the Council. I support this resolution
There are 19 bills on First Reading. I have not read them. First Reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda and they are passed all lumped together by a single vote. Bills do not go to committee until after they pass First reading. There is one bill on first reading however, that may prove controversial. I support this bill.
BILL NO. BL2016-161  Here is The Tennessean's report on this bill:
Bill would block off dates for fairgrounds gun shows 
A Metro Nashville councilman wants to order the city-owned fairgrounds to block off weekends next year to reserve space at its facilities for future gun shows. Councilman Steve Glover has followed through on legislation he promised after the Metro Board of Fair Commissioners last week opted to stand by its controversial December vote to halt future gun shows at the fairgrounds until gun show operators agree to new safety parameters.
There are seven bills on Second Reading. This is the only one that I find of much interest.
BILL NO. BL2016-147 is a liberalization of a blighted property grant program. I am not necessarily opposed, but hope the Council carefully considers this program change. I tend to oppose programs than put Metro in the position of picking winners and losers.    
There are 13 bills on Third Reading. This is the only one of interest.
SUBSTITUTE 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.

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