Saturday, April 29, 2017

What's on the Council Agenda for May 2? Major attack on home-sharing (STRP), more control over landfills, not much else.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you don't have to and yet can still be a well-informed citizen of our city.  If, however, you are going to watch the council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis otherwise you will be clueless about what is going on.  Follow the highlighted links above to view the agenda and staff analysis.

There are six appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously.  There are 17 bills on First Reading but bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in rare cases. I usually do not read bills until they get to Second Reading.

There are 29 Bills on Public Hearing and most of them are zoning bills.  Public Hearings are real boring unless the property under discussion is next door to you.  Opposition to rezoning usually boils down to (1) impact on the capacity of infrastructure such as roads and schools, (2) potential to cause flooding, or (3) negative impact on the quality and character of the neighborhood.  I don't even try to gain an understanding of every zoning bill or form an opinion of its merits. I try to point out those that have wider implication than one neighborhood or that I have reason to believe will be particularly controversial or has already been to the Planning Commission and been disapproved. About the only bills on public hearing of interest this time are those that are attacks on home-sharing.

BILL NO. BL2017-608, BILL NO. BL2017-609, BILL NO. BL2017-610, and BILL NO. BL2017-611 are all attacks on home-sharing or Short Term Rental Properties such as those rented through AirBnB or similar services.  I oppose all of these bills.  
  • BILL NO. BL2017-608 would be a radical change and would establish distinct land uses for “Short term rental property – Owner- Occupied” and “Short term rental property – Not Owner-Occupied”, and establishing a phase out date in year 2021 for “Short term rental property – Not Owner-Occupied.” If this passes in addition to ending short term rentals of homes not occupied by the owner, in order to offer home-sharing services, one would have to get their property rezoned. 
  • BILL NO. BL2017-609  would establish a 12- month moratorium on the issuance of new Type 2 and Type 3 short term rental permits. These are the non-owner-occupied Short Term Rentals. It would not prohibit those with certificates already from renewing their certificate.  
  • BILL NO. BL2017-610 is similar to 609, but it would impose a 36-month moratorium. The staff analysis says both of these are to be withdraw by the sponsor for further consideration. 
  • BILL NO. BL2017-611 requires that an STRP application include a statement that “the applicant has confirmed that operating the proposed STRP would not violate any Home Owners Association agreement or bylaws, Condominium Agreement, Covenants, Codes and Restrictions or any other agreement governing and limiting the use of the proposed STRP property.” It would also require that the applicant notify codes if there was any such objection.  I oppose this bill.  Homeowners Association rules are private agreements.  Government has never taken on the responsibility for enforcing HOA rules. 
  • BILL NO. BL2017-685 would make several changes to the current home-sharing regs. It would reduce the total number of STRP permits available, put new restrictions on the number of people who could occupy a STRP and impose restrictions and requirement on the "on-line marketplaces." The staff analysis does not address this, but I wonder if Nashville has the authority to compel an on-line marketplace such as AirBnB to provide them with reports.  They are not physically located in Nashville and they don't have to have a local business license. Could we require Amazon to tell us how many books are CD's are sold in Nashville? I don't know the answer but I wonder if this is even doable or legal.

There are 19 resolutions on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are passed by a single vote of the council instead of being voted on individually. All resolution are initially on "consent," however, 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.  Most of the resolutions are routine things like accepting grants. Here are the resolutions of interest. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-663 is a routine annual action calling the Metro Board of Equalization into session and RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-664 is a resolution appointing hearing officers to hear appeals. These are typical actions, but some council members may take this as an opportunity to talk about the recent property reappraisals. This year, as all property owners probably know by now, Metro reappraised all real property. A lot of people have been shocked by the increased appraised value of their property.  There is a procedure to appeal your appraisal, however to successfully appeal you need a good argument as to why you think the city got it wrong.  Just saying, "I don't think it is worth that," will not get you anywhere. You need recent sales information or reasons why your property values were incorrectly calculated. If you want to see your appraisal on-line as well as see what other properties are appraised for, follow this link. Just because your property appraisal increased that does not mean your property taxes will go up. By law Metro is required to roll back the tax rate to a rate that would bring in no additional revenue.  Sometimes local governments play games with this rule and pass the required "certified" tax rate then immediately pass a new rate that does raise taxes.  To her credit, Megan Barry has said she will not raise taxes this year. To see what your new tax bill will be under the new appraisal and new certified tax rate, you can calculate it at this linkThe deadline to appeal your appraisal is May 19th.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-666  and RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-667 are payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) deals between MDHA and developers to develop or rehabilitate affordable housing.  This is the third and fourth such deal for this purpose.  In the past, PILOT was used to entice employers to locate in Nashville. While I have been critical of Nashville's efforts to force developers to build affordable housing, I am supportive of the use of  PILOT agreements to encourage development.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-677 approves the execution and delivery of intergovernmental applications by Metro to the United States Department of Labor for the processing of H1-B petitions.  I have read the bill and the analysis but quite frankly do not understand this resolution but think it may be significant. Currently the Trump administration has suspended for six months the processing of H1-B visa applications. I did not know the Metro Government employs non-citizens but according to this, we do.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-678  request the Metropolitan Transit Authority to provide at least ten percent (10%) of its advertising space to other Metropolitan departments, boards and commissions to provide public service advertisements regarding local government services. I do not see the wisdom of this.  This would be a loss of revenue for MTA. However, this is probably not worth opposing unless MTA lobbies against its passage. It also ask MTA to respond as to the feasibility of this request so if MTA thinks this would not be wise, they do not have to do it, but can explain their opposition in a feasibility study.

Bills on Second Reading. There are 13 bills on Second Reading but most are routine things. Here is one of interest.
BILL NO. BL2017-687 establishes process and procedure for naming public buildings, structures and spaces of the Metropolitan Government.  I like this.  I think usually you should have to be dead before you get something named after you.  
Bills on Third Reading: These are 15 bills on Third Reading and not much that is of interest. Most are rezoning bill and they have all been approved by the Planning Commission. Here are ones of interest.
BILL NO. BL2016-484 would give Metro more control over the approval of landfills, solid waste disposal facilities and solid waste processing facilities prior to the construction of such facilities and prior to the issuance of a permit by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) or the Commissioner.  This is essentially replacing Metro's current procedure with a State approved plan known as the "Jackson law."  While this bill, on the one hand, gives Metro more control it also in some ways takes away some Metro authority. It increases the notification requirements, requires a bill with three reading rather than approving a landfill by resolution which is only one reading and it does some other good things. On the other hand, Metro would lose some authority in that an unhappy applicant for a landfill could appeal to Chancery Court. On balance, I think this is a good bill, but it is not simply.  The bill  passed on Second Reading by a vote of 28 to 8 with 3 abstentions.and was re-referred to Public Works Committee. It is amendable on Third Reading. To see the  discussion that occurred on Second Reading follow this link and see timestamp 47:30 - 1:17:52
BILL NO. BL2016-498  would require approval by the Metropolitan Council for obstructions or excavations which close or occupy any portion of the public right of way for a period in excess of one  year. I like this. I am all for accommodating growth but if a developer is going to block a street for more than a year, there needs to be some plan to accommodate the public. 
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 can stand the suspense and just wait, I will post the video here the day after or the day after that and provide commentary.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

