Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What happened at the 12-5-17 Council meeting: Rope Christmas lighting banned, more oversight of corporate welfare deferred, Law firm selected.

This meeting is one hour and 54 minutes long. If you are going to watch the meeting you may want to get a copy of the agenda and analysis. To access the agenda, staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda follow this link: What's on the 12-5-17 Council Agenda: Banning rope lighting, more oversight of corporate welfare, hiring a law firm, banning some Air B&B, ...

There are no special ceremonial presentations and no messages from the mayor.  Below are bills and items of interest.

Appointments to Boards and Commissions
Normally all mayoral appointments to boards and commissions get a unanimous recommendation from the Rules Committee and are approved without dissension by the Council.  This time, Roy Dale and Ms. Anna Maddox who were both up for a confirmation for a reappointment to the the Stormwater Management Committee received a recommendation of a deferral by a committee vote of 5 to 3 and the Council voted to defer the confirmation of appointment. The Committee chairman says the recommendation was due to unanswered questions from constituents.  It is very rare that an appointment is not just rubber stamped.  If I had a staff of reporters working for me, I would seek an explanation.  Roy Dale is a former member of the Council and a major developer in town.  This is just a guess but I would bet some members of the public saw his roll on the Sormwater Management Committee as a conflict with his roll as a developer.  However, both Dale and Maddox received a recommendation of deferral. If anyone has any insight as to why these two nomination for reappointment ran into opposition, please share it.

A General Session Court vacancy
The Vice Chairman announced that General Sessions Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton was resigning her position to accept an appointment to a higher court. This creates a vacancy. Most often when such a vacancy occurs the Council fills it with one of their own. Nomination can be accepted until December 12. When such a vacancy occurs the Council is subject to intense lobbying to pick someone to fill the vacancy. The Council will fill the position at the meeting of January 2.

Public Hearing
There are 28  bills on Public hearing. The bills on public hearings are all rezoning bills or related to planning and zoning policy.  None of the bills on Public Hearing encountered serious opposition and members of the public only spoke on only one of them. Below are the only bills on public hearing I find of interest.

SUBSTITUTE BILL BL2017-937 addresses home sharing  also known as Short Term Rental Properties or Air B&B. The Council has been working on this issue for over a year. This bill is deferred until January 2, 2018 in conjunction with BILL BL2017-981(Withers) and BILL BL2017-982 (Withers) which similarly addresses short term rental properties. All three ordinances would then be scheduled for third reading on January 16, 2018 in conjunction with BL2017-608 (Hagar and others) whose sponsor has likewise notified Council members of his intent to defer reading from January 2 to January 16, 2018. For those who want to know what is in the works, read the bill and the staff analysis.
There are 11 resolutions all of which are on the consent agenda except one.   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 public sidewalk. Resolutions on the consent agenda are lumped together and passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. Below is the one resolution not on consent.

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. This was deferred last council meeting primarily due to concern on the part of Black members of the Council that the firm did not have a sufficient number of Black lawyers in the firm. Those with concerns are not placated and move to defer the bill again.It is explained that there are only a few law firms capable of litigating a case like this and the firm must have deep pockets to front the expenses and that there is an urgency to proceed or Nashville could miss the boat.  The motion to defer is defeated by a voice vote and the bill is approved by a machine vote of 30 in favor, 6 opposed and 4 abstentions. To see the discussion on the resolution see timestamp 43 to 1:13:40 in the video
Bills on First Reading. Normally all bills on First Reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote. Bill do not go to committee until after First Reading. In an unusual move some bills are taken out of the group  of bills and considered separately. The bills pulled are all rezoning bills and are substituted for what appear to be minor technical corrections and all bills on First Reading are approved.

Bills on Second Reading. There are 22 bills on Second Reading. These are the ones of interest.
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.  It was on second reading last meeting and deferred to this meeting. This is a good bill. It passes without discussion.

BILL BL2017-953  imposes various regulations regarding commercial solicitation  including restricting 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 5:00PM. When I was selling cable, I often worked till 8PM. This was on the agenda on Second Reading last meeting and deferred to this meeting.It is deferred again.
BILL BL2017-983 would require certain information for the assessment of economic and community development incentives offered in the form of PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements and Council approval. PILOTS are a form of corporate welfare used most often to entice businesses to locate or expand in Nashville. It is often offered by the Industrial Development Board but has recently been offered by the Metro Development and Housing Agency in order to encourage the development of affordable housing. Under a PILOT agreement, the business is exempt from paying property taxes but instead pays a fee in lieu of those taxes which is considerably less than the company would pay in taxes. Currently companies getting incentive grants have to provide Metro with certain information such as how many jobs they will create and other things and then the Council has to approve the incentive grant.  This bill would apply those same standards to those getting PILOT deals.  This is a good bill.  Currently the PILOTs are awarded without Council oversight.This is deferred one meeting.
Bills on Third Reading. There are 17 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.
BILL BL2017-903 is the 'Grinch  kills Christmas bill' which  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. 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. This was on Third Reading last meeting and several members spoke against it and on a voice vote it was deferred to this meeting. There is no discussion It passes by a machine vote of  24 to 12 to 1.

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.

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