Friday, September 9, 2016

(part 1) Council Meeting of 9-6-16: Election of President pro tem, Casey Homes plan, body armor for police, Google Fiber One-touch-Make-ready,

This was one of the more important and interesting council meetings. The bill lessening the penalty for pot possession passed, the one-touch-make-ready bill passes which will accommodate Google Fiber's attempt to bring high-speed internet to Nashville, and two affordable housing bills passed one of which is a real estate price-fixing bill called "inclusionary zoning," and the other an incentive program. Also the council made changes to the Short Term Rental Program and a resolution to purchase flak vest and helmets for the police department proves controversial.

At three hours and forty-nine minutes long, this is a long council meeting. I am breaking my coverage of the council meetings into two parts. This is part one. I am summarizing the meeting and pointing out the good parts with time-stamp notation so you go to those points in the video and just watch the more interesting segments. If you want to have a better understanding of what is going on, follow this link for a copy of the agenda, staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda.

Two names are placed in nomination for Speaker Pro Tem, Bill Pridemore and Karen Johnson. Bill Pridemore has served as Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee for twice. Karen Johnson just completed a one year term as Speaker Pro Tem. The duty of this position is to conduct the Council meetings in the absence of the Vice Mayor. Some see the election of someone to this post as a battle between various factions in the Council and attach significance to who wins this position, others think it is nothing but a popularity contest and has little significance.  Bill Pridemore is elected Speaker Pro Tem receiving 19 votes to 18 votes for Karen Johnson. To view the proceedings see time-stamp 3:05- 7:12.

All appointments to Boards and Commissions are approved which is the norm.

Public Hearings. I am only giving a superficial viewing of zoning bills on public hearing.  They generally bore me and are of little interest to anyone except nearby residents of the proposed rezoning. These are the bills on public hearing that I find of interest.

BILL NO. BL2016-265 which would make it easier to declare a PUD inactive is deferred to the first meeting in November.

BILL NO. BL2016-370  is related to the redevelopment of Casey Homes, part of Phase I of the redevelopment. This rezones 4 acres for the building of 96 new units of housing.  Those four acreas are now a city park.  Later in the redevelopment of Casey Home, land which is now occupied by housing units will be turned into a park.  This phased development is necessary so that displaced people will not lose housing but be moved within the development.

Casey A Homes in east Nashville is one of the worst pubic housing projects in city. It is to be

The New Casey Home Plan
redeveloped including nearby CWA housing that is a project that looks and operates like public housing.  The new $602 Million development will be mixed income and mixed use. The plan for Casey is to not displace any of the current residents but to add residential units and mix market rate housing and "work force" housing with low-income housing.  I am pleased with this approach and think it is bad social policy to lump all low income people together. In some public housing projects, children grow up never knowing people who get up and go to work every day and never knowing children who live in intact households with a mother and a father.  One thing I do not like about this plan however, is that the free or nearly free housing for he very low income is the same quality and size as the full market rate housing.  If the full market rate housing has granite counter tops, the free housing has granite counter tops.  In my view those on pubic assistance getting free housing should not get luxuary housing.

One thing that I think should  concern advocates of affordable housing is that the units of affordable housing only have to remain affordable for thirty years, whereas traditional public housing remains affordable to low income people forever.  If I am incorrect on this, someone please correct me, but that is my understanding. This does not particularly concern me and I think all traditional public housing should be phased out, but I am surprised that the activist advocating for the poor are not opposed to the plan for Casey because in essence it is a plan to phase out public housing.. To watch this public hearing and learn more about the plan for Casey Homes see time-stamp 37:04- 53:37.

There are 22resolutions on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are passed by a single vote of the council instead of being voted on individually.   

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-367  which appropriates  $1,080,400.00 from the General Fund Reserve Fund (4%) for the police department to purchase body armor and helmets is pulled off of consent at the request of Councilman Colby Sledge.  This bill would fund military-grade flack jacket and ballistic helmet, meant to protect police from sniper fire. Black Lives Matter protested  outside the Court House about the militarization of police, chanted and holding signs that said, "where is my vest?" Colby Sledge made a weak argument against the resolution and then tried to straddle the fence. Several council members speak on this issue with a focus that funding this bill does not take money away from any other needs of the city such as schools or head start. Apparently this was argument made by the Black Lives Matter activist.  The conversation also wanders into a discussion of diversity training. It passes by voice vote with no audible "no" votes.  To view the discussion see time stamp 1:06:11 - 1:29: 33.

All Bills on First Reading pass. There are 36 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 and only rarely is a bill voted on separately on First.  All bills on First Reading pass by a single vote.

Bills on Second Reading.

BILL NO. BL2016-257   would make changes to the Short Term Rental Property regulations.  If someone was caught operating a STPP without a permit, a "stop work" order could be issued and they could no longer operate their property as a STRP and would have to three years before they could apply for a STRP permit and they could be fined $50 a day for each day they were found to have operated a STRP without a permit. Currently if found operating a STRP without a permit, they must wait a year before they can apply. It is a little more complicated this however. It is amended so that those simply not in compliance out of ignorance can get in compliance but those willfully evading compliance would be severely penalized. It passes on a voice vote. To see the discussion see time stamp 1:30:25 - 1:40:53.

BILL NO. BL2016-343 is the “One Touch Make Ready” (OTMR) bill which would allow one
company the right to work on a utility pole and move all of the cable that must be moved in order to accommodate a new company adding a cable to the utility poll.  This is being proposed to accommodate Google Fiber, which is trying to provide high-speed Internet to Nashville.  Other companies, such as Comcast, do not want anyone but their own people moving their cable. Also, there are labor contracts that complicate this. Also some in the music industry have an axe to grind with Google over an unrelated issue and are opposing OTMR. There are as many as 14 companies using utility poles, not all on any one poll, but any one pole may have several users. Each user may take months to move their cable. The Mayor's office has tried to work out a some agreeable accommodation but has not been successful. Google Fiber has threatened to abandon their plans for Nashville to get Google Fiber unless something can be worked out. After Louisville passed a similar bill, AT&T sued the city arguing that the city lacked authority to pass such an ordinance and they have threatened to sue Nashville if this passes. For more on this issue see this link, this link, and this and read the staff analysis. 

The committee recommendation was to defer and there were several amendments. The council voted 20-19 to defeat a motion made by At-large Councilman Bob Mendes to defer the ordinance until December.  The bill passes by a vote of 32 to 7.  The electronic voting machine was not working and the roll was actually called.

Voting for the bill: John Cooper, Erica Gilmore, Jim Shulman, Nick Leonardo, Decosta Hastings, Brenda Haywood, Robert Swope, Scott Davis, Anthony Davis, Nancy VanReece, Bill Pridemore, Doug Pardue, Larry Hagar, Steve Glover, Holly Huezo, Jeff Syracuse, Mike Freeman, Colby Sledge, Burkley Allen, Freddie O’Connell, Mary Carolyn Roberts, Mina Johnson, Russ Pulley, Jeremy Elrod, Davette Blalock, Tanaka Vercher, Karen Johnson, Jason Potts, Fabian Bedne, Jacobia Dowell, Angie Henderson, Dave Rosenberg
Voting against the bill (7): Bob Mendes, Sharon Hurt, Brett Withers, Ed Kindall, Sheri Weiner, Kathleen Murphy, Sam Coleman

The Council was lobbied hard on this bill. For more information on the council actions on this bill and to see how members voted on the motion to table and the motion to defer, see this Tennessean article. To see the discussion see 1:42:45 - 2:39:20.

Part two of my analysis and commentary on this meeting will follow shortly.

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