House Democrats call on Senate to reject Mark Green as Army secretary

by Michael Collins , USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee – Nearly three dozen House Democrats are asking the Senate to reject Tennessean Mark Green’s nomination as Army secretary, arguing he cannot be trusted to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender soldiers are able to serve without discrimination or harassment. ... Thirty-one House Democrats signed the letter ... None of the letter’s signers are from Tennessee. (link)

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ex-Nashville judge Casey Moreland indicted on federal bribery, tampering charges

Ex-Nashville judge Casey Moreland indicted on federal bribery, tampering charges

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Mayor Barry Calls for funding of light rail transit, new employee benefits, and other massive spending in State of Metro Address

Mayor Barry delivers her 2017 State of Metro address
Metro Press Release, April 26, 2017- Mayor Megan Barry called on Nashvillians to “embrace the future” during her 2017 State of Metro Address held at the Bridgestone Arena Plaza, where she discussed Nashville’s transit future while detailing her recommended $2.2 billion fiscal year 2017-18 budget. Metro is expected to have the lowest combined property tax rate in its history at less than $3.16 per $100 of assessed value following the 2017 property reappraisal.

“We cannot wait another year to start the process of building our first light rail,” said Mayor Barry. “I’m very happy to announce that today the work begins to create light rail service on the Gallatin Pike corridor. I’m excited to have the city start the process of making light rail available to our citizens. I’d drive across the river and put a shovel in the ground this afternoon if I could – and I might just do it anyway!”

Following the passage of Governor Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, Mayor Barry announced her intention to work with the Metro Council and community partners to develop and present a transit plan to Nashville voters that will include dedicated sources of revenue to build high-capacity transit along the Gallatin, Nolensville, Murfreesboro, and Charlotte Pikes, along with a Northwest Corridor from North Nashville to Clarksville.

Mayor Barry noted that the Gallatin Pike corridor is an obvious choice to start that process as it currently carries the most transit riders in the region, development along the corridor has demonstrated a market for transit-oriented development, and planning processes have shown that the neighborhoods along Gallatin support comprehensive mass transit.

“Nashville cannot wait any longer to embrace our future,” Mayor Barry said in announcing her intention to move forward with community partners to develop a transit referendum for the voters of Nashville. “We will be a 21st-century, transit-oriented city, and we are not going to look back 10 years from now and say we failed when we had to succeed.”

While looking towards the future of transit, Mayor Barry detailed her proposal to utilize the $119 million in new revenue that is a result of new buildings coming online and continued growth in business and tourism throughout the city. Highlights of the FY17-18 operating budget include:
  • $40.6M to promote fiscal responsibility through debt service payments, including $11.4M in reserves for future requirements.
  • $879M for Metro Nashville Public Schools, a 4.3%, $36M increase over FY16 to fund higher pay for teachers, literacy and ELL programs, and social emotional learning to help students manage emotions and maintain positive relationships.
  • $4M more for the Metro Nashville Police Department to fund 22 new officers for foot patrols that will enhance community policing efforts, as well as 48 new officers, 6 for each precinct, to better match the growth in population and improve response times.
  • $1.9M to the Nashville Fire Department to fully fund new EMS Medic units started in FY17, along with 14 new fire recruits and fire inspectors.
  • $18.1M in new funds to compensate Metro employees through a three-year pay plan, which will fund increments and 2% open range increases, along with a 2% cost of living adjustment for FY18, with 3% open range and COLA proposed for FY19 and FY20.
  • A $7M increase in the Metro Transit Authority subsidy, which is the largest single-year increase ever, to fund the elimination of transfer fees and extend the Music City Circuit to Tennessee State University along the Jefferson Street corridor.
  • $500,000 for the Metro Arts Commission to fund temporary public art projects and the THRIVE program to meet the neighborhood demand for public art and creative place-making projects, as well as increase funding for arts grants.
  • $500,000 to launch a Conservation Assistance Grant Program to leverage effective partnerships in conserving public and private lands and resources of conservation value in Davidson County.
Along with increases in pay, Mayor Barry announced that she will recommend a new Paid Family Leave policy to the Civil Service Commission that will allow Metro employees to take six weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, or a seriously ill spouse, child or close relative.

“It’s the right thing to do for the health and well-being of our employees, and it’s the right thing to do for their families,” said Mayor Barry about the proposed Paid Family Leave policy. “It’s also the smart thing to do, because we want to attract and retain the best employees.”

Mayor Barry will also be releasing a capital spending plan in May to coincide with the release of the Mayor’s recommended Capital Improvements Budget. Some highlights released during the State of Metro include:
  • More than $35M for MTA to purchase 31 new hybrid buses to replace our aging diesel fleet, upgrade the fare collection system, and fund the implementation of the nMotion strategic plan for transit.
  • $65M for sidewalks and paving, $3M for sidewalks connected to schools, $2M for bikeways, and a doubling of funds over the previous year for the Mayor’s Intersection Improvement Program.
  • $15M for body and dash cameras, along with $8M for new laptops and printer equipment for the Metro Nashville Police Department.
  • Funds to build a community center and 2 ice rinks in Bellevue, a pocket park on Jefferson Street, expand the Hadley Park tennis center and start design on a new Hadley Park branch library.
  • $25M in general obligation bonds to fund new affordable housing programs.
“Growth has brought many exciting opportunities to our city, but it’s also made it difficult for many residents to stay here. The demand for housing has raised prices throughout the city, and we’ve responded by attacking the problem on multiple fronts,” Mayor Barry said in announcing two new innovative initiatives to fund, build, preserve, and retain affordable housing options.

The first would be to leverage the $25M in bonds to fund new affordable housing programs to purchase and rehab low-income housing that is at-risk of becoming unaffordable to tenants, as well as a program to allow Metro to build new affordable housing on city-owned property. The second is the creation of a new program to allow Metro to offer expedited property tax abatements to incentivize developers to build affordable units and rehab existing units. All of this is in addition to the Mayor’s continued commitment of $10M in operating funds for the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing, and $2M for the Housing Incentive Pilot Program.

Metro Finance Director Talia Lomax-O’dneal will deliver a more in-depth presentation of the budget proposal to the Metro Council at 1:00PM today in the David Scobey Council Chamber in the Historic Metro Courthouse. Following delivery of the Mayor’s budget proposal, the Council and the Budget & Finance Committee will conduct public hearings as well as hearings with each individual department. The Council is required to pass a balanced budget by June 30, or the Mayor’s recommended budget proposal goes into effect by default.

The State of Metro Address featured the best-selling and most awarded female gospel artist of all time, Nashville native CeCe Winans, whose latest album, “Let Them Fall In Love,” debuted at the top of the charts. Winans performed “Never Have to Be Alone” and “Peace from God” for the crowd of more than 1000 attending the State of Metro.

The Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands opened up the event, and Nashville’s 2016 Youth Poet Laureate and Nashville School of the Arts junior Gray Bulla read a poem written for the occasion.

