Sunday, December 3, 2017

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, ...

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 6:30 PM in the Council chamber at the Metro Courthouse. If you are going to watch the Council meeting, you need a copy of the Council agenda and the staff analysis  you really will not know what is going on. You can get the agenda and analysis at the highlighted links.

There are seven mayoral appointees to Boards and Commission on the agenda for confirmation and as always they will be affirmed.

There are 28  bills on Public hearing. The bills on public hearings are all rezoning bills or related to planning and zoning policy.  Rezoning hearings bore me and I don't even try to form an opinion on the merits each rezoning bill before the Council.  Rezoning bills usually are of interest only to people who live near the proposed rezoning. People who don't care one way or the other do not show up and with rare exceptions the only people who speak in favor of rezoning bills are those who will benefit from the rezoning such as the property owner or the developer.  Opponents always make the same argument which boils down to one of these: 1) the change will result in stressing the infrastructure such as too much traffic on the roadway or overcrowd the schools, 2) will cause flooding, and 3) will change for the worse the character of the community. If you are interested in knowing what is permitted in different zoning districts, follow this link. I call attention to only those bills on public hearing that for some reason I expect to be controversial or to bills which have been disapproved by the Planning Commission. A bill disapproved by the Planning Commission requires 27 votes to be approved on third and final reading and sometimes that can be difficult to obtain. None of the bills on Public Hearing have been disapproved by the Planning Commission but some bills on public hearing have not yet been to the Planning Commission and most are approved contingent upon the sponsor making changes recommended by the Commission. 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. The sponsor has notified Council members of his intent to defer public hearing and second reading of this ordinance 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. I am going to defer commentary on this until my commentary on the January 2 and January 16 agenda commentary. 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. A resolution stays on the consent agenda if it passes unanimously the committees to which has been assigned. 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. 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. Any member of the body however, may have a resolution pulled off of the consent agenda or have their "no" vote or abstention recorded. Unlike a bill which requires three votes of the Council to pass, a resolution only requires one vote of the Council. Below is the only resolution I find of interest. 
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 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.
Bills on First reading: There are 25 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. I do not read them until they get to second reading. Bills on First Reading are all lumped together and pass by a single vote except in extremely rare cases.

I am pleased to see a bill on First Reading sponsored by Steve Glover (BILL NO. BL2017-1030) that addressing sidewalks. You may recall that The Tennessean in October reported that the city allocated $30 million a year for each of the last two years for sidewalks and the city build only 3.5 miles of new sidewalks. I wish the Council would hold public hearing and investigate this issue to see how it is humanly possible to waste that much money and to look for prosecutable corruption. That apparently is not going to happen but this is a good small step. It would require the department of public works to conduct an annual study which determines the costs of constructing sidewalks within Davidson County and to solicit input from all affected parties and include hearings open to the public. 
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. This seems like a reasonable policy.  It was on second reading last meeting and deferred to this meeting.

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.
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.
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 wants to kill 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.

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.
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 and you can watch it live on Roku. 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 of the meeting on this blog the day after or the day after that and provide commentary.

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