Saturday, December 16, 2017

What's on the Council agenda for Dec. 19, 2017: Trampling private property rights and killing an affordable housing development, $2.85 million in corporate welfare, selection of a law firm being reconsidered.

The most important item on the Council agenda for this meeting is BILL NO. BL2016-219 on Third

proposed The Ridge at Antioch
and Final Reading. This bill is the attempt to kill an affordable housing project and trample a person's private property rights by cancelling an approved Planned Unit Development and down zoning a person's property without their consent.  To take away a permitted use is a "taking."  Property rights are more than just holding legal title.  When property is taken it should only be for a public purpose and owners should be compensated for their loss.  I know we now have a very liberal Metro Council, but I suspect even many liberals are not comfortable trampling property rights.  If they are unconcerned about trampling property rights, they are probably concerned about exposing the city to a law suit the city is most likely going to lose and the loss of future State assistance in the form of tax credits the state has threatened to withhold  should this bill pass.

The opposition to the development of this property is that it will concentrate poverty and that Antioch does not need more affordable housing. Some of the council members supporting this bill and opposing the affordable housing project are the leading advocates of affordable housing. Hypocrites! They want affordable housing but not where the market says it is affordable.  This proposed affordable housing project should not be thought of as "the projects" or something similar. Unless someone told you, you would not even know this type housing had a subsidy. This planned development is a "tax credit" property. The people who will live there are people who work. The rent will not be based on an individuals ability to pay, but the rent will be "affordable" for a person of modest income. This is what is often called "workforce" housing.

This bill has been disapproved by the Planning Commission.  If this  passes the State of Tennessee has threatened to withhold future tax credits used to help finance affordable housing developments. For more on this story see this link and this and this.

This bill has been in the works for a very long time.  To view the July 6, 2016 Public Hearing on the bill follow this link. It was deferred indefinitely following that public hearing. It was on the agenda on third reading on April18, 2017  and at that time it was deferred to this meeting, the second meeting in December.  Being a dissapproved bill, this will take 28 votes to pass and there will be a roll call vote. I will record in this blog, how members of the Council voted.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, December 19, 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  or you really will not know what is going on. You can get the agenda and analysis at the highlighted links.

Appointment of Roy Dale and Anna Maddox to the Stormwater Management Board.
There are two mayoral appointees to Boards and Commission on the agenda for confirmation. These are the same two that were on the agenda last meeting and deferred to this meeting.  They are the appointments of Roy Dale and  Anna Maddox to the Stormwater Water Management Board. It is very unusual that a  mayoral appointment is just not automatically rubber stamped by the Rules and Confirmation Committee of the Council and the full Council. Last meeting both candidates received a recommendation of a deferral by the rules committee by a vote of 5 to 3 and the Council voted to defer the confirmation of appointments. The Committee chairman said the recommendation was due to unanswered questions from constituents.  I do not know what those questions were and do not know if questions have been answered.  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 that does not explain the opposition to Anna Maddox.  I monitor some neighborhood activist sites but have not seen opposition to these candidates. I have no insight as to what is behind the deferral and have heard nothing. Watch to see what happens. If someone knows what is going on, please contact me or post a comment.

Resolution on Motion to Reconsider
RESOLUTION RS2017-966  is the resolution which 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." This resolution was on the agenda meeting before last and deferred to last meeting and at the last meeting it was approved by a machine vote of 30 in favor, 6 opposed and 4 abstentions. Now it is back on the agenda, placed on the agenda under a "motion to reconsider." A motion to reconsider is authorized under Rule 35 of the rules of the Council . This is what rule 35 says:
 A motion to reconsider a vote of the Council on any ordinance or resolution can be entertained only on a final reading and an affirmative vote and then only when the following have been complied with:
(a) The maker of the motion to reconsider must have voted with the prevailing side.
(b) The motion to reconsider must be made before the next order of business.
(c) Not less than four (4) members of the Council must second the motion, and these four members need not have voted with the prevailing side.
Such motion, properly made and seconded, must be considered and finally acted on at the next regular meeting of the Council or at a special meeting called for that purpose. Such motion shall not be debatable prior to its consideration and final action.
No statement that a member is proposing to offer a motion to reconsider at a later meeting is to be entertained by the Council.
I did not know the motion to reconsider had been made and passed last council meeting but rewatching the council meeting I see that it was.  The maker of the motion and the discussion of the motion between the vice mayor and the attorney for the council is  low volume and barely audible. To see this action at the last council meeting see timestamp 1:14 in the video at this link. It appears this is properly back on the agenda.

