Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What's on the Council agenda for July 8th: banning decorative rope lighting, creating a new neighborhood bureaucracy, banning hotel room rentals for less than ten hours, and ending lifetime healthcare for former council members.

The Metro Council will meet Thursday July 6, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. Normally Council meetings are on the first and third Tuesday of the month but due to Tuesday being the 4th of July holiday, the meeting is moved to the sixth.  The most controversial item on the agenda is BILL NO. BL2017-739  that would make Nashville a sanctuary-like city. The sponsors of this legislation have publicly stated they will withdraw the bill.  I fully expect that to happen.

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 going on. Without an agenda, watching the council meeting is as about as exciting as watching pint dry. With an agenda it is as exciting as waiting for water to boil. I watch the meetings and provide highlights and and commentary so you can be an informed citizen of our city and yet not have to watch the meetings. You can get the agenda and analysis at the highlighted links.

There are four appointment to Boards and Commissions on the agenda and you can expect all to be approved unanimously. The council never turns down an appointment of the mayor and does not use the process of confirming appointees as an occasion to influence policy.

Public Hearing
There is one resolution and 43 Bills on Public Hearing. Bills on Pubic Hearing are also on Second Reading. I do not even attempt to understand the pros and cons of every zoning bill and they generally bore me and are usually of interest to only the people in the immediate vicinity of the rezoning. At public hearings almost all opposition comes down to (1) concern about traffic, (2) water runoff and potential for flooding, (3) overcrowding of local schools and impact on infrastructure, and (4) detrimentally changing the character of the neighborhood. You will hear the same arguments over and over. I am only pointing out the bills that I think will have an impact beyond an immediate neighborhood or have been disapproved by the Planning Commission or for some other reason are of interest. If you are really interested in zoning issues and want to know what is permitted in different zoning districts, follow this link.

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.

Bl2014-704 would make this illegal
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.  Why?  I am not buying the argument that this lighting is a hazard to motorist. I guess this means unless you live on a side street you can't use this popular form of lighting for Christmas decorations.  Is Opryland going to have end their Christmas light extravaganza?

BILL NO. BL2017-719 by Scott Davis is a disapproved bill that would change from R6 to SP zoning  property located at 2407 Brasher Avenue.

BILL NO. BL2017-742 approves the plans for a Construction and Demolition solid waste processing facility to be located at 511 Cave Road. I have no opinion on this but am simply pointing it out because there is almost always opposition to a new or expanded landfill or other solid waste processing facility. This would be the first application requesting approval of a solid waste facility following passage of BL2016-484 which changed the procedure for approving waste facilities.
There are 17 resolutions all of which are on the consent agenda. A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passed the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Since the committees have not met yet, some resolutions which are listed as on the consent agenda may not be on the consent agenda when the council meets. Bills on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government or authorizing the Department of Law to settle claims against the city or appropriating money from the 4% fund. However, some atrocious memorializing resolutions have been approved from time to time on the consent agenda. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. Any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda or have there "no" vote or abstention recorded. None on the resolutions on this agenda appear controversial.

There are 28 bills on First Reading, which are all lumped together and usually pass by a single vote without discussion. First Reading is a formality that gets a bill on the agenda. I normally do not even read bills on First Reading. 

Second Reading. Below are the bills of interest.
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 was deferred from the May 16 Council meeting to the June 6th meeting and then deferred again to this July 6th meeting.

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.

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.

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 sponsor has publicly stated this will be withdrawn.

BILL NO. BL2017-787 sits the special tax levy rate for the Gulch Central Business Improvement District and BILL NO. BL2017-788 sits the tax levy rate for the  Downtown Central Business Improvement District. As a result of the recent appraisal both rates are lowered so the special tax does not take in more revenue than before the reassessment.  

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 employees portion and the balance 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. At the time the benefit was instituted, there were no term limit and there was little turn over in the Council so there were not many former Councilmen. Also, most council members were old men so the benefit was not going to be paid for a long time. Now with the Council having mostly new members every eight years, there are a lot of former councilmen. This may be a hard sell however.  A couple years ago a similar effort failed. This is to be deferred to the Second meeting in August.
Third Reading. Below are the bills of interest.
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."

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. This should be approved.

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.

BILL NO. BL2017-738 would prohibit motels from marketing or renting rooms for a period of 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.

BILL NO. BL2017-739  is the sanctuary city bill and the sponsor has publicly stated he intends to withdraw this bill. I have posted numerous times about this controversial piece of legislation. To learn more about this issue, scale down and see previous postings.

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