Thursday, April 6, 2017

What happened on the April 4th Council meeting: anti-Trump bill dies, sidewalk bill passes, controversy over honoring Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III, water rates increase.

The meeting does not start until timestamp 33:50. The first part of the video is announcements which occur before the start of the meeting. 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.

Following the pray and pledge of allegiance, there is a special presentation honoring Tommy Lynch a retiring long-time metro employee who served with the Parks Department.  Confirmation of appointees to Boards and Commissions pass without descent.

The Vice Mayor announces the vacancy of the seat on General Sessions Court due to the resignation of the disgraced Judge Casey Moreland. The Council will fill this seat and nominations must be submitted by the nominating Council member by Tuesday, April 11 at 4PM. At the May 16 meeting the Council will select the new judge.  Metro Council is often a stepping stone for service as a General Session Judge.  Do not be surprised if several of the lawyers on the council vie for this seat. Councilman Sam Coleman is one councilman running for this position. There can be a lot of intense politicking to win this coveted appointment.  Usually the Council has filled these vacancies with one of their own. For more on the process of filling this appointment see, Who will replace Judge Moreland?

Bills on Public Hearings. Much of the meeting is public hearings on zoning matters and I watched much of it in double speed and skipped over some of it.  Most zoning matters are only of interest to a few nearby neighbors.  I try to point out the bills on public hearing that are particularly controversial or are disapproved by the Planning Commission or have policy implications. If, you want to be sure I didn't miss something important to you may want to watch the meeting for yourself.  Here are the Public Hearing items of interest:
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. There is still another version of this bill pending. Several people speak on the bill. It passes by voice vote and is amendable on Third Reading. To view the discussion see timestamp 52:36-1:21:12.
BILL NO. BL2017-641   and BILL NO. BL2017-642  are two bills disapproved by the Planning Commission. 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.  To pass a disapproved bill requires 26 votes on third reading whereas an approved bill only requires a majority of those voting. This passes on Second Reading. 
Resolutions. There are not any resolutions of particular interest, most are routine things. RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-640  which proposes several housekeeping amendments to the Metro Charter is deferred indefinitely and RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-642  which ask Judge Moreland to resign is withdrawn. Judge Moreland has already resigned.

Bills on First Reading pass by a single vote as is the norm.

Bills on Second Reading. There are 15 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. BL2016-498   requires 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 (1) year. This passes on a voice vote with no opposition and is deferred to the second meeting in may and made amendable on Third. 
 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. It passes on a voice vote.

BILL NO. BL2017-644  is a bill aimed at President Trump. It would prohibit the use

Metro Council to the President: Do not come to Nashville without
three years income tax returns
of any public facility or property by a President or candidate unless that individual has made public their income tax returns for the three (3) most recent taxable years. The Council has no business getting involved in this controversy. At the request of the sponsor it is deferred indefinitely. There is no public discussion and I do not know what went on behind the scene.
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. The brand name "Styrofoam" is changed to "foam"and the bills is deferred one meeting.
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 one meeting.BILL NO. BL2017-656 would 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. Surprisingly this proves controversial. Metro has a policy of not naming streets after living persons but can name structures. It looks like there is some sort of petty jealousy among the Black members of the Council. There is a failed attempt to defer the bill and it then passes on a roll call vote of Council member Sharon Hurt voting "no," 29 voting "yes," four abstentions and six not voting. For the discussion see timestamp 2:47:30- 3:08:08.
Bills on Third Reading: These are 24 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 ones of interest.  
BILL NO. BL2016-483 requires the police department to provide a quarterly report to the Council on how many traffic stops were made and what happened as a result of the stops. such as how many pat downs and how many searches and the race of the person stopped. This has been deferred a couple times before. This information is already available upon request. This appears to serve no purpose other than to show sympathy for the concern of Black activist. It passes on a roll call vote of 26 yes, 6 no, and 2 abstentions.
BILL NO. BL2017-581   grants full investigative authority to the Metropolitan Auditor in order to allow for independent audits and reviews of all Metropolitan Government departments, boards and commissions as well as the performance of contracts by entities that contract with the Metropolitan Government. It passes on a voice vote.
SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2017-585 and  BILL NO. BL2017-586 (as amended) expands animal protections. 585 adds protections for pregnant animals, nursing animals and young animals from extreme cold or hot weather. 586 expands existing protections for animals, county-wide where as now the protections only apply in the USD. They pass on a voice vote.
BILL NO. BL2017-588  raises water rates. It amends the graduated storm water user fee schedule. This fee is part of one's water bill and pays for the handling of storm water runoff. Those with larger homes or other impervious surfaces greater than 2,000 feet would pay more under this change. This passed on a voice vote on Second reading and no one speaking  against it. To read The Tennessean coverage of this issue, follow this link. It passes without discussion.

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