Monday, June 5, 2017

(update) What's on the Council Agenda for June 6, 2017: Budget hearings, setting a new tax rate, honoring sexual deviants, giving power to neighborhoods, ...

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse.  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.

If you are going to watch the Council meeting, you need a copy of the Council agenda and the Council staff analysis or you really will not know what is under discussion.  You can get these documents at the highlighted links.

There are five appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously. One of the appointments is to the Human Relations Commission.  If I were serving in the Council I would vote against this appointee, not because I have anything against this person, but I would as a matter of principle vote against all appointees to this commission because I do not believe we should have such a commission.  It serve to intimidate people into adopting politically correct policies and they indoctrinate in liberal ideology, including the normalization of homosexuality among youth.  Unfortunately, there is no one in the Council who will speak out against this agency.

Public Hearing on the Budget
There are two bills on public hearing, one is the Operating Budget and the other is the Capital
Improvements Budget. You can expect speaker after speaker to advocate for more money for everything from affordable housing, library funding, mass transit, sidewalks and especially schools.   Those who advocate for less spending or fiscal responsibility only show up about every four years, when a mayor proposes a tax increase.  I will be surprised if there is anyone speaking who advocates for fiscal responsibility, cutting wasteful spending and cutting programs.

In cutting programs a good place to start would be by cutting the Human Relations Commission. it doesn't take a lot of money but the city should not be involved in political indoctrination and enforcing politically correct conformity. Another area I think should be cut is General Hospital. It is a money pit and there is no charter requirement or law that requires we maintain a charity hospital and since low-income people can go the hospital of their choice, General cannot fill its beds.

I am concerned about the obligation of the city for retiree pensions, retiree health insurance and debt service. As long as the city is humming along with growth as we are now, these cost are manageable but should we have slowing of growth, these are areas that are almost impossible to cut.  Since these are almost fixed cost, it means deep cuts would have to be made to other areas of government should we have an economic downturn. I think we should change from a defined benefit retirements system to the system of the federal government and most of the private sector which is defined contribution. We should limit the growth of debt service.
The Capital Improvements Budget is a planning documents and really does not appropriate any money, but prioritizes what capital improvements will be funded and says where the money to fund it will come from.

The mayor's proposed budget is for $2,209,690,100 which is a 5.86% increase over Fiscal Year 2017's budget.  The budget does not call for a tax increase. For a good understanding of the Metro budget and to see the details see, A Citizen's Guide to the Metro Budget. For a concise summary of the budget see the Council Staff analysis.

There are 35 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, and individually allowing signs to overhang the sidewalk.

There are several resolutions that are related to the budget but they are all to be deferred to track with the budget. One would adopt new fee schedule for animal control.  Others resolutions would adopt different parts of the pay plan, which  is a pay raise for metro employees. Here are the other resolutions of interest.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-682  adopts the certified tax rate. Following a general reappraisal, the local governing body must adopt a tax rate that bring in no more money than would have been brought in prior to the reappraisal. Currently the combined General Services District (GSD), which in most places would be the "county," and the Urban Services District (USD or "city") is $4.516. The new combined lower rate is $3.115.  The tax rate is applied to each $100 of assessment.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-737 pays $250K to settle a medical malpractice case against Metro.  While the details of settlements may be interesting, the only issue should be is it better for the city to settle or litigate. In this case a person died due to the actions of staff at Bordeaux Long Term Care facility. My view has always been that I trust the Legal Department to make the right decision and if they recommend settling a case out of court, we should follow that recommendation. Punishing a metro employee or mandating retraining should not be a factor in whether we settle or litigate.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-738 is another payment to settle out of court. This is for $30.6K and is the result of property damage caused by Metro water failing to cut off water to a property when requested.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-739 is another payment to settle out of court.  This also involves malpractice on the part of Bordeaux staff and is in the amount of $180,000.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-740 is another payment to settle out of court. This case involves allegations the police used excessive force in an incident and the settlement is for $ll.5K.

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." 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.  
Bills on First Reading
There are 48 bills on first reading and I normally try not to form an opinion of bills on First Reading and most of the time I do not even read them until they get to second reading. There are some interesting bill on First Reading this time, however. 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 some types of 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 would 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. All bills on First Reading will be lumped together and passed by a single vote as is the norm.

Bills on Second Reading. Below are the ones 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 Styrofoam cup. This sounds reasonable to me. The brand name "Styrofoam" was changed to "foam"when the bill was on Second Reading on April 4th. The bill was deferred to this meeting.

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.

BILL NO. BL2017-705  would establish an incentive program for neighborhood 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 at the request of the sponsor.

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. I do not yet have an opinion on this bill but it sounds suspect. I hope the committees to which this bill is assigned carefully examines it.

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 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.

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.

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.

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. 
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.

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