Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What happened at the 11/20/2017 Council meeting: $133.2 million in general obligation bonds approved, demolition of Fairground buildings defeated, banning rope lighting deferred.

To access the Council agenda, the Council staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

This meeting is  an hour and 45 minutes long. All mayoral appointments to boards and commissions are approved without dissension. Most Resolutions are approved lumped together on the "consent" agenda agenda. Below are the items of interest.


RESOLUTION RS2017-963  approves the issuance of up to $133.2 million in  general obligation bonds to provide funding for various projects contained in the Mayor’s mid-year Capital Spending Plan. This planned spending is for projects known about and approved. It includes additional funding for a planned community ice center in Bellevue operated by the Nashville Predators, additional funding for the ongoing renovation of Hillsboro High School, construction of a new Metro police headquarters on Murfeesboro Pike, and reconstruction of the Criminal Justice Center, which houses the downtown jail. All of these projects are already under way. There are a few questions asked from the floor but no real controversy. Most discussion of legislation takes place in committee. If you want to learn more about this issue, you may want to watch the Budget and Finance Committee meeting. This resolution passes on a voice vote.
RESOLUTION RS2017-965  declares certain properties as surplus and gives the property to selected nonprofit organizations, and authorizes grants of up to $4.5 million from the Barnes Fund for affordable housing to the selected nonprofit organizations for the purpose of constructing and rehabilitating affordable or "workforce" housing. This is fulfillment of what is already a policy. To see the address of the properties and a list of the non-profits and how much each receive, read the bill. The Woodbine Community Organization gets $1.2 million which is the largest grant. This was approved on the consent agenda.

RESOLUTION RS2017-966  authorizes the Mayor to employ the law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann &Bernstein, LLP, as special counsel to pursue claims against manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids that have "wrongfully caused drug addiction in Davidson County." In some cases the law firm could get up to 20% of any money awarded the city. A question is asked and answered as to how this firm was selected. RFP's were issued to ten firms. Five of them submitted proposals. Questions are asked by Black members of the Council as to the diversity of the law firm selected. Not getting an answer to the question a motion is made to defer the matter. The motion to defer is approved by a vote of 22 to 15.

While I have absolutely no reason to question the process, but having an inquiring mind, I would like to know which of the firms had employees that made political contributions to mayoral candidates and to whom they contributed and how much. If I were a news organization with staff, I would research this question.
 Bills on First reading: There are 21 bills on first reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda and they are not considered by committee until after they pass first reading. Bills on First Reading are all lumped together and usually pass by a single vote except in extremely rare cases. This is one of those cases.
BILL BL2017-950  approves the demolition of  Fairgrounds buildings necessary to construct, improve, renovate and equip the Major League soccer stadium and stadium-related infrastructure referenced in Resolution No. RS2017-910. Due to a charter requirement, it takes 27 votes on third and final reading to approve any changes at the fairground. The referenced resolution is the resolution passed last council meeting to issue bonds for the soccer stadium deal. Included in that soccer stadium deal was an understanding that some of the old building on the fairgrounds would be replaced. That resolution itself however did not approve any changes at the fairground. It approved a bond issue and an accompanying financial arrangement. The problem with this bill is that none of the buildings are identified and it appears to be a blank check to tear down buildings at the fairgrounds without knowing what will be replaced. I do not like that. However, it seems to me that this bill should have been allowed to pass on first reading so questions could be answered and a full discussion could have taken place in committee and then the bill could have been defeated or amended or passed. Debating bills on First Reading defeats the purpose of the committee system. Many on the council appear confused about how to vote and the impact of their vote and I share that confusion. This bills is deferred indefinitely. Maybe there was a reason to defeat this on First reading, but if so I don't understand it.
Bills on Second Reading. There are 13 bills on Second Reading. These are the ones of interest.
BILL BL2017-949 codifies what is already a policy of metro and establishes a debt management policy for the city.  Metro would be prohibited from issuing or incurring any debt in violation of this debt management policy unless approved in advance by Council resolution. To understand the policy, see the bill and the staff analysis. This is a good bill. It passes on a voice vote.

BILL BL2017-952 says that private consultants and contractors who offer services assessing the initial cost, feasibility or adoption of a public project would be prohibited from subsequently bidding on the actual project. This seems like a reasonable policy. It is deferred one meeting. 

BILL BL2017-953  restrict door-to-door commercial solicitation to daylight hours. As one who once sold cable TV door-to-door when Viacom was new to Nashville, this seems overly restrictive, especially in the winter when it is dark at 5:30. When I was selling cable, I often worked till 8PM. This is deferred one meeting.
Bills on Third Reading. There are 27 bills on third reading. Most are zoning bills that have been approved by the Planning Commission or are approved subject to modification as recommended by the Planning Commission. Below are the ones of interest. 
Image result for rope lights outdoorBILL BL2017-903 bans decorative "rope lighting" on any building, sign, or property with non-residential zoning located adjacent to an arterial or collector street except those in the downtown area. A previous version of this would have banned it everywhere on all property. Rope lighting is that lighting that you have probably seen that outlines a tree or structure. It is often used as Christmas decorations but sometimes is used year-round. Why one would want to ban this I have no idea.. The sponsor says it is for the safety of the motoring public and to protect people with epilepsy. I am not buying that explanation for a minute. This is an overreach of government. Several members speak against it and on a voice vote it is deferred one meeting.
BILL BL2017-939 would add an additional obstacle to adopting the mayor's proposed transit plan. The state enabling legislation allowing for transit improvement known as the IMPROVE Act, provides that a  transit improvement program be adopted by ordinance or resolution by majority vote of the local government’s legislative body. This bills specifies that such a plan must must be approved by ordinance rather than a resolution. A resolution only requires one vote of the Council; a ordinance requires three votes. This is a good bill. It passes.

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