Friday, December 9, 2016

What happened at the Council meeting of 12-6-16: Driving while Black bills deferred, new Short Term Rental restrictions pass, Council says Nashville will still be a nice city and the Council votes to stop the Dakota pipeline and wants even new cars auto emission tested in order to be fair.



Council meeting are more meaningful if you know what they are voting on. For a copy of the agenda, the council staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

Here are the meeting highlights.
The prayer is offered by a Muslim cleric, guest of Mina Johnson.
Most of the meeting is taken up by public hearings on zoning matters. I  fast forward through most of the public hearing and do attempt to understand the pros and cons of each boring zoning bill. Here are the ones I find of interest:

SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-414 is a zoning bill in Councilman Scott Davis district. It is a disapproved bill by the Planning Commission and would take 28 votes in favor to pass.  This bill was on public hearing at the  October 6th Council meeting  in a different form. At that meeting it was deferred and rereffered to the Planning Commission and required to have a another public hearing on the bill in its new form. Before, it was a straight rezoning from a lesser density to a higher density. The substitute proposes an SP zoning but there is no site plan presented with the bill for the Planning Commission's consideration. I do not have an opinion on the merits of this bill, but anytime the Council is considering a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission, it is worth noting.  Some members feel that the Planning Commission should never be overridden and others feel a district council member knows his district better than anyone else and his recommendation should be respected.  Most members are probably somewhere between these two positions.

There are a lot people in the attendance supportive and more people opposed to the rezoning. The proposed units would be units for sale that would be affordably priced.  It is much easier to turn people out in opposition than people in favor of something, so effort must have gone into turning out the proponents, but I don't know who was behind it.  Maybe it was not an organized effort but it is hard to believe that many people would turn out in favor without an organized effort. The proponents are for the bill because they support affordable housing and would like to be able to buy a home in east Nashville.  These are real people and not the normal affordable housing advocates. Opponents make the normal arguments about density, traffic, stress on infrastructure, and character of the neighborhood.

The Planning Committee of the council had recommended a deferral of the bill one meeting, so deferral is automatically deferred "by rule."  The sponsor can bring the bill back and will not have to have another public hearing. To see the discussion on this bill see timestamp 14:00 - 1:19:30.