Charles Strobel, founding director of Room in the Inn, gave the invocation for the State of Metro, which concluded with Blessings for Our City from four Nashville faith leaders - Pastor of Church Life Frank Stevenson of Olive Branch Church, Rabbi Laurie Rice of Congregation Micah, Imam Ossama Bahloul of the Islamic Center of Nashville, and Bishop Dr. José Rodriguez of Casa de Dios Apostolic Church - in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish respectively.
 #

To read the Tennessean report on the State of Metro address see,  Mayor Barry commits to light rail on Gallatin Pike, kicks off public vote for funding transit,

To read the full text of the address follow this link: State of Metro address.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mayor Barry's office slams debt limit proposal

by Joey Garrison , USA Today Network - Tennessee - Middle Tennessee’s leading anti-tax crusader has launched a petition effort to add a referendum to the November 2018 ballot that would let Nashville voters decide whether to limit Metro’s borrowing capacity by capping the city's debt level.

If the measure passes, it could complicate plans for a $6 billion regional transit system that Mayor Megan Barry wants to start funding.

The debt limit referendum, led by Nashville Tea Party President Ben Cunningham, a resident of Sumner County, would amend the Metro Charter in two ways: (read more)

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The Tennessean reports, Nashville sued over new affordable housing law.

by Joey Garrison , USA Today Network - Tennessee -Metro Nashville was hit with a highly anticipated lawsuit on Monday by the free market think-tank Beacon Center of Tennessee over a new Metro policy that is aimed at jump-starting more affordable housing. 

"We are filing this lawsuit not just because we disagree with this 'affordable housing' plan, but because Nashville is acting unconstitutionally and in defiance of state law," Braden Boucek, director of litigation for the Beacon Center, said.

"Tennessee has expressly told cities they cannot pass these sorts of laws, which makes Nashville's mandate on 'affordable housing' both illegal and unconstitutional. Cities are not independent and cannot pick and choose what laws they want to follow."

But supporters of the ordinance, including bill sponsor Councilwoman Burkley Allen, have argued that the policy is a voluntary inclusionary zoning policy based on development incentives and not a mandate because the requirement is only triggered when a developer chooses to apply for new development rights. (link)


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Monday, April 24, 2017

Homebuilder Association sues Metro to overturn the Inclusionary housing law.

The below story is Reposted from The Beacon Center.

The Story

 Imagine being a young, hardworking professional who can already barely afford to pay rent in the city where you are just beginning your career. Next, imagine that your landlord raises your rent so that a person even poorer than you can afford to move in next door and pay less. Now you will have to move further away from your job and live somewhere less desirable because you can no longer afford your rent.

Are you mad? You should be. This is just one of the many unfair scenarios that Nashville’s leaders are about to bring into being thanks to their unconstitutional “affordable” housing plans. When Nashville government officials decided housing wasn’t affordable enough, they decided that homebuilders should solve the problem instead of government. Nashville recently enacted a law that, in certain instances, requires homebuilders to sell a fixed percentage of the homes they build at below market value. In other words, Nashville is demanding that people lose money on an investment in order to promote social welfare. Ironically enough, the people that Nashville thinks should bear the cost of addressing affordable housing—homebuilders—are the very ones who are most directly addressing the problem in the first place.

Homebuilders, like the thousands of small business owners and individuals our client the Homebuilders Association of Middle Tennessee (HBAMT) represents, increase the supply of housing, thereby lowering the cost of housing. The homebuilders want nothing more than to address any affordable housing issues by increasing the supply of housing. The biggest obstacles are Nashville’s restrictions on their ability to build homes, obstacles which increase with Nashville’s new “affordable housing” mandate. John Sheley, the trade organization’s Executive Vice President, has worked in his field for nearly 30 years and decided to take action on behalf of all builders to challenge Nashville’s new law.

And for good reason. This plan is illegal and unconstitutional, as it demands that private individuals bear the burden of addressing what some have decided is a public concern. It is no more acceptable to expect property owners to address public housing by losing money on the houses they build than it is to expect grocers to lose money on the food they sell to address hunger. If there truly is a lack of affordable housing in Nashville, then the government should get out of the way and let the free market and the builders solve it naturally by creating a larger supply. But they should not force private parties to do it on their behalf. Their current plan will make housing more scarce and decrease the availability of affordable housing. This is fundamental to the constitutional protection of private property rights. What’s more, it is also illegal because the state of Tennessee has a law that bans local governments from passing mandates forcing homebuilders to set aside residential apartment units as “affordable.”

The Problem

In September 2016, the city of Nashville passed a law that, with limited exceptions, requires homebuilders to set aside a portion of their development as “affordable” or “workforce” housing or instead pay a significant fee into a slush fund. As anyone who has been paying attention knows, a government program that begins with the term affordable is typically anything but. Need proof? Look no further than the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. That redistribution of wealth scheme has left working-class Americans with astronomically higher prices and fewer health insurance options, all in exchange for a worthless guarantee that it will be more “affordable.”

“Affordable” housing is essentially the Obamacare of housing. It makes it more expensive to build. This will result in developers building fewer homes, which will cause housing supply to dwindle. The extra costs will be passed on to buyers and renters, increasing their expenses. In both scenarios, it will cause prices to rise for those who can afford it the least: lower- and middle-income earners. If you think housing is expensive now, just wait until it’s “affordable.”

Not only will this mandate make housing less affordable, it will also create the same fiscal cliffs as many other welfare programs. If a person will have to pay more for their housing as their income increases, then they will be less likely to pursue moderate increases in pay or take on more work to move up in life. This scheme by Nashville’s government creates a disincentive for the poor to improve their lives.

A requirement that property owners set aside a certain percentage of their housing inventory to sell at below the market price (or setting price controls at all) is more than just inconsistent with the American tradition and offensive to rudimentary notions of free markets. Forcing developers to sell the apartments they build at a loss poses very serious legal and constitutional problems. Governments can’t condition things like building permits on the surrender of constitutional rights, such as the right to seek full value of one’s private property. Taking private property for a public purpose without just compensation is a takings issue that courts have ruled to be unconstitutional countless times. Cities can’t get around that by conditioning their agreement on the surrender of this or any other constitutional right.

On top of the constitutional and economic issues with this law, Nashville does not have the authority to enforce this plan in the first place. The state has never given cities the power to address affordable housing in this manner, and if there was any lingering confusion on this issue, the Tennessee General Assembly cleared it up in 2016 when affordable housing mandates began to surface in Tennessee. In response to the spread of these ordinances, the legislature passed a law prohibiting local governments from enacting affordable housing mandates as they relate to rental properties. Nashville passed its law anyway, even though it is illegal under state law.

The matter has already garnered a good deal of local media attention, as it should. And, given the spread of similar ordinances across the southeast (including an anticipated ordinance in Atlanta sometime next year), this trend of liberal cities thwarting constitutional protections set by state governments will only continue to worsen.

Bad policies that take hold in cities such as Nashville have a tendency to spread throughout the state. Nashville is blatantly disrespecting state lawmakers (and thereby the will of the people) who already voted to ban this practice. If Nashville can pass an affordable housing law in defiance of state law, then it can pass a $15 minimum wage law or a gun ban. We don’t want our cities to become sanctuary cities for liberal policies, therefore Nashville needs to be reigned in here and now.

In late July 2016, before the proposed ordinance was brought up for a second of three readings before the Metro Nashville Council, the Southeastern Legal Foundation and Beacon sent a letter to city officials analyzing the proposed ordinance from a legal perspective. We explained that the proposed ordinance not only violated state law, but that it was patently unconstitutional. The letter was raised by the Metro Council’s attorney and discussed in the hearing. The Council passed the ordinance anyway. Their willful disregard for the rule of law proves that, in this situation, the only way to protect the Constitution is in the courtroom.

