Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What's on the Council agenda for June 21, 2016: The $2.087 billion budget, suspicious deal with a union, uni-sex bathrooms, and new rules for short-term rentals.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, June 21st at 6:30 PM. This is the meeting at which the Council will pass the annual operating budget and the capital improvements budget. There is no suspense or drama involved.  The budget does not include a tax increase and while this would have been a perfect year to cut taxes, no one proposed it.  No citizens asked for a tax cut.

A couple years ago member of the public lead by  Nashville Tea Party packed the court house wearing bright light green tee shirts with the message "no tax."  This year they were not to be seen. As is the norm, opponents of bigger government and more taxes only get engaged in years in which there is a proposed increase in taxes; proponents of more government spending are engaged everyday. By their absence of engagement, I can only conclude that opponents of increased government do not really care that much. I am disappointing that none of the half dozen or so council member who may be thought of as conservative did not offer an alternative budget, but I can't blame them since there was no one urging them to do so.

The Council has an alternative to the Mayor's budget which will pass.  It makes minor tweaks to the mayor's budget, the major change is that it includes more funding for the arts.  For more on the budget, follow this link.

To watch the Council meeting, 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.  Also, be advised that I don't even try to understand all zoning issues, so if zoning issue interest you then don't trust my commentary.  

Confirmation of appointments to Boards and Commissions: There are six positions on the agenda and I expect the Council to rubber stamp them all. One is an appointment to the Human Relations Commission the agency responsible for enforcing  and promoting political correctness in Nashville. I wish we had the type of conservative on the council who would vote against all appointments to this agency until the agency stops sponsoring the youth pavilion at the gay pride festival. I do not think it should be a function of metro government to normalize homosexual activity among young people.

Resolutions: There are 13 resolutions on the agenda, all on the Consent Agenda at this time. If a resolution has any negative votes in committee it is 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.

Several items are on the agenda that are related to the budget including three resolutions adopting new pay plans for different departments, essentially giving pay raises to employees in those departments. There is a also a resolution establishing new a permit fee schedule for private waste haulers and a resolution adopting a new fee structure for the Planning Commission reviewing plans.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-245  issues $475 million in GSD general service obligation bonds to fund  Mayor’s 2016-2017 Capital Spending Plan. This funds projects which are in the Capital Improvements Budget. The city sells bonds and a certain amount of the property tax rate is dedicated to debt service to pay off the bonds.  While we have a consolidated government, Metro still has what would essentially be considered a  "city" and "county."  The USD is the urban services district and includes most of the county but excludes the mostly rural or suburban parts of the county. GSD is the General Services District which is the whole of Davidson County. This bond issue is backed by the tax base of the general services district.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-277  request that the Tennessee General Assembly and Gov. Bill Haslam communicate with Nashville’s business groups and community before passing legislation that could be detrimental to Nashville & Davidson County commerce. This is meaningless and if I were in the Council I would not bother voting against it.  Since it is on consent, the sponsor will not be able to explain his bill and blast the Governor or State legislature for bills such as that that addressed freedom of conscience for metal health counselors or the bill that prohibited rental price fixing or the bill prohibited Metro from requiring contractors to discriminate against out of county residents in hiring on Metro projects.  It is better to let this meaningless bill slide through rather than give the sponsor a platform.
Bills on First Reading: There are six bills on First Reading but 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.

Three are 11 bills on Second Reading and these are the ones of interest:
BILL NO. BL2016-257 would allow Codes to issue stop-work orders against illegal, non-permitted short-term rentals and increase the ban on an STR permit at such a property to three years. Now, if one is caught operating a short-term rental without a permit, the ban on getting a permit is one year. The Tennessean explains this at this link: Nashville may ramp up penalty for Airbnb permit violators.

BILL NO. BL2016-258  is what appears to be a sweetheart deal that would put Metro in bed with the    
state teachers union. It would sell the old Ben West library to the TEA and they would allow Metro to use the property rent-free for up to 12 days a year.  The city put out a Request for Proposals which included a requirement that the building be preserved. I do not know the nature of the other proposals. I hope someone at budget and finance ask a lot of questions and actually looks at the other proposals, if there were any.  I think it would be more appropriate for TEA to pay more for the property and not give Metro 12 free days.  Metro has lots of other locations to have meetings. We should not be so entangled with an organizations that is often opposed to education reform and whose main goal is the financial interest of teachers. Their interest is often not the same as that of Metro government.

BILL NO. BL2016-259   would require that the Metropolitan Transit Authority, in conjunction with any other related entities, provide to the Metropolitan Council, no later than December 31, 2016, a comprehensive mass transit plan for Nashville and Davidson County.  It is to include funding sources and a timeline.
Bills on Third Reading:
BILL NO. BL2016-232   is the 2016-2017 operating budget. It is a budget of $2.087 billion, which is a 6% increase or $119 million increase over the current budget. It does not require a tax increase. This bill will be substituted for a Council version which makes minor insignificant shift in the funding.

BILL NO. BL2016-233  established the tax levy for the coming year which is the same as the current tax levy. The rate for the GSD is $3.924. The rate for the USD is $0.592. This gives a combined rate of $4. 516 for those in the USD.

BILL NO. BL2016-235  increases the fees Public Works charges for various services.

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

BILL NO. BL2016-240 establishes new rules and fees for developers who close streets or sidewalks during construction.. This sounds reasonable but is more complex than it first sounds.

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