Saturday, June 10, 2017

(Update) What happened at the Council on June 6: Public hearing on the budget, celebrating homosexuality, protecting privacy.

This is a long meeting. Despite being a long meeting, it is a kind of boring meeting. If you are going to watch it, you may want to watch the public hearing on the budget in double speed. If you don't know how to do that, follow this link and learn. If you are going to watch the meeting, you need an agenda, staff analysis of the agenda and you may find my analysis and commentary on the agenda beneficial. You can these at this link.

All mayoral nominees to boards and commissions were approved by voice vote with no dissentious, including the appointed of a candidate to the Human Relations Commission.  This is the department of Metro Government that bullies people into bowing down to political correctness and that promotes normalizing homosexual activity among the youth of our city. I am disappointed that not a single council member takes an opportunity to cast an opposing vote against this useless entity of government.

Public Hearing on the Budget
The public hearing on the operating budget starts at timestamp 10:15 and ends at timestamp 2:52:09. There is really no need to watch it. Nothing very interesting is said. Each person is allowed three minutes. Numerous speakers ask for more funding for General Hospital than what is proposed in the Mayor's budget; speakers speak against the proposed Hillwood location of the new planned high school and advocate that it be located in Bellevue, speakers advocate for more spending or approval of the proposed spending for mass transit, expanded bus service, sidewalks, green ways and bike ways; speakers advocate for the proposed employee pay raise; more spending for the arts; more for educations; several speak in favor of additional funding for the program "in full motion," which helps at-risk students with additions resources; and speakers advocate for more spending for affordable housing and homeless services. Many of the speakers were employees of General Hospital and member of the SEIU Union.

No one advocates for less spending for anything, nor advocates for a tax cut, nor expresses concern about metro's growing debt liability or pension liability, nor speaks out in favor of reducing waste and inefficiency. That is the way it almost always is; those who want more government advocate all the time while those who do not only show up when a tax increase is proposed. The mayor's Operating budget is approved on second reading with no opposing votes cast. The Capital Improvements budget is also approved on Second Reading. Both the Operation Budget and the Capital Improvements budget are amendable on Third Reading.

Resolutions. Most are passed on the consent agenda which means they are not discussed and are lumped together and pass by a single vote. RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-682   which adopts the certified tax rate, as well as several other resolutions that relate to the budget are deferred to track with the budget. There are several resolutions settling lawsuits against the city and they all pass on Consent as they should. The only issue in settling a lawsuit should be is it in the city's best interest to settle rather than litigate.  Here is a resolutions of interest:

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-744 is a resolution recognizing Thursday, June 1 to
Friday, June, 30, 2017 as “Nashville Pride Month," celebrating the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities and their "enormous contributions to the quality of life in Nashville and Davidson County." This passed on the Consent agenda. I do not think we should honor a segment of the society for engaging in unnatural sex practices.  Instead of being celebrated, I think ones sexual orientation, deviancy, or fetishes should be ignored.  I am very disappointed in some who I thought may vote against this. There are several Republicans in the Council such as Robert Swope, Davette Blalock, and Sheri Weiner, and they all voted for this.  There are several others who I suspect may be Republican or I suspect they think of themselves as conservative and they all voted for it. I do not think homosexuals should be discriminated against or mistreated but being a sexual deviant is not something to honor and celebrate.  
Bills on First Reading
There are 48 bills on first reading.  All bills on First Reading are lumped together and passed by a single vote, as is the norm. There are some interesting bill on First Reading this time. One would ban party vehicles, which I assume would include pedal taverns but I don't know for sure.  One would prohibit renting any room for lodging for less than a ten hour period. For a city that honors sexual deviancy, it seems a little puritanical to prohibit one from renting a hotel room by the hour. BILL NO. BL2017-739 is on First Reading which may or may not make Nashville a "sanctuary city."  While I think I oppose some of these bills, if I were in the Council, I would honor Council tradition and not vote against any of them on First Reading.