It is now imperative that we take action to protect the property rights of Tennesseans and their values from out-of-control local governments.

The Law

We intend to challenge Nashville’s affordable housing mandate as illegal under Tennessee law and unconstitutional in violation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Ordinance Violates the Fifth Amendment.

The Takings Clause prohibits the government from taking one’s property without just compensation. Here, Nashville is not “taking” the developers property outright, it is demanding that they lose money in exchange for the city’s permission to develop, and if they do not want to do that, they can just kick into a slush fund to avoid the mandate. The courts have recognized these sorts of shenanigans before and have stated that a demand for a person to surrender a right in exchange for a permit is still an unconstitutional taking.

The Takings Clause exists because the Founders did not envision a country where governments could strong-arm private parties into paying for things the government did not care to pay for itself. The Supreme Court has made clear that the Fifth Amendment not only protects one from a physical taking, but also from governments that misuse the power of land-use regulation.

To prevent governments from circumventing the Takings Clause and from trying to accomplish indirectly what they cannot do directly, the Supreme Court applies the “unconstitutional conditions doctrine.” Under this well-settled doctrine, “the government may not require a person to give up a constitutional right…in exchange for a discretionary benefit conferred by the government where the benefit sought has little or no relationship to the property.” In other words, the Takings Clause prohibits Nashville from forcing homebuilders to choose between the permission they need to build and the right to receive just compensation from a taking. This “affordable housing” mandate is a prime example of the “gimmickry” that the Supreme Court so harshly rejected over two decades ago.

The Ordinance Violates Tennessee Law

The law passed in 2016 by the Tennessee legislature prohibiting local governments from enacting affordable housing mandates took direct aim at measures such as the one presented in this ordinance. Despite Nashville officials’ statements otherwise, the ordinance is not an incentive-based approach, which would be allowed under the new state law. The ordinance requires property owners comply as long as financial incentives are available. But when the incentives are available, not when they are provided to the property owner, the property owner must comply. The property owner has no ability to opt out.

The way Nashville’s zoning is currently structured, there is almost no place left to build. So homebuilders almost always have to ask the city to rezone the land to allow for buildings of a greater height or density before a project can go forward. And the city will not allow any changes (and thus will deny permission to build) unless homebuilders agree to its onerous demand that they address affordable housing by losing money on some of their homes. By requiring homebuilders to do so before Nashville will give them the permission they need to build, Nashville has imposed a kind of a condition on development. That’s exactly the sort of law that the state of Tennessee has said is illegal.

Due to the aforementioned reasons, the Beacon Center is filing a lawsuit against the city of Nashville and seeking an overturning of the city’s “affordable” housing mandate.

Case Logistics

The plaintiff in this case is John Shely with the Home Builders Association of Middle Tennessee. They are seeking clarification on the law and the overturning of Nashville’s affordable housing mandate. The defendant is the Nashville Metro Government.

Legal Documents

Complaint

The Legal Team

Braden Boucek is the Director of Litigation for the Beacon Center. Prior to joining the Beacon Center, he worked as an Assistant United States Attorney, and before that for the State of Tennessee as a trial and appellate prosecutor.

Justin Owen is the president and CEO of the Beacon Center and is licensed to practice law in Tennessee.

The Beacon Center will work this case in conjunction with Southeastern Legal Foundation in Atlanta, one of the most established and well respected free market litigation groups in the nation. SLF will be represented by Kimberly Hermann, General Counsel for SLF. Prior to working for SLF, she was in private practice and an accountant for an international accounting firm.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Republican Bill Lee announces run for governor of Tennessee

Bill Lee
Republican Williamson County businessman Bill Lee has announced his candidacy for Governor. He has no prior political experience. He is chairman and former CEO of Lee Company, a construction company that employees 1150 people. He is running on a campaign of  jobs, education and public safety.  He has a personal story of tragedy and faith and has been active in faith-based charitable work and will likely appeal to values voters as well as pro-business Republicans. To read The Tennessean story of his entry into the race follow this link. For a Tennessean story from March when Lee was "close to jumping in the race," see this link.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

The vitriolic rhetoric being used to denounce those who voted for the gas tax.

I did not support the recently passed gas tax, officially called the Improve Act. I do not necessarily think that only gas taxes should fund roads.  My view is that when an agency has their own source of funding, there is less scrutiny and oversight to insure the agency is not wasting money. I tend to think all funding should be decided by the legislative body and every government function should compete with every other government function.  I would be pleased if there were no dedicated funding.

I was not persuaded by the argument that the gas tax is a user fee. In theory I like the idea of "user fees" for government services, but in reality there are few true user fees.  If you had to pay admission to use a park, that would be user fee.  If you had to buy a membership to use the public library, that would be a user fee. A toll road is a user fee. A tax on tennis shoes to fund sidewalks or a gas tax to fund roads is really not a user fee.

I was also reluctant to favor the gas tax, because in the past TDOT has wasted a lot of money.  Untold million were spend over the last forty of so years connecting every county seat to an interstate by a four-lane road.  I have driven on some of these roads to nowhere and often been the only car on the road for miles. For more on why I think this was a wasteful and ill-advised policy see this link where I expound on it.

Also, TDOT wasting of money is not a thing of the past. In 2013 over $42 million of the gas tax went to building a luxury jet port for the city of Cleveland. I don't know how many bridges could have been repaired for $42 million but with crumbling bridges it seems to spend $42 on a luxury jet port looks like an unwise use of money.

On the other hand, now that I have told you why I did not support the gas tax, let me say that I could not build up much passion about the issue.  In fact, on several occasions I was almost persuaded to favor it. This was not something I was going to man the barricades over or even march against.  There were good arguments in favor.  Things we want cost money and the gas tax has not been increased in 25 years.  I believe the argument that the gas tax has not been keeping up with the rising cost of building and maintaining Tennessee’s roads and bridges and that improved fuel efficiency standards and the rise of hybrid and electric cars are hurting gas tax collection. Also, we have capacity to raise the gas tax since we were one of the states with a lower gas tax. There is a big backlog of projects that need funding and we need the revenue.

Also, the increase in the gas tax is being offset by cuts in other taxes. It is basically revenue neutral.  The bill reduces the 5-percent Hall income tax by 1 percent each year until the tax is eliminated. It reduces the state sales tax rate for food from 5 percent to 4 percent and it makes some cuts to other taxes paid by manufacturers. I liked the tax cuts that were in the bill. For a summary of what the bill actually does see the legislative summary or read the bill at this link

Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), who has campaigned for lower taxes for decades declared his support for the IMPROVE Act. Norquist is the originator of the "tax pledge" in which candidates for office sign a pledge saying they will not vote for any tax increase.  Norquist said the bill was revenue-neutral.

I am disappointment at the vitriolic rhetoric being used to denounce those who voted for the bill.  To me, this is an issue about which reasonable and good people could disagree. I an disappointed in those who condemn those who voted for the tax as evil. I don't know how either side could be so dogmatic as to be assured that their position is 100% right and the other side totally wrong. 

