Saturday, April 1, 2017

What's on the Council agenda for April 4th, 2017? Anti-Trump bill, sidewalks, surveillance cameras, driving while Black, animal protections.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you can be a well-informed citizen of our city and still not have to watch them. 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 seven appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously.  There are 29 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 is one bill on First that needs watching; BILL NO. BL2017-586 (as amended)  would curtain the rights of people to rent their home for Short Term Rental such as Airbnb.

There is one resolution and  20 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. Below 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.  I am unsure if this requires a developer to build a a sidewalk when there are no other sidewalks on the street. This has been deferred about three times before. Since then more work as been done on the bill and it is expected that this substitute will be substituted yet again. If you are interested in this topic, I suggest you read the staff analysis. 
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. I do not have an opinion on the merits of the bills but am simply pointing out that they are disapproved bills. To pass a disapproved bill requires 26 votes whereas an approved bill only requires a majority of those voting. The sponsor has to count votes to pass an unapproved bill. If a couple council members are not present and a couple are not in the room or paying attention, it can be difficult to pass a disapproved bill. The press generally and some community activist and some Council members take a view that a disapproved bill should never be approved.  Voting for a disapproved bill is often called "councilmanic courtesy," meaning the council follows the will of the council representative of a district when it comes to zoning issues in their district. While I think the recommendation of the Planning Commission should be taken very seriously, I do not think they should never be overridden. If the Council was to always just rubber stamp the Planning Commission, then why not just make the Planning Commission the final authority? 

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. 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 couple resolutions of interest. 
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. The staff analysis says this should be deferred.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-642  ask Judge Moreland to resign. This is a little late;
he has already resigned.  If you have not kept up with the sordid scandal involving Judge Moreland, it involved having sex with women who was before his court for DWI, then dropping the charges, a suicide of one of the women, bribery attempts, planting of evidence, getting fines dismissed and more. For more, read Nashville Judge Casey Moreland resigns amid federal corruption charges and Judge Casey Moreland Arrested, Charged With Witness Tampering.
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 seems reasonable to me.  I am all for accommodating growth, but the right of the public to use public streets needs to be balanced with that accommodation.
BILL NO. BL2017-643  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."  I am tired of corporate welfare but the reality is that companies have got cities to engage in a bidding war and they will go to the city offering a good incentive. While  I do not like this way of doing business, it is hard to stop competing. We almost have to play the game.  However, their needs to be a standard as to when the incentive is worth it. This may not be a perfect standard but as of now, we have no standard. I support this.
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. I oppose this bill.
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.
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 is one of those issues about which I am conflicted and as of now, I do not have firm position. 

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 one of interest.  
BILL NO. BL2016-483 would require 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.
BILL NO. BL2017-581  would grant 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.
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.
BILL NO. BL2017-588  would amend 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.
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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