Saturday, July 8, 2017

What happened at the Council meeting of 7/6/17: Sanctuary city bill withdrawn, ending lifetime health care for Council members withdrawn, ban on hourly motel rental passes.



The big news of the night is that the sanctuary city bill  was withdrawn as the sponsors had previously stated they would do. If you are going to watch the meeting, you need a program. To get a copy of the agenda, the staff analysis of the agenda and my commentary on the agenda follow this link.

The opening prayer is by Mary Murphy, Chaplin of Vanderbilt hospital, and is a not too subtle advocacy of illegal immigration.  She prays that the Lord will open the eyes of the Council to see that all people are created in God's image, male or female or trans, resident or immigrant.

Only one of the three appointees to Boards and Commission were approved and that was that of Mr. John Spragens to the Beer Board. The other two were deferred one meeting and why is not stated. The Rules and Confirmation Chairman, Councilman Jim Shulman, says the nominee was approved eight in favor and one against and then says, there are only eight people on the committee and the "no" vote voted against all resolutions on the agenda and the "no" vote was by Adacus Elrod, "who is the young son of Councilman Elrod." The nominee was approved on voice vote with no recorded "no" votes.  What?  I am baffled.  Adacus Elrod is not a member of the Council.  Why is someone not on the Rules and Confirmation Committee voting in that committee. I assume this was an attempt at humor and Adacus Elrod is a very young son of Councilman Elrod and was there and verbally said "no" when the vote was called for.  I don't know, but that must be it. I have asked for an explanation.

Public Hearing
I am only making note of those bills that were disapproved by the Planning Commission or have greater impact beyond a single neighborhood or generate a lot of public comment or for some other reason are of interest to me. 

BILL NO. BL2017-701  by Karen Johnson is a bill disapproved by the Planning Commission.  It would apply an Urban Design Overlay District on 11.25 acres on Moss Springs Rd and Bluewater Trace. An Urban Design Overlay is a tool to insure that future development or redevelopment is in character with what already exist in the neighborhood and addresses such things as height of buildings and construction material and orientation of the front door and location of the garage. Since this is a disapproved bill the Planning Commission makes a presentation and explains why the bill was disapproved.  The Planning Commission spokesman explains that the proposed UDO requires design features such as building material and driveway width that are to a higher standard than that of the existing housing. As an example, the proposed UDO requires garages to be detached or "side-loading" and he says there are existing housing that has attached "front-loading" garages. To see the discussion of this bill see timestamp 10:13. The bill is approved on a voice vote. A dissaproved bill has to have 27 positive votes on third reading.

BILL NO. BL2017-704 would ban rope lighting on a property that adjoins an arterial and collector street everywhere in Davidson County except in the core of downtown Nashville. This is deferred to the public hearing in August.

BILL NO. BL2017-719  is a bill disapproved by the planning Commission. It would change from R6 to SP zoning on one piece of property. It passes on a voice vote and no one speaks on the bill.  



BILL NO. BL2017-782 is a disapproved bill that would change from CS and R6 to RM15 zoning on property located at 622 Croley Drive. No one speaks in opposition. It passes.
Resolutions. The public hearing is concluded and resolutions are taken up at timestamp 1:27:40 in the video. None of the resolutions are of particular interest. Bills on First Reading all pass by a single vote as is the norm.

Bills on Second Reading 
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 oppose this. I do not want to give more power to neighborhood leaders who may have been elected by only the tiny fraction of the neighborhood that showed up at a community meeting called by the association.  Neighborhood organizations have no official status and no legal authority. I don't want to give them power.  This was deferred from the May 16 Council meeting to the June 6th meeting and then deferred again to this July 6th meeting. It is deferred indefinitely at the request of the sponsor.  No money for this was included in the annual budget so if passed it would have no effect since it is not funded.

BILL NO. BL2017-706 by Scott Davis would reallocate the tax money collected from homesharing (airbnb, STRP) and create a new program. Currently Metro collects a tax on STRP and the revenue is dedicated to the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing. This bill would create a new Metropolitan Neighborhood Improvement Fund (NIF) and direct that half of the revenue collected from STRP be directed to this fund. This NIF would be a new bureaucracy with an appointed board and various powers and a mission to improve neighborhoods.  I oppose this.  We do not need another bureaucracy. We already have various agencies to deal with the issues that this NIF would deal with.  I also do not think more agencies should operate off their own dedicated funds.  Funding priorities should be decided by the mayor and the council. This was on the agenda of the May 16th meeting and deferred to this July 6th meeting. It is deferred indefinitely.
Robert Swope watches Bob Mendes
give his speech advocating sanctuary policies.