The primary opposition to this resolution is that of the Black council members who are concerned that the chosen law firm does not have a sufficient number of Black lawyers. This is complicated legal work and only a few firms have the expertise to litigate this matter. Also, the firm must have deep pockets to front the expenses, Sometimes cases like this can take years to be settled. There is an urgency to proceed or Nashville could miss the boat.

Under the contract with the selected legal firm, in some cases the law firm could get up to 20% of any money awarded the city. However, if the law firm won no award, the city would pay them nothing. To see the discussion on the resolution that occurred at the last Council meeting, see timestamp 43 to 1:14:06 in the video.

There are no bills on Public hearing on this agenda.

There are 16 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 are the resolution I find of interest. 
RESOLUTION RS2017-779 , RESOLUTION RS2017-780, and RESOLUTION RS2017-781 all  deal with right-of-way closures. These resolutions would increase the fee for closing a right-of-way would specify requirements for a right-of-way site management plan permit, and request that all fee revenue from right-of-way temporary closure permits be used for staffing, expenses, and other direct costs of administering such permits. I do not expect this to be controversial. With Nashville's rapid growth and downtown construction right-of-way closures have been a problem.  Sometimes, streets are narrowed or closed for months while downtown construction takes place causing traffic problems and interfering with the functioning of businesses in the area of the right-of-way closure.

RESOLUTION RS2017-986 awards an economic and community development incentive grant to  Philips Holding. Phillips Holding is a Netherlands-based health technology firm. This would award them  $2.85 million in city incentives and the firm would bring 815 new jobs with an average annual salary of $60,000. To read The Tennessean's coverage of this issue see Barry proposes $2.9M incentive package for Philips' Nashville expansion. While I wish this was not the way business was done, unfortunately it is.  If we do not offer this type of bribe or corporate welfare, some other city will and the company will locate elsewhere. I have a concern that sometimes we award these grants unnecessarily. Some of the firms we give the money to would have probably located in Nashville anyway without the incentive. Sometimes the jobs do not materialize.  A positive feature of this deal is that the jobs are good paying jobs.  The money is awarded as the jobs are created. It makes more sense to lure companies to Nashville that provide good paying jobs rather than companies that pay low wages. I hope the budget and finance company carefully reviews this resolution to determine if it is a good deal for the city.

RESOLUTION RS2017-998  is a memorializing resolution "recognizing the Ryman Auditorium - “The Mother Church of Country Music” - and its 125 years in Nashville as Music City’s most famous and respected music venue attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to Nashville each year."
Bills on First reading: There are 10 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 usually 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. One bill of note on First Reading is BILL BL2017-1031 , "an ordinance adopting a transit improvement program for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, approving a surcharge for the program, and requesting the Davidson County Election Commission to call a county-wide referendum election to be held on May 1, 2018, regarding the levying of the surcharge on certain taxes to fund the program." While I generally think everything should pass on First Reading, if I were serving in the Council, I would vote "no" on this bill on First Reading.

Bills on Second Reading. There are 22 bills on Second Reading. These are the ones of interest.
BILL BL2017-865  creates new public works reporting requirements.  This bill creates more transparency regarding Metro public works projects. The council would get regular reports on the cost and status of projects and Public Works would be required to maintain on-line map of the projects providing various data, such as cost and status of the project. This is a good bill.
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. This would not impose such a system all at once. Area businesses and residences would have to petition to have such a system in place in their neighborhood. This is a good bill. This bill was on the agenda of 11-7-2017 on Second Reading and deferred to this meeting.

SUBSTITUTE 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. I am pleased to see that a second substitute is anticipated that would  alter the proposed time restrictions by prohibiting door-to-door solicitation after sunset or 7:00 pm, whichever occurs later. With that change, I would support this bill if I had a vote. 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.  This was on the agenda on Second Reading last meeting and deferred to this meeting.
Bills on Third Reading. There are 40 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. BILL NO. BL2016-219 is addressed at the top of this page and none of the others are of much interest.

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