John Harris of the Tennessee Firearms Associations has been in rant mode for days now. In a Facebook post  he said, "Hard working Tennesseans are getting really tired of the ongoing lies and corporate welfare from the Establishment Republicans in Tennessee. We have to have the help of the conservative caucus to expose these traitors so that they can be prosecuted where possible and defeated in all other instances." He is not calling them traitors to their country but as he uses the term in another post, he is calling them traitors to conservative principals. 

Harris has been especially critical of Representative Susan Lynn and has called for her defeat when she is up for reelection.  Harris is only one of the people expressing anger at those who voted for the bill. Many other conservative activist are also denouncing those who voted for the bill and calling them names and calling for their defeat.

I think a lot of the outrage is faux outrage and motivated by something other than the issue at hand.  Advocacy organizations have to keep their supporters riled up to remain influential. Getting people mad at other people is good for fund-raising.  Some people with political ambitions need to distinguish themselves from the incumbent office holders and issues like this create an impression on the part of some of the electorate that the incumbent is not conservative enough or is a RINO or is part of the political establishment. It gives the challenger an excuse to enter a primary.  Pundits and commentators do not build an audience by being reasonable and thoughtful.  You will not hear Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin or Rachel Maddow or Michael Moore say "on the other hand." Pundits and advocates always have to be adamant and indignant. Its good for ratings and business.

To those who opposed the gas tax bill, do you really think that people like Senator Jack Johnson and Representative Susan Lynn are big-government, tax-and-spend liberals who are traitors to conservative principals who need to be defeated?

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How they voted on the Gas Tax (IMPROVE Act)

On Wednesday afternoon, April 19th,  the Tennessee House and Senate approved the IMPROVE Act also called the gas tax. The House vote was 61-35 in favor and the Senate vote was 25-6. Below is a list of how they voted. This is from the Tennessee General Assembly website

Senate

          Ayes...............................................25
          Noes................................................6

          Senators voting aye were: Bailey, Mike Bell, Briggs, Crowe, Steve Dickerson, Gardenhire, Ferrel Haile, Thelma Harper, Harris, Jackson, Jack Johnson, Kelsey, Bill Ketron, Sara Kyle, Lundberg, Massey, Mark Norris, Doug Overbey, Stevens, Tate, Jim Tracy, Bo Watson, Ken Yager, Jeff Yarbro, Mr. Speaker McNally -- 25.


          Senators voting no were: Mae Beavers, Janice Bowling, Dolores Gresham, Joey Hensley, Frank S. Niceley, Kerry Roberts -- 6.


House

HB0534 by Casada - FLOOR VOTE: AS AMENDED PASSAGE ON THIRD CONSIDERATION 4/19/2017
Passed
          Ayes...............................................60
          Noes...............................................37

          Representatives voting aye were: Akbari, Alexander, Bill Beck, Harry Brooks., Keven Brook., Camper, Carr, Carter, Clemmons, Coley, Cooper, Curcio, Daniel, DeBerry, Doss, Dunn, Eldridge, Farmer, Favors, Craig Fitzhugh, Forgety, Brenda Gilmore, Gravitt, Halford, Hazlewood, Hicks, Holsclaw, Howell, Darren Jernigan, Johnson, Sherry Jones, Keisling, Harold M. Love, Jr., Susan Lynn, Marsh, McCormick, McDaniel, Miller, Mitchell, Parkinson, Pitts, Jason Powell, Ragan, Ramsey, Sanderson, Charles Sargent, Shaw, Smith, Staples, Mike Stewart, Swann, Thompson, Tillis, Towns, Travis, Turner, White M., Whitson, Wirgau, Madam Speaker Harwell -- 60.


          Representatives voting no were: Sheila Butt, Byrd, Calfee, Crawford, Jeremy Faison, Gant, Goins, Hardaway, Hawk, Hill M., Hill T., Andy H. Holt, Hulsey, Kane, Kumar, Lamberth, Mary Littleton, Lollar, Judd Matheny, Matlock, Moody, Mark Pody, Powers, Reedy, Courtney Rogers, Rudd, Sexton C., Sexton J., Sherrell, Sparks, Terry, Van Huss, Terri Lynn Weaver, Dawn White , Williams, Windle, Zachary -- 37.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

What happened at the 4-18-17 Council meeting: Dr. Walker honored, landfill bill advances, new sidewalk policy adopted, standards for corporate welfare established.



If you are going to watch the meeting, you really need a copy of the agenda and the staff analysis. To access those documents as well as my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

As always mayoral appointments to boards and commissions are approved without dissent and all bills on First Reading are approved by a single vote.  At the start of the meeting there is a presentation honoring the non-profit organization Family and Children's Services. Consideration of legislation does not get underway until timestamp 14:50 in the video.

Bishop Joseph W. Walker III
honored
BILL NO. BL2017-656 is taken out of order and is considered first to accommodate a large number of people are in the audience on this bill.  This is the bill to name the bridge over I-40 / I-65 between 11th Avenue North & 12th Avenue North along the 1100 block of Jefferson Street in honor of Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III. Last Council meeting this proved contentious and  there was a 21 minute discussion on the issue and it required a roll call vote. Several of the Black council members take to the floor to praise Dr. Walker.
The issue is raised as to whether or not Metro has the authority to name the bridge.  The bridge is over an interstate and the state owns the land.  It is unclear who owns the bridge. This bill passes on Third reading on a roll call vote of 30 in favor, 8 abstentions and none opposed. To see the discussion of this bill see timestamp 15 - 25:40. 
To read The Tennessean report on the issue follow this link.