BILL NO. BL2016-477  and BILL NO. BL2016-478  are zoning bills related  the Envision Casey plan. One bill cancels a Planned Unit Development in order to apply a Specific Plan (SP) zoning, the other changes some existing zoning for SP zoning.  Envision Casey has been in the works for several years.  It tears down an existing old ugly public housing project and redevelops the property with a development that will be mixed income and mixed use. I like the concept of mixed income. I think it is better social policy to have poor people living among other people than all grouped by themselves.  I think it is good for the children of welfare parents to see people who get up and go to work every day.  None of the current residents will lose their home but even if they pay the minimal rent they will be moved into a brand new unit that is of the same quality as the units that will be for rent at market rates. While I think this is a better use of the land and will remove the eyesore of public housing and do not oppose this project, it does not quite seem right that someone who pays $40 a month will have a house nicer than what working people who pay $1000 can get. Both these bills pass without controversy. To see the discussion see timestamp 1:28:21-2"02:29
These are the resolutions of interest.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-406  would expand from one year old to three years old, the vehicles that are exempt from being required to be tested for auto emissions. This makes sense. Vehicles not over three years old almost never fail the emissions test.There are about 60,000 of these cars. This was deferred the last three meeting.  There is concern that this proposal favors people who can afford new cars.  I think this is representative of liberal-think. The logic for why we even have auto emission testing has to take a back see to the concept of justice that says government should unnecessarily inconvenience all people equally. There is also an argument is made that the city needs the revenue. This is disgusting. The resolutions failed on a machine roll call vote. I will post that roll call vote at a latter date when it is available. To see the discussion see timestamp 2:17:53- 3:10:35.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-459  ask the Police Department to inform the Metropolitan Council whether they agree or disagree with research findings in a recent report from Gideon’s Army regarding MNPD traffic stop statistics in Nashville and ask them to provide any data to refute the finding of the Gideon's Army report. The Civil rights group Gideon's Army released a report in February called "Driving while Black," that alleged racial profiling by Metro Police. The group claims that from 2011 to 2015, metro officers conducted more than 7 times the amount of traffic stops than the national average, and black drivers were up to 5 times more likely to be stopped. The police say that the reason police stop more Blacks that Whites is that they patrol more heavily in high crime areas, which are Black neighborhoods. For news reports on this topic see this link, and this link. This was on the agenda last meeting but was deferred to this meeting so a representative of Gideon's Army could meet with the police to review the report together, prior to consideration of this resolution. There was a meeting and more will occur. This is deferred for six meetings to  the first meeting in March.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-460  request the Mayor to get an independent assessment of the location of the National Museum of African American Music at the former Nashville Convention Center. The city gave an inducement to the developer of the property to provide free space for this museum. Early plans showed it with a frontage on Broadway.  The proposed development is multi-use with a much needed downtown retail component. The developer has said that the corner of Fifth and Broad needs to be something that will draw traffic to the retail. He has moved the museum entrance to 5th avenue. Blacks are upset. To read more about this see, Mayor Barry warns against breaking agreement over museum dispute and The deal's done, but critics of $430M downtown project aren't silenced.
This was discussed at the last council meeting and then deferred to this meeting. At that meeting the sponsor compared putting the entrance on Fifth Ave to Blacks sitting in the back of the bus. To see the discussion from last council meeting see time stamp 51:40 - 1:09:44 at this link.
This is withdrawn at the request of the sponsor. The mayor has lobbied to stop this resolution and the proponents of the resolution have been placated. There will be an entrance to the museum on Broadway and the museum will get increased financial support. Councilman Cooper takes to the floor to criticize the whole develop. He says the city got a bad deal and lost $120 million. Councilman Pridemore disagrees and counters that allegation. I applaud Cooper's comments and agree with his concern.  To see the discussion see timestamp 2:43:01 - 2:51:20.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-464 appropriates  $4,269,100.00 from the General Fund Reserve Fund (4% fund) for the purchase of equipment and building repairs for various departments of The Metropolitan Government. This is no big deal. That is what the reserve fund is for. This passed on the consent agenda.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-465  authorizing the issuance, sale and payment of general obligation improvement bonds in an aggregate principal amount of not to exceed $500,000,000. A lot of money, but this is normal procedure. This passed on the consent agenda.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-482  request the School Board to require all new school buses purchased be equipped with seat belts. It is not clear that seatbelts on school buses increase safety and this would be expensive. This is deferred one meeting.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-484  is a mild meaningless anti-Trump feel-good measure saying Nashville will continue to welcome and afford equal justice to all residents and visitors, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other protected status. It passed on consent.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-486   is supporting Native American Opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is ridiculous. The Council should not get involved in national issues that are far removed from local concerns. The council has no special insight, they have not held hearing or been briefed.  All they know is what the press is reporting.  If Councilmen want to express opinions on issues of this nature, then they should run for the U. S. Congress. It is not on consent and passes on a voice vote with little discussions with no one speaking in opposition. 
All bills on First Reading pass by a single vote as is customer.
Below are the bills on Second Reading of interest.
 BILL NO. BL2016-483  would require the police department to submit to the Council an annual reports detailing information about traffic stops: The total number of traffic stops; The percentage of stops resulting in warrantless probable cause searches; warrantless consent searches without probable cause; and warrantless “pat down” searches; and, The success rate of each type of search (wherein “success” is defined as a search resulting in seizure of incriminating evidence.)

Each category would be reported within demographic categories, defined by sex, race, and ethnicity. The police department is not opposing this and say it would not be that much work to produce the data. The way I see it, an unintended consequence of this reporting is that the police will patrol less in the worst neighborhoods or fail to stop probable suspects in order not to have a bad report.  Face it, Blacks are more criminally prone. That is not a racist thing to say.  It is not that they are that way because of racial characteristics but because of societal policies that created an underclass. This bill is deferred six meetings. There is little discussion.
BILL NO. BL2016-484   would make it more difficult to develop any type of solid waste disposal facility or processing facility in Nashville. Now the Board of Zoning Appeal can approve the placement of these facilities; this would require Council action and such facilities would have to approved by 2/3rd vote of the Council. This passes without discussion.
Bills on Third Reading.  This is a bill of interest.

BILL NO. BL2016-381 says that an  STRP (Short term rental) permit applications shall be valid for sixty (60) calendar days from the date filed and shall expire if the application process has not been completed within that time. It also does a bunch of other things. This seems unnecessarily restrictive and I would have voted against it, if I had a vote. On Second Reading on  9-20- 2016 it was substituted and deferred two meetings and rereferred to committee. To see the discussion of this bill when it was on Second Reading see time stamp  46:01-49:39 at this link.  This passes without discussion.
Congratulations to Council member Karen Johnson who was recently elected to serve on the board of the National League of Cities. 


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