Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What happened at the Council meeting of 11/7/2017: Soccer deal approved, Civil forfeiture approved, and a citizens Police review board advances.

The big news of the night is the approval of RESOLUTION RS2017-910, the $225 million bond issue for the $275 million soccer deal. To see the discussion go to timestamp 1:30:37 in the video. The vote in the Budget and Finance Committee was 10 for and 3 against and two not voting. 

While the deal was tweaked to placate some opponents, the major issues remaining creating opposition was the weak guarantee that left Metro holding the bag if the team lost money or if the team owners should lose their franchise, and the give away of ten acres of fairground property to the team owners. John Cooper makes a good argument against the giveaway of the ten acres of fairground property to the developer and criticizes previous decision that allowed the fairgrounds to fall into a state of disrepair. He calls the ten acre giveaway a "gentrification scheme" that benefits the team owners. I encourage viewers to watch his remarks.

After more than an hour of discussion the resolution is approved by a vote of 31 to 6.  Those voting against the resolution were john Cooper, Steve Groper, Holly Houzo, Larry Hagar, Mina Johnson, and Dave Rosenberg.

For those really interested in the deal details you may want to read the actual resolution and see the staff analysis. Also, the discussion that took place in the Budget and Finance committee is insightful and you can view that meeting at this link.  For more on the deal and the opposition see this link. For media reporting on the Council's vote on this issue see the following:
      Channel 4, WSM:  Metro Council approves financing plan for soccer stadium
      The Tennessean: Soccer Stadium a go.

This is  long meeting at over three and half hours long.  In addition to the contentious soccer issue this is public hearing night.  The chamber is packed with spectators. To access the agenda, the agenda staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda follow this link. You will get more out of the meeting if you know what's going on. Following the prayer, pledge, an insignificant message from the mayor, two presentations, and noncontroversial confirmation of mayoral appointments to boards and commission, the consideration of legislation business starts at timestamp 20:19.

Pubic Hearing. There are two resolution and 27 bills on Public hearing. These are zoning bills or bills related to zoning policy. These really bore me and I watch these segment at double speed. Unless one lives in the vicinity of the proposed rezoning one will probably find this boring. I don't even try to form an opinion on each and every zoning issue.  None of the bills on this public hearing are particularly contentious and most had no one speak either in favor or opposition. None are bills are disapproved by the Planning Commission so we do not have to see slide shows and Planning Commission presentation. Below are the bills of interest.

BILL BL2017-903 would ban 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. The sponsor tried to pass something similar back in August (BILL NO. BL2017-704) but that bill would have applied to residential property also. This bill is not as bad as that bill, but I still do not see the necessity of this and remain opposed. 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 ideal. I like it. I oppose this bill. It is approved by the Planning Commission. No one speaks on it and it is approved.

BILL BL2017-929  is a bill to rezone property in Bordeaux area. I find this of interest not due to the merits of the bill but find it instructive of the way people think about "affordable housing."    This bill rezones some agricultural zoned property to a zoning that would allow the construction of up to 40 multi-family residential units. One person speaking on the bill, while saying she does not want to discriminate, makes it clear she does not want section 8 housing in the community.  This is not that uncommon. Many people in what is now affordable communities want their community to be upgraded with more expensive homes. They want their affordable community to not remain affordable.  Many Council members and other public advocates of affordable housing have this same attitude.  They oppose "concentration of poverty." We saw this same sentiment at play in a long drawn out fight to stop an affordable housing development in Antioch.

While I don't doubt that advocates of affordable housing actual want to see the development of affordable housing, they do not want it build were economics would have it be build. Councilman Bedne says this, saying "we need city-wide affordable housing ... all over the city, and not just take advantage of economical affordable land." 

Advocates of  "affordable housing" want it mixed in with more expensive housing and want to see the building of upscale housing in neighborhoods that now have affordable housing.  Of course this will result in those areas being "gentrified," and the destruction of much of the remaining affordable housing stock. When that happens advocates of affordable housing will bemoan "gentrification."  I think we would do more to advance the cause of affordable housing if we worked within the framework of market forces. Affordable housing advocates often support policies that are detrimental to affordable housing. To have a significant amounts of affordable housing in Nashville we need neighborhoods with affordable housing. To see the discussion of the bill see timestamp 57:20.