Resolutions of interest:
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-615 by Councilman Grover would would require that when an agency of the government request Capital improvement funding, to inform the Metropolitan Council at the same time of such submissions to the Director of Finance.  At the request of the sponsor, this is deferred two meetings.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-616 by Councilman Glover would adopt a new policy requiring a maximum limit of 10% on the annual budget as the amount of funds budgeted to service debt. At the request of the sponsor, it is deferred two meetings.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-640  proposes several amendments to the Metro Charter.  This is deferred indefinitely at the request of the sponsor.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-646 and RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-647 declare some Metro owned parcels of property "surplus" and transfers them to the Barnes Fund and names and appropriates money to selected non-profits to develop affordable housing on those parcels. The non-profit agencies receiving grants are New Level Community Development Corporation, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville, Woodbine Community Organization, and Rebuilding Together Nashville. These passes on  a voice vote.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-648 selects of the Neighborhoods Resource Center to operate the Codes Offender School.  The Codes Offender School will be much like the DUI School, and the Animal Offender School already in existence. An offender can pay a fee of $90 to attend the indoctrination session rather than face legal consequences. The Neighborhood Resource Center is a liberal advocacy organization. This passes on the consent agenda.
Bills on Second Reading of interest:
BILL NO. BL2016-484 would give Metro more control over the approval of landfills, solid waste disposal facilities and solid waste processing facilities prior to the construction of such facilities and prior to the issuance of a permit by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) or the Commissioner.  This is essentially replacing Metro's current procedure with a State approved plan known as the "Jackson law."  While this bill, on the one hand, gives Metro more control it also in some ways takes away some Metro authority. It increases the notification requirements, requires a bill with three reading rather than approving a landfill by resolution which is only one reading and it does some other good things. On the other hand, Metro would lose some authority in that an unhappy applicant for a landfill could appeal to Chancery Court. On balance, I think this is a good bill, but it is not simply.  The bill is passed on Second Reading and re-referred to Public Works Committee. It passes by a vote of 28 to 8 with 3 abstentions. To see the  discussion see timestamp 47:30 - 1:17:52
BILL NO. BL2017-645   would allow passengers in horse-drawn carriages to drink and ride as long as the beverage was in a plastic or Styrofoam cup. This is deferred indefinitely.
BILL NO. BL2017-646   would prohibit a company from installing surveillance equipment, such as cameras and 16 other types of technology that captured activity on a public sidewalk or street without prior Council approval.  This is deferred two meetings at the request of the sponsor.
Bills on Third Reading of interest:
BILL NO. BL2016-219 is a bill to take away an owners property rights and kill a proposed affordable housing development. It was deferred indefinitely following the public hearing on July 6, 2016. This bill would take away an owner's property rights by denying the property owner the right to  develop the  property as he currently has a right to do.  This development was all set to go mid last year and Karen Johnson, the district council member, had this bill on the agenda. The bill was deferred indefinitively at that time. This bill is deferred to the second meeting in December. The property owner could have exercised his rights to develop this property at any time. Why he has not moved forward with the development I don't know.
SECOND SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-493  is the sidewalk bill which tightens up the requirements that developers build sidewalks. This makes it more difficult for a developer to pay money into a fund rather than build sidewalks. Developers have criticized the bill as forcing them to build sidewalks to no where The Council has worked on this a long time. The Chamber initially had reservations about this bill but ended up supporting the final bill. The Homebuilders Association opposed the bill. In the discussion of the bill, the sponsor said, "Every person is a pedestrian, and the ability to walk where you need to go is a fundamental civic right." That has got to be one of the stupidest things I have ever heard a council member say.  Unfortunately however, the term "rights" is now used to define anything you would like and feel entitled to. A "right" can even be a claim against the wealth or liberty of another.  "Rights" used to  mean liberties. "Rights" were freedoms that no one could justifiable deny one.  I like sidewalks, but they are not a "right." It is fuzzy thinking like this that endanger our liberties. This bill passes on a voice vote. To see the discussion see, timestamp
1:31:36 -1:35:33. To read The Tennessean story on topic, follow this link.
BILL NO. BL2017-641   and BILL NO. BL2017-642  are two bills disapproved by the Planning Commission. I am only calling attention to them because they are disapproved. To pass a disapproved bill requires 27 votes on third reading whereas an approved bill only requires a majority of those voting. Sometimes it can prove difficult to get a disapproved bill passed by the Council. The first one cancels a PUD on a property and second rezones the property for a self-storage facility. It appears the developer has done his homework and accommodated neighbors concerns, including setting aside part of the property as green space. The bills have the support of the Planning Committee of the Council. Both bills pass. To see the discussion see timestamp 1:47:26 - 1:52:18.
BILL NO. BL2017-643 by Councilman Cooper sets a standard for awarding economic incentive grants. It says, "the amount of the economic and community development incentive grant during any year will be determined by multiplying the average number of new full time equivalent employees of the qualified company within the boundaries of the metropolitan government during the preceding year by an amount up to five hundred dollars."   This is a good bill. While in a perfect world I would oppose any economic incentive grants, if other cities provide them and Nashville does not, we lose.  This at least establishes some standards for when they should be awarded. It passes. To see the floor action see timestamp 1:52:20 - 1:54:29.


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A humor break: Where Are Trumps Tax Returns?

During a recent Trump stop, a heckler from the audience hollered, "Hey Trump, where are you hiding your tax returns?

President Trump politely responded, "I've found a very secure place that I'm certain they won't be found."

The insistent heckler, then shouted, "And just where is that, dummy"?

President Trump smiled and said, "They are underneath Obama's college records, his passport application, his immigration status as a student, his funding sources to pay for college, his college records, and his Selective Service registration. What's your next question?"

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017


The Bastiat Society meetings are always enjoyable.  They are a great opportunity to network and fellowship with fellow conservatives and the speakers are visiting scholars and top-notch experts in their field. To view the Bastiat Society Facebook page follow this link.

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New Documents Reveal Real Source of Homesharing Opposition

BY JUSTIN OWEN, The Beacon Center, April 19, 2017 - The hotel industry has teamed up with affordable housing advocates, unions, and “other progressive entities” (their words, not mine) to shut down its competition.

For the past two years, we have heard the steady drumbeat of NIMBYism (not in my back yard) by those who oppose homesharing. People have showed up at local council meetings in cities across the state telling the horror stories of the Airbnb next door. Drunken bachelor parties, nudity, debauchery, the anecdotes abound. According to them, homesharing should be severely restricted or even banned outright. But is homesharing really such a pariah, and is the opposition to it really driven by concerned neighbors?

When you peel back the layers of the onion, the real answer begins to stink. First off is this recent report in the Tennessean, which shows that actual complaints against homesharing do not match the rhetoric. Since April 2015, there have been 975 complaints against short-term rentals in Nashville. That may sound like a high number, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the 457,000 total complaints against homeowners citywide during that time period. So bad homesharing actors represent a mere two-tenths of one percent of all complaints. 

If there really are so few actual complaints against homesharing, then where does all of this opposition originate? Well Washington, D.C., of course, the source of most manufactured crises.

Documents obtained by Reason.com show that the American Hotel and Lodging Association has launched a concerted campaign against homesharing to cut out its competition. According to the leaked documents, the hotel industry has teamed up with affordable housing advocates, unions, and “other progressive entities” (their words, not mine) to shut down its competition and create a negative national narrative to rein in homesharing.

The association boasts about its ability to get New York to ban almost all homesharing and securing stringent regulations on homesharing elsewhere. The documents even reference success in Tennessee, where the hotel industry and taxpayer-funded city lobbyists have tried to kill legislation to protect homeowners’ ability to rent out their homes short-term.

Isn’t it ironic that powerful hotel industry lobbyists in D.C. are waging a local war against Nashville homeowners by attacking so-called out-of-state special interests? They should remember that anytime you point your finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you. More importantly, state legislators should remember that the “protect our neighborhoods” and “preserve local control” crowds are taking their marching orders from those same high-powered, out of touch D.C. lobbyists.

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Mason Weaver guest speaker at Republican Women of Williamson County event.

