Monday, August 15, 2016

On the Council Agenda for August 16th: Pot, Affordable Housing, welcoming the Marines, and Google Fiber.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, August 16th at 6:30 PM. 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 also 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 even have a clue about what is going on. Here is my commentary and analysis of the agenda.

There are three appointments to boards and commission which are never opposed and they will be approved.  There is one resolution on public hearing to allow a business that already has a license to sell hard liquor, the right to sell beer.  I don't know why the Council just does not make this an automatic right rather having to have a hearing each time one of these situations come up.

There are eleven resolutions on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are passed by a single vote of the council instead of being voted on individually. 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.  I don't find any of the resolutions to be controversial but these are several of interest.

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-339  extends a grant to provide financial education at various
    locations throughout the city.  Most of the money for this program comes from  Bloomberg Philanthropies. This is a great program. I have spend most of my career working with low-income people or people in crisis and it is amazing how little people know about money management.  People really do stupid stuff when it come to managing money.  Some of it is a question of values like never learning delayed gratification or simply being irresponsible and having the wrong priorities, but some of it is simply not understanding simple math and interest terms.  Values can be changed once people learn they do not have to live a life of poverty and money management skills can be taught. There are lots of resources for those who want to stop being broke and poor and running from bill collectors and who want to get control of their finances.  This program is one of the best and it is available to anyone in the county.  To learn more about The Financial Empowerment Center, follow the link.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-340  moves forward with purchasing property for a Cain Ridge school.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-341is an agreement to allow the United States Marines to use metro parks for an annual community outreach and recruiting event.  I am going to take this opportunity to commend Mayor Barry.  Some cities with a mayor and council as liberal as that of Nashville, also have an anti-military attitude and have rejected welcoming Marine recruitment. An anti military positions is often part of the progressive package. It could be worse. Nashville is not Berkeley yet. Here is an excerpt and link to the story of the upcoming Marine week activities:
More than 700 Marines are set to descend on Nashville in September.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, along with Marine Corps leadership, announced the details Wednesday for the service branch's annual showcase event outside the downtown courthouse.
Marine Week, running Sept. 7-11, will showcase 80 events open to the public to get familiar with the Corps and its technology, aircraft and other vehicles. The week will conclude Sept. 11 with a 9/11 remembrance ceremony and events at that Sunday's Tennessee Titans game. (link)
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-346  settles a claim of inverse condemnation suit.  Sometimes paying to settle claims proves controversial, but in any case I have ever looked at I think the city only settles when it is in the city's best interest to settle rather than litigate. 
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-348  honors Jane Eskind, the only woman elected to a statewide office in Tennessee.

Bills on First Reading. There are seven bills on First Reading and I usually don't review bills on BILL NO. BL2016-378,  may prove controversial. For my commentary on this bill follow this link.
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 usually pass by a single vote. It does happens but is rare that anyone votes against a bill on First Reading. I don't think anyone would vote against it on First, but the bill to substantially lower the penalty for pot possession,

There are only nine bills on Second Reading. These are the ones of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2016-334 is an expansion of the PILOT program (payment in lieu of taxes) for use as a tool to develop more affordable housing. This will be a new use for this program.  It is normally used by the Industrial Development Board as a tool to incentivize companies to locate in Nashville. This would allow MDHA to use this tool to encourage development of affordable housing.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-342  is an Affordable Housing Grant program to encourage developers to develop affordable housing.  This is not the Council's version of the inclusionary zoning; this is the mayor's plan which really would be a voluntary plan. It would be a two year trial program capped at $2 million dollars.  If this passes then the much worse inclusionary zoning plan will likely not pass. If I was in the Council, I would support this bill. Background and more information on this proposal is in the following press release from the mayor's office"