BILL BL2017-937 is another bills that would address home-sharing or short term rental. It would establish a STRP Advisory Committee and it would allow existing permit holders to renew definitely, apply percentage caps to Not Owner-Occupied units within certain census tracts, and apply distance restrictions of 1,320 feet between Not Owner-Occupied units, among other changes. The Council has been working on the issue of short term rental property for a long time, at least a year. A comprehensive short term rental ordinance is in the works and is to be presented to the Council in January. This bill is deferred to December 5th.

BILL BL2017-938  would exempt religious institutions from current sidewalk requirements, provided the religious institution is within the General Services District and does not abut an existing or planned sidewalk. Currently if a developer does an infill development even on a street without sidewalks they must build sidewalk even if there are no other sidewalks on the street. This can greatly increase the cost of development and can result in less affordable housing. In my view the whole requirement that developers build sidewalks should be scraped except in rare circumstance. This bill is deferred to the first meeting in January.
There are 27 resolutions all of which are initially on the consent agenda. A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passes  unanimously the committees to which it was assigned. Resolutions which receive negative votes in committee are pulled off of consent. Also any councilman may have a resolution pulled off of consent. Those remaining on consent are lumped together and passed by a single vote. Resolutions on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government, entering into inter agency agreements over mundane things, appropriating money from the 4% fund, settling lawsuits, or approving signs overhanging the sidewalk. Unlike a bill which requires three votes of the Council to pass, a resolution only requires one vote of the Council. there are several resolution on this agenda which would complete the purchase and removal of certain previously identified flood-damaged properties.Below are the resolutions of interest.

RESOLUTION RS2017-910  is the soccer stadium resolution addressed at the top of this page. It is not on "consent."
RESOLUTION RS2017-920  concerns civil forfeiture. That is a program that is sometimes called "policing for profit." It allows law enforcement to take someones property upon arrest without due process and then the person who had their property taken must fight to prove they were not guilty of a crime in order to have their property returned. Most often the person who had their property taken are low income and cannot afford the legal fees necessary to fight for the return of their property.

This resolution would approve two agreements between the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Metro Nashville Police Department. These agreements would govern the participation of DEA Nashville District Office Task force participants in the United States Department of Justice Equitable Sharing Program. In my view civil forfeiture is an evil practice in which metro should not participate. Both liberal and conservative civil liberty advocates included the ACLU and organization such as The Institute for Justice oppose civil forfeiture. This resolution was not on "consent."  Dave Rosenberg speaks against it. Unfortunately it is approved by a vote of 16 to 15 with four abstentions. To view the discussion see timestamp 2:35:10.

RESOLUTION RS2017-951 would accept a grant of $50K from the State to be matched by $50K from Metro to print new, larger recycling cart stickers and tags to increase curbside recycling and participation in Nashville. Unless I am missing something, this seems like a waste of money. It passes on the consent agenda.

RESOLUTION RS2017-962  recognizing November 20, 2017 as Transgender Day of Remembrance. This is a memorializing resolution which means it simply expresses the will of the Council and has no force in law. It passes on a machine vote of 31 in favor, one opposed, two abstentions and six not voting. 
Bills on First reading: There are 35 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.  Normally bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote. It is rare that a bill on First Reading is voted on separately. 

Councilman Scott Davis has BILL BL2017-951 acted upon separately.  This is a bill that would create a Community Oversight Board responsible for providing citizen oversight of the Police Department. He moves to pass the bill and defer to the first meeting in January for consideration on Second reading and he ask for a public hearing on the bill. At the Vice Mayor's suggestion the request for a public hearing is taken out of the motion with an understanding that that will be decided at a later date. Normally the Council does not have hearing on any bills but zoning resolutions and budget resolutions. Davis says that his motion would allow the task force working on the bill time to produce a really good bill.Councilman Russ Pulley moves that the bill instead be deferred on First Reading two meetings. Davis passionately argues his position. See timestamp 3:19:05 for Davis' emotional speech. Davis prevails.
Bills on Second Reading. There are 9 bills on Second Reading. These are the ones of interest.
BILL BL2017-939 would add additional obstacles 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 on a voice vote.

BILL BL2017-941 would establish a a Commercial Permit Parking Program. The council would have to approve the geographic areas in which this applied. In those areas commercial vehicles could only park on the street if they had a permit to do so.  As we grow, parking become more of a problem with people parking on streets taking parking places that deny those spaces to those who have businesses or residence on the street a place to park. These seems reasonable. At the request of the sponsor it is deferred to the second reading in December.
Bills on Third Reading. There are 9 bills on third reading. Most of them are zoning bills that have been approved by the Planning Commission. None of them are very interesting.

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