Sunday, May 15, 2016

What's on the Council Agenda for May 17th: New reporting to Council requirements for Public Works and Dept. of Law, deregulating Dance Halls, new smoking bans,

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, May 17th at 6:30 PM. You can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person, if you are so inclined, but unless you are trying to influence a Council member and think your presence in the audience will exert an influence, I don't know why you would want to.  Meetings are broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and are streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. You can catch them the next day on the Metro YouTube channel. If you will wait, I will watch it for you and post the video and point out the good parts so you can go to that point in the video and watch just that segment. Also, I will tell you what I think about what happened.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you don't have to.  If you are going to watch a council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis or you won't know what is going on. 

Here is my commentary and analysis of the agenda. I am only listing what I think is interesting or important items so if you are really interested in actions of the Council you may want to  read the agenda for yourself.   

Confirmation of appointments to Boards and Commissions: There are twenty positions on the agenda. Unfortunately, the Council never rejects an appointment and does not take their responsibility to confirm appointees seriously. All will no doubt pass without a dissenting vote.

There are nine appointments to the Human Relations Commission on the agenda.  This agency should be called "The Department to Enforce Correct Political Thought," or "the Department of Political Indoctrination."  This department serves no useful purpose. What they do that is not objectionable could be done by other departments or private organizations. For several years in the late 80's extending into the 90's this department was not funded and went away. One of the objectionable things they do is sponsor the twink booth youth pavilion at the gay pride festival. The gay pride festival is now simply called Nashville Pride. I think it is an outrage than our city works to normalize homosexuality among young people. If I were on the Council I would ask each appointee if they supported Metro's funding of the youth pavilion at the Nashville Pride event and if they said "yes," I would vote against their confirmation. I might be the only one, but why do all 40 of our council members have to think exactly alike?

Resolutions: All resolutions are on the "consent agenda" initially but if they any negative votes in committee they are taken off of consent.  Also any council member may ask to have an item taken off of consent or to have his abstention or dissenting vote recorded. All items on consent are passed by a single vote instead of being voted on individually. There are several items on the agenda adopting new pay plans for different departments, essentially giving pay raises to employees in those departments. These will be deferred to "track with" the budget.  None of the resolutions on the agenda are particularly controversial or of particular interest.

Bills on First Reading: I usually don't review bills on First Reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda. They are not evaluated by committee until they are on Second Reading. All bills on First Reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote.  The budget and the bill setting the tax levy are on First Reading. Here is a bill that is on First Reading to follow:

 Bills on Second Reading: These are the ones of interest.

  • BILL NO. BL2016-188  would establishing new reporting requirements by the Department of Public Works. This would bring about more transparency and accountability into the operation of Public Works and let members of the Council know what projects are planned in their districts. This looks like a positive development.
  •  BILL NO. BL2016-220  would expand the requirements regarding reporting litigation matters to the Metropolitan Council. The Department of Law would have to report to the Council all final judgements against Metro, quarterly have to report to the Council all lawsuits against Metro where the claim is greater than $300,000, and some additional information. This is a positive proposal. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-221  would remove a section of the code that regulates "dance halls." The provisions of this code are redundant to other provisions of the code. Currently, if an establishment permits dancing they must have a dance hall permit. This removes that requirement. The city will lose about $40,000 a year if this passes but I view this as a positive development.  
  • BILL NO. BL2016-234 would add “natural gas compressor stations” to a list of facilities regulated as a “major source” of air pollutants which require a local permit and would do some other things. This is part of an attempt to stop a proposed natural gas compression station planned for Joelton.  Federal law says that local government can not stop these developments and the Federal government has the right to permit them. However, there is a process whereby a local government may gain permitting authority and this is part of that process to gain that authority.
Bills on Third Reading: Most of the bills on Third Reading are zoning bills and I don't pay much attention to zoning bills. These are the ones I find of interest.  
  • BILL NO. BL2016-201 is part of an attempt to save the old State prison known as "the castle" by  applying a Neighborhood Landmark Overlay District to property. The State would still have to transfer the property to Metro and we would have to find a use for it and maybe spend some money, but this is one step in the process of saving the property. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-205 would prohibit smoking on the grounds of a swimming pool ... or an outdoor amphitheater with a seating capacity of at least 6,000 owned or operated by local government.” Metro can already ban smoking at indoor venues. This would expand that authority. This is aimed at Ascend amphitheater. Watch out. Soon Metro will ban smoking in parks or on the street. Some people can't stand it if other people are having a good time. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-206  would authorize by permits private snow plow services. This applies to public property. Those providing this service on private drives or parking lots would not have to have a permit.  An example of where this might apply is if a Homeowners Association wanted to contract with some one for snow removal on streets in their community.

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