BILL NO. BL2017-741 would require that private parking lots or garages post a sign listing the amount of any fines or penalties that may be charged by the parking facility and to post such information not only at entrances but also at each automatic pre-payment station for those with that type arrangement. Parking facilities must already post their parking fees at the entrance of the facility. This seem reasonable. It passes.

BILL NO. BL2017-743 is a companion bill to the sanctuary city bill.  This one would have
terminated a contract between Metro and the U.S. Marshal Service to house federal inmates. The bill is withdrawn but that does not keep the sponsor from making a speech touting the righteousness of his cause. See timestamp 1:41:14.

BILL NO. BL2017-790   modifies the provision of health insurance benefits for Council members after they leave office.   Currently policy allows Council members to participate in Metro's health insurance program under the same terms and conditions as are available to regular Metro employees. After leaving office, members who were participants in the health care plan are allowed to continue, provided they pay the full amount of the premium with no subsidy from Metro. However, if a Council held office for eight  years or more they are permitted to continue the health care plan, only paying an employee's portion and the balance of the insurance premium paid by Metro. This would leave unchanged this benefit for current or past council members but for new council member, this generous benefit would be reduced. Except in a few circumstances, no Council member serving after August 31,2019 would be eligible for the subsidized health care benefit after leaving office. I support this. Members of the Council should not get lifetime healthcare simply for serving in the Council. It is deferred indefinitely which most of time means it is killed.  
Bills on Third Reading
BILL NO. BL2017-611 is an anti Short Term Rental Properties bill.  Already an applicants for a STRP permit is  required to  include a statement with his application that "the applicant has confirmed that operating the proposed STRP would not violate any Home Owners Association agreement or bylaws, Condominium Agreement, Covenants, Codes and Restrictions or any other agreement governing and limiting the use of the proposed STRP property. "This would add requirement that an applicant advise "the department of codes administration of any objection or opposition to the application by any such association of which the applicant is aware." The bill is substituted and I am not sure what the substitute does. It is deferred indefinitely at the request of the sponsor but he explains why he is proposing the bill and says he hopes the bills objectives will be achieved in future legislation that a committee of the Council is developing that addresses several aspects of STRP.

BILL NO. BL2017-726   would add a requirement for the Department of Finance to maintain a written debt management policy for the metropolitan government. While revenue has been increasing to Metro, we have at the same time been increasing our debt obligations.  Our debt is manageable now, but if and when Metro's growth slows, along with insurance obligations to retirees and Metro Pension obligations, much of the budget will be untouchable and essential services will have to be cut. My view is that now is a time we should be reducing debt, not adding to debt. This bill would require Metro to have a debt policy including pension liability and establishes certain criteria for establishing the debt policy.  This alone will not bring fiscal responsibility to Metro Government; that takes courage and will, but this is a good step in the right direction. It is approved on a voice vote. I would like to point out that the sponsor is Bob Mendes who is also the prime sponsor of the sanctuary city bill. While I think the sanctuary city bill is the worst bill on the agenda, I think this is the best bill on the agenda. One can do something you strongly disagree with and then do something you strongly agree with in the same meeting. I would consider the sanctuary city bill a liberal proposal, but this a fiscally responsible conservative proposal.

BILL NO. BL2017-737 would subject "platform vehicles" in Nashville to the regulations of the Transportation Licensing Commission. This is vehicles like open deck buses are a trailer pulled behind a tractor.  This does not adopt specific regulations but would make these vehicles subject to regulations to be adopted by separate future legislation. It passes.

BILL NO. BL2017-738 would prohibit motels from marketing or renting rooms for a period of
Councilman Colby Sledge defends illegal immigration
before withdrawing the sanctuary city bill.


less than ten hours. 
In my view, why you rent the room for less than ten hours, should be no ones business. For a city so liberal  that it promotes acceptance of homosexuality among the youth of our city, this seems somewhat puritanical. It passes without discussion.

BILL NO. BL2017-739  is the sanctuary city bill and ends up being withdraw as the sponsor said he would do.  Councilmen Colby Sledge, the prime co-sponsor of the bill, takes to the floor to defend the bill prior to withdrawing it.  He says the illegal immigrants embody the principles of the July 5th holiday we just celebrated. He says we have an "us" versus "them" problem.  He chastises the  collective "we" for not defending illegal immigrants. He defends those who illegally enter this country.  I have posted numerous times about this controversial piece of legislation. To learn more about this issue, scale down and see previous postings. To see Colby Sledge's pro illegal immigration speech in which he essentially calls those who don't support illegal immigrants as bad people, see timestamp 2:04::20 to 2:08:24.

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