Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What happened at the Council meeting of 6/7/16: Budget hearings, uni-sex bathrooms,

To access the Council agenda, the council staff analysis of the agenda and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link. I am only hitting the high points and listing things I find of interest, so there may something I miss that you find of interest so you may want to watch the meeting for yourself.

Councilman Swope corrects the minutes of the last meeting to reflect that he voted "no" on the bill that banned smoking at the outdoor Ascend amphitheater.

There is a message from the mayor announcing that Metro closed on a $343,975,000 refunding of previously issued general obligation bonds, which  resulted in savings to Metro of more than $1.1 million annually from 2017 to 2033.

Public Hearing on the Operating Budget: A lot of people speak in favor of the budget and only one in opposition. The one in opposition advocates for more spending.  The mayor's budget does not raise taxes but increases metro spending by $119 million dollars. Several people praise the budget for increased spending for libraries and schools and metro employees praise the budget for the pay increases. It seem like the majority of people speaking in favor of the budget are SEIU members. People ask for more spending for affordable housing and the arts and more for employee pay.  It is disappointing that no one criticizes the budget and calls for a tax cut, greater efficiency and cuts in wasteful departments and functions. Liberals call for more spending, day in and day out, year after year, while conservatives only show up about once every eight years when a mayor calls for a tax increase.  Is it any surprise that taxes always go up and never go down?  To view the budget hearing see time stamp 12:55 to 1:14: 38. To read The Tennessean's report on the budget hearing see Nashville's arts, housing advocates request more money.

Following the hearing on the operating budget is the hearing on the Capital Improvements Budget. The CIB is not really a budget but a planning document that list and prioritizes capital improvement projects. One speaker speaking against the CIP and blast the lack of transparency in the plan to build the new jail in South Nashville.  Neighborhood activist Margo Chambers also speaks against the plan for jail relocation. To view the hearing on the CIP, see time stamp 1:16:28 to 1:28:59.

Resolutions: All resolutions on the consent agenda pass and none are pulled off of consent, included in those are the resolutions that advances the I-440 greenway. Several resolutions not on consent that have a budgetary impact are deferred to track with the budget. Other resolutions, not on consent that are of interest are these:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-219  is a  resolution which is part of the effort to bring natural gas compressor stations under the licensing authority of Metro government. Currently local governments cannot regulate the location of natural gas compressor station due to the Federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce and the Federal government taking the view that if local governments prohibit these stations that that is an illegal regulation of interstate commerce. There is, however, a method for allowing local government to exert some control and this bill is part of that effort to obtain that authority.  There are natural gas compression stations planned for Joelton and Antioch and considerable community opposition to them. It is deferred to the first meeting in July.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-269 request that the Metropolitan Planning Department prepare and/or submit to the Metropolitan Council maps depicting current locations of federally subsidized housing developments by 50%, 60%, 80%, 120% AMI, as well as affordable and workforce housing units in Nashville & Davidson County. While many people advocate for more affordable housing there is also a concern that affordable housing concentrates poverty. Having the information requested by this resolution, would make it easier to kill affordable housing developments if the project would concentrate poverty. A city spokesman says some of the data is simply not available. The resolution passes. To see the discussion see timestamp 1:46:09 to 1:54:08.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-270  request the Employee Benefit Board to establish and implement a parental and sick leave policy allowing maternity and paternity leave for employees of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County.  My view of this is that Metro employee benefits are already much more lavish than those awarded employees in the private sector and that this is not appropriate. This is deferred to the first meeting in July. 

All bills on introduction and First Reading pass as is customary, except BILL NO. BL2016-133 which is the inclusionary housing bill. It is defered two meetings.

Bills on Second Reading: 

BILL NO. BL2016-238   would permit some establishments to have unisex bathrooms. These seem reasonable to me. Read about it here. It passes.

BILL NO. BL2016-239 would provide for free parking for elderly individuals in parking meter zones and public parking facilities after they purchased a $50 sticker. I hate to say it, but I am now "elderly." I don't need charity. I have more disposable income than I have ever had in my life. This is insulting and condescending. If this passes however, I will probably purchase the sticker and enjoy it, but why would one assume "elderly" people need free parking worse than struggling young married people or single mothers?  As George Jones said, I don't need your rocking chair, your Geritol or medicare.  It is differed to the first meeting in August.
BILL NO. BL2016-240 would establish new rules and fees for developers who close streets or sidewalks during construction.. This sounds reasonable but is more complex than it sounds. It passes. For the discussion see timestamp 2:11:17 to 2:22:12.
Bills on Third reading: 
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 proposed natural gas compression stations planned for Joelton and Antioch.  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. It is differed to the first meeting in July. 
Due to the requirements regarding the timely passing of the Metro budget, the Council will meet next Tuesday, at 6PM instead of in two weeks. 

One learns much more about the important issues before the Council by watching the Budget and Finance Committee meeting than they do watching the council meetings. During committee meetings there is more explanation of bills and more discussion. To watch the Monday June 6th B & F meeting follow this link.

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