 

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Simplifying Our Tax System

by U.S. Representative Phil Roe, M. D., 1st District of Tennessee - Every April, instead of enjoying springtime, Americans will spend countless hours on long tax forms and working through confusing tax rules. This year, Tax Day falls on April 18th with Easter and Emancipation Day affecting the federal holiday schedule. In their 2015 annual report to Congress, the Taxpayer Advocate Service found that, in fiscal year 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collected over $2.8 trillion dollars. In the IRS’s 2016 annual report to Congress, it is reported that taxpayers and businesses spend around six billion total hours a year complying with tax-filing requirements. There’s no question our tax code is too complicated, and taxes for hardworking families are too high.
President Donald Trump promised to reform our bloated, overly complicated tax code, and I strongly support him in this effort. Tax reform won’t just help families keep more of their hard-earned pay, but it will make them more financially secure during a time when our economy is still recovering from the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. If done correctly, tax reform can also help keep and bring jobs back to the United States. We are going to work to replace our complicated and confusing tax code with a leaner, simplified and more competitive plan than ever before. House Republicans are proposing a plan so simple that, if adopted, taxpayers will be able to file their income taxes on a post card, rather than spend much of their time and money trying to follow our complicated tax laws.
In House Republicans’ Better Way agenda, an effort to address our nation’s most pressing issues led by Speaker Paul Ryan which can be reviewed at better.gop, we lay out a three-pronged approach to tackling our burdensome tax code. First, we prioritize making the tax code simpler and fairer. Our plan consolidates the seven existing tax brackets into three. We also would create a larger standard deduction and more generous child tax credit, so hard-working families will be able to bring home more of their hard-earned pay checks. By streamlining and realigning the IRS system, we can overhaul our business tax system so that it is built for growth. I’m confident we can develop commonsense proposals to simplify our current tax system and lower taxes.
The second important prong of comprehensive tax reform is to utilize our tax code to promote jobs and economic growth. Right now, our tax code is so complicated and poorly written that it often times incentivizes businesses to move their operations overseas. Right now, America is following – not leading – the world in tax rates; in fact, the United States has the highest corporate tax rate out of developed countries in the world. An astounding 160 countries worldwide have consumption-based tax systems, meaning they do not tax their exports but do tax imports. Our system, however, taxes domestic manufacturers, meaning they have to pay taxes both here and in the country in which they sell their goods. Lowering the corporate tax rate and adopting a tax code that doesn’t discourage companies from making goods domestically would incentivize businesses to bring and keep more jobs in the United States and out of foreign countries.
Under the final prong, we reform the IRS. If we create a simpler, fairer tax code, we can also create an IRS focused on putting taxpayers first. After years of politically-motivated scandals out of the IRS, it’s clear Americans deserve a fair arbiter of any disputes that arise.
With the leadership of President Trump and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, who has clearly expressed his sense of urgency for pursuing comprehensive tax reform, I am confident that we can accomplish a simplified and streamlined tax code. I look forward to fixing our broken and outdated tax system to put taxpayers first.

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Muslims and Homosexual activist to fight Mark Green's nomination as Army Secretary

Muslims, LGBT advocates prepare to fight Mark Green's nomination as Army secretary

Mark Green
WASHINGTON — State Sen. Mark Green is facing more opposition over his nomination to become Army secretary.

A Muslim advocacy group announced last week it will oppose Green’s nomination because of past statements he made that the organization considers derogatory toward the Islamic faith and its followers.

“His Islamophobic, anti-Muslim comments demonstrate he is not able to lead a diverse, modern Army that includes Muslim soldiers, as well as maintain good relations with allied Muslim countries fighting the war on terrorism,” said Robert McCaw, government affairs director for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. (link)

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Ben Cunningham is launching a referendum effort aimed at capping Metro's debt at its current level

Ben Cunningham is launching a referendum effort aimed at capping Metro's debt at its current level. Details to follow as they become available.

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Brenda Gilmore announces run for Thelma Harper's Nashville Senate seat

Brenda Gilmore announces run for Thelma Harper's Nashville Senate seat

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What is on the Council agenda for April 18th: Taking of property rights, curtailing surveillance, getting a handle on city debt, and establishing standards for corporate welfare.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you don't have to and yet can still be a well-informed citizen of our city.  If, however, you are going to watch the council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis, otherwise you will be clueless about what is going on.  Follow the highlighted links above to view the agenda and staff analysis.

There are six appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously. There are no public hearings this council meeting.  There are 18 bills on First Reading but bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in rare cases. I usually do not read bills until they get to Second Reading.


There are 23 resolutions on the consent agenda. Resolutions on "consent" are passed by a single vote of the council instead of being voted on individually. All resolution are initially on "consent," however, 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.  Most of the resolutions are routine things like accepting grants. Here are the resolutions of interest. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-615 by Councilman Grover would would require that when an agency of the government request Capital improvement funding, to inform the Metropolitan Council at the same time of such submissions to the Director of Finance.  This seems like a wise move.  The Council needs to be involved early in the process of exerting control over the city's debt. 

 RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-616 by Councilman Glover adopt a new policy requiring a maximum limit of 10% on the annual budget as the amount of debt service funds appropriated to service bonds. When the city borrows money, the amount of money it takes to pay the bonds which finance the borrowed money is a part of the annual operating budget and is called "debt service." The city has never had a policy establishing a limit on debt service. My inclination is to support this effort but I have some questions. If the city should have a reduction in revenue, then a debt service that may have been less than 10% could then be more than 10%.  How would that be resolved? Also, how would this effect our bond rating?  Also, the Council cannot restrict a future council's spending.  I support the effort to get control of Metro's spending.  In addition to debt service, Metro pension and health insurance liabilities are areas of concern and should be addressed.  I think the city should go from a defined pension benefit system to a defined pension contribution system, but no one has proposed such.  The city is awash in money now, but someday there is bound to be a slow down.  While cutting budgets are painful, if parts of the budget are beyond the council's control such as debt service and pension obligations, then budget reductions become much more difficult. For those who want a better understanding of this issue, you may want to watch the Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Monday April 17th. 
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-640  proposes several amendments to the Metro Charter.  If approved by the Council, the proposed charter amendments would go on the ballot to be voted on by the public in August 2019.  This would do nothing substantial. Anywhere were the term “tax assessor” is used in the Charter it would change it to “assessor of property.” This is to conform to a State change. This was deferred last Council meeting. The staff analysis says it should be deferred indefinitely.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-646 and RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-647 declare some Metro owned parcels of property "surplus" and transfers them to the Barnes Fund and names and appropriates money to selected non-profits to develop affordable housing on those parcels. The non-profit agencies receiving grants are New Level Community Development Corporation, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville, Woodbine Community Organization, and Rebuilding Together Nashville.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-648 selects of the Neighborhoods Resource Center to operate the Codes Offender School. This is disappointing and if I were serving in the Metro Council I would vote against it. The Codes Offender School will be much like the DUI School, and the Animal Offender School already in existence. An offender can pay a fee of $90 to attend the indoctrination session rather than face legal consequences. The Neighborhood Resource Center is a liberal advocacy organization. 
Bills on Second Reading. There are 16 bills on Second Reading. Most of them are abandoning unneeded sewer easements and water easements and other routine business. These are the bill of interest.
BILL NO. BL2016-484 would give Metro approval of landfills, solid waste disposal facilities and solid waste processing facilities prior to the construction of such facilities and prior to the issuance of a permit by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) or the Commissioner. I support this. This is more complex than it appears, however. To learn more, please read the staff analysis.
BILL NO. BL2017-645   would allow passengers in horse-drawn carriages to drink and ride as long as the beverage was in a plastic or Styrofoam cup. This sounds reasonable to me. This was on Second Reading last Council meeting and deferred to this meeting. At that time the brand name "Styrofoam" was replaced by "foam cup."
BILL NO. BL2017-646   would prohibit a company from installing surveillance equipment, such as cameras and 16 other types of technology that captured activity on a public sidewalk or street without prior Council approval.  I understand the civil
liberties implication of constant surveillance.  On the other hand, a lot of crimes have been solved by private cameras that have captured illegal activity.  I do not see much difference between what a camera may capture and what a security guard may witness. However, this has been amended with exemptions and clarifications and I think I would support this.  This was on Second Reading last meeting and deferred to this meeting.
Bills on Third Reading: These are 31 bills on Third Reading and not much that is of interest. Most are rezoning bill and they have all been approved by the Planning Commission. Here is this one of interest. 
BILL NO. BL2016-219 is a bill to take away an owners property right and kill a proposed affordable housing development. It was deferred indefinitely following the public hearing on July 6, 2016. This bill would take away an owner's property rights by denying the property owner the right to  develop the  property as he currently as a right to do.  This development was all set to go mid last year and Karen Johnson, the district council member, had this bill on the agenda. Why the owner has not already started development, I do not know.

