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
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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