Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What happened at the 4-19-16 council meeting: Farmers market funded but gets close scrutiny, $2.1M wage dispute settled.

Council meetings are less boring if you know what the Council is voting on.  To access my analysis of the council agenda and to link to the council agenda and the council staff analysis follow this link.

The video of the council meeting of last night's meeting is not yet available.  As soon as it is, I will post it.

The most important work of the council is done in committee and the most important committee of the Council is Budget and Finance. Discussion takes place at committee meetings and you gain a lot more insight by watching B&F meetings than you do Council meetings. If something passes B & F it is almost certain to pass the Council. Below is the meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee.

The first item of business at the B&F meeting is the discussion of RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-172  which appropriates $3,347,400 split between different departments to provide money to those departments that was not originally in their budget.  Part of this is understandable.  Departments do not know all of their revenue or expenses when projecting for the coming year.  As an example, Courts do not know how many trials there will be so they can only give a good guess at how much jury pay expense they will incur.  They do not, not have a trial because they have exceeded their budget. One can understand that. Some of these request however show poor management or perhaps indicate major changes need to be made in how a service is delivered or even if it is needed. I am not exactly sure what the consequence is if the Council fails to approve these supplemental appropriations.  The money has already been spend so there is no getting it back. What this bill really does is move money from reserve funds to the ledger of the department in order to close out the books for the year for the various departments. The council is under considerable pressure to do that and not doing it does not save any money.

The most controversial supplemental request is  $837,900 for Farmers Market.  This bill was on the agenda last council meeting also and at that time there were a lot of hard questions asked of Farmers Market and B&F recommended a deferral of one meeting, so at the last council meeting it was deferred "by rule."  At this meeting of B&F there is also good questioning and lame explanations.  A couple of the Black council members allege there has been a effort to drive off Black vendors from the market. The Farmers Market head takes strong offense to that suggestion and gives an emotional response. Council Glover ask the FM to look into the process for early termination of the lease. Good suggestion! If Farmers Market cannot break even, then maybe Farmers Market needs to be closed and moved to a different location. In my view, a farmers market at the Fairgrounds would be a good location. There is plenty of available parking and the overhead could be lower. 

As part of RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-172  there is a request for an additional  $422,200 to fund Municipal Auditorium.  Municipal Auditorium seems like another operation that should be able to fund itself buy can't. Advocates of Municipal Auditorium would argue that, that venue is needed because it fits a niche between larger facilities and smaller facilities.  I am not buying it.  We have numerous venues in town now. If Municipal Auditorium cannot cover its operating cost, I think we should close it and sell the property. It sits on some of the most valuable property downtown. Members of B&F question and Municipal defends the request.

The resolution passes on a voice vote of the Committee so I assume it passes at the Council meeting. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-205  is the settlement of a wage dispute.  It passes B&F and Council. Below is The Tennessean explanation. 

The Tennessean- The Metro Council has approved a $2.1 million settlement, the largest in recent council history, to end a four-year legal dispute about how corrections officers are paid.

Only Councilman Russ Pulley voted against approval, ... ...Pulley's concerns prompted brief discussion of delaying the vote one week, but that failed by an 18-19 vote and the council then approved the settlement.

This is a draft of a work in progress. Check back.  

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