Monday, December 5, 2016

What's on the Council Agenda for 12-6-16: Driving while Black, where to put the door of the African American Music museum, an anti-Trump feel-good bill, supporting the Indians in stopping the Dakota pipeline, and defining "mulch."

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, December 6,  at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person, or you can watch the broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and it is streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. You can catch the meeting the next day (or the day after the next) 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 those segments. 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. You will have a much better understanding of what is going on. Follow the highlighted links above to view the agenda and staff analysis. Below is my commentary and analysis.

There are six people up for confirmation to Boards and Commissions. These are people appointed by the mayor subject to approval by the Council. They will be approved as always.

There are two resolution on Public Hearing. Both are for exemptions from the minimum distance requirements for obtaining a beer permit.

There is one bill on public hearing and Third Reading, SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-414, which is a zoning bill in Councilman Scott Davis district. The only reason I am calling attention to this bill is because it is is a bill that is disapproved by the planning commission. It takes 28 votes in favor to pass a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission. Some council members feel the recommendation of the Planning Commission should always be honored and will not vote contrary to a Planning Commission resolution. I don't know anything about the merits of the rezoning request.  This bill was on the agenda of the October 6th Council meeting on Public Hearing in a different form. Here is what I reported at that time:

It would change  from R6 to RM40-A zoning for various properties along Elvira Avenue, Maynor Avenue, and Keeling Avenue. This would allow 220 units of apartments to be build in a district that does not currently permit that. Quite a few people speak in opposition. Davis closes the pubic hearing and proposes substituting the bill by changing the the zoning from RM40-A to SP zoning which would still allow the development but impose additional restriction, and proposes the bill be referred back to the Planning Commission.  Several council members express concern and say that the bill should come back to the Council for a new public hearing after the substitute is considered by the Planning Commission.  After the discussion by council members, Davis says he will permit a second hearing after the PC considers the substitute. The substitute is passed by a roll call vote of 24 in favor and 18 against.  The bill as substituted is then approved 28 to 10, rereferred to the Planning Commission and the public hearing is reopened. For those who are interested in understanding what is permitted under different zoning classifications, this link is a good resource.  To view the discussion of this bill see timestamp 1:27:25-2:19:52. I am pleased with this outcome. Bills which are substantially changed, I think, should come back to the Council for a second pubic hearing.  Also, I think the Council should take the recommendations of the Planning Commission very seriously.
There are 16 Bills on Public Hearing on Second Reading.  I do not even attempt to understand the pros and cons of every zoning bill and they generally bore me and are of interest to only the people in the immediate vicinity of the rezoning.  At public hearings almost all opposition come down to (1) concern about traffic, (2) water runoff and potential for flooding, (3) overcrowding of local schools and impact on infrastructure, (4) detrimentally changing the character of the neighborhood.  You will hear the same agreements over and over. I am only pointing out the bills that I think will have an impact beyond the immediate neighborhood or for some other reason are of interest. There is only one of these bills I find of interest.
BILL NO. BL2016-411  rezones 23 acres from a zoning that permits duplexes to one that does not in the  Woodlawn Drive, Lynnbrook Road, and Bowling Avenue area. This type rezoning has been happening for many years. Allowing more areas to be zoned for less density seems counter to a goal of promoting affordable housing and mass transit and combating urban sprawl. You never see advocates of affordable housing speak against these downzonings.  I wish the Planning Commission would adopt a policy to disapprove all bills of this type. As the population grows we need greater density, not less.
There are 29 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.  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. This was deferred the last three meeting.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-435  is a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) deal for an affordable housing project on Old Hickory Boulevard. In the past PILOT was used only by the Industrial Development Board to lure companies to Nashville in order to create jobs. Now MDHA is authorized to use this tool also. So, if I understand it correctly, the land would be owned by MDHA and since MDHA does not pay taxes, the developer of the property would pay this payment in lieu of taxes. The PILOT however would be only about 1/10 of what the developed property would otherwise pay in property taxes. This is for an affordable housing project for those earning less than 60% of the Area Median Income. To make this deal work the developer will also be using the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program.This bill was deferred the last meeting.
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. While I suspect this to pass, I expect some grandstanding. 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.
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. Councilman Cooper questions the whole deal, asking why we sold the property so cheaply and why there is so little over site. The deal does seem to have been a big giveaway of a valuable asset. To see the discussion from last council meeting see time stamp 51:40 - 1:09:44 at this link.
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. When an agency request money from this fund it must first be approved by the Metro Finance Director and then it goes to the Council.  Sometimes, I think this fund is abused but it is rare. Scrutiny of  these request should occur in the Budget and Finance Committee meeting. 
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 provides the money for various previously approved public works projects. The bonds are paid off from the portion of tax revenues designated for debt service.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-482  request the School Board to require all new school buses purchased be equipped with seat belts.
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. While the intent is a slap at Trump, Trump's election is not mentioned. No one should bother opposing this bill. Who can be against being nice? 
RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-486   is a resolution 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. If I were in the Council, I would go on record as abstaining. 
Bills on First Reading. There are 30 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 usually pass by a single vote. Only rarely is a bill on First Reading considered separately.

Bills on Second Reading.
These are only six  bills on Second reading and these are the one's 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 Black genes are racial characteristics but because of societal policies that created an underclass.
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. 

Bills on Third Reading.  There are 11  bills on Third Reading.  These are the bills 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 oppose this bill. 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
BILL NO. BL2016-463  defines what is "mulch." This is a good example of over regulation. An existing regulation says not over 5% of a lot area may be mulch. Now we need to define mulch.

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