Back in July, the hearing on the bill had both proponents and opponents with neighbors arguing it would "ghettoize" their community and several speakers arguing in favor of property rights. Apparently many Council members had concern about the bill. Unless circumstances have changed and the owner's financing fell through or something,  mostly likely the owner could win a law suit suing the city for taking his property should he bring suit. To take away a permitted use is a "taking."  Property rights are more than just holding legal title.  When property is taken it should only be for a public purpose and owners should be compensated for their loss.  I know we now have a very liberal Metro Council, but I suspect even many liberals are not comfortable trampling property rights.  If they are unconcerned about trampling property rights, they are probably concerned about exposing the city to a law suit the city is most likely going to lose and the loss of future State assistance in the form of tax credits the state has threatened to withhold  should this  bill pass.

At the time this bill was deferred indefinably, an article appeared in the Tennessean, in which Johnson said while her proposed ordinance is considered still active the indefinite deferral will prevent the developer from getting permits needed to begin construction on the project. I did not see the logic of her reasoning since the owner already had all of the rights he needed to proceed.  Metro Planning Director Doug Sloan apparently also did not see Johnson's logic either and told The Tennessean that because the owner's  rights are vested, the developer should be able to move forward with getting permits approved. Why the owner has not moved forward, I do not know.

To see the discussion of this bill see timestamp 16:47- 1:00:45 in the video at this link.  Here is the Tennessean report on what transpired:

by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean, July 6, 2016 - In a surprise move Tuesday, Councilwoman Karen Johnson led the indefinite deferral of her legislation that would down-zone property in order to block a project for low-income residents called The Ridge at Antioch, a 96-unit apartment complex that Arkansas-based RichSmith Development has planned for Forest View Drive near Murfreesboro Pike. .... “I’m not giving up on it, but there are a lot of questions because it’s a complex issue,” Johnson said. “Many council members have not had low-income tax credit properties in their districts. .... Johnson said she plans to bring the bill back up to be placed on the council's Oct. 18 agenda. (link)
There is a certain amount of hypocrisy at play in this issue.  The leading proponent of killing this proposal to build affordable housing are some of the leading proponents of affordable housing in the Council. 

SECOND SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2016-493  is the sidewalk bill which tightens up the requirements that developers build sidewalks. This makes it more difficult for a developer to pay money into a fund rather than build sidewalks.  This requires a developer to build a a sidewalk even when there are no other sidewalks on the street. One opponent of this bill points out that streets will have pieces of sidewalks to nowhere.  That is my understanding of what this bill would accomplish. It is also pointed out that due to grading slopes and drainage issues, that it is difficult to build sidewalks 50 feet at a time, that in the end all the pieces may not fit and that sidewalks need to be engineered corner to corner. This has been worked on for a long time and deferred about three times before on Second reading. This bill I assume is another revision. When on Second Readng several people spoke on the bill. It passes by voice vote and made amendable on Third Reading. To view the discussion when on Second  see timestamp 52:36-1:21:12 in the video at this link.
BILL NO. BL2017-641   and BILL NO. BL2017-642  are two bills disapproved by the Planning Commission. I have no opinion on the merits of the bills but am only calling attention to them because they are disapproved. To pass a disapproved bill requires 26 votes on third reading whereas an approved bill only requires a majority of those voting. The first one cancels a PUD on a property and second rezones the property for a self-storage facility. It appears the developer has done his homework and accommodated neighbors concerns, including setting aside part of the property as green space.
BILL NO. BL2017-643 by Councilman Cooper would set a standard for awarding economic incentive grants. It says, "the amount of the economic and community development incentive grant during any year will be determined by multiplying the average number of new full time equivalent employees of the qualified company within the boundaries of the metropolitan government during the preceding year by an amount up to five hundred dollars."   This is a good bill. While in a perfect world I would oppose any economic incentive grants, if other cities provide them and Nashville does not, we lose.  This at least establishes some standards for when they should be awarded. It passed on a voice vote on Second Reading. 
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 can stand the suspense and just wait I will post the video here and provide commentary.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

A report from Caffeinated Conservatives meeting of April 15.

Hi All, 

This is a follow-up to our Caffeinated Conservatives meeting of April 15 with Bobbie Patray of the Tennessee Eagle Forum as our featured speaker.  It was a great meeting, and well attended considering it's the Easter weekend.

Bobbie talked about a variety of issues being discussed in the state legislature this year.  One of her first topics was Tennessee being the first state to file a lawsuit against the federal government for violating the 10th Amendment of the Constitution with regard to the federal refugee resettlement programs.  While laws and administration of immigration are set at the federal level, there are huge costs to Tennessee taxpayers who are not having a say in the matter. 

The discussion then rolled into the issue of in-state tuition for illegals, which has been proposed in two separate bills in the legislature.  One bill was killed last week in a House committee, but the second bill HB 660 / SB 635 sponsored by Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) and Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), respectively, is still in play. 

Bobbie shared a link in her newsletter to The Tennessee Star article, which she said explained the current situation very well.  You can find that story here:


Bobbie also mentioned that to get educated on the political aspects of Islam (not religious), Dr. Bill Warner is an excellent source.  Dr. Warner is a well-known researcher and authority on the topic, and speaks frequently to packed venues in Europe.  His website can be found here:


Gene Wisdom, during the announcements portion of the coffee talk, mentioned The Bastiat Society, named for Frenchman Frederic Bastiat, best known for his essay translated as "The Law."  The essay was first published in 1850 after the third French Revolution and is based in the same theory as the US Constitution - that each of us has a natural right - from GOD - to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that philanthropy is a bottomless pit that should not be taken on by government.  A quick synopsis of the book can be found on Wikipedia here:


And, if you're interested in going to a meeting of the Society, see below for information.  Thanks, Gene, for sharing.

In closing, it's worth repeating what Bobbie said about "closing the circle" of information.  When you receive the Tennessee Eagle Forum newsletter, or read or a factual story/article (hopefully that would include The Tennessee Star), please share it.  You all have been taking the time for a long time to get educated and understand the issues.  Don't let that end with you.  Doing something is a whole lot better than doing nothing.

And, please don't forget to support your legislator if they're doing the right thing.  It's a whole lot easier to do that, if it's your first foray into dealing with politicians.  Here's a link to the Tennessee General Assembly website.  If you need help with contacting your legislator or a particular piece of legislation, we encourage you to reach out to us.  We'd be more than happy to assist.


With that, Easter blessings to you all,

Laura and Kevin

PS See you on May 20th, 12 to 2 pm, Uncommon Grounds, Donelson Avenue, Old Hickory

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