Mayor Barry Announces Affordable Housing Incentive Pilot Program

Program will focus on incentivizing developers to build or maintain affordable and workforce housing within mixed-income properties
NASHVILLE, TN, 7/12/2016 – Mayor Megan Barry is pleased to introduce a program that will incentivize developers to create more affordable and workforce housing within existing and new construction. The incentive pilot program has been developed after months of research and conversations with the stakeholders in the community by the Mayor’s Office.
“This will serve as another tool in the toolbox for the community and developers to help us achieve our shared goal of creating more high-quality affordable and workforce housing for Nashvillians,” said Mayor Barry. “We want to target this growth in urban core which has seen the greatest impact of soaring housing prices in recent years, as well as along our pikes and corridors which are targeted for mass transit options now and in the future.”
The announcement of the pilot incentive program comes on the heels of other efforts by Mayor Barry to increase Metro’s focus on affordable housing. In June, the Mayor signed into law a budget which includes an increase of $10,000,000 for the Barnes Housing Trust Fund, bringing the total to $16M for FY16-17. Additionally, the Metro Council approved on second reading a private-public partnership with Elmington Capital Group to create 138 units of affordable and workforce housing on a Metro-owned lot at 12th and Wedgewood. Metro has also worked with the Barnes Commission and local non-profit developers to re-use other city-owned infill lots around Nashville and Davidson County to build affordable housing properties.
Affordable housing, as defined in the proposed ordinance, is affordable for households making 60% of Median Household Income (MHI) or less, and workforce housing is designated at 61-120% of MHI. According to the latest U.S. Census figures from 2014, the MHI for Davidson County for a family of four is $60,074.
Under the proposal, developers wishing to take advantage of the incentive program would need to provide affordable or workforce housing at a rate that is equal to or less than 30% of household income. For example, utilizing the 2014 figures, the maximum monthly rental for a family of four making 60% of MHI would be $901, or $1,802 at the 120% workforce level.
Developers who meet these terms would then be able to seek a grant, subject to staff review by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and Empowerment (OEOE) and Metro Council approval, capped at 50% of the increase in value of property taxes from the new development. The grant would cover the difference between the price of market-rate housing and the price of the affordable or workforce housing units. For example, a developer who has market-rate apartments at $1,500 a month and offers comparable workforce-level affordable units for $1,200 would get a grant for the difference of $300 per unit, total not to exceed the cap of 50% of the increase in property tax value.
“There is no silver bullet to the affordable housing crisis we face in Nashville and across America,” said Mayor Barry. “But this proposal is a great step forward in creating more affordable and workforce housing options so that teachers, construction workers, service employees, artists and hundreds of thousands of other Nashvillians can afford to live, work and play right here in Davidson County.”
The program will be launched with a 24 months sunset provision and FY17-18 cap of $2,000,000 in order to collect data and give developers and rental managers time to become acclimated with the new program.
In addition to incentives for new construction of rental properties, the pilot program also has options for owner-occupied units and existing rental. The incentive grants for owner-occupied units outside of the UZO will be capped at $10,000, and they will be capped at $20,000 for properties within the UZO or along a multimodal corridor. Owners of existing rental properties can also apply for grants in the event that increases in the market will displace current residents, subject to rules and limitations.
Representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development and OEOE will be on hand at the Metro Council Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee meeting tomorrow, Wednesday July 13 at 5:00PM in the Jury Assembly Room of the Historic Metro Courthouse to discuss the details of the proposal and get feedback from members of the Council and the public.
  • BILL NO. BL2016-343 would change the rules for how companies may use utilities poles to string cable. This may sound mundane but it is important. As readers probably know, Google Fiber is coming to Nashville promising to bring cheaper and faster internet access.  What is taking so long?  What is taking so long is that it is a slow process to string cable. Before Google can sting cable, Comcast must move their cable, but before Comcast can move their cable, NES must move their wires. Sometimes many other companies may also have wires hung on the same pole. The other providers and users of the utility poles are in no hurry to do what they must do so Google can do what they need to do.  This bill would apply a“One Touch Make Ready” (OTMR) approach for connections to utility pole. One company would be authorized to move all of the wires on the pole.  If this passes, we may finally get Google Fiber.   
  • BILL NO. BL2016-344 is another piece of legislation to facilitate Marine week, allowing Navy aircraft to land and take off from The Green, the park in front of the courthouse.

There are 34 bills on Third Reading, most of them zoning bills. Be aware that I do not even attempt to form an opinion on every zoning bills. Unless you live nearby, zoning bills are pretty boring. These are the ones I am watching:
  • BILL NO. BL2016-298 in Councilman Scott Davis's district would rezone 46 acres now with various zonings including commercial zoning to a multi-family zoning.  I want to know if this has the approval of the property owners.  I don't know.  To downzone property without the consent of the owner is a "taking" of property. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-309 changes some of the rules regarding signs in order to conform to a Supreme Court ruling regarding the First Amendment prohibition against regulating content of signs. Anytime the city messes with the sign ordinance it proves controversial but this really does not seem like that big of a deal. 
  • BILL NO. BL2016-329  makes 60 changes to the regs governing taxi cabs. The staff analysis calls these changes "housekeeping," but anytime you make that many changes it causes concern. Last council meeting concern was expressed about this bill. 

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1 comment:

  1. Bill 343 - The Google Fiber we move all the cables of other companies bill. You mention the need to move NES (Electric lines). I assume this is just a misstatement. Electric lines are at the top of power poles, then there is a gap (maybe 5-6') usually for a safety zone for electric line workers, and then below this originally were telephone (Bellsouth/AT&T). Then the cable company came and those were placed below the telco lines. What is the rationale for having to move all the "communication" lines? Is there not enough safety zone space to allow google to just go on top of the tel lines (Or below - I assume they can't just go lower because of roadway clearance issues). So why can't they just split the difference and leave the other lines alone? What's the real technical issue they have to work out? This seems like a lot of political posturing for a technical issue. I only care about google coming if it indeed stimulates (price and service) competition. I could care less who my provider is.