Bills on Second Reading. There is some dissolution of a bill to approve the building of a new high school at the Hillwood location but no motions or debate.  A lot of people from Bellevue want it build in Bellevue. Below are the bills of interest:
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 foam cup. This sounds reasonable to me. It passes.

BILL NO. BL2017-687 establishes a 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. This was deferred from May 2nd and is deferred again at the request of the sponsor to the first meeting in August.

BILL NO. BL2017-705  would establish an incentive program for neighborhoods that are in full compliance with codes.  A neighborhood could be awarded $5000.  Under this plan, if a neighbor has an overgrown lot, codes could review the violation but not impose penalties and the neighborhood could exert pressure on the offender to come into compliance. I do not like this. I do not want to give more power to neighborhood leaders who may have been elected by a tiny fraction of the neighborhood.  Neighborhood organizations have no official status and no legal authority I don't want to give them power. This program could cost up to $875K per year and is not in the FY18 budget. It was deferred from the May 16 Council meeting to this meeting and is deferred again to July 6th.

BILL NO. BL2017-707  would allow Metro to purchase internet and telecom service at specific facilities without submitting those services to a competitive bidding process. It is withdrawn.

BILL NO. BL2017-723 is a bill establishing the tax levy for 2018 for the Urban Services District. Since the mayor has not proposed a tax increase, this tax levy will be the same as the certified tax rate discussed above. This is bill is amended but I do not know what changes. This passes and is amendable on Third Reading.

BILL NO. BL2017-724 establishes the low-income elderly tax relief program for 2018. This is a continuation of a program that has been in place for many year. The State provides a certain amount for tax relief for the low-income elderly and this program is Metro's expansion of the program to provide more tax relief than the State. The income limit to be eligible is $29,180 and applicants must be over the age of 65. This cost Metro $3.9 million. I support this program. It passes.

BILL NO. BL2017-725  establishes a Greenways Commission and a Conservation Assistance Grant Fund and appropriates $500K to the fund.  The purpose of this is to preserve properties having great natural, cultural, and environmental importance. From what I know about it, I support this. As we grow, it becomes important to preserve certain features of our community that make Nashville livable and enjoyable. The commission could not appropriate any funds without coming back to the Council. This passes.

BILL NO. BL2017-726 would require the Finance Department to maintain a written debt management policy for the metropolitan government. This is a good step in getting control of Metro's increasing indebtedness. It is deferred.

BILL NO. BL2017-728 would place restrictions on who can "boot" or unboot a vehicle. It would require criminal background check of those who apply for this job.  I have reservations about this. It is hard enough for ex-cons to get a job without imposing additional restrictions on what jobs they may do. This passes.
Bills on Third Reading. There are 16 bills on Third Reading. Here is one 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. I support this. We should accommodate construction but a sidewalk or street should not be closed to public use for over a year without a plan to accommodate the public. The Chamber of Commerce and the construction industry opposes this bill. The sponsor withdraws it and explains why. He explains that other reform in regards to this are in the works and he plans other legislation.  To see his comments see timestamp 3:51:07.
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. It also would prohibit the police from using license plate recording technology and restrict the stockpiling of certain date. This is a good bill.

It passes on  roll call vote of 25 form, 2 against, 3 abstaining and 9 not voting. To "abstain is to push the button that records one as abstaining. Why nine simply did not vote, I don't know. This is near the end of the agenda of a long meeting and some members may have skipped out early. If so, shame on them. There are several empty seats in the chamber. Some may have been absent or in the bathroom or distracted, or they may have just sit on their hands. To hide out in the bathroom or sit on your hands is a cowardly action, the way I see it.  Council members should have the courage to cast a vote. Nine not voting is a lot. It the sponsor would have lost five more votes the bill would have died.  On final reading a bill must pass by a "a majority vote of all the members to which the council is entitled." Even if there are vacancies in the Council, a bill on final reading must still get 21 votes. I will post the roll call tally in another post and list the names of those not voting. To see the discussion see timestamp 3